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UK Russia and US agree arms cuts Monday, 13 May, 2002, 16:31 GMT 17:31

The two countries have 13,000 warheads between them President George W Bush says the United States and Russia have reached agreement on cutting their nuclear arsenals, clearing the way for what they described as a new era in their relations.

News of the agreement, which was confirmed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, came after talks in Moscow between US Under Secretary of State John Bolton and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Mamedov.

Mr Bush said the agreement would be signed in Moscow towards the end of May when he meets Mr Putin for a summit.

The two leaders hope to cut the number of nuclear warheads on each side from their current levels of between 6,000 and 7,000 to between 1,700 and 2,200 over the next 10 years.

"This treaty will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War," said Mr Bush.

"It will make the world more peaceful and put behind us the Cold War once and for all.

"We will begin the new era of US-Russian relations and that's important."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said some weapons would be put into storage while others would be dismantled.

Mr Putin said for his part that the two sides were "satisfied" with their work.

Mr Bush and Mr Putin are due to meet from 23-26 May in both Moscow and Russia's second city, St Petersburg.

Russia 'loses out'

BBC Moscow correspondent Nikolai Gorshkov says President Bush's announcement may have taken the Russian leadership by surprise, coming as it did out of Washington and not Moscow where the negotiations were actually held.

It came just minutes after the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that the two sides had managed to bring their positions closer together, but made no mention of a done deal.

Apparently, Moscow was aiming at a gradual acknowledgement that it had climbed down in the face of the Americans' intention to go it alone.

But our correspondent says that after President Bush jumped the gun and denied Russia this face-saving opportunity, President Putin had some catching up to do, admitting that the sides had effectively drafted the strategic arms reduction treaty.

Pegged to it is the declaration on the new strategic relationship between the United States and Russia, putting it on the same level as Washington's major Western allies.

Sticking points

The BBC's Pentagon correspondent, Nick Childs, says the Bush administration has been trying to avoid a full treaty, with all the ratification hurdles that would require.

But the new agreement is unlikely to be as elaborate as those of the Cold War.

Among the sticking points has been Washington's desire to store most of the surplus warheads, in case they are needed later.

Russia, by contrast, has wanted them destroyed.

Another obstacle to agreement has been America's anti-missile programme, which Washington says is only aimed at "rogue nations" with missile capabilities.

Moscow sees the programme as a direct threat to the two states' strategic arms parity.


Leaders sign major nuclear arms deal Friday, 24 May, 2002, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK

It is the first such treaty for almost a decade The Russian and US presidents have signed a landmark nuclear arms treaty, which slashes the two countries' arsenals by two-thirds.

President Vladimir Putin and President George W Bush signed the deal in a ceremony in the Kremlin.

The agreement - the first major nuclear disarmament deal for almost 10 years - has been hailed by the Americans as banishing the legacy of the Cold War.

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

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.

Click here for graphic of current US and Russian arsenals

Mr Bush 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".

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

War on terror

Mr Bush also 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 hailed a "completely new quality" in Russia's relationship with the US.

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

Mr Bush, who arrived in Moscow on Thursday night, began the day with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, and a meeting with US embassy staff.

Then the two leaders met behind closed doors with only their national security advisers present, apparently taking some extra time to discuss some of the difficult issues clouding 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.


Russia's relations with Iran 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 Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov rejected the US fears, saying Moscow was loyal to 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 massed 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

On Thursday, the disagreements resulted in the US Congress' failure to lift the Jackson-Vanik agreement, which was originally introduced to restrict normal trade relations with the Soviet Union and other non-market economies until they allowed free emigration.

Mr Bush will spend Friday and Saturday in Moscow before visiting Mr Putin's hometown of St Petersburg.

Next week he travels on to France and Italy.

The mastermind of 'Star Wars' Saturday, 5 May, 2001, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK

An early missile defence test US President George W Bush plans to develop the so-called Son of Star Wars missile defence system. BBC correspondent David Shukman has gained access to many of America's most secret laboratories, and met the man who first conjured up the Star Wars vision.

There aren't many people who can walk into a crowded room and cast an immediate spell on everyone there.

But when I first saw Edward Teller we all stopped talking. This ancient stooped figure, in a crumpled suit and carrying a walking stick the size of a spear, holds a unique - some would say dangerous - position in American defence thinking.

As one of his critics put it, if evil walks this earth, it's Teller. And if you had to choose one man as the visionary behind the American dream of a shield against missiles, it would have to be Teller.

I found myself suddenly nervous in his presence. On the face of it, here was an old Hungarian emigre, a scientist, now retired.

Nuclear expert

Yet Teller was never an ordinary scientist. As the most hawkish of nuclear experts, he thought the atom bomb wasn't powerful enough, and pushed America towards the hydrogen bomb.

Teller is the role model for the mad scientist in the film Dr Strangelove, the doom-laden boffin with wild schemes for nuclear war.

We sat down for an interview. Teller's watery blue eyes fixed on me, unblinking. I imagined him in the White House fixing those eyes on Ronald Reagan and persuading him, as he did in the early 1980s, to launch a vast research programme into developing a shield against Russian attack.

Teller had planted an idea that has dominated American defence planning to this day, and according to some, also forced the Soviet Union into a race it could never win, and didn't.

Teller, with me, just talked, non-stop, in his heavy accent. He described how interceptors and lasers could save America.

I didn't get a word in, if I'm honest, and wondered if Reagan had been treated in the same brusque way.

He can't have minded because Star Wars was the result.

Top-secret research

The interview, for me, was disorientating. Maybe it was the altitude. We were high in the mountains of New Mexico at the Los Alamos laboratory, the top-secret birthplace of the nuclear age.

The scent of pine hung in the thin air, the sun was unusually bright, and the atmosphere was one of total isolation.

Los Alamos boasts it has more PhDs than anywhere else on the planet, genius minds harnessed by the military.

Huge rooms are packed with lasers. There are miles of cable, flashes of mysterious light, and the hum of new technology.

Everywhere there's talk of The Threat, of the world outside bristling with malevolence, of unpredictable foreigners plotting America's destruction.

These people may be on a mountain but the mindset belongs in a bunker.

And the scientists are not alone of course. The billions of dollars they receive are the result of heavy lobbying in Washington.

Party support

For the American Right, for the Republican party, a defence against missiles is a patriotic crusade. One lobby group calls itself High Frontier and compares its cause to guarding the Wild West against Red Indians.

The editor of a right-wing magazine once asked me if I believed in missile defence.

When I hesitated, he said firmly: "For us it's an article of faith." I felt I'd been through the Spanish Inquisition.

So when George W Bush announced his plans a few days ago, there was an almost religious context to what he said.

It leaves critics out in the cold. One scientist, a genial character in a cardigan, described to me how he'd once questioned whether the missile shield would ever work.

He had calculated how many flights of the space shuttle would be needed to assemble just one laser battle station in space - 350.

In other words, the scheme looked totally impractical, but the scientist was severely rebuked for pointing this out.

Faked tests

The pressure to succeed is intense, and many of the tests have been faked. In video footage of a laser destroying a rocket, it turned out the laser had been helped with a hidden explosives.

Yet it's often the case with big Pentagon projects that so much money is thrown at a problem, that it has to work. That may well be the case this time - there's certainly the political will to try.

Edward Teller ended our interview - the guru had said all he wanted to.

I shook his bony hand. It was strong and again I marvelled at the force of a single man able to persuade a president, convincing enough to push a dream that now more than ever is being felt in capitals around the world.

Teller shuffled away. He was to talk to the current generation of Los Alamos scientists. He was loudly applauded, the eager young faces gazing at this living monument to the nuclear age.

Perhaps another Teller was among them, another pushy, cantankerous but brilliant scientist, who would strive to make America safer, even if the rest of us are left wondering if it's wise, if we'll be left far more vulnerable.