- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Russia's defense minister said yesterday the country was willing to consider changes to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, giving encouragement to Bush administration officials who told Congress they have made progress in the diplomatic sales job for a missile defense shield.
In Moscow, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told the Interfax news agency that "if the experts come to the conclusion that some changes in the treaty won't harm the national security of Russia, I will report that" to President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Ivanov, a longtime Putin confidant handpicked for the top defense job, became the latest senior Russian official to signal Moscow has moved away from a blanket rejection of any changes to the 1972 ABM pact, which prohibits the kind of missile defense system President Bush has vowed to build.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice arrived in Moscow yesterday to build on talks held over the weekend in Genoa, Italy, between Mr. Putin and Mr. Bush. The two leaders unexpectedly reached an accord to intensify talks on the missile defense idea while also considering cuts in U.S. and Russian offensive nuclear arsenals.
Mr. Ivanov said he was prepared to discuss amendments to the ABM Treaty when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld travels to Moscow Aug. 13-14. U.S. and Russian defense experts will meet in advance of that meeting to consider possible changes.
On Capitol Hill, John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that America's European allies have become more receptive to the missile defense idea following an intense round of consultations ordered by Mr. Bush earlier this year.
"The drift of sentiment in Europe I think has been in the direction of support for the administration's missile defense program," said Mr. Bolton, who at times faced pointed questioning from the panel's Democrats.
"Certainly not every NATO leader has expressed unconditional support for the missile defense program," Mr. Bolton noted. "But I think attitudes over the past three or four months particularly have been changing."
While questioning the cost and scope of the missile defense idea, several Democrats on the Senate panel, including Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. Robert G. Torricelli of New Jersey, said they were ready to support at least a limited version of Mr. Bush's plan to counter missile attacks by "rogue" regimes such as North Korea and Iraq.
But they said any more ambitious nuclear shield would greatly complicate U.S. relations with both Russia and China, which has a far more modest nuclear arsenal, and could even make the world more dangerous.
Mr. Torricelli suggested the administration could have avoided a number of diplomatic headaches by sticking to a limited system that could be implemented with just minor modifications to the 1972 ABM deal.
But Mr. Bolton made clear that the administration strongly favors jettisoning the ABM deal altogether, whether in conjunction with Russia or unilaterally.
"We do not believe seeking line-in, line-out amendments of the treaty to conduct this or next year's test program is viable," Mr. Bolton said. "Rather, we need to accept that the treaty is fundamentally in conflict with the administration's approach to the development of missile defenses."
He said the administration is determined not to become "bogged down" in endless talks if it means delay in proceeding with the missile defense system.
Lt. Gen. Ronald T. Kadish, who heads the Pentagon's effort to test a missile defense system, said the successful test July 14 of a missile interceptor had helped reduce the technical challenge from "a problem of invention to a very tough engineering problem."
Pressed by Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, Gen. Kadish said he could not put a price tag on the missile defense shield because the administration has yet to decide exactly which system and level of protection to adopt.

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