Military Stalemate Threatens Soviet Arms-Control Treaties

Article excerpt

DESPITE reports of a cooling of the dispute over nuclear weapons between Ukraine and Russia, the summit meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States today in the Ukrainian capital seems unlikely to reach the long-sought accord on a joint armed forces.

Rather than reaching agreement on joint military policy, the commonwealth members appear headed, in effect, toward "dividing up the military legacy of the USSR," as an editorial in the Red Star newspaper put it yesterday.

"The sooner we divide this Army, the better it will be," Gen. Geliy Batenin, senior military advisor to the Russian foreign minister told the Monitor.

The decree issued by Russian President Boris Yeltsin forming a defense ministry and moving toward creation of a separate army marks a de facto acceptance of the end of the military leadership's hopes of preserving a joint commonwealth army, he admitted.

But Russian officials acknowledge that there is almost no consensus about how this division should take place and that the fight threatens to undermine, if not halt, the implementation of key international arms control treaties. The fate of the 1990 treaty to cut conventional forces in Europe (CFE) seems particularly in doubt, officials admit.

And despite claims of agreement on the fate of nuclear weapons which would leave Russia as the sole nuclear weapons power of the former Soviet Union, General Batenin revealed to the Monitor that those agreements allow Ukraine and Kazakhstan to keep significant numbers of nuclear-tipped missiles (nuclear weapons are also based in Belarus).

And there are strong indications that both states intend to retain some weapons even after observing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with the US.

Batenin expressed confidence that the four republics possessing nuclear weapons would finally sign an agreement in Kiev to implement the START pact. That would set a timetable for the missiles and warheads to be destroyed in each republic to reach the treaty limits.

Under the treaty, the Soviet Union was to retain 154 out of 308 massive SS-18 missiles, each equipped with up to 10 powerful warheads.

According to Batenin, 108 of these missiles sit in silos in Kazakhstan and the majority will be left in place after the reduction.

In talks two weeks ago with the Kazakh ambassador in Moscow, the Kazakh government made clear that it has no plans to dismantle the remaining missiles, Batenin said. "The Kazakh ambassador said 'we are a nuclear weapons state,' " Batenin said. He also explained that Kazakhstan intends to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty only as a weapons state. …