| Yesterday the State Duma ratified the Treaty on
the Reduction of Offensive Potential, which was signed a year ago
by Presidents Putin and Bush.
Deputy Head of the State Duma Defence Committee (the YABLOKO faction),
told us about the pros and cons of this treaty.
Question: Why was ratification of the treaty initially
scheduled for April 2003 postponed until May?
Arbatov: The delay was connected with the war
in Iraq. Russia declared at the time that the war was a serious
mistake. And as the Treaty on the Reduction of Offensive Potential
is a political treaty symbolic of improvements in f relations
between Russia and the USA, rather than a strategic one, it would
be awkward to ratify it at the time of war in Iraq. It would have
been awkward before both the Russian and Western public. The USA
would have immediately interpreted ratification as a sign that
we didn’t object to the war in Iraq.
Question: Could it be stated that ratification of
the treaty on May 14, 2003, was timed to coincided with Colin
Powel's visit to Russia?
Arbatov: Certainly the two events are connected.
Colin Powell has always supported in the American administration
a moderate line in US relations with Russia and with Iraq. His
visit was assessed as s good background for ratification of the
treaty. Or vice-versa, ratification was considered to be good
background for Powell's visit, as it offers a good way of fixing
the hole in Russian-US relations after the war in Iraq.
Question: What is the treaty about?
Arbatov: The US is committed to reducing its
strategic nuclear forces within ten years. Russia does not de
facto assume any obligations, as it has been reducing and will
reduce its strategic nuclear forces due to the lack of funds.
In ten years we will have only 1,000-1,500 nuclear warheads. Consequently
Russia will even be able, provided there is such a desire, to
raise its nuclear arsenal, as the treaty sets the upper limit
at 1,700-2,200 nuclear warheads.
However, unfortunately this is not a real fully-fledged treaty,
unlike the one concluded between US and Russia before. It lacks
many things which distinguish a treaty from a letter of intent.
It lacks any clear wording of the subject of the treaty, rules
for counting reduced weapons, procedure for reducing and liquidating
the weapons, system of control over implementation of the treaty
and the schedule for eliminating weapons. Therefore, the USA may
do without the reduction of a single warhead for ten years, and
three months prior to the set term say "sorry, the situation
has changed and we are quitting the treaty:"
Russia held these negotiations from a position of weakness. The
decisions to develop strategic nuclear armed forces adopted over
the past three years led to a weakening of our position. As a
result the USA lost interest in serious negotiations and did not
want to sign a fully-fledged treaty. Unless specific content is
added to the Treaty on Reduction of Offensive Potential, it will
remain only a symbol. However, further consultations are planned
and the Russian side hopes that important problems will be solved
there. But the USA does not need to make any concessions to us,
and Russia has not serious arguments to convince the USA that
such concessions are necessary.
Question: Does Russia need such a treaty?
Arbatov: Yes, it does. It cerates prospects
for the reduction of America’s nuclear forces. This is better
than nothing. Unfortunately this treaty does not envisage anything
more constructive and positive.
- US Relations