(Note: Minister Serdyukov’s remarks are provided through an interpreter.)
MIN. SERDYUKOV: Ladies and gentlemen, we attach much importance to developing cooperation over the years with the Department of Defense, and today’s meeting is a confirmation of the positive development of our defense relations.
Carrying out of the order of the Russian and the U.S. presidents, we stepped up our contacts, and the major emphasis was put on practical measures which could be applied to armed forces reform. Both of our countries are engaged in this work; therefore, sharing experience in this sphere and discussing this sphere would be very useful, both for us and our U.S. counterparts.
At our previous meeting, we signed a Memorandum of Cooperation between our defense establishments which envisioned setting up special working groups. Today we summarized some of the results of their work, and we’re happy to point out that we have made certain progress in every direction.
And we spent much time discussing missile defense, because this is one of the issues which neither we nor our U.S. counterparts have a simple and unequivocal answer to. After the Lisbon summit of the NATO-Russia Council, we face new capabilities for cooperation. And today we shared our views on the possible ways to address this issue, and we have a common understanding that cooperation is better than confrontation. And discussions will be continued by our experts in the special work group.
As far as the original security problems are concerned, we discussed the situation in Afghanistan and North Africa, and our assessment of -- assessments of the situation in Afghanistan coincide, to a large extent. And Russia is interested in a stable region and the success of the coalition forces.
First, we’ll be ready to assist our U.S. counterparts in ensuring operation of the coalition forces, and if there are any new requirements or needs, we will be ready to address them in a productive way.
As far as the situation in Libya is concerned, Russia supports the agreement among international powers that violence against civilians should be stopped. We are building on the concept that the mandate stemming from U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 envisions only measures to protect civilians and prevent escalation of the conflict.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev clearly stated Russia’s assessment of the situation in Libya yesterday. Unfortunately, the recent developments in the country demonstrate that it is experiencing real hysterias which result in destroying civilian facilities and killing civilians.
This shouldn’t have been -- this shouldn’t have been let to be happen, and we informed our U.S. counterparts of our opposition, and we urge all belligerent parties to do their best to stop the violence, and we believe that an immediate ceasefire and a dialogue between the belligerent parties is the surest way to reliable security of civilians.
Generally, I would like to thank my U.S. counterpart for finding time to visit Russia. And it is -- it was an important event because, when in St. Petersburg, Mr. Gates addressed mid-level officers and instructors of the Naval Academy. It was a crucial event because it allowed our young servicemen not only to get firsthand information about the U.S. defense policy, but also provided them with a chance to ask questions of interest to them.
Thank you for your attention.
SEC. GATES: I want to thank Minister Serdyukov for inviting me to Moscow. Today we had a very productive series of discussions covering a broad range of defense issues of mutual interest to both Russia and the United States.
We began our meeting by discussing the progress to date of the Defense Relations Working Group, a forum for bilateral discussions between our senior defense leadership established last September during Minister Serdyukov’s visit to Washington.
Since our last meeting, subject-matter experts from both of our organizations have met and discussed a variety of defense issues, including military personnel and training, defense technology cooperation, missile defense collaboration, and security challenges confronting both of our countries, such as the Korean peninsula and conventional arms control in Europe.
Specialists from our two ministries plan to meet in the near future to discuss these and other topics, including defense policy, military logistics, and maritime security.
Minister Serdyukov and I also discussed other areas of mutual interest, including our common goal of a stable and secure Afghanistan. We appreciate Russia’s cooperation on Afghanistan, including the shipment of coalition supplies through Russian territory, providing counternarcotics training for the Afghan police, and helping the Afghan Ministry of Defense maintain its growing helicopter fleet.
As the minister indicated, we discussed the situation in Libya. I assured him that the actions of the coalition are completely consistent with the U.N. Security Council resolution calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone and protecting civilian lives. The resolution of the Arab League and also of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which led to the Security Council resolution, were in fact in recognition that Gadhafi, Colonel Gadhafi, was killing large numbers of his own people.
The coalition is going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, and most of the targets are air defense targets isolated from populated areas. I also told him that I thought the significant military fighting that has been going on should recede in the next few days, and I agreed with him that the future of Libya should be decided by the Libyan people.
We also discussed the historical achievement of the New START [Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty] treaty, and I stressed the need for our countries to make further cuts in nuclear weapons arsenals, both strategic and tactical.
Another issue of great importance to both of our leaders is establishing a framework for European security that can strengthen stability, predictability and security for all nations on the continent. We continue to have an intensive discussion on missile defense cooperation, and although we still have differences that need to be resolved, we continue to make progress, both within a bilateral framework and exploring opportunities to cooperate through the NATO-Russia Council.
In conclusion, this last year has seen remarkable progress in the U.S.-Russia relationship, a relationship that has evolved from focusing nearly exclusively on traditional global issues, primarily arms control, to our present collaboration at a working level on a range of matters affecting our defense ministries.
I look forward to my meeting with President Medvedev later this afternoon, and then to continuing our conversations over a dinner Minister Serdyukov will host tonight. And I also look forward to a continued dialogue and stronger relationship in the future.