Perry exhorts Duma to back arms treaty

Moscow - The removal of Alexander Lebed will not change the "strong and growing" security relationship between the United States and Russia, US Defense Secretary William Perry said yesterday.

"I don't see any fundamental change," Mr Perry told reporters travelling with him on a three-day visit to Russia.

The Defense Secretary was discussing his testimony earlier in the day before the Russian lower house of parliament, the Duma, on the Start II arms reduction treaty. He was to have met Mr Lebed last night, but he said US officials decided it was "unwise" to go ahead with the meeting.

In Washington, the Clinton administration responded calmly to the Russian security chief's firing. "We consider this a Russian internal political matter," a White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "President [Boris] Yeltsin is the elected president and has taken a step which is clearly within his constitutional prerogatives."

Asked about charges of coup-plotting against Mr Lebed made by another member of Mr Yeltsin's government on Wednesday, Mr Perry replied:"I think those were overblown."

"Our security relationship will proceed as it has been proceeding," Mr Perry said. "It is strong and growing."

The Defense Secretary said US officials "had never really had a chance" to get to know Mr Lebed very well. He noted that the ailing Mr Yeltsin is waiting to undergo surgery in November "and all our best wishes will be with him".

"We should not be surprised that there are problems as Russia emerges as a democratic state," he said. "We should be happy that they are handling those problems effectively. Any student of history that studies the first 10 years of the American emergence as a democratic nation will discover that there was a hell of a lot of turbulence in those first 10 years."

But the US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Thomas Pickering, who also attended the session, posed the question: "Is Lebed still a major political force? That's a question to watch." Mr Pickering said that Mr Lebed's departure may leave a political vacuum. Mr Lebed is "a considerable force in Russian politics ... [but] Yeltsin has made clear, when it comes to the crunch, he will act", Mr Pickering said.

Earlier, Mr Perry appealed to Russian politicians to approve the sweeping Start II arms reduction treaty. But his audience reacted with suspicion and distrust of US intentions, particularly Washington's support for Nato expansion. "I believe the Start II treaty is fair and gives neither side an advantage. Both of us know that fewer nuclear weapons in the world makes us all safer," Mr Perry said.

Lev Rokhlin, chairman of the Duma defence committee, told Mr Perry: "Ratification of Start 11 is quite problematic, it is not in the interest of the Russian side." Mr Perry had testified that each nation could save nearly $5bn over five years by destroying warheads instead of maintaining huge arsenals.

"Russians are disappointed with tendencies emerging in America, and it would be difficult to convince the Russian public that the United States is friendly and has peaceful intentions towards Russia." Vladimir Lukin, chairman of the Duma's international committee, said after the meeting.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore