(Media availability with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Please note remarks by Minister Ivanov were provided through an interpreter.)
Ivanov: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, Russian and American journalist. Especially American journalist, since I can remember the faces of many of you from the times of my visits to Washington.
We have just had a substantive round of negotiations with Secretary Rumsfeld. In general, they dealt with the prospects for concluding an agreement or a treaty on reducing the strategic offensive weapons. As you might have noticed, the U.S. - Russian consultations, and not only focusing on the reduction of the strategic offensive weapons, have been very intensive in recent months. As for the prospects of signing an agreement on the reduction of the strategic offensive weapons during the forthcoming visit by President Bush to Moscow. Upon our mutual agreement with Mr. Secretary, we are ready to disclose certain secret in our joint work.
The matter is that four or five days ago, we passed to the U.S. side a set of new ideas, which, in our opinion, could serve a foundation for a future agreement. Despite the fact that the past days Secretary Rumsfeld was very busy with a tour of Central Asia and Republic of Afghanistan, the U.S. side was capable of very carefully studying the new ideas, which I as I said we had passed to the U.S. side several days ago, and provide rather detailed comment on them. We listened to the U.S. view and proposals on that account very carefully. My personal belief is that today we have reached certain progress.
As you know, in several days Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is flying to Washington.
I think that by that time the Russian side will be ready to respond to the U.S. comments and provide the comments of their own, and I hope that even greater progress will be made.
And as for the agreement itself, whether it will be signed or not, of course it will be up to the presidents of the two countries to decide. But both sides spare no effort to provide the presidents with the most effective language of the agreement.
Thank you very much.
Rumsfeld: As the minister said, our two presidents have asked the foreign ministries and the defense ministries to think through very carefully our new relationship. Secretary Powell and Foreign Minister Ivanov have met any number of times, and Defense Minister Ivanov and I have met any number of times in various countries and several cities. And as he indicated, we're making progress, and the meetings will continue later this week in Washington.
Q: A question to both Mr. Minister and Mr. Secretary. Were you able to agree on those issues which remained pending by today?
Ivanov: I would stop short of making comments in public on the subject, which is very delicate now. Besides, I would give an opportunity to our foreign ministries to do their share and since they are the major players, they play the major role in negotiating that agreement.
As far as the military establishments are concerned, we had a chance to exchange our ideas and views very frankly, very candidly, on those drafts, which we had passed to each other recently. And as I mentioned before, we have managed to make progress in certain aspects.
(In English.) Thank you.
Rumsfeld: I agree.
Q: Mr. Secretary, I wonder if -- this is Charlie Aldinger of Reuters. I wonder if I might ask you whether you feel that it's probable or possible that you will reach an agreement by the summit. And no matter what, will the United States proceed with its plan to shelve, rather than destroy, some nuclear weapons?
Rumsfeld: As the minister indicated, it's up to the presidents to make the final decisions with respect to agreements like this. They will do so in an orderly way, as the days proceed, leading up to the summit. What they'll decide is up to them.
And it seems to me that the one thing I will say is that President Bush has indicated that regardless of the outcome of these discussions, the United States of America intends to reduce offensive deployed weapons to the levels that the president indicated, of 1,700 to 2,200.
I should add one thing. I'm going to speak in shorter bursts, and then you can translate in shorter bursts.
Over the decades, the relationship has tended to be about arms control. And as we stand here in front of this group, I wouldn't want to leave the impression that that is the way it is today. The relationship between the United States and Russia is different in breadth and dimension. It is evolving in a way that the discussions we have today are not simply about arms control, but rather, it's a multifaceted relationship that involves political and economic, as well as security issues. And the discussions that Defense Minister Ivanov and I have from time to time cover a full range of subjects, as they should between two nations that are no longer enemies.
Q: Minister Ivanov, I'm Bob Burns, the Associated Press.
Could you tell us whether you discussed prospects for many military operations in Afghanistan and the future of American military presence in Central Asia?
Ivanov: You are quite right. We did discuss that issue, as well as a number of other issues with Secretary Rumsfeld. And I hundred-percent agree with Secretary Rumsfeld that in the course of our regular meetings, we discuss not only the issues relating to the strategic offensive weapons but a much broader range and scope of issues where the role of the two countries is very big. And it involves the Afghan issue and the issue of terrorism in general.
And I should tell you that our current assessments of the development of the situation in Afghanistan now and in the future are very close.
As the U.S. side, we also maintain a regular contact with the Afghan leadership and for both the U.S. and Russia; it is the issue of great importance. And we are very much interested in seeing Afghanistan have slowly but gradually following the way of stabilization. In this context, we are equally interested in supporting the current interim government of Afghanistan.
And speaking philosophically, I would like to mention that we discussed most acute issues relating to international security, such as terrorism, nonproliferation and reduction of weapons systems in general. But it's not a mechanical approach, which we use now, just talking about number platforms and warheads. We are trying to predict to forecast the relations between eh two countries for five, seven and nine days -- years, so -- and even the draft of the strategic offensive weapons reductions is a document which provides a longer period of relations. And for that end -- both for the U.S. side and for the Russian side, it's a matter of principle to be aware of the geopolitical environment, which may emerge in five, seven or 10 years.
Q: A question to Secretary Rumsfeld. You've just returned from Afghanistan, and you were briefed definitely on the outcome of the antiterrorist operation. Can you share some details of the operation with us?
And the second question is that there is much talk of big U.S. losses in the course of the operation. Can you comment on that?
Rumsfeld: As I understand it, your first question involves a general comment on what's taking place in Afghanistan with respect to the efforts to stabilize the country. We've made good progress. The Taliban are no longer running the country. The al Qaeda are not currently using Afghanistan as a training camp and bases for launching terrorist attacks on innocent people around the world.
As the minister said, an interim government is in place and taking a series of steps to try to begin the process of stabilizing the country. The loya jirga process is proceeding. A transitional government should follow the interim government in good order in the months ahead. That's on the plus side.
The last plus would be that the people of Afghanistan are a whale of a lot better off today than they were six months ago.
On the other hand, the task is far from over. It is still a dangerous place. The Taliban have gone across borders and into the mountains and into the villages -- the ones that haven't been captured or killed -- and there's no doubt in my mind but that they'd like to come back and take over that country. And the coalition partners and the countries from across the globe that are cooperating intend to see that that doesn't happen.
But the reality is, there's a lot of work yet to do, and there will be more violence between now and the time it's over.
With respect to your second question, I have no information, and I am not acquainted with the report that you're referring to and wouldn't even want to begin to comment on its accuracy or lack of accuracy, except I would say that experience suggests that first reports are often wrong.
Ivanov: (In English.) Thank you.
Rumsfeld: Thank you, sir.
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