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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 26, May 1998

Fresh Delays Reported in START II Ratification

On 19 May, it was reported that the Lower House of the Russian parliament, the Duma, was unlikely to make a decision on the ratification of START II before September. According to the reports, a meeting of Parliamentarians (from the Duma's Committees on Foreign Affairs, Defence, Security Affairs and Geopolitical Affairs) and Defence Ministry officials would replace full hearings planned for 9 June, pushing the hearings back to the Autumn session. The decision was taken by the State Duma Council. However, other reports suggested that the possibility remained of ratification before the end of the current Parliamentary session, partly because of the extension of that session until 15 July. In another move said to enhance ratification prospects, a well-known advocate of START II, retired General Roman Popkovitch, was appointed as the new Chair of the Defence Committee.

The Government continues to press hard for early ratification. 21 May saw a meeting of the 'Big Four' - President Yeltsin, Prime Minister Kiriyenko, Speaker of the Duma Seleznev and Speaker of the Upper House (Federation Council, or Senate) Strolev - to discuss the issue. The meeting was announced by the President's chief spokesperson, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, on 18 May. In Yastrzhembsky's words: "It's not the President who needs START II ratification, it's Russia." On 14 May, Seleznev discussed the issue with Foreign Minister Primakov. Seleznev evidently remained unconvinced by the merits of speedy ratification, observing on 20 May: "I wonder when we will get the Government's economic plan on this issue. There is no money for this purpose in this year's budget."

Reports: Russian Duma to Debate START Treaty, United Press International, 14 May; Yeltsin wants Russia's 'Big Four' to mull START-2, Reuters, 18 May; Russian Duma postpones START hearings, United Press International, 19 May; Kremlin chastises Russian Parliament for delaying START II discussions, Associated Press, 20 May; The struggle for the START-2 ratification, PIR Center (Russia) briefing, 27 May.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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