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A new era for U.S.-Russia relations?

By CNN's John King

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush called it history in the making, a new day in relations between the U.S. and Russia, and stepped into the East Room for a dramatic announcement.

The United States would slash its strategic nuclear arsenal by two thirds over the next decade -- from 7,000 warheads to roughly 2,000, regardless of whether Moscow matches the cuts.

Bush said: "my attitude is, here is what we can live with. And so I've announced the level that we'll stick by. And to me, that is how you approach a relationship that is changed and different."

Russia has about 6,000 warheads. Putin has talked in the past of cutting back to 1,500 or 2,000. And in an evening speech in Washington, Putin promised to respond to the Bush proposal.

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President Bush announced the U.S. would cut two-thirds of its nuclear arsenal. CNN's John King reports (November 14)

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Bush announces major nuclear cuts 

Putin endorses unifying U.N. role 

"We no longer have to intimidate each other to reach agreements," he said.

They are still apart on the issue of missile defense, and the related U.S. desire to set aside the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile treaty.

But it is a polite disagreement now, and the talks are to continue at the Bush ranch in Texas.

Putin said: "I believe that it's too early now to draw the line on the discussions of these issues."

The two are hand-in-hand when it comes to the war on terrorism as well.

Both presidents praised the Northern Alliance gains and the Taliban retreat from the Afghan capital, Kabul. And Putin voiced scepticism at reports Northern Alliance forces were executing Taliban prisoners.

"If there are instances in the course of military action of the violation of human rights and treatment of prisoners of war, we must investigate and take action -- but we need proof."

Bush urged the Northern Alliance to show restraint, and took heart in its calls for United Nations help in securing Kabul and building a broad-based new government.

"There is no preferential treatment at the bargaining table. All people will be treated the same," he said.

However, the Russian president also said the Taliban retreat from Kabul was a cunning move designed to save resources for fights to come.

And a senior U.S. official said that for all the progress in talks with Russia and on the ground in Afghanistan, "we should get excited but not intoxicated, and remember the main event here is Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda."


• The White House
• Russian government

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