Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 219

Russian President Boris Yeltsin moved forward earlier this week with efforts to win parliamentary ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The Kremlin announced that Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov had been named by Yeltsin to lobby lawmakers for ratification of the accord. In a letter to Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev, moreover, Yeltsin reportedly described the CTBT as a “most important instrument for strengthening the nuclear proliferation system” and urged that lawmakers make ratification a priority. He also said that the treaty “meets Russia’s interests.”

Yeltsin had first announced to the world his intention to pursue ratification of the CTBT during last week’s Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Istanbul. But the announcement, in which Yeltsin said that he had submitted the draft ratification law to Russia’s lower house of parliament, was seen by many as representing less a commitment to the treaty’s ratification than as an effort both to deflect attention away from Russia’s war in Chechnya and to exploit international unhappiness over the U.S. Senate’s own recent rejection of the treaty (see the Monitor, November 18).

There was little in this week’s announcement to contradict that interpretation. Although a quick vote on the treaty is possible in principle, Russian lawmakers this week made it clear that the accord would first have to be submitted for discussion to four different subcommittees. The current parliamentary session ends, moreover, on December 3, and Russian Duma elections are scheduled for December 19. Consideration of the CTBT will not take place at least until the first sitting of the new parliament. Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, must also approve the accord.

Given that consideration of the treaty is not imminent, little has been said to indicate how Russia’s various government and military elites feel about the CTBT. The Kremlin and Russia’s Foreign Ministry clearly want to make some political hay out of the U.S. Senate’s rejection of the accord. Russian diplomats have coupled statements indicating support for the CTBT with denunciations of not only the Senate action, but also of U.S. plans to amend the ABM treaty and to proceed with the development of a national missile defense system. These three actions together have been portrayed by Moscow as proof of U.S. “unilateralism” and American determination to undermine the current international arms control regime. On November 5 Moscow forced a vote in a UN General Assembly committee on a resolution calling for the preservation and strengthening of the ABM treaty. To Moscow’s obvious satisfaction, the measure won overwhelming support. Even among U.S. allies, thirteen of the fifteen members of the EU abstained while France and Ireland voted for the resolution (Reuters, November 23).

But, according to at least one lawmaker, the obvious diplomatic benefits of Russian ratification of the CTBT will not necessarily translate into parliamentary approval. Vladimir Ryzhkov, head of the Russia is Our Home faction in the State Duma, was quoted this week as saying that “as long as the United States sticks to its clearly unfriendly policy toward Russia, no Duma is ever going to ratify that [test ban] treaty.” A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman did make it clear yesterday, however, that Moscow has no intention of resuming nuclear tests one way or the other so long as “other nuclear nations do the same” (AP, Reuters, Russian agencies, November 22; Itar-Tass, November 22-23).