Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nuclear Arms-Slicing Treaty with Russia Ok'd in Senate

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Nuclear Arms-Slicing Treaty with Russia Ok'd in Senate

Article excerpt

By a vote of 87-4, the Senate ratified the START II treaty Friday, approving an agreement reached in 1993 between the United States and Russia calling for nuclear arms reductions.

The treaty needs approval by the Duma, the Russian parliament.

The Senate also approved, 56-34, a $265 billion defense authorization bill. Clinton has said he will sign the defense bill.

"The United States will not be legally bound by the START II treaty if the Russian Federation does not ratify it," said Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., who supported ratification. The four senators opposing the bill were John Ashcroft, R-Mo., Jesse Helms, R-N.C., James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Bob Smith, R-N.H.

A spokesman for Ashcroft said he opposed ratification because Russia had yet to realize the reduction in missile levels called for under the START I and because he believed Russian political and economic problems cast doubt on its ability to make further reductions.

The treaty, signed at the end of the Bush administration, bans all land-based nuclear weapons with multiple warheads. The U.S. and Russian arsenals would be pared by about two-thirds by 2003. One of Russia's most feared weapons, the SS-18 missile, would be eliminated.

Although the Duma has not ratified the treaty, both governments have been abiding by its terms, reducing their arsenals ahead of schedule.

Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., a supporter of the treaty, said Friday he was concerned that START II ratification would become caught up in the Russian elections. Nunn said he feared that the Russian legislature would not ratify the treaty before Russian President Boris Yeltsin's term expired in June. After that, ratification could become more difficult.

In the defense bill, Republicans gave up on provisions that would have required deployment of a national missile defense system by 2003 and restricted the president's power to place troops under U.N. command. Last month, Clinton vetoed a defense spending bill that included those provisions. …

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