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DEFENSE AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEES RECOMMEND RATIFICATION OF THE RUSSIAN-AMERICAN START TREATY

The Duma is to be formally recommended to ratify the Russian-American START treaty.


Plenary meeting of the Duma today could be the last in the spring session. It is not going to be, though. Lawmakers are scheduled to meet again, a week from now, to adopt in the third reading several important laws and wrap up the spring session. Some insiders suggested at first that the Russian-American START treaty might be ratified at this additional meeting on July 16. It seems that they were mistaken. Duma committees for defense and international affairs said yesterday that they intended to suggest ratification of the document at the autumn session opening in September. Both committees said that the lower house of the parliament would be formally recommended to ratify the treaty.

What doubts some lawmakers had retained were dispelled by spokesmen for the Defense Ministry who attended the meeting of the Duma’s Defense Committee. According to Lieutenant General Alexander Burutin, the military persuaded lawmakers that START-3 concurred with national interests and that it would guarantee strategic stability.

The Defense Committee therefore concluded that the document in question guaranteed parity and equal security for signatories. “That’s a well-balanced document, one that lacks a good deal of the flaws typical of the previous bilateral agreements,” said a Committee member. Committee Chairman Victor Zavarzin attached unprecedented importance to “appearance of new Russian-American agreements in principle” and praised START-3 as an instrument of Russian and American mutual arms control.

Zavarzin complimented Russian negotiators who he said had done “their honest best and got the maximum possible from the American colleagues.” The lawmaker recalled linkage between strategic offensive and defensive arms, strategic delivery vehicle and warhead quotas permitted signatories, and abolition of “frankly discriminating restrictions and control mechanisms”. “By and large, the treaty negates the objective difference in Russia’s and America’s ability to maintain their nuclear potentials. The document fully guarantees the nuclear deterrence level acceptable to us,” said Zavarzin.

According to the lawmaker, some colleagues of his were somewhat disturbed by the lack of “outright restrictions” on development of the American ballistic missile defense framework in East Europe. “Anyway, we should always remember that the Americans’ readiness for a compromise in this particular area is quite limited,” acknowledged Zavarzin. “Our insistence on these restrictions would have circumvented the signing of the treaty in the first place and the United States would have gone on with its plans in any event. It would have made Russia a passive observer, without even the strategic arms control regime to rely on… In any event, this problem ballistic missile defense system remains in the focus of our attention. Dialogue with Washington continues. This matter will be on the agenda of all future disarmament talks with the United States.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in the meantime attended the meeting of the Duma’s Committee for International Affairs. His mission was similar – persuasion of lawmakers. “I’m convinced that the treaty in question will facilitate nonproliferation and advance our relations with the United States,” Ryabkov told the Committee.

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