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US, Russian Arms Reduction Possible - 2001-11-13

President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin open their first official summit Tuesday in Washington. On the eve of the meeting, Mr. Bush signaled this round of talks may well produce an announcement on cuts in nuclear arms.

President Bush says he is ready to make substantial cuts in U.S. nuclear weapons. He says he will share his plans with Vladimir Putin. And, while he indicates the United States is willing to act alone, Mr. Bush predicts Russia will follow suit. He made the comments during an interview Monday with a small group of Russian reporters. He signaled an announcement on arms cuts is imminent, but he was less optimistic about the chances for a breakthrough on the fate of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Mr. Bush wants to scrap or amend the 1972 agreement because it blocks deployment of a missile defense system. Russia argues the Cold War era pact has helped keep the peace and should be maintained.

The United States and Russia decided in July to link consideration of arms cuts with discussions on the ABM treaty. And while both sides have reported progress, U.S. and Russian officials have downplayed prospects that this summit will resolve the ABM dispute. But an announcement just on arms cuts would be a big achievement - especially if it is accompanied by some sort of half-way measure on missile defense that will permit testing for the time being.

While President Bush is encouraging movement on these security issues, he said his goal at this summit is broader. He said he wants to forge a new relationship with Russia that will outlive the Bush and Putin presidencies. He said they are both men of action who want to get things done.

Before he left Moscow, Mr. Putin expressed confidence that his trip to the United States would be a success. The bulk of the work will be conducted at the White House today. On Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, they will meet again on a far more informal basis at the Bush ranch in Texas.