START II Resolution of Ratification

By Cerniello, Craig | Arms Control Today, February 1996 | Go to article overview

START II Resolution of Ratification


Cerniello, Craig, Arms Control Today


On January 26, the Senate approved a resolution of ratification of START II by a vote of 87-4. (Senators John Ashcroft (R-MO), Jesse Helms (R-NC), James Inhofe (R-OK) and Robert Smith (R-NH) voted against the resolution.) The resolution contains eight "conditions," which are binding upon the president, and 12 "declarations," which are non-binding expressions of the Senate's intent. None of the conditions or declarations amend the treaty or require any Russian action.

Conditions

Of the eight conditions, five are of particular interest. A condition on treaty obligations stipulates that ratification will not require the United States to accept any changes to the ABM Treaty. This condition anticipates Russian efforts to formally link its ratification of START II to the continued viability of the ABM Treaty, and explicitly refers to treaty implementation, future amendments and the right of withdrawal.

A condition on financing implementation makes clear that ratification does not obligate the United States to support (presumably under the Cooperative Threat Reduction program) Russia's implementation of its START II commitments. (The treaty calls for accelerating the force reduction schedule if financial support is forthcoming, and the Russian Duma, the lower house of Parliament, has expressed concern about the implementation costs.)

A condition on space launch vehicles (SLVs) relates to a recently settled dispute with Russia over whether SLVs are covered by START I restrictions. In September, at the Joint Compliance and Inspection Commission in Geneva, the five parties to START I reaffirmed that SLVs using the first stages of ICBMs and SLBMs are treaty-accountable and subject to START I limitations (See ACT, December 1995/January 1996.)

A condition on national technical means (NTM) of verification stipulates that, despite a commitment under START I not to interfere with such verification measures, the United States may pursue its request that Russia abandon its electronic listening post at Lourdes, Cuba. A long-time thorn in the side of congressional conservatives, the Russians have claimed that the facility is used for monitoring START compliance.

In order to forestall U.S. strategic force reductions made in anticipation of START II's entry into force, the Senate included a condition on implementation arrangements. In the event that the treaty does not enter into force, this condition requires the president to consult with the Senate before making any strategic nuclear force reductions below START I levels.

Declarations

Six of the 12 declarations in the resolution are also of interest. A declaration on cooperative threat reductions encourages the United States and Russia to exchange detailed information on nuclear warheads and fissile material stockpiles and to store securely fissile materials derived from dismantled nuclear weapons or declared to be excess. …

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