Proposal to seek deeper cuts in U.S.-Russian nuclear arms Initiative could prod ratification of Start II


MOSCOW -- The United States has told the Kremlin that it is prepared to negotiate deeper cuts in long-range nuclear arms in an effort to ease Russian fears that the West seeks military advantage.

The U.S. proposal could lay the basis for an agreement on the goals of future arms talks at the summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland, this month between President Clinton and Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin.

It is also intended to prod Russia to ratify the Start II treaty. Signed in 1993, that treaty has languished in the Russian Parliament because of resistance from hard-liners.

The U.S. proposal envisions reductions to a level of 2,000 to 2,500 nuclear warheads for each side. U.S. officials would like to announce negotiating guidelines spelling out the main provisions of a future accord at the Helsinki meeting. But the talks have been complicated by disputes over the testing of anti-missile systems and NATO expansion. Timing has also been an issue, as the United States says a Start III accord must be preceded by Russian ratification of Start II.

Guidelines for a future arms agreement were discussed in Moscow on Thursday by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and senior Russian officials.

The flurry of high-level diplomacy over nuclear arms proposals recalls the days of the Cold War and reflects the new strains in Moscow's dealings with the West.

When it was signed, the Start II agreement was hailed as the cornerstone of a new Russian-American relationship. The agreement required each nation to reduce the number of its warheads to a level of 3,000 to 3,500 by 2003. Russia and the United States had more than 10,000 warheads each in the late 1980s.

But Communist and nationalist members of Parliament assert that the treaty took advantage of Russia at a time of weakness. The Pentagon's plans to test limited anti-missile defenses have also been denounced as an effort to gain strategic superiority. Even foreign investment has come under attack in Parliament as a scheme to gain an economic stranglehold on Russia.

Pub Date: 3/09/97

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