Russia's defense minister has dismissed charges that his country compromised its national interests by its recent agreement Tuesday to a major nuclear arms reduction pact with the United States. His comment follows criticism from some in Russia that the new treaty does not benefit Russia.
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Wednesday that Moscow has not surrendered any major national interests by agreeing to reduce its nuclear arsenal. Speaking at a meeting of military officials in Moscow, he called the nuclear arms reduction treaty that President Vladimir Putin and President Bush are to sign next week pragmatic and one that fully reflects the present-day situation.
Mr. Ivanov said there has been a lot of speculation about who won or who lost on the subject of this document. Neither Russia nor the United States have sacrificed their key national interests, he said. If it had been so we never would have signed.
In announcing the agreement, President Bush hailed it as an end to the legacy of the Cold War.
Some in Russia see it differently.
Several Russian lawmakers have criticized the new treaty for not making clear precisely what is to be done with dismantled nuclear warheads. Russia had wanted them destroyed, while the United States proposed storing them instead. The final document does not indicate exactly what should be done with the warheads once they are taken off their missiles.
Nationalists in the Russian legislature, still angry over American plans to go ahead with a national missile defense, responded to the agreement by saying that rather than cutting the size of the nuclear arsenal Russia should expand it.
Under the new arms treaty, Russia and the United States will reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals from about 6,000 to about 2,000 warheads each by the year 2012.
Washington did yield to Moscow's insistence that the agreement be a full-fledged treaty instead of a less formal document that President Bush had wanted.
On Tuesday, after the nuclear arms agreement was announced, Russia and NATO agreed to the creation of a new NATO-Russia council that gives Moscow a stronger role in the alliance's decision making.
Both events reflect the closer ties that have developed between Russia and the West following last September's terrorist attacks on the United States. Since the attacks, President Putin has been an unwavering supporter of the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign.