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
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
Under the treaty, the Soviet Union was to retain 154 out of 308
massive SS-18 missiles, each equipped with up to 10 powerful
According to Batenin, 108 of these missiles sit in silos in
Kazakhstan and the majority will be left in place after the
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. …