Russia Considering Start II Treaty
MOSCOW (AP) _ At the urging of President Vladimir Putin, the lower house of Russia’s parliament decided today to debate the long-delayed ratification of the START II nuclear arms reduction treaty.
The Duma’s agenda council set the debate for Friday, and lawmakers said chances were good for quick approval of the treaty, which would halve each side’s U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals to about 3,000-3,5000 warheads. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty in 1996.
The treaty’s prospects have jumped since a new Russian parliament was elected in December. Communists and nationalists who had blocked ratification lost their dominance in the elections.
Putin has urged lawmakers to ratify the treaty, saying that reducing nuclear arsenals does not mean becoming weaker. Government officials said that aging missiles must be soon dismantled anyway, and the treaty would allow Russia to preserve a nuclear balance while freeing substantial sums of money now spent on maintaining the weapons.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is to travel to the United States at the end of April to discuss arms control issues, and the government hopes to have the treaty ratified before his trip.
Ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky opposes the treaty, but predicted it would be quickly endorsed by lawmakers. ``Many will vote on command without thinking of their historical responsibility,″ he said.
Ratification could help clear the way for a compromise with the United States over the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Washington wants to amend the treaty to allow for the construction of a limited missile-defense system to protect against nuclear attacks by so-called ``rogue states.″
Russia has strongly objected, saying that such a defense could unravel all nuclear arms control treaties with Washington.