- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

President Bush announced yesterday that he will sign a landmark treaty in Moscow next week to slash the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia by two-thirds during the next decade.
"This treaty will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War," Mr. Bush told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. "It'll make the world more peaceful and put behind us the Cold War once and for all."
The treaty will reduce the nuclear stockpiles of the United States and Russia to 1,700 to 2,200 each, from 6,000 to 7,000. Although some American missiles will be destroyed, others will be placed in "deep storage" or kept as "operational spares," according to a senior administration official.
Mr. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin plan to sign the treaty in Moscow on May 24. Both men agreed in principle to the cuts in the fall, and Mr. Putin suggested they put it in writing.
Although Mr. Bush initially resisted the idea of a formal treaty, he decided to mollify the Russians after the administration riled Moscow by unilaterally withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 to proceed with a missile-defense shield.
"President Putin made it clear that he wanted to have it in writing," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said. "The president initially would have been prepared to do so orally, but it was clear President Putin thought this would be helpful."
Both sides concluded that a formal treaty would prevent future presidents from reneging on the agreement between Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin.
The Russian leader lauded the treaty, the final details of which Undersecretary of State John Bolton and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov hammered out in Moscow during the past week.
"We are satisfied with the joint work," Mr. Putin told reporters in Moscow yesterday. "Without the interested, active position of the American administration and the attention of President Bush, it would have been difficult to reach such agreements."
Once the treaty is signed, it will be submitted to both houses of the Russian Federal Assembly and to the U.S. Senate for ratification. Two-thirds of the Senate must vote for the treaty for it to be ratified.
"I look forward to prompt Senate consideration of this treaty after it is signed by the president in Moscow," said Sen. Jon Kyl, a member of the Senate intelligence committee.
"Though I have been skeptical of some previous arms-control agreements, I am confident that the current accord with the Russian government will maintain America's defensive readiness and provide adequate means to ensure treaty compliance," the Arizona Republican added.
Even if the Democrat-controlled Senate balks at ratification, Mr. Bush plans to reduce the U.S. nuclear stockpile.
"This was a campaign promise the president made," Mr. Fleischer said. "Just two years ago, the president said, 'If elected, I will do this.' In one week's time it will be done."
The Pentagon has not decided how many weapons to dismantle and how many to put into storage. Because the treaty does not specify how the reductions must be achieved, both sides technically could comply without destroying any weapons.
"There's no requirement for that," said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "But I think in practical fact, most of those that are retired will likely be destroyed."
But the official said the Department of Energy facilities that "do the dismantlement work degraded a fair amount because of budget cuts. We are building that back up, but our ability to dismantle warheads is not something which is particularly strong at this point."
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said yesterday during a flight to Iceland for a NATO ministerial meeting that the cutbacks will come in the parties' respective warhead arsenals rather than with launchers or other delivery systems.
Mr. Powell said both sides have "many more warheads in their inventories" than they need.
Their destruction will be time-consuming, and some will "initially go into storage before they can be disassembled," Mr. Powell said.
John Isaacs, president of Council for a Livable World, a nonproliferation advocacy group, expressed concern about storing weapons.
"If the United States and Russia leave thousands of nuclear weapons in storage, U.S. security could ultimately be diminished," Mr. Isaacs said. "It would be much better if the two countries agree to destroy the weapons once they are taken out of the active inventory."
He added, "The security of nuclear weapons and nuclear facilities in Russia is inadequate. These weapons would be highly vulnerable to theft or illicit sale."
The United States already provides a "significant amount of assistance to the Russians to enhance the security of their nuclear warhead facilities," the administration official said. "This whole concept of ensuring that Russian warheads are under tight control has been a principal pillar of U.S. policy with Russia over the last 10 years."
White House officials said the treaty represents a new era of cooperation between the United States and Russia. Although the first Strategic Arms Reduction Talks treaty between the U.S. and the Soviet Union took a decade to negotiate and 750 pages to codify, the new pact took just six months and three pages.
A bilateral commission that has yet to be created will implement the treaty. The commission will push for transparency in the reduction process, which entails inspections by both sides. Mr. Powell said the panel will meet twice a year.
But officials emphasized that the process will be much less tense than in the past because the United States and Russia no longer consider each other enemies. Both nations worry more about attacks from smaller, rogue states than from each other.
"When I sign the treaty with President Putin in Russia, it will begin the new era of U.S.-Russian relationships," Mr. Bush said yesterday. "The new era will be a period of enhanced mutual security, economic security and improved relations."
The agreement is something of a relief to Moscow, which could no longer afford to maintain its nuclear arsenal at Cold War levels.
In addition to signing the arms-reduction treaty, Mr. Bush hopes to sign a broader agreement with Mr. Putin at the summit next week that spells out Russian cooperation on such issues as the United States' plans for a missile-defense shield.
Nicholas Kralev, traveling with the secretary of state, and Dave Boyer contributed to this report.


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