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The BBC's Steven Eke
"Russia's opposition to Nato expansion or Washington's plans for a national missile defence system is based on principle"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 20 June, 2001, 08:36 GMT 09:36 UK
Putin delivers summit verdict
President Putin at briefing
Putin said Mr Bush pretended to understand his English
Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken of a "high level of trust" between him and US President George W Bush at their summit last Saturday.

But he repeated a warning that if US went ahead with its missile defence plans, Russia would strengthen its nuclear weapons.


We will reinforce our nuclear capability, mounting multiple warheads on our missiles - the nuclear arsenal of Russia will be augmented multifold

President Putin
Mr Putin's comments came in an unusual two-and-a-half hour briefing with US journalists inside the Kremlin, two days after he met President Bush in Slovenia.

Mr Putin poured scorn on the defence shield's necessity and its viability.

"It's like a bullet hitting a bullet," he said. "Is it possible today or not? Today experts say that it is impossible to achieve this."

Treaty warning

And he repeated his call for the US to stand by the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which it signed in 1972.

"If one would imagine that we would throw away the ABM treaty, it would mean that automatically the Start I and Start II treaties are thrown in the trash immediately," he said.

A unilateral US missile defence system, he said, could "result in a hectic, uncontrolled arms race on the borders of our country and neighbouring countries.


I attempted to say a few words to President Bush in English ... he pretended to understand what I was saying

President Putin
"We will reinforce our nuclear capability, mounting multiple warheads on our missiles," he added. "The nuclear arsenal of Russia will be augmented multifold."

The US State Department's spokesman, Richard Boucher, later played down fears of an arms race, saying, "Russia is not an enemy".

"We seek to work with Russia to develop a new framework that reflects a co-operative relationship based on openness and mutual confidence," he said.

He said the United States would press ahead with the missile defence programme.

"The president and his national security team have explained that we will move forward with a programme to counter new threats that is not directed against Russia".

'Good listener'

Despite the two men's differences over policy, Mr Putin had high personal praise for the president.

"It seems to me the words that we said during the press conference were not just formal statements," he said.

"They indeed reflected a very high level of trust between the two of us. We hope this will lead to positive developments.

President Bush
Putin said he had been warned that Bush was a poor listener
"I must say the president is a nice person to talk to," he added.

Mr Putin even said he had been warned that Mr Bush was not a good listener, who was prone to getting nervous.

But he said in the event he found him to be a "very attentive" listener.

"I found him an enjoyable conversationalist and an enjoyable man," he said.

English attempt

There was a note of humour, too, as President Putin recounted his attempts to use his faltering English on the president.

"I attempted to say a few words to President Bush in English," he said.

"He was extremely nice about it. He pretended to understand what I was saying."

Mr Putin also said he had briefed Chinese President Jiang Zemin by telephone on Monday on his meeting with Mr Bush, saying he had urged the US to adopt a co-operative approach to examining international threats.

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See also:

13 Jun 01 | Europe
Bush's Nato charm offensive
12 Jun 01 | Americas
Analysis: Bridging Nato's divisions
12 Jun 01 | Europe
Bush and Aznar agree to disagree
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