Paper presented at the CSIS Project on Nuclear Issues Capstone Conference
This paper analyzes the political dynamics and debates surrounding the passage of five nuclear arms control agreements in the Russian State Duma during the last twenty years. It contends that treaty ratification has gotten easier in light of the increased degree of cohesion between the executive branch and the legislature’s majority party in Russia. However, concentrating only on this centralization of foreign policy in the Kremlin over the past decade obscures the impact of internal parliamentary debates on Moscow’s nuclear policy. Moreover, ongoing changes in Russia’s political system are introducing structural uncertainty into Moscow’s decisionmaking. The paper first introduces the “logjam” between the Duma and the U.S. Senate that thwarted implementation of the arms control agenda pursued by the Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin administrations. It then provides an overview of the Russian legislative branch, highlights its role in foreign policy and treaty ratification, and notes the changes in the legislature’s political composition over time. The paper further offers an assessment of arms control treaty passage votes, recurring themes in legislative debates, and key points of ratification resolutions and declarations. The conclusion argues that political instability and the nationalistic mood in Russia coupled with prevailing attitudes in the U.S. Senate may open the door for another legislative “logjam” dynamic in future arms control treaties.