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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Skeptical on Funding Proposal

The Russian government expressed interest in U.S. President Bill Clinton's offer of an extra $1.7 billion for disarmament projects, but the State Duma cast a suspicious eye Wednesday and again condemned Washington's policy on the Balkans and Middle East.

In Tuesday's State of the Union address, a traditional speech to Congress at the beginning of a session to lay out presidential legislative priorities, Clinton urged that financing for Russian disarmament initiatives be raised from $2.5 billion to $4.2 billion over the next five years.

First Deputy Prime Minister Yury Maslyukov, who has been pushing his former colleagues in the State Duma to ratify the START II disarmament agreement, called the proposals "very much timely," Maslyukov's spokesman Anton Surikov said.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, speaking at a news conference with visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon, said his ministry would "be ready to study such proposals attentively."

"Pre-existing corresponding programs, including the so-called Nunn-Lugar programs, have been successfully implemented for quite a lengthy period of time and have proved their usefulness," Ivanov added.

The money would likely come under Nunn-Lugar, which partly finances destruction of nuclear weapons under the earlier START I agreement, and particularly subsequent verification.

But Duma sources said the money wasn't likely to grease the wheels for ratification of the START II agreement, which is a top priority of the Clinton administration's Russia policy.

With Secretary of State Madeleine Albright due in Moscow for talks with Ivanov next week, resentment of Washington is steadily growing in the Duma, parliament's lower house.

Deputies' hackles have been raised by the announcement of sanctions against more Russian institutes suspected of transferring missile technology to Iran - despite complaints from Russian authorities that no evidence to that effect has been offered - as well as by NATO threats of airstrikes against Yugoslavia, a Russian ally.

The slip in relations began in December, when the Duma had been just hours away from ratifying the long-awaited START II treaty, which slashes each country's warhead stockpiles and missile numbers, before the U.S. announced it had bombed Iraq.

Russia wasn't warned, the UN Security Council wasn't consulted and the Duma was so furious that it refused to consider the document.

Aides to key pro-START II deputies say the treaty will likely remain untouchable for at least the next several months, despite promises from Maslyukov, who is highly influential in the Duma, that he would renew his efforts to get it passed.

Deputies' aides said they were looking into Clinton's address, but one said he suspected any new funds might come with conditions that would be difficult for Russia to accept, or that the money would go to U.S. contractors rather than cash-poor Russian institutions themselves.

The Duma on Wednesday voted to condemn U.S. sanctions against three Russian institutes, announced last week as part of Washington's fight to cut off Iran from new weapons technology. The statement was authored by Yabloko Deputy Vladimir Lukin, a former Russian ambassador to Washington.