Russia Tears Up START II Treaty

(AFP) - Russia tore up the START II treaty, dismissing the 1993 nuclear
arms reductions pact as irrelevant after the United States decided to forge
ahead with plans to build a missile defense shield.

"Russia sees no conditions in which the START II treaty can take effect and
no longer feels bound under international law" to observe its terms, the
foreign ministry said in a statement.

The move came a day after US President George W. Bush marked
Washington's formal withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty by
announcing that he was moving ahead with plans to deploy a missile defence

On Saturday work is to begin on the missile shield, with a ground breaking
ceremony on silos for six interceptor missiles at Fort Greely, Alaska. It is due
to be completed by September 2004.

The Russian move to scrap the 1993 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was
not expected to have an impact on the nuclear balance as it has to a great
extent been superseded by a new arms cuts agreement signed only three
weeks ago.

Under that accord signed by Bush and President Vladimir Putin in Moscow
on May 24, Russia and the United States agreed to slash their nuclear
arsenals by 2012 to no more than 2,200 deployed warheads, down from the
current level of 6,000 each.

The START II treaty, signed in January 1993 by Boris Yeltsin and George
Bush, provided for a two-thirds reduction in the two countries' nuclear
arsenals to no more than 3,500 for the United States and 3,000 for Russia.

Further protocols were added to the treaty in New York in September 1997.

Ratified by the United States in 1996 and by Russia in May 2000, the treaty
had originally been due to take effect at the end of 2003 but had been widely
regarded as overtaken by events following the US decision to withdraw from
the ABM treaty.

In its statement, the foreign ministry underscored the US failure to ratify the
New York agreements and its June 13 pull-out of ABM that it said had
invalidated " that cornerstone of strategic stability for three decades."

Russian analysts have been predicting for several months that START II
would fall by the wayside.

Ivan Safranchuk, of the Defence Information Centre, said it had been
obvious for at least a month that a declaration of this kind was coming.

"The START II treaty has been dead in the water for at least two or three
years, and its implementation was always a non-starter," he told AFP.

"It was logical to make this statement, but obviously the timing was not an

"The US withdrawal from the ABM treaty meant that even in theory
START II could not come into effect, as the ratification text passed by the
State Duma (lower house) set as a condition the US ratification of the New
York protocol relating to anti-missile defence. And now the ABM treaty
doesn't exist any more," he said.

Putin has said on several occasions that Russia would withdraw from
START II if Washington withdrew from the ABM treaty, "and he is simply
keeping his promise," Safranchuk said.

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