Defense Chief Willing to Look at ABM Anew
Sands, David R., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Byline: David R. Sands
Russia's defense minister said yesterday the country was willing to consider changes to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, giving encouragement to Bush administration officials who told Congress they have made progress in the diplomatic sales job for a missile defense shield.
In Moscow, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told the Interfax news agency that "if the experts come to the conclusion that some changes in the treaty won't harm the national security of Russia, I will report that" to President Vladimir Putin.
Mr. Ivanov, a longtime Putin confidant handpicked for the top defense job, became the latest senior Russian official to signal Moscow has moved away from a blanket rejection of any changes to the 1972 ABM pact, which prohibits the kind of missile defense system President Bush has vowed to build.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice arrived in Moscow yesterday to build on talks held over the weekend in Genoa, Italy, between Mr. Putin and Mr. Bush. The two leaders unexpectedly reached an accord to intensify talks on the missile defense idea while also considering cuts in U.S. and Russian offensive nuclear arsenals.
Mr. Ivanov said he was prepared to discuss amendments to the ABM Treaty when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld travels to Moscow Aug. 13-14. U.S. and Russian defense experts will meet in advance of that meeting to consider possible changes.
On Capitol Hill, John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that America's European allies have become more receptive to the missile defense idea following an intense round of consultations ordered by Mr. Bush earlier this year.
"The drift of sentiment in Europe I think has been in the direction of support for the administration's missile defense program," said Mr. Bolton, who at times faced pointed questioning from the panel's Democrats.
"Certainly not every NATO leader has expressed unconditional support for the missile defense program," Mr. Bolton noted. "But I think attitudes over the past three or four months particularly have been changing. …