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Speech at a State Duma Meeting to Consider the Ratification of the Treaty Between Russia and the United States on the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START-2) and Documents Relating to the May 26, 1972 Treaty Between the USSR and the US on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missiles

April 14, 2000, The State Duma, Moscow

Vladimir Putin: I would now like to deal very briefly with remarks which I think cannot be left unanswered. First of all, I support Yevgeny Primakov on what he said about Cabinet members, including the foreign minister. If the foreign minister is seen making contacts with representatives of foreign states outside his official duties, he, like any other members of the Cabinet, State Duma deputies, or faction leaders will be subjected to certain procedures in line with the law. And I must say that recent investigations by the Federal Security Service tell us that the issue is an important one. That is point one.

Point two. Concerning the detention of “one legless person and one eyeless person.” All of us together – I mean all State Duma deputies and the Cabinet – are doing some tremendous work, and not only as part of the so-called counter-terrorist operation. In effect, we are regaining lost territory. We are rebuilding Russia. We are going through pain, blood, suffering and deaths. The fatality toll already numbers more than two thousand people. And I think it would be wrong to throw stones at the Armed Forces, which are doing their duty in a way we have not seen for a long time: admirably.


True, people are different, and approaches to the current events are different, too. But servicemen are eager to get back to their units from hospitals. This has never been seen before. And I think we must not forget about this. Such things must be dealt with seriously.

The same applies to the remark that our people are willing to invite any invaders. This has never been the case in Russia, nor will it ever be. I am absolutely certain of that.

Now let me comment on the basic points raised today. I would also like to dwell briefly on remarks concerning extending the service life [of missiles] and deadlines for their withdrawal from operational status, and so on. Before coming here, I summoned the top men of the General Staff to show me their schedule. I studied it personally. All the heavy missiles – the ones the Americans call the Satan, R-36s and their derivatives – are set to be withdrawn from duty in 2007, after their service life has been extended many times. The General Staff leadership has told me just now in all earnestness that there would be no further extensions. It is inadvisable and dangerous, they said.

Of course, we could listen to experts from various research institutions and production associations speak their minds. It would be interesting. But I assure you everything would have boiled down to lobbying for the interests of production groups.

I do not think that these institutions, no matter how deeply we respect them, should define the concept of national security and the concept for the development of the Armed Forces. This must be done by the government, the president and the Federal Assembly. And proceeding from these concepts, specialists at the Defence Ministry and the General Staff should decide what to order, when to order it, and so on and so forth. That is of fundamental importance.

Now to the gist of the matter.

For seven years, since the START II Treaty was signed in 1993, we have been discussing and debating its ratification. Much of what I am going to say has already been said here. But I think I must reiterate it despite it being already said. Over this period, we have seen different political factions and deputy groups of several State Dumas formulating, rephrasing and sometimes rejecting their points of view. To say that we have done it offhand or in haste would be politically incorrect, to say the least.

We have witnessed this document being used as a means of political infighting, as a tool to tie START II with all treaties in that sphere, and with the full range of Russian-American relations.

The president of the Russian Federation has submitted the START II Treaty to the State Duma for ratification three times – in 1995, 1998 and 1999. And each time the ratification was postponed for various natural and human reasons: in 1995–1997 it was events in Chechnya; in 1998, sharp debates about a Cabinet head; and finally in 1998–1999, Yugoslavia, bombings of Iraq and so on. To be frank, it may be just as well that the issue has been contemplated so extensively. At any rate, both ordinary people and those concerned with the problem – political scientists and specialists in every field – were able to look deep into these things. But to postpone the solution of this major problem, which will determine the future of our strategic nuclear forces – a credible guarantor of Russia’s national security – is no longer possible. We consider this to be dangerous.

Today, we have two fundamentally different points of view. The first totally rejects the need to ratify the START II Treaty on the grounds that it is not in Russia’s national interests. The second suggests ratifying it on certain conditions. I think both of these views can be justified.

Actually, these conditions, which I have mentioned and which were supposed to be operative upon ratification, have already been fulfilled. There is a federal law on financing a programme for the development of strategic nuclear forces until 2010, a declaration of Russia’s right to withdraw from START II if the US violates the 1972 ABM Treaty, and so on.

Ratification opponents have put forward the following basic argument: it is highly important for Russia to retain its traditional structure of strategic nuclear forces, with its emphasis on intercontinental ballistic missiles. As we have heard many times, and as I have said, these are R-36 missiles. Let me dwell briefly on this and other arguments against ratification.

A few words about the claim that it would be to Russia’s advantage to preserve its strategic nuclear forces at the level stipulated by START I and to resume the production of heavy missiles.

The problem has some serious political implications that can bring down the entire structure of treaty relations and initiate an unacceptable and, I want to stress, an absolutely unnecessary arms race for Russia … Something that has already once been imposed on Russia. If we allow ourselves to be drawn into one for a second time, the consequences will be worse than the first time. Such a choice involves heavy spending of cash and resources. I want to stress again: absolutely irrational, sometimes even absurd, expenses are inevitable here.

I agree with some speakers that things are difficult with conventional armaments.

Let me say it bluntly: our Air Force pilots have logged an average of four flight hours each in the past three months. To give you a better grasp of the situation, I can also mention ships that have sunk and so on. The facts cited were correct, but we must draw a different conclusion from them. Last year, American pilots each logged something like 200 flight hours each on average. You may ask: and how many hours did our men fly? Mr Kornukov over there can tell you. I can’t, because I am ashamed of the figures.

Some mention has been made of former co-production. As you know, the previous production setup has been lost, its essential and most important component has stayed in Ukraine and has completely deteriorated. To develop and organise the production of new intercontinental heavy missiles will require a series of full-scale research and development programmes lasting at least 7 to 10 years and costing (including production) no less than 62.3 billion roubles ($2.38 billion).

To keep the grouping of strategic nuclear forces at its present strength, full development and maintenance costs between now and 2010 will be: under START I, 950 billion roubles ($36.33 billion), under START II (3,000 to 3,500 warheads), 750 billion roubles ($28.68 billion), and under START III (2,000 to 2,500 warheads), 400 billion roubles ($15.3 billion).

As regards the existing intercontinental ballistic missiles, their scrapping is not stipulated by the START II. I want to stress once more: it is not the treaty that dictates it, but the fact that multiple extensions of their service life have reached the end of their tether. Our main objective is to make the United States cut its real nuclear potential down to 3,500 warheads, as stipulated by START II, and proceed further to START III, as agreed in Helsinki in 1997. We have a vested interest in this. I, for one, do not know how interested the United States is in view of the changes that are taking place and that have already taken place in politics and military confrontations, including in the distribution of strategic weapons.

And last but not least – what is not covered by the Treaty, but raises certain concerns, which, generally, is only right and proper. I am referring to the so-called non-strategic nuclear arms, or long-range sea-based cruise missiles. The advantages reportedly enjoyed by the United States in this field are far from apparent. Now that you have decided to alter the tone of our debate and make it open to the public, I will not go into details, but I will say that they are not apparent. Speaking of sea-based nuclear cruise missiles, our deployment possibilities and those of the United States are about the same.

What will Russia gain from ratifying and implementing the START II Treaty?

First: the balance of forces will be maintained. Under START II, the number of warheads in Russia’s strategic nuclear forces will be reduced by approximately 47%, and those of the US forces, by roughly 66%. And this even though the Treaty leaves out Russia’s naval and air nuclear forces, does not stipulate the scrapping of a single submarine, a single heavy bomber, or a single warhead in the Navy and the Air Force. Our grouping is to cut back ground-based ballistic missiles, which, owing to physical obsolescence and for safety purposes, and whether or not the Treaty is ratified, are set to be phased out by 2007 anyway. Meanwhile, under the Treaty, the United States will have to scrap its most modern MX missile and almost halve its sea-launched strategic armaments.

Second: the potential for deterrence will be preserved. Ratification of START II will enable Russia to maintain its deterrence potential. In this respect, or regarding the number of warheads that could be delivered in retaliation to an enemy’s sensitive spots, Russia, should it fail to ratify START II, would be 1/15th as strong as the United States by 2010. I would like to emphasise this: if we fail to ratify the treaty, Russia will have 1/15th the potency of the US. The implementation of START II will make the overall ratio of the US and Russian deterrence potentials three-to-one. Should a START III treaty be concluded and implemented, the ratio of the potentials would be 1 to 1.1, as the defence minister said earlier.

It is of fundamental importance that as Russia’s forces of nuclear deterrence are reduced numerically, their survivability and response effectiveness will grow, improving the quality of Russia’s retaliation potential.

Third: the START II Treaty will be linked firmly and indissolubly with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The ratification of START II, with the proviso that it can take effect only if the ABM Treaty is fully preserved and unfailingly observed, will give the US a choice: either be a globally condemned wrecker of the underpinnings of strategic stability embodied in the treaty-based system for the limitation and control of strategic arms, or refrain from deploying a national missile defence system.

Fourth: a physical count of nuclear munitions is introduced for every heavy bomber. The START II Treaty credits every heavy bomber with the number of warheads it actually carries. In that way the ratification and realisation of the treaty removes any imbalance not only between US and Russian strategic aviation armament inventories but also between the sides’ strategic offensive arms groupings. I would like to stress that there has been no ceiling up to now. START II introduces them.

Fifth: Russia’s nuclear deterrence matches its economic potentialities. I am not going to give a more detailed description, I did so at the beginning.

Sixth: possibilities for converting nuclear deterrence forces to a more rational financial and economic modality are created. This is to say that if we refer to heavy missiles, we cannot depend on their manufacture in another country, even one as friendly as Ukraine. We cannot allow this even with separate small components. We must produce everything on our territory and count only on our own production facilities geared to a planned conversion of our nuclear deterrence forces to new weapons systems.

There are also political advantages. One is precluding the possibility of accusing Russia of slowing down the disarmament process and inciting the spread of and a race in nuclear weapons. Another is forestalling a situation in which the United States can cite Russia’s non-ratification of START II as an excuse to withdraw from the 1972 ABM Treaty. A third is prerequisites for further and deeper cuts in nuclear weapons, a subject already dealt with.

I wish particularly to stress that the ratification of the START II Treaty is closely tied to the ratification of agreements on the demarcation of strategic and non-strategic anti-ballistic missiles signed in 1997. These agreements provide for a mechanism to prevent the bypassing of the ABM Treaty by building up a non-strategic ABM system and preventing the establishment of a strategic ABM system and banned basing modes disguised as non-strategic ones. The totality of bans and ceilings on the parameters of non-strategic ABM systems and on conditions for testing and deploying them, combined with a package of confidence-building measures, creates a serious legal and technological – I want to stress the word ‘technological’ – basis for confidently addressing the ABM Treaty, not steering clear of it. At the same time, these agreements allow us to build effective systems of non-strategic anti-missile defences, which by virtue of Russia’s geo-strategic position will add a major component to its deterrence potential.

If, following our ratification of the START II Treaty in tandem with these agreements, the United States sets out to destroy the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (here I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we met with faction leaders in the Kremlin quite recently, who, as you know, voiced some fairly good and not just fairly good, but quite specific proposals and remarks on the problem we are discussing today), then I wish to stress that in this case we are in a position to pull out and will pull out not only from START II but also from the entire system of treaty-based relations on the limitation and control of strategic and conventional armaments. We can also raise the issue of reviewing our decisions on tactical weapons. And in these conditions we will opt for Russia’s pursuing an independent policy on nuclear deterrence. The point I want to make is this: the ratification decision does not mean one-way disarmament.

There are two questions we must answer: will this step preserve the nuclear shield or will it not? Will this step foster the development of our Armed Forces, will it make them more effective or not? Our answer to both questions is yes. Our nuclear forces, those of nuclear deterrence, even with a decision adopted on the START II Treaty, will be able to destroy any enemy many times over and with full guarantee at any moment and in any corner of the globe. It sounds like something out of a nightmare, but it is true even if we presume that we will have to engage several nuclear powers at the same time.

This will allow us to cut extra spending and divert funds to the development of new weapons, to making our Armed Forces more effective and more combat-ready, considering (this was also mentioned here today) that Russia will face its main threats, in view of the world’s situation, from local conflicts. Attempts to undo Russia’s status as a world power will not be made through the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. We can see such attempts already today. The basic threats stem from local conflicts.

If one asks whether or not the START II Treaty and agreements on the limitation of strategic and non-strategic anti-ballistic missile systems meet Russia’s national interests, the answer can also be only affirmative: yes, they do.

Thank you.

April 14, 2000, The State Duma, Moscow