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Defense Secretary Rumsfeld In Moscow To Meet With Russian Counterpart - 2001-08-12

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has arrived in Moscow for meetings with his Russian counterpart. The talks are expected to focus on the future of the anti-ballistic missile treaty.

Mr. Rumsfeld was greeted with full military honors at a ceremony at Moscow's main war memorial, ahead of an intensive round of talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. The defense secretary will spend only one day in Moscow, not two as originally planned. The Pentagon says this is due to efficiency not low expectations.

But Mr. Rumsfeld concedes that the strategic issues he has come to discuss will not be resolved quickly. In Genoa, President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to link negotiations on missile defense to deep cuts in offensive nuclear weapons. But though Washington, particularly, is keen on speed, neither side is ready to deliver yet.

Russia wants both sides to reduce their stockpiles to about 1,500 nuclear missiles. But Mr. Rumsfeld says he will not be ready to discuss specific cuts until Washington has completed a review of its nuclear forces.

The missile defense shield, which Washington wants to develop, is banned under the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Washington wants to alter the treaty, but Moscow says it is the cornerstone of world peace and that abandoning it could lead to a new arms race.

Washington says it is going ahead with its program for developing the missile shield. The Bush administration has indicated that it is prepared to unilaterally breach the ABM treaty if necessary. This commitment will be tested sooner rather than later. It is fast approaching the point where Washington will have to scale back its testing program, or to give six months notice of its intention to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.