DATE=9/2/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA/US MISSILE REACTION (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-266076 BYLINE=EVE CONANT DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russian political and military leaders are describing President Bill Clinton's decision to put plans for a missile defense shield on hold as a "constructive" decision that will help reinforce world stability. Moscow correspondent Eve Conant reports Russia has consistently opposed the missile shield plan, arguing that it could trigger a new arms race. TEXT: Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed President Clinton's announcement that a decision to develop a U-S national missile defense system would be put on hold. A statement released by the Kremlin quotes President Putin as saying "Mr. Clinton's decision.was a well-thought out and responsible step." Russia has consistently opposed U-S plans for building the missile defense system. Moscow's military and political leadership has argued that developing such a defense would violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic-Missile treaty, which many Russians see as the cornerstone of all arms agreements. The crux of the A-B-M treaty is a pledge by both the United States and Russia to leave themselves vulnerable to a nuclear attack. The assumption is that the assurance of mutual destruction would serve as a deterrent to a launching a nuclear strike. Russia argues that the proposed missile defense shield would alter this so-called "balance of terror", leading to a new, more dangerous arms race. President Putin has threatened to pull Russia out of all arms accords if the United States moves ahead with deployment. During their first summit in June, Presidents Clinton and Putin clashed over the missile defense system proposal. Russia suggested that a better idea might be to build a non-strategic system designed to counter the threat of what are sometimes called "rogue states". But Clinton administration officials largely ignored the Russian proposal. The Kremlin statement quoted Mr. Putin as saying President Clinton's decision not to deploy the missile shield would "no doubt lead to strengthening stability and security in the whole world." The statement added, "This will also strengthen the authority of the United States in the eyes of the international community." Russia's military leadership also welcomed the decision as a "constructive" choice. Other political leaders described Mr. Clinton's announcement as "reasonable." However, the Kremlin announcement noted that Mr. Putin does not believe Mr. Clinton's choice signals that Moscow's and Washington's approach to the ABM problem was now, in the Russian leader's words, "fully identical." (Signed) NEB/EC/PFH 02-Sep-2000 05:54 AM EDT (02-Sep-2000 0954 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .