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U.S., Russia agree to reduce nuclear arms

Bush: Treaty signals a "new era of relations."  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States and Russia have agreed to a landmark treaty that would substantially reduce the nuclear arsenals of the two world powers, the presidents of the two nations said Monday.

"This is good news for the American people," said U.S. President Bush, noting the agreement would make "the world more peaceful and put behind us the Cold War once and for all."

He said he was looking forward "to going to Moscow to sign the treaty" during his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin the week of May 20. The signing is expected to be May 24.

"When I sign the treaty with President Putin in Russia," the United States and Russia will begin a "new era of relations," he said.

In Moscow, Putin said he was pleased with the cooperation and work that went into the deal.

Undersecretary of State John Bolton and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov spearheaded the effort to complete the agreement.

The United States and Russia agree to a landmark treaty to substantially reduce their nuclear arsenals. CNN's John King reports (May 13)

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In-Depth: The Cold War 

The proliferation of warheads in the United States and the Soviet Union took place during the Cold War, the era of conflict between the West and the Soviet Union and its allied communist nations.

The Soviet Union, a union of communist republics, broke up last decade, resulting in the creation of independent countries, including Russia.

"This treaty will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War," Bush said before he headed to Illinois for a fund-raiser.

The pact would cut each nation's existing store of between 5,000 and 6,000 warheads by about 65 percent.

"The deep reductions, which are described in the treaty, take both sides down to in the neighborhood of 1,700 to 2,200," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters Monday.

Senior administration officials said the landmark treaty would allow the United States to enter into new strategic relationship with Russia while maintaining the flexibility to plan for contingencies.

"What we have done is embody in a treaty what our policy would be anyway," said one senior administration official, pointing out that the Bush administration planned all along to reduce its nuclear arsenal to between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads.

Russia fought to have the deal set down in a formal treaty rather than an executive agreement -- a concession the Bush administration did not mind making, the official said.

The United States eventually agreed to make it a treaty, which must go before the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate and the Russian Duma to be ratified.

"Since this treaty does exactly what we wanted to do and what we were going to do anyway, it is our kind of treaty," another senior official said. "It was not that important to us and if it gives Putin something important, that's a good thing."

One major issue in the negotiations was whether the warheads would be destroyed or dismantled and put into storage. Russia wanted them destroyed and the United States wanted to put a number of warheads in storage to be available in an emergency.

A senior administration official told CNN some warheads would be destroyed as part of the pact and some will be stored. No percentages were released.

"We have now identified a formula which allows us to do what we want to do and them to do what they want to do," another official said. "We don't have to destroy them."

Bush said the agreement was the culmination of months of hard work and trust with Putin that began last year with their meeting in Slovenia.

"The new era will be a period of enhanced mutual security, economic security and improved relations," Bush said.

One U.S. official said the months of hard negotiations reached a turning point in late April after a Russian counterproposal on the major issues in dispute cleared the way for progress.

In addition to the issue of storage of decommissioned warheads, the two sides reached agreement on a formula for counting nuclear launch sites, or platforms, previously a sticking point.

Under the new agreement, each launch site would be counted as one, even if it has the capacity to carry multiple warheads.

The latest round of negotiations dealt with what officials called "non-core issues," including how the agreement would be implemented, a mechanism to resolve disputes and a procedure on how either side might withdraw from the agreement down the line. Three-month written notification would be required.

The two sides agreed to establish a bilateral commission on implementation, although a senior official said "the commission will not be a negotiating body" but would deal only with technical issues related to the implementation of the agreement that has been reached.

The administration would not bend to Russian desires to have the treaty include limits on a U.S.-proposed missile defense system.

"They were looking for a replacement for the ABM [treaty]," one senior official said. "But they certainly did not get that in this treaty, and I doubt they are going to get it at all."

Another document expected to be signed soon is a broader agreement dealing with the new strategic relationship between the countries that began post-September 11, as Putin's Russia moved closer to the Western camp.

-- CNN correspondents Kelly Wallace and Jill Dougherty and Producer Elise Labott contributed to this report.


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