Despite the progress made by Presidents Yeltsin and Clinton on nuclear arms control at their recent summit in Helsinki — where a number of the initiatives announced were aimed at easing Russian opposition to ratification of the START II treaty — the Duma decided yesterday that it is still not ready to discuss the issue. Alexei Mitrofanov, who chairs the Committee for Geopolitics, announced that ratification has been put off indefinitely following rejection of his proposal to look at the treaty in closed session on April 18. (Interfax, April 9)
Retired Gen. Lev Rokhlin, the chairman of the Defense Committee, together with his deputy, Alexei Arbatov, had objected to the April 18 date on the grounds that the government has still not provided the Duma with a concrete program for implementing the treaty. Rokhlin in the past has often said that START II would put Russia at a disadvantage and has proposed moving directly to a START III treaty. Yeltsin and Clinton agreed on the broad outlines for such a follow-on treaty in Helsinki, but the U.S. has insisted that such negotiations cannot begin until START II is ratified by Russia. The U.S. Senate approved the treaty last January. In Helsinki, Yeltsin was very upbeat about the chances for Russian ratification, confidently saying that he expected the Duma "will make a decision based on my advice." (UPI, March 21)
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