Vladimir Putin kicked off a meeting with Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates today in Moscow by threatening to withdraw from a treaty governing intermediate-range nuclear missiles unless it was expanded to include other countries. The pugnacious Russian president also warned his American visitors not to push ahead with the missile shield the administration is planning to install in Eastern Europe.
"In the short-term this is a bargaining chip on the broader agenda of arms control," says a Moscow analyst. "In the medium term Russia would like to have more adequate tools in its tool box for the deterrence of its neighbors." When asked if he expected a breakthrough in the talks, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov joked, "Breaks definitely. Through or down I do not know."