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Expanded Tests Expected After Withdrawal From Missile Treaty - 2001-12-12

President Bush could notify Russia within the next few days that the United States is withdrawing from the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty. President Bush says the treaty is outdated and does not allow for tests on a new missile defense system planned by the Pentagon.

President Bush has already told Russian President Vladimir Putin that he intends to withdraw from the treaty. It has been the focus of all their meetings in this first year of the Bush presidency as U.S. military planners want to expand tests on a missile defense system that would violate the treaty.

Making that announcement official brings those tests one step closer, as both the United States and Russia must give six-months notice before abandoning the treaty.

Speaking to military cadets Tuesday, President Bush said the United States will not be limited by a Cold-War-era arms deal that he says prevents the country from preparing for future threats. "For the good of peace, we are moving forward with an active program to determine what works and what does not work," he said. "In order to do so, we must move beyond the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty, a treaty that was written in a different era for a different enemy."

Chief among those different enemies are international terrorists who President Bush says are seeking weapons of mass destruction that could be delivered on a ballistic missile. He told the cadets that as the threats to America change, its ability to respond to those threats must not be restricted by a treaty that is nearly 30 years old. "America and our allies must not be bound to the past. We must be able to build the defenses we need against the enemies of the 21st century," he said.

Russia and some key U.S. allies have warned President Bush that withdrawing from the treaty could lead to a new nuclear arms race. Bush Administration officials say it will make the world safer by blocking missiles launched by what they call "rogue nations."

Mr. Bush campaigned for the presidency promising to develop a missile defense system. He has rejected Russian suggestions that the treaty be amended, preferring instead to open what he calls a "new security framework" with the former Soviet Union that includes missile defense alongside economic and other bi-lateral issues.

Differences over missile defense have not led to a stalemate between the countries. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is in Moscow finishing-up details of a plan for drastic cuts in both countries' long-range nuclear arsenals. President Bush last month announced the United States would cut its arsenal by two-thirds over the next decade, from just under 6,000 warheads now to less than 2,200.