The United States and Russia held high-level talks on arms control Thursday, with both countries saying there was progress made toward further cuts in remaining nuclear arsenals. Washington and Moscow would like to have an agreement ready in time for the summit, later this month, between Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin.
Topping the U.S.-Russian agenda: a new agreement that would bring significant cuts in stocks of U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear weapons. The United States would agree to the reductions and, in exchange, Russia would ease its objections to U.S. plans for deploying a national missile defense.
No breakthroughs were announced after talks Thursday between Secretary of State Colin Powell and his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov. But National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told reporters both countries are moving in the right direction. "We believe that we are understanding each other better, that we are making progress," she said. "But I would caution against expecting any particular deal at any particular time."
After several hours of talks here, Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov left the State Department telling reporters that both sides are working hard. "To ensure that by the summit of our presidents, we have prepared documents on the key issues of our cooperation," he said.
The Bush Administration would prefer not to break the long-standing Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty with Russia, while it moves ahead with missile defense, and is instead looking to work out what it calls a new strategic framework with Moscow.
Both countries would like to see progress on the issue in the two weeks between now and the Bush-Putin summit. Administration officials have said if no agreement is reached, the United States will move ahead with deploying a missile defense system, even if that means pulling out of the ABM pact.
But Washington is also eager not to upset Russia at a time when the former cold war enemy is cooperating in the new war against terrorism. Last week, the Pentagon postponed some missile defense testing that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said could be interpreted as violating the ABM treaty.