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Secretary Rumsfeld Joint Press Conference with Russian Defense Minister Ivanov

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
March 13, 2002 11:40 AM EDT

(Joint Press Conference with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. Note: The minister's remarks are provided through an interpreter.)

Rumsfeld: It is a pleasure for me to welcome Minister Sergei Ivanov to the Pentagon on this, his first official visit as minister of Defense of the Russian Federation. We've had good discussions over the past days. As busy as we've been, I think it's worth stopping for a moment to recognize how much President Bush and President Putin have accomplished during such a brief period of their presidencies in putting decades of mistrust behind us and helping to forge a new relationship between our two countries, based on friendship, cooperation, and the pursuit of common interests.

The U.S. and Russia do indeed have many common interests. We have a common interest in improved economic ties, a common interest in fighting terrorism and dealing with the new threats we both face in this dangerous new century. We have a common interest in working together to reduce offensive nuclear weapons, weapons that really are a legacy of past hostilities and which are really no longer needed when Russia and the U.S. are basing our relationships on friendship, not on fear of mutual annihilation.

Minister Ivanov and I have discussed our progress in the war on terrorism, and I thanked him for Russia's strong support and for the effort to root out terrorist networks that threaten our people and our way of life.

That cooperation is certainly a symbol of what is possible between our two countries.

Let me also say a few words about the Nuclear Posture Review: There's been some press discussion about leaks from the classified Nuclear Posture Review. Needless to say, whoever leaked it violated federal criminal law. First, the Nuclear Posture Review is not an operational planning document. It sets out prudent requirements for deterrence in the 21st century. Without getting into the classified details of the report, I can say that the Review says nothing about targeting any country with nuclear weapons. The United States targets no country on a day-to-day basis.

With respect to Russia, I can say this: that the Russian Federation was briefed on the Nuclear Posture Review back in January. Minister Ivanov has been briefed personally, earlier this week. President Bush and President Putin have said many times that Russia and the United States are no longer adversaries. It is true.

Both Minister Ivanov and I have reaffirmed this during our meetings during the past few days.

Russia is, of course, recognized as having formidable nuclear capabilities, and Russia faces some strategic issues around its periphery. Our Review prudently takes this into account.

The Review also notes that there is no longer any ideological source of conflict with Russia. The United States seeks a cooperative relationship with Russia that moves away from a mutual assured destruction of the past. And, because of this new relationship, the United States can prudently reduce the size of its operationally deployed strategic nuclear forces by some two thirds.

If I may quote from an unclassified paragraph of that report: "To address Russia today as if it were the Soviet Union would preclude the more cooperative relationship that is sought by the United States."

President Bush and President Putin and their administrations are building a more cooperative relationship, and I believe have very likely had more interaction across a broad range of political, economic and security issues in the last 12 months than perhaps -- than at any other 12-month period in the history of our countries.

(Interpreter translates Rumsfeld's remarks into Russian.)

Rumsfeld: Our cooperation in the global war on terrorism suggests that if we have the wisdom and the courage to work together for the common interests of our people, that there's a great deal that can be accomplished.

Thank you.

(Interpreter translates Rumsfeld's remarks into Russian.)

Ivanov: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. The stay of the Russian delegation in the U.S. in Washington and meetings and talks which we have had here, including the meeting with the U.S. president, have demonstrated once again how important those cooperation and relationships between the two countries are for the fates and destinies of the whole world.

I would like to thank my counterpart, Mr. Secretary, once again for the invitation to visit Washington for very interesting and productive discussions, which showed that we not only can but we should define ways to enhance the effectiveness or the efficiency of our relationships with the U.S. in terms of strategic stability, in terms of fighting terrorism and in terms of military -- the cooperation in the area of military relations and military and technical cooperation. How important all of those issues are for the security of the whole globe.

The presidents of the two countries have assigned us a very clear-cut task, and that is to forge new strategic relationships between Russia and the U.S. and to strengthen our partnership in the face of new threats and challenges which are emerging in the world. And it requires the development of a new framework of strategic relationship in order -- between Russia and the U.S. -- in order to strengthen the strategic stability between the two countries and in the whole world.

We fully realize that the current levels of the nuclear potentials of both Russia and the U.S. are not in line with today's realities and should be cut radically.

We also believe that there should be a legally binding document which would be comprehensive and understandable for the whole world and which would also reflect the transparency which we need to achieve between the two countries.

And based on those objectives and tasks which we were assigned, I would like to see the best progress we can make in forging that document so that it could be completed and signed in May at the forthcoming summit meeting.

By this time, I think that some specific results have been achieved. The U.S. and Russian experts exchanged the drafts of what they realize to be a future agreement, and the issue of transparency was also clarified. In the course of the meetings and talks which we had, we have discussed the issues concerning combating terrorism, and nonproliferation and situations in some crisis areas of the world.

And our intention is not to stop, and move further progress to make our positions closer regarding all the issues which I've just mentioned, given all the interests of the two countries are properly accounted for. And in those areas where it is necessary, the interests of some third parties should also be accounted for.

Well, our visit is not yet finished. Tomorrow I'm going to meet Secretary of State Colin Powell and some officials of the security services.

Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Why don't we try and take a question from the U.S. side and then possibly from a representative from the Russian media.

Charlie, do you want to start?

Q: Mr. Minister, Charlie Aldinger with Reuters.

Russia has raised strong objections to the United States' plans to shelve some of the nuclear weapons which are planned under arms cuts -- some nuclear. If the United States presses ahead with that move, would Russia follow suit and also shelve or store nuclear weapons, rather than destroying them? And Mr. Secretary, is shelving --

Rumsfeld: It would be wonderful if people could ask one question of one person, and then we could get around the room and maybe have a few more. Might not be possible, but it'd be wonderful. (Laughter.)

Q: Will Russia shelve arms if the United States does, rather than destroying them?

Ivanov: Well, as I mentioned, we base our positions, our attitudes on the principle of equal security. So all options are being discussed, and we will always try to inform the opposite party -- our counterparts on the plans. And that's the essence of the talks which are underway now.

Rumsfeld: Yes.

Q: In your negotiations, Minister Ivanov, has the U.S. side shown a willingness to meet Russian demands to destroy the warheads, rather than to store them?

Ivanov: Well, I would address that question in the following way: No matter whether we like it or not, whether we want it or not, we'll need to dispose of some of [our] nuclear warheads, no matter if we want it or not.

Well, it is true that for some period of time, those warheads could be stored or shelved, but anyway, the time will inevitably come when those will have to be destroyed. And as a matter of principle, the same is true about delivery systems.

Rumsfeld: Yes.

Q: Mr. Minister, do you have credible evidence of a direct tie between Chechen rebels and Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network? And in the same question, could I get your thoughts on U.S. efforts to help Georgia troops go after troops in the Pankisi Gorge? I know your English is excellent; is there any chance you can answer it in English?

Ivanov: I would rather respond to your question in Russian, since I think those Russian correspondents -- journalists -- are most interested in having the answer.

Q: (In Russian.)

Ivanov: Well, responding to the first part of your question, which has to do with links between Chechen militants, terrorists -- who, by the way, at some point were trained in Afghanistan, and some of them stay there even now -- and those militants or terrorists who are still fighting some war in Chechnya -- so those links are out of question. They are unquestionable. They are very obvious. And we passed information of that kind to some U.S. security services many times, and we even provided some lists with specific names. So we don't have any problems in cooperating with the U.S. services on that issue, and it is also quite obvious that they have the understanding of that problem.

Well, I'm not going -- I would stop short of giving specific names or specific lists of names, and there are hundreds of names on those lists. But I would like to say that some of so-called political officials of the former Maskhadov government frequently visited Kabul. They were frequently seen in Kabul when the Talibans ruled the country.

Now I would like to speak of a possible operation in the Pankisi gorge. Well, first of all, I would like to say that our U.S. counterparts have provided us very detailed information on the phases -- planned phases of training Georgian servicemen and the scope of that training.

And the issue of not only Chechen but some international terrorists who are located now in the Pankisi gorge is very sensitive for Russia. Well, the matter is that many terrorists who have committed terrible crimes in the past and who operated in Chechnya are staying in Georgia now, and of course they are full of new plans for terrorist operations. Well, and all that is taking place just 10 to 20 kilometers from the Russian state border, so we cannot just sit and watch those activities indifferently. Well, and it's also required here in this case -- and we have reached a mutual understanding with our U.S. counterparts on that issue -- that most close cooperation is really required.

Rumsfeld: I could have saved a lot of time by pointing out that the question implied we were going into the Pankisi gorge, and the fact is that we have no plans to send U.S. forces into the Pankisi gorge. We're sending a relatively modest number of trainers over to assist them in training.

Q: Mr. Secretary?

Rumsfeld: We have to translate.

Q: Oh.

(The interpreter translates.)

Rumsfeld: We're going to make this the last question. Yes, sir?

Q: (Through interpreter.) Well, my question goes to both Mr. Secretary and Mr. Minister. Well, if such leaks appear in the U.S. press, what the Pentagon is going to do about that to prevent such situations in Russia? And how would Russia respond to such things?

Rumsfeld: To prevent what situations in Russia?

(Cross talk.)

Ivanov: (In English.) Here, not in Russia --

Q: To prevent this -- in this -- you here, in this country --

Q: Leaks.

Rumsfeld: You're asking ME how to prevent leaks? (Laughter.) You've got to be kidding. (Laughter.)

I mean, are you - seriously -- you're trying to destroy one of the great Washington institutions? (Laughter.) It is a disease in this town. It seems that there are some people who simply have a compulsion to seem important, so they take classified information which can damage U.S. national security and give it to people who aren't cleared for it. And responsible people in any country have a minimum of high regard for people who do that. I think by definition when a document is classified, it's classified because its availability to people who are not cleared for classified information would, in fact, damage national security. That is why the classification is put on it.

Q: (Off mike.)

Rumsfeld: Wait, wait. It's all over. It's all over. That was the last question.

Interpreter: [unintelligible comment in Russian]

(Cross talk.)

Q: Would you agree to a legally binding document that he calls for?

Rumsfeld: There is the -- what's the question that comes after the last one called?

Q: A follow-up.

(Off mike chatter.)

Rumsfeld: Two comments! Two comments.

Number one, the two presidents have agreed that they would like to have something that would go beyond their two presidencies. So some sort of a document of that type is certainly a likelihood.

Second --

Q: Can you respond --

Rumsfeld: Second -- Second! I enjoyed the basketball game, and the minister is a star basketball player, and I hope he did, too.

Ivanov: (In English.) My impression was that still Washington Wizards is the team of Michael Jordan. If he is out -- (stops, laughter). I have to be objective.

Q: Were you sorry you didn't get to -- (inaudible)? (Laughter.)

Ivanov: (In English.) (Laughs.) I didn't see him.

Last thing.

(Through interpreter.) Well, and, you know, the last point which was made about those leakages, leaks, they do happen in all the countries. Well besides, at the very start, Secretary Rumsfeld briefed you on the true situation, and I don't have anything to add here. But speaking humorously, upon -- directly speaking, I wouldn't expect that such leaks happen or occur not only in Russia.

Rumsfeld: Okay.

Ivanov: Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Thank you.

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