Yesterday presidents of Russia and the USA almost simultaneously made reports on the same problem, nuclear arsenal reduction namely. In both reports words “breakthrough in relations” and “a new era” were used. George W.Bush said Washington was ready to sign a treaty with Russia on nuclear arsenal reduction to 1,700 – 2,200 warheads. He said, the agreement would be signed on May 23 in Russia. In Bush’s words, “This treaty will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War.”
Until recently experts doubted the treaty would be ratified at all, as contradictions between Russia and the USA were too great. Russia insisted that all warheads were to be destroyed, at the same time when the USA planned to put warheads for “deep storage” for later use. Problem of warheads utilization control was not settled as well. Russian and American expert groups have been working on the problems for months, but no results were achieved. And suddenly the USA announces readiness to sign the treaty, that attaches at the same time more importance to the document.
Russia’s response was soon. Although reluctantly, but the Kremlin consented to partial stockpiling warheads. Earlier Russia had insisted warheads were to be destroyed completely. Experts say, Russia decided to reconcile itself to the fact that US’s nuclear strategy can not be changed, and the treaty will save Vladimir Putin’s face. It is to be added here, settlement of the problem that is really painful for Russia will let it hope for solution of other important problems (NATO – Russia relations, incorporation into WTO, soonest conferring of a market economy status to Russia, presence of NATO troops in Central Asia and Caucasus region, Iraq problem, etc.)
The president’s optimism is not shared by others. Foreign Policy Association’s vice-president Sergey Kortunov said, “We need a perfect treaty. To my mind, it is better not to sign any agreement at all than to sign a bad one.” Russia’s Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov tried to smooth gaffes and clumsiness of Russian diplomacy and announced, the treaty planned for signing by the presidents was a provisional treaty, not a final one. “It will be further finished off”, Russia’s foreign minister said.
Yesterday Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov said, development of the treaty did not mean that Russia had dropped its objections to the idea of stockpiling warheads. The problem was thoroughly discussed in the press as the main obstacle for treaty signing, as Russia insisted that warheads were to be completely destroyed and the USA offered to store them for later use. A source related to the Russian delegation told the Vedomosti newspaper, the problem of warheads utilization was not touched upon at the recent talks because it is really impossible from a technical point of view to control the utilization process.
George W.Bush needs the treaty to shut up the democrats who criticize him for the ABM Treaty withdrawal. Indeed, elections are coming up, and President Bush needs additional votes. And what is Russia’s profit from the treaty? Russia gained nothing. Is not the situation the same as last year, when Russia got nothing at all in exchange for the promise to close bases in Cuba and Vietnam?
Dmitry Chirkin PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/05/14/41062.html