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Sunday, 22 July, 2001, 18:59 GMT 19:59 UK
Bush gives ground on arms deal
George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin
Bush and Putin point to closer co-operation over arms
By diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason

President George W Bush's determination to press ahead with elaborate anti-missile defences has provoked hostility from Russia and China and deep unease among his European allies.

They complain that doing away with the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty would undermine strategic stability and might set off a new arms race.

When he took office, Mr Bush gave the impression that he'd push ahead with missile defence, come what may.

Minuteman II missile
The US has successfully tested its anti-missile system
If that meant breaking the ABM treaty, too bad, though it would of course be better to revise the treaty with Russia's agreement.

At the same time, Mr Bush wanted to make further cuts in America's arsenal of strategic nuclear weapons and those would be unilateral: There was no need for a new formal treaty with the Russians.

Now though, after breaking the ice with Mr Putin at a meeting in Slovenia last month, Mr Bush has agreed that the two issues - both offensive and defensive systems - go hand in hand.

Unexpected

Mr Putin emphasised the same point repeatedly, that they would be discussed as a set.

Revealingly, he said that the understanding with the Americans on this point was unexpected, and it certainly seems that Mr Bush has given ground.

Bush and Putin shake hands
Both offensive and defensive systems go hand in hand
Negotiating both aspects as a package means that one can be set off against the other.

Russia will now have a say in American cuts in strategic missiles and by implication, in the deployment of missile defences, since Mr Bush wants to negotiate a new strategic framework for the twenty-first century.

The whole package will be subject to Russian agreement.

If a deal is made, it will of course benefit Mr Bush too.

European objections to missile defence are likely to evaporate if the Russians give their consent.

That would leave the Chinese on their own.

They fear that even limited missile defences would dent the credibility of their own small nuclear deterrent.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
George W Bush
"We're interested in forging a more peaceful world"
The BBC's James Rodgers
"The two countries have so far seemed far apart on the issue"
See also:

17 Jul 01 | Americas
Bush firm on Kyoto and missiles
15 Jul 01 | Americas
Russia condemns US missile test
15 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Shanghai summit backs ABM Treaty
14 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
China warns against US missile defence
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