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Duma Ratifies START II; Implementation Not Yet a Done DealAired April 14, 2000 - 1:29 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The hour's top stories include a watershed arms control vote in the Russian parliament. The Duma, today, with the strong backing of Russia's president-elect, Vladimir Putin, ratified START II a full seven years after it was signed. The strategic arms reduction treaty would sharply curtail the nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and Russia and is fiercely opposed by Russian Communists, but Communists lost their majority voice in December elections.
The treaty cleared the U.S. Senate back in 1996, so it's a done deal now, right? Well, not exactly.
CNN's David Ensor joins us from Washington to warm us not to count our warheads before they're trashed, right, David?
DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Natalie, the START II treaty was negotiated, as you said, by the Reagan and Bush administrations, signed in President Bush in '93. And the U.S. and Russia currently have somewhat less than 6000 nuclear warheads. START II would cut those levels roughly in half to between 3000 and 3500 warheads by the end of 2007.
Now the State Department welcomed the Russian Duma's approval.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES RUBIN, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Clearly, Russia's Duma action today is a major endorsement of the arms control approach that we and the Russian leaders have been taking for the last decade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ENSOR: But it is not clear, as we speak, whether START II, the treaty, can be implemented anytime soon. The Russians are reported to have said they will not exchange the official instruments of ratification of the treaty until the U.S. Senate has approved some protocols that attached to it, and a couple of those are firmly opposed by Republican Senate leaders.
U.S. officials are currently seeking to clarify whether the Russian condition is binding or just a non-binding expression of Moscow's point of view. The problem is that a couple of those protocols actually have to do with the Antiballistic Missile Treaty with the Russians, which many senators would just as soon see scrapped so that the U.S. can deploy a national missile defense system.
U.S. officials say they will be consulting closely now with Congress on how to proceed. Talks on a START III agreement, designed to bring the warhead levels down still further, are scheduled in Geneva in coming weeks. But, as of now, it is not clear whether and when the U.S. and Russia are going to start destroying more of their massive nuclear weapons stockpiles as is called for under this seven- year treaty.
David Ensor, CNN, live in Washington.
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