The State Duma of the Federal Assembly of Russia just now approved a decision to ratify the Treaty Between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, better known as the START II Treaty, and a 1997 package of agreements on anti-missile defences. It was a wise and important decision; important both for the national interests of our country and those of international peace and security as a whole.
For Russia, the conclusion of the START II Treaty opens up avenues for safeguarding its security to the same extent as the US and with a lower level of strategic offensive arms than before. At a level half as high as that of the existing START I Treaty and, understandably, at a lower cost.
The ratification of the START II Treaty opens up the way to official negotiations on further cuts in the strategic arsenals of Russia and the US within the framework of a START III Treaty. We are also prepared to reduce our strategic offensive arms, naturally on a reciprocal basis with the US, to a lower level than was envisaged by the Russian-American agreement of 1997 in Helsinki, or down to 1,500 warheads instead of 2,000–2,500.
The State Duma’s decision is a good and positive signal to the world community. As a great nuclear power, Russia demonstrates its responsible attitude by advancing consistently along the road of armaments reduction and disarmament. We have served as an example of the practical fulfilment of the obligations assumed in accordance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, thus strengthening the regime created by this Treaty.
There is yet another fundamental aspect of the State Duma’s decision.
Of late the world has been paying increasing attention to the problem of missile and missile-technology proliferation, and has been talking of the so-called growing missile threat and the need to take prompt measures to defend against it. For this reason, the United States has put forward the idea of building a national anti-missile defence system, which would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.
We advocate joint measures with other states to counter the proliferation of missiles and missile technologies. But this should be done, in our view, not by scrapping existing disarmament agreements and the ABM Treaty in the first place. We stand for a different course – that of strengthening the existing non-proliferation modalities and of working out new treaties to reduce arms. Russia’s ratification of the START II Treaty is its concrete contribution to these efforts.
We also look to the United States to make the same constructive choice: it still needs to complete the ratification procedures for the START II Treaty to become effective and to approve the package of anti-missile agreements reinforcing the 1972 Treaty. The success of the cause of disarmament and the political climate in the world depend above all on the actions of our two countries.