MOSCOW – President Vladimir Putin on Friday urged the United States to work with Russia on arms issues and welcomed President Bush's indications he would consult other countries on a controversial missile defense system.
"First, we should not destroy the established system of international security, and second, we must act together to perfect it," Putin said.
It was Putin's first public response to Bush's announcement this week that he intends to move ahead with a nationwide system designed to shoot down missiles aimed at U.S. territory.
Bush described the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which bans such systems, as outdated. Russia, however, says the treaty is a foundation of world security and should be preserved.
Putin welcomed Bush's willingness to discuss the issue, saying, "We have noticed in the U.S. president's statement that our U.S. partners plan to consult with the international community on these crucial issues, including consultations with Russia.
"We are very much counting on this dialogue being constructive."
Putin said he agreed with Bush that times had changed in some ways. "It is difficult not to agree with the president of the United States in this sense, that the world is changing rapidly and new threats are appearing," he said.
"I agree that we must think about this and resist these threats with sensible actions," he said during ceremonies to sign agreements between Russia and the Central Asian nation of Uzbekistan.
The United States and the Soviet Union signed the ABM treaty on the theory that it would discourage a first-strike nuclear attack by either side. Without defenses, an attacker would face certain annihilation in a retaliatory strike — the principle of mutual assured destruction.
Missile defense advocates argue the United States faces a greater threat in coming years from attacks involving a few missiles that could be launched by so-called rogue states such as North Korea. The old Cold War framework focusing on the United States and the Soviet Union, which broke up in 1991, is outmoded, they say.
Bush is considering a system that could be rushed into operation as early as 2004, possibly using weapons on ships or planes as well as on land to shoot down missiles in flight.
But Russia has resisted U.S. efforts to negotiate changes in the ABM treaty, which allows each side only a limited system of interceptor missiles protecting either the capital or an intercontinental missile launch site.