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Bush, Putin sign arms deal

Leaders also pledge cooperation on missile defense

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush after signing the nuclear pact on Friday in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush after signing the nuclear pact on Friday in Moscow.  

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin put pen to paper Friday, signing a landmark nuclear reduction treaty that would remove from deployment two-thirds of each nation's long-range nuclear weapons over 10 years.

"This is a historic and hopeful day for Russia and America," Bush said. "It's a historic day for the world as well. President Putin and I today ended a long chapter of confrontation and opened up an entirely new relationship between our two countries."

The two leaders also signed a joint declaration pledging cooperation on missile defense at the ceremony in the Kremlin's gold-trimmed Andreyevsky Hall.

The treaty, Bush said at the signing ceremony, "liquidates the Cold War legacy of nuclear hostility."

"President Putin and I today ended a long chapter of confrontation and opened up an entirely new relationship between our two countries."
— President Bush

The pact will remove from deployment each nation's existing store of roughly 5,000 to 6,000 warheads by about 65 percent over the next decade. The resulting number of warheads held by each country would range from 1,700 to 2,200.

Bush and Putin also discussed the U.S.-led global war on terrorism and economic relations between the two countries.

"Our nations will continue to cooperate closely in the war against global terror," Bush said. "We understand full well that the people of Russia have suffered at the hands of terrorists, and so have we."

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Putin said that the talks between the two leaders would have a "positive impact for economic development," and Bush said his country would welcome Russia into the world economy.

Bush plans to have dinner and spend the evening in the Russian leader's residence Friday evening.

The Friday ceremony marked the fifth time the two leaders have met, but the first time in Moscow.

Senior Bush administration officials have said the treaty will enable the United States and Russia to enter into a new strategic relationship and to move away from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the Bush administration has maintained is an antiquated Cold War agreement that did not allow for modern contingencies, such as allowing the U.S. to pursue a limited missile defense system.

Critics of the treaty have noted that it requires storage of many of the weapons cuts rather than destruction, creating scenarios that could make theft of a nuclear warhead possible.

The treaty will have to go before the U.S. Senate and Russian Duma to be ratified.

 Bush's itinerary:
  • Saturday: Travels to St. Petersburg; participates in wreath laying at Piskarevskoye Cemetery; tours the Hermitage

  • Sunday: Tours Russian Museum in St. Petersburg; travels to France; meets with French President Jacques Chirac

  • Monday: Attends Memorial Day service in Caen, France; tours Normandy American Cemetery and participates in wreath-laying ceremony; travels to Italy

  • Tuesday: Attends NATO-Russia Summit in Rome; meets with Pope John Paul II; returns to United States

  • Security was tight throughout Moscow in anticipation of Bush's visit. At the U.S. Embassy Thursday, Communists staged a demonstration, criticizing Bush and Putin. They accuse Putin of being too soft with the United States.

    In addition to the nuclear weapon reduction treaty, Bush said the two leaders discussed the subject of Iran, one of three countries the president has dubbed an "axis of evil."

    "I worry about Iran and I'm confident President Putin worries about Iran," Bush said.

    Russia is helping Iran build nuclear power plants, and the United States is concerned that the facilities might be diverted to other uses and that some of the items that Iran wants could later be aimed at U.S. forces.

    The senior administration official briefing reporters en route to Moscow called the concern of Russian nuclear technology going to Iran the "single most important proliferation threat there is."

    But Putin disagreed. "I'd like to point out that cooperation between Iran and Russia is not of a character which would undermine the process of non-proliferation," he said. "Our cooperation is exclusively as regards to the energy sector focused on the problems of an economic nature."


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