New Head of Russian Strategic Forces Praises START

Newly appointed commander in chief of the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, Colonel General Vladimir Yakovlev, expressed his strong support for the U.S. Russian strategic offensive arms reduction process in an interview published in the Russian Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye on August 14. Yakovlev, who takes over responsibility for the strategic rocket forces from General Igor Sergeyev (the new Russian Defense Minister), said the START agreements will preserve nuclear deterrence, enhance strategic stability, reduce the likelihood of military confrontation and provide significant economic benefits.

Although START II has not yet been approved by the Russian Duma, Yakovlev is optimistic about the treaty's prospects. "I believe the START II Treaty unquestionably is advantageous for Russia. Its ratification is without an alternative both from a military strategic as well as economic standpoint," he said. Yakovlev also noted that several Russian complaints about START II were largely addressed by the "Joint Statement on Parameters on Future Reductions in Nuclear Forces," signed by President Bill Clinton and President Boris Yeltsin on March 21 in Helsinki. (See ACT, March 1997.) Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether Yeltsin will press the Duma to take up the treaty when it returns from its summer recess.