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U.S., Russia Agree to Reduce Nuclear Arms by Two-Thirds

By Dana Milbank and Sharon LaFraniere

The United States and Russia reached agreement Monday on a treaty cutting both nations’ nuclear arsenals by two-thirds, drafting a three-page pact intended to replace the last vestiges of the Cold War arms race with cooperation between the former adversaries.

The accord is to be signed in an official ceremony when President Bush visits Moscow for a summit meeting next week. It commits the countries to reduce nuclear arsenals to 1,700 to 2,200 warheads each by the end of 2012 -- codifying long-standing pledges by both sides to make wholesale cuts.

“This treaty will liquidate the legacy of the Cold War,” Bush said in brief remarks on the South Lawn of the White House Monday morning. “The new era will be a period of enhanced mutual security, economic security and improved relations.”

The reaction was more somber in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin pronounced himself “satisfied” and his foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, acknowledged the treaty was not as comprehensive as Moscow sought. “It is a realistic document,” Ivanov said.

Analysts in both countries said the agreement essentially is a face-saving gesture for Putin, who insisted on a formal accord. Putin, eager to integrate his economy with the West and to give Russians a sense of national dignity that comes with a formal agreement with the United States, yielded to almost all of Bush’s demands.

The treaty marks a departure from past arms control pacts that, along with their side agreements, often filled volumes.

Honoring the Bush administration’s desire for future flexibility, it contains no requirement to destroy warheads that are taken out of service. It puts no prohibition on the U.S. plan to build a missile defense system. The pact’s expiration in 10 years allows either side to return to any level it desires, and before the 10-year expiration it allows the ability to pull out with 90 days’ notice.

In exchange, Bush granted one concession: having a treaty. The administration saw no need for a written agreement, and preferred any agreement not to take the form of a treaty requiring Senate ratification. Although the administration met Russia’s request, the president did not agree to anything he had not pledged to do unilaterally.

“As the president said, we believed it was not necessary to have a treaty because we are in a new phase of relations,” national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said in an interview on PBS’s “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.” “But the president listened to his Russian partner.”

Senate Democrats and Republicans praised the agreement, and indications Monday were that it would face no significant obstacles to ratification.