US-Russian talks on missile defense, nuclear weapon reductions described as cordial
WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. and Russian officials held a second day of talks at the Pentagon Wednesday on the Bush administration’s proposal to lift treaty restrictions on missile defenses while reducing U.S. and Russian nuclear forces.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the talks as cordial.
”There’s a good exchange of information,” he said without elaborating.
The talks, which began Tuesday and were scheduled to end Wednesday, are intended to set the stage for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s meetings in Moscow next week with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.
Rumsfeld, accompanied by Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Undersecretary of State John Bolton, is due to leave Saturday. The Moscow talks will be Monday and Tuesday.
The administration hopes to make an accommodation soon with the Russians on missile defense because the Pentagon is due to come into conflict with treaty restrictions in a matter of months. In the spring, the Pentagon may start the construction of underground silos for missile interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska.
The Bush administration is committed to developing and deploying a nationwide defense against long-range missiles, but it has not persuaded Moscow to scrap or amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty that prohibits such defenses. The Russians’ position has been that breaching the ABM treaty would unravel the entire fabric of arms control, including treaties reducing offensive nuclear forces.
At their summit meeting in Italy last month, Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to discuss the ABM treaty and missile defense issues in the context of additional cuts in nuclear forces.
This week’s talks at the Pentagon are intended to provide the Russians with additional details on the U.S. approach, spokesmen said. Rumsfeld said last week, however, that the administration was not yet prepared to tell the Russians exactly how much it would be willing to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The Pentagon is in the midst of a comprehensive review of nuclear force levels and strategy.
Leading the Russian delegation at the Pentagon was Col. Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, first deputy chief of the general staff. The U.S. side was led by Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, who was an arms negotiations policy aide at the Pentagon during President Reagan’s second term.
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