Rice sees progress on missile defense

MOSCOW, Reuters

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 defence.

Before setting off for Russia from Ukraine, Rice told government leaders in Kiev that Russia and the United States had overcome their dispute over the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, Ukrainian officials said.

“Rice expressed her satisfaction that, following meetings in Genoa on ABM, talks between Russia and the United States have moved beyond deadlock,” said a spokesman for Ukraine’s presidential press service told Reuters.

After her arrival, Rice told Vladimir Rushailo, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, that she was glad to be in Moscow, “especially after the very successful second meeting of our two presidents.”

“The main thing is that the spirit of Genoa and Ljubljana should be gradually transformed into practical achievements”, Rushailo said, referring to summits between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush.

Rice, who has promised an “aggressive schedule” of talks on arms issues with Moscow, was to see Putin on Thursday after meeting Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in the morning.

Her Moscow visit follows weekend discussions by Putin and Bush in Genoa, their second encounter in little over a month, during which they agreed to link talks on missile defense and cuts in their vast nuclear arsenals.

Bush wants to build a defensive system that would shoot down incoming missiles and guard against attacks by “rogue” state such as Iran, Iraq and North Korea. But this would require the scrapping of the ABM treaty, seen by Moscow as the cornerstone of its strategic relations with Washington.

In contrast to Rice’s upbeat appraisal of Genoa, Putin has denied any breakthrough with Bush. But Russian media saw a retreat from his previous opposition to missile defense.

Moscow believes any U.S. missile shield will prove ineffective and complains that Washington is not even able to say what sort of anti-missile defense it plans to build, a complaint echoed by Washington’s European NATO allies.