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Press Conference with Secretary Gates, Secretary Rice, Minister Lavrov, and Minister Serdyukov from Moscow, Russia

Presenters: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov
October 12, 2007
            (Note: Min. Lavrov's and Min. Serdyukov's remarks are made through an interpreter.)
 
            MIN. LAVROV: Dear colleagues, the meeting of foreign ministers and defense ministers in the forum of the so-called 2+2 was held in accordance with instruction by the two presidents. This instruction by the presidents was dictated by our joint strive to give a new quality to our strategic relationships, and in particular the questions related to military and political issues for both our countries, which have a particular responsibility for the world security and strategic partnership.
            Our meeting today reaffirmed that all participants in this meeting realized this responsibility. We agreed to turn this format into a permanent one, and our American colleagues suggested that we meet in Washington in the United States in, say, half a year, and to follow up on this work.
            We agreed that this mechanism will deal with the practical implementation of initiatives put forward by our two countries jointly and implemented jointly in the area of strategic stability. This primarily has to do with such areas as the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the strengthening of appropriate regimes, fighting with nuclear terrorism, and the development of cooperation in peaceful use of nuclear energy.
            We also added up one more subject to this list. It involves the universalization of the INF Treaty. As you know, this treaty limits the Russian Federation and the United States in their ability to have appropriate military systems. And since the threat of missile proliferation is growing, we agreed that we need to invite all countries, without exclusion, to engage in this regime.
            And of course, within the framework of the 2+2 mechanism, we will not only implement the initiatives already put forward by our two countries, but we will also address issues on which our views diverge. And one of such issues is missile defense.
 
            The Russian Federation, during President Putin's visit to Kennebunkport, put forward a proposal which is a constructive alternative to the deployment of the third positioning region by the United States and Europe. Today our American colleagues put forward a counterproposal which aims at finding common ground and common solutions. We will examine this proposal. Today we asked questions, we got preliminary answers to these questions, and we agreed that our experts will go on working.
            And at this stage, we do not hide from our American colleagues that we now see at least two serious problems with their proposals.
            The first problem is that we still diverge about the assessment of the character of missile proliferation threat against which this third positioning region is being created. And we agreed that our experts will focus on the elaboration of joint understanding of threats.
            And the second problem is that we believe that, for the joint work of Russian and American experts to be efficient, the plans to deploy the third positioning region in Europe should be frozen. There is no agreement on this, but we encouraged our experts to discuss the existing divergences in a very concrete and specific way. We also agreed to continue work on the CFE Treaty.
            In summer this year, we put forward our proper -- our own proposals about how to save this treaty and how to make it viable. During this visit today our American colleagues made their own proposals, and we assessed that this is a step to the right direction, but this step is insufficient. And we expressed our common willingness to work to see the situation when the adapted Treaty on Convention Forces in Europe can enter into force and how can we jointly address issues on how to make this treaty viable.
            And we haven't finalized yet the work which was given to us by the instruction of the presidents in Kennebunkport to work out an arrangement which will be in force following the end of the action of the START Treaty. We realize the relevance of this treaty and the arrangement following its lapse for the strategic stability, and we agreed to actually implement the instruction given by the president to get a new one, a new version.
            All in all, we marked the intensiveness of the work of our experts on all tracks, and we also focused on the importance to have a holistic approach to all aspects of strategic stability, which are on the agenda of Russian-American relations. And as I mentioned in the beginning of my speech, we agreed that this format is useful and efficient, and we agreed to develop it further.
            Thank you.
 
            SEC. RICE: Thank you very much. And thank you, Sergey, for welcoming Secretary Gates and me here to Moscow.
            And thank you, Minister Serdyukov, for I think what were constructive discussions about a full range of issues on the political/military agenda, the strategic agenda between the United States and Russia.
            Let me begin where Sergey left off. We have agreed that this mechanism is a useful one. We also believe that we would benefit from putting together all of the various issues of strategic policy that the United States and Russia face. We are going to work, therefore, on a strategic framework for the 2+2 to review and to hopefully finalize when we invite our Russian colleagues to Washington in the next six months or so.
            Many of the elements are indeed elements on which we are already agreed in which we are implemented -- implementing, for instance, on global nuclear terror, on various elements of the safe use of civilian nuclear power. These are elements that the presidents have had very forward-leaning initiatives on, and we want to make certain that they are fully implemented.
            Others, like missile defense and how to push forward the work that the presidents achieved in the Moscow Treaty on the limitation of deployed strategic nuclear warheads, remain to be agreed. But we have agreed that our experts should work very urgently. The United States did come with some new ideas that we hope are responsive to some of the concerns that Russia has had. But obviously our experts will need to work through these concepts so that we can see if we can make progress on these very important issues.
            Some of the ideas on transparency and joint monitoring we would hope we could take up fairly soon; others are still to be worked. In any case, the work before us is the work to complete the task that the presidents gave to us at Kennebunkport, which is to reflect in our work on our strategic relationship the very different relationship that the United States and Russia enjoy. It is not the relationship that the United States and the Soviet Union had. And so all of our work is to be carried out in that context, the context of a relationship that is not indeed adversarial; where there are, of course, still differences from time to time, but in which there is a spirit of constructive work. Our presidents have charged us to do that. We believe that the 2+2 is a good format in which to continue that work, and we look forward to welcoming our Russian colleagues to the United States to finalize the work that our experts will undertake.
            Thank you.
            SEC. GATES: Secretary Rice and I welcome the opportunity to meet with President Putin and Ministers Serdyukov and Lavrov. Our talks today reflected the complex, multifaceted relationship Russia and the United States have -- a relationship with many common security interests.
            We have a robust strategic agenda and many of these topics were discussed in today's meetings, and we put some new ideas on the table in several areas. I would just like to emphasize that the missile defense system being proposed in Central Europe is not directed at Russia. It would have no impact on Russia's strategic deterrent.
            We remain eager to be full and open partners with Russia in missile defense. We discussed a range of proposals we hope Moscow will accept. If we succeed in working together, it would mark a major strategic shift. We are concerned about Russia's stated intention to suspend its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. We hope the differences can be resolved. The experts will continue to try to find a way forward that other participants in CFE will find useful.
            We appreciate the hospitality of the Russian government and the Russian people, and I look forward to speaking at the military academy of the general staff tomorrow.
            Thank you.
            MIN. SERDYUKOV: Just a couple of words.
            I'd like to say that during our consultations with our American colleagues we discussed a number of issues related to the development of our strategic partnership in the security area. And we are satisfied with this format, which is 2+2. We believe that this cooperation has a great potential in it.
            But the principal thing to which we do not agree today is the deployment of anti-missile defense elements, which have an anti-Russian character and which are placed in Europe. At the level of experts, we're going to continue to find common ground on this issue.
            Thank you.
            MODERATOR: Now questions.
             Thom Shanker, New York Times.
            Q     Thank you very much.
            To Secretaries Rice and Gates, can you please describe for us the new proposals you brought today on missile defense, in particular how you hope they will resolve Russian concerns on this topic? And will you freeze American efforts for the European sites as talks continue, as Minister Lavrov asked?
            And to Minister Lavrov, is there --
            INTERPRETER: I'm sorry; I can't -- (completes interpretation to Russian).
 
            Q     And Minister Lavrov, is any compromise possible with the American sites in the Czech Republic and Poland? In other words, must those sites be canceled for Russia to agree to the system?
            SEC. RICE: First of all, on the issue of Poland and the Czech Republic, the United States is engaged in discussions, negotiations with our allies, and those will continue. We will work during this time to address Russian concerns about the nature of the system, about what is a not-yet-shared view of the missile threat.
            We believe that we can address those concerns and we are prepared to do it. Many of the ideas that we have go to the heart of trying to address Russian concerns both about how we come to a shared understanding of the missile threat and how we give some transparency, and indeed certainty, to Russia that this is not a system that is aimed in any way at the Russian deterrent. We believe that, given the size and nature of this missile defense deployment, that it could not possibly undermine the Russian deterrent, but we want to continue to have those discussions.
            SEC. GATES: There were several components to the suggestions that we made. I think the one that I'll just mention is in furtherance of transparency.
            We put forward some thoughts about the presence of individuals from both sides at sites so that there was complete transparency both at -- perhaps at third sites, but also in the United States; and if there are radars and other facilities here in Russia, that there would be a presence there, too. So some of the proposals affected the transparency and sharing of information.
            I would just add that we also addressed the possible concern on the Russian side that while the sites in the present design form pose no threat to Russia or its deterrent, the concern that in some future date years from now they might do so, and our willingness to work with the Russians to provide assurances and reassurances on that -- in that respect.
            SEC. RICE: If I could just add, these ideas were conceptual at this point. We did not attempt to get into details about how these proposals might be carried out, and so that is the purpose of the follow-on expert discussions, because we recognize that we were not in a position -- there is not time nor the level of expertise to -- to give a full discussion or full accounting of how this -- how these ideas might work.
            MIN. LAVROV: On my behalf, I'd like to say that as Secretary Gates assured us and American colleagues assure us that the third positioning region does not aim against Russia. But as Mr. Gates himself recognized, there is a potential threat for us here. And we, as our president numerously said as well as other governmental representatives, will have to take some measures to neutralize this threat. We would prefer to avoid such a scenario.
 
            And as I have pointed out in my introductory remarks, we are convinced that the principal thing is the analysis of real threats, real and existing threats. If it has to do with the protection of Europe and the United States, let's realistically look at who can threaten them.
            And in our discussions today, we moved to a very specific task; that is, the need to identify the criteria of whether the threat exists or not. Our experts will follow up on this subject. And if we succeed in hammering out these criteria, it will become clear that there is no need in this third positioning region. Therefore, we have proposed and we are still proposing, for the period of this expert work, that our American colleagues freeze all their activity to set up this region.
            MODERATOR: (Through interpreter.) ITAR-TASS, Alexander Khanavilov (ph).
            Q     (Through interpreter.) My question goes to the minister of Defense of the Russian Federation. How technical and possible is the modernization of the radar in Gabala taken into account its possible joint use together with the United States?
            MIN. SERDYUKOV: As you know, American experts had a visit to the Gabala radar, and I can say that it is already ready to carry out all tasks assigned to it. But if necessary, we can modernize it -- what we initially proposed, by the way.
            MODERATOR: Arshad Mohammed, Reuters.
            Q     Secretary Rice, turning to your meeting with President Putin this morning, did you raise with President Putin his recent suggestion that he might seek to serve as a prime minister? And given the concerns that the United States has had about the evolution of democracy in Russia and has periodically expressed, if you didn't raise or broach that subject or it did not come up, why not?
            SEC. RICE: First of all, I think my record on raising issues of human rights and democratization in Russia is quite a sound one. Each time that I've been here, I've done so. And tomorrow, I will indeed speak with members of the civil society about some of the concerns we have. And I will raise and have raised on many occasions such concerns with my Russian colleagues -- indeed, sometimes in great detail. But frankly, I'm not about to join the speculation about what will happen in terms of Russian domestic politics and who might be president and who might be prime minister. I'm not doing that about the United States nor Russia.
            MODERATOR: (Through interpreter.) (Name and affiliation off mike.)
            Q     (Through interpreter.) My question goes to the secretary of Defense of the United States. You know that in summer, when your experts visited the Gabala radar, they promised that they will analyze its capabilities, including through computer modeling. What actually -- what did this modeling show? And why can't the Gabala radar be an alternative to the third positioning region you are deploying?
 
            SEC. GATES: Well, I'm not familiar with the technical details of the evaluation of the radar, but my understanding is that our experts came away with the feeling that the radar had some very useful characteristics that could be used. My understanding, though, is that the radar is of primary use as an early warning radar and would not be useful in terms of terminal guidance for intercepting a missile coming from that direction. But I think our overall view is that the Gabala radar could play a very useful role in this system.
            MODERATOR: (Through interpreter.) The last question, from Al Arabiya.
            Q     (Through interpreter.) My question goes to both Minister Lavrov and Secretary Rice. In a few days, President Putin will visit Tehran for the Caspian summit. Iran has demonstrated interest in cooperation with the international community, and hopefully Tehran will do some steps to build on this cooperation. How you evaluate the present stage of the nuclear program of Iran?
             MIN. LAVROV: We discussed this issue in the context of agreements reached at the six-party talks which took place in September in New York. We have a common position in terms of arrangements hammered out at this meeting. We are actively encouraging IAEA to carry on its activity to clear up the remaining unclear issues about the nuclear program of Iran.
            We also support the upcoming contacts between the EU representative, Mr. Solana, and the chief of the National Security Board of Iran, Mr. Larijani. All these efforts are aimed at making Iran abide by the decision of the Governing Board of IAEA and the U.N. Security Council. In mid-November, we are expecting reports from both Mr. ElBaradei and Mr. Solana. We will examine these reports closely and we will agree on how to proceed further, including how to act within the U.N. Security Council, the capacity of which should be borne in mind if we want to achieve purposes we set before us.
            So we welcome and abide by all collective arrangements. And we will carry them out in good faith, as far as Russia is concerned. We believe that this work can be much more effective if there are no parallel steps in terms of sanctions against Iran, leaving alone and periodically -- periodic sayings to use military force against Iran. These unilateral steps stick out from the agreed-upon agenda. They undermine and they impede our collective effort. And hopefully this will be taken into account in our future work.
            It is important to preserve the unity of the international community and to avoid this parallel unilateral actions, and this will make Iran feel that it should maximally cooperate with IAEA and the entire international community. We need to preserve this unity of the international community to avoid any pretext by Iran that it should move less actively and less slowly because someone would anyway take unilateral steps.
            And in his conversation this morning with Ms. Rice and Mr. Gates, President Putin underlined that while visiting Iran he will continue the same line -- the line which reflects the collective will of the six parties and the U.N. Security Council.
            SEC. RICE: Yes, I would just add, that, in fact, we do have a way forward that we agreed in New York. It is, as Minister Lavrov said, to support the diplomacy of Javier Solana and the work of the IAEA to resolve outstanding issues. We look forward to a report in the November time frame from both. In the meantime, our political officers are working to finalize a text for a Security Council resolution should Iran not comply with the will of the international community.
            I think there is no doubt that the unity of the international community has been extremely useful in showing Iran its isolation. But of course, Iran's continued defiance is concerning, and the fact that Iran is under Chapter VII resolutions means that there are those who are taking decisions based on reputational risk and investment risk to stop doing business with Iran. And it is also the case the United States does not intend to allow Iran to use the international financial system to pursue ill-gotten gains from proliferation and/or terrorism. Therefore, under American law, when we find that Iranian entities or individuals are engaging in such activities, we will sanction them.
            But let me close on a point that Sergey Lavrov made. The whole purpose of this exercise that the six countries are engaged in is to convince Iran that the best way to achieve its stated goal of civil nuclear power is to engage in negotiations, to do so from the basis that is required of it in two Security Council Chapter VII resolutions and an IAEA Board of Governors resolution, and that is to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing capability, come to the negotiating table. The United States has made clear that at that point we would reverse now 28 years of American policy and engage fully in discussions with Iran and with our colleagues about anything that Iran wishes to put on the table.
            So I would just close by saying I think the question is not, as I've been asked sometimes: Why will the United States not talk to Iran? The question really is: Why will Iran not talk to the United States?
            Thank you.
            MODERATOR: (Through interpreter.) Thank you. The press conference is over.
 
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