Arms Control Agreements: A Beginning, But Conclusion Needed
- 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
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
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
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