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Bush and Putin Agree To Slash Nukes: But No ABM Deal Yet

US President George W. Bush(R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin participate in a joint press conference 13 November 2001 at the White House in Washington DC. Bush and Putin are scheduled to meet at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas 14 November 2001 to continue discussions on reduction of nuclear weapon stock piles. AFP Photo by Joyce Naltchayan - Copyright 2001
by Olivier Knox
 Washington (AFP) Nov 14, 2001
Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin head for their next meeting in Texas Wednesday, after seeing eye to eye on deep cuts in the US nuclear arsenal but failing to come closer on missile defense.

"We intend to dismantle conclusively the vestiges of the Cold War and to develop (an) entirely new partnership for (the) long term," Russian President Putin said at a joint press conference on the first day of a three-day summit.

"This is a new day in the long history of Russian-American relations, a day of progress and a day of hope," said Bush. "We're transforming our relationship from one of hostility and suspicion to one based on cooperation and trust."

Bush had made the day's most dramatic announcement when he told the Putin at the White House that he would cut the US nuclear arsenal by two-thirds over the next 10 years to between 1,700-2,200 intercontinental warheads.

"The current levels of our nuclear forces do not reflect today's strategic realities," said Bush, who came to office vowing unilateral cuts. The new level will be "fully consistent with American security."

The decision drew a warm response from the Russian leader, who has long sought mutual reductions to about 1,500 warheads. Through an interpreter he said Russia would "try to respond in kind."

Later, in remarks broadcast on Moscow television from Washington, Putin announced a "radical" cut in Russia's long-range nuclear arsenal to about one-third its present size.

"The current qualitative level does not correspond either to the present-day international situation, or the nature of the new threats," Putin said at the Russian embassy here, adding that both countries would reach an understanding.

"And that is why we are proposing a radical program of further cuts in the strategic offensive weapons -- at least three times, down to the minimal level necessary for maintaining a strategic balance in the world," Putin said.

Russia currently has more than 6,000 intercontinental warheads -- the United States around 7,000, and Putin's announcement suggests that Moscow plans to match Bush's offer, bringing its long-range nuclear arsenal down in size to around 2,000 warheads.

Putin, however, gave no time frame for the Russian cut.

Both countries are committed to reducing their nuclear arsenals under the START II strategic disarmament accord, signed in 1997. It states the US arsenal must be reduced by 3,500 warheads and Moscow's by 3,000 by December 31, 2007.

Bush, who has repeatedly said that "endless hours" of arms control talks and weighty arms control treaties are Cold War relics, moved quickly to smooth over an apparent split with Putin, who said Russian wanted deals "in a treaty form."

"I looked the man in the eye and shook his hand, and if we need to write it down on a piece of paper, I'll be glad to do that," said the US president.

"We, for our part -- for the Russian part -- are prepared to present all our agreements in a treaty form, including the issues of verification and control," said the Russian president.

The two leaders, united in the war on terrorism declared after the September 11 onslaught on New York and Washington, stood by their opposite views of the ABM treaty that forbids the missile shield Bush has vowed to deploy.

"It's a piece of paper that's codified a relationship that no longer exists. It codified a hateful relationship. And now we've got a friendly relationship," Bush emphasized to a packed audience in the White House's ornate East Room.

"On the issues of missile defense, the position of Russia remains unchanged, and we agreed to continue dialogue and consultations on this," said Putin, who has opposed scrapping the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by Moscow and Washington.

Putin late Tuesday re-emphasized his attachment to the ABM treaty.

"Currently, the world is still far from the moment where international relations can be built solely on relationships of trust," Putin told a reception at the Russian embassy.

"That's why it's so important today to take as a basis fundamental treaties already in existence on disarmament and arms control," he added.

US officials have said Bush is committed to developing and deploying a missile shield to thwart attacks by so-called "rogue states" like Iraq or North Korea and have said testing risks running afoul of the accord by year's end.

Bush, playing host to the two leaders' fourth meeting and their first in the United States, was to welcome Putin to his "Prairie Chapel" ranch near the flyspeck Texas town of Crawford late Wednesday for a barbecue and an overnight stay.

Putin was to leave Crawford for New York early Thursday and then travel home to Russia.

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From Cornerstone To Relic: Russia Makes Painful Shift On ABM
Moscow (AFP) Nov 4, 2001
Moscow's painful admission to Washington that the ABM treaty looks more like a "relic" than a "cornerstone" is the first -- and possibly easiest -- step in the forging of 21st century allies out of two Cold War foes whose armies were bred on mutual hostility and mistrust.

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