President Clinton is agonising over building a strategic defence system – the last meaningful decision of his presidency. The agony comes from the risk of derailing his engage-Russia policy in which a lot of political capital has been invested. A unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) would provoke confrontational counter-measures from Russia. But a compromise solution might be much closer than Clinton appears to assume.
President Putin has his own heavy nuclear agenda: he needs to cut Russia’s ageing strategic potential but also wants to play up its political importance. He is preparing for prolonged hard bargaining and does not want the US going its own way towards strategic superiority and invincibility. Putin is ready to make signiﬁcant concessions in strategic arms control and is able to sell them to his Parliament.