June 6, 2000


Putin Goes to Rome to Promote Russian Arms Control Alternative

By ALESSANDRA STANLEY © 2000 New York Times 6/6/00

Recent Coverage
• Clinton and Putin Fail to Close Gap on Missile Barrier (June 5, 2000)
• Sense of Urgency for Clinton on Arms Issue (June 5, 2000)
• The State of Democracy (June 5, 2000)
• Clinton and Putin Meet at Kremlin With Wide Agenda (June 4, 2000)
• Putin Offers Alternative Antimissile Plan (June 3, 2000)
• Risk of Arms Race Seen in U.S. Design of Missile Defense
(May 28, 2000)
• New Delay for Test of U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense System (May 19, 2000)
• Pentagon Feels Pressure to Cut Out More Warheads (May 11, 2000)
• A Case Shows Russia's Quandary in Preventing Leaks of Arms Lore (May 10, 2000)
• U.S.-Russian Talks Revive Old Debates on Nuclear Warnings (May 1, 2000)
• Russians Get Briefing on U.S. Defense Plan (April 29, 2000)
• Right's Anti-ABM Weapon: A Senate Clause on Russia (April 29, 2000)
• Documents Detail U.S. Plan to Alter '72 Missile Treaty (April 28, 2000)
• U.S. Says Russians May Want a Deal on Missile Defense (April 27, 2000)
• At U.N., Russia Hardens Line on Changes to Missile Treaty (April 26, 2000)
• Missile Defense May Have Price of $60 Billion (April 26, 2000)
• In a New Era, U.S. and Russia Bicker Over an Old Issue (April 25, 2000)
• Albright, at the U.N., Defends U.S. on Arms Plan (April 25, 2000)
• G.O.P. Senators Tell Clinton They Oppose Him on ABM Treaty and Defense System (April 22, 2000)

• Proposal on ABM: 'Ready to Work With Russia'

Issue in Depth
• Russia's New Direction

• Join a Discussion on Putin and the Direction of Russia

OME, June 5 -- Leaving President Clinton behind in Moscow, Vladimir V. Putin came to Rome today to sell Europe -- and the Vatican -- on a Russian alternative to the United States missile defense proposal.

The two-day trip was timed to follow his somewhat tense discussions with Mr. Clinton about altering the Antiballistic Missile Treaty. And it was choreographed to put Mr. Putin's heightened sense of Russian power on display.

He left for Rome one hour before his American guest flew to Ukraine, kept John Paul II waiting 20 minutes and used his meeting with Italian officials as an opportunity to use Europe as a wedge in Russia's arms control negotiations with the United States.

The trip, which was to include meetings with business and energy industry leaders in Milan on Tuesday, is also an effort to attract European investment in Russia's economy. Italy is Russia's leading trade partner in Europe after Germany. Mr. Putin, a somber former K.G.B. officer rarely given to public displays of exuberance, tried to disarm his Mediterranean hosts by saying he came to Rome early in his term "because we love Italy." Soon after his election in April, he also paid a visit to Prime Minister Tony Blair in London.

Mr. Putin's public remarks here, made after a two-hour meeting with the Italian prime minister, Giuliano Amato, were aimed at swaying international opinion on arms control, and in particular at exploiting European fears that the United States is embarked on a risky course to refashion the ABM treaty to create a missile defense system aimed at protecting itself.

"Russia proposed working with Europe and NATO to create an anti-rocket defense system for Europe," Mr. Putin told reporters after meeting with Mr. Amato. "On one hand, it would avoid all the problems linked to the balance of force. On the other, it would permit in an absolute manner a 100 percent guarantee of the security of every European country."

The Russian proposal, which Mr. Putin made public in a NBC News interview last week on the eve of Mr. Clinton's arrival in Moscow, seems to offer the United States and Europe a joint missile defense program using short- and medium-range missiles to destroy rockets on their way up, instead of intercepting warheads on their way down.

Mr. Putin's proposal resembles what advocates in the United States call a "boost phase defense." This could in theory ward off attacks from so-called "rogue" states, but would be of little use against the Russian nuclear force.

That would make it more acceptable to the Russian military, which fears that a solely American missile force could be used to gain a strategic advantage.

But the United States military believes that the Russian approach cannot work, and wants to amend the ABM treaty to build a battle-management radar in Alaska and put 100 interceptors there to protect the 50 states.

In Italy, Mr. Putin emphasized the advantages of his plan to Europe's defense, seeking to exploit European fears that American efforts to rewrite the ABM treaty could destabilize relations with Russia and leave Europe unprotected.

"We know that many here in Europe and in the world and the United States are worried about whether the 1972 accord would be kept," Mr. Putin said, referring to the treaty. "We share the point of departure of this discussion," he said.

European leaders have warned of the dangers of any unilateral change in the treaty. Italy, current chairman of the Council of Europe, has often argued that Russia cannot be left out of any effort to limit the missile threat.

"There was nothing fundamentally new in what Putin proposed, but it seemed newly tailored to meet European needs," one Italian diplomat said. "Europeans are preoccupied with any decoupling of their own security, on one hand, and any unilateral change in international agreements that could lead to a weakening of security." He added: "But fear of unilateral actions works both ways -- vis-à-vis Russia as well as the United States."

Mr. Putin went to the Vatican for his first encounter with John Paul II.

Arriving 20 minutes late, Mr. Putin was greeted warmly by the Polish pope, who told his visitor in Italian, "I am very happy to receive you at the Vatican at the beginning of your presidential mandate."

According to the Vatican spokesman, Joaquín Navarro-Valls, Mr. Putin spent most of the 30-minute meeting describing his vision of how Russia should be integrated into Western Europe and his views of how the Vatican could help the process. Calling Mr. Putin's proposal a "very ambitious approach," Dr. Navarro-Valls said that the Pope "mainly listened, then gave some remarks."

The pope, who turned 80 in May, has long yearned to visit Russia.

But the Russian Patriarch, Aleksy II, has never agreed to a meeting with the pope, citing grievances like Roman Catholic proselytizing and its support of Eastern rite Catholic Churches in Ukraine.

Mr. Putin did not directly renew a longstanding invitation, which Vatican officials noted is still active.

But the fact that John Paul II listened attentively to Mr. Putin and refrained, at least publicly, from raising issues like Chechnya that could have embarrassed the president, suggested that the Vatican has some optimism for the future.