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Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 20:10 GMT 21:10 UK
Death throes of ABM treaty
President George W Bush discussing US missile defence plans on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin
President Bush insists missile defence will go ahead
By defence correspondent Jonathan Marcus

The US announcement of an aggressive programme for the development and testing of a multi-layered missile defence system should surprise no-one.

Ever since President George W Bush entered the White House, US spokesmen have been insisting that missile defence would go ahead despite critics abroad and doubters at home.

The Americans still seem to hope that the Russians will come round and agree to a formula by which both countries will be able to go beyond the ABM treaty

Protest against George Bush in Europe
Both the public and political leaders are concerned
Whatever its fundamental views on missile defence, Russia remains resolutely opposed to any unilateral US action.

But this announcement is also likely to stimulate the debate inside the United States.

Key Democrats remain sceptical, urging a cautious and deliberate approach to research and testing - a view shared, according to the opinion polls, by a majority of ordinary Americans.

The Bush team is signalling that it is now full speed ahead.

But the political, diplomatic and technical hurdles confronting missile defence remain immense.

See also:

12 Jul 01 | Americas
US fast-tracks missile defence
13 Jun 01 | Europe
Bush upbeat on missile defence
29 May 01 | Europe
Nato baulks at US missile plan
15 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
US meets China over missile defence
11 May 01 | Europe
Russia wary of US missile plan
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