Russia Ratifies START II, Extension Protocol; ABM-Related Agreements Also Approved
Bleek, Philipp C., Arms Control Today
MORE THAN SEVEN years after signing the treats; Russia ratified START II on May 4, also approving a package of agreements that extend the treaty's deadline and clarify issues concerning the 1972 ABM Treaty. The ratification puts additional pressure on the United States at a sensitive time for U.S.-Russian relations as Washington tries to negotiate changes to the ABM Treaty to permit deployment of a limited national missile defense. The ratification has also eased criticism of Russia at the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference for the nuclear-weapon states' lack of progress on disarmament.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's outspoken support for the treaty and the more politically moderate composition of the newly elected Duma were decisive factors in the parliament's approval of the accord. The Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, passed a resolution of ratification April 14 by a vote of 288-131 with four abstentions. The upper house of parliament followed suit April 19, voting 122-15 in favor of the resolution. On May 4, Putin signed the resolution, officially ratifying the treaty. (See p. 26 for full text of the resolution.)
Following Duma approval of the treaty, which was widely heralded as a demonstration of the newly elected president's strength and apparent commitment to arms control, Putin said that "for Russia, the conclusion of the START II treaty opens the possibility to ensure its security on a parity basis with the U.S.A." In an April 15 telephone conversation with Putin, President Bill Clinton called the Duma's action "an important step towards the reduction of nuclear arms."
Signed in January 1993 by Presidents George Bush and Boris Yeltsin, START II reduces the U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals to 3,000-3,500 deployed warheads each, eliminates multiple warheads on landbased missiles, and limits warheads deployed on submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The deadline for treaty implementation was originally January 1, 2003.
Bush submitted the agreement to the Senate shortly after it was signed, and the Senate approved it in 1996. Yeltsin submitted the treaty to the Duma in 1995, but the original agreement was never brought to a vote due to insufficient support, based in part on the perception that Russia had made too many concessions in the treaty.
To encourage Russian ratification of the treaty, an agreement to update START II was reached at the U.S: Russian summit held in Helsinki in March 1997. In September 1997, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and then-Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov signed a protocol to START II extending the deadline for completing reductions by five years, to December 31, 2007. Albright and Primakov also agreed that the United States would have more time to remove warheads from its Minuteman III ICBMs, as required by the treaty, and that both states would deactivate by December 31, 2003, all strategic nuclear delivery vehicles to be eliminated under START 1I (the U.S. MX missile and the Russian SS-18 and SS-24).
At the same time, the United States and Russia, along with Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) designating Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine as successor states to the Soviet Union for the purposes of the ABM Treaty. The five states also signed agreements clarifying the demarcation line between strategic missile defenses, which are limited by the treaty, and theater missile defenses, which are not. (See ACT, September 1997.)
Although the extension protocol was negotiated to facilitate Russian approval of START II, the Duma repeatedly postponed scheduled votes on the treaty. Two postponements followed the initiation of U.S. airstrikes-first against Iraq in December 1998, and then against Yugoslavia in March 1999which undermined Russian support for the treaty.
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