Thursday, November 8, 2001

President Bush yesterday cautioned that the war against terrorism is not a “Kodak moment” that will be resolved overnight and said he has decided how many missiles to trim from the American nuclear arsenal.
During a brief news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the White House, Mr. Bush shrugged off the failure to find Osama bin Laden or the mailer of anthrax letters.
“This is a struggle that’s going to take a while,” the president said. “It’s not one of these Kodak moments. There’s no ‘moment’ to this.
“This is a long struggle and a different kind of war,” he added. “But we’re patient, and our close friends are patient, which is bad news for the Taliban and the people they harbor.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Mr. Blair, who has emerged as the president’s staunchest wartime ally despite the prime minister being a liberal and Mr. Bush a conservative.
“People are patient about this; I think they understand this is not a conventional conflict,” Mr. Blair said exactly one month after the United States and Britain began bombing Afghanistan.
“Reflect upon that for a moment: It is simply a month old,” he added. “Literally, we have destroyed virtually all the terrorist training camps of al Qaeda. We’ve destroyed an enormous amount of the military infrastructure of the Taliban. Their air power, so far as it existed, is completely taken out.
“We therefore have a very, very strong situation from which to move forward,” Mr. Blair concluded.
Mr. Bush, who will host Russian President Vladimir Putin in Washington and Texas next week, said he has reached a decision on how deeply to cut America’s nuclear arsenal, although he would not reveal the number.
“I have reached a decision,” the president said in response to a reporter’s question. “I think it’s best that I share with Mr. Putin the acceptable level of offensive weapons with him before I do with you.”
He added: “I’m not going to tell you until I tell him.”
Both the United States and Russia currently have more than 6,000 long-range nuclear weapons. Each is expected to slash those arsenals to between 1,750 and 2,250 as part of a deal that would allow the United States to develop a missile-defense shield.
Russia cannot afford to maintain its current arsenal and plans to downsize, but wants to be assured America will do the same before Mr. Putin gives his blessing to the missile-defense shield. Such a shield is forbidden by the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which Mr. Putin has said he would be willing to amend.
“If he’s got some interesting suggestions on how to make the ABM Treaty not outdated and not outmoded, I’m more than willing to listen,” said Mr. Bush.
Mr. Bush warned that the ABM Treaty in its current form cannot stand. Also yesterday, a senior administration said amending the ABM Treaty “is not something we are considering.”
By forbidding a nationwide missile-defense shield, the treaty leaves America vulnerable to terrorist strikes, said Mr. Bush.
“This terrorist war says to me more than ever that we need to develop defenses to protect ourselves against weapons of mass destruction that might fall in the hands of terrorist nations,” said Mr. Bush. “If the Taliban had a weapon that was able to deliver a weapon of mass destruction, we might be talking a little different tune about our progress against al Qaeda than we are today.”
At the same time, the president is reluctant to replace the ABM Treaty with another pact that would lock the United States into some artificial number of warheads.
“We don’t need an arms-control agreement to convince us to reduce our nuclear weapons down substantially,” he said. “The United States will move to reduce our offensive weapons to a level commensurate with being able to keep the peace and, at the same time, much lower levels than have been negotiated in previous arms-control agreements.”
Mr. Bush lavished praise on Mr. Blair, who is standing by the president in spite of reports that Europeans do not support the war against terrorism as strongly as Americans. It was the latest sign that the war has served to bring Mr. Bush closer to the prime minister, who previously was viewed as more sympathetic to the liberal policies of former President Bill Clinton.
“We’ve got no better friend in the world than Great Britain,” Mr. Bush gushed. “I’ve got no better person that I like to talk to about our mutual concerns than Tony Blair. He brings a lot of wisdom and judgment as we fight evil.”
Mr. Blair gave no indication that he is feeling lonely in the role of America’s most ardent ally.
He lauded his conservative counterpart’s performance in prosecuting the war.
“Can I say how pleased I am to be back at the White House in the company of President Bush?” the prime minister said. “And can I thank him once again for his leadership and his strength at this time? And can I say to him on behalf of the people of my country, but I believe people right across the world, that the determination to see that justice is done is every bit as strong today as it was on September the 11th?”
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair “come from different parties, but they have strong ties.”
He added that the words of the prime minister, who speaks with Mr. Bush by telephone “very often,” carry a lot of weight in the White House.
“Prime Minister Blair is very influential,” said Mr. Fleischer. “He and the president stand shoulder to shoulder. The president values his counsel, he values his wisdom.”
The president travels to Atlanta today to provide an update on the war against terrorism in a televised speech to the nation.
“I’m going to put out an address that reminds the nation that we’re truly a great nation, that we responded in ways that the enemy could never have imagined,” he said. “And I’m so proud of the patience and steadfast nature of our people.”

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