30 December 2000
Russia Wants 'Serious Dialogue' with Bush Admin
By Jon Boyle

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Saturday that Moscow would move quickly to establish a "serious dialogue" with the incoming administration of U.S. president-elect George W. Bush on missile defense. But in an article published in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily, Ivanov made it clear that Russia was not yet ready to drop its opposition to a proposed U.S. national missile defense (NMD) shield which would violate a landmark arms control treaty.

"We intend without delay to start a serious dialogue with the new American administration on the entire range of disarmament issues, including the retention of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM)," Ivanov wrote.

Russia has refused to re-write the accord, which has formed the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament accords for three decades, and warned the NMD would spark a new global arms race that would draw in China.

Bush vowed during his election campaign to push ahead with the $60 billion "Star Wars"-style national missile defense shield, even if that meant unilaterally violating the ABM treaty.

Washington says it needs the system -- which would shoot down incoming nuclear missiles -- to protect America from possible attack by so-called "rogue states" like Iraq and North Korea. Both are developing missile and nuclear capabilities.

Moscow says American fears are exaggerated and any concerns could be met by jointly developing a non-strategic missile defense system (which would leave ABM intact), lower nuclear arsenals and a diplomatic drive focused on states of concern.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to scrap all disarmament accords with the United States if Washington deploys the NMD regardless of Moscow's security worries, although some military commentators believe Moscow will have to shift its stance if Bush does not back down.

Last month the head of Russia's strategic rocket force, General Vladimir Yakovlev, caused a stir by suggesting for the first time that Moscow could live with the NMD if the United States in exchange agreed an "ABM tariff."

That would mean any improvements in missile defense would be automatically compensated by cuts in offensive capability, thus restoring the strategic balance.

In his comment piece, Russia's Ivanov also said Russia had spoken with an increasingly confident voice on the international stage since Putin's election in March.

He cited the flurry of Putin's overseas trips, notably to Asia, leading European capitals and major international summits, adding that ratification of the START-2 arms reduction accord and nuclear test ban treaty had boosted Russia's disarmament credentials.

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