Bush, Putin talk missiles at ranch

By NICHOLAS M. HORROCK, Senior White House Correspondent  |  Nov. 14, 2001 at 2:47 PM
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CRAWFORD, Texas, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- President George W. Bush welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin Wednesday to his sprawling 1,580-acre ranch to continue talks that might clear the way for the United States to further test a missile defense system.

The Washington segment of their three-day summitry produced commitments from the two leaders to begin negotiations of 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 drew down 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 -- includes talks between the two leaders, 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 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.

First lady Laura Bush has planned a dinner in a covered breezeway at the ranch, because thunderstorms have threatened all day. The two first families will feast on guacamole salad, mesquite smoked beef tenderloin, southern fried catfish and old-fashioned green beans. The dinner will end with pecan pie and bluebell vanilla ice cream.

The complete guest list had not been issued by midday, but among the invitees is Van Cliburn, the famed American pianist who gave a sensational concert in Moscow at the height of the Cold War. Others include Texas officials and people with Russian connections in the Texas community.

Bush and Putin will meet on Wednesday and 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.

As the Northern Alliance increased its domination of northern Afghanistan Tuesday, 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.

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