U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says he has held productive talks with Russian officials on several key issues and had praise for Moscow's support of the U.S. fight against terrorism. Mr. Rumsfeld spoke after talks in Moscow Saturday with senior Russian officials including President Vladimir Putin.
Secretary Rumsfeld said the United States is grateful for Russia's cooperation since the September 11 attacks in the United States and that both countries understand the need to work together. "President Bush and the people of the United States are deeply grateful that President Putin was the first world leader to call President Bush after the attacks on the United States in September," he said.
Mr. Rumsfeld said the two nations were working well together and would continue to do so. "There is no question but that the relationship between terrorist networks in this world and the availability of weapons of mass destruction create a circumstance that offers, that argues for a great deal of urgency when dealing with the problem of terrorists, and this is something that both of our nations recognize and share," he said.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the two countries discussed what he termed concrete forms of assistance but said that as they involved special services he could provide no specifics.
Mr. Ivanov also said the current cooperation between the two countries could form the basis of a new and better relationship and could lay a good groundwork for the Bush-Putin summit that begins on November 13. U.S. plans to build a national missile defense were also discussed. Russia maintains the U.S. plans violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that, it says, forms the basis of international stability. Defense Minister Ivanov referred to the American position that ABM had outlived its usefulness but suggested the same could be said of NATO. "The ABM Treaty is an important, but not the only, component of strategic stability," he said through a translator. "We are often told that the A-B-M is outdated, that is a relic of the Cold War, but it is not only the ABM Treaty. If you want me to give you my personal opinion, I believe NATO as it is now is a relic of the Cold War."
It is believed both countries are working on a compromise agreement that would permit the United States to test a missile defense system in exchange for deep cuts in each side's nuclear arsenals.
However, both Moscow and Washington have been saying it is premature to expect an agreement on this issue will be signed during the Bush-Putin summit.
Mr. Rumsfeld travels next to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. On Sunday, he heads to Pakistan and India before returning to Washington on Monday.