Bush, Putin still disagree on U.S. missile defense

PHOTO/R.J. Kelly/Homer News
CRAWFORD, Texas -- President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to strike a deal Nov. 15 on the issue that has divided them the most, U.S. plans for a national missile defense, even as they hailed a new era of warm U.S-Russian cooperation.

"We have a difference of opinion," Bush said at the end of three days of casual summitry in Washington and on Bush’s central Texas ranch.

Bush said that he and Putin had pledged to reduce nuclear weapons, discussed cooperation in the war on terrorism and in stopping the spread of weapons, and considered "ways our economies can grow together."

Bush had hoped to win an agreement from Putin to abandon or modify the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which prohibits national missile defenses. Still, there had been little expectation that the meetings in Washington and on Bush’s ranch would produce such a breakthrough.

"We shall continue our discussions," Putin said.

Russia has opposed any effort to dismantle the 1972 treaty, which it views as a centerpiece for world strategic stability.

Bush has characterized the pact as a relic of the Cold War and has said the United States will walk away from it, if necessary. The Pentagon hopes to begin construction on a command and testing center for the system next spring in Alaska.

Putin said he and Bush share a common goal to achieve security in the world and to protect against future threats. "What we differ in is the ways and means we perceive that are suitable for reaching the same objective," Putin said.

While acknowledging the failure to agree on missile defense, Bush said, "Our disagreements will not divide us as nations."

The missile defense subject came up in response to a question from a student.

"You probably don’t agree with your mother on every issue. You still love her, though, don’t you?" Bush asked.

"Well, even though we don’t agree on every issue, I still respect him and like him as a person," Bush said of Putin.

While Bush didn’t get the deal on the ABM treaty he had sought, Putin also left without the agreement he wanted in writing on arms reductions, despite Bush’s pledge to slash the U.S. arsenal to 1,700 to 2,200 from the current level of about 7,000.

11/25/2001 - 8:00pm