- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

In a major agreement that addressed concerns of both parties, the United States and Russia announced yesterday morning that President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin will sign an arms-control treaty later this month that will slash long-range nuclear warheads from roughly 6,000 on each side to between 1,700 and 2,200. These extremely large warhead reductions, which will be made during the next 10 years, will take place while the United States, if Mr. Bush has his way, simultaneously deploys a robust national missile defense system. It is a development that legions of so-called "arms-control experts" and leaders of the Democratic Party insisted would never be possible. Not only is it now possible. It is probable.

Yesterday's diplomatic agreement represented yet another major achievement in the president's conduct of a sound foreign policy. In addition to successfully prosecuting the war on terrorism since September, Mr. Bush has also deftly handled U.S.-Russian relations throughout his 16 months in the presidency. Last fall he made the strategic decision to announce America's intention to withdraw from the anachronistic Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, paving the way for a rudimentary land-based defensive shield that may by deployed as early as 2004. A more expansive missile-defense system, featuring sea-, air- and spaced-based components, would likely follow.

Interestingly, Mr. Bush's announcement last fall to abandon the ABM Treaty drew no opposition from Mr. Putin, although U.S. "arms-control experts" voiced their expected disapproval. In announcing in Moscow that an agreement had been reached to reduce strategic warheads by two thirds, Mr. Putin said, "Without the active will of the U.S. administration and the close involvement of President Bush, reaching these agreements would have been difficult." The Russian president added, "We are satisfied with our joint efforts."

Indeed, Mr. Putin earned some important diplomatic victories of his own. On the nuclear weapons front, he convinced Mr. Bush to codify the reductions in the form of a legally binding treaty, which will have to be ratified by the U.S. Senate. Earlier, Mr. Bush had been pressing for an informal agreement between the two presidents. In addition, NATO and Russia will approve a new "Council of 20." This arrangement, which raises questions about the future of decision-making within the NATO alliance, will give Russia a major role in important issues involving NATO's 19 military partners. Even so, that agreement is expected to be signed on May 28 at a NATO-Russia summit in Rome.

Several days before then, Messrs. Putin and Bush will ink their signatures on the arms-control treaty in Moscow. In Mr. Bush's words, this treaty "will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War," an optimistic assessment that need not rely upon hyperbole.

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