MOSCOW (AP) -- The United States and Russia opened three days of
talks in Moscow today on the prospects of additional nuclear
weapons cuts and the possibility of modifying the 1972
Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.
The consultations will raise the issue of a START III treaty
that could cut each side's arsenals to 2,000 to 2,500 warheads.
The existing START II treaty, signed by both countries in 1993
but not yet ratified by Russia's parliament, calls for both
countries to scale back to 3,000 to 3,500 warheads each.
Russia has also agreed to listen to U.S. proposals on amending
the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. The United States is considering
a proposal for anti-ballistic missile defenses that are currently
banned under the treaty.
The U.S. plan calls for a defense system designed able to shoot
down a single missile, or perhaps a small number of missiles, from
countries such as Iran or North Korea. It would not be designed to
counter the kind of large-scale missile attack Russia is capable of
launching, U.S. officials say.
Moscow has adamantly opposed such changes, saying an
anti-missile defense system in the United States would upset the
"Such actions, far from helping to cut nuclear arsenals, can
trigger their buildup and draw new participants into this
process," said Andrei Nikolayev, a former general who is now a
member of parliament's lower house.
Military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said the Russian military and
diplomatic elite have been deeply critical of President Boris
Yeltsin's decision to discuss the ABM treaty.
"The military believes that amending the ABM is a betrayal of
national interests," he said. "The talks will be very hard,
because the Russian party is against any agreement on the ABM."
However, Moscow has expressed a strong interest in a START III
treaty that would allow the cash-strapped government to save money
it would have spent on weapons.
But the new treaty cannot be formally agreed upon until the
Russian Duma ratifies the START II treaty.
The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty in 1996, but Communists and
other hard-liners in Russia's parliament have balked at its
approval, saying it endangers Russia's security.
The Kremlin has said that it will continue pushing for the
treaty's ratification this fall, but lawmakers say there is
virtually no chance of approval until after a new parliament is
elected in December.
(Copyright 1999 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)