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Analysts Lukewarm on Nuclear Accord
November 16, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) - The mutual pledges to reduce nuclear weapons stockpiles by President Bush and President Vladimir Putin of Russia are receiving only lukewarm approval among longtime American analysts.

With the Cold War long over, and the two leaders building a new and friendly relationship, critics are disappointed they did not do more.

Jack Mendelsohn, a former U.S. negotiator now with the Lawyers Alliance for World Security, faults Bush for failing to put the U.S. and Russian cutbacks in a formal treaty.

A treaty would provide a systematic arrangement for doing what Bush promises: scrap about two-thirds of the U.S. strategic warheads stockpile of more than 7,000, Mendelsohn said in an interview. It also would give a way to ensure Bush and Putin follow through on their promises, he said.

At the summit, Putin promised to slash the current Russian long-range arsenal to one-third or less. The Russians are thought to have more than 5,000 warheads.

Mendelsohn said the new levels are still too high, and Bush is talking about spreading the U.S. reduction over 10 years. Questioning why the United States needs 2,000 warheads, the former negotiator said what Bush has done is free the United States from arms control so that U.S. nuclear forces can be increased or decreased.

Alistair Millar, vice president of the Fourth Freedom Forum, a private research group, registered concern that tactical, or short-range, nuclear weapons were not covered at all.

That, he said, is a big problem.

``They are much, much smaller, and they are vulnerable to theft, particularly by potential terrorists. The rise of international terrorism presents a grave and compelling reason to address these weapons,'' Millar said.

Beyond that, he said, ``There are plans in the U.S. and Russia to put more emphasis on development of these weapons for purposes of hitting underground bunkers and targets in the future.''

Neither Russia nor the United States know how many short-range nuclear weapons are in Russia, Millar said. The total could be as few as 4,000 or as many as 20,000, he said.

The United States has about 1,670 tactical nuclear weapons, the private analyst said.

Millar said the United States should take the initiative to encourage Russia ``to get a grip on this at a time when the relationship is closer, while we cooperate to fight terrorism.''

Lee Feinstein, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, offered a more positive critique of the summit talks.

Feinstein said an outline for agreement is within reach on anti-missile defenses as well as on offensive weapons reductions.

Still, he said, ``we don't know the details of the Bush reductions. We don't know, for example, if he is going to offer an executive order to cut back independently or whether he is going to wait for President Putin to take reciprocal action.''

``That's an important question,'' said Feinstein, deputy director of policy planning at the State Department in the Clinton administration.

But Feinstein said it was very significant that Bush proposed a lower U.S. ceiling than the United States and Russia had ever negotiated.

``The president has been trying to say he is not looking to negotiate agreements with Moscow,'' Feinstein said. ``But if you look closely, the two of them are engaged in high-profile negotiations that will wind up being an agreement even if Bush does not call it that.''

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