Duma Criticizes Helsinki Outcome; Postpones START II Discussions

By Cerniello, Craig | Arms Control Today, April 1997 | Go to article overview

Duma Criticizes Helsinki Outcome; Postpones START II Discussions


Cerniello, Craig, Arms Control Today


IN THE DAYS following the March 20-21 Helsinki summit meeting between President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, influential members of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, criticized the Yeltsin administration for making too many concessions on key national security issues, especially with respect to the planned enlargement of the NATO alliance. Acknowledging that Russia was unable to prevent NATO enlargement, Yeltsin nonetheless defended the results of the summit in a March 26 radio address to the nation. Meanwhile, the Duma announced on April 9 that it would postpone discussion of START II. Duma Reacts to Helsinki

The Helsinki agreements drew a hostile reaction from several members of the Duma. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyugonov, the most outspoken of these critics, claimed that the summit had been a "crushing defeat" for Moscow and characterized the joint statements as "Russia's Versailles"-a reference to the 1919 Versailles Treaty, which ended World War I and imposed severe conditions on the defeated German state.

Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Duma's International Affairs Committee (a key committee involved in the START II ratification process), also had a strong initial reaction to the agreements reached in Helsinki. In a clear reference to NATO enlargement, Lukin said, "We can speak of ratifying START II only if there will be greater trust between the sides. And this trust has significantly diminished."

Lukin provided a more thorough analysis of the joint statements in a March 27 article in the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta. In terms of the "Joint Statement on Parameters on Future Reductions in Nuclear Forces," he praised the five-year extension of the START II reduction schedule as well as the basic principles for a START III agreement. (See ACT, March 1997.) However, Lukin argued that it was not "realistic" for the Duma to ratify START II before negotiations on START III commence, as called for in the joint statement. "The Duma is in no hurry to ratify [START II], among other reasons, because it sees no promise of a dependable and mutually acceptable strategic balance. For after START II is ratified, the U.S. can well procrastinate or freeze negotiations on START III, and Russia would be in a highly losing position," Lukin said.

Lukin also pointed out some potential difficulties with the "Joint Statement Concerning the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty." Despite the U.S. and Russian commitments to the ABM Treaty, Lukin cautioned that there is "no clear definition" between permitted theater missile defense systems and restricted ABM systems-a situation which he said should be resolved before the sides can move forward with START II and START III. …

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Duma Criticizes Helsinki Outcome; Postpones START II Discussions
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