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Europe

Friendship Despite Differences

The US-Russian summit in Crawford, Texas, concluded on Thursday with warm words and telegenic smiles, but no discernible progress on the Antiballistic Missile Treaty.

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Bush and Putin down at the ranch in Crawford, Texas

Compared to previous US-Russian summits, this week's meeting in Crawford, Texas between President George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin was marked with optimism. Although the leaders did not come to an agreement on arms control, they departed with the pledge to continue working on improving their bilateral relationship.

"We have a difference of opinion," Bush said, but quickly added, "our differences will not divide us."

The two leaders had gone into the summit with the hopes of coming to an agreement on the Antiballistic Missile Treaty (ABM), but walked away unable to find a compromise. Bush, who wants to continue testing, claims that the 1972 ABM treaty is a Cold War relic blocking the development of more sophisticated missile defense systems. Putin says the treaty is essential to maintaining strategic security.

Agree to disagree

In an interview with the National Public Radio in New York, Putin said, "We simply cannot fail to understand the importance of the quality of this relationship - no matter how difficult the challenges are, how difficult the problems are that we are solving, such as the ABM treaty."

The US Defense Department has been urging Bush to push forward with testing of antiballistic missiles, and wants to begin as early as next spring. According to the Pentagon, the ABM treaty represents an outdated stumbling block on the road to developing the modern missile defense system, the Republic administration has been eager so to realize.

The national security adviser Condoleezza Rice announced on Thursday that the failure to come to an agreement on ABM was only a "smaller element" in the larger picture of US-Russian relations. She is convinced that Putin will eventually see how important it is to test missile defense systems.

"The president has made clear that one way or another the US will have to get out of the constraints of the missile defense treaty," Rice said.

Almost as a consolation prize, the two leaders agreed to reduce the stock pile of nuclear warheads. Over the next year the US will reduce its nuclear arsenal by two-thirds. That would equate to a reduction from 7,000 warheads down to 1,700. Putin tentatively agreed to go down from 6,000 to 1,500.

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