FORMER SOVIET UNION PAGE
Clinton, Yeltsin Agree on Arms Cuts and NATO
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, March 22, 1997; Page A01
HELSINKI, March 21—President Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin reached agreement today on a surprising array of security and economic issues, including further sharp reductions in the two nations’ nuclear arsenals, after Yeltsin protested NATO expansion but agreed to negotiate a pact with the alliance.
In the most ambitious accord, the two countries agreed in principle to negotiate a new arms control treaty that over the next decade would reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads by about a third from the levels agreed to—but not yet implemented—by Yeltsin and President Bush four years ago.
They also agreed to discuss "possible measures" to eliminate tactical or "battlefield" nuclear weapons. Yeltsin, in an unexpected move, agreed that all the anti-missile systems now under development by the U.S. military were admissible under the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Clinton, for his part, agreed to support Russia’s integration into global economic institutions and to give it a more formal role in the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations.
What had seemed likely to be an incremental summit, bogged down by the seemingly endless dispute over the future of NATO, ended up offering the promise of unanticipated progress in a number of areas—although many obstacles remain before all that promise is realized.
After months of bitterly opposing NATO’s eastward expansion, Yeltsin indicated today that he no longer entertains any realistic hope of halting it. Now, he said, his aim is to "minimize the negative consequences" for Russia.
Yeltsin blasted the idea once again, calling it "a mistake, and a serious one at that." But in the negotiations he accepted a formula under which Russia would live with a NATO that included several former Soviet satellite states—and then, rather than use his leverage on other issues to press Clinton on NATO, he went on to hold substantive discussions on a range of matters, most notably arms control.
Formal talks on the projected START III treaty slashing nuclear arsenals would begin only after Russia’s recalcitrant parliament ratified the START II agreement, but Yeltsin promised to press for ratification and said other agreements announced today would strengthen his hand.
The most important of those was a surprising breakthrough on the thorny issue of short-range missile defense systems. After three years in which negotiators for the two sides failed to agree on a definition of "theater" missile defenses that would not violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, they suddenly resolved the issue today in a way that U.S. officials said would permit deployment of all six missile interceptor systems under development by the Pentagon.
Asked at a news conference following the day-long summit how he could now ensure START II ratification by the Duma, or parliament, Yeltsin replied through an interpreter, "As far as Russia is concerned, I expect that the State Duma will make a decision based on my advice."
"Boy, I wish I could give that answer," Clinton responded.
In reality, according to analysts of Russian affairs here, Yeltsin does not control the Duma, which has been antagonistic to START II. Some elements of today’s agreements seemed to address the Duma’s previous objections to the treaty. On the other hand, Yeltsin’s effective acquiescence to NATO expansion—which is overwhelmingly opposed by Russia’s political leaders—may help strengthen his opponents in the Duma and even stiffen opposition to START II.
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov called the summit a "crushing defeat," according to the Interfax news agency, comparing it to the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 that ended World War I and imposed humiliating conditions on defeated Germany.
The agreements that were announced after eight hours of talks left Clinton’s senior foreign policy advisers almost giddy over what they had accomplished. After a week of pre-summit briefings in which administration officials sought to minimize expectations, they got virtually everything they hoped for—an outcome that apparently validated the administration’s belief that Yeltsin was playing a weak hand.
Just a few months ago, an ailing Yeltsin appeared to be losing his grip on a country riven by the war in Chechnya and on a government in which economic reformers supported by Washington were in retreat—a set of circumstances that called into question Clinton’s entire approach to Russia. Today, the war in Chechnya is over, a reelected Yeltsin appears vigorous again, and the reformers are back in power. Clinton’s senior aides made little effort to conceal their satisfaction.
"We have just concluded a major summit in which there was historic progress in European security, nuclear arms reduction and economic cooperation with Russia," Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said. "What we have seen today is an exercise in statesmanship at the highest levels—two presidents who have not agreed on everything but have showed true leadership and cemented their cooperation."
Yeltsin did not back down from his objection to the enlargement of the North Atlantic alliance, which was formed to defend Western Europe against the Soviet Union, but he proclaimed himself eager to consign the Cold War to history and work with the Western allies in forging a new security arrangement for all of Europe.
"We believe that the eastward expansion of NATO is a mistake and a serious one at that," Yeltsin said. "Nevertheless, in order to minimize the negative consequences for Russia, we decided to sign an agreement with NATO."
Exactly as Clinton and his foreign policy advisers had hoped, Yeltsin accepted as inevitable the fact that the Atlantic alliance will grow this summer by extending membership to former Warsaw Pact members Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. He abandoned his insistence that the proposed "charter" spelling out relations between Russia and NATO be a ratifiable treaty, legally binding on the United States and NATO’s 15 other members, settling instead for "an enduring commitment at the highest political level."
That was a key concession, because it means that whatever agreement NATO negotiates with Russia over future relations with the alliance will not have to be submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification.
Clinton and Yeltsin signed five separate joint statements.
In one, both presidents pledged to press their legislatures for ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention, a treaty banning the production or deployment of poison gas weapons that enters into force on April 29 but has not been ratified by the two countries with the biggest chemical arsenals.
The second commits both countries to a broad range of economic engagement aimed at stimulating Russia’s economy and integrating Russia into the World Trade Organization and other global financial institutions. Yeltsin promised tax reform, a new campaign against organized crime and further liberalization of the energyindustry. Clinton promised that U.S. government organizations such as the Export-Import Bank will increase activity in Russia, and announced "with the approval of" the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations, "We will substantially increase Russia’s role in our annual meeting, now to be called the Summit of the 8, in Denver this June."
The third statement dealt with the NATO-European security issue.
It said Yeltsin "underscored Russian concerns that NATO enlargement will lead to a potentially threatening buildup of permanently stationed combat forces of NATO near to Russia. President Clinton stressed that the Alliance contemplates nothing of the kind."
Despite that difference, the statement said, the two presidents agreed that negotiations should proceed on the NATO-Russia cooperation charter, to be conducted by NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov. U.S. officials said they hope the document will be signed before the NATO expansion summit at Madrid in July, an optimistic projection that no one in the administration was offering just a few days ago.
The two statements on arms control issues may turn out to be the most controversial.
One calls for a START III agreement in which both sides would reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads to 2,000 to 2,500 by the end of 2007.
START II, if ratified, would set the limit at 3,000 to 3,500 by 2003. Russia, however, fears that START II is structured so that Moscow would have only about 2,500 warheads by that time, a concern that accounts for the parliamentary opposition. Under the proposed new treaty, warhead parity would be restored, and Russia would get an extra year—to the end of 2003—to comply with START II. This provision would require Senate ratification.
The missile defense agreement was the hardest to achieve and the most surprising, senior officials said. It addresses the thorny issue of defining theater missile defenses, or defenses against short-range missiles such as Iraq’s Scuds, which are permitted by the ABM treaty, as opposed to strategic missile defenses, which are prohibited.
The agreement would permit testing and deployment of defenses against missiles with a velocity up to 5 kilometers (3 miles) per second and a flight range of 3,500 kilometers (2,170 miles). Previously, Russian fears of U.S. technological advances had stalled negotiations on any target velocity exceeding 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) per second.
According to White House National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger, this definition permits the United States to proceed with all six anti-missile systems currently under development, including the most advanced, known as Navy Upper Tier, without violating the ABM treaty.
"Together with the START III guidelines," Berger said, this agreement "removes what had been an obstacle to START II ratification in the Duma," where deputies suspected the United States was pressing for an unfair nuclear advantage by developing strategic missile defenses.
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