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Duma Committee May Decide to Reconsider New START Treaty Ratification Next Week

Russian SS-25MOSCOW. Oct 29 (Interfax) - Konstantin Kosachyov, the head of the Russian State Duma international affairs committee, plans to suggest to committee members that they reconsider the ratification of the Russian-U.S. New START Treaty in view of new circumstances.

On September 16, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, apart from formally supporting the treaty's ratification, made 26 various comments related to it, Kosachyov told journalists on Friday.

In line with the U.S. ratification procedure, these comments include 13 declarations, ten conditions and three so-called understandings, Kosachyov said.

"What causes our biggest concerns is these three understandings, which will have to be included in the ratification instrument in case of its passage by the Senate, and they in fact interpret the text of the agreements reached by our countries," Kosachyov said.

These three understandings concern the most significant problems, Kosachyov said. "First, it is specially emphasized that (it is the U.S. senators' understanding that) strategic-range non-nuclear weapon systems do not fall under the treaty, but it is virtually impossible to tell whether a missile that has already been launched is carrying a nuclear or non-nuclear warhead or not," Kosachyov said.

The second understanding presumes that "the Americans are trying to apply the New START Treaty to rail-mobile ICBMs in case they are built," he said.

"And third, they say at the same time that the New START Treaty will on no account limit the Pentagon's efforts toward deploying missile defenses," he said.

"Thus, through such unilateral understandings, the Americans are trying to dispel their concerns about the possible emergence of rail-mobile ICBMs while at the same time ignore the Russian concerns about missile defenses and strategic-range non-nuclear weapons," he said.

After the relevant U.S. Senate committee passed its resolution in mid-September, Russian military experts thoroughly examined these comments and, considering that the Americans have made a plurality of new reservations and recommendations, both Duma committees relevant to the matter, that is, the international affairs committee and the defense committee, will have to revert to considering this issue, Kosachyov said.

Back in July, both Duma committees recommended that the Duma ratify the New START Treaty without any reservations and enclosed declarations, he said.

"Thus, it turns out that the Senate's dedicated committee has resorted to unilateral reservations not agreed upon with the Russian side, while the international law says that such reservations cannot exist in bilateral treaties," Kosachyov said.

The U.S. is holding midterm elections on November 2, which could end up in the Democrats, who support the ratification of the New START Treaty, losing even more mandates, which will go to the Republicans, he said.

At the same time, the current composition of the Senate may consider the New START Treaty ratification roughly on November 15 to 20, Kosachyov said. However, as lame ducks, the current Senators may choose not to do so, as they lack eight votes to secure a positive result, he said.

"But if ratification is considered by a new composition of the Senate, where the Democrats may lose from three to nine mandates, it is my expectation that this consideration could become even more problematic," Kosachyov said.

Considering that the State Duma will work only three days next week because of state holidays, the international affairs committee could only discuss whether to reconsider the New START Treaty ratification, Kosachyov said.

"As for the date for considering this issue by the two relevant committees, it will be set later, after the holidays," he said.

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