U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today ended talks in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov with little apparent change in either country's stance on U.S. plans for a missile defense shield. Both sides, however, indicated a willingness to move forward with cuts in their nuclear arsenals. RFE/RL Moscow correspondent Francesca Mereu reports.
Moscow, 13 August 2001 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ended a day of talks in Moscow today by reiterating the U.S. commitment to cut its nuclear arsenal and announcing plans to meet his Russian counterpart again in a month for further talks.
Rumsfeld, who was in Moscow to discuss plans for a U.S. missile defense shield, met with both Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and President Vladimir Putin.
Rumsfeld said he and Ivanov had agreed to meet on the sidelines of next month's meeting of NATO defense ministers in Naples, Italy, for an additional round of talks on missile defense. Russia strongly opposes the U.S. plan, which it says will force both countries to abandon the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Putin, speaking earlier today during talks with Rumsfeld at the Kremlin, said both sides could reach agreement on the controversial plan. He said he expects high-level negotiations -- like today's meeting with Rumsfeld and his meeting last month with U.S. President George W. Bush at the G-7 plus Russia summit in Genoa -- to lead to a range of defense agreements:
"We very much hope that the high level [of contacts] that we have had recently, and that I mentioned before, will bring us to agreements in the field of offensive weapons and defensive systems."
But neither Putin nor Ivanov appeared today to soften their stance on the missile defense plan, which is designed to protect the U.S. and its allies from incoming missiles fired by rogue states like Iraq and North Korea. Many say the missile defense system marks a shift away from the policy of mutually assured destruction that has shaped nuclear relations since the ABM Treaty was signed in 1972.
Both Russia and the U.S. have recently linked any progress on missile defense to cuts in each country's nuclear arsenal. Russia has proposed even deeper cuts than those laid out in the START-2 reduction treaty, which proposes cutting each country's arsenal by half, to about 3,500 warheads.
Rumsfeld reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to reducing its nuclear arsenal but declined to give specific figures. In his remarks today, Putin said the details of any future cuts still need to be ironed out:
"For us, it is important to get answers to several questions related to this [reducing offensive weapons] -- the nature of the cuts, the timing of the cuts, measures of control and trust and transparency."
Ivanov came out of his meeting with Rumsfeld saying he had not been convinced of the need to alter the ABM Treaty:
"As before, we consider the ABM Treaty to be one of the most important elements among the group of agreements on which strategic stability is based."
Ivanov added Russian officials were "totally satisfied" with the existing system of international agreements.