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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Conditional START II Bill Drafted

Lawmakers presented a bill Tuesday to make approval of the START II nuclear arms reduction treaty dependent on the United States continuing to honor a ban on anti-missile defense systems.

The bill, which would have to be approved by the two houses of parliament and signed by President Boris Yeltsin, would allow Russia to back out of the START II agreement if the United States withdraws from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. The proposed bill was sent to Yeltsin for initial review.

The U.S. Senate, meanwhile, was reviewing a bill Tuesday that would commit the United States to a national missile defense system that opponents say violates terms of the 1972 treaty, signed with the Soviet Union. President Bill Clinton has threatened to veto the bill.

The bill, expected to pass the Senate, perhaps by the end of Tuesday, "increases the odds that Russia will end the reduction of nuclear weapons," said Senator Carl Levin, a Democratic opponent.

A congressional delegation was in Moscow on Tuesday trying to persuade deputies to accept the U.S. proposal, intended to allow development of a system to protect all 50 states from ballistic missile attack. The change is based on a new assessment of the threat of attack on the United States from ballistic missiles potentially developed in countries such as Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

The ABM pact keeps both sides from building an anti-missile defense system. It's based on the notion that if both are unprotected, they won't risk a nuclear attack for fear of devastating retaliation.

Under START II, which Moscow and Washington signed in 1993, the two sides must reduce nuclear stockpiles to 3,500 warheads each.

Communists who dominate parliament have long delayed ratification of START II, saying Russia doesn't have the money to dismantle old missiles and build new ones allowed under the treaty. Russia would also be unable to fund a new missile defense system for itself.

Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov said Tuesday that if Yeltsin agrees to the latest bill, lawmakers will begin debating START II before Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov heads to the United States on March 24.