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Background Briefing on Secretary Rumsfeld's Upcoming Trip to Moscow

Presenter: A Senior Defense Official
August 10, 2001 1:00 PM EDT

Friday, August 10, 2001 - 1:00 p.m. EDT

(Background briefing on Secretary Rumsfeld's upcoming trip to Moscow)

Adm. Quigley: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

This afternoon we're here in the briefing room to do a backgrounder on the secretary's upcoming trip to Russia, leaving this weekend. And this is a background briefing attributable to a Senior Defense Official. And this is the individual that will be briefing you this afternoon.

Q: Could I just ask briefly, Craig --

Adm. Quigley: Yes, sir.

Q: -- before we get going, as the spokesperson in the room, has there been any analysis at all of the bombing raid in Iraq this morning? Have you any idea whether or not the targets were hit?

Adm. Quigley: Not that I have heard, no, we have no assessment of the damage yet.

Q: Thanks.

Adm. Quigley: Okay?

With that, over to you, sir.

Sr. Defense Official: Good afternoon.

The secretary and our group will be departing on Saturday evening for Moscow and will be having a day of meetings with the Russian minister of defense, Sergei Ivanov, and his team on Monday. There's been a lot of back and forth between us and our Russian colleagues on trying to get the schedule organized.

And both Minister Ivanov and the secretary, having lots of things to do, were interested in organizing the calendar so that they could intensify the meetings, and they were able to succeed in getting it done so that we could have an intense day of meetings on Monday, and then we would be able to return on Monday night. So it'll be quite a full day.

The preparation -- some of the preparation for these Moscow talks were done this week in talks that we had here at the Pentagon. The Russians sent a delegation headed by General-Colonel Yuri Baluyevsky, who's the first deputy chief of the general staff.

The talks themselves were confidential, but I can make a few remarks about them. I think it's accurate to say that we conducted them in a spirit of consultation, cooperation, transparency. The idea is to build a new relationship between the United States and Russia, a relationship that will be entirely different from the relationship that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. And it's a relationship that will require us to be moving beyond some of the institutions of the Cold War, such as the ABM Treaty.

Now the topics for discussion in Moscow, we would anticipate, will be developed to continue to lay the groundwork for the meetings that are coming up between President Putin and President Bush. They will include the -- how comprehensive and broad the new framework for U.S.-Russian relations is -- in other words, that this new relationship covers economic, political, and military matters; it's not focused narrowly on the military, much less on missile defense. We are talking broadly about a new relationship.

The discussions in Moscow, we would expect, will also deal with offensive strategic force reductions, with missile defense and the ABM Treaty, and with areas of cooperation that can be developed between the United States and Russia.

We are approaching this dialogue with a number of themes in mind. One of them is that the best basis for strategic stability is a good relationship. And we don't focus on simply mechanical balance or numbers or weapons systems; we are looking to create the kind of normal and friendly relations that will provide a good, solid basis for security and stability. And in that context, the United States is going to be building a limited but effective missile defense, as various administration officials have pointed out, against handfuls, not hundreds or thousands of missiles. And it is in the interest of both the United States and Russia that we withdraw jointly from the ABM Treaty in the course of developing this new relationship.

And I'll be happy to take your questions.

Q: Could you tell us what areas you're talking about in military cooperation, aside from cutting nuclear weapons and withdrawing jointly from the treaty?

Sr. Defense Official: There are a number of areas, I think, that we can continue to explore as areas of possible cooperation in the missile defense field and outside. There will be continuing discussion of projects that have existed for some time in the area of early warning, and there's a Russian-American observation satellite. Those projects have existed for a while, and we'll be exploring the possibility of new projects also.

Q: Also, is there a chance he will meet with Putin while he's there? Are you exploring that, or --

Sr. Defense Official: I don't know.

Q: What specifically do you hope to accomplish with regard to progress on the question of the ABM Treaty?

And are you interested in getting the Russians to agree that the test program, which you've (apparently ?) briefed them on, is not in any way a violation of the treaty?

Sr. Defense Official: The points that have been made about the treaty are that we cannot go forward with the missile defense program that we've laid out, this research and development and testing and evaluation program, within the constraints of the ABM Treaty. And the effort is not to trim the program or try to stretch the treaty terms to make them fit. It's quite clear that the program is going to require us to move beyond the treaty. And we hope to do it cooperatively with Russia, and we think that it's actually in the best interests of both sides that we do it cooperatively.

Q: But more specifically, what are you trying to accomplish in this meeting on Monday on that topic?

Sr. Defense Official: There will be discussions. I wouldn't -- I wouldn't view this as a meeting that sets a specific objective that you expect to emerge from the meeting. It's part of a dialogue. We're having a series of talks. As you know, there are two major channels that were created by the presidents for the dialogue, one of them the State Department/Foreign Ministry channel, the other the Ministry of Defense/Department of Defense channel. We had the talks here at the Pentagon this week. We have the talks in Moscow between the ministers next week. I think the following week will be talks that the State Department will conduct, and I believe the week after that there will be additional State Department talks. So there's going to be a lot of talking in coming months. And so we don't -- we're not specifying exactly what we expect to happen in each one of these -- at each one of these steps.

Q: Andrei Sitov from TASS, from Russia. A few things. A British newspaper this morning reports that they're quoting an American official that the guidance for withdrawing from the ABM Treaty will be out by the end of this year. I was wondering if you could say anything about that.

Sr. Defense Official: I don't know the report that you're referring to.

Q: Okay. Secondly, does the fact that you have compressed the program in Moscow signify that there is less expectation of a successful outcome?

Sr. Defense Official: No, I think it was just a scheduling matter, and everybody was happy that we were able to move things around so that we could do the discussions that are required in an efficient fashion.

Q: And last by not least, you want to do something. I don't want you to do it. "You say this is the deal. You take it or leave it. I will not change my position in any way, whether you like it or not." How is that different from an ultimatum rather than a consultation?

Sr. Defense Official: Well, I wouldn't characterize the dialogue that we're having in the way that you just described it.

Q: No, but --

Sr. Defense Official: There's no -- nobody's issuing ultimata to anybody.

Q: How is it different from an ultimatum? Is this an accurate presentation of the American position, the way I described it?

Sr. Defense Official: No.

Q: No? Well, how -- what is the -- where am I wrong?

Sr. Defense Official: We have -- I -- in my view, it's not even close to what we're talking about. (Laughs.)

Q: I have a two-part question. First, on offensive weapons, which is linked in some way to negotiations on missile defense. The nuclear posture review is not done yet. Won't be done for some time. How can you really be discussing how that fits into this new framework until the American side finishes the review?

Sr. Defense Official: We have lots of reviews underway on different aspects of our military policies and programs, and we have to have -- we will be presenting as much information as we have at a given time. And we'll be developing our thinking on our offensive forces, on our defensive program. And part of what we're doing in this dialogue is we're trying to create as much openness as possible in our conversations with Russia, and as we develop our thinking, we'll be bringing it to them and presenting it to them, and there'll be continuing development of the thinking on offensive forces, defensive forces and, you know, all these agenda items that I mentioned, cooperative programs and the like. It's -- we're not -- we're not rushing to get any particular thing done, you know, by a specific date. As the thinking unfolds, it'll become part of the dialogue.

Q: Well, part two of that question, if I could: Senior Defense officials have testified quite eloquently on Capitol Hill why the ABM Treaty is no longer in American national interest. The secretary of Defense and his deputy, Mr. Wolfowitz, have said it's a relic. The president has, in as many words, said the ABM Treaty is dead in his eyes. You're reaching out your hand to Russia for cooperation, but the administration has said at some point, within the legal rules of the treaty, this nation will withdraw.

So what is on the table to Russia? Why are you going? What can you negotiate?

Sr. Defense Official: There are various ways to think about strategic stability, and there are some ways that were the predominate modes of thought of the Cold War, but there are other ways and better ways, and more hopeful ways, in our view, than those Cold-War constructs. And that is an important part of what we're doing in this dialogue with Russia, is we're exploring better ways to think about strategic stability, ways that are more appropriate for this era, ways that address what we consider to be the most serious threats to our interests and to Russian interests. And as we've explained, we don't consider Russia our enemy, and we're developing our policies with that in mind. And so I think there are lots of things that one can talk about fruitfully in this area, even though it requires us -- or particularly because it requires us to move beyond Cold War thinking.

Q: President Putin has called for reductions in nuclear weapons to 1,500 warheads or below. Is that a level that the United States feels is possible to reach in terms of cuts to its own arsenal? And also, is the U.S. position still to make unilateral cuts, or is it looking to have some sort of a negotiated, you know, reduction in nuclear arsenals with the Russians?

Sr. Defense Official: I can't comment on specific force levels. Our work -- our review of the issue of offensive force levels is still ongoing.

On your question about negotiations, as Dr. Rice, the national security adviser, has said, we are not in negotiations with Russia, we are in consultations with them; we're discussing these topics. We are not seeking a Cold War style arms control negotiation or treaty in these talks, we're looking to put the whole relationship on a basis that reflects today's realities, and one of the key elements of which is that we're not in the Cold War anymore and we are not enemies anymore.

Q: So does that mean that you'll be discussing unilateral cuts? And also, if what you say is true, what happens to like the START II treaty? Is that out the window?

Sr. Defense Official: We're going to be discussing the issue of offensive force reductions, we're going to be reviewing the existing agreements, and -- I mean, all of those issues are on the table and they're all subjects of discussion. So we're in the process of discussing that with Russia.

Q: Does the United States plan -- oh, sorry.

Sr. Defense Official: This lady here.

Q: The Russians yesterday said they didn't hear any concrete suggestions for the ABM Treaty or a variation of it. Do you have any for the future?

Sr. Defense Official: Well, I'm not going to get into -- as I said at the beginning, the talks were confidential, and I'm not going to get into exactly what was said in those consultations. But there was -- I will say that we provided -- in the talks this week, we provided a general review of the concept of strategic stability for the future as we see it. We provided a substantial briefing on our missile defense program, a briefing on threats, a briefing on our offensive force reductions. We went out of our way to make sure that our briefings were translated into Russia. We presented voluminous written materials to the Russian side. And I think they went away with a lot of information, they posed lots of questions, and in fact complimented us for the forthrightness of the answers.

General Kadish, the director of our Ballistic Missile Defense Office, provided the briefing on our missile defense program, and he did that on the first day of our two-day talks here. There were so many questions, we asked him to come back for the second day, which he did. There were no questions that he did not respond to.

So I don't know exactly what might be claimed by some people about the talks, but the talks were quite rich in information, and we provided a lot. And I think that the Russian side, as I said, got important information and was able to get lots of questions answered. So we're quite confident that anybody who really, you know, understood what was going on there would see that it was a serious exchange.

Q: A little more mundane matter. Are they going to be discussing the U.S.-Russia cooperation in the Balkans at any time during this?

Sr. Defense Official: The ministers -- the secretary of defense and the minister of defense are obviously free to discuss whatever they see fit to discuss. As I said, what I would -- what I can at this point anticipate will be discussed will be the items that I mentioned.

Q: Is Russia's nuclear assistance to Iran going to play into the talks at all, and offensive reduction?

Sr. Defense Official: I can't go into more detail on what's going to enter into the talks than basically the topic headings that I gave here. But as I said, I mean, when the ministers get together, I would not presume to say what they're going to discuss or not going to discuss. It's up to them.

Q: Without going into detail, could you tell us whether technology sharing with respect to NMD is something that will be discussed?

Sr. Defense Official: What will be discussed will be possible areas of cooperation in the area of missile defense.

Q: Is technology sharing one of those areas of cooperation?

Sr. Defense Official: I don't think I want to get more detailed than that.

Q: A question on how the different tracks, the State Department and Defense Department track, are handling it.

It's interesting, because arms control used to be the province of the State Department and ministries, and you want to get away from that and seem to deal with it on a mil-to-mil level. Will the State Department on their track be overlapping with you on these subjects, or is this pretty much a Pentagon thing?

Sr. Defense Official: I think it's inevitable that there will be a fair amount of overlap, because, as I said, what we're talking about fundamentally is a relationship, and when you have a normal and healthy relationship, the elements interrelate. And so the quality of political relations, economic relations and commercial relations have strategic significance. They're part of the issue of strategic stability.

And there was a certain -- there were certain special problems that arose from the Cold War relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union that led people to approach aspects of the relationship in very distinct channels. And part of what we're saying now is that is not required anymore, and what we're looking at is the broader relationship, which means we wind up talking about -- in the context of security and stability, we wind up talking about issues in the relationship that do overlap with the kinds of things that the State Department will be discussing with the Russians. And that's fine.

Q: Putin on a couple of occasions has sort of referred to the possibility of Russia sometime in the future joining NATO, and Rice also has sort of indicated that that's not an impossibility. Is that something that's on the table?

Sr. Defense Official: I can't say specifically that it's on the table, but as I said, we're going into this, you know, open to discussing matters broadly. So I'm not in a position to rule anything in or out.

Q: Sir, can you give us a sense -- I apologize if you already addressed this earlier in your remarks, but can you give us a sense of how prepared you feel the Russians are to be receptive to U.S. overtures to further curb conventional arms trading by the Russians as a part of the overall discussion framework of our relationship with them, involving missile defense and nuclear force reduction? That seems to be in this post-Cold War environment that you continue to refer to a growing problem that the Russians need to address.

Sr. Defense Official: There are -- there are -- in the relationship, there are issues that are issues where we have common approaches, there are issues that -- where we have differing approaches. I don't want to get into a discussion now of specific areas of difference. But one of the key points is that one -- in a normal relationship with a country with whom one's not hostile, you can deal with differences in -- you know, in a fairly open and sometimes even cooperative fashion. You -- each side might retain its position, but there's a way to deal with these issues that don't -- don't create -- there are ways to deal with it that don't create major instability. And so we're going to -- what we're interested in doing is establishing that we can deal with all kinds of issues, some of them in common, some of them where we debate, but you're not running the risk of the kinds of dangers that you ran during the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union disagreed about important subjects.

Q: Do you expect a debate on this issue on this particular trip?

Sr. Defense Official: As I said, I want to stay away from commenting on how we're going to deal with very particular issues.

Q: As I understand it, President Putin, didn't he sign an order this week putting specific curbs or perhaps expanded curbs on the transfer of certain technology and weapons to other countries? And are you anxious to get a briefing on that and hear about that?

Sr. Defense Official: I'm not familiar with the particular thing you're referring to. Sorry.

Q: I want to probe you a little bit more on this possible area of cooperation in arms -- in missile defense. Last year, you may remember, Mr. Putin offered a proposal somewhat amorphous about boost- phase defense to the Clinton administration that came into this building and disappeared. Does that proposal at all have a shelf life where you can use that as a basis for potential boost-phase cooperation?

Sr. Defense Official: I'm not going to comment on particulars at this point. It's just not -- we're not ready to make comments on particular proposals.

Q: Do you expect any kind of formal --

Q: On national versus theatre missile defense, (even any ?) tactical missile defense versus national, or is there an approach for theater you're going to be taking this trip versus national --

Sr. Defense Official: As I said, I don't want to get into the particulars.

Q: Do you expect any kind of formal agreement out of this meeting of any type, on cooperation or -- do you hope for any kind of --

Sr. Defense Official: No, I do not anticipate coming out of this meeting with an agreement. This is a consultation.

Q: General Nance described the testing program for the next fiscal year. Can you tell us now that this program is not possible within the constraints of the ABM Treaty?

Sr. Defense Official: I would refer you to the very skillful testimony of my colleague, Paul Wolfowitz. The deputy secretary has testified at great length before the Congress and has addressed that question, which was posed to him probably a dozen different ways. So there's a rich -- there's a rich record in answer to that question.

Q: That was before General Nance's briefing.

Adm. Quigley: One more, please.

Q: Can the reduction in the length of the trip be seen at all as a reflection of the Russians' disappointment in your lack of responsiveness on the question on offensive reductions in talks this week? I was led to believe that there was some sentiment from the Russians that there really won't be that much to talk about in Moscow if you-all weren't prepared to go a lot farther than you were here on the offensive question.

Sr. Defense Official: That's not my understanding. There's going to be hours and hours of consultation in Moscow, and we've just, as I said, organized it in a way that we're going to be going from morning till night. And that wouldn't be my understanding at all.

Adm. Quigley: Thank you.

Q: Thank you.

This transcript was prepared by the Federal News Service, Inc., Washington, DC. Federal News Service is a private company. For other defense related transcripts not available through this site, contact Federal News Service at (202) 347-1400.

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