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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rice Confidently Tackles Arms Talks

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U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice arrived in Moscow on Wednesday to put arms control talks with Russia on a fast track, saying the two sides had now surmounted the stalemate on missile defense.

Rice flew in from Ukraine, where she told reporters that Russia and the United States had overcome their dispute over the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty after talks between their two presidents in Italy last weekend.

She immediately went into talks with Security Council head Vladimir Rushailo, and emerged in a buoyant mood about prospects for overcoming Russian reticence toward U.S. plans to build a missile defense shield.

"We have every possibility to have a joint approach to the threats of the new era," she told reporters after the two-hour meeting. "We have every possibility to have a cooperative way forward. And I think that is what the two presidents are committed to concentrating on over the next several months."

Rice, who answered one of the reporter's questions in competent Russian, repeated the U.S. stance that the ABM Treaty was outdated.

But she said Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin, whose meeting in Genoa was their second in a month, "have developed a good relationship and that we have the basis for cooperation on the new conditions in which we find ourselves." Russia and the United States, she said, had to jettison the Cold War precept of "balance of terror."

"We should not want to hold on to that old system, we should be ready to move to a system of security more in accordance with our new emerging partnership with Russia," she said.

Rice meets Putin in the Kremlin on Thursday, along with Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. She will also meet Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.

Putin on Wednesday was in northern Belarus holding informal talks with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko against the backdrop of a festival of Slavic arts and music.

Lukashenko told reporters the leaders had discussed international problems and issues of mutual interest, including the U.S. proposal for a missile defense system.

"We heard some interesting information from Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] about the latest political events in Genoa and a lot of practical, useful facts from Leonid Danylovych [Kuchma], who of course used to be a rocket engineer," he said.

Kuchma met with Rice earlier Wednesday in Kiev. After those talks, Rice delivered a strongly worded warning to Ukraine, saying its integration into Europe depended on political reforms, transparent probes into the recent killings of journalists and fair elections.

"A very strong message is sent about political reform, about free press … judiciary reform and transparency in the [murder] cases that are of worldwide attention here," Rice said.

"We hope to have good relations with Ukraine … but it can only be on the basis of forward movement on these very important issues," she said.

Rice's visit to Kiev and Moscow follows an agreement between Putin and Bush in Genoa to link talks on building the missile defense shield — a move that would violate the ABM Treaty — and cuts in nuclear arsenals.

The ABM Treaty allows each country only one limited missile-defense system covering the capital or a missile installation, on the premise that neither country would strike first without protection from retaliation. Russia says abandoning the treaty would spark a new nuclear arms race.

The United States argues that it needs a national missile defense to protect itself against possible attacks by small hostile nations believed to be developing nuclear weapons.

In contrast to Rice's upbeat appraisal on Wednesday of Genoa, Putin denied earlier this week reaching any breakthroughs with Bush.

But a member of the State Duma suggested Wednesday that Rice's visit would be significant, given Bush's reputed reliance on advisers in foreign-policy matters.

"I think the conclusions, assessments and proposals that [Rice] brings back to Washington will have if not definitive then certainly a very significant importance for President Bush," Konstantin Kosachev, the deputy head of the foreign affairs committee in the Duma, said on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov discussed a timetable for security talks in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Tuesday night, and top Russian and U.S. defense officials are to exchange visits next month.

(Reuters, AP)