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Secretary Rumsfeld Press Conference with Russian Minister of Defense

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
November 03, 2001

Saturday, Nov. 3, 2001

(Press conference with Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov following meeting with Russian President Putin at the Kremlin.)

Moderator: Questions, please. Novosti.

Q: A question for the U.S. defense secretary: could you say if the United States intends to withdraw from the ABM Treaty? When? And do you believe that it is the right time to take such serious steps?

Rumsfeld: That's an issue that the president of the United States has spoken on a number of times, and he has discussed that with Mr. President Putin, and -- as have Secretary Powell and the minister of foreign affairs. And the two ministers of defense have discussed that. And I suppose that at the moment when presidents like to announce things they like to announce things, and I'll leave it to the president of the United States as to when and if he makes a decision such as that. The president has said the United States wants to move beyond the ABM Treaty and establish a new framework for the 21st Century, and we've had a number of good discussions about how we need to go about doing that.

Moderator: Colleagues, are there any other questions? ORT, please.

Q: A question for the U.S. defense secretary: what is your assessment of Russia's role in the anti-terrorist operation underway now in Afghanistan? And what would you like that role to be in the near future?

Rumsfeld: Well, first let me say that President Bush and the people of the United States were deeply grateful that President Putin was the first world leader to call President Bush after the attacks on the United States in September and that the United States and the president of the United States are grateful for the fine cooperation and close working relationship that we have as two countries with respect to the effort against terrorism. There's no question but that the relationship between terrorist networks in this world and the availability of weapons of mass destruction create a circumstance that offers a -- that argues for a great deal of urgency in dealing with the problem of terrorists, and this is something that both of our nations recognize and share.

Q: Mr. Foreign Minister, could you tell us if the American offer to reduce its nuclear arsenal has the Russian side rethinking its belief that a missile defense will only to an arms buildup?

Ivanov: You've called me foreign minister, but I'm defense minister. As for the substance of the question, the ABM Treaty is an important component, but not the only component of strategic stability. We often hear that the ABM Treaty is hopelessly outdated, that it is a relic of the Cold War. Partially -- I stress, partially -- I agree. But it's only the ABM Treaty. All the fundamental Russian -- or Soviet-U.S. accords are relics of the Cold War, to some extent. The START 1 treaty is a typical relic, if we follow this logic. The treaty on the abolition of medium-range missiles, concluded at a time of the dramatic aggravation of the Cold War between the Warsaw Treaty Organization and NATO -- it's an absolute relic. If I could offer my personal opinion, today's NATO also is, in many ways, a relic of the Cold War.

Russia and the U.S. have a common understanding -- it has been reaffirmed today -- namely, that we should together look into the future. But before scrapping one agreement or another -- although it is the sovereign right of the U.S. to withdraw from this or that treaty -- we believe that this should be better done only after something has been created in the ways of replacement. The issue of offensive strategic weapons undoubtedly is an important issue, and we've talked about that today. And I think we will continue talk about it in the future, too, and follow the road of cutting the strategic offensive weapons with absolutely open and transparent verification. Since we are no longer adversaries, since we are partners, we should trust each other. I'm saying this because the verification mechanisms we have today were founded in the Cold War period.

But with all that, the present international situation and prospects for its development, from the point of view of security, increasingly warrant and stress the need for cooperation in fighting terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. In this sense today's meetings between Mr. Rumsfeld and myself, and between Mr. Rumsfeld and the president -- it was recognized that we have good prospects, and that we can quite speedily move ahead in the development of this type of cooperation, which is immediately related to security. I have the impression that neither the Russian nor the U.S. side intends to focus on the still existing -- I would say, differences of evaluation rather than contradictions -- but would like to work in those spheres where the levels of mutual understanding and accord are quite close.

Q: Mr. Defense Minister, does Russia plan to increase support for the war in Afghanistan? And, if so, can you get into specifics?

Ivanov: As regards the degree of Russia's participation in the anti-terrorist operation that is now being carried out primarily by the allies, by the United States and its NATO partners, on the territory of Afghanistan, we were among the first to make our position known publicly. Today -- or generally -- we see no reason at all to revise this position. I'm asked by the media virtually every day if Russian troops will participate in the Afghanistan operation or not. I say no, day after day, and I want to say that no one of our partners asks us to take such a step. It is absolutely senseless.

As for improving the qualitative relations in those respects that we identified, among the first to do so, there are certain reserves, and today concrete forms of collaboration came under discussion. Since this concerns in many ways the work of the secret services, you understand that I cannot comment that, and never will.

Thank you.

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