- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 14, 2001

The presidents of the United States and Russia yesterday both vowed to slash their countries' nuclear arsenals by two-thirds, but President Bush failed to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw from an arms treaty that prohibits a missile-defense shield.
During a joint press conference with the Russian leader, Mr. Bush announced he would unilaterally reduce the United States' stockpile of long-range nuclear warheads from more than 6,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200 over the next decade.
"We don't need arms-control negotiations to reduce our weaponry in a significant way," Mr. Bush said in the East Room of the White House. "My attitude is: Here's what we can live with.
"And so I've announced the level that we'll stick by," he added. "And to me, that's how you approach a relationship that is changed and different."
Although Mr. Putin was vague about Russian plans at the White House press conference, he announced in a speech last night at the Russian Embassy that he was also prepared to cut Russia's nuclear arsenals by two-thirds as well, "to the minimum level necessary."
"We no longer have to intimidate each other to reach agreements," Mr. Putin said. "Security is created not by weapons, but by the political will of people, nation-states and their leaders."
The cuts proposed by Mr. Putin would leave Russia with a nuclear stockpile of between 1,500 and 2,000 warheads and ease a major strain on Moscow's tight defense budget. Mr. Putin did not give a precise number, but a two-thirds cut would be far closer to the 1,500 figure, Russian officials have said.
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty II agreement, negotiated in 1992 during the administration of Mr. Bush's father, calls for both Russia and the United States to reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals to 3,500 warheads or less.
Despite apparent progress on arms reduction, Mr. Bush came up empty-handed yesterday in his quest to budge Mr. Putin away from supporting the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which bars the United States from developing defenses against incoming missiles.
While Mr. Bush wants both sides to withdraw from the treaty, Mr. Putin favors amending the agreement.
"On the issues of missile defense, the position of Russia remains unchanged," Mr. Putin announced. "We will have an opportunity to continue the work on this, one of the very difficult issues, at the Crawford ranch."
Although Mr. Putin insisted "it's too early now to draw the line" on missile defense, the ABM Treaty is already constraining the Bush administration from conducting tests that precede deployment of a missile-defense shield.
Mr. Bush made no secret of his disdain for the ABM Treaty yesterday. "It's a piece of paper that's codified a relationship that no longer exists," he said. "It codified a hateful relationship. And now we've got a friendly relationship."
Alarmed by news reports that Mr. Bush might acquiesce to Mr. Putin by agreeing to merely amend the ABM Treaty, a group of Republican senators are trying to encourage Mr. Bush to honor his repeated calls to repudiate the treaty.
"The United States cannot deploy missile defenses unless and until it fully extricates itself from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty," wrote the senators, including Minority Leader Trent Lott, in a letter Friday to Mr. Bush. "We are concerned that recent news stories distort your position by reporting that your administration intends to reach an agreement with Russia that would permit full testing of our missile-defense program while leaving the ABM Treaty intact."
The senators, including Jesse Helms of North Carolina, criticized former President Bill Clinton's "attempts to imbue the treaty with new meanings and provisions."
By contrast, they praised Mr. Bush for denouncing the treaty, especially in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"The ABM Treaty requires America's vulnerability to ballistic-missile attack," they wrote. "It is imperative to take the necessary final step and withdraw from this flawed agreement."
Yesterday's news conference was attended by the president's chief arms negotiator, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who said in September that the United States is poised to invoke a clause in the treaty that allows either side to unilaterally withdraw after a notification period of six months.
"I tried to convince the Russians when I was in Moscow last week how serious we are about withdrawing from this treaty," Mr. Bolton said at the time. "I said: 'You need to start understanding this treaty as a six-month treaty, renewable on a daily basis.' And I think that got their attention."
An administration official has said that the United States will give its six-month notice if the Russians refuse to jointly withdraw by next month.
If and when the United States extracts itself from the ABM Treaty, Mr. Bush is reluctant to get entangled in another arms-control treaty that might eventually become equally obsolete. That is why he announced yesterday's cuts unilaterally instead of making them a formal condition of similar cuts by Mr. Putin.
"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," Mr. Bush said. "But that's what our government is going to do over the next 10 years. And we don't need an arms-control agreement."
He was equally upbeat about the deadlock over the ABM Treaty.
"We have different points of view about the ABM Treaty," he said. "And we will continue dialogue and discussions about the ABM Treaty, so that we may be able to develop a new strategic framework that enables both of us to meet the true threats of the 21st century as partners and friends, not as adversaries."
Mr. Putin seemed to hint that he has not closed the door on the ABM Treaty, which Mr. Bush calls a relic of the Cold War.
Mr. Bush also called for closer relations between NATO and Russia. And he urged Congress to repeal the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, which links Russia's human rights performance to trade with America.


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