US, Russia to Resume Talks on Missile Defense, Nuclear Arms

The United States and Russia resume talks on missile defense and nuclear arms in Washington this week as senior defense officials go into the substance of a US proposal to replace the 1972 ABM Treaty with a looser set of security arrangements.

Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to the talks last month after US President George W. Bush linked missile defense with deeper cuts in strategic nuclear arsenals.

But US administration officials appear to be pursuing a much broader agenda to push aside not only the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty but an entire structure of arms control treaties that arose between former adversaries during the Cold War.

"There's an awful lot of baggage left over in the relationship, the old relationship, the Cold War relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union. And it is baggage that exists in people's minds, it exists in treaties," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday.

"It exists in the structure of relationships, the degree of formality of them, and it will require, I think, some time to work through those things and see if we can't set the relationships on a different basis," he said.

He said the discussions August 7-9 between the US and Russian delegations will follow up on a paper presented last month to Moscow by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

The US delegation will be led by Douglas Feith, under secretary of defense for policy, and the Russian delegation + by Colonel General Yury Baluyevsky, first deputy chief of the general staff.

The US side plans a set of briefings to give the Russians a "much more detailed understanding of the kinds of things we're thinking about, with respect to our offensive and defense capabilities, and the various ways that our two countries can cooperate and not just in the security area, but in the political and economic areas, as well," Rumsfeld said.

Rumsfeld then will go to Moscow for talks August 13-14 with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov, which could be followed by a Putin visit to Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, and another meeting in October in Shanghai between the two presidents.

Washington has set a fast pace for the talks because unless an accomodation is worked out with Moscow its missile defense testing plans will run up against ABM Treaty limits as early as February.

Bush and his advisers have made clear that they will walk away from the treaty if they have to. That would require six months notice.

"It is really our hope that we could conceivably replace the ABM Treaty with a new strategic framework that recognizes the need for limited defenses in this world (and) that brings down the number of strategic offensive weapons to something that is more appropriate," Rice said in an interview with the Washington Times last week.

The new framework could use elements of past arms control agreements but "we see this as a much looser structure," she said.

Administration officials have said they have no interest in negotiating line-by-line amendments to the existing ABM treaty, and want to avoid the years long arms control negotiations of the past.

How the two countries will go about nuclear arms cuts in the future remains unclear.

Putin has called for sharp cuts in US and Russian strategic nuclear weapons that would take each country's arsenal below 1,500 warheads each. Bush, for his part, advocates unilateral reductions in the US arsenal.

The Pentagon is currently in the midst of a review of its nuclear posture to see how low it can go.

"We'll certainly be discussing that subject and we'll be discussing cuts, but in terms of end points, we're not there," said Rumsfeld.

"It is something that everyone needs to get comfortable with, as you do it," he said. "You have to look not only at today, you have to look out five, 10, 15 years, 20 years. You have to look not only at how countries are arranged today, but possible combinations of countries that you might be looking at down the road."

"So it's pretty easy to go down from high numbers to lower numbers," he said. "It's quite a different thing to come down to some lowest number, and have a high degree of confidence."

People's Daily Online ---