- Russia, Western States Sign Nuclear Declaration, Reuters (03/08/99)
- Start-2 Treaty Must Be Ratified Promptly-Scientist, Itar-Tass(03/11/99)
- Senate to Debate Missile Defense, Associated Press (03/11/99)
Russia, Western States Sign Nuclear Declaration
March 8, 1999
BODOE, Norway -- Russia signed a nuclear safety declaration with Westerncountries on Friday, aiming to reach a binding multilateral agreement toclean up Russia's huge accumulations of nuclear waste.
The pact was signed after a two-day summit of foreign ministers of theso-called Barents Euro Arctic Council, which gathered top officials fromthe Nordic region, Russia, central Europe and the Unites States in theArctic city of Bodoe.
"We have signed a declaration of intent on nuclear safety and that is avery important declaration and a crucial step toward a bindinginternational agreement," Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaektold reporters after the closed meeting.
A pact was finally sealed after "hectic last-minute talks" in the earlyhours of Friday, a spokesman of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry toldReuters. "It's been tough," he said.
Nuclear safety has been a main issue of the Barents Council, which wasset up after the Soviet Union collapsed to boost cooperation betweenRussia and the Nordic nations Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark andIceland.
Russia has of one of the world's largest collections of nuclear waste inMurmansk on the northwestern Kola Peninsula, where spent nuclearreactors and fuel rods from decommissioned submarines are beinginadequately stored or simply dumped in the sea in the absence of abetter solution.
The waste could create a disaster, environmental groups say, if it leaksinto the atmosphere and seas.
Vollebaek said one of the challenges in the nuclear talks had been toestablish the responsibility in case of a nuclear disaster, but he saidRussia had showed commitment to come up with long-term solutions toget rid of its waste.
"What we have seen is an active Russian cooperation to find solutions tothese problems," he said, complementing Russian delegate DeputyForeign Minister Vasily Sredin for "involvement and commitment" innuclear safety work.
The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Britain, Italy, theNetherlands and Poland, all represented at the summit, also signed thedeclaration, named the Multilateral Nuclear Environment Program in theRussian Federation.
Vollebaek said it was too early to provide details of a financialframework for the program but said "it will be a big sum of money."
He said the United States, represented by deputy Secretary of StateStrobe Talbott, had announced during the meeting it would contribute$500,000 to securing the removal of spent fuel and radioactive wastefrom storage facilities.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook had announced earlier this weekthat Britain would put in $4.8 million in the work.
"There are many contributors and one of the most important tasks aheadof us is to coordinate these and to be even more goal-oriented than wehave been until now," Vollebaek said.
Both the United States and Britain said much of their contributionswould be spent on storage for nuclear waste, including decommissioningof the Lepse ship, one of many floating vessels in Murmansk full ofspent nuclear fuel.
Canada and Japan, also present in Bodoe, did not sign the deal. "Theywant a more global agreement," one official said.
The council also agreed on fishing quotas in a disputed spawning groundin the Barents Sea, the so-called "loophole," where Norway, Iceland andRussia have been battling over the fishing rights since the early 1990s.
Norway has been heading the Barents Council since it took over fromSweden in December 1997 and handed over leadership to Finland at theBodoe meeting.
Start-2 Treaty Must Be Ratified Promptly-Scientist.
March 11, 1999
MOSCOW -- Sergei Rogov, Director of the Institute for U.S. and CanadianStudies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, in an interview published inthe Thursday edition of Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper, has statedthat it isessential to ratify the START-2 Treaty as soon as possible.
The scientist said the Treaty "ensures a US strategic offensive nuclearforces' reduction, synchronous with inevitable --for financial andeconomic reasons -- cuts in Russia's strategic nuclear forces".
The START-2 Treaty, Rogov believes, "substantially reduces the U.S.counterforce strike capability -- nuclear attack means capable ofhitting strategic targets".
Besides, Rogov said, the document "provides a very powerful lever ofpolitical pressure on the U.S., should Washington suddently decideunilaterally to withdraw from the 1982 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty".
"A refusal to ratify the START-2 Treaty undermines our country'spositions at the forthcoming difficult negotiations with the US. Fromthis point of view, one cannot agree to Finance Ministry attempts toplay a role, which is not characteristic of it, blocking the passage ofa law on the financing of strategic nuclear forces in the period endingin the year 2010. Such an attitude only plays into the hands of those(State) Duma forces that oppose ratification of the START-2 Treaty,"Rogov emphasised.
Senate to Debate Missile Defense
Associated Press Writer
March 11, 1999
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrats dropped efforts Thursday to blockSenate debate on a national missile defense policy, clearing the way forconsideration of a bill the Clinton administration fears will jeopardizeanti-missile deals with Russia.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., who failed twice last yearby one vote to get the issue to the Senate floor, thanked MinorityLeader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., for agreeing to let debate go forward,reflecting growing bipartisan support for a system to defend U.S.territory against missile attack.
Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., did little more than introduce the bill lateThursday, with debate set for Monday afternoon. No vote is expecteduntil Tuesday on the legislation, which would declare deployment of anational missile defense system to be official U.S. policy.
"This is progress,'' said Cochran. '' We're very proud to see thismomentum to address this issue that is so important for the nationalsecurity interests of the United States.''
The bill reads: "It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soonas is technologically possible an effective national missile defensesystem capable of defending the territory of the United States againstlimited ballistic missile attack, whether accidental, unauthorized ordelivered.''
Earlier in the day, administration officials at a congressional hearingoutlined steps being taken to defend U.S. troops and civilians againstvarious types of missile attack. Republicans accuse the administrationof being feeble in its plans to protect against missile firings byterrorists or rogue regimes.
In Beijing Thursday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that Chinaand Russia have held talks on the prospects of a U.S. anti-missileumbrella and are united in their opposition to the system. China also isconcerned about the possibility of U.S. arrangements with Japan orTaiwan on missile defense.
The administration has threatened a presidential veto, based on concernthat it would affect negotiations with Russia to make changes in the1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which restricts both nations frombuilding missile defenses. Opponents claim the treaty is void, becauseit was signed with the Soviet Union, not Russia.
A House version of the bill is simpler: "It is the policy of the UnitedStates to deploy a national missile defense.'' Prompting no direct vetothreat, it cleared the House Armed Service Committee by a 50-3 marginlast month.
President Clinton included money in his fiscal 1999 budget request forbeginning to build such a system, but Republicans want faster spending.Clinton also has delayed until June 2000 a decision on whether to goahead with a full-scale system.
Some Republicans have pushed for a missile defense system since theearly 1980s, when President Reagan proposed a space-based shieldagainst incoming missiles. The issue has drawn increased Democraticsupport, as well, with the firing of a ballistic missile by North Korealast year and reports that Iran is developing an offensive missileprogram.