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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Parliament Ratifies Landmark START Treaty

Russia's parliament ratified the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty Wednesday, bringing closer to enforcement the first-ever agreement to cut rather than merely limit the superpower's ballistic nuclear missile arsenals.

"This is the first agreement ever to look not just at limits on ballistic missiles but at real reduction", Deputy Defense Minister Boris Gromov told parliament in an effort to persuade legislators to vote for START.

As he encountered arguments from some hardliners, Gromov said that "We are talking about life on earth. Even with what we have left we will be able to destroy the world 10 times over".

The START treaty was signed by

Presidents Bush and Gorbachev in July 1991. But the ratification process ran into trouble after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which spawned four entirely new parties to the START treaty, namely Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia.

So far America, Russia and Kazakhstan have ratified START and Belarus is expected to follow suit soon.

There is no guarantee, however, that Ukraine will adhere to the treaty. The government in Kiev is still struggling with the question of whether it should abide by earlier agreements to give up any nuclear pretensions, or keep the weapons it still has as an insurance policy against Russian use of force.

The argument that Russia's failure to ratify START would play into the hands of Ukraine's "nuclear-nationalists" eventually won the day on Wednesday, persuading most hardliners in parliament that there was too much to lose by rejecting the treaty.

At a Moscow seminar on nuclear arms issues two weeks ago, John Rinelander, a veteran U. S. arms control negotiator, predicted that "with luck, START will be in force by the end of the year". But he also added that it "depends a lot on the Ukrainian-Russian debate".

As it was, parliament discussed the agreement for 2. 5 hours before voting in favor of ratification by 157 to 1, with 26 abstentions.

The START treaty, once it comes into effect, will reduce the number of delivery systems for intercontinental ballistic missiles to 1, 600 each for Russia and the U. S. , carrying 6, 000 warheads. According to U. S. figures, that would reduce the Soviet ballistic armory by 46 percent.

Rocket launchers, heavy bombers and other delivery systems would be destroyed, rather than the missiles themselves, on the principle that a missile without means of delivery is worthless.

The whole agreement depends, however, on Ukraine, which would have to either destroy or return to Russia its 176 remaining ballistic nuclear missiles. The Ukrainian agreement is especially important in the area of the former Soviet Union's heavy bombers, for which it is home to the lion's share.

Some deputies objected that START favored the U. S. and would be prohibitively expensive to implement. Although no figures were cited, Alexander Pishunov, Chairman of the committee on Defense and Security countered that "the agreement will free resources needed to support the remaining missiles and allow progress in conversion".

"All you deputies complaining that there is not enough money in the budget for conversion will have to account for yourselves if you do not vote for ratification".