Putin calls U.S. decision to withdraw from ABM treaty 'mistake'

Thursday, December 13, 2001

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called the U.S. decision to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty a "mistake."

In a nationwide television address, Putin repeated Russia's often-stated position that the treaty is a cornerstone of world security.

Earlier Thursday, Bush said the United States was withdrawing from the ABM treaty, a move effective in six months.

"This step was not a surprise for us. However, we consider it a mistake," Putin said.

Bush, who campaigned for the presidency on building the kind of missile defense shield banned by the treaty, said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made his cause more urgent.

"I have concluded the ABM treaty hinders our government's ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue-state missile attacks," Bush said in Washington.

The ABM treaty prohibits the development, testing and deployment of strategic missile defense systems and components that are based in the air, at sea or in space. Russia has a large enough arsenal to deter attack, officials have said, but China and other nations may feel less secure. Chinese officials have warned their nation may respond by increasing the number of its nuclear warheads.

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