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News Review Special Edition

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International Developments, November 15, 2002 - February 1, 2003

Key Senate Committee Endorses Moscow Treaty

On February 5, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously approved the US-Russia Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT), also known as the Moscow Treaty. Signed in the Russian capital by Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin in May 2002, the accord specifies a maximum range for operationally-deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,700-2,000 per side by 2012. Although many senior Democrats have criticised the treaty's lack of verification provisions, and its failure to mandate the destruction of a single warhead or delivery system, the Committee was united in recommending the measure's prompt ratification by the full Senate - a step which Committee chair Richard Lugar (Republican) said he would press for "in the next several weeks". Lugar enthused (February 5): "The Moscow Treaty recognizes that the US-Russian relationship has turned the corner. Our countries are no longer mortal enemies engaged in a worldwide Cold War. Our agreements need not be based on mutual suspicion or an adversarial relationship. We are partners in the war against terrorism and we continue to build a strong military and security relationship. The Moscow Treaty reflects the changing nature of our relationship." A statement from Democratic committee member Russell Feingold (February 5) expressed the reservations of many of his colleagues in Congress: "I want to reiterate my view that the goal of meaningful nuclear arms reduction can only be achieved by dismantling and destroying these weapons... I hope that it [SORT] will be the first step in a more comprehensive building plan to reduce the number of nuclear weapons that are stored and deployed by our two countries."

Both the White House and the Kremlin applauded the development. A statement from White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer noted: "President Bush welcomes the unanimous vote today by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in favor of a resolution giving the Senate's advice and consent to the Moscow Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions. He commends Senator Lugar and [Ranking Democrat Joseph] Biden for their leadership in making action on the Moscow Treaty a top priority, and hopes the full Senate moves forward on the resolution at its earliest opportunity." A Russian Foreign Ministry statement (February 6) observed: "This is an important event in the process of ratification by the two countries of the SOR Treaty, the signing of which made a major contribution to the promotion of global strategic stability and formation of the new partner relationship between Russia and the USA." The statement concluded: "The two sides on the whole have synchronously been moving towards ratification of the SOR Treaty. The hearings held in the relevant committees of both Houses of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation demonstrated the constructive mindset of the parliamentarians with regard to the treaty. Grounds have now appeared to hope that the legislative bodies of Russia and the United States will be able to ratify the SOR Treaty in the next few months... This would constitute an additional factor of stability in the present not simple international situation."

The Committee attached two conditions and six declarations to its approval resolution. According to a commentary issued by Senator Lugar's office, the first condition mandates the President to submit an annual report to the Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees on "the amount of Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction assistance Russia will need to meet its obligations under the Treaty." The reason for the condition, as Senator Lugar notes in the commentary, is that "without US assistance Russia cannot meet the timetable of its obligations under this treaty. The primary vehicle for cooperation in reducing weapons levels set by the Moscow Treaty and addressing the threat posed by warhead security will be the Nunn-Lugar program. Without Nunn-Lugar it is likely the benefits of this treaty will be postponed or never realized. It is my view that interruptions in the Nunn-Lugar program such as those we experienced this summer" - problems treated elsewhere in this News Review - "could threaten the viability of the Moscow Treaty."

The second condition mandates the President to submit an 'Annual Implementation Report' to the Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees. This would report would update the committees on progress or problems in seven main areas: 1) "strategic force levels"; 2) "planned offensive reductions"; 3) "treaty implementation plans"; 4) "efforts to improve verification and transparency"; 5) "status of START I Treaty verification extension" - a reference to the verification procedures specified under the terms of the 1991 US-Russia Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, set to remain in force until 2009; 6) "information regarding the ability of either side to fully implement the Treaty"; and 7) "any efforts to improve the effectiveness of the Treaty".

The six declarations, as summarised by Senator Lugar's office, are as follows:

"Declaration 1: Treaty Interpretation. This declaration or similar language has been in each resolution of ratification for an arms control treaty since the INF [Intermediate Nuclear Forces] Treaty's resolution of ratification in 1988. It is known in the arms control community as the Biden condition. The condition articulates the Constitutional principles on which the common understanding of the terms of a treaty will be based.

Declaration 2: Further Strategic Arms Reductions. This declaration encourages the President to continue efforts to eliminate the threats posed by strategic offensive nuclear weapons to as low a level as possible while not jeopardizing our country's national security or alliance obligations.

Declaration 3: Bilateral Implementation Issues. The treaty establishes a Bilateral Implementation Commission as a diplomatic consultative forum to discuss issues related to implementation of the Treaty. This declaration calls on the Executive Branch to provide briefings before and after meetings of the Bilateral Implementation Commission concerning: (1) issues raised during meetings; (2) any issues the United States is pursuing through other channels; and (3) Presidential determinations with regard to these issues.

Declaration 4: Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons. During the hearings on the Treaty both Secretary of State Powell and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld testified that non-strategic nuclear weapons or tactical nuclear weapons remain an important issue and expressed a strong interest in working closely with Russia to reduce associated threats. This provision is meant to recognize the threat and difficulties associated with tactical nuclear weapons. It urges the President to work closely with and provide assistance to Russia on the full accounting, safety and security of the Russian tactical nuclear weapon stockpile.

Declaration 5: Achieving Reductions. This declaration encourages the President to accelerate US reductions where feasible and consistent with US national security requirements so that reductions may be achieved prior to December 31, 2012.

Declaration 6: Consultations. This declaration has been included in an attempt to address concerns put forward by some Senators regarding the treaty's withdrawal clause in Article IV. This text follows up on Secretary of State Powell's commitment to consult with the Senate should the President consider the utilization of the withdrawal provision."

Note: an indication of possible trouble ahead in the Russian ratification process came on January 14, with comments by Gennady Seleznyov, the Speaker of the Duma, the Lower House of the Federal Assembly, placing consideration of the treaty in the context of developments in the Middle East. "The never-ending blackmailing of Iraq," the Speaker observed, "is not conducive for a favourable climate in this issue."

Related material on Acronym website:

Reports: Moscow may wait for Washington to ratify Moscow Treaty, Global Security Newswire, January 16; Foreign Relations Committee approves Moscow Treaty, Press Release from office of Senator Richard Lugar, February 5; Senate Committee recommends approval of Moscow Treaty, Global Security Newswire, February 5; Statement by the Press Secretary, The White House, February 5; Regarding US Senate International Affairs Committee's approval of Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, Russian Foreign Ministry Statement, 295-06-02-2003, February 6.

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