WASHINGTON -- In an effort to persuade Russia to agree to a joint deployment of anti-missile defenses, the Bush administration is sending a team of high-ranking officials to Moscow today.
The trip, arranged during the summit meeting last month between President Bush and President Boris N. Yeltsin, is being led by Dennis B. Ross, the head of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, and includes officials from the Pentagon, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the National Security Council staff. The two sides plan to meet tomorrow and Tuesday.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Yeltsin agreed to discuss a concept of a "global protection system against limited ballistic-missile attack." But there has been no agreement on what such a system would consist of, how it would work or what technology might be shared.
The Russian interest in a global anti-missile system has been based on the condition that it would be operated and controlled by both sides -- an idea the Pentagon opposes.
The military does not want to provide sensitive technology to the Russians or to share control over U.S. weapons in space, though it is willing to cooperate in such areas as the sharing of early-warning data from satellites.
Without agreement on the nature of the system and the extent of cooperation, Moscow has balked at U.S. insistence that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty be revised to allow development and deployment of new anti-missile defenses.
The revision of that agreement is a principal U.S. objective. Secretary of State James A. Baker III has said that Washington does not want to unilaterally abandon the accord because that ** would jeopardize U.S.-Soviet agreements to slash strategic weapons.
An official said last week that there is general agreement in the administration that the treaty should be amended so each side could build five to seven sites for ground-based anti-missile interceptors.
That would enable the United States to develop a nationwide defense against a limited missile attack. The ABM treaty, which prohibits nationwide defenses, allows each side to have only one ground-based anti-missile site.
The official also said that Washington would like to erase restrictions on space-based sensors, which can track incoming missiles and warheads, and to loosen the restrictions on testing ground- and space-based missile components.
Just how far the United States might go this week in pressing for changes in the treaty is unclear.
One official said the strategy is to try to lay the foundation for eventual amending of the treaty by persuading the Russians that anti-missile defenses are in their interest and by establishing a minimum level of cooperation in sharing early-warning data and strategic defenses.