November 22, 2002

US, Russia Fail to Strike Deal on Missile Defense

US President George W.Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to reach a deal to allow America to build the controversial National Missile Defense (NMD) system as they ended three days of meetings Thursday at Crawford, Texas.

"We have a difference of opinion," Bush said when speaking at a joint press conference with Putin Crawford High School. "Our disagreements will not divide us as nations."

Putin said that the Russia-US summit had not been a waste of time and the two leaders aimed to continue discussions, building on what he said was common ground in a shared belief that new-style security threats must be addressed.

Bush had hoped to win an agreement from Putin to abandon or modify the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, which prohibits national missile defenses. Still, there had been little expectation that the meetings in Washington and on Bush's ranch would produce such a breakthrough.

Moscow had opposed any effort to dismantle the 1972 treaty, which it views as a centerpiece for world strategic stability.

Bush has characterized the pact as a relic of the Cold War and has said the United States will walk away from it, if necessary. The US Defense Department hopes to begin construction on a command and testing center for the system in Alaska next spring.

"We differ in the ways and means that are suitable for reaching the same objective," Putin said. "Given the nature of the relationship between the United States and Russia, you can rest assured that it will not threaten ... the interests of both our countries and of the world, and we shall continue our discussions. "

The Bush administration, in defiance of worldwide opposition, is obstinate in its insistence on continuing to develop and deploy the NMD system.

Such a move, analysts say, will not only spark a new arms race and create a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but will also threaten world peace and security in the 21st century.

The proposed NMD, a replica of the "Star Wars" project, formulated during the Reagan administration in 1980s, is designed to provide protection for all 50 states from ballistic missile attacks coming from so-called "countries of concern," such as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran, which the United States claims are developing long-range ballistic missiles.

The NMD program is opposed by many countries in the world. Apart from Russia and China, America's allies, including France, Germany, Italy and Canada have also rejected NMD, saying that instead of promoting security and stemming the spread of nuclear weapons, the system will threaten the security and stimulate nuclear proliferation.

Observers say that the development, deployment and transfer of anti-missile system with potential strategic defense capabilities cannot ensure security or prevent missile proliferation. Such an action, on the contrary, will damage security and boost the spread of missiles; not even mentioning it is in violation of the ABM treaty.

The ABM treaty has served as a cornerstone of global strategic balance and stability since it was concluded. Even today, the treaty still provides a security framework for multilateral nuclear disarmament and for further bilateral reductions of nuclear arsenals by the United States and Russia.

The strategic significance of the treaty goes far beyond the scope of the US-Russia bilateral relationship. If, however, the treaty is amended, as requested by the United States, it would certainly lose all its significance, and global strategic balance and stability would be the victim.

Bush and Putin are now under pressure to reach accord on missile defense. The Pentagon is eager to conduct tests, even though they would violate the current interpretation of the ABM treaty, and Bush has told Putin that he will seek to scrap the pact early next year if they cannot reach agreement.

On the other hand, aides said Bush is considering visiting Russia in the first few months of 2002, a sign, perhaps, that Bush may be willing to wait that long to strike a deal.

"This is one stop along the road. We'll make other stops after Crawford, but each stop is built on the positive results of the earlier meetings," said White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

The unusual ranch visit took place one day after Bush and Putin agreed at the White House in Washington to shrink their nations' strategic nuclear arsenals by two-thirds.

(China Daily November 16, 2001)

In This Series
Russia, US Move Closer on Missle Defense



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