MOSCOW — A senior U.S. arms control official on Tuesday reiterated the Bush administration's wish for an agreement with Russia on amending the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty so that the United States would be freed to pursue its plans for a national missile defense.
U.S. Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton said, however, that the United States remains willing to take advantage of a clause in the ABM Treaty allowing either party to withdraw if no progress is made during ongoing discussions with the Russians.
Bolton said he hoped that President Bush and Russian President Vladimir V. Putin could point to progress in their talks by the time the two leaders meet during Putin's visit to the United States in November, when Bush has offered to host Putin at his Texas ranch.
"I suppose the presidents will be disappointed if by that time we don't make considerable progress," Bolton said. He added that the American side "doesn't view this as some kind of an official deadline. We will try to achieve as much as possible."
Bolton's comments were contained in a partial transcript, issued in Russian, from an interview with the Echo of Moscow radio station recorded here Tuesday. The remarks were retranslated by The Times into English. The full interview is not scheduled for broadcast until today, the station said.
According to the transcript, Bolton stressed that the United States "would like, together with the government of Russia, to find a way out of, or somehow jointly withdraw from, the treaty, or somehow go together outside the limits and framework imposed by it. . . ."
"If, even though we don't wish it, we fail to reach an agreement with Russia, then we will have to use the right stipulated by the treaty to withdraw from it, without violating it," he said. "I would like to stress that we prefer a joint resolution to avoid any arguments about [the United States'] violating the treaty."
Bolton is in Moscow as part of a series of consultations between the two countries on Bush's initiative to build a national missile defense, which would contradict the 1972 treaty. Russia has opposed altering the treaty, which it considers the linchpin of all subsequent nuclear arms agreements.
Specifically, Bolton is to help lay the groundwork for a meeting in September between U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Russian Foreign Minister Igor S. Ivanov.