WASHINGTON -- In a historic break with Russia, President Bush served formal notice Thursday that the United States is withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a move effective in six months.
"I have concluded the ABM treaty hinders our government's ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue-state missile attacks," Bush said.
"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," Bush said.
Bush emerged from a meeting with his National Security Council to make the announcement in the Rose Garden, with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice at his side.
"The Cold War is long gone," Bush said. "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 of greater prosperity and peace.
"We're moving to replace mutually assured destruction with mutual cooperation," Bush said.
Bush said he and his top advisers, before making the decision public, had gone over the same issues he had discussed with the Russian president -- "my friend President Vladimir Putin," Bush called him -- over several meetings this year.
"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," Bush said.
The brief legal document invokes Article 15 of the 29-year-old treaty to give Russia six months' notice of Bush's intentions. The official said Bush has, in effect, pulled out of the treaty with the notification, though the United States cannot conduct missile tests barred by the treaty for six months.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said the decision was regrettable because it undermined global strategic balances -- but he was not concerned about Russia's security.
Bush, who campaigned last year on building the kind of missile defense shield banned by the treaty, said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made his cause more urgent.
"Today, the events of Sept. 11 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 terrorist attacks who strike without warning or rogue states who seek weapons of mass destruction," Bush said.
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