Thursday, December 23, 2010

Russian lawmakers in no hurry to ratify START treaty

President Obama and Democratic lawmakers refused to postpone a vote on ratification of the new START treaty until January of next year, citing the urgent need to reset US/Russian relations without delay. However, while some Russian officials have indicated that the new treaty could be ratified in the the Russian Parliament as early as Friday, others have suggested that Russian lawmakers, unlike their Democratic counterparts in the US Congress, are in no hurry to ratify the treaty:
Russian lawmakers need more time to examine a U.S. resolution ratifying the START nuclear arms reduction treaty before approving it, a senior MP said on Thursday, crushing hopes for a swift ratification in 2010...

"The ratification resolution as it was voted for by the U.S. Senate contains a large number of interpretations which require study and response from the Russian lawmakers," Konstantin Kosachev said.

Kosachev said the treaty will be debated in the State Duma lower house of parliament in the first reading on December 24 at the last plenary session this year, but then the MPs will go on their New Year holiday to re-convene after January10...

But analysts and arms control experts said Russian approval was all but certain.

"It will now be ratified for sure," veteran Soviet diplomat and arms treaty negotiator Roland Timerbayev told Reuters...

"If the Kremlin [i.e. Medvedev and Putin] wants do to it as quickly as possible then it can be done in one day," Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, told Reuters.
Jon Kyl and other Republicans in the senate expressed concerns over various aspects of the treaty. Of primary concern to Mr. Kyl is the language in the treaty's preamble that links offensive nuclear weapons to defensive systems, which could severely restrict US missile defense. Sen. John Kerry rebuffed Mr. Kyl's claims and insisted the text in the preamble was non-binding and that, regardless of how the Russians interpret the language, everything would be just fine.

However, prior to approving the treaty, Republican lawmakers - who are acutely aware of both the President's propensity to capitulate to the Russians and his longing to fulfill their every desire - 'attached non-binding amendments to the resolution of ratification technical document to recommit Washington to deploying a missile defense system, modernizing its nuclear arsenal, and seek new talks with Russia on curbing tactical nuclear weapons.'

Of course, a non-binding amendment recommitting Washington to deploy a missile defense system is of little significance as long as the Russians have the preamble to lean on. Nevertheless, some Russian parliamentarians are unhappy with the aforementioned amendments, and unlike their US counterparts [Sen. Kerry and company], they feel they need additional time to study the treaty before voting on it. Which is why [Russian MP] Konstantin Kosachev said that, although the treaty will be debated in the parliament in the first reading on December 24, MPs will go on their New Year holiday to re-convene after January10 [to futher discuss the treaty].

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also suggested that Moscow would need additional time to study the treaty:
Lavrov said that... the text of the resolution had been 'somehow amended compared to the initial draft.'

'The ratification resolution ... is a complex document that must be deeply studied,' he said.

'The ministry and the parliament, we need some time to study the documents of the US ratification.'...

A senior Russian MP had said earlier on Wednesday that the Russian lower house could pass the treaty before the end of the year but was more cautious following the US ratification.

'We must carry out a deep analysis of the text and its commentaries because this is a matter of national security,' said Leonid Slutsky, the deputy chairman of the the State Duma's foreign affairs committee...
However, while Russian lawmakers may view the text of the treaty as a matter of national security, Sen. Kerry and his colleagues believe the text is nothing more than a trivial matter, an insignificant thorn in the backside that mustn't interfere with the Democrats' political aspirations and their claim to victory.

Nevertheless, I believe that Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev will see to it that the treaty is ratified on Friday, for ultimately the treaty not only benefits them and their security needs, it also gives Russia a much needed edge over the US. Additionaly, I do not believe that Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Putin are prepared to leave Obama hanging out to dry - not right now, not after he just handed them a major victory.

At a later date in time, however, they will indeed leave him hanging, and, while they're watching him cling to the laundry line they'll have a few beers, and they'll laugh, and they'll scoff.

And the former KGB bigwig and his disciple will live happily ever after.


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