Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 15, May 1997
Russia Defence Minister Stresses Commitment to START II, IIIDuring three days of talks (12-14 May) in Washington with his US counterpart, Russia's Defence Minister, Igor Rodionov, stressed his commitment to the ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) II and the negotiation of a START III accord. Rodionov was seeking to refute the suggestion made in a Washington Times report of 13 May that he opposed ratification. Rodionov admitted (14 May) that he had "had some doubts" about START II, but added:
"...as the process moved along and the cooperation developed...and especially after the [March 1997] Helsinki meeting of our two Presidents, I removed all doubts about this issue. And now I am a great supporter of [the] START II Treaty. And I am doing everything possible to convince our legislators, especially the Defence Committee of the State Duma, to ratify this document. We need to do it... I'm deeply convinced we can ensure the security of our country with a lesser number of missiles and warheads..."
Speaking alongside him, US Defense Secretary William Cohen argued that "the issue that we have to address for the future is to reduce the level of strategic weapons that both the United States and the Russians now have to much lower levels. And for that reason, [we] would hope that the Russian Duma would ratify START II so that we could move very quickly to START III discussions."
Both Defence Secretaries stressed their confidence in the safety and security of Russia's existing nuclear stockpile. Cohen said he was sure that Russia's "strategic forces are under secure control." Rodionov stated:
"I want to assure you that we will do everything possible to ensure that the safety and protection of our nuclear arsenals would never decrease."
Rodionov denied another Washington Times report of 13 May, alleging - quoting CIA sources - that Russia's strategic forces "slipped" "spontaneously" into "combat mode". Rodionov said "I have never heard anything about this."
On 14 May, Cohen and Rodionov signed a 'Joint Statement of Military Cooperation.' Among other measures, the two sides agreed, according to Cohen, to establish "a set of new expert working groups to explore specific cooperation on military reform, counterproliferation, theatre missile defence, post-Bosnia peacekeeping, and military education for the 21st century."
Reports: US, Russian Defense Ministers begin talks, Agence France-Presse International News, 13 May; Russian nuclear arsenal safe, Defense Minister says, Agence France-Presse International News, 13 May; Russian minister backs START II, AP Online Washington News Wire, 13 May; Transcript - Cohen, Rodionov 5/13 News Conference, United States Information Agency, 14 May.
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