Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 193

U.S. secretary of defense William Perry is unlikely to find too many sympathetic faces when he urges members of several Duma committees this week to ratify the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty II (START II). With NATO expansion into Eastern Europe imminent, Russian conventional military power at an all time low, and with the U.S. seemingly ready to abandon the ABM treaty and create an SDI-like nation-wide ballistic missile defense, few support what is generally conceded to be a treaty more advantageous to the U.S. than to Russia. To top it off, treaty implementation would be a costly prospect for Russia.

In the parliamentary debates on ratification, the views of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff will be important. Former defense minister Pavel Grachev at least paid lip service to the treaty. His successor, Igor Rodionov, is rumored to be a staunch opponent (Segodnya, July 18). Yesterday, an unidentified source in the ministry said that the ministry would support ratification of an "adjusted version" of the treaty, one with adjustments to "both quantitative and qualitative parametersÉ." (Interfax, October 15 1996) What might these changes be?

The Russians have felt that the present treaty favors submarine-based forces, an area where they see American superiority. The treaty now mandates a total of 3,000 – 3,500 strategic warheads for each party by the end of the 7-year reduction period, of which no more than 1,700 – 1,750 can be submarine-based. Moscow is likely to want these latter figures lowered, with tighter restrictions on the rules governing "downloading" — the removal of some of the warheads from a multi-warhead weapon — in order to eliminate a perceived U.S. advantage in quickly putting back the downloaded warheads. They are also likely to want restrictions on conventional sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs), suspecting that the Americans could rather easily replace conventional explosives with nuclear ones.

Possessing a large land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force that will not be prohibitively expensive to maintain, the Russians will probably push for a larger role for this force. This might lead them to propose dropping the treaty’s ultimate ban on all multiple-warhead ICBMs or multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs). Short of that, they might want to be allowed to convert a greater number of their present MIRVed ICBMs to single-warhead weapons than the treaty now permits. One measure that would make the present START II treaty more palatable to most Russians would be a U.S. commitment to a follow-on START III with significantly lower limits — in the range of 2,000 to 1,500, or even as low as 1,000, total warheads. (Itar-Tass, September 17 1996)

Russian Ambassador, Military Representatives Encourage Transdniester’s Intransigence.