Russian President Vladimir Putin stated on November 13 that the U.S. and Russia could slash their arsenals to 1,500 weapons by 2008. He also suggested that there is room for "wide-ranging cooperation in anti-missile defenses for theatres of military operation."

Putin's remarks come the same week that Gen. Vladimir Yakovlev, head of Russia's rocket forces, said he believed the United States had already invested too much in national missile defense (NMD) and that it was "unlikely that the turning gears of the American defense industry will come to a stop."

The State Department greeted the remarks with caution. Spokesman Philip Reeker said, "Certainly we share Russia's interest in lower levels of strategic nuclear arms and we want to proceed in a manner that allows us to address new threats, something we've discussed for some time."

These "new threats" are at the heart of the debate on ABM and NMD. Many argue that the ABM Treaty is now irrelevant in a world in which the primary security threat comes not from the Soviet Union but rather from rogue states.

In his remarks, Putin acknowledged that "the situation has indeed changed, but not so much as to wreck the existing system for strategic stability by emasculating ABM."

He suggested instead that action could be taken "against proliferation of missiles and missile technology, especially through political and diplomatic means, without stepping beyond the bounds of the ABM Treaty."

He also put forward the idea that the Moscow Center for Data Exchange on Missile Launches, which is now being established by Russia and the U.S. could be used as a basis for cooperation on missile defense technology.

Putin is hoping that the U.S. will choose to forgo development of NMD in exchange for radical arms cuts and cooperation on limited missile defense technology. Putin's offer means that the U.S. will have to reevaluate the returns it would get from an investment in NMD. Experts in the U.S. disagree on the seriousness of the threat from rogue states. In light of this uncertainty, Putin hopes that the next American President will go for a sure thing with arms cuts and agree to cooperation on missile defense instead of opting for NMD.