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Europe

Bush, Putin: Slashing Warheads

President Bush vows to reduce America’s stockpile of strategic nuclear warheads by two thirds over the next ten years. The Russian President promises to try to do the same.

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A tentative trust between former enemies

As unexpected events in Kabul unfolded, Bush met with Putin in Crawford, Texas and said on that he would cut the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile by two thirds over the next decade - to between 1,700 and 2,200 from the present arsenal of between 6,000 and 7,000.

Putin said Russia would follow suit. Russia’s current arsenal contains about 5,800 warheads. A two third reduction would bring down that number to 1,500.

But Putin insisted that he would like to "present all our agreements in a treaty form" – something Bush views as unnecessary.

Though talks of the fall of Kabul and the victories of the Northern Alliance didn't dominate their talks, the two countries have entered a new relationship in their mutual shared interest of fighting terrorism.

Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty: a Thorny Issue

Bush made no bones about the fact that he considered the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile treaty to allow for research and deployment of a missile shield an outdated one. He is determined to abandon it so he can go ahead with his missile defense program.

"A new relationship based on trust and cooperation doesn't need endless hours of arms control discussions," Mr Bush said.

Mr Putin chose not to react to that, giving no indication that the Russians were eager about Bush discarding the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

The two leaders were meeting for the fourth time .

"This is a new day in the long history of Russian-American relations, a day of progress and a day of hope," Bush said.

"We are transferring our relationship from one of hostility and suspicions to one based on cooperation and trust."

Mr Putin described the talks as "constructive, interesting and useful" and added: "We evaluate the preliminary results as extremely positive."

The two countries reaffirmed the need to defeat terrorism. This strong sense of shared mutual interest has thawed relations between the two nations and created an unprecedented breakthrough in their relationship to each other.

Mr Bush agreed that "NATO members and Russia are increasingly allied against terrorism, regional instability and other threats of our age, and NATO must reflect this alliance".

It’s common knowledge that Moscow is keen to have a new relationship, with NATO, with the long-term possibility of membership.

More immediately, Russia seeks entry into the World Trade Organization, which China joined last weekend.

The attacks in New York on September 11 forced Washington to view Moscow in a new light and look for Russian cooperation in the war against terrorism.

Russia now has room to negotiate.

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