Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 180

Russian and American officials on September 26 signed two sets of arms control documents. The first — on strategic nuclear arms reductions — was meant to make it more likely that the Russian Duma will finally ratify the 1993 START II treaty. The second set of agreements, however, which deal with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, could have just the opposite effect.

The START II documents codify the decisions Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin took at their March summit in Helsinki and will give the Russians more time to destroy the missiles they must take out of service. A protocol moves the date by which all reductions must be completed from January 1, 2003, to December 31, 2007, while an interim limitations and reduction deadline will be moved from December 5, 2001, to December 31, 2004. Both sides will have to deactivate the weapons that will ultimately be destroyed by December 31, 2003. Indicating their interest in moving quickly on to a START III agreement, the Russians added a unilateral statement saying that they had agreed to these new measures on the understanding that such a new treaty would be signed and ratified "well in advance" of the 2003 deactivation deadline.

The ABM documents also put earlier agreements into legal form. In addition to the U.S. and Russia, they were signed by representatives of Belarus, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan (establishing the latter 4 countries as successor states to the USSR insofar far as the ABM treaty is concerned). The most significant of the new documents dealt with establishing the limits to be placed on so-called theater-defense anti-ballistic missile systems. They would not be restricted by the ABM treaty.

Official Moscow applauded both sets of agreements. A Foreign Ministry statement issued yesterday said that they marked "an important stage in the arms reduction process." A representative of the Strategic Rocket Forces noted that the new understandings mean that Russia will not have to dismantled it’s giant SS-18 missiles until they have used up their service life in the year 2006. But others were not so sure. A writer for the newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta warned that the ABM agreements could mark the beginning of a new arms race — one in which Russia could not hope to triumph. All the documents signed on September 26 must ultimately be ratified in all the capitals concerned before they can enter into force. The START II treaty has had little support in the Duma in the past, and it remains to be seen whether these new documents — or the treaty itself — will fare any better in the future. (Russian and Western sources, September 26-28)

…As NATO and Russia Launch New Joint Council.