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Clinton, Putin Issue 'Strategic Stability Cooperation Initiative'
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October 2000

By Philipp C. Bleek

Meeting at the United Nations Millennium Summit in New York, Presidents Bill Clinton and Vladimir Putin agreed September 6 to the "Strategic Stability Cooperation Initiative." The agreement recommits the United States and Russia to undertaking, and in some cases extending, a range of existing bilateral initiatives concerning arms control and non-proliferation. (For the text of the initiative, see p. 33.)

The document consists of a joint statement signed by both presidents and an "implementation plan." The statement reaffirms both countries' support for all existing major bilateral arms control treaties as well as the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It also calls for continued work toward several key arms control objectives, including a fissile material cutoff treaty and a START III agreement to further reduce strategic nuclear arsenals.

The implementation plan that makes up the latter half of the document lays out six specific initiatives. These include holding bilateral discussions on emerging ballistic missile threats; conducting joint theater missile defense (TMD) exercises; continuing work on the Joint Data Exchange Center, intended to house the U.S.-Russian early-warning information center; working to complete a bilateral agreement on pre-launch notification of ballistic missile launches; continuing work on a "global" approach to missile non-proliferation; and holding expert meetings to consider expanded cooperation on Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) verification and warhead safety.

The early-warning and prelaunch notification initiatives appear to only reaffirm existing agreements, and the ballistic missile threat, missile non-proliferation, and CTBT initiatives are simply commitments to continue ongoing discussion. However, one initiative does appear to cover limited new ground. The agreement on TMD builds on two previous cooperative exercises and states that the United States and Russia will conduct two joint exercises at U.S. facilities in Colorado and Texas in the next two years.

At a September 6 press briefing in New York, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott said that the recently approved initiative is intended to elaborate on two previous statements with regard to "reinforcing the nuclear peace" and dealing with "new threats": the "Joint Statement on Principles of Strategic Stability," signed in Moscow June 4 (see ACT, July/August 2000), and the "Joint Statement on Cooperation on Strategic Stability," adopted at the Okinawa Group of Eight summit July 21.

The two statements and the new initiative are intended to formalize understandings reached during ongoing bilateral talks between senior U.S. and Russian officials. Those talks were originally intended to negotiate a START III agreement to dramatically reduce both sides' nuclear arsenals, but a lack of progress in negotiating amendments to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to facilitate U.S. deployment of a limited national missile defense has stalled talks on further nuclear reductions. U.S. officials no longer expect a START III agreement to be negotiated during the remainder of President Clinton's term and appear to be pursuing uncontroversial "strategic stability cooperation" as an alternative to more substantive work on strategic arms control.

Posted: October 1, 2000