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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 45, April 2000

Delay Forced on US NMD Decision as Russian START II & Test Ban Ratification Increases Diplomatic Pressure on Washington


April saw two potentially momentous developments in post-Cold War nuclear arms control. On April 14, the lower house of the Russian Parliament, the Duma, adopted ratification legislation for the START II Treaty. On April 21, the Duma approved the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. As set out below, despite the widespread excitement and relief generated by these moves, and the undoubted political and diplomatic impetus they provide toward further progress, significant obstacles still lie in the path of both accords.

In particular, the breakthrough on START II is not straightforward and may prove a false dawn. The terms of the Federal Law on START II ratification contain a number of preconditions to be met before formal accession can take place. The most controversial of these is the ratification by the US Senate of recent changes to the ABM Treaty - the 'Agreement on Confidence-Building Measures Related to Systems to Counter Ballistic Missiles Other Than Strategic Ballistic Missiles' signed in New York on September 26, 1997 - enthusiastically ratified without reservations or conditions by the Duma on April 14 before the START II vote. The Agreement sets strict limits on permissible systems to defend against theatre-range ballistic missiles. These limits are regarded as unacceptably narrow by both the Republican-controlled Congress and the Clinton Administration. The Administration is currently seeking, thus far without success, to persuade Russia to agree fresh changes that would allow the deployment of an NMD system to protect the US against future, limited long-range ballistic missile attack from 'rogue states' such as Iran and North Korea - a rationale Russia regards as merely ostensible, masking a desire to achieve the capability of constricting Moscow's ability to launch a devastating retaliatory nuclear strike.

An initial decision on NMD deployment is was expected from President Clinton as early as June this year, but this timeline has now been pushed back to an unknown degree by technical problems, detailed below, with a key missile-interceptor system. There is thus no realistic possibility of either the Administration submitting, or the Congress ratifying, the 1997 modifications. Although consultations on a START III Treaty can now be significantly intensified, discussions of next steps will come to nothing unless Russia can be reassured as to the secure future of the ABM Treaty. For its part, Russia is seeking to reassure the US that the issue of missile proliferation can best be dealt with by bolstering existing, and agreeing new, multilateral accords and arrangements - an approach which, whatever its merits and broader international appeal, seems unlikely to satisfy the White House or Capitol Hill. Adding to the pressure on the US Administration, on April 26 Senator Jesse Helms (Republican - North Carolina), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, fearing that inadequate changes to the ABM Treaty might be concluded by a President desperate for a breakthrough on the issue, announced that his Committee would refuse to consider any US-Russia arms control agreement between now and the Presidential and Congressional elections in November - see Documents and Sources for the text of Helms' statement.

The Duma vote in favour of adopting the START II ratification law was 288 to 131 with 4 abstentions and 27 deputies absent. On April 19, the upper house of Parliament, the Federation Council, approved the Duma's decision by 122 votes to 15 with 7 abstentions. START II specifies the reduction of deployed US and Russian strategic warheads to a maximum of 3,500 by December 31, 2007. Both Russia and the US would like to see a START III accord in place by the end of 2003. Russia now hopes that START III will reduce deployed warheads per side to between 1,000-1,500; the US remains committed to a target of 2,000-2,500 provisionally agreed by Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin during their 1997 Helsinki Summit.

The Duma vote to ratify the CTBT was 298 to 74. The approval was unconditional and formal accession is expected to take place soon after the Federation Council gives its blessing to the move. Russia will join France and the UK as nuclear-weapon state parties. China is expected to follow suit, but US ratification efforts are still reeling from the October 1999 rejection of the Treaty by the Senate. The accord, signed in September 1996, will enter into force upon its ratification by all 44 states listed as possessing nuclear facilities. Russia will be the 30th of these states to accede. Three of the listed countries - India, Pakistan and North Korea - have yet to sign the accord.

On the same day as the Duma's approval of the test ban, President-elect Putin signed into law a new military doctrine, replacing a 1993 text and based on a revised National Security Concept signed into law in January this year (see Disarmament Diplomacy No. 43, and Daniel Sumner's paper in the last issue). The new military doctrine, approved by the Presidential Security Council in February, retains the option of using nuclear weapons first "where all other means to settle the crisis have been exhausted or have proven ineffective." Such a stance is commensurate with the nuclear doctrine of the US, UK and France, as well as the NATO Alliance. China is the only nuclear-weapon state currently advocating an unambiguous no-first-use policy, a stance previously adopted by the Soviet Union and Russian Federation prior to 1993. On April 3, US General Wesley Clark, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, took issue with the harsh tone of portions of the draft doctrine which, Clark claimed, represented "a turning away from the previous policy of increased openness and cooperation with the West." The same day, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Alexander Yakovlev noted that "General Clark's statement is entirely without foundation."

Comment and Reaction in Russia


President-elect Putin unexpectedly addressed the Duma during its START II ratification debate on April 14. He argued that acceding to the Treaty, on the basis on the stringent requirements of the Federal Law, would allow Russia both to "preserve a powerful nuclear shield" and to "channel funds to the support of conventional forces, allowing us to make our army more combat ready." Failure to ratify, however, might "prompt a nuclear arms race which Russia can ill afford and whose consequences would be even worse than the last time." Speaking a fortnight before the vote (March 31), Putin had sought to allay domestic concern that ratification might lead to a weakening of the Russian arsenal: "We must increase the effectiveness of our nuclear deterrence potential… Our aim is to make our nuclear weapons complex more safe and effective… We will preserve and strengthen the Russian nuclear weapons complex even though we don't plan to build it up."

On April 13, the Duma was briefed on the issue by a number of senior Government members including Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev. Summarising his remarks for reporters, Sergeyev commented: "We think that the painful concern for Russia, its future and security will prevail and that deputies will approve the document… We don't have much room for manoeuvre here… [T]he real situation is such that it is necessary to ratify the START II Treaty and begin the START III Treaty… We have to continue slashing strategic offensive armaments while keeping in mind our economic resources, including security, and preserve the balance of nuclear forces…" Speaking on the day of the vote, Sergeyev's analysis was echoed by many deputies, including First Deputy Speaker Lyubov Slizka - "Many deputies have been convinced we should not spend money from our meagre budget on arms eaten away by rust…" - and Andrei Kokoshin - "Those who own a car know that the older the car gets, the more expensive its maintenance becomes… A few modern missiles, capable of breaking through a missile defence system in a retaliatory strike, would be a much more effective deterrent…"

The most vigorous opposition to ratification came from the Communists. On April 13, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov argued dramatically: "Ratifying the agreement would be like Munich, which led to war… The policy of the last 10 years…has led to the complete destruction of state security and now an act of national betrayal is being prepared - ratification of a treaty which in essence strips the state of missiles and the only shield under which our exhausted country can be revived…" The day before, Zyuganov had asserted: "START II wouldn't just tilt the balance, but would completely ruin strategic parity and…national security… Ratification would amount to] national treason… They want to fully undress our already tattered country… Putin is trying to push the treaty through parliament so that lawmakers don't realize what is going on."

Following the vote, Putin issued the following, delighted statement heralding the move as a "wise and important decision":

"For Russia, the conclusion of [the] START II Treaty is opening up the possibility to ensure its security on an equal footing of parity with the United States, at a much lower level of strategic offensive arms than before, two times less than in the existing START I Treaty, and of course, with less expenditure.

The ratification of [the] START II Treaty opens up the way for starting official negotiations on further reductions in the strategic arsenals of Russia and the USA within the framework of [the] START III Treaty. Along with that we are ready to reduce our strategic offensive arms, naturally, on a mutual basis with the USA to much lower level than it was envisaged by the Russian - American agreement of 1997 in Helsinki, i.e. to 1,500 nuclear warheads instead of 2,000-2,500.

The decision of the State Duma gives a good and positive signal to the world community. As a great nuclear power, Russia demonstrates its responsible approach, as it consistently advances towards weapons reduction and disarmament. We are setting an example of practical implementation of the commitments assumed according to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, thus consolidating the regime established by that Treaty.

There is another aspect of a principled importance as regards the decision of the State Duma. Lately, great importance has been attached to the issue of proliferation of missiles and missile technologies, there is talk about the so-called growing missile threat and the necessity to take urgent steps to counter it. The United States has advanced the idea of creating a national antiballistic missile system as such a step, which contradicts the 1972 ABM Treaty.

We stand for taking jointly with other countries measures to counter the proliferation of missiles and missile technologies. However, from our point of view, it should be done not by dismantling the existing agreements in the sphere of disarmament, and first of all of the ABM Treaty. We are in favour of a different approach - the one of strengthening the existing non-proliferation regimes and elaborating new treaties on arms reduction. By ratifying [the] START II Treaty Russia has made its concrete contribution to these efforts.

We rely on the US making a similar constructive choice. The US is still to complete the ratification procedures to ensure that START II should come into force, as also to endorse the package agreements on ABM issues strengthening the 1972 Treaty. Indeed, the success of disarmament and formation of a new political climate in the world depends first of all on the actions of our two countries."

Addressing reporters on April 15, Putin stressed that Russia would keep its guard up until US compliance with the ratification law was secured: "We will observe very carefully how our partners are fulfilling their obligations. Not a single missile will be removed from active service before the end of its normal lifetime if we see that our partners are not fulfilling their obligations at the same level… We have said that if our partners in START II go outside ABM we will consider ourselves free to take decisions in the nuclear sphere, including [decisions concerning] those types of weapons we consider unnecessary at this time…"

The Russian Government is keen to present the START II decision in the context of a package of arms control initiatives it now refers to as 'the Putin Programme.' A Foreign Ministry statement released on April 15 details the Putin Programme as discussed between Foreign Minister Ivanov and his US, French and British counterparts:

"On April 14 the Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had telephone conversations with the Secretary of State of the United States Madeleine Albright, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France Hubert Vedrine and the British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. Igor Ivanov informed his foreign colleagues about the ratification by Russia's State Duma of the START II Treaty and the 1997 package of accords on anti-ballistic missile defense and stressed that the Duma's decision is a decision in favor of a stable, predictable situation in the world, in favor of strengthening international security by means of instruments of international law and is a responsible step by Russia confirming in commitments in the field of nuclear disarmament.

The interlocutors congratulated Igor Ivanov upon the decision taken by the State Duma and said that it will be of historic importance. As it was noted by the Russian minister, Russia's ratification of the START II Treaty is only the first step of the 'Putin Program'. Referring to the April 14 statement by the Acting President of Russia V.V. Putin in connection with the ratification by the State Duma of the START II Treaty and the 1997 package of agreements on matters of anti-ballistic missile defense, he noted that the ratification of the START II Treaty opens the way for the commencement of official talks on further mutual reductions of the strategic arsenals of Russia and the United States within the framework of the START III Treaty, moreover, to the level of 1,500 warheads, that is to a lower level than provided for by the Russian-American accord reached in Helsinki. When addressing the Duma, the Acting President of Russia stressed that Russia is ready for a quick commencement of these talks.

Besides the new steps to reduce nuclear armaments, Igor Ivanov noted in his telephone conversations with his colleagues, the 'Putin Program' includes a whole number of other important steps designed to strengthen strategic stability, including in connection with the so called missile threat to counter which the United States has come up with the idea of deploying a national ABM system that is prohibited by the 1972 ABM Treaty. In particular, Russia proposes a strengthening of the existing regimes of non-proliferation, the implementation of the idea of a multilateral global system of monitoring the non-proliferation of missiles and missile technologies, cooperation in the field of non-strategic ABM systems that are not limited by the ABM Treaty and are regulated by the 1997 package of agreements that has been ratified by Russia, and the launching of extensive political interaction.

At the same time Igor Ivanov stressed that if the United States derails the 1972 ABM Treaty, something that is going to upset strategic stability, Russia reserves the right to withdraw from the START II Treaty and take other necessary measures. This was openly stated by V.V. Putin in his speech to the State Duma. The appropriate provisions are provided for also in the law on the ratification of the START II Treaty passed by the State Duma.

Igor Ivanov expressed hope that the United States is going to follow Russia's example and ratify without delay the START II Treaty, including the 1997 Protocol to it, and also the package of 1997 accords on the ABM and ensure the speediest entry into force of the START II Treaty."


An ebullient Foreign Ministry statement issued following the vote captured the general mood of many in the Government and Duma:

"The ratification of CNTBT [Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty] by the State Duma is yet another confirmation of our country's consistent course of enhancing the regime of nuclear weapons non-proliferation, disarmament, and strengthening strategic stability in the world.

The community of nations has traversed a long path to achieve a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests. The road from the Moscow Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Tests in Three Environments [the Partial Test Ban Treaty, PTBT] of 1963 to CNTBT took almost 40 years.

Along with the recent ratification by both chambers of Russia's Federal Assembly of the START II Treaty our country, as a great nuclear power, by ratifying CNTBT demonstrates its responsibility to the entire world community… On the eve of the opening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference it is necessary to particularly stress the role of CNTBT as a key factor of strengthening the regime of nuclear weapons non-proliferation.

We are convinced that the speediest entry into force of CNTBT and the imparting to it of a universal nature is equally in the national interests of Russia and the whole of mankind. In conditions of a comprehensive ban on nuclear tests and the accession to it of all states with a potential to develop nuclear weapons, an insurmountable barrier will be erected to any attempts to spread or qualitatively improve nuclear weapons. We again urge all countries that have not yet signed or ratified the CNTBT to do it as quickly as possible so that the aims proclaimed by it would become a reality…in the near future."

According to Gennady Raikov, leader of the Pro-Kremlin People's Deputies Group (April 21): "Russia has now adopted an aggressive stance in the area of nuclear disarmament, actively pushing this process which is vitally important for mankind… This will help Russia in arms talks with the Americans, taking away their main trump card, which has been Russia's repeated failure to ratify nuclear treaties… If the Americans go ahead with building anti-missile defenses, they will find themselves isolated under the fire of public opinion…" The potentially historic nature of the vote, coupled with that on START II, was perhaps expressed most dramatically by pro-Kremlin deputy Andrei Kokoshin, a senior aide on national security issues to former President Yeltsin. "These votes," Kokoshin argued, are a very clear demonstration of the willingness of Mr. Putin and of the Parliament to save arms control at a critical moment when we see dangers to the regime of negotiations started by the Soviet Union and the United States in the 1960s…"

Ratification was resisted principally by members of the Communist and Agrarian parties. According to Communist deputy Ivan Nikitchuk (April 21): "Lately, there has been a deliberate movement aimed at depriving Russia of its status as a nuclear power. Banning nuclear tests is just another step in that direction…" Agrarian deputy Nikolai Kharitonov complained: "We are seriously concerned that in the last couple of weeks there has been a kind of ratification race in this country while the President has not yet taken office and the Government has still not been formed…"

International Comment and Reaction


Despite the potential drawbacks of the START II ratification, the basic commitment of the Duma to reinvigorate the nuclear disarmament process was widely and warmly welcomed. According to an April 14 statement issued by his office, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan "welcomes" the development, "commends President Putin for having taken this important initiative," and "looks forward to the commencement of START III negotiations, which will contribute to further reductions in nuclear weapons." The next day, Jayantha Dhanapala, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, described the vote as "the first sign of major progress in strategic nuclear arms control in many years."

President Clinton declared himself "very pleased" with the news in an April 14 statement. START II, according to the President, "will make our people safer and our partnership with a democratic Russia stronger. It will open the door to further significant steps to reduce nuclear arms and the nuclear danger, a course that is strongly supported by the international community and has strong bipartisan support in the United States." The statement continued: "I congratulate President-elect Putin and his government, members of the State Duma, and Russian citizens who supported this giant step toward a safer future. I look forward to prompt action on the Treaty by the Federation Council. Now, we and Russia can and must seize this opportunity to intensify our discussions on both START III and the ABM Treaty, so we can take further concrete steps this year to strengthen the security of the United States, Russia and indeed the whole world." The same day, Vice President Al Gore urged "President-elect Putin and his Government to join us in building upon today's progress by intensifying our discussions on START III and the ABM Treaty, and working toward the day when our children need no longer fear the threat of nuclear war."

Speaking in Ukraine, Secretary of State Albright commented (April 14): "This is a big step forward. We look forward to intensifying our discussion on next steps of our arms control dialogue and other issues when Foreign Minister Ivanov comes to Washington later this month… We've waited a long time and the ratification is an important step in what I think is the central activity of our time - trying to deal with the remnants of the Cold War…" State Department spokesperson James Rubin (April 14) also reacted enthusiastically, without denying the problems remaining: "Clearly there are some issues coming down the pike, including the ABM issue, that are controversial… But we believe that our policy of pursuing very prudently, very carefully and very responsibly, a course of action that would enable us to deploy a limited missile…defense system to defend against the states that pose real dangers to both Russia and the United States is an appropriate course. … We are not proposing to…throw away the ABM Treaty. We are proposing modest amendments. And President Putin has indicated, most recently, to Secretary Albright in a face-to-face meeting, that he is prepared to discuss those issues with us." The difficulty of achieving Senate approval for the terms of Russia's START II ratification law was apparent in the reaction (April 14) of John Czwartacki, Spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Republican - Missouri): "We are pleased the Duma finally acted…[but] one thing is certain: we're not going to be blackmailed into leaving the American people exposed and with no ability to provide a national missile defence."

A spokesperson for the French Foreign Ministry noted (April 14) that the "decision has particular interest in the present context," namely that "it will allow the process of reducing the two greatest nuclear arsenals to continue." Speaking during President-elect Putin's state visit to Britain on April 17, Prime Minister Blair told reporters that he had "congratulated Vladimir on the Russian Duma's ratification of the START II Treaty and his key role in securing that." Blair also expressed the hope that Britain might be able to engage constructively in the difficult discussions between Moscow and Washington on the missile defence issue (see also below): "I think, as I said to President Putin during the course of our talks, our role in this is very much to try and build understanding of the respective points of view both of Russia and the West and Russia and the United States of America. The United States of America sees very clearly that there is a threat from potential rogue nuclear states. On the other hand, we are all deeply committed to maintaining the process of lowering the nuclear threshold and enhancing peace and stability in the world. Now we also understand the concerns that Russia has expressed. What is the best way to deal with this? Well, not by me trying to negotiate it here at the rostrum at a press conference, but by trying patiently and in dialogue with friends and partners both in the West and Russia to try and make sure that we resolve this issue, because it has serious potential to cause difficulties in our relations."

The significance of START II as a milestone on the path to a nuclear-weapon-free world was stressed in many statements. According to Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, (April 15) the accord constitutes "an important step along the road to the eventual elimination of all nuclear weapons." Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy (April 14) applauded "a long-awaited, positive step toward the further reduction and ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons…" Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono expressed his country's hope (April 14) that "the reduction of nuclear arsenals will greatly contribute to promoting an international movement towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation."

Among other reaction, NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson told reporters on April 14: "If this is a sign of the ability and of the resolve of Mr. Putin and the Duma to work together, it is a good sign for all of us."


In the words of his spokesperson, UN Secretary-General Annan was "deeply gratified to learn of the ratification," which he regarded as "enhancing the prospects for the entry into force of this important legal instrument against nuclear proliferation and the further development of nuclear weapons." The spokesperson continued: "The Secretary-General takes this opportunity both as Secretary-General of the United Nations and in his capacity as Depositary of the Treaty to urge those states that have still not signed and/or ratified the Treaty to do so as expeditiously as possible."

The reaction of the US Administration to the Duma move on the test ban was understandably coloured by its continuing disappointment at the Senate's rejection of the accord last October. As bluntly expressed by pro-CTBT Senator Joseph Biden (Democrat - Delaware): "There is, of course, a great irony in this event. If the United States had ratified [the] CTBT, we would be the ones getting the credit. Instead, the world will thank Russia." More diplomatically, State Department spokesperson James Rubin told reporters on April 21: "We think the more countries that ratify it, the better… It is so important [to us] that we need to begin to have some quiet consultations with Senators who have legitimate questions and concerns that we think can be addressed, so that we can soon enough ratify… It was the United States that led the way in signing the comprehensive test ban and pushing for its negotiation and ultimately its agreement. So I think we feel quite confident that it was our leadership that helped…" President Clinton's reaction came in a positive but brief April 21 statement:

"I am pleased that the Russian State Duma today ratified the [CTBT]… More than 150 countries have signed the CTBT so far, agreeing to stop all nuclear explosive testing. Ratification of the CTBT by Russia would mean that 30 of the 44 states whose ratification is required for entry into force have now approved this historic agreement, including many US friends and allies. Approval of the CTBT by Russia - as well as the recent approvals by Chile, Bangladesh and Turkey - renews momentum for the international effort to halt the spread of nuclear weapons and promote disarmament around the world. I congratulate President-elect Putin and his Government, members of the State Duma, and Russian citizens who together worked to achieve this important step toward a safer future."

Speaking on the eve of the Duma vote, retired General John Shalikashvili, the head of the 'CTBT Task Force' established by the Administration in the wake of the Senate vote, set out to reporters the three most common objections he had thus far heard in his discussions in Congress: 'some do not like the idea that this is a treaty in perpetuity'; some doubt the adequacy "of the science-based nuclear stewardship program'; some ask "how you can have a treaty that prohibits any kind of nuclear explosion if you cannot adequately detect it." Shalikashvili stated that his discussions would continue, and that he would consider suggesting to the Administration the attachment of "legally accepted conditions" and "legally permitted understandings" to any ratification legislation resubmitted to the Senate.

Reaction from Britain and France, the first nuclear-weapon states to ratify, was naturally one of pleasure and relief. Foreign Office Minister of State Peter Hain stated (April 21): "I warmly welcome the vote today… This is a big step towards our goal of this crucial treaty's entry into force as soon as possible. We hope that other key countries will follow suit. Three of the five declared nuclear-weapon states have now ratified the Treaty. We hope the US and China will now do likewise. Early signature of the Treaty by India and Pakistan would also be a major step forward." A French Foreign Ministry Spokesperson told reporters (April 21): "[France] is pleased with this decision which is crucially important in the present context as Russia, a nuclear-weapon state, is one of the 44 states that have to have ratified the Treaty for it to go into force. France reaffirms its commitment to the implementation of this important treaty and the implementation of a universal, effective and deterrent system of verification. I would remind you that France deposited its instruments of ratification in April 1998 and in July that same year completed dismantling its Pacific Test Center installations."

The US NMD Timetable

On March 21, the US Defense Department announced a two month delay in the test flight of a crucial missile-interceptor system likely to play a prominent part in any US NMD programme. The last test-intercept, in January this year, resulted in failure. The next test, scheduled for April 27, will now take place on June 26. An assessment of the results will be made in late July, even though not all data will then be available. The assessment will be incorporated in a Deployment Readiness Review (DDR) to be submitted by Defense Secretary Cohen to President Clinton, who will then, possibly as early as August or September, make his momentous decision of whether to proceed with NMD deployment. Before the test delay was announced, the President was expected to make his decision as early as June. If the June test is successful, the Defense Department has stated it expects to be able to deploy the intercept-system in 2005. The Department would like to begin construction of a 100-interceptor site in Alaska, with a supporting radar site in the Aleutian Islands, in the spring of 2001.

There are growing calls from within both parties in Congress for a deployment decision to be delayed until, after the November Presidential election. According to Senator Byron Dorgan (Democrat - North Dakota), speaking on March 22: "I worry very much about the impact on the ABM Treaty and the view of our allies… I just don't want us to rush…into a deployment…that would injure our other arms control efforts." Dorgan's view is shared by other senior Democratic Senators including Joseph Biden, the Ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and John Kerry (Massachusetts). In Biden's assessment (March 29): "The technology is not there. It ain't done yet… And I know there has not been a serious assessment of the consequences of this on a possible arms race…in Asia if we stick to the timetable… What do you do by putting off this decision? Number one, you significantly increase the prospects that whatever technology you decide to apply is more reliable. Number two, you significantly increase the prospects that whatever is negotiated [with the Russian side] is able to be ratified in the different environment of a non-election year…"

There is, however, no indication that Russia is prepared to agree further modifications to the Treaty. The two sides - led by Yuri Kapralov, Director of the Foreign Ministry's Department for Security and Disarmament Issues and Under Secretary of State John Holum, President Clinton's Senior Advisor for Arms Control - held their latest round of talks on START/ABM issues in Geneva on April 17-18, in the immediate aftermath of the Duma's vote on START II. According to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement (April 19):

"The two sides expressed their thoughts on various aspects of the future [START III} Treaty. … The Russian side stressed that the efforts aimed at further cuts of strategic offensive weapons, on a reciprocal basis with the US, were only possible if the 1972 ABM Treaty…is preserved and strictly honoured. Strategic stability would be strengthened by coordinated steps to develop cooperation in such areas as strategic arms reduction and non-strategic ABM systems that do not contradict the ABM Treaty, a global system of verification of non-proliferation of missiles and missile technologies and broad political interaction among all states."

Speaking on March 23, Holum claimed that the onus was on Russia to "avoid putting a US President in a position where he has to choose between defense and the [ABM] Treaty…" Holum added: "It seems to me that the real threat to the Treaty would be if we treated it as frozen in time and unable to accommodate new, serious security realities."

On April 14, Representatives Curt Weldon (Republican - Pennsylvania), Chair of the House Armed Services Committee's Panel on Research and Development, and David Vitter (Republican - Louisiana) wrote to President Clinton claiming that it would be illegal for him to enter formal negotiations with Russia on further modifications to the ABM Treaty. According to the Representatives, the terms of the Fiscal Year 2000 Omnibus Appropriations Bill prohibits the allocation of funds allowing US representation on the ABM Treaty's Standing Consultative Committee (SCC) on the basis of a certification to the Congress from the President that the US was not yet adhering to the terms of a September 1997 Memorandum of Understanding establishing Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, in addition to the US and Russia, as members of the ABM Treaty. This technicality is of potential tactical significance in the efforts of Republicans to steer US policy away from seeking ABM amendments which they fear will be too narrowly defined to allow scope for full-scale NMD deployment. The letter argues:

"In the interest of initiating substantive negotiations with Russia on the question of missile defense now, the Administration should move to abandon the current approach of amending the ABM Treaty and revive the Defense and Space talks… We hope that you will consider this alternative approach…and thereby avoid the legal pitfalls associated with a policy of attempting to preserve the ABM Treaty through amending it."

On April 17, 25 Republican Senators, including Majority Leader Trent Lott (Republican - Missouri) wrote to the President opposes his efforts to "purchase Russian consent" to NMD by means of overly restrictive ABM Treaty changes. Any such changes, the letter argues, "would have little hope of gaining Senate consent…" On April 18, White House spokesperson P. J. Crowley made clear the Administration's determination to stick to its present course: "We are working hard to develop the capability to defend the entire United States from this emerging missile threat, and we believe we can accomplish this while preserving the ABM Treaty… The fact that there are a number of Senators who may disagree with this approach is not surprising to us."

On April 11, a panel of 11 prominent US scientists, established by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, urged President Clinton to decide against NMD deployment on the basic technical grounds of the ease with which the envisaged intercept-system could be subverted and evaded. According to the panel: "Deployment…would offer the United States very little, if any, protection against limited ballistic missile attacks, while increasing the risks from other more likely and more dangerous threats to US national security…" The following day, US Air Force Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, Director of the Defense Department's Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), rebutted the suggestion that a limited attack could not be defended against: "We have ways of getting into the counter-countermeasures issue that we believe will be very effective."

On April 4, Defense Department spokesperson Navy Rear Admiral Craig Quigley told reporters that "the total life-cycle cost of the [NMD] program," between the start of its development in 1991 until 2026, was now estimated at $30.2 billion.

Related Developments & Comment

Controversy has arisen over the construction of a US radar in Vardo, Norway. According to a report by Inge Sellevag in the March/April edition of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the radar is intended to track Russian strategic ballistic missiles and thus potentially form a key intelligence component of any US NMD system, even though such a system would be ostensibly deployed against states other than Russia. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement of April 18 expressed grave concern: "A US radar known as HAVE STARE (or under its Norwegian name of Globus II) is being put up in…the immediate proximity of the Russian border. According to US and Norwegian officials, the radar is intended to monitor space objects. But in actual fact, as foreign experts, among others, admit, the HAVE STARE radar is [intended] to monitor ballistic missile launches and, before having been moved to Norway from the US, was used in US strategic ABM tests. Under the 1972 ABM Treaty, the deployment of such a radar outside US territory is forbidden. Clearly, the HAVE STARE radar can be used in Norway…to support a US national ABM system, also banned by the ABM Treaty. The Russian side has more than once posed this question to the US and voiced its serious concern to the Norwegian Government over the continued construction of the HAVE STARE radar, but it has not yet received any clarifications that would dispel this concern. As a result of the situation evolving over that radar, Norway can become an accomplice to the violation and subversion of the ABM Treaty. Russia would not like developments to take this course."

On March 30, the British Guardian newspaper reported that Prime Minister Blair had already expressed to President Clinton his willingness to allow the incorporation and upgrading of the US satellite base at Fylingdales in Yorkshire should the US decide to proceed with an NMD system. The story was rebutted by the Prime Minister's spokesperson the same day: "The Americans have not taken the decisions. They have not made a request…" Also on March 30, a Foreign Office spokesperson insisted: "There has been no formal request from the United States. We have not given them any unofficial assurances either… There have been no proposals for us to give assurances about." The official added that Foreign secretary Robin Cook had recently told Secretary of State Albright that if the US "went ahead and there were a request on Fylingdales, this would be a matter of considerable domestic interest and controversy…"

In remarks to Parliament on March 23, Canada's Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy made plain his reticence to see the US-Canada North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) become incorporated, as Washington would certainly wish, into an NMD system: "Any decision to use NORAD as the command-and-control agency in the event the US decides to deploy NMD could not be made unilaterally… Canada is a full partner in NORAD, which means the US would need to seek agreement from Canada to change NORAD's mandate… The NMD question raises very large issues for Canada and our endorsement or non-endorsement will have far-reaching consequences. … Unilateral efforts to build [ABM] defenses are unlikely to provide lasting security and might quite possibly increase insecurity… The answer lies instead in creating a multilateral approach to stop missile proliferation in the first place and to make this a key part of a strengthened global non-proliferation regime… Now is the time to refocus energy and imagination in strengthening [that regime]… This, not the chimaeric appeal of unilateralist actions - whatever their origins - offers the best guarantee for our collective security." The same day, Defence Minister Art Eggleton sounded perhaps more open to Canadian participation when he observed: "We need to know…what could the system do for Canada? Could we influence the design of the system if we became involved? What role would we play in the operation of the system? … What NORAD's future would be if Canada didn't get involved is something that will have to be examined…"

Notes: on April 25, the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers and the Council for a Livable World Education Fund released a major new study, authored by Stephen Young, examining the financial, diplomatic and strategic costs and dangers of proceeding with NMD deployment. The report - Pushing the Limits: The Decision on National Missile Defense - is available at http://www.clw.org/coalition/libbmd.htm. In a foreword to the study, Democratic Senator Joseph Biden (Connecticut) observes: "The debate on this issue…taps into our philosophical and psychological predilections... We Americans are an optimistic, problem-solving people. For over two centuries, we have used modern technology to improve our lives and our security, from canals and steam engines to transcontinental railroads, electric lights, air travel, antibiotics, the Internet, nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. We are most comfortable when we are pressing forward. Sometimes we press too far, however, or too soon. There is a long history of missile defense systems that have simply failed or have not provided the security we sought. … Ironically, if we should press ahead imprudently with a ballistic missile defense, the START process may be one of the first casualties. …"

The same day as the report was released, a Congressional Budget Office study was published estimating the total cost of NMD development and deployment for the 1996-2015 period as likely to reach $59.4 billion. The full report - Budgetary and Technical Implications of the Administration's Plan for National Missile Defense - is available at http://www.cbo.gov

Also in late April, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published what it confidently claimed were discussion papers on possible ABM Treaty revisions presented by US negotiators - led by John Holum, senior advisor for arms control issues at the State Department - to their Russian counterparts - led by Yuri Kapralov, head of the Foreign Ministry's arms control Department - in Moscow on January 20 this year. The documents suggest that the main thrust of US negotiating strategy is to offer to freeze long-term levels of strategic warheads to between 1,500-2,000 per side and so reassure Russia that American missile defences will not translate into a significant strategic advantage. There is no indication that the Russian side has thus far been persuaded by such a strategy, or swayed from its preference for deep reductions in the context of an essentially unmodified ABM regime. The documents, plus an incisive commentary by Bulletin publisher Stephen Schwartz, are available at http://www.thebulletin.org. See next issue for further details and reaction.

Reports: US delays anti-missile test for 2 months, Reuters, March 21; Missile defense test delayed, Associated Press, March 21; US Defense Department Report, March 21; Clinton urged to delay missile defense decision, Reuters, March 22; US missile shield could boost nuke danger - Canada, Reuters, March 22; Canada says can block anti-missile system into NORAD, Reuters, March 23; US Defense Department Briefing, March 24; Transcript - US official discusses Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, US State Department (Washington File), March 28; Senator favors delaying US missile defense shield, Reuters, March 29; British role in US Star Wars shield, The Guardian, March 30; Britain 'not asked' about US missile shield, Reuters, March 30; UK gave 'no assurances' on US missile shield, Reuters, March 30; Nation deadlocked on nuke test ban, Reuters, March 30; Putin wants better nuclear arsenal, Reuters, March 31; Putin urges START II ratification, Associated Press, March 31; Putin seeks small, better nuclear force, The Guardian, April 1; Russia's military doctrine in wrong direction - NATO, Reuters, April 3; Russia rejects NATO comments on military doctrine, Reuters, April 4; Anti-missile plan costs at least $30.2 billion - Pentagon, Reuters, April 4; Scientists urge against missile defense system, Reuters, April 11; Senators concerned by missile defense costs, Reuters, April 12; Missile defense chief says system can deal with countermeasures, US State Department (Washington File), April 12; Communist opposes arms treaty, Associated Press, April 12; Russian ministers brief Duma before START-2 vote, Reuters, April 13; START-2 ratification meets Russia interest - defence minister, Itar-Tass, April 13; Russia's Duma ratifies START-2 arms treaty, Reuters, April 14; Russia lawmakers OK START II, Associated Press, April 14; Statement by the President, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, April 14; Statement by the Vice President on START II Treaty, The White House, Office of the Vice President, April 14; Albright - US form on weapons plan, Associated Press, April 14; Albright hails Russian START-2 approval, Reuters, April 14; US praises Russia's START-2 vote, Reuters, April 14; World welcomes Russia weapons vote, BBC News Online, April 14; Statement of the Acting President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir V. Putin, in connection with the ratification by the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of START-II Treaty and the Package Agreements on Anti-Missile Defence of 1997, April 14, 2000; Secretary-General welcomes Russian ratification of START II Treaty, United Nations Press Release SG/SM/7359, April 14; US, Russia ready for START III, Associated Press, April 14; French Foreign Ministry Daily Press Briefing, April 14; World welcomes Russia weapons vote, BBC News Online, April 14; Arms control and multilateralism: the Problem of Political Will, speech by Under-Secretary-General Jayantha Dhanapala, April 15 http://www.un.org/Depts/dda/speech/sandia.htm; Russian Foreign Ministry Website, http://www.ln.mid.ru; Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 306-15-4-2000, April 15; Protocols may draw Senate fire, spur bid for broader arms pact, Washington Post, April 15; Russia ratifies START II, BBC News Online, April 15; Australian Foreign ministry Statement FA29, April 15; Russia's Putin insists on US arms compliance, Reuters, April 15; Arms treaty victory strengthens Putin's hand in the West, The Guardian, April 15; Edited transcript, UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office Daily Bulletin, April 17; Blair non-committal on missile shield, Washington Post, April 18; Russian Foreign Ministry Statement 311-18-4-2000, April 18; Clinton, Putin to meet, Washington Post, April 18; Weldon, Vitter - ABM negotiations would violate law, Defense Daily, April 18; Russia regards US radar deployment in Norway as ABM Treaty violation, Interfax, April 18; Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 316-19-4-2000, April 19; Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 324-19-4-2000, April 19; Shalikashvili says CTBT may require conditions for Senate approval, US State Department (Washington File), April 20; Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 335-21-4-2000, April 21; Statement by the President, The White House, April 21; French Foreign Ministry Daily Press Briefing, April 21; UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office Daily Bulletin, April 21; Russian Duma set to approve nuclear test ban pact, Reuters, April 21; Russian Duma set to approve nuclear test ban pact, Reuters, April 21; Russia Duma agrees test ban pact in boost for Putin, Reuters, April 21; US welcomes Duma ratification of treaty, Reuters, April 21; Russia's test ban vote puts US on defensive, Chicago Tribune, April 22; Russia's test ban vote puts US on defensive, Chicago Tribune, April 22; Russia is putting pressure on US over arms pacts, New York Times, April 22; Secretary-General deeply gratified by Russian Federation's ratification of nuclear-test-ban treaty, United Nations Press Release SG/SM/7366, April 24; Vardo exposed, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March/April 2000; PIR Arms Control Letters, April 2000, Issue #4 http://www.armscontrol.ru/start/comments/pir4.txt; PIR Arms control Letters, April 2000, Issue #5 http://www.armscontrol.ru/start/comments/pir5.txt.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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