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Yeltsin Submits START II, ABM-TMD Agreements to Duma

April 1998

By Craig Cerniello

As part of the START II ratification process, Russian President Boris Yeltsin formally transmitted to the Duma on April 13 the package of strategic arms control agreements that were signed by the United States and Russia last September in New York. (See ACT, September 1997.) This action has been accompanied by some encouraging signs that the Duma may take up START II before adjourning for its summer recess on July 10.

The package of agreements includes the START II extension protocol and associated documents; the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on succession to the ABM Treaty; the two agreed statements relating to the ABM Treaty; the agreement on confidence-building measures (CBMs); and the regulations of the Standing Consultative Commission (SCC). The joint statement on the annual exchange of information related to theater missile defense (TMD) systems and the unilateral statements issued by the United States, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine on their respective TMD plans are also part of the package.

Although Yeltsin submitted the New York agreements to the Duma, they are not all necessarily subject to ratification. At this point, the Duma is expected to take action on START II (as amended by the protocol), the MOU on succession as well as the first and second agreed statements on demarcation. It is not yet clear, however, whether the Duma will choose to act on the CBMs agreement or the SCC regulations, which are simply implementing documents related to the agreed statements and MOU.

The Clinton administration has stated that it intends to submit a similar package of agreements to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification once Russia has ratified START II. In addition, the United States and Russia agreed at Helsinki in March 1997 to immediately begin negotiations on a START III agreement, which will limit each side to 2,000 to 2,500 deployed strategic warheads by the end of 2007, once Russia ratifies START II. A Clinton-Yeltsin summit meeting may also be linked to Russian parliamentary action on START II.

With the transmittal of the package to the Duma, Yeltsin appears committed to achieving START II ratification. Referring to the amended START II treaty, Yeltsin said April 13 that it "corresponds to the interests of Russia." That same day, he formally appointed Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev as his representatives during the Duma's deliberations on the treaty.

According to an April 14 Interfax report, Gennady Seleznev, chairman of the Duma, said final parliamentary hearings on START II (involving Primakov and Sergeyev) might take place in May and that the ratification issue will be put on the agenda in June.

In that same report, Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Duma's International Affairs Committee, an influential committee in the ratification process, expressed his support for START II as amended and stated that an "interfactionary" commission will be established in the near future to assess the package of strategic agreements that Yeltsin submitted.

Amid these developments, Primakov and Sergeyev continue to publicly make the case for the strategic arms reduction process. Primakov said on April 2 that START II ratification is "in the interests of Russia (and) in the interests of world peace," while Sergeyev called for further arms reductions on April 23 and said the United States and Russia could maintain strategic stability with only 2,500 deployed warheads each.

Nevertheless, it is unclear whether the Duma can be persuaded to act on START II promptly in the aftermath of Sergei Kiriyenko's controversial nomination as prime minister and the U.S. Senate's formal approval of NATO enlargement.