As you know, the issue of deeper reductions in strategic weapons was raised by the Russian delegation during the START-2 negotiations. The Russian proposal was to reach a level of 2000-2500 strategic warheads. On several subsequent occasions, President Boris Yeltsin suggested that the US and Russian delegation negotiate deeper cuts, but did not receive an adequate response from the United States. Although some U.S. arms control analysts have discussed the possibility of reaching a START-3 agreement, the U.S. official administration is publicly calling for Russia`s ratification of START-2 as a necessary step to launch such negotiations. The official position of the United States is unlikely to change before the November 1996 U.S. presidential elections. However, under favourable circumstances, a START-3 dialogue could be launched early next year. On 14 June 2002, Russia announced that it was no longer bound by its obligations under the 1993 Strategic Arms Treaty (START), ending nearly a decade of US-Russian efforts to enter into force under the 1993 Treaty.

Moscow`s statement came a day after the United States withdrew from the Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) and weeks after the two countries reached a new Nuclear Weapons Agreement (SORT) on May 24. The Strategic Offensive Arms Reduction Treaty (SORT), which requires the United States and Russia to reduce their strategic arsenals to 1,700-2,200 head per piece by December 31, 2012, effectively replaced START II`s requirement not to deploy more than 3,000-3,500 warheads by December 2007. Other important provisions of START II, such as the ban on the deployment of several re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) on intercontinental missiles (ICBMs) independently, were not addressed in the SORT agreement. This letter, along with your response, is an agreement between the governments of the Russian Federation and the United States of America, which will enter into force and remain in force on the date the treaty enters into force, as long as the treaty remains in force. An exception is the number of nuclear weapons for which heavy bombers are actually equipped. This data was actually exchanged at the time of signing, both because it could not be drawn from the START data and because of its central political importance to the overall agreement. In this context, the exchange of letters concerning Kazakhstan is important. Russia is committed to reaching an agreement with Kazakhstan, as stipulated in the Lisbon Protocol, on the transfer of the SS-18 trucks and their slaughter cans currently in Kazakhstan to Russia, where they will be destroyed.

For its part, the United States asserts that it is part of the START II treaty regime, provided that this agreement is signed and implemented and that all SS-18 missiles in Kazakhstan are returned to Russia and destroyed with their launch guns. The revised draft law on the ratification of START II, drawn up by the Duma, was published on 9 December in the Pir Center Arms Control Letter. As expected, Article II of the Act contains a series of « exceptional events » that « would give the Russian Federation the right to withdraw from the [START II] Treaty. These include the U.S. violation of START II; the establishment of nuclear weapons by states that are not parties to START II; U.S. or NATO decisions on « military intervention » that « threaten the national security of the Russian Federation, » including the deployment of nuclear weapons to countries that have joined NATO since 1993; the deployment by each country of weapons threatening Russia`s early warning system; and « technical » or « economic » events that prevent Russia from implementing the treaty or jeopardizing its « environmental security. » The duma law also contains a number of conditions that must be met before Russia exchanges ratification instruments with the United States, the final step that would enter into force.