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Thursday December 13 9:52 AM ET
U.S. Withdraws From ABM Treaty
By BARRY SCHWEID, AP Diplomatic Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - In a historic break with Russia
and U.S. allies, the Bush administration Thursday withdrew
from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a move
effective in six months, The Associated Press has learned.
The U.S. ambassador to Moscow delivered formal notice
of President Bush's decision to Russian officials at 4:30 a.m.
EST, according to a senior administration official who
spoke on condition of anonymity.
The brief legal document invokes Atricle 15 of the
29-year-old treaty to give Russia six months' notice of
Bush's intentions. The official said Bush has, in effect, pulled
out of the treaty with the notification, though the United
States cannot conduct missile tests barred by the treaty for
At 9 a.m. EST, formal notice was given to Ukraine,
Kazakstan and Belarus, former Soviet states who signed
memoranda of understanding tying them to the pact under
the Clinton administration. That action underscored Bush's
position that the ABM is a Cold War relic, officials said.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said the decision
was regrettable because it undermined global strategic
balances - but he was not concerned about Russia's
``Russia can be unconcerned with its defense systems,'' said
Kasyanov, who was in Brazil for a two-day visit. ``Maybe
other nations should be concerned if the United States
chooses to abandon the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.''
Bush says the recent terror threats underscore the need for
a missile defense.
``Almost every state that actively sponsors terror is known
to be seeking weapons of mass destruction and the missiles
to deliver them at longer and longer ranges,'' Bush said this
week at the Citadel, a military college in South Carolina.
Putin cautioned last winter that jettisoning the treaty could
lead to the unraveling of three decades of arms control
accords. China has warned a new arms race could ensue.
But according to Bush administration officials, Putin assured
Bush during their October talks in Washington and
Crawford, Texas, that U.S.-Russian relations would not
suffer even if Bush pulled out of the treaty.
Bush tried to strike a deal with Putin that would allow the
United States to move to a new phase of testing in the U.S.
missile defense program. Putin had sought authority to sign
off on U.S. missile tests, but the request was rejected,
administration officials said.
The next scheduled step is the beginning of construction
next spring of silos and a testing command center near
The Bush administration intends to cooperate with Russia at
least to the extent of informing Moscow of steps being
taken to advance the missile-shield program.
That's not likely to stop Russia from taking retaliatory steps.
A senior Russian lawmaker predicted Russia will pull out of
the Start I and Start II arms reduction treaties.
``We believe that offensive and defensive tools of nuclear
deterrence must be linked,'' said Dmitry Rogozin, chairman
of the Duma's international affairs committee, according to
Interfax news agency.
Such a spiral of withdrawals would be dangerous - and
predictable, said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the
Senate Armed Services Committee.
``Unilateral withdrawal will likely lead to an action-reaction
cycle in offensive and defensive technologies, including
countermeasures,'' he said. ``That kind of arms race would
not make us more secure.''
Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, also said quitting the treaty could lead
to a new arms race.
``About eight months ago they were taking about
weaponizing space,'' Biden said Wednesday. ``God help us
when that moment comes.''
Bush has condemned the treaty as an impediment to
mounting a U.S. defense against missile attack now that the
Cold War is over. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
has been deferring tests that might violate the treaty.
The treaty, negotiated during Cold War tensions between
the United States and the old Soviet Union, prohibits the
development, testing and deployment of strategic missile
defense systems and components that are based in the air,
at sea or in space.
It is based on the proposition that stripping a nuclear power
of a tough missile defense would inhibit it from launching an
attack because the retaliation would be deadly.
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the private Arms
Control Association, said Bush's action ``is neither
necessary nor is it prudent.''
``This will likely hinder our efforts to build support for
international efforts to prevent the spread of weapons of
mass destruction,'' Kimball said.
Spurgeon Keeny, a senior fellow at the National Academy
of Science, said the treaty is regarded internationally as the
foundation of strategic stability, and Bush's repudiation ``is a
tragic and scandalous development.''
Keeny said Bush was taking unilateral action ``in the face of
strong opposition by our allies as well as potential
``It will be a divisive force even as the United States is
trying to build a broad coalition against terrorism,'' Keeny