Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies


The Last Assault On START II?

April 12, 2000

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On the parliamentary session, which will take place on the 14th of April, the State Duma plans to consider the long delayed START II Treaty about reduction of Russian and U.S. offensive arms.

According to a previous schedule of the parliament spring 2000 sessions, START II consideration was planned for June only. So, why was the schedule of State Duma suddenly changed?

There seems to be four main reasons of such a decision:

1. An aspiration of the new Russian President, being in conditions of European community blaming Russian policy toward Chechnya, to show the world public opinion, that Russia is able to carry on further negotiations with the West, including on such an important issue as reduction of offensive weapons.

2. Making an attempt to prevent the United States abrogation of the ABM Treaty of 1972 by ratifying the START II Treaty. Reserving an option to make the United States responsible for violation of strategic stability in the eyes of the world community, if the U.S. decide to deploy national ballistic missile defense in May 2000. In case Russia fails to ratify the Treaty by that time, the whole responsibility for collapse of strategic stability may be put on Russia, because the whole process of START II discussions have been lasting over the period for seven years already.

Thus, the main problem seems to be not so much the process of offensive arms reductions itself, but the question whether or not the ABM Treaty can be preserved, since the latter is still the cornerstone of strategic stability in the world at present time.

Of course, it is very likely, that the United State will ignore the world public opinion anyway and abrogate the ABM Treaty in spite of explicit and implicit accusations from most of U.N. members. But the chances that other nuclear states as France or China will support the Russian position are rather high.

3. The Russia's desire to link further reductions of strategic arms with preservation of basic provisions of the ABM Treaty is quite natural in current conditions. In opinion of Putin administration, the only way to push the United States at negotiating table is ratification of START II Treaty. There is also a belief, that the U.S. might agree to allow deployment of MIRVed land based ICBMs (up to 3 or 4 warheads per a missile) for both sides.

4. The Russian wish to support the U.S. president Bill Clinton at presidential election, and help him to create an image of a peacekeeper who promotes strategic stability in the world by his actions on international scene. Indirectly this will certainly support Al Gore, the Clintons successor from the Democratic party.

So what is the possibility, that the State Duma will ratify START II Treaty on the 14th of April?

It seems, that the new Duma will manage to gather necessary number of votes for ratification. Communists, liberal-democrats and deputies of Agrarian-industrial group, roughly third of the Duma members, express their negative attitude toward the treaty ratification.

The deputies of Yedinstvo, OVR and Yabloko factions as well as Peoples deputy association are going to vote in favour of ratification. In addition, the part of the deputies from Russian regions may join them. The total amount of the supporting votes can be about 240-250, which is enough for approval of the appropriate federal law.

One may conclude, that the State Duma will rather ratify the START II Treaty on the 14th of April with some provisions allowing to withdraw from the Treaty under certain circumstances.

Pyotr Romashkin
Assistant to the Deputy Chair of the State Duma Defense Committee,
Candidate of Technical Sciences, Councilor of Russian Federation of the I Class.
Contacting address:

Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at MIPT, 2000
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