Russia Clarifies Yeltsin Statement on Nuclear Cuts

During a December 2 news conference in Sweden, Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced that Russia would unilaterally reduce its nuclear arsenal by one third, a statement that was quickly "clarified" by his aides. Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky explained that Yeltsin had meant that Russia was willing to accept nuclear force reductions below the START III level of 2,000 to 2,500 deployed strategic warheads agreed to last March in Helsinki. Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev told concerned members of the Duma, the lower house of parliament, that Russia had no plans to make unilateral reductions in its nuclear arsenal. "Neither the president, nor, for that matter, we, have proposed any unilateral reductions. Everything will be done on the basis of parity," Sergeyev said December 5.

Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgi Mamedov met with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott December 3 4 in Washington to discuss a range of security and arms control issues, including START III. Although the United States and Russia are currently holding a series of expert level discussions on START III, the Clinton administration maintains that official negotiations on a follow on treaty cannot begin until the Russian Duma approves START II.