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Russia Denounces US Withdrawal From ABM Treaty - 2001-12-13

Russian officials are denouncing U.S. plans to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, accusing Washington of trying to impose its will on the world. Reaction from the Kremlin is expected to be muted.

President Bush says the United States will withdraw from the 1972 arms control treaty in order to pursue development of a missile defense system.

Senior Kremlin spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhhembsky said Moscow will voice regret about the U.S. withdrawal from the ABM treaty, but would otherwise remain calm. Mr. Yastrzhembsky said Russia's own nuclear arsenal is sufficient to protect the country in the future.

The chief of the Russian General Staff, General Anatoly Kvashnin says U.S. withdrawal from ABM will have an impact on strategic stability.

General Kvasnin says it will open the way for some countries to embark on an international arms race. But, he says it will not threaten Russia's security.

Some Russian politicians are less restrained. Duma Deputy Vladimir Lukin of the liberal Yabloka Party describes the U.S. move as a major mistake.

Mr. Lukin says 'it's worse than a crime, it's a mistake." He accuses the U.S. of using Russian assistance in the anti-terror coalition and then ignoring Russian concerns on other issues, such as the ABM treaty.

Another Duma deputy accused the United States of trying to impose its will on the rest of the world.

President Bush's announcement that the United States will withdraw from the treaty came as no surprise here in Moscow.

For months, each side has adamantly stuck to its position. Russia considers the 1972 ABM treaty a cornerstone in three decades of nuclear control and disarmament. The United States considers the pact an outdated relic of the Cold War and one that would deprive the U.S. of developing a missile defense system against attacks from so-called rogue states. Attempts to negotiate a compromise failed.

Despite the outrage expressed by some Russian politicians, President Vladimir Putin is not expected to react sharply. Analysts here say he knows full well that Russia is not on an equal footing with the United States and cannot stop the development of the U.S. missile defense system.

They also say President Putin knows that he needs the West, especially the United States, in order to develop his own country and they add, he is not about to let the ABM issue get in the way.

Analysts also point out that if the U.S. withdrawal from ABM does spark a global arms race, as Moscow and even some close U.S. allies have predicted, then the Americans will bear the blame.