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Russia unruffled by Bush missile resolve 
By Ron Popeski

MOSCOW, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Russian officials appeared unruffled on Friday by President George W. Bush's fresh call to proceed with a missile shield even though it could probably not have prevented last month's devastating U.S. attacks.

Russian analysts said Bush's statement, two weeks before his next meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Shanghai, would simply prompt Moscow to press on with efforts to seek the best terms for introducing the scheme.

Bush told a White House news conference on Thursday that the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11 strengthened his case against the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, which bans missile defence systems like the one backed by Bush.

He said he would try to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to abandon the treaty, seen by Russia as the basis for disarmament, and build the shield to ward off attacks by "rogue states" like Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

There was no official reaction in Moscow to Bush's comments. Nor did they generate any surprise. "This sounds very much like what has long been said," said an official at one ministry. Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director of the prestigious USA-Canada Institute, said Bush could hardly have done otherwise, given the overwhelming backing in Congress and public opinion he currently has for any foreign policy initiative.


"After last month, Bush is obliged to provide for all aspects of security. That includes security against the threat of missile launches from the so-called rogue states," he said.

"I cannot see Putin persuading Bush to go back on the missile shield. What he must do now is continue working out the most favourable conditions for Russia. It is apparent that ABM will undergo big changes or disappear altogether."

Some have said the hijack attacks showed Bush's interest in the expensive high-tech system was misplaced, when a handful of men armed with box cutters and plastic knives could sow destruction that killed more than 5,400.

Kremenyuk said it was immaterial whether the shield would have stopped the hijackers.

"In fact, it boosts his case in that the threats can be seen as greater than before and the rogue states remain," he said.

Russian specialists say Washington's fears are exaggerated, as North Korea and Iraq have no missiles capable of hitting U.S. territory and could not acquire the technology undetected.

But Putin, who backs the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition while declining to participate in military strikes, has adjusted his position on missile defence in recent months. He now says ABM could be modified to protect Russian interests.


Putin and Bush appeared to get on well at meetings in Slovenia and at the G8 summit in Genoa, clinching an agreement in Italy to link talks on the missile shield to proposals for deep cuts in nuclear arsenals.

Since September 11, Putin has ruled out "horse trading" -- swapping concessions on missile defence for backing the U.S. coalition. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said on a visit to Washington that Moscow is seeking a new strategic arms framework with the United States.

Alexander Pikayev, defence analyst at the Carnegie Foundation think-tank in Moscow, said a deal on missile defence was unlikely in Shanghai -- where the two presidents will meet on the sidelines of a summit of Asian and Pacific countries. "Shanghai is not the best place for a serious discussion on this," he said. "China sees the new system as even more of a threat than Russia and would be very unhappy if any agreement was reached in that city between Russia and the United States."

Pikayev also said Washington would be unwilling to clinch a deal until it completes a review of nuclear disarmament policy. That, he said, might be finished by the presidents' next scheduled meeting -- at Bush's Texas ranch in November.

"And Bush has some limitations on his freedom to act too," he said. "Any hasty decision on withdrawing from ABM as suggested by some could hurt the anti-terrorist coalition." Back to the Top    Next Article