DATE=6/2/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA SUMMIT / NUCLEAR NUMBER=5-46428 BYLINE=EVE CONANT DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: When President Bill Clinton arrives in Moscow for a summit with Russian president Vladimir Putin, arms control will be at the top of the agenda. Russia, fresh from ratifying the START-Two arms reduction treaty as well as a global ban on nuclear testing, is pushing for further arms cuts with a START-Three accord. Moscow correspondent Eve Conant looks at why Russia is pushing for such drastic reductions in its nuclear arsenal. TEXT: The Moscow summit was at first heralded as a meeting where the United States and Russia might agree to further cut their nuclear stockpiles with a modified START-Three accord. There was hope the two countries might even strike an agreement to amend the 1972 ABM treaty, allowing the United States to build its desired nuclear defense shield. But that was several weeks ago. Now officials on both sides are scrambling to lower expectations. They say there will be no breakthroughs in arms talks but that some minor agreements might be signed, such as establishing a joint early warning missile system, and reaching an accord on the destruction of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium, which is enough to produce tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. The heart of the disagreement is two-fold. Russia does not want the United States to build a nuclear defense shield. The Kremlin argues the shield would undermine decades of arms initiatives and could even launch a new arms race. /// opt /// President Putin did, however, tell a western television network (NBC) late Thursday that Russia would propose jointly developing a nuclear defense shield with the United States when he meets with President Clinton. /// end opt /// The United States, however, does not want to lower its nuclear arsenal to as low as fifteen hundred warheads, which Russia has proposed as part of an enhanced START-Three accord. Independent Defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer says Russia's economic situation is forcing it to consider drastically cutting its arsenal. ///Act Felgenhauer/// Right now, and in the foreseeable future, Russia will not have the economic resources to maintain a big number of ICBM's. Of course, we can have lots of warheads, the problem is not warheads but delivery systems. Our old Soviet-made delivery systems are getting old and will have to be scrapped inevitably and we'll have to build new ones and we don't have enough money to do that. /// opt /// No rocket can live forever, it has to be scrapped in the end. The reality check for the Russian strategic nuclear deterrent will come somewhere beginning from 2003 to 2010. /// end opt /// ///End Act/// ///OPT/// Mr. Felgenhauer argues Russia is simply using the ABM debate to get more concessions from the United States. ///Second Act Felgenhauer/// /// opt act /// The Russian military are actually not afraid at all of the Americans building a national missile defense. The Russian military knows that in the coming one or two decades such a system will not be in any way able to negate the Russian nuclear deterrent. Up to now the Russian official on ABM negotiations was to listen to American proposals, say no to everything and virtually press the United States to break out of the ABM treaty and then expose the United States to the world and to its European allies as a villain of the peace, as a country that doesn't keep international arms control agreements. ///End Act/// ///End opt/// Lieutenant Vasily Lata, a researcher with the military academy of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, says arms reduction is needed now. He says the service life of both Russia's land-based and sea-based intercontinental ballistic missiles has run out and Mr. Lata is angry that arms reduction is being linked to what he calls an unacceptable U-S proposal to amend the ABM treaty. ///Act Lata in Russian in full and fade under/// Mr. Lata says, "it's not right to trade the issue of reducing nuclear weapons with the issue of abandoning or altering the ABM treaty. Arms reduction talks must be held separately from this." Political researcher Ivan Safranchuk says Russia's position is weakened by Mr. Clinton's knowledge that Moscow's hands are tied because of finances. ///Act Safranchuk in Russian in full and fade under/// "It is clear what we can afford," he says. "Even an optimistic estimate shows Russia, by the year 2008, will barely be able to afford fifteen hundred warheads." While there is little expectation of an agreement over arms cuts and changes, or what some U-S officials are describing as "strengthening" of the ABM treaty, there is a chance for some smaller accords on the nuclear front. The two sides hope to clinch a deal to destroy 34 tons of military-grade plutonium. Russian and United States officials will also be discussing the possible development of a joint missile launch early-warning system. Such a system might help to enhance trust between the two sides, but would fall short of the deals that experts were expecting from this first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders since President Putin was elected in March. (Signed) NEB/EC/GE 02-Jun-2000 06:38 AM EDT (02-Jun-2000 1038 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .