Friday, November 16, 2001

CRAWFORD, Texas President Bush yesterday ended his first American summit with Vladimir Putin without convincing the Russian president to withdraw from an arms treaty that is preventing the United States from testing a missile defense shield.

“We have a difference of opinion,” Mr. Bush acknowledged during a joint appearance with Mr. Putin at Crawford High School.

“We differ in the ways and means we perceive that are suitable for reaching the same objective,” Mr. Putin added during a lengthy question-and-answer session with students.

Although there had been hopes in the administration for some movement on the part of Mr. Putin, the Russian refused to budge from his support of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty during three days of talks in Washington and Crawford.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said the ABM Treaty “continues to be a source of disagreement between the two sides.” She said Mr. Putin showed no willingness to join the United States in a simultaneous withdrawal from the pact anytime soon.

“No particular, you know, ‘kaboom’ breakthrough is to be expected at any particular time,” Miss Rice said in response to questions from The Washington Times. “But they are continuing to work the issue and we’ll see how long we can go before we have to actually begin the testing.”

Since that testing would violate the ABM Treaty, the United States must either convince Russia to jointly withdraw from the treaty or notify Moscow that Washington will unilaterally withdraw after a six-month period prescribed by the document. A senior administration official has said the United States will give its six-month notice if Russia does not agree to a joint withdrawal by the end of the year.

“The Russians understand that we’re soon going to run up against certain constraints of the treaty,” Miss Rice warned. “One way or another, the United States is going to have to get out of the constraints.”

Although Mr. Bush has derided ABM as a relic of the Cold War, Mr. Putin told him yesterday that he continues “to believe that the ABM treaty has a certain importance to the post-Cold War era,” Miss Rice said. As for allowing tests for a missile defense shield, Mr. Putin “continues to believe that this ought to be done within the context of the ABM treaty,” she added.

Mr. Putin also favors codifying his various arms-control agreements with Mr. Bush in treaty form. Although Mr. Bush had been leery of getting entangled in another formal agreement that might someday become obsolete, he appeared to soften his opposition yesterday.

“We are more than willing to talk with the Russians about various levels of codification of such an arrangement,” Miss Rice said. “We are prepared to make this verifiable in some form, perhaps even using some of the verification procedures out of former treaties.”

But she added: “We do not believe that it needs to look like the thousands and thousands of pages that attended all the SALT and START treaties.”

Back in Washington, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, expressed outrage at Mr. Bush’s reluctance to enter a new formal treaty. “I am shocked by the president’s view that an agreement on arms reductions need not be on paper,” he said. “Legally and technically, it need not be, but it ought to be.”

He added: “What will happen to the agreement when President Bush and President Putin leave office? A written treaty could provide clear answers.”

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