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Transcript: Bush Withdraws From ABM Treaty

Thursday, Dec. 13, 2001

Following is a full transcript of President Bush's remarks on the decision to give formal notice of U.S. intent to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Good morning.

I've just concluded a meeting with my National Security Council. We reviewed what I've discussed with my friend, President Vladimir Putin, over the course of many meetings, many months, and that is the need for America to move beyond the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Today, I have given formal notice to Russia, in accordance with the treaty, that the United States of America is withdrawing from this almost 30-year-old treaty.

I have concluded the ABM treaty hinders our government's ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorists or rogue state missile attacks.

The 1972 ABM treaty was signed by the United States and the Soviet Union at a much different time, in a vastly different world.

One of the signatories, the Soviet Union, no longer exists, and neither does the hostility that once led both our countries to keep thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, pointed at each other. The grim theory was that neither side would launch a nuclear attack because it knew the other would respond, thereby destroying both.

Today, as the events of September 11th made all too clear, the greatest threats to both our countries come, not from each other or other big powers in the world, but from terrorists who strike without warning or rogue states who seek weapons of mass destruction.

We know that the terrorists and some of those who support them seek the ability to deliver death and destruction to our doorstep via missile. And we must have the freedom and the flexibility to develop effective defenses against those attacks.

Defending the American people is my highest priority as commander-in-chief, and I cannot and will not allow the United States to remain in a treaty that prevents us from developing effective defenses.

At the same time, the United States and Russia have developed a new, much more hopeful and constructive relationship. We're moving to replace mutually assured destruction with mutual cooperation.

Beginning in Ljubljana and continuing in meetings in Genoa, Shanghai, Washington and Crawford, President Putin and I developed common ground for a new strategic relationship. Russia is in the midst of a transition to free markets and democracy.

We are committed to forging strong economic ties between Russia and the United States and new bonds between Russia and our partners in NATO. NATO has made clear its desire to identify and pursue opportunities for joint action, ACT 20 (ph).

I look forward to visiting Moscow to continue our discussions as we seek a formal way to express a new strategic relationship that will last long beyond our individual administrations, providing a foundation for peace for the years to come.

We're already working closely together as the world rallies in the war against terrorism. I appreciate so much President Putin's important advice and cooperation, as we fight to dismantle Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan.

I appreciate his commitment to reduce Russia's offensive nuclear weapons. I reiterate our pledge to reduce our own nuclear arsenal, between 1,700 and 2,200 operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons. President Putin and I have also agreed that my decision to withdraw from the treaty will not, in any way, undermine our new relationship or Russian security.

As President Putin said in Crawford, we are on the path to a fundamentally different relationship. The Cold War is long gone. Today, we leave behind one of its last vestiges. But this is not a day for looking back. This is a day for looking forward with hope and anticipation of greater prosperity and peace for Russians, for Americans, and for the entire world.

Thank you.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company


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