Mr. Bush said the treaty “hinders our government’s ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue-state missile attacks.
“I cannot and will not allow the United States to remain in a treaty that prevents us from developing effective defenses,” he said.
The announcement came just over a week after the third successful test of components of a missile defense shield opposed by Russia and China. This latest trial successfully intercepted an intercontinental missile, the most complicated test thus far.
President Bush said the treaty withdrawal would not hinder efforts to reduce the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. In November, summit talks between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin led to agreement to reduce nuclear arms.
A clause in the ABM treaty requires either country to give the other six months’ notice before pulling out of the agreement. Mr. Bush said he had spoken with Putin about the decision before it was made public.
For his part, Putin said the U.S. decision to quit the treaty was a mistake, but said the move would not threaten Russia’s national security.
“As is well known, Russia and the U.S., unlike other nuclear powers, have for a long time possessed effective means to overcome missile defense,” Putin said.”Therefore, I fully believe that the decision taken by the President of the United States does not pose a threat to national security of the Russian Federation.”
Other Russian politicians were less forgiving. Vladimir Lukin, a former Washington ambassador and a leader in the liberal Yabloko party, said the move sends a bad signal to Russia’s leaders.
“It’s worse than a crime, it’s an error,” he told Reuters, quoting 18th century French statesman Charles de Talleyrand. “The U.S. used our enormous help to conduct the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan, then announced its position on ABM. It’s a sign, and a bad sign at that.”
President Bush’s decision to pull out of the Nixon- and Brezhnev-brokered treaty is also meeting resistance from top Senate Democrats who worry it will create a new arms race.
“Unilateral withdrawal is likely to lead to an action-reaction cycle in offensive and defensive technologies, including counter measures,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.
The next scheduled step in the missile defense program is to begin construction next spring of silos and a testing command center in Alaska. U.S. officials said they would keep Russia informed as to the missile defense program’s progress.