ROAR: Playing the game of START ratification

Communists and Liberal Democrats in Russia’s parliament have promised to vote against the new START treaty. While the majority of deputies can ratify the deal, they will wait for their colleagues from the US.

The State Duma Defense Committee on July 8 recommended the parliament to ratify the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with the United States. The deputies analyzed the deal and concluded that Russia would still be able to “reliably ensure its security,” the committee’s chairman Viktor Zavarzin said.

However, Russian deputies are not in a hurry to ratify the document. The discussion in the Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee is continuing. However, next week it will take a pause to see what is going on in the US Senate, the committee’s head Konstantin Kosachev told RT.

Kosachev does not see any obstacles, but some deputies think differently. The factions of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) and the Communist Party in the lower house said they would not vote for the ratification.

“The LDPR did not vote for ratification of the previous treaty and now it will not vote as well,” the party’s leader and State Duma deputy speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky said on July 7. "Signing the document, Russia “reduces its warheads and becomes weaker,” he added.

Zhirinovsky noted that Russia is surrounded by NATO bases, and Washington “did not fulfill the provisions of the previous treaty.” That agreement forced Russia to “cut and destroy nuclear warheads and scrap missiles” while Americans “stored the warheads,” the politician said. He supported the reduction of arms in general, but stressed that Russia should not come out of the deal a loser.

The LDPR leader promised that the deputies of his faction “will push all 40 buttons” while voting against the treaty. And those who vote for the ratification will be immediately expelled from the faction, he added.

The Communists also refused to support the treaty. As the deal comes into effect, Russia’s defense interests will be vulnerable, said Leonid Kalashnikov, a representative of the Communist Party’s faction. Until a program of modernizing Russia’s nuclear potential is submitted and funds are allocated to it, the faction will not vote for the treaty, he said.

The ruling United Russia party, which has a majority in the parliament, and representatives of Fair Russia party said they would support the ratification.

Aleksandr Burutin, first deputy chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, said the doubts of the deputies are “to a certain extent justified.” The two factions also reacted to the recent visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Poland,” he said.

Burutin described the treaty as “a product of certain compromises,” but stressed it was signed in the interests of both countries and did not violate strategic stability. Also, either party is able to withdraw from the treaty.

Meanwhile, observers predict there will be no problems with the ratification in Russia, but the voting on the treaty may be postponed. The treaty is “doomed” to be ratified, Gazeta daily said, but added Russian deputies are waiting for the moves of their colleagues in the US Senate.

The situation is “not as ideal as it seems” in the Senate, the deputy and political scientist Sergey Markov told the paper. If the Senate does not ratify the treaty, the ratification process will be blocked in Russia too, Markov said. At the same time, if the Russian president and the government supports the document, the possibility that the State Duma votes against it is minimal, the deputy stressed.

According to Konstantin Kosachev, the two Duma committees showed the technical readiness to ratify the treaty. “Political readiness will be determined by the factions of the State Duma, taking into account the US Senate’s position.”

The State Duma and the Federation Council, the upper house, will not be in a hurry to ratify the treaty, Izvestia daily noted. “The Russian deputies have actually decided to let their American colleagues do it first," the paper added.

“It is necessary to ratify the document, but not to hasten, because the chances for the ratification in the Senate have deteriorated,” believes Sergey Rogov, director of the Russian Institute of the US and Canada studies.

The senators may postpone the process of ratification till the November elections when the Republicans may get new seats or even return the control over the senate, he told the paper.

So, it is necessary to track the developments of the inner political struggle in the US, he said, to avoid the situation when “we ratify it, but the Republicans there block the ratification.”

The ratification in the parliaments has political meaning, Izvestia said. “Analysts believe that the parties may not ratify the START treaty, but they will observe its requirements.”

Russia’s Duma may ratify the treaty at any moment, Kommersant daily said. United Russia controls 315 seats, while 226 votes are needed. But the deputies deliberately allow “the enemies of the ratification,” mostly in the US, to have their say, the paper said.

At the same time, the daily highlighted “the drift” of Russia’s position on the link between strategic arms and missile defense. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has asked the Foreign Affairs Committee to recommend the ratification. But he recognized, the paper said, that Russia was not seeking to limit America’s missile defenses while preparing the treaty. “There are no such limitations in this treaty,” he said.

A diplomatic source told the paper that “a game is being played to neutralize enemies of the ratification.” “We are closely watching what they [in the US] are speaking about it, and they are doing the same,” the source said. “There is a certain element of a game in all this.”

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT