Defense Minister Defends U.S. Arms Control Deal

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on Wednesday dismissed accusations that Russia had compromised its national interests in agreeing to an arms control pact with the United States that slashes arsenals by two-thirds.

The agreement, announced Monday, is to be signed next week in Moscow by U.S. President George W. Bush and President Vladimir Putin.

"Neither side, neither Russia nor the United States, surrendered any national interests while drafting this agreement," Ivanov said at a Moscow meeting of defense ministers from China and four former Soviet republics in Central Asia.

"This agreement is the result of a compromise, like any other international agreement." The document is "pragmatic and realistic and fully reflects the present-day situation," he said.

Foreign Minister spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said the international community's positive reaction to the new agreement was further testimony to its importance.

"All reactions emphasize the treaty's importance for strategic stability," he said in a statement that highlighted the Chinese government's positive response to the pact. In recent years, Russia has made a considerable effort to improve its relations with China.

The agreement foresees cuts in each country's arsenal to 1,700 to 2,200 warheads. The treaty will include a provision for possible further cuts, a high-ranking Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity Wednesday.

The liberal Yabloko party welcomed the pact as consistent with the "new spirit of cooperation between Russia and the United States following the tragic events of Sept. 11," Alexei Arbatov, deputy party leader, told Interfax.

Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party, blasted it as an "unprecedented surrender."

In addition to the arms treaty, Bush and Putin are to sign a political declaration on strategic priorities. The Foreign Ministry official said the document would call for expanding cooperation in strategic missile defense.