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Background: Russia and the United States

June 5, 2000 at 12:00 AM EDT

RAY SUAREZ: President Clinton arrived in Moscow Saturday afternoon for his first summit meeting with the new Russian president. Vladimir Putin and President Clinton discussed a full plate of issues, from economics to global warming to the conflict in Chechnya. Top on Mr. Clinton’s agenda was a proposal for a national missile defense system, which would require changes to an arms control treaty signed in 1972. It’s known as the ABM or antiballistic missile treaty. After two days of closed-door meetings, the two presidents failed to reach an agreement on missile defense, but they did announce agreement on two other issues. Both nations will reduce supplies of plutonium by destroying 34 tons of the weapons-grade material, and they agreed to establish a joint center in Moscow to provide early warnings of missile launches.

SPOKESMAN: President of the Russian federation, Vladimir Putin.

RAY SUAREZ: At a joint press conference Sunday in the grand palace of the Kremlin, the two men briefed reporters on their talks.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia (Translated): We discussed the issues of new global threats, threats such as terrorism, narcotics, crime. We talked about issues which our to mind have a certain solution; and the estimation of our American colleagues maybe have a different kind of a solution. We exchanged ideas and opinions on issues to which we had different solutions in the past. These talks were very candid, very open, and very topical. We spent a large share of our time discussing economics. I’m encouraged by the economic plan President Putin has outlined, and by the current recovery. I look forward to Russia’s continuing to implement proposed reforms that will actually make the recovery last, reforms such as tax reform, anti-money-laundering legislation, strong property rights protection.

RAY SUAREZ: Mr. Clinton then got into the most contentious issue of the talk, arms control.

Arms issue still unresolved

PRESIDENT CLINTON: We have agreed to a statement of principle, which I urge you read carefully. It makes clear that there is an emerging ballistic missile threat that must be addressed, though we have not yet agreed on how best to do so. We have acknowledged that the ABM Treaty foresees the possibility of changes in the strategic environment that might require it to be updated.

RAY SUAREZ: President Clinton, who last week suggested the two countries work on a joint missile defense system, reiterated his country’s longstanding objection to an American-only system.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: We are against the cure being worse than the disease itself, but we understand that there are steps. We have built a base, which even on this difficult question we will be able to address it.

RAY SUAREZ: This morning Communist demonstrators with anti-American placards lined Mr. Clinton’s motorcade route as he made his way to the Russian parliament. Once inside, he received a polite reception as the first American president ever to speak to the Duma.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I believed very strongly from the first time I came here that Russia’s future fundamentally is in the hands of the Russian people. It cannot be determined by others, and it should not be. But Russia’s future is very important to others because it is among the most important journeys the world will witness in my lifetime. A great deal of the 21st century will be strongly influenced by the success of the Russian people in building a modern, strong, democratic nation that is part of the life of the rest of the world.

RAY SUAREZ: After their meetings, both leaders went on different diplomatic paths. Mr. Putin went to Italy, a U.S. ally, while Mr. Clinton stopped for a brief visit to the former Soviet republic of Ukraine. He returns home early tomorrow morning.