Union Tribune

April 30, 2002

Rumsfeld, Russian counterpart see arms talks strides
Bush-Putin accord in May no certainty


MOSCOW The top American and Russian defense officials
claimed progress in arms control talks here yesterday, but said
it remains uncertain whether President Bush and President
Vladimir Putin will be able to sign an agreement cutting nuclear
arsenals when they meet here next month.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said he and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made "certain progress" as a result of "a new set of ideas" presented by the Russians at a private two-hour airport meeting.

"We're making progress," Rumsfeld agreed.

Talks will continue this week in Washington.

Ivanov and Rumsfeld declined to reveal details or speculate on
prospects for a final accord next month.

"It is up to the presidents to make the final decisions with respect to agreements like this," Rumsfeld said.

Putin plans to host Bush at a summit in St. Petersburg and
Moscow beginning May 23. Each side hopes to sign an
agreement to cut nuclear warheads by two-thirds, from roughly
6,000 to 2,000 each.

Bush and Putin announced their intention to make the cuts in
November when Putin was in Washington. Since then, however,
U.S. and Russian negotiators have stalemated, largely over a
single issue.

The Russians object to U.S. insistence on stockpiling rather than
destroying dismantled warheads. The Kremlin fears this is a way
for the United States to gain clear nuclear superiority.

But a senior defense official traveling with Rumsfeld said the
Russians don't see this as "a major sticking point."

The official, who declined to be identified, noted that none of the previous strategic arms reduction treaties has required that the warheads be destroyed. The focus of those pacts, he said, has been on "those weapons that are actually on the top of existing missiles and that are available for use . . . in the bomber force."

Philipp C. Bleek, a research analyst with the Arms Control
Association in Washington, termed that interpretation only
"technically correct." Previous agreements, he said, "did not
require warhead destruction, but they did require the
destruction of delivery vehicles."

"The administration officials are being disingenuous," Bleek said. "What the Russians really are concerned about is potential
deployment capability, while the administration is seeking an
agreement that would allow them an enormous amount of

The Russians have many warheads in storage from previous
rounds of arms cuts and have active warhead production
facilities. The United States, however, has no ability to produce
new nuclear warheads.

The Bush administration's nuclear-posture review completed in
December said "the United States needed the ability to respond
to changes in the security environment that might be
unforeseen," the defense official said. "Our nuclear weapons
complex is not in a position to respond well to those changes"
because of the lack of production facilities, he said.

"So we felt that it was prudent to hang on to a portion of those
(warheads) and give us the flexibility to respond to those

Rumsfeld met with his counterpart at Moscow International
Airport on his way home from three days of visits to U.S. and
coalition troops and national officials in Afghanistan and to
nearby nations that are providing assistance in the fight against
the al-Qaeda terrorist network.