- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Russian President Vladimir Putin last night offered to match proposed U.S. nuclear cuts and reduce Moscow's arsenal by two-thirds to about 2,000 warheads, the "minimum level necessary for maintaining the strategic balance in the world."
"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."
Speaking in the ornate reception room at the Russian Embassy to an audience that included Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and several key members of Congress, Mr. Putin said Russia and the United States should build on the cooperation and good will stemming from the joint approach to the war on terrorism.
The fight against terrorism "can't be just an episode in the history of Russian-American relations," Mr. Putin said through an interpreter. "It should mark the beginning of a long-term partnership and cooperation."
Mr. Putin had declined to match specific cuts offered by President Bush at a joint White House press conference earlier in the day. The specific number floated by Mr. Putin in his evening address could herald progress on other fronts as the two leaders meet again for talks at the presidential ranch in Crawford, Texas, today.
Mr. Bush said the United States would cut its stockpile to 1,700-2,200 warheads over the next decade.
Mr. Putin's remarks contained some veiled warnings to the United States, in particular to Mr. Bush's hopes to replace a web of Cold War arms-control and security agreements with a much looser and informal "strategic framework" that would accommodate U.S. plans to build an extensive missile defense.
"The world is far from having international relations that are built solely on trust, unfortunately," Mr. Putin said. "That's why it is so important today to rely on the existing foundation of treaties and agreements in the arms-control and disarmament areas."
The Russian president also called for a major role for the United Nations in building on the new global unity engendered by the fight against terrorism. Mr. Putin said Russia would propose a comprehensive convention against terrorism through the United Nations, as well as a special convention focusing on the threat of nuclear terrorism.
He also said it was vital to attack terrorism at its roots, including the growing global gap between rich and poor.
"If an Afghan peasant has nothing to live on but the pennies he gets from the opium dealer, this means that terrorists and criminals of all kinds will continue to manipulate vast financial flows," Mr. Putin said.
Last night's address, billed by Russian Embassy officials here as a "major policy statement," will be followed by a speech today at Houston's Rice University.
Security measures were tight at the embassy last night for the address, which was jointly sponsored with the Council on Foreign Relations, the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom and two Russian-American business groups.
The Rice University speech, addressed to a group of academics and business leaders, is expected to focus mainly on economics and investment.
Aided by reforms at home and higher energy prices abroad, the battered Russian economy has shown new signs of life in the past two years after a decade of decline after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
While Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin have met three times overseas this year, this is the Russian president's first official visit to Washington.


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