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JUNE 22, 1999  2:05 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Council for a Livable World
John Isaacs o (202) 543-4100 x.131 h (202) 387-6474
Clinton-Yeltsin Arms Control Agreements: A Beginning, But Conclusion Needed
 
WASHINGTON - June 22 - The agreements concluded between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin in Cologne, Germany, mark an important step forward after the recent chill in U.S.-Russian relations.

However, resuming high-level discussions on further nuclear reductions is merely a starting point; without a meaningful deadline in the fall of 1999 for concluding a START III agreement, the talks can easily meander on well into the next Russian and American Administrations.

The bombing campaign in Kosovo and the December 1998 bombing in Iraq stopped cold promising moves in the Russian Duma to ratify the long-delayed START II nuclear reductions treaty. Consequently, U.S.-Russian talks on further reductions in nuclear weapons have been left in a deep freeze.

Thus the end of the estrangement between the worlds' largest nuclear powers is constructive and positive. So too is the U.S. willingness to move forward on START III without waiting for Duma action, and the Russian willingness to talk about ballistic missile defenses.

However, discussions are not formal negotiations. As National Security Adviser Sandy Berger reported at his June 19 press briefing, President Yeltsin said "if we left things only to the experts, nothing would get done."

Nor is there much time left to complete, sign and ratify further nuclear reductions below the START II levels of 3,000 - 3,500 deployed strategic nuclear weapons for each country. Russian and U.S. elections in 2000 severely limit the time available for completed action.

Thus Council for a Livable World strongly urges both the U.S. and Russia to set a firm deadline for a completing START III no later than the fall of 1999. The agreement should reduce deployed nuclear weapons forces to 2,000 or below, with verified warhead destruction. Without a strong political push from both national leaders, the clock will run out on achieving further nuclear weapons reductions until well into 2001, when new governments perhaps antagonistic to arms control are in power in Washington and Moscow.

If this deadline proves to difficult for the negotiators, the Council urges the two Presidents to announce parallel, reciprocal and verifiable reductions in nuclear weapons, combined with an initiative on Capitol Hill to seek approval of this step.

The clock is ticking. The nuclear dangers facing the world remain great. If the welcome discussions are not turned into real nuclear reductions, more time will be lost.

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