Russia's State Duma today voted for a second time to ratify a new nuclear arms control treaty with the United States, RIA Novosti reported (see GSN, Jan. 14).
The chamber incorporated in its ratification text various stipulations on the pact's implementation, including conditions that could prompt Moscow to stop participating in the pact and a call for the Kremlin to plan updates to Russia's strategic deterrent. Russia would also reserve the right to withdraw from the treaty if the United States breaches the pact, if Moscow deems future U.S. missile shield deployments to pose an unacceptable strategic risk, or if Washington prepares strategic conventional armaments without permission from a Bilateral Consultative Commission.
President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed New START in April. The pact would require Russia and the United States to cap their deployed strategic nuclear warheads at 1,550, down from a limit of 2,200 required by 2012 under an earlier treaty. It also would set a ceiling of 700 deployed warhead delivery systems, with another 100 allowed in reserve.
The U.S. Senate resolution adopted last month states U.S. missile defense activities should not be impaired by the treaty and backed heightened financial support for modernizing the nation's nuclear arsenal (RIA Novosti, Jan. 14).
"Our parliament must respond to the interpretations that distort the sense of the treaty," the Associated Press quoted Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov as saying today (Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press/Google News, Jan. 14).
The Duma might conduct its third and final ratification vote as soon as January 26, and another required vote by the nation's upper house of parliament is expected to take place within a short period of the Duma polling, RIA Novosti reported (RIA Novosti).
Russia would remove no more nuclear weapons from its arsenal than required by the treaty, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told the chamber today.
"Not a single unit will be cut. By all parameters regarding weapon carriers we will reach the level set by the treaty by 2028 and by those regarding warheads -- 1,550 units by 2018," ITAR-Tass quoted Serdyukov as saying (ITAR-Tass, Jan. 14).
Meanwhile, the White House indicated it would seek to launch negotiations with Russia on nonstrategic nuclear weapons reductions "within one year of the New START's entry into force," the Wall Street Journal reported today.
Planned missile defense discussions with Moscow "will help us advance the broader arms reduction agenda," National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
Russia, though, has said additional nuclear talks should not take place until New START is fully implemented. Compete implementation of the treaty could take years, according to the Journal.
"Then it will become clear what further steps must be taken to strengthen global security and strategic stability," Lavrov said, adding that such talks would have to include other nuclear-weapon states and address non-nuclear armaments.
One expert, though, said Lavrov's call for a long wait before further arms control talks "should not be taken literally."
"Russia ... needs to compensate for its weakness in conventional forces vis-a-vis China, in the event of a conflict along that border," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs. "To negotiate about tactical nukes with just the Americans -- for Russia it's not relevant any more," he said (Richard Boudreaux, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 14).