June 18 — President Vladimir V. Putin said today that if the United States
proceeded on its own to construct a missile defense shield over its territory
and that of its allies, Russia would eventually upgrade its strategic nuclear
arsenal with multiple warheads — reversing an achievement of arms control in
recent decades — to ensure that it would be able to overwhelm such a shield.
Russian leader emphasized that though he is buoyed by Mr. Bush's pledge that
Washington and Moscow will work cooperatively in coming months to investigate
the full ramifications of Mr. Bush's vision for a new security framework that
includes missile defenses, Russia is also very alert to unilateral American
in response to comments made Sunday in Washington by Mr. Bush's national
security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, that the United States would proceed with
missile defense with or without Russia, Mr. Putin said Russia would not threaten
or try to prevent American actions, but would "augment" its nuclear
forces without regard to treaties that now require the elimination of multiple
we hear statements that the programs would go with us or without us, well, we
cannot force anyone to do the things we would like them to," he said.
"We offer our cooperation. We offer to work jointly. If there is no need
that such joint work is needed, well, suit yourself."
Mr. Putin added, "we stand ready" to respond to any unilateral
American action, even though Russia does not see an immediate threat from a
missile shield. "I am confident that at least for the coming 25 years"
American missile defenses "will not cause any substantial damage to the
national security of Russia," he said. But he added, "We will
reinforce our capability" by "mounting multiple warheads on our
missiles" and "that will cost us a meager sum." And so, he said,
"the nuclear arsenal of Russia will be augmented multifold."
said both the Start I and Start II treaties would be negated by an American
decision to build missile defenses in violation of the Antiballistic Missile
Treaty of 1972. Such a step would eliminate verification and inspection
requirements, he said, reviving an era in which Russia would hide its abilities
Putin said Russia was ready to move expeditiously on talks with Mr. Bush's top
aides, but he said he believed that the two sides first needed to discuss
whether serious threats actually existed or might emerge in the future, then
determine what missile defense technologies might be brought to bear against
them, and then determine what provisions of the ABM treaty came into conflict
with such a system. Speaking
in the Kremlin library at the round conference table where he met President
Clinton last year, Mr. Putin also stated for the first time that Russia had
taken an interest in ensuring that China's strategic concerns are addressed in
has a much smaller nuclear missile force and fears that its national nuclear
deterrent would be nullified by missile defenses. "One must be very careful
here," he said. "The transparency of our action is very important,
lest none of the nuclear powers would feel abandoned or that two countries are
making agreements behind their backs."
if he had made a commitment to China, he replied, "there is a commitment to
preserve the balance of security that we have now in the world as a whole and in
this sense, China is an important element, and not only China." Mr. Putin
said the United States should bear in mind China's strong economic potential and
its growing ability to respond to national security threats.
said what concerned him most was that a unilateral American deployment of
missile defenses could "result in a hectic, uncontrolled arms race on the
borders of our country and neighboring countries." Mr.
Putin said he reported to the Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, by telephone today
the results of the meeting and Mr. Bush's message about a cooperative approach
to examining threats to international security. Mr. Jiang and Mr. Putin met last
week in Shanghai with Central Asian leaders to form a security and trade
through an interpreter, Mr. Putin joked that he had tried to speak some English
with Mr. Bush, but he said he feared that Mr. Bush had only pretended to
understand him. He also spoke with pride about his record as a career K.G.B.
officer, pointing out that former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger had once
told him that "all decent people start out in intelligence," as Mr.
Kissinger did. Then Mr. Putin added, referring to President Bush's father, who
served as director of central intelligence, "The 41st president was not
working in a laundry, he was working at the C.I.A."
Mr. Putin directed his most pointed remarks at the comments of Ms. Rice, he
praised a statement by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell that the United States
was not seeking the "destruction" of the ABM treaty. He said he had
"taken due note" of Mr. Powell's assertion that Washington was seeking
"effective but limited" defenses against potential ballistic missile
threats from so- called rogue nations.
identifying with Mr. Powell's formulation, Mr. Putin appeared to be signaling a
hope that the Bush administration could be persuaded to work within the ABM
treaty to develop the kind of limited defense system that Russia itself proposed.
Putin acknowledged that he and Mr. Bush had talked in detail about Iran, and
Russia's growing arms relationship with its leaders. He said Russia had a "complex
relationship" with Iran, but he praised President Mohammad Khatami as a
"very moderate and very worthy partner" who was trying to bring Iran
out of isolation.
said Russia was committed not to supply nuclear or ballistic missile
technologies to Iran, but would continue to sell defensive arms to Tehran, and
he complained that the United States was guilty of "unfair competition in
the arms market" by insisting that these sales should cease. He revealed
that he had provided Mr. Bush with the names of American companies who have
recently been in Iran offering "large scale" cooperation, which he did