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Russians Reject U.S. ABM Compromise

October 20, 1999

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia has turned down a U.S. proposal to amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty in exchange for U.S. help in completing a major defense radar, the government said today.

U.S. officials on Sunday offered to help finish a radar installation near Irkutsk, Siberia, in exchange for Russia’s consent to alter the ABM so that both countries could establish limited national missile defense systems.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin said that Russia was against ``bargaining″ on the ABM. ``We aren’t negotiating any kind of amendments to the ABM,″ he said at a briefing.

Deputy chief of General Staff of the Russian armed forces Col. Gen. Valery Manilov went a step further, saying today that ``there can’t be any compromise on the treaty.″

Washington wants to amend the ABM treaty, which was key to starting arms control pacts during the Cold War, so that both countries can defend themselves against nuclear attacks by rogue nations such as North Korea. It argues that a national missile defense system wouldn’t compromise the ABM, because it would only be capable of shooting down a few missiles _ not providing a shield against a massive missile attack of the kind Russia is capable of launching.

But Russian officials have not been impressed by that argument, and warn that the United States would upset strategic stability and could trigger a new arms race if the ABM treaty is altered.

Manilov said that Russia views the U.S. intention to revise the ABM as a ``threat.″

``The attempts by the United States to quit the ABM treaty objectively destroy the entire system of arms control and arms reduction agreements,″ he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

A U.S. delegation led by Undersecretary of State John D. Holum is to begin another round of talks in Moscow on Thursday. The topics will include the ABM treaty and prospects of additional weapons cuts. Previous talks have brought no progress.

Russian officials have welcomed the U.S. proposal to negotiate a START III treaty that could cut arsenals to 2,000 to 2,500 warheads on each side, but said it would only be possible if the ABM treaty is upheld.

The new treaty also can’t be formally agreed upon until the Russian parliament ratifies the 1993 START II treaty, which would halve U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals to 3,000-3,500 warheads each.

The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty in 1996, but Communists and other hard-liners dominating the lower house of Russian parliament have balked at its approval, saying the START II hurts Russia’s security.

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