BRUSSELS, Belgium – Less than a week after President Bush notified Russia that the U.S. plans to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met in Brussels Monday with his Russian counterpart and defined the two-and-a-half hour meeting as "unprecedented interaction."
It was the first meeting since the U.S. gave notification that it was withdrawing from the treaty in order to begin the next phase of testing of a national missile defense system prohibited by the pact.
Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized the U.S. pullout, although he said the move was not unexpected.
That message was repeated Monday by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who said the real mistake is in the message the pullout sends to other countries.
"Russia is not concerned or afraid regarding its military security, but we are very much concerned how other countries will behave and whether they will comply or not with any international agreement thinking logically that if one country doesn't abide why should we," he said.
That said, Ivanov and Rumsfeld were smiling and joking at a news conference where they said the two countries are creating a new relationship that includes ironing out specific strategic weapons reductions on both sides.
The United States and Russia will begin talks in January on when and how low to cut each side's strategic nuclear arms from roughly 6,000 to 2,000 nuclear weapons, Ivanov said.
Ivanov said the withdrawal from the ABM treaty makes it imperative that the two nations move forward with the massive cuts.
And on the war in Afghanistan, Ivanov backed the U.S. campaign, saying it is working. "So far, so good," he said.
Rumsfeld shared that theme, but said that the end is not near.
"It would be wrong to say it was over, it's not ... there's still a good distance to go."
That distance includes destroying the Al Qaeda terrorist network on the ground in Afghanistan. On the plane flight to Brussels, Rumsfeld dismissed the notion that the job has been done.
"There are still any number of Al Qaeda loose in that country. It's gonna take time and energy and effort and people will be killed in the process of trying to find them and capture them or have them surrender."
Rumsfeld also warned the warring parties in Afghanistan not to interfere with the military mission.
"To the extent that we find that people who aspire to high office, high position in Afghanistan have been involved in preventing us from getting our hands on people who are responsible for what's going on in Afghanistan, will find the United States not terrible friendly to their aspirations," he said.
Bret Baier currently serves as FOX News Channel's (FNC) chief political anchor and anchor of Special Report with Bret Baier(weeknights at 6-7PM/ET), the highest-rated cable news program in its timeslot and consistently one of the top five shows in cable news. Based in Washington, DC, he joined the network in 1998 as the first reporter in the Atlanta bureau.