#7 - JRL 7167
Putin, Bush to Focus on Missile Defense
May 4, 2003
MOSCOW (AP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Bush will discuss possible cooperation in missile defense when they meet this month at St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary celebration, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Sunday.
Moscow said in January that it had proposed a draft ``political agreement'' for the two nations to cooperate in developing defenses against ballistic missiles. It released no details of the proposal but said it hopes Washington would agree to the deal. There has been no U.S. comment on the proposal.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said Sunday that missile defense was to be discussed in the context of the latest U.S.-Russian arms treaty, which is expected to be ratified by the Russian legislature before the celebration at the end of May.
The treaty, which Putin and Bush signed in May 2002, calls on both nations to cut their strategic nuclear arsenals by about two-thirds, to 1,700 to 2,200 deployed warheads, by 2012.
``It is a very serious issue which, we think, will be a very important channel for further interaction and strategic military partnership between Russia and the United States,'' Yakovenko was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. He said that Washington and Moscow could cooperate on so-called theater missile defense, Interfax reported.
Russia opposed the U.S. withdrawal last year from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which banned nationwide missile defenses of the type the Bush administration wants to build. Reiterating criticism of the U.S. move earlier this year, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Russia was eager to cooperate with NATO partners in developing defenses against short-range missiles.
On Sunday, Yakovenko also said that Moscow was pushing for a new U.N. treaty to ban weapons in space and at space facilities. Yuri Koptev, the head of Russia's space agency, said that the United States wanted to militarize space.
``This is a destabilizing factor,'' Interfax quoted Koptev as saying. ``If such programs are developed, our doctrine and plans will have to be reviewed in order to deal with the potential threat.''