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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 18:14 GMT 19:14 UK
New era hailed in US-Russia ties
George Bush and Vladimir Putin embrace after signing a landmark arms treaty at the Kremlin
Putting the seal on a new relationship
Russia and the United States are hailing a new era in their relationship after signing a landmark nuclear arms treaty to cut their arsenals by two-thirds.

At a ceremony in the Kremlin, President Vladimir Putin and President George W Bush signed the accord - the first major nuclear disarmament deal for almost 10 years.


We are going to cast aside old doubts, old suspicions and welcome a new era in relations between your great country and our country

President Bush
Speaking after the signing, President Bush said the treaty would "liquidate the legacy of nuclear hostility between our two countries".

Mr Bush also said he would "work closely" with Russia to resolve a row which has been developing over Russian assistance to Iran, which the US regards as part of an "axis of evil".

The treaty aims to cut the nuclear arsenals of each side from current levels of between 6,000 and 7,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200 over the next 10 years.

In an immediate reaction, the European Union welcomed the deal as a step forward for the international community.

"The European Union hopes that this treaty will be followed by other initiatives to strengthen international security and stability," an EU statement said.

War on terror

Mr Bush praised the Russian leader for his steadfast support in the campaign against terrorism, saying that together they would win the war against "cold-blooded killers".

President Putin welcomed a "completely new quality" in Russia's relationship with the US.


Arsenals and Treaties
  • 1972: US and USSR sign first arms pact, but weapons arsenals keep growing
  • 1986: Soviet stockpile reaches its height
  • 1987: Deal agreed to eliminate short and medium-range weapons
  • 1987-1993: USSR slashes short and medium-range weapons by half, the US reduces its arsenal by 72%
  • 1993: US signs a treaty to cut strategic long-range warheads with the nuclear states of the former Soviet Union

    Click here for details of nuclear arsenals and treaties

  • The three-day summit is the fifth between Mr Bush and Mr Putin, but their first meeting on Russian soil.

    The two leaders met behind closed doors with only their national security advisers present, apparently taking some extra time to discuss some of the unresolved issues in their relations.

    After formal talks, they signed the nuclear agreement, and a declaration on a new strategic partnership, in the ornate, gilded St Andrew's Hall of the Kremlin Palace.

    Critics point out that many nuclear warheads will be placed in storage rather than destroyed as Russia had wanted.

    And the BBC's Nick Bryant says that if this is a new strategic partnership as both sides claim, it is asymmetrical, weighted heavily in favour of America.

    Distrust

    Russia's sale of nuclear technology and conventional weapons to Iran also threaten to sour the new friendship.

    In Berlin on Thursday, Mr Bush issued a stern warning about nuclear co-operation with what he considers a "rogue state".

    Russian communists protest against the Bush visit
    The Moscow protests have been small scale
    Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov rejected the US fears, saying Moscow adhered to treaties on the non-proliferation of weapons.

    But the BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Moscow says many Russians still view the US with distrust.

    Ahead of Mr Bush's arrival, about 300 protesters demonstrated outside the US embassy in Moscow, although the protests were small compared to the tens of thousands who gathered in Berlin to show their anger at US policies.

    Poultry and steel

    As well as talks on arms, Mr Bush has been discussing economic ties between the USA and Russia.

    Russia is hoping for US help to gain entry to the World Trade Organisation, but trade relations between the two have recently been marred by squabbles over poultry imports and US steel tariffs

    Mr Bush said he was determined to get the US Congress to lift the 1974 Jackson-Vanik agreement, which restrict normal trade relations with Russia.

    The US president is due to travel to Mr Putin's hometown of St Petersburg on Saturday .

    Next week he travels on to France and Italy.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Jonathan Charles
    "Its hard to imagine America and Russia were once such deadly enemies"
    Russian Yabloko party leader Grigori Yavlinsky
    "For Russia it is a vitally important development"
    William Cohen, former US Defence Secretary
    "The basis for future discussions has been laid"

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    See also:

    24 May 02 | Europe
    23 May 02 | Europe
    24 May 02 | Media reports
    14 May 02 | In Depth
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