Putin stands firm on ABM treaty
MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia remains opposed to scrapping a nuclear deterrent treaty that stands in the way of U.S. plans for a missile defence system.
President Vladimir Putin on Monday rejected the Bush administration's push to jointly withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, which bans missile defence programs.
But he spoke optimistically of agreeing to mutual cuts in nuclear weapons.
"You know of our attitude toward the ABM treaty of 1972," Putin told reporters before meeting U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Kremlin.
"For us, it's unconditionally linked with both the START II and START I treaties. I would like to underline that."
Putin said Russia was willing to negotiate nuclear force reductions and said he was waiting for Washington to answer several critical questions on this, including the size of reduction, the timing and verification measures.
Later at a news conference with Rumsfeld, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov emphasised Russia's unwillingness to abandon the ABM treaty.
"We feel no compunction to leave one or any other treaty or accord which we currently have signed," he said.
Earlier, Rumsfeld and Ivanov discussed the ABM treaty's role in a post-Cold War climate.
Ivanov said. "We still think the ABM treaty is one of the major important elements of the complex of international treaties."
Russia is suspicious of U.S. plans designed to protect America from potential attacks by "rogue states" and is reluctant to subscribe to any changes to the ABM treaty.
Ivanov met Rumsfeld for nearly two hours, and afterwards said: "We took a very energetic step forward."
He said they discussed a wide range of issues, but he was not specific about progress.
Rumsfeld is pressing U.S. President George W. Bush's campaign to win Russian acceptance of missile defence and had hoped to assure Russia that there was no need for deterrence pacts.
Rumsfeld has said Washington plans to go ahead with its missile defence plans, which contravene ABM, whatever Moscow's stance.
"Here you have an agreement between two states that was developed in 1972 during the Cold War that has outlived its usefulness," Rumsfeld told reporters as he arrived in Moscow.
"I am a simple soul. I think life is a lot simpler if we pick up and go on."
He added: "The idea that a limited missile defence system ought to bother anybody is silly.
"The only one it's going to bother is someone who wants to lob a ballistic missile in on you, and we do not look at Russia as a country that has any desire to do that."
Although missile defence is a key issue on Rumsfeld's agenda in Moscow, he said the administration's main aim is to establish a new, broader relationship with Russia.
"For that country to be seen as an environment that is hospitable for investment by Russians and investment by everyone else in the world, we have to refashion the political and economic, as well as the security, relationship," Rumsfeld said.
The talks follow orders from Putin and Bush at a meeting last month in Italy to link discussions on missile defence with Russian calls for very deep cuts in nuclear arsenals.
Russia wants to go far beyond the current START II nuclear reduction treaty. That pact would cut the arsenals of each country by half to about 3,500 warheads.
Putin and Bush are scheduled to meet again in China in October and in the United States in November.
The U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal includes 7,200 warheads. Russia has about 6,000.
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