Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 19, October 1997
Russian Government and Parliament Discuss START IIOn 16 September, Russia's Foreign Minister, Yevgeny Primakov, and Defence Minister, Igor Sergeyev, met leaders of the Russian Parliament, the State Duma, to persuade them to ratify the US-Russia START (Strategic Arms Reduction) II Treaty. START II was ratified by the US in January 1996, but the Duma's reservations remain considerable.
Following the meeting, reaction was mixed, and no breakthrough was in sight. Sergeyev claimed that "we came to understand each other better on many questions." However, Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the biggest Party, the Communists, stated:
"We were not convinced today that this treaty must be ratified. NATO is on the offensive, there's a lack of parity in all components and no national defence doctrine, so it's hard to take a decision on START II ratification."
Before the meeting, Alexei Mitrofanov, a deputy from the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, had summed up a widespread perception of the treaty: "This agreement was reached on the crest of a political wave when Russia was making concessions on everything. Now we have to bite back." The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, stated after the meeting that ratification should be delayed until "a favourable moment." Zhirinovsky argued: "We have created a powerful missile complex, and we must use it to get certain advantages."
Further criticism of the treaty came from Roman Popovich, a nominee for the Chair of the Defence Committee. Popovich said after the meeting that "the US side should not dictate to us specifically what we should destroy" and reasoned that "we should leave enough forces for holding off a foe."
A prominent advocate of the treaty, Vladimir Lukin, the Chair of the International Affairs Committee, suggested that "we don't want to be engaged in politics" on the ratification issue:
"Instead, we must listen very carefully to the top experts in the country on these issues. General Sergeyev is one of them..."
President Yeltsin discussed the issue with Sergeyev on 15 September. According to reports, the President told his Defence Minister: "We are secure with 1,000 warheads, let alone with 2,000 or 2,500 warheads." START II allows for reductions to 3,500 warheads each side. The US and Russia are committed to the quick commencement of START III negotiations once START II enters into force.
Reports: Russian hard-liners slam START II, Associated Press, 16 September; Kremlin seeks parliament's ratification of START II, Reuters, 17 September.
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