Russia’s State Duma yesterday appeared to deal the START II strategic arms treaty a setback when lawmakers decided to delay until September hearings on the treaty’s ratification. The hearings had been scheduled for June 9. According to a Russian deputy dealing with the treaty, lawmakers will consult with Defense Ministry officials in June as planned, but the closed-door Duma debate on the START II treaty has been postponed until the fall. (UPI, May 19) Yesterday’s announcement was not unexpected. A day earlier, the heads of both the Russian Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party announced their opposition to the treaty and said that they saw no immediate prospect for its ratification. (See the Monitor, May 19)
At least one Russian report suggested yesterday, however, that the Kremlin could yet win a reversal of the Duma’s decision to postpone the hearings. The report pointed to a meeting tomorrow of President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko and the chairmen of the two houses of Russia’s parliament. Ratification of the START II treaty will reportedly be the top item on their agenda. (NTV, May 19) A Clinton administration official echoed that view yesterday. Referring to tomorrow’s talks, he said that the decision to postpone the hearings could yet be overturned. He also reiterated that Yeltsin had offered U.S. President Bill Clinton strong assurances during their recent meeting in Birmingham that the Kremlin will work energetically to win ratification of the treaty. (UPI, May 19)
KREMLIN STEPS UP PRESSURE FOR ACTION ON START II.