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Friday, 14 April, 2000, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Treaty debate boost for Putin
Giant missile
The Start II debate will enhance Mr Putin's image abroad
By the BBC's Russian affairs analyst Stephen Dalziel

The fact that the State Duma even agreed to debate the Start II treaty so soon after Vladimir Putin's election as Russian President is a great boost for the new president.

It will also enhance Mr Putin's reputation on the eve of his first foreign trip.

The Duma's decision to ratify the treaty is the clearest sign yet that Russia has entered a new post-Yeltsin age.

President Yeltsin's relations with parliament were confrontational.

Duma debate

And the Start II treaty was the single biggest issue on which parliament knew that it could defy Mr Yeltsin, and not risk a showdown which could lead to its own dissolution.

The Yeltsin-era parliaments were dominated by communists and nationalists, who portrayed Start II as a measure which would weaken Russia's defensive capability.

In fact, as Defence Minister Marshal Igor Sergeyev explained to deputies on Thursday, it makes much more sense for Russia to have a smaller, modern nuclear arsenal, than wasting precious resources on thousands of outdated, and in many cases, rusting missiles.

The crucial turning point came when last December's parliamentary elections produced a State Duma with a majority which was clearly prepared to work with the Kremlin.

In the wake of that result, Mr Yeltsin stepped down as President, opening the way for Mr Putin's election.

The fact that Mr Putin has managed to put Start II before parliament even before his inauguration as President on 7 May underlines the authority he commands.

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See also:

28 Mar 00 | Europe
Putin's foreign policy riddle
17 Aug 99 | Americas
How will US missile defence work?
28 Jul 99 | Americas
US-Russia arms talks restart
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