Bush suggests junking missile treaty with Russia
President short on details in defense plan
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Seeking to build support for a controversial missile defense system, President Bush called Tuesday for a "new framework" for national defense and said a 30-year-old ABM treaty with Russia should be scrapped.
"No treaty that prevents us from addressing today's threats, that prohibits us from pursuing promising technology to defend ourselves, our friends and our allies is in our interests or in the interests of world peace," Bush said in a speech before National Defense University.
The president also called for a reduction in the nation's nuclear stockpile, although he did not cite precise numbers.
Bush was short on specifics, but he reiterated positions he took as a presidential candidate -- that a national missile defense program is technologically possible and that the treaty with Russia should not preclude its development.
Critics say such a system would be both costly and unfeasible.
Bush said the antiballistic missile treaty was signed under different conditions, when the Soviet Union and the United States were engaged in a "hostile rivalry" and security came through a nuclear weapons buildup on both sides.
Bush said today's threats come from "a small number of missiles" in the hands of rogue states "for whom terror and blackmail are a way of life."
"In such a world, Cold War deterrence is no longer enough to maintain peace, to protect our own citizens and or own allies and friends," he said.
Bush said he is dispatching high-level delegations -- composed of officials from the State and Defense departments and the National Security Council -- to Europe, Asia, Australia and Canada to talk about building a new missile defense strategy.
"We can and will change the size, the composition, the character of our nuclear forces in a way that reflects the reality that the Cold War is over," Bush said.
"I'm committed to achieving a credible deterrent with the lowest possible number of nuclear weapons consistent with our national security needs, including our obligations to our allies."
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Delaware, said much of Bush's speech sounded appealing, but he stressed that the president left much unsaid.
"The devil is in the details," said Biden, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "It makes a great deal of difference."
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