Magazine article Arms Control Today

Putin Elected President, Addresses Nuclear Agenda

Magazine article Arms Control Today

Putin Elected President, Addresses Nuclear Agenda

Article excerpt

IN A WIDELY predicted victory, Vladimir Putin was elected March 26 as Russia's second post-communist president. Putin, who has served as acting president since Boris Yeltsin's surprise resignation on New Year's Eve, called for strengthening the stability of the Russian nuclear arsenal and expressed support for the strategic arms reduction process in a March 31 address to Russian nuclear scientists.

Putin delivered the speech in Snezhinsk (formerly Chelyabinsk-70), one of Russia's closed nuclear cities, and stated that he would "preserve and strengthen the Russian nuclear weapons complex," though he emphasized that this did not mean increasing the size of Russia's arsenal. Referring to START II and START III, Putin also said that in order to "make our world safer and reduce the excess of weapons," Russia is "holding and will continue talks on further cuts in strategic offensive weapons."

START II has been stalled in the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, for seven years, though several unsuccessful attempts have been made to bring it to a vote. Alexei Arbatov, deputy chair of the Duma Defense Committee, stated in a March 29 press conference that "if the final signal comes from the Kremlin, the Duma, I think, will easily ratify [START II and other arms control agreements] in the course of April and May."

If START II is ratified soon, it could facilitate negotiation of a START III agreement in the coming months-a prospect in which high-level U.S. and Russian officials have expressed repeated interest. Russia has proposed reductions as low as 1,500 deployed warheads, while the United States has argued for 2,000-2,500 warheads, the level proposed when Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed in 1997 to pursue a START III agreement.

However, the Clinton administration's attempts to amend the ABM Treaty to facilitate deployment of a limited national missile defense may undermine both current and future strategic arms reduction agreements. …

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