Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rumsfeld Flies In To Talk Security

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Sunday that Russia and the United States should reduce their vast nuclear arsenals, but warned that new security ties will not come quickly for the old Cold War foes.

Arriving for one day of talks Monday with Russian leaders on the controversial U.S. missile defense plan, Rumsfeld said proposed nuclear reductions and expanded military, economic and political cooperation could become pillars of a strategic relationship.

"But it is not something that just happens — that two countries spend 50 years-plus hostile and then just suddenly accommodate to a new set of relationships," he told reporters aboard his aircraft en route from Washington to Moscow. "It takes some time."

Rumsfeld was whisked from the airport to Victory Park in northwestern Moscow, where he got a full-honors military welcoming ceremony before going on a cruise on the Moscow River with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, Interfax reported.

Russia, which has bitterly opposed U.S. plans to build a defense against ballistic missiles, wants to go far beyond the current START-2 nuclear reduction treaty. That pact would cut the arsenals of each country by half to about 3,500 warheads.

Rumsfeld told reporters, however, that the Pentagon had not completed a current study of U.S. nuclear forces and he was not ready to discuss specific cuts in talks with Ivanov on Monday.

Rumsfeld said he also hopes to meet President Vladimir Putin on Monday before flying back to Washington in the evening.

The talks are part of a new dialogue between Moscow and Washington on orders from Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush to link discussions on missile defense with Russian calls for very deep cuts in nuclear arsenals.

"If you think about the changes in conventional forces between NATO and the Warsaw Pact that have taken place in the last decade … there could be similar changes with respect to offensive nuclear forces," Rumsfeld said on his aircraft. "We have gone a good distance on the conventional side, and there is no reason we can't go a good distance on the nuclear side. It is in their interest and in our interest."

Russian officials have not said what — if anything — they hope to accomplish in the talks Monday.

Before Rumsfeld's departure, a senior Pentagon official denied that the U.S. defense secretary was making the abbreviated visit to Moscow to issue an ultimatum to Russia on U.S. missile defense plans.

"Nobody is issuing ultimata to anybody," the official told reporters Friday in response to questions, saying the talks with Ivanov were simply part of a new thrust by both countries to forge a better relationship.

However, the official, who asked not to be identified, stressed again that the Bush administration would proceed with testing and deployment of a limited anti-missile program, despite Russian opposition.

"The idea is to build a new relationship between the United States and Russia — a relationship that will be entirely different from the relationship that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War," he said.

The official said Rumsfeld's talks with Ivanov had been cut to one day for the sake of efficiency and would not continue for a second day Tuesday as previously planned.

He said the two ministers and their delegations would hold a full day of meetings on issues ranging from missile defense to nuclear arms cuts and expanded military cooperation and that the visit had not been cut short because of low expectations.

"I think it was just a scheduling matter," he said. "Everybody was happy that we were able to move things around so that we could do the discussions that are required in an efficient fashion."

The Pentagon official, while denying that Washington was, in effect, issuing an ultimatum to Moscow on missile defenses, noted that the United States could not proceed on missile defense unless it broke out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

"We are approaching this dialogue with a number of themes in mind," he said.

"One of them is the best basis for strategic stability in a good relationship. We don't focus simply on mechanical balance or numbers or weapons systems, we are looking to create the kind of normal and friendly relations that will provide a good solid basis for security and stability.

"In that context, the United States is going to be building a limited but effective missile defense. … And it is in the interest of both the United States and Russia that we withdraw jointly from the ABM Treaty in the course of developing this new relationship," he said.

The official stressed that the relationship envisioned by the Bush administration "covers economic, political and military matters."

"It is not focused narrowly on the military, much less on missile defense," he said.

Rumsfeld's entourage to Moscow includes Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, as well as John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

Ahead of the meetings on Monday in Moscow, Feith led two days of talks at the Pentagon last week with a delegation of Russians headed by Colonel General Yury Baluyevsky, first deputy chief of staff.

(Reuters, NYT, MT)