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Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Russia's nuclear 'climb-down' condemned
US Poseidon submarine-launched missile
The Americans will be allowed to store warheads
test hello test
By Nikolai Gorshkov
BBC correspondent in Moscow
line
Washington and Moscow's agreement that will see them slash their nuclear arsenals to about 2,000 warheads each over the next decade was the result of difficult and protracted talks.

The main sticking point was the Americans' insistence on storing some of the dismantled warheads, instead of destroying them as Russia had demanded.

US President George W Bush
Bush: Surprise announcement
Although the breakthrough was achieved in Moscow at talks between US Under Secretary of State John Bolton and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov, the surprise announcement came in Washington.

US President George W Bush told reporters on the White House lawn that a nuclear arms reduction treaty would be signed in Moscow when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Only shortly before the announcement, the Russian Foreign Ministry had said that the two sides had managed to bring their positions closer together, but there was no mention of a done deal.

Apparently, Moscow was aiming at a gradual acknowledgement of its climb-down on the issue of the Americans storing, rather than destroying, their dismantled warheads.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Putin: Catching up to do
But after President Bush jumped the gun and denied Russia this face-saving opportunity, President Putin had some catching up to do.

He admitted that the two sides had in effect drafted the strategic arms reduction treaty, said he was pleased with the work done by the negotiators, and praised President Bush for his "constructive" involvement.

But the Russian military appears to have been dumbstruck by the announcement.

The official newspaper of the Russian defence ministry, Krasnaya Zvezda (The Red Star), did not print a single word about the development the following day.

It did not even quote its own boss, Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, who said on Monday that "stockpiling the warheads wasn't equal to their reduction".

Privately, the military complain that "Bush will keep his warheads, while we will have to make do with a piece of paper".

Strategic relationship

The military argues that the Russian diplomats did a poor job and insist that the issue of stockpiling has not been resolved.

The diplomats, for their part, maintain that they have managed to score a major victory by persuading Washington to agree to a legally binding treaty, which President Bush was trying to avoid.

They believe they are doing a great service by actually keeping the US within the framework of international treaties.

But their main defence is that the arms reduction treaty is pegged to a declaration on the new strategic relationship between the US and Russia, which is also being signed at the Moscow summit.

This appears to be a consolation prize that will put Russia on the same level as Washington's major Western allies and should allow Mr Putin to sell the controversial treaty to the Russian people - and the Russian military.

See also:

13 May 02 | World
Russia and US agree arms cuts
13 May 02 | Americas
New kind of arms treaty
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