WASHINGTON – President Bush's top foreign policy advisers said Sunday that relations with Russia will weather the United States' pulling out of an arms control treaty and moving ahead on a missile defense. They rejected predictions that the withdrawal will lead to a new arms race.
Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Bush had gone out of his way to build strong ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. By doing so, withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972 would amount to a minor bump in relations, they said.
"Guess what? Both we and the Russians see that we have mutual interests that will keep us working closely together," Powell said on Fox News Sunday. Powell said he had met 16 times this year with his counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
"This simply did not cause the rupture, because the president spent the time to build a broad relationship with Russia," Rice said on CBS' Face the Nation. "Even though there is a disagreement here, we'll survive. That's quite an achievement."
Bush announced Thursday that the United States would withdraw from the treaty, which bans national anti-missile shields.
Many nations fear that a U.S. missile defense shield would start a new arms race with Russia and China, and lead to more nuclear instability. Rice and Powell pointed to Bush's promise to reduce the U.S. arsenal to 1,700 to 2,200 nuclear warheads, and Putin's pledge of similar cuts.
"There's not going to be an arms race," Rice said. "Sorry to disappoint those who've been predicting an arms race."