Reacting to the Council of Europe’s recently expressed concern that Belarus might not rid itself of the remaining ex-Soviet strategic nuclear missiles on its territory by the end of 1996, as it had promised, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Khvostov told a Minsk news conference yesterday that the transfers would indeed take place. However, his choice of references was ambiguous at best. Khvostov stressed that Belarus would meet the deadline set by the 1992 Lisbon Protocol. (Interfax-West, 31 October) But that agreement, which involved the U.S., Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, merely commits Belarus to abide by the 7-year schedule in the START-I treaty. That period ends in 2001. The 1996 deadline was one agreed to later bilaterally by the Belarussians and the Russians.
The withdrawal issue has more recently degenerated into a three-way squeeze play involving Washington, Minsk, and Moscow, with time running out. The U.S. — and presumably Russia — want the missiles out, while Minsk wants money or at least some form of substantial compensation in return. Belarus has received relatively small amounts of cash from the U.S. and Germany to help it dismantle launch pads and for environmental clean-ups. But Moscow is apparently unwilling or unable to pay Belarus the price Minsk wants in order to get its last 18 SS-25 mobile missiles back.
Moscow Holds Out Carrot to Georgia for Military Bases.