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Sources say U.S. to quit ABM treaty

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush is expected soon to give the Russian government notice that the United States intends to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, sources said Tuesday.

Two top advisers to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin -- Sergei Karaganov and former Duma member Vyacheslav Nikonov -- told CNN that Secretary of State Colin Powell told President Vladimir Putin of Bush's intentions following meetings this week in Moscow.

Karaganov and Nikonov said that within days they expected Bush to give a formal six-month notice the United States is pulling out so the administration can continue testing its missile defense program.

Bush and Putin talked Friday, but a senior administration official could not say whether they discussed the treaty.

Another senior official said the announcement could come as early as Thursday. Officially the White House neither confirmed nor denied the report.

Administration officials have said for some time that if planned tests were to remain on schedule, the announcement would have to come within a couple of months.

Russia insists the ABM treaty is a cornerstone agreement, but it had opened the door to possible compromise.

Russian officials fear that the U.S.'s withdrawal from the ABM treaty will lead to a new nuclear arms race. CNN's David Ensor reports (December 12)

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Nikonov said that in response Russia might decide to put multiple warheads on its newest generation of strategic missiles. Karaganov said the Russians believe the results of abandoning the ABM treaty "will be negative but will be your responsibility."

Both men said the decision could lead to a nuclear arms race in Asia. "It is bad for America. It is bad for the rest of the world. It is bad for Russia, but it's your decision," Nikonov said.

Arms control advocates have argued against abrogating the ABM treaty, saying amendments to allow the tests should be negotiated with Moscow, leaving the treaty in place.

Many European governments also have argued against scrapping the treaty, and during stops this week in Berlin, London and Paris, Powell consulted with leaders about it, U.S. officials said.

"It is the president's decision to make and he will decide when it is appropriate to let the American people know he has made it," said White House communications director Dan Bartlett.

In a speech Tuesday at the Citadel military college in Charleston, South Carolina, Bush told cadets that with tests going well on the missile defense program the ABM treaty has become an obstacle to peace.

"We must move beyond the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a treaty that was written in a different era, for a different enemy," he said.

"America and our allies must not be bound to the past. We must be able to build the defenses we need against the enemies of the 21st century."

It was at the Citadel two years ago during the presidential campaign that Bush first articulated his vision for the future of warfare.

Afghanistan a 'proving ground'

The president told the cadets Tuesday the war in Afghanistan marks the beginning of a revolution in warfare that will transform battle in the 21st century.

He said the events since September 11 have highlighted the need to speed the modernization of the American military to deal with a terrorist threat that will last long into the future.

"Preventing mass terror will be the responsibility of presidents far into the future," Bush said, calling the need to improve the military's technological capabilities the "moral necessity of our time."

He reminded the cadets the surprise attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor in 1941 sparked dramatic changes in the military and the September 11 attacks have done the same.

"This enemy seeks to evade our strength, exploit our weaknesses," he said. "We are required once again to change the way our military thinks and fights."

The president said the two months of battle in Afghanistan have shown the effectiveness of superior technology.

"This revolution in our military is only beginning, and it promises to change the face of battle," he said.

"Afghanistan has been a proving ground for this new approach. These past two months have shown that an innovative doctrine and high tech weaponry can shape and then dominate an unconventional conflict."

He noted that the need for a revamped military is not new, but the events of September 11 have added a sense of urgency.

The battle in Afghanistan, he said, would serve to show the world that "we cannot accept and we will not accept states that finance, harbor or equip the agents of terror."

-- CNN correspondents David Ensor and John King contributed to this report.


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