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Bush, Putin Press Conference Seen as Positive Overall

Aired October 21, 2001 - 08:11   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: You've been listening to a joint news conference that was held by U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was held in the aftermath of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit that was being held in Shanghai, China. The two men had a face-to-face meeting for several hours today. And reportedly that is the third time that they have met in the last five months.

A wide variety of topics, apparently, that the two men discussed everything ranging from the latest war on terrorism, to the economic cooperation going on between the two nations, to the nuclear arsenals. And, specifically, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972, which is a sticking point between the United States and Russia.

Specifically, the United States would like to put a new, modern ballistic missile defense -- star wars, as some have referred to it in the past. The sticking point there is that the ABM Treaty of 1972 has some specific guidance that said it would not be allowed.

CNN senior White House correspondent John King joins us now.

John, obviously, the two men get along as they have in the past, but it seems to be a very start -- sticking point on the ABM Treaty still, despite their discussions.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's still a sticking point, Martin, but significant in the language used by both leaders. CNN was told heading into the meeting, President Bush was prepared to say the United States would withdraw from the ABM Treaty six months from now if he cannot reach an agreement with the Russian leader. Mr. Bush saying he was optimistic he could reach an agreement.

You're right, President Putin once again making clear he disagrees with the president on that issue, but he also said he was willing to discuss it. And these men will meet at least once, and probably twice, in the next six months; next month in the United States, then a summit planned for the spring, not locked in yet, but planned for the spring in Moscow.

So certainly President Putin opening the door to continuing those discussions, even as he disagreed with Mr. Bush on the threat. Mr. Bush repeatedly calling the Russian president by his first name, and both men committing themselves to negotiations on reducing strategic nuclear arsenals.

And a key point, President Putin came to President Bush's defense on a very key point here at the Asian-Pacific Summit. The leaders of Indonesia and Malaysia and others have said that the military strikes should give way to a political solution quite soon. Mr. Putin, though, said once you start the war on terrorism, you must finish it, lest the terrorists get the signal that they are not vulnerable. That is a statement President Bush will head home quite happy to have heard from his Russian counterpart -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: John, what do we know about this meeting, apparently, next month that is going to be in Washington-slash-Crawford, Texas?

KING: Washington-slash-Crawford, yes, in the president's term. The two leaders will have some formal discussions first in Washington. And, as Mr. Putin noted, that is when the real negotiating will get underway.

Mr. Bush wants, of course, to get Russia to agree to set aside the ABM Treaty. Russia will only agree so, Mr. Putin has said, number one, if there are agreements on reductions in offensive nuclear weapons. The Russian leader also wants some other guarantees about the technical aspects of missile defense.

He wants to make sure it is not a threat to the Russian arsenal. He wants to make sure that in some cases that technology would be shared, not only between the United States and the NATO allies, but among Russia as well. He even opened the door, in a meeting with the NATO alliance, to more alliances between Russia and NATO.

So Mr. Putin, like Mr. Bush, talking about a broad new strategic alliance. Those negotiations will begin in Washington next month. Mr. Bush saying, as a sign of his friendship with the Russian president, he wanted to bring him down to the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas; some negotiating there, but also some personal time between the two leaders expected -- Martin.

SAVIDGE: John, what do we know about their personalities? Obviously, publicly they need to get along, but privately do they get along as well as they seem?

KING: Well, Mr. Bush came under quite some criticism in the United States, especially among fellow Republicans, conservative Republicans, when he emerged from that meeting with the Russian president in Slovenia a few months back and said he had looked into Mr. Putin's soul and found him to be a man he could trust.

Mr. Bush, obviously, looking to do business with this leader, he knows Russia is the No. 1 obstacle to missile defense, so some could say Mr. Bush was being overly kind as part of a negotiating ploy. But the president has told his secretary of state, his chief of staff and other key officials in the White House that he believes Mr. Putin is a man who wants to do business, a man who he can trust.

And you heard the president tell the story of September 11. Mr. Bush, we are told, was moved by that. President Putin called right away and said he would stand down the Russian military. Mr. Bush, aides say, is quite right in that regard, saying it removed an obstacle. The U.S. military do not have to worry about movements of the Russian military.

So it's certainly a businesslike, working relationship; and there appears to be -- unless they're both very good actors -- there appears to be a personal bond, at least developing between these two presidents.

SAVIDGE: CNN's John King reporting to us live from Shanghai, thanks very much.

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