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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 25, April 1998

Yeltsin Submits START II Protocol to Duma

On 13 April, President Yeltsin resubmitted to the lower house of the Russian Parliament, the Duma, the 1993 START (Strategic Arms Reduction) II Treaty, appended with a protocol, signed by the US and Russia in September 1997, detailing changes to the Treaty's implementation procedures and schedule. The central stipulation in the protocol is an extension of the implementation deadline from 1 January 2003 to 31 December 2007 - see Dr. Yuri Pinchukov's Analysis & Opinion paper in this issue for further details. Some reports suggested that the formal submission of the protocol to the Duma would facilitate a vote to ratify the Treaty in the near future. The US State Department immediately welcomed the news. According to spokesperson James Rubin, speaking on 13 April, it was "good news that the Russian Government is one step closer to ratifying this important arms control treaty."

On 14 April, Yeltsin's chief spokesperson, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, announced that the President had instructed Foreign Minister Primakov "to start serious work with the Duma on the ratification of the START II Treaty in coordination with the Defence Ministry." However, serious doubts over the advisability of ratification clearly remain. A blunt reminder of influential opposition came from Rev Lokhlin, Chair of the Duma's Defence Committee, who stated dismissively on 14 April: "It [ratification] is not beneficial to Russia."

On 24 April, at the third and final time of asking, the Duma approved the President's nomination of Sergei Kiriyenko as Prime Minister to replace Viktor Chernomyrdin (see last issue). Kiriyenko's appointment secured 251 votes to only 25 against. President Clinton was quick to link his congratulations to the new Prime Minister the issue of START II ratification. Speaking to reporters on 24 April, Clinton observed: "I...very much hope this will free up the Duma to consider the START II Treaty because if they will ratify it, then we can move on to START III and continue our effort of dramatically reducing the nuclear threat." White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry stated the same day:

"We believe that the people of Russia and the elected leaders of Russia will see the value in further arms reductions and implementing those agreements that have already been reached... [W]e fully expect President Yeltsin to want to move smartly and effectively to encourage the Duma to take up START II ratification..."

Reports: Yeltsin resubmits START II Treaty, Associated Press, 13 April; Yeltsin sends START II for ratification, United Press International, 13 April; Yeltsin presses Duma over START 2, Reuters, 14 April; Two opposition members in Duma express doubts about START II, Associated Press, 14 April; Yeltsin seeks to speed up START 2 ratification, Reuters, 15 April; Clinton welcomes Kiriyenko appointment, Reuters, 24 April; Clinton welcomes vote by Russian Duma to approve Kiriyenko, United States Information Service, 24 April; US welcomes Kiriyenko appointment, Reuters, 25 April.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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