US and Russia sign 'treaty of hope'

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PRESIDENTS George Bush and Boris Yeltsin, promising a future 'free from fear', yesterday rolled back decades of superpower arms competition with a treaty scrapping up to 17,000 nuclear


The Start 2 accord is the most radical retreat yet from the arms race, committing Russia and the United States to cut their nuclear arsenals by two thirds.

'The treaty signed today represents a major step towards fulfilling mankind's centuries-old dream of disarmament,' said President Yeltsin, speaking during a signing ceremony in the Kremlin. 'In its scale and importance it surpasses all other disarmament treaties.' Against a backdrop of American and Russian flags, he described the pact as 'the treaty of hope'.

President Bush, looking exhausted but savouring a final diplomatic coup before leaving the White House on 20 January, declared the Cold War over and the start of a 'new world of hope'.

'For parents and children,' he said, 'it means a future far more free from fear.' Mr Bush, who arrived in Moscow from Somalia on Saturday, left yesterday for Paris, where he discussed the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Gatt negotiations with President Francois Mitterrand of France.

The Balkan crisis was also discussed in Moscow. Mr Bush's triumph on nuclear arms, however, was not matched by any agreement on what to do in the former Yugoslavia. Mr Yeltsin hedged on Moscow's willingness to support the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Bosnia.

Differences on how to control the Balkan crisis highlight the nature of the new world order, where regional rather than superpower confrontation poses the most intractable problems. After years of glacial disarmament negotiations, Start 2 took a mere six months to settle.

It provides for the abolition within the next decade of the Cold War's most apocalyptic legacy - long-range land-based missiles capable of launching clusters of nuclear warheads. Its implementation, however, could be delayed or even halted by Russia's parliament, which must now ratify it.

Another obstacle is Ukraine, which has yet to ratify Start 1, forerunner of the new treaty. But Leonid Kravchuk, the Ukrainian President, yesterday promised to work for prompt ratification of the earlier accord, which covers not only Russian and American nuclear arms but missiles inherited by former Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Without Ukraine's formal endorsement of Start 1, Start 2 cannot be implemented.

Problems for Yeltsin, page 7

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Letter, page 14