Moscow Russia might accept changes in the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty but will reject wording that would allow national missile defenses like the one the Bush administration wants to build, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Monday.
"Theoretically, I do not exclude the possibility" of modifying the 1972 ABM treaty, Ivanov said in an interview with the Interfax news agency. However, he said the treaty's prohibition on establishing a nationwide missile defense must still stand.
"When I say theoretically, I mean we must clearly understand what missile defense is being conceived by the United States and what technical possibilities in air, sea, ground and space fields are envisaged," Ivanov said.
At their first summit, in June, Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to discuss the future of the Soviet-era ABM treaty in the context of potential cuts in nuclear arsenals, which cash strapped Russia has been pushing for.
Several rounds of talks have been held, but Russian officials have pressed the United States for more details about its missile defense plans.
"Along with thresholds of nuclear weapons cuts, those are exactly the questions for which we still cannot receive answers from the American side," Ivanov said.
The Bush administration has said it wants to complete a review of how many nuclear weapons the United States needs before discussing specific figures.
U.S. officials have also said that because work on the proposed missile defense could violate the ABM treaty within months, Washington will have to withdraw from the accord if amendments cannot be agreed on with Russia.
Some U.S. officials have recently voiced hope that Moscow might soften its rigid stance on missile defense by November, when Bush and Putin are scheduled to meet in Texas.
Before their summit at Bush's ranch, the presidents are to meet next month during an Asia-Pacific economic summit in Shanghai, China. Bush and Putin discussed preparations for the meeting in a telephone conversation Monday, the Kremlin said in a statement.
"It was underlined that the meeting in Shanghai would become an important stage of preparation to the full-fledged Russian-American summit," it said.
Ivanov, during a trip to Astrakhan in southern Russia, said he expects U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith to spell out American defense plans in talks with Russian military officials today in Moscow.
Ivanov said discussions will continue when he meets later this month with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, and in talks between Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.