Russian Parliament Panel Supports Final Passage of New START

The Russian State Duma's international affairs committee yesterday formally called for ratification of a new nuclear weapons control treaty with the United States when the pact comes up for a third and final vote in the full chamber next week, Interfax reported (see GSN, Jan. 20).

"Today the committee discussed two drafts of supplementary statements of the State Duma and an alternative draft of the house statement prepared by the Communist Party faction," panel Chairman Konstantin Kosachyov said.

The panel "thanked the Communist Party faction for the quality work it had done and suggested combining their document with the two draft statements elaborated by the committee. Yet the communists refused to do that," Kosachyov said. "Thus, we decided to include about two dozen provisions from the document drafted by the communists in the two draft statements of the State Duma."

The State Duma's third reading of the treaty is scheduled for Tuesday (Interfax, Jan. 20). The Federation Council, Russia's upper house of parliament, is expected on Monday to begin discussing the pact ahead of another required vote, the Voice of Russia today quoted Federation Council international affairs committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov as saying (Voice of Russia, Jan. 21).

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 last month endorsed a ratification document outlining specific interpretations of the pact. Among other stipulations, the text states that U.S. missile defense activities should not be impaired by the treaty and backs heightened financial support for modernizing the nation's nuclear arsenal.

One of the Duma's supplementary statements would respond to the U.S. ratification text while the other would address Russia's implementation of the treaty, Interfax quoted Kosachyov as saying.

"The document addressed to the American side is entitled 'On the Position of the State Duma on the Reduction and Limitations of Strategic Offensive Armaments' and has 6.5 pages. It also recommends for the Russian president to add the ratification bill and this statement by the State Duma to the note on the exchange of the ratification instruments," he said.

The document would emphasize that "the U.S. unilateral interpretation of certain provisions of this document does not change the legal commitments of the U.S. side and does not impose any additional commitments on Russia," Kosachyov said.

The text "also appeals to third nuclear powers to join the process of the reduction and limitation of nuclear weapons through a ban on their further development," he said. "We urge these countries to ban the development of nuclear weapons outside their territories and to freeze their nuclear arsenals at the current level."

The second, 3.5-page document would be titled, "On the Provision of Combat Readiness and Development of the Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces, the Nuclear Arms Segment and Defense Plants Operating in it." The statement discusses issues related to the upkeep of Russia's nuclear deterrent and the development of new missile defenses that would provide warning of impending missile strikes, Kosachyov said (Interfax).

Within 45 days of New START's formal entry into force, Moscow and Washington would complete a preliminary swap of information on strategic warheads and delivery vehicles the treaty would take into account, an Air Force press release quoted Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller as saying.

The implementation of New START and a new U.S.-Russian civilian nuclear trade pact would pave the way for progress on other nuclear weapon-related matters, Gottemoeller said (see GSN, Jan. 11; U.S. Air Force release, Jan. 20).

January 21, 2011
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The Russian State Duma's international affairs committee yesterday formally called for ratification of a new nuclear weapons control treaty with the United States when the pact comes up for a third and final vote in the full chamber next week, Interfax reported (see GSN, Jan. 20).

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