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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 22, January 1998

News Review

Yeltsin Frustration at START Delay

On 15 January, President Yeltsin's spokesperson, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, criticised the Duma, the lower House of the Russian Parliament, for its continued unwillingness to ratify the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) II Treaty. Yastrzhembsky stated:

"From a practical point of view, it's inexpedient to continually put off considering the question of ratifying... In the opinion of experts - an opinion which the Russian President shares - this is not in the interests of Russia's armed forces which are undergoing reforms, or good for the prospects of further limiting strategic offensive weapons, in which Russia is interested, or for the prospects for Russian-American relations." Responding to Yastrzhembsky's remarks, the Chair of the Duma's Defence Committee, Vladimir Ryzhkov, told Itar-Tass (15 January): "There are no clear answers yet to many questions posed by deputies." These questions are thought to prominently concern the perceived asymmetry of the reductions stipulated in the Treaty, and the possible impact on Russian security of NATO expansion and US plans for ballistic missile defence (BMD).

On 27 January, Itar-Tass quoted an unnamed arms control expert from the Defence Ministry as arguing that "whether Russia will lower its nuclear potential to the limits envisaged by the Treaty or not" will be decided not only by the Duma but "by life":

"The nuclear potential [of Russia] is on [the] decline due to objective reasons and our economic position. The operational life of a number of silos and mobile missile launchers has expired and it is necessary to remove them from combat duty..."

Reports: Yeltsin urges START II ratification, Associated Press, 15 January Yeltsin regrets delay on START 2, Reuters, 16 January Russia fulfills START 2, although not ratified - expert, Itar-Tass, 27 January.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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