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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 32, November 1998

Russian START II Vote Nears

November saw an apparently decisive step towards a decision in the Russian lower house of parliament, the Duma, on ratification of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) II. On 10 November, the Duma met in extraordinary plenary session to discuss, as a single topic, START II and the economic crisis in the country. After the meeting, the Duma Council announced that a ratification bill should be prepared and issued within 10 days; according to reports, the bill had already been prepared in advance of the 10 November meeting. Reports also suggested that a vote on the bill was likely to take place in the first half of December, possibly as early as 4 December. Immediately following the 10 November plenary, the Deputy Speaker of the Duma, Vladimir Ryzhkov, gave his assessment of the present weight of opinion among the deputies: "presently," he stated, "40% of deputies are ready to ratify the treaty, about 40% are strongly against it and, in fact, its fate will be decided by the remaining 20%."

Crucially, the Communist party, the largest in the Duma, seemed to be in support of the Primakov Government. According to Communist Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov on 12 November: "The old law does not suit us. A new draft law has been prepared which says how Russia should act - how we should finance this programme and how we should take care of Russia's security in the future." On 19 November, US Senator Richard Lugar, visiting Russia (see below), expressed concern at reports that the new draft law attached new conditions to acceptance of the treaty. Lugar stated: "To add an item such as no nuclear weapons in the Baltics, or something of this variety, as a condition, clearly would be unacceptable... If [the Duma] were to require the United States to have another debate on START II ratification on those terms, that does not look promising."

The main Government advocate at the 10 November plenary session was First Vice Premier Yuri Maslyukov. In addition to emphasising the strategic advantages of ratification, Maslyukov reportedly also stressed the relevance of the issue to economic assistance from the West. According to Alexander Shokhin, leader of the centrist Our Home is Russia party, speaking to reporters on 10 November: "Maslyukov said our future economic position should improve should START II be ratified. ... There was no direct link, but many lawmakers made exactly that conclusion from the way it was presented..."

On 16 November, former Defence Minister Igor Rodionov urged deputies not to ratify. Speaking in the Duma, Rodionov stated: "It is a treacherous treaty that is strategically disarming us."

Reports: Russia Government urges Duma to ratify arms pact, Reuters, 10 November; Russia to address START II Treaty, Associated Press, 10 November; Maslyukov links START 2 passage with future Western loans, Agence France Press, 10 November; Russian MPs optimistic on START-2, see vote soon, Reuters, 12 November; Russia's strategic missile forces combat potential grows, Itar-Tass, 12 November; START II ratification expected this December, Briefing from the PIR Center, Moscow, 13 November; Russia urged to abandon nuke treaty, Associated Press, 16 November; START II chances seen as fifty-fifty, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline, 18 November; Russia drafts new START II Treaty, Associated Press, 19 November.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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