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Special Briefing on the Russian Visit

Presenters: Douglas Feith, USD Policy
January 16, 2002 2:00 PM EDT

(Special briefing on the visit by First Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff General-Colonel Yuriy Nikolayevich Baluyevskiy. Also participating was J.D. Crouch, assistant secretary of Defense for International Security Policy.)

Feith: Good afternoon. I assume that many of you, if not most of you, were at the discussion that we just had outside with General Baluyevskiy, so I don't know if I need to start with any preliminaries. But I'll simply say that we just concluded our two days of meetings with the Russian delegation, and we have explored the range of issues that we've been discussing for the last six or seven months in creating a new U.S.-Russian relationship. The meetings focused on practical ideas for cooperation between the United States and Russia in a number of areas: counterproliferation, offensive nuclear force reduction, transparency and predictability measures, military technical cooperation, which would include things like cooperating in the field of missile defense, counter-terrorism work, which as you all know we've been engaged in with the Russian Federation since September 11th. And we agreed to set up a number of working groups to cover various areas of our common interest to see if we can identify new types of cooperation and agreements that we might want to develop and record and recommend up for possible consideration by, in the first instance, the ministers -- Secretary Rumsfeld and Minister Ivanov -- and then up to the presidents for their meeting in May.

With that, I'll be happy to take your questions.

Q: Your reference to transparency and all that there sounds like provisions of START I. So is it possible and have you discussed and is it likely that you might just take those provisions and duplicate them in some form to cover new arrangements?

And secondly, when you talk about nonproliferation, of course, the Iran bell goes off in my head. Did you get on their case again, which would have been about the 12th time over the last several years about their technology transfers to Iran?

Feith: The ideas about predictability and transparency are going to draw on established arrangements like START I, as you suggested. But we're not confining ourselves to START I.

And we have -- there's a willingness to look at everything afresh, and there are ideas, I think, that we're going to be developing, that don't exist in any previous arrangements, any previous arms control agreements. We are not thinking of what we're doing as an exercise in arms control. We're -- we think of the Cold War-style arms control as related, as institutionalizing the kind of hostile relationship that the United States and the Soviet Union had in the Cold War. And we're not looking to get echoes of that, and we're not looking to recreate arms control-style negotiations or agreements.

We do think that there are useful things that we can do so that the possibilities of misunderstanding about each other's force structures are reduced, and that's what we are driving at when we talk about transparency and predictability.

Q: Does that mean, then, that the agreements you're talking about -- (inaudible) -- closer to being joint communiqués rather than legally binding documents? And would one of those agreements deal with actual numbers of operationally deployed offensive weapons, the size of the responsive force, very specific things like that?

Feith: We had discussions about what kind of form an agreement might take, and there's a long list of forms that agreements that the United States has entered into with other countries has taken, from the most formal, like treaties, down through executive agreements and memoranda of understanding and joint communiqués and joint statements and the like.

Our view is, we are interested in exploring what it is we can agree on that would be useful, that would contribute to the interests of both countries.

Once we decide what it is that we've agreed on, we will pick the appropriate forum for it. We're completely open-minded on the subject, and we're not ruling anything in, we're not ruling anything out. We're taking a very pragmatic approach.

Q: I'm sorry, I asked a two-part. Did you talk to the Russians about transfers to Iran?

Feith: I don't want to get into details and the substance of our discussions. I just want to -- I'd rather keep it a little more general.

Q: But can you just say that you've discussed Iran? I mean, you said you discussed missile defense, so why can't you say if the topic of Iran came up?

Feith: We discussed in general terms the danger that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorist organizations or state sponsors of terrorism would pose.

Q: Can we say that you and Mr. Baluyevskiy agreed to disagree on this issue of American plans not to destroy but to stockpile some portion of American strategic nuclear warheads?

Feith: No, I wouldn't say that. We didn't get to the point of even agreeing to disagree. What we did was we laid out a concept of how we could work and set up a structure for exploring areas of cooperation and agreement in a number of fields.

Q: Would one of these working groups be working on this issue?

Feith: The issue of offensive nuclear force reductions?

Q: Sure.

Feith: What I was referring to before on promoting transparency and predictability would relate to the offensive nuclear force reductions.

Q: Does this mean that a bilateral nuclear arms reduction agreement is on the table? Is this something you're considering or would consider?

Feith: As I said, we would consider an agreement that would deal with the subject of the offensive force reductions from the point of view of making sure that we understand each other's force structure and our plans for our force structure. And if we can come up with measures that will promote that understanding, reduce the dangers of misunderstanding or miscalculation about that, we'd be willing to consider an agreement on that.

Q: The areas in which we don't agree, these issues seem to be very important for the Russians. How will you keep those from getting in the way of the relationship?

Feith: We have been building a relationship with the Russians on a very practical basis. We have a number of areas where we are working together. Clearly, the event -- the attack on September 11th has accelerated the process of Americans and Russians working together to deal with threats that face both countries.

And what we have been cultivating with the Russians is a new way of looking at international strategic stability. We've been suggesting that the old concept -- the Cold War concept that strategic stability for us is fundamentally a matter of protecting ourselves against Russia or against the Soviet Union, and that that's -- and their view is protecting themselves against us -- that that is no longer the way to think about strategic stability in the world today, because the United States and Russia are not enemies. We are not hostile. And the threats that we face are not primarily each other -- I mean, arguably, they're not each other at all. The threats that we face are threats from terrorist organizations or from third parties that -- some of them are actual, like the terrorist threat that we're dealing with right now, and some of them are potential and will depend on how the world develops.

What we are looking to do with the Russians is develop a view of security that allows us to work together to deal with threats that face both of us and not be thinking of each other as the enemy. And it's a process. The -- there is an enormous investment that people have made over decades in Cold War thinking. And there is, as you all know, a "priesthood" that has focused on arms control notions and strategic stability concepts during the Cold War. And it is very hard for people who have invested decades of intellectual energy and, for that matter, emotional energy, in these kinds of strategic concepts, to abandon them and think about these issues in a new way.

But the world has changed, and the old way of thinking about strategic stability is just not applicable anymore. And if there was much of a debate of -- about that six or seven months ago, there shouldn't be much now, since September 11th.

And yet we find in the United States and in Russia there's a certain amount of "old" thinking that needs to be either addressed or navigated around in order to create the kind of cooperative new relationship that I think many people on the Russian side and on the American side want to achieve.

Q: What's the status of START II now? And also, could you give some examples of the kinds of measures that you're thinking of that could lead to predictability and transparency?

Feith: Well, why don't I let Dr. Crouch address those?

Crouch: Well, as you know, START II is not in force. And I think that that -- that's a position that's recognized on both the American side and the Russian side. And our Nuclear Posture Review was conducted in the context of START II not being in force, and the nuclear levels to which we are going to be reducing go far below the levels that would have been required under START II. So in that context, I mean, I think we have sort of moved beyond START II, is probably the best way to -- setting it aside and have moved beyond it.

In terms of transparency and predictability, we start with the foundation of the START I verification regime, and we're going to try to build on that in a series of additional arrangements and agreements, things that could include more detailed exchanges of information, visits to particular sites, additional kinds of inspections, additional kinds of activities at sites that would be able to give more confidence, and particularly that are more applicable to the approach of verifying reductions of operationally deployed systems. We're now -- we are now, you know, looking at sort of a truth-in-advertising approach here, which is that the number of weapons we're trying to verify, if you will, are the exact numbers of weapons that will be on these systems.

Now we're not going to be able to do that within -- in extremely specific ways. But I think that we're going to be able to provide confidence to the Russians -- and they will be able to provide confidence to us -- that our forces are in this range of 1,700 to 2,200 operationally deployed systems. We envision regularized data exchanges. We envision cooperative -- what we call in the business "cooperative measures," things that we might be able to do that they could observe with their national technical means and things they could do that we could observe with our national technical means -- so essentially expanding the range of these activities in a way where both sides can have greater confidence as we move forward.

But you know, the key distinction here, from our standpoint, is that we don't see this as verifying limits of an arms control treaty. What we're trying to do here is develop a more cooperative relationship, where we on a regular basis are exchanging information on these things in the way that we exchange information with other friends and allies.

Q: Would the predictability part of it include measures or agreements on a schedule for reducing nuclear weapons?

Feith: We -- yes, we would intend to have a general understanding -- we've begun the process by developing the Nuclear Posture Review, and we briefed the Russians on it. We would expect to have a general understanding of where we're going to be going with our force posture and making sure that the Russians understand it.

But the key point is -- and it's -- it can't be emphasized enough -- the premise of this exercise is different from the premise of arms control exercises in the Cold War. The premise of this exercise is not that we have to balance our forces or categories of our forces against corresponding categories of forces on the Russian side. That's not what we're doing. It's -- we do not believe that our security hinges on having these numbers balanced against those numbers of this type of system or their type of system. That's just not the concept. If we are not enemies and if we are not threatening each other and -- even better -- if we are cooperating, then we are moving toward a situation where we do not view their forces as a threat to us. There are other countries in the world that have substantial military forces, and nobody dreams of saying that the United States should be balancing our forces against those of Country A, Country B, or Country C.

And our hope is that we can create a normal relationship with Russia, the kind of relationship that we have with countries all around the world, where they have conventional and in some cases nuclear capabilities, but we have the kind of quality of relationship with them that we don't think that our security requires us to balance our forces against theirs. That's the goal. And that's why, when we talk about measures of predictability or cooperation or transparency with the Russians, we're doing it based on this new concept, not based on the old balance-of-nuclear-terror ideas from the Cold War.

Q: It seems, though, that you might be -- it seems you might be alone in that. From what we heard from the Russian general outside, they do want those nuclear weapons to be permanently eliminated, and they do seem to want the precepts of the NTR codified somehow in something that's legally binding. So what's keeping you from doing that, if this is what they want and you have such a cooperative relationship?

Feith: I'm glad you used the term "permanently eliminated," because there is a big misunderstanding about this point. There were arms control agreements during the Cold War that were praised enthusiastically for having reduced nuclear arms. SALT I, START I, the INF -- well, the INF treaty is, I guess, is another example where none of those agreements required the destruction of warheads. And there's been a lot of talk that what we're proposing in reducing operationally deployed weapons is somehow not as thorough-going a reduction as what was accomplished by arms control agreements in past decades. It's not so. And I think it is important that people be straight on this.

People are now focused on a new issue, and they're criticizing the reductions that we're talking about even though that same criticism could have been leveled against various people's favorite arms control agreements in the past. We are doing something significant in reducing operationally deployed warheads -- operationally deployed systems.

And this issue about permanent reduction is, I think, a red herring.

Q: But that's what he said he wanted. I mean, that's in -- "We are following the principle that all nuclear weapons should be destroyed" is a direct quote from what he said. So if you have this new cooperative relationship, why not give them what they want?

Feith: We have discussions with the Russians on a range of issues. There are some things that they're interested in, and principles that they want to promulgate, and there are other things that we're interested in and principles that we want to promulgate, and some of the things we disagree with and some of the things we agree with. And we're going to be trying to develop a clearer understanding of the things that we agree on and move forward from there.

Q: A different issue. Have the Russians -- or do the Russians give any indications of concern for the apparent U.S. digging in the Central Asia region for a long-term presence after the war in Afghanistan is done?

Feith: We didn't discuss that.

Q: On that subject, can you give us a sense of kind of the conceptual thinking going on right now at -- (word inaudible) -- in terms of what a U.S. future presence in Central Asia may take?

Feith: We are focused on completing our work in Afghanistan. And what we're dealing with in the Central Asian region more broadly is all in the service of completing our work in Afghanistan, which means destroying the remaining al Qaeda and Taliban pockets and contributing to the kind of situation in Afghanistan, when the military operations are over, that will give us a reasonable basis for hoping that Afghanistan is not going to become a base of operations for terrorists in the future. And there are operations that we're doing right now in the humanitarian field -- delivering food, helping repair roads and the like, contributing to support for the international security assistance force and the like, those operations require us to have a logistics base in the region. And so our work of the type that you referred to is designed to allow us to do those kinds of things so that we can complete our mission in Afghanistan.

Q: Well you're not preparing, then -- or are you just starting to look at whether, you know, five years from now we need some kind of infrastructure there or pre-positioned equipment or possibly manned bases?

Feith: As I said, we retain interest in the area and making sure that Afghanistan and the region in general is not a base for terrorism. And there are a lot of things that one needs to do, military and non-military, to contribute to that purpose. And we want to have the kind of presence in the region that allow us -- that allows us to do the range of things we need to. And some of the presence may be military, but some of the presence Maya be diplomatic, and some of it may be, you know, focusing more on economic development and the like.

Thank you.

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