Iraq crisis hinders START-II ratification

Duma Deputy Shokhin told Interfax on 17 December that the left faction in the Duma would use the Iraq bombing to further delay a decision on ratification of the START-II treaty. The same day, Duma Deputy and member of the Liberal Democratic Party faction Mikhail Gutseriev told ITAR-TASS that the U.S.-British air strike "might worsen prospects for ratification of START-II." Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, whose party has the largest faction in the Russian Duma, said the 1999 budget should now be revised to increase defence spending, reported Reuters. Zyuganov rejected any perspective for START-II ratification.

"The START-II must be ratified despite the crisis in Iraq," quoted ITAR-TASS communist Deputy Prime-Minister Yuri Maslukov. Nevertheless, other pro START Russian officials feared that the communist-dominated Duma will never return to this issue.

The perspectives for ratification of the START-II agreement by the State Duma were better than ever earlier this month. Now, the Russian President and the Government will have to apply quite heavy argumentation in favour of START-II. But nobody dares to predict success in this issue after the outrage expressed by the Duma.