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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 51, October 2000

US-Russia START & ABM Discussions

Russian Foreign Ministry Statement

Document 1098-19-10, October 19, 2000.

"On October 16-18 a regular round of Russian-American consultations on START/ABM problems took place in Moscow, with Yuri Kapralov, Director of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Security and Disarmament Department, leading the group of Russian experts and US Under Secretary of State John Holum heading the American group. ...

The consultations are being held in accordance with the understandings of the Russian and US presidents, embodied in their joint statement adopted in Cologne on June 20, 1999, and have been subordinated to a common task: not to allow a pause in the Russian-American dialogue even in a year of ' presidential elections'

In the course of the discussions, the Russian side explained and fleshed out the proposals on major areas of START III talks, handed over by Russian President Vladimir Putin to US President Bill Clinton during the Okinawa G8 Summit in July of 2000. In particular, the proposal was reconfirmed for cutting down the arsenal of strategic offensive arms of each of the sides to 1,500 warheads, which would be a radical step for nuclear disarmament compared with the levels set by the START II Treaty (3,000-3,500 units) and by the presidential Helsinki understandings (2,000-2,500 units). The American side was called on to show reciprocal readiness for such a deep cut in strategic offensive arms. Explanations were given with regard to the need to account in a START III Treaty for all the types and systems of strategic arms, and envisage non-circumvention arrangements along with concrete moves to reduce the nuclear danger and promote strategic stability.

The Russian side recalled that the September 2, 1998, joint presidential statement had specified the time within which negotiations on START III could and should begin: ' after the ratification of the START II Treaty by Russia' This spring our country did ratify the Treaty. (The United States has not yet done so.)

The main obstacle to launching such negotiations is still the United States' line unjustifiably tying their start to the conduct of talks on the '' of the 1972 ABM Treaty to the deployment in the US of a national ABM system. In this connection John Holum was told that the stand of Russia remains unchanged; we did not conduct and will not conduct talks on '', and in practice a destruction, of the ABM Treaty. Such '' is altogether impossible, for the substance of the Treaty is a ban on the deployment of a territorial ABM system and provision of a base for such a defense. Without strict observance of the 1972 Treaty, further reductions of strategic offensive arms are impossible.

Views were also exchanged at the consultations on the issues of implementing the sides' agreed plans for cooperation in the promotion of strategic stability, approved by the presidents of Russia and the United States at their meeting in New York.

The Under Secretary of State' attention was drawn to the potential for interaction in connection with Russia' initiatives for a Global System of Control over the Non-Proliferation of Missiles and Missile Technologies, for the convocation of an international conference on preventing the militarisation of outer space in Moscow next year, and for the exclusion of weapons-grade materials from nuclear power production. Some other disarmament questions were also discussed, including divisive issues."

Holum-Mamedov Consultation

Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, Document 1094-18-10-2000, October 18, 2000.

' October 18, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Georgy Mamedov received US Under Secretary of State John Holum... During the talk, it was reconfirmed to John Holum that the Russian side is for the strict realization of the presidential accords on the earliest conclusion of a START III Treaty, especially as there are no objective political or military reasons not to agree to the common maximum ceilings of 1,500 nuclear warheads for each of the sides. Of course, such deep-going reductions are possible only in conditions of the preservation and strengthening of the immutability of the 1972 ABM Treaty as the guarantee of common strategic stability in the world. In this connection a number of considerations were stated to the American side as to how in the shortest possible time to ensure the achievement of the disarmament goals set by Vladimir Putin and Bill Clinton without the destruction of the ABM Treaty, to which the deployment of a national ABM system, prohibited by this agreement, will inevitably lead. Mention was also made of some new promising ideas with respect to a drastic reduction in strategic offensive arms and cooperation in the field of Theatre missile defense systems permitted by the 1997 Russian-American agreements that are now being put forward by a number of influential US politicians.

In the context of the planned meeting between the Russian and US presidents in November 2000 at the summit in Brunei, the importance was reconfirmed of the faithful implementation of the agreed plans of the sides for cooperation in the field of strategic stability, set forth in the joint statements of the presidents of the two countries in Okinawa and in New York. As a separate theme, certain acute questions of international military-technological cooperation were touched upon, including mutual observance of the accords in this field.

The interlocutors also discussed the problems of interaction between the Russian Federation and the United States - with the widest enlistment of all the other concerned countries - on the non-proliferation and disarmament topics in the UN and at the Conference on Disarmament, including the practical promotion of Russia' initiatives for a Global Missile Technologies Control System, for the convocation in Moscow next year of an international conference on preventing the militarisation of outer space, and for the exclusion of weapons-grade materials from nuclear power production."

Interview with John Holum

John Holum, Under Secretary of State for International Security and Arms Control, interview with Jacquelyn Porth, Washington File Security Affairs Writer, October 2000.

"Question: ' are the positive and negative aspects of President Clinton' decision to hold a decision to deploy a limited National Missile Defense system for the next President?'

Holum: '' taken a lot of international pressure off. It' given us more time to work diplomatically, not only with Russia but also with our allies and others around the world. We' been working on this since the summer of 1999. The decision to have a notional NMD architecture to talk with the Russians about commanded everybody' attention. Now there is no longer that immediate urgency. I think over the last year we' made a lot of progress in explaining to our allies and to others around the world why we are considering this step and why it is consistent with the basic purposes of the ABM Treaty and disarmament. There is still a lot of uncertainty, and I think it is important to work with Russia and, of course, it gives more time for the technology to be proven as well as to explore possible alternative technologies. So overall it has been a positive outcome. I also think there has been some downside in the sense that the Russians are drawing from this the conclusion that if they keep up an intense political effort against the program, they can negotiate further reductions in START III without facing up to the need to update the ABM Treaty to permit limited defences.'

Question: ' what degree do you think there is a general Russian comprehension of US efforts to get Moscow to agree to changes to the 1972 ABM Treaty that would allow the United States to pursue a limited NMD system?'

Holum: ' don' think this is generally understood because the entire focus of the Russian posture has been that any change to the ABM Treaty will destroy it. And that is manifestly not the case. For example, we have already changed the Treaty to clarify the dividing line between Theatre and strategic systems. And that strengthened the Treaty because it made clear that, while preserving the Treaty, we could address the evolution of the security environment. The Treaty also already permits 100 interceptors. And the amendment to the Treaty we are proposing would have a limit of 100 ground-based interceptors, which means that the Treaty number wouldn' be any greater than Russia already has, in its permitted deployments around Moscow. It would help preserve the Treaty because, again, it would demonstrate that it is allowing for reasonable responses to emerging new threats.'

Question: ' do you think...of Russian President Putin' notion of US-Russian joint cooperation on a limited NMD program?'

Holum: ' think there is something there to be explored. We are interested in finding out more about what they have in mind. I think they are still developing their thinking. As you know, at the Okinawa Summit and the UN Millennium Summit, Presidents Clinton and Putin agreed to a number of initiatives on strategic stability, including joint efforts in the areas of early-warning, pre-launch notification, Theatre missile defences, joint threat assessment, and in trying to develop a global missile non-proliferation regime - like a code of conduct - complete with possible incentives to encourage other countries not to pursue missiles. When I went to Moscow in October I discussed all of those areas. We are approaching this very much from an attitude of cooperation - not only cooperation on amending the ABM Treaty, but cooperation on early-warning and possible collaboration on elements of missile defense. I think to be fair, we' probably put more specific ideas on the table on cooperation than the Russians have, but they have demonstrated their interest.' ...

Question: ' exactly does the US mean by repeated references to the ABM Treaty as a cornerstone of strategic stability?'

Holum: ' ABM Treaty underpins a stable strategic relationship because it gives both the US and Russia confidence that the other is not pursuing large-scale strategic nuclear defences. Competition can be stimulated if one side or the other pursues, or even maintains, large-scale offensive forces and comprehensive defences. Without such defences - defences much more comprehensive than the US has proposed - neither we nor Russia have concerns that the other side would even consider using strategic nuclear weapons - it would be suicidal. By creating such assurances, the ABM Treaty has enhanced stability and allowed deep reductions in strategic nuclear arsenals to take place.'

Question: ' can you say about the ABM resolution the Russians are pushing?'

Holum: ' are proposing an ABM resolution in the United Nations that is the same as the one they proposed in 1999. In essence, it argues that the Treaty should not be amended and that any national missile defense should be ruled out. We think it is a mistake to bring this issue to the UN General Assembly; the UN shouldn' be involved in what is a bilateral issue. We think that the best way to preserve the Treaty may be to amend it because it is a cornerstone of strategic stability.'

Question: ' are future expectations for START III? And what has to happen to bring about a third round of strategic cuts?'

Holum: ' things must happen: One is that we need to do as the presidents said in the Cologne Joint Statement issued at the 1999 G-8 meeting, and that is to pursue START III and the ABM Treaty in parallel. It makes sense to proceed with both at the same time and to build on the 1997 Helsinki framework. We have to take the first steps not only with respect to reducing missiles and bombers, but the warheads themselves. The Russian side has laid out their arguments. We have even gotten to the point of exchanging treaty language. But we are not close together on how a START III Treaty should take shape. For example, the Russians are arguing that the number of warheads should be 1,500 rather than 2,000 to 2,500, as agreed by the two Presidents in Helsinki. I think the 2,000 to 2,500 number is the right place to start. I would not expect there to be an agreement on START III during the balance of President Clinton' term. I think we have accomplished in both the ABM and the START III discussions some understanding in detail about what the shape of an agreement might be, so if there is a political decision to proceed to negotiations, that could happen fairly quickly.'"

Source: Interview - Under Secretary Holum Discusses Arms Control Issues, US State Department (Washington File), October 30.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.