A chart last Sunday about nuclear warheads in the former Soviet Union attributed to Russia the number of warheads in all of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The commonwealth has a total of 10, 311 nuclear warheads. Those in Russia total 7,167, of which 6.463 are missile warheads and 704 are based on bombers. (Published 5/31/92)

LISBON, MAY 23 -- Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, three states of the former Soviet Union that have nuclear arms on their territory, formally agreed with the United States and Russia today to give up those weapons by the end of the decade and not to seek nuclear arms again.

In a wordless, austere ceremony in the barroom of a Lisbon hotel, Secretary of State James A. Baker III and officials of Russia and the three other nuclear-armed former Soviet republics signed a protocol, or legal supplement, to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), pledging to carry out its terms.

They thus laid the groundwork for ratification of the landmark START treaty and for permitting negotiations to go ahead between the United States and Russia for deeper cutbacks in nuclear arms.

The full significance of the occasion, which took months of difficult negotiation to arrange, went far beyond the pale legalism of the six-page documents the diplomats signed. Today's ceremony was a hard-won milestone in a mostly invisible, yet intense diplomatic struggle to maintain control over the world's largest and most awesome array of long-range nuclear weapons, as the Soviet Union, the nation that created and held them during the decades of the Cold War, splintered into more than a dozen parts.

The agreement signed today "is one of the most important international documents that have been worked on in recent times {reflecting} contemporary political reality and the fact that new independent states have appeared on the international stage," said a written statement issued by Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, whose nation will be the only former Soviet state entitled to retain nuclear weapons in the long term. Baker, in a separate written statement, called the signing the reflection of "a new era in political relations among our respective nations."

The ceremony took less than six minutes from the time the five diplomats walked into the Winter Garden Room of Lisbon's Hotel Ritz, sat side by side at a long table and waited uncomfortably as each signed all five copies of the accord, which was written in five languages.

After all had signed, applause rang out from the several dozen invited guests. The signers, all foreign ministers of their countries except for Kazakhstan's chief foreign policy adviser, shook hands with one another.

One reason for the low-key ceremony was to avoid questions from the press or oral statements from the signers that could raise doubts about their common commitment to reining in the nuclear arms deployments that have threatened the world with mass destruction for decades.

It was hardly imagined last July, when President Bush and then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the START treaty in Moscow capping nine years of negotiation, that by the end of the year the Soviet Union would pass out of existence and the future of its massive nuclear force would be in doubt.

The Russian government of President Boris Yeltsin, who succeeded Gorbachev in power in Moscow, was able to persuade all other former Soviet states to permit the tactical, or short-range, nuclear weapons on their soil to be transferred to Russia for eventual dismantling or destruction. According to U.S. officials, roughly 10,000 such short-range nuclear weapons have been gathered on Russian soil for this purpose.

After several months of trying, however, Russia conceded on April 11 that it had been unable to obtain agreement from Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus -- the new nations with long-range nuclear weapons on their territory -- to submit to the START treaty under Russia's wing and to provide their long-range weapons for destruction.

The Bush administration, at that point, undertook the sensitive negotiations to bring the three nuclear-bearing former Soviet states into the START treaty as partners with the United States and Russia.

The United States demanded and won agreement first from Ukraine and then from Kazakhstan that they would eliminate all nuclear weapons on their soil by the end of the decade, a commitment that goes well beyond the requirements of START, and that they will formally agree "in the shortest time possible" to become non-nuclear nations under terms of the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The third state, Belarus, was never a problem, U.S. officials said.

"We had to deal with the sensitivities of newly emerging states," said one of the U.S. negotiators tonight. While not actually in control of the nuclear weapons on their soil -- which are heavily guarded by troops of the nearly defunct Commonwealth of Independent States -- Ukraine and Kazakhstan saw the long-range nuclear arms as major bargaining chips with Russia and, to some extent, with the rest of the world.

Had they asserted and obtained control of the weapons on their territory, Ukraine with 1,662 long-range nuclear weapons and Kazakhstan with 1,410 would have become the world's third and fourth most powerful nuclear armed nations. Each would have had more nuclear warheads, and far more destructive power, than the next three nations, France, China and Britain, added together.

Baker's drive to persuade Ukraine and Kazakhstan to give up any claim to nuclear weapons or nuclear arms status and to obtain agreement of Russia and Belarus to the same accord required many hours in dozens of telephone calls to their leaders over the past weeks, aides said.

The turning point in the negotiations came when Presidents Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine and Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan came to Washington this month and pledged their cooperation in return for high-visibility White House visits, promises of U.S. aid, long-term relationships and expressions of U.S. concern for their security.

Baker now intends to step up discussions of much deeper cuts in U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, beginning with a meeting here Sunday with Kozyrev. More extensive negotiations are expected when Yeltsin visits Washington next month for the first U.S.-Russian summit meeting.

Aides said Baker also will take the new accord to the Senate as soon as possible so that the drive can resume on Capitol Hill for ratification of START, which has been stalled during the negotiations over the responsibilities of the former Soviet states.

Although today's agreement represents a landmark, many potential hazards remain in the effort to control and reduce the nuclear arsenal of the former Soviet Union.

For example, Kozyrev indicated in his written statement today that Russia will insist that the other three states formally adhere to the nonproliferation treaty as "non-nuclear" nations before Russia will put the START treaty into force. This reflects suspicion and worry of some in Russia that the others will not keep the promises made today.

The occasion for the gathering of foreign ministers here was the second international conference on aid to the former Soviet states, hosted by Portugal as current president of the European Community. More than 50 donor states, 12 former Soviet republics, and international financial institutions attended.

Baker, speaking to the conference, proposed three new multilateral programs to deal with problems that have grown in prominence since the Washington conference in January that inaugurated the international aid effort.

In the first of the initiatives, Baker asked other nations to join the United States in seeking to reduce what he called the real danger of "another Chernobyl" disaster arising from accidents at Soviet-designed civil nuclear power plants.

Calling this "a problem with global ramifications," Baker said Washington plans a $25 million program to establish regional centers in Russia and Ukraine for training in nuclear operations and improvement of safety procedures. He asked other nations to take similar steps.

Second, Baker proposed to help develop private markets and provide needed resources by selling donated food at market prices in the newly independent states. The revenues would be used to develop the farming and food distribution systems and to strengthen social services.

The United States will allocate $20 million in surplus butter and $15 million in other food aid.

Third, Baker proposed greater emphasis on the problem of conversion of defense industries and said the United States will place long-term resident defense conversion advisers in key cities of the former Soviet Union to provide expert advice on the shift to civilian production.