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Moskovskiy Komsomolets, May 15, 2003

A Nuclear Bomb in Stars and Stripes
Deputies Ordered to reduce them

Interview with Alexei Arbatov by Marina Ozerova

Yesterday the State Duma ratified the Treaty on the Reduction of Offensive Potential, which was signed a year ago by Presidents Putin and Bush.

Alexei Arbatov, 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.


See also:

Arms Control

Situation Around Iraq

Russia - US Relations

Moskovskiy Komsomolets, May 15, 2003

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