Top Bush administration officials say the President's decision to abandon the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty will not do long-term harm to relations with Moscow. In a series of broadcast interviews, the officials denied the withdrawal will lead to a new arms race.
Secretary of State Colin Powell says those who predicted the president's decision would result in a major split with Moscow are wrong. "This is not a crisis in our relationship with the Russians," he explained. "They regret our departure but they understand we have been saying for a long time, even the previous administration - that in due course we have to get out of the constraints of this treaty."
On Thursday, President Bush formally notified Russia of his intention to pull out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in six months. He said he could not provide security while abiding by a treaty that bars development and deployment of a national missile defense system.
Secretary Powell told the NBC television program Meet the Press that despite their differences over the ABM treaty, both sides are committed to move ahead with deep cuts in strategic nuclear warheads. He said that is a positive sign and shows the decision will not lead to a new arms race. "Instead of an arms race breaking out," Powell added, "the Russians at the same time they took note of our notification said, let's work together to reduce the number of strategic offensive weapons that we both have." Secretary Powell said the United States and Russia have many mutual interests that will keep the two countries working closely together.
White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told the CBS television program Face the Nation that conditions were in place that prevented disagreements over the ABM treaty from rupturing relations. "US - Russia relations are as good or better than they have ever been," she said. "This simply did not cause the rupture, because the president spent the time to build a broad relationship with Russia."
China was not a signatory to the ABM treaty, but like Russia, it had warned the United States about the consequences of walking away from the pact. Both Secretary Powell and Ms. Rice said they do not believe the decision will cause a crisis in relations with Beijing.