- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2001

The Bush administration today begins a flurry of high-level exchanges with Russia in an attempt to finalize agreements on missile defense and the war on terrorism ahead of President Vladimir Putin's visit to the United States later this month.
As Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov flew to Washington yesterday for talks with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Mr. Powell's deputy, Richard Armitage, arrived in Moscow to meet his counterpart, Vyacheslav Trubnikov.
At the same time, the Pentagon announced that Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld leaves for Moscow tomorrow to discuss the war in Afghanistan, as well as the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which, in its current form, bans certain anti-missile tests necessary for developing missile defenses.
The State Department said Mr. Powell's meeting with Mr. Ivanov today will focus on "the strategic framework issues of offensive missiles, nonproliferation and defensive systems." The two top diplomats will try to move those issues "forward toward" President Bush's talks with Mr. Putin in Washington and Crawford, Texas, on Nov. 13 and 14.
Today's meeting "should be seen in the context of expanding cooperation, working together in all these areas as well as economically, and looking to feed that process into the meetings," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.
Although the Pentagon delayed some tests that would have breached the ABM Treaty last week, administration officials said building missile defenses remains a "very high priority" for the president.
"Missile defense was a subject of extensive negotiations" during Mr. Bush's meeting with Mr. Putin in Shanghai earlier this month, and the discussions will continue next month, a senior official said.
The September 11 attacks on New York and Washington "didn't change" the need for a missile shield, another official said. "If anything, they emphasized the need to defend against a wide-ranging threat."
The administration wants to scrap the ABM Treaty unless Moscow agrees to substantial changes. Russia views the accord as a cornerstone of strategic stability, while Mr. Bush and his advisers call it a "relic" of the Cold War.
After their meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on Oct. 21, Mr. Putin and Mr. Bush said they had made progress on narrowing their differences on the pact. Before the meeting, Mr. Putin was reported to have told senior aides that he was ready to accede to modifying the accord, provided Mr. Bush did not decide to withdraw from it altogether.
Mr. Putin has made clear that an important condition for his assent to amend the accord is a drastic reduction in the American and Russian nuclear arsenals, because Russia can no longer afford to maintain its stockpile. Washington is reluctant to go as low as the 1,500 warheads suggested by the Russians, but administration officials have indicated that Moscow is pleased with the U.S. effort to cut offensive weapons. Under the 1993 Start II agreement, the arsenals were to be cut to 3,500 warheads each, but the pact was never enforced.
The United States currently has about 7,000 warheads, while Russia has about 6,000.
In addition to the reductions, Washington should accept certain constraints on missile defense at least for the foreseeable future, said Michael O'Hanlon, senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution.
"In relative terms, missile defense is less important than before September 11 compared to other kinds of homeland security, and the need to preserve good working relations with Russia is even greater than before," he said.


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