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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 33, December 1998 - January 1999

START Vote Delayed Over Iraq

In the last issue, we reported how the Duma, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, was moving to the brink on a vote on ratifying the START (Strategic Arms Reduction) II Treaty. A vote was expected to be called for either 18 or 25 December, with most commentators expecting a majority in favour of adopting the Treaty - intended to reduce strategic stockpiles to 3,500 warheads per side by 2007 - drawn up by Presidents Bush and Yeltsin in 1993 and ratified by the American Senate in January 1996. The 17 December start of the US-UK bombing campaign against Iraq immediately made a ratification vote impossible. Although the Duma did subsequently place the issue on its agenda for its Spring session, there is no indication of when a vote may now be taken. Taking the impact of the bombing in conjunction with fresh doubt over the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty (see Documents and Sources) and fury in the Duma over American sanctions against Russian entities for allegedly assisting Iranian proliferation (see below), it is surely now less easy to predict a decision to ratify, whenever in 1999, if at all, that decision comes to be made. The support of the Government for ratification remains secure, however, and many in the Russian military accept that maintaining a strategic nuclear arsenal in excess of 3,500 warheads is a virtually impossible task.


Yuri Maslyukov, First Deputy Prime Minister, 29 December: "I have been and remain a supporter [of the Treaty]...and I am sure our country, its economy and its people would benefit from ratification... We have no real chance of even trying to match the nuclear and missile potential of the United States. The ratification of START II and later START III pacts would in principle rule out the need for any such competition for years."

Sergei Prikhodko, President Yeltsin's Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Foreign Affairs, 17 December: "You can forget about START II ratification..."

Vladimir Ryzhkov, First Deputy Speaker of the Duma, 22 December: "The document is on the agenda but there is no guarantee that it will be ratified or discussed during the Spring session..."

Gennady Seleznyov, Communist Speaker of the Duma, 22 December: "By giving the order to bomb Iraq, the US President and British Prime Minister raised a serious obstacle on the path to ratification of START II. We are now not reviewing this document..."

Alexander Shokhin, leader of the Our Home is Russia bloc in the Duma, 17 December: "We could raise the question of the Treaty in January, but now the prospects of its discussion are becoming increasingly obscure."

Editor's note: on 27 December, the inaugural deployment of Topol-M Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) - the centrepiece of Russia's future strategic nuclear arsenal - began, amid ceremony and fanfare, at the Tatischevo missile base in the Saratov region. Russia plans to deploy 10 of the mobile (capable of being based in silos or on cars or trains), solid-fuel missiles by the end of 1999, and to commission a further 40 missiles per year for the following ten years. Speaking on 29 December, First Deputy Prime Minister Maslyukov linked the development to START II ratification: "The start of rearming Russia's strategic rocket forces with Topol-Ms gives Parliamentary Deputies good reason to return to the ratification of START II without sacrificing national security."

Reports: Iraq attack may delay Russia treaty, Associated Press, 17 December; Kremlin says Iraq raid may wreck START-2, Reuters, 17 December; Russia puts off debate on START II, Associated Press, 22 December; START-2 pact on Duma '99 plan but fate in fog, Reuters, 22 December; Russia set to deploy Topol-M missiles, Washington Post, 27 December; Russia readies new nuclear missiles, Associated Press, 27 December; Russian Deputy PM urges START-2 ratification, Reuters, 29 December; Albright to visit Moscow in January, Reuters, 30 December; Russia inaugurates next-generation missiles, Reuters, 30 December.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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