CRAWFORD, Texas, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- With chances fading for a missile agreement at this summit, President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin settled down to a dinner of mesquite barbecued beef and fried catfish as a wild prairie rain storm lashed the ranch.
Despite the administration's high hopes that it could announce a deal on the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty that would let the United States resume testing, after two days of talks in Washington and Crawford, senior administration officials cautioned against expecting announcement shortly.
Instead the Crawford summit has turned to a time for the two leaders to further cement a relationship that has flowered since the terrorist attack on the United States three weeks ago.
Putin, accompanied by his wife, arrived at the ranch around 3 p.m.Wednesday after giving an address at Rice University in Houston. They started their visit in the rain. The president, who was waiting for the Putins in a pickup truck, told reporters that he "wanted to show him some of my favorite spots on the ranch."
The guests at the informal family dinner included Russian and American dignitaries in the traveling party and nine Texas friends of the Bush's including Van Cliburn, whose famous performance in Moscow had charmed then Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev.
The dinner was followed Wednesday evening by what has been called a "Western hoedown" with a Texas swing band -- the Ranch Hands Country & Western Band. This is Texas swing country, where Bob Wills and his Texas Troubadors are still on every jukebox, and you can get chicken-fried steak for lunch.
The Washington segment of the Bush-Putin three-day summit produced commitments from the two leaders to begin negotiating the largest cuts in strategic nuclear weapons since the end of the Cold War.
At a joint news conference at the White House Tuesday, Bush said he would draw down U.S. nuclear weapons by two-thirds over the next decade to 1,700 to 2,200 weapons; Putin said he would try to make reductions in kind. Later Tuesday, Putin said he would like to negotiate a formal arms control agreement with the United States. Bush reduced the U.S. arsenal by unilateral action.
The Crawford Summit -- as this meeting has come to be known for the small farming town -- is more important to Bush than just a locale for further talks.
"It's important for him to see the fairest state of all 50," Bush said Tuesday when Air Force One arrived at the Texas State Technical College airport near here. "The best diplomacy starts with getting to know each other, and I want him to get to know my values."
The day here in Crawford -- population 631 -- included talks between the two leaders.
The Crawford ranch, which Bush bought in 1999, is in what is now farm rather than ranching country, and horses are seldom seen. Putin expressed a desire several weeks ago to ride a horse, but Bush said Tuesday there are none at the ranch.
Bush and Putin will meet Thursday, and the leader of the Russian Federation flies to New York on Thursday to view Ground Zero, the ruins and worksite that has become a moving memorial to more than 4,000 people killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Bush will remain in Texas until Sunday, monitoring the war in Afghanistan and conducting conferences by satellite communications with national security advisers.
In other news, as the Northern Alliance increased its domination of northern Afghanistan Wednesday, the president signed a controversial order to allow Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to set up extraordinary military courts that could try foreigners accused of terrorist acts such as the Sept. 11 attack on the trade center and the Pentagon.
White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said Wednesday those courts could try foreign nationals who are arrested in the United States or overseas, and that one consideration in the president adopting this option was to protect national security information from being made public at a traditional American trial.
Fleischer agreed that part of the reason the president chose the option was to avoid complicated extradition procedures for suspects arrested abroad.