WASHINGTON and Moscow will take up an old topic for discussion
when US Secretary of State James Baker III arrives in Moscow Monday
- arms control.
The air is filled these days with rhetoric about old enemies
becoming allies. Russian President Boris Yeltsin caught the
attention of many when he suggested, in his debut speech on arms
control delivered Jan. 29, that the US and Russia collaborate in a
global system of defense as a replacement for the United States's
Star Wars program. He grabbed headlines by announcing that Russian
missiles would no longer be aimed at North America.
But critics here say the Yeltsin arms-control policy is a
seriously flawed and contradictory combination of old-style Soviet
arms- control and untested radical ideas. The entire arms-control
process has been put in jeopardy by the continuing inability of the
members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the loose
confederation that has replaced the Soviet Union, to agree on the
future status of the former Soviet armed forces.
Some Russian arms control experts and officials speak
confidently about moving quickly to a new relationship. A joint
program to develop defenses against missile attacks, intended to
deal with the growing danger that countries such as Iraq or Iran
could obtain long-range missiles armed with nuclear warheads, will
change the way the two countries see each other, says Sergei
Blagovolin, head of the independent Institute for National Security
and Strategic Studies.
"If we were involved in such a large-scale military project, it
will allow us - once and for all - to eliminate the mutual military
threat, to reconcile our military doctrines, to form a military
division of labor," Mr. Blagovolin says.
The Yeltsin arms control declaration offered a number of
unilateral steps and proposals for mutual cuts in nuclear weapons
designed to bring the total level of warheads well below the number
allowed under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) signed
last year with what was then the Soviet Union (but not yet
ratified). The Russian proposals followed a speech along similar
lines by President Bush in mid-January. Mr. Bush and Mr. Yeltsin
met in New York and Washington earlier this month and Secretary
Baker's Feb. 17-18 visit in Moscow is intended as a more concrete
followup to those talks.
"There is a great deal of room for compromise between the
American position and our position," says Andrei Kokoshin, deputy
director of the USA-Canada Institute and an arms-control specialist
who serves as an advisor to Yeltsin. "We have a chance to move
quickly - not through long, boring negotiations as we did with
START but through an agreement in principle without all those
details, combined with parallel, unilateral steps."
Georgi Arbatov, longtime arms control advisor to Soviet leaders
and head of the USA-Canada Institute, has seriously questioned the
new Yeltsin policy. According to a summary of his remarks published
in Izvestia on Feb. 8, Mr. …