From email@example.com Mon Jun 25 09:37:13 2001
Putin warns of new arms race
ITN, 24 June 2001
"This is the first time that Mr Putin has shown that he wants to advocate and support Chinese strategic interests"
Russian President Vladimir Putin has underscored the serious differences that divide Moscow and Washington over missile defence.
Speaking to journalists in Moscow, he said that US plans for a missile defence system could jeopardise the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty (ABM) and trigger a new arms race.
In frank and occasionally sharp tones, he cast doubt on the truthfulness of US justifications for Bush's the proposed high-tech anti-missile shield.
Washington has dismissed the 1972 treaty as a Cold War relic which is preventing it from building a national missile defence (NMD) system to ward off attack by "rogue states" like North Korea or Iraq.
But during his weekend summit with George W Bush in Slovenia, Putin defended the pact as the cornerstone of three decades of strategic stability and said the two sides should work together to confront the threat in a way that would keep the pact intact.
"Our partners in the United States have said and are saying now that we should think about the threats that face us all. People in our country have different views and opinions on this idea, but I personally share it", Putin told reporters.
But the two sides needed definition of the term "threat".
"What prevents us together, or each separately if our partners so wish it, from countering this threat? What exactly, what arguments, what elements in the ABM treaty prevent us from overcoming these threats which we still should together define."
"The 1972 ABM agreement itself lays out a mechanism to modify it. It's there and there have already been changes. We have to understand precisely what the issue is", he said.
Russia to soften position?
In Slovenia, Putin urged Bush to work with him to define a "new security architecture" which could accommodate US security concerns while maintaining stability between the two primary nuclear powers.
Military analyst Alexander Golts said that the comment was a sign Russia was ready to soften its hitherto steadfast refusal to amend the ABM treaty to allow Washington to build a limited national missile defence system.
The treaty, as it stands, limits the number of defensive missiles the United States and Russia can deploy, meaning if either country launched a first nuclear strike against the other it could suffer devastating retaliation.
"There is a school of thought in Russia's political elite that in order to save ABM we have to discuss the possibility of amendments," Golts said.
Significantly, Putin welcomed recent comments by US Secretary of State Colin Powell that Washington did not want to destroy the ABM treaty but develop an effective defence against possible attack from hostile states.
"I have taken note of this statement and believe it is a very serious statement. We also believe that the ABM system should be an effective one, and Secretary Powell also said such a system should be limited in scale and scope.
"This is a subject for further discussion so we all know what we are talking about," he added. Powell is seen in the new US administration as a relative dove compared to the hawkish Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who wants the ABM treaty scrapped.
Rumsfeld has accused Russia of being an "active proliferator" of missile technology, saying that had forced Washington to forge ahead with NMD.
Concern for China
Putin also made clear that Moscow could easily overcome any US missile shield by putting several warheads on its new generation Topol-M missiles.
But China's concerns over such a move should be taken into account, he said. "This is the first time that Mr Putin has shown that he wants to advocate and support Chinese strategic interests," Golts said.
"In my view, it is a new trend in our politics." Vadim Solovyov, managing editor of the respected weekly Nezavisimaya Gazeta Military Review, was sceptical of Putin's readiness to accept changes to the ABM pact.
Moscow wanted to retain the pact at least until a far-reaching deal could be reached on a common approach to global security, he said.
"It's of course completely clear that Moscow also believes that an agreement of 30 years' standing cannot fully reflect modern conditions...and that is why Moscow has rightly called for a new architecture for the strategic balance", he said.
Moscow, while welcoming mooted cuts in the US nuclear arsenal, wants any such move to be contained in a legally binding and verifiable treaty and opposes unilateral reductions.
The loss of the Republican majority in the US Senate may strengthen Moscow's hand. The Democrats oppose abrogation of ABM without its prior replacement with a new accord with Russia. .
Grassroots Media Network