Tags: Arms | Control | Will | the | Center | the | Next

Arms Control Will Be the Center of the Next U.S.-Russia Summit

Monday, 20 May 2002 12:00 AM

This week, President Bush will meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Leaders of both countries will discuss many questions of international and bilateral relationships, the war on terror, possibilities for future cooperation in such joint projects as defending against missile attack, American investments in the Russian economy, human rights in Russia, and many other important issues.

In a major agreement that addresses concerns of both parties, President Bush and President Putin will sign a new arms control treaty, which will dramatically cut nuclear arsenals of the two countries over the next 10 years.

According to officials in Washington and Moscow, the treaty will reduce the nuclear stockpiles of the U.S. and Russia to 1,700 to 2,200 each, from the present 6,000 to 7,000. Although some American missiles and warheads will be destroyed, others will be placed into "deep storage" or kept as "operational spares."

Bush and Putin plan to sign the treaty in Moscow on May 24. Both leaders agreed in principle to the cuts last fall, and Putin suggested they put it in writing. Although Bush initially resisted the idea of a formal treaty, he decided to agree with Putin and both sides concluded that a formal treaty would prevent future presidents from reneging on the agreement.

Because the treaty does not specify how the reductions must be achieved, both sides technically could comply without destroying a single weapon. Once the treaty is signed, it will be submitted to both houses of the Russian Federal Assembly (Russia's Parliament) and to the U.S. Senate for ratification.

White House officials said the treaty represents a new era of cooperation between the U.S. and Russia. Although the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union took a decade to negotiate and 750 pages to codify, the new pact took just six months and covers a mere three pages.

According to Western intelligence experts, the new arms control agreement is something of a relief to Moscow, which can no longer afford to maintain its huge nuclear arsenal at Cold War levels and desperately needs funds for its plans to develop and deploy new nuclear-missile weapons systems.

For instance, Russia needs sufficient funds for continued deployment of the ICBM "Topol-M," which was designed to penetrate America's National Missile Defense (NMD) system if it is created in the near future.

For the U.S. the situation is much more complicated. These extremely large warhead reductions will take place while the U.S., if Bush has his way, simultaneously deploys an NMD system.

A rudimentary land-based defensive shield may be deployed as early as 2004, and a more expensive missile-defense system, featuring sea-, air- and space-based components, would likely follow. However, it is a development that America's liberals oppose and insist will never be possible.

Also, the U.S. has to keep a balance in the number of ICBMs and nuclear warheads, especially to reduce the risk of undermining America's nuclear deterrent capabilities, which have preserved international peace for almost a half-century.

The importance of these capabilities is rapidly increasing in the face of the continued proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. It is expected that up to 20 new nations could have nuclear weapons in their stockpiles during next decade, and the U.S. will need sufficient numbers of operational weapons to keep potential aggressors from attacking us.

We welcome new arms control treaties if these agreements will increase security for the American people and advance U.S. strategic interests worldwide. However, we cannot consider these agreements as a cornerstone of U.S. national security and we have to be very careful in implementing these treaties, because America's counterpart in arms control agreements, Russia, very rarely lives up to its international obligations.

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This week, President Bush will meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Leaders of both countries will discuss many questions of international and bilateral relationships, the war on terror, possibilities for future cooperation in...
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Monday, 20 May 2002 12:00 AM
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