Remarks of Alexei G. Arbatov, Deputy Chair, Defense Committee, State Duma of Russian Federation

In the finest traditions of the young Russian parliament, I will start by disagreeing with your basic premise. I think that the forthcoming June summit will not bring any breakthroughs. This, of course, does not mean that breakthroughs will come after the U.S. presidential election. On the other hand, one cannot exclude a breakthrough in the next year, after the new President moves into the White House.

Nevertheless, speaking of the June summit, I would like to join opinion of those who believe that we shall not expect anything dramatic from the summit. First, due to the political environment. As you know, the Republican and Democratic contenders have about the same support and both are wary of careless moves. It is therefore hard to imagine that President Clinton will be ready to sign serious agreements, which, by nature, imply serious concessions from both sides. Of course the United States would like to see Russia make such concessions, thus helping Democrats in their campaign. But Russia too cannot allow itself to make unilateral steps; it looks forward to see reciprocal steps from the United States. As such are unlikely to come, I imagine that the presidents will limit themselves to general statements on this central issue. For example, they may say that the United States and Russia should address START III and ABM in one package; they are likely to sign a number of documents addressing economic issues, international terrorism, Russia-NATO relations, etc.

Where do we stand in the U.S.-Russian strategic dialogue? To certain extent Russia and the United States switched places. At least in some areas they certainly did.

Russia, as you are aware, ratified START II and the New York documents last April. The United States ratified the START II Treaty in 1996. Now we find ourselves in a quite strange situation. Both the United States and Russia ratified START II, but they ratified absolutely different treaties. And we, even if we very much wanted to, would not be able to start their implementation. Five or six articles of "our treaty" are significantly different from those of the "American treaty". The revisions concern implementation time-table, overall levels for deployed warheads. "American treaty" is the basic agreement, according to which all reductions must be completed by 31 December 2002.

Our position is that as long as we ratified whole package of documents concerning START II, in their most recent version, in order to move further the United States has to ratify the 1997 New York documents, as President Clinton promised at that time. He said that he would submit the documents to the Senate floor after the State Duma ratified the START II Treaty. Moreover, the START II ratification law, in the article IX, says that exchange of the instruments of ratification and beginning of the implementation process shall happen only after the United States ratifies package of the 1997 agreements.

It may seem that it should be the easiest thing to do for the United States to ratify the documents it signed, the documents without which we cannot create a base for serious, effective, and speedy talks on a new package of agreements - START III—ABM. But, the United States, facing confrontation between the legislative and executive powers, comparable in its harshness to the one between previous State Duma and President Yeltsin, cannot move forward. I met with senators and House representatives during my recent U.S. trip as a member of the delegation of the Duma Defense Committee and they made it very clear to me that President Clinton would not submit the documents for Senate ratification, and if he did, the Senate would reject them, even more happily than it did in case of the CTBT. Two arguments were raised in our conversations, besides the fact that Republican majority in Congress cannot stand President Clinton. First, the United States is not interested in demarcating missile defense systems as in the New York agreements. For instance, the 4.5 km/sec speed limit on the sea-base interceptor missiles sympathizes with neither the Bush group, nor the Republicans on the Capitol Hill. They want to make sea-based interceptors more effective to be able to use them for boost-phase defense systems. Secondly, although the memorandum simply clarifies the subject of the ABM treaty, the mere fact of its ratification will mean, politically, U.S. continued commitment to the ABM treaty. And this is a very unpopular idea with the Republicans. Both Republicans and Democrats, although with different level of determination, speak about the need to revise the ABM treaty, so that the United States could start deployment of the limited national missile defense system as dictated by the law. In order to do so, the United States needs to negotiate at least three major modifications to the ABM Treaty, or, if Russia does not agree to the U.S. proposals, unilaterally withdraw from it.

We understand the political environment in the United States because we had the same kind of relations between President Yeltsin and previous State Duma.

On the other hand, the United States was quite right when it told us for years that disagreements between the Kremlin and the State Duma were our domestic problems and that we had to resolve them before we could talk about something else with the U.S. And that is precisely what the U.S. did. It made a decision that no START III negotiations would start until Russia ratified START II. Likewise, we would be right to follow the very same principle and tell the United States: "you deal with your own problems, and when you are finished, we will be ready to get to negotiations on the next package - START III--ABM. Until you do so, we cannot start implementing the START II Treaty because we would be implementing the treaty in its modern version but we would not know what to ask of you because you did not even ratify the five-year extension protocol".

We would be right to say so, but the time goes on, the June summit will soon be over, the presidential election will be over and we will have to think what to do next. In this respect we need to come to understanding what is more important for us - be firm, or try to look at the problem again and find a possible compromise after the American presidential election.

We would be very right, politically, logically, legally, to take a firm stance, but we do not have time, levels of our forces go down while the Unites States can maintain its at current levels for as long as it wishes. Perhaps it would make sense for us to demonstrate wisdom and try to find a compromise with the United States. For example, our START II ratification law does not say that we cannot conduct negotiations with the United States until it ratifies the New York documents. Given the fact that ratification of the New York documents is very unlikely, no matter who wins the U.S. presidential election, it would probably make sense to broaden the scope of new negotiations by including the 1997 New York agreements, as well as START III and ABM in the agenda.

Few words with respect to ABM and START III. Russia could agree to the revision of certain provisions of the ABM treaty which would allow the United States build a base in Alaska and then the second base, probably in North Dakota. But we should say that we do not see this as an open-ended process, that we will not agree to further build-up of the missiles defense system because in that case it would mean a system not only against third countries, but also against China and then against Russia. Such plan should be agreeable with the United States, since neither funding nor system readiness is sufficient for more sophisticated system, at least until 2012-13. We should be able to agree on this.

What modifications to the ABM Treaty does the U.S. seek? First, it wants to change Article I which bans deployment of a missile defense system covering the territory of the country, because the two-base system the United States has in mind, one base in Alaska, one - in North Dakota, will be aimed at defending entire territory of the country. Second, the United States wants to change the rules which place restrictions on radar and interceptor-missile locations. There are couple other smaller issues. What could Russia get in return if it agreed to U.S. proposals? Quite obviously, reduction of the START III ceilings to 1,500, which is maximum we can afford, and right to deploy Topol-M and new land-based missile, currently in the development stage, with MIRV. This would enable us to maintain 1000-1500 deployed warheads after ten years and release some funds badly needed for sea-based component and C3I. This could be a compromise which would automatically resolve other issues. We could also negotiate with the Americans on TMD - being allowed to deploy strategic missile defenses they would not insist on deployment of high-speed (over 4.5 km/sec) sea-based interceptor missiles. Besides, all START II issues would be covered automatically, since deeper reductions under START III, in about the same time-table as defined in the START II extension protocol, would address the problem of which START II treaty (one ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1996 or one ratified by Russia in 2000) to implement.

With the technical solution appearing to be so simple, there are huge political problems. First, the United States does not want to reduce below 2,000 deployed warheads. This is a largely technical issue but given the conceit and arrogance with which the United States treats other countries, such technical issues are quite important for them to put international political agreements under jeopardy. Going from 2,000 to 1,500 would require switching from triad to dyad, with all the associated political, economic, and other interests clashing at once in nationwide debates. This is of course not what the United States wants, and not what the JCS wants. Besides, reducing to 1,500 would pose a serious question - what to do with the naval component. At such a low level it would be difficult for the U.S. to maintain deployment at both Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Being able to deploy only at one of the two oceans, a question arises whether to target China or European part of Russia. Such a decision would require revision of SIOP. Neither the Administration, nor the civilian leadership of the Pentagon was able so far to convince the JCS to reduce the target START III ceiling to 1,500.

As you know on our side too there are serious concerns regarding ABM. Article III of the START II ratification law is very straightforward: U.S. withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, or violation of it, will be a reason for our withdrawal from START II. President Putin pledged during ratification in the State Duma that the ABM Treaty will be adhered to and that Russia will not allow any changes. And if the United States goes for unilateral modifications, adequate measures will be adopted by Russia, and not only in strategic area, but in other spheres as well.

Therefore, it is not clear at all whether new American administration and Putin’s administration will be able to create favorable conditions for a compromise. And we may face serious obstacles.

In conclusion I would like to say that there were times when political situation was favorable, but technical problems prevented agreements from being implemented. For example, because of the technical problems we were not able to conclude a comprehensive test ban treaty in 1963; limitation of missile defense systems in 1970s could, in principle, have lead to ban on MIRVed ICBMs, but technical, in the first place, issues prevented us from reaching such agreement. Now we face opposite task. Technical problems can be solved, but political situation in Russia and in the United States, and our disagreements in the international arena make such an elegant technical solution incredibly difficult to accomplish.