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Press Conference on the G-8 and Nonproliferation Issues

Stephen G, Rademaker, Acting Assistant Secretary, International Security and Nonproliferation
Moscow, Russia
April 12, 2006

MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Our guest today is the Acting Assistant Secretary of State of the United States for International Security and Nonproliferation Issues, Mr. Stephen Rademaker. The topic is "The G-8 and Nonproliferation Issues." First, our guest will make some introductory remarks and then he will take your questions. We have about 30 minutes.

RADEMAKER: Good afternoon. I am in Moscow today for a series of meetings. Tomorrow I will be participating in a meeting hosted by the Foreign Ministry of the G-8 nonproliferation directors. So my counterparts from all of the G-8 members will be here for a day of discussions leading up to the St. Petersburg summit. Today I attended meetings at the Foreign Ministry with Anatoly Antonov, my Russian counterpart, and he and I had an extended discussion of the full range of bilateral arms control and nonproliferation issues that he and I handle.

And yesterday I met with Vladimir Kuchinov at Rosatom to talk about nuclear energy-related issues. I don't have an opening statement to deliver, so what I will do at this point is simply open it up to whatever question those of you in this room might have for me.

QUESTION: What steps can the U.S. Administration take and what steps can the international community take after Iran's announcement that it has implemented the first cycle of uranium enrichment? And what does the United States expect from elBaradei's visit to Teheran? And the second question. How much time will Iran now need to build nuclear weapons? Are we taking about months or years?

RADEMAKER:  First, let me say with regard to Iran's announcement yesterday that it was a deeply disappointing announcement. Please recall, that on March 29 the United Nations Security Council issued a Presidential statement which read as follows: "The Security Council calls upon Iran to take the steps required by the IAEA Board of Governors and underlines in this regard the particular importance of reestablishing full and sustained suspension of all enrichment- related and reprocessing activities, including research and development." And Iran's response to this consensus statement issued by the Security Council was yesterday's announcement.

The language I just read was not a press release issued by the United States government or by any other government. It was a consensus statement agreed to by all the members of the UN Security Council, including Russia and China. The fact that the regime in Iran would have so little regard for the clear view of the international community on such a sensitive matter is deeply troubling.

Obviously, I am not in a position to confirm what Iran has announced. But, as we have pointed out all along, enrichment technology is extremely sensitive. The capability to use centrifuges to enrich uranium to the level necessary to provide fuel for a nuclear reactor can also be used to enrich uranium to higher levels.

Iran assures us that they today are using a 164-machine centrifuge cascade only to enrich to the level of 3.5 percent. But that same technology could be used by Iran to enrich to much higher levels, including to the levels necessary to produce weapons-grade uranium.

We've done calculations of what can be done with a 164-machine cascade. If they chose to use such a cascade to produce highly enriched uranium, they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in a little over 13 years, specifically 13.6 years is our calculation.

But Iran has made it clear that it does not intend to stop at 164 machine cascade. Iran has told the International Atomic Energy Agency that its intention is to construct a 3000 machine cascade beginning next fall.

We calculate that a 3000 machine cascade could produce enough highly enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon in 271 days. And Iran is doing this work at the Natanz facility. Natanz is an underground facility that was constructed specifically to house centrifuges. The Natanz facility is constructed to house more than 50,000 centrifuges. And should they choose to fully utilize the space that they have constructed in Natanz for 50,000 centrifuges, we calculate that using these 50,000 centrifuges, they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days.

Now, we understand that IAEA safeguards are still in place in Iran and today, if Iran chose to produce highly enriched uranium, the IAEA would probably detect that. But the ability of IAEA to detect this assumes that Iran remains subject to its safeguards agreement and remains a state party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.  We already know one country, the D.P.R.K, which has announced its withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. So I think the facts speak for themselves and it's obvious why all of us need to be concerned about the developments underway in Iran. So let us all hope that Iran listens more carefully to the request that it received from the United Nations Security Council and returns to full suspension of its enrichment-related activities.

QUESTION: The current situation in Iraq is quite complex. Its economic state is complex. Some people say Iraq is on the verge of civil war. Don't you see this as the result of the United States' activities in the past three years? What do you think of the US policy in Iraq, its results?  Second, in this sense, cannot potential use of force in Iran lead to something similar, to similar results?

RADEMAKER: First, on your question about Iraq. Iraq is not within my area of responsibility and I did not come to Moscow to engage in discussions about Iraq. So, I think I will simply withhold any comment on the issue of Iraq. With regard to Iran, there certainly has been no decision on the part of my government or any other government to use military force. To the contrary, I think it is obvious to everyone that we have been working very hard to achieve a diplomatic solution to the problem. We have been working for almost three years with the International Atomic Energy Agency to support and move forward the IAEA investigation of Iran's covert nuclear weapons program. And as that investigation moved forward and revealed additional facts about Iran's nuclear weapons program, we worked diligently within the IAEA Board of Governors to achieve political decisions about how to respond to Iran's violations of its safeguards obligations.

Those efforts culminated in the decision by the IAEA Board of Governors in February to report Iran's non-compliance with its safeguards obligations to the United Nations Security Council as provided for under Article 12c of the IAEA statute. Now the Security Council has taken up its obligations, and we are today working with the other members of the Security Council. Agreement was reached on March 29 on the presidential statement that I just read from a few minutes ago. That resolution -- I am sorry, that presidential statement -- calls upon Iran to comply with previous requests that it has received from the IAEA Board of Governors, including, most importantly, to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. And it calls upon the Director General of the IAEA to provide a report to the Security Council on April 28 with regard to Iran's compliance with the requests set forth in the March 29 presidential statement.

So I think it's clear that we have been very much engaged in a diplomatic effort to solve the Iranian nuclear problem. This is an on-going effort and we will continue to work through the diplomatic process notwithstanding the kinds of announcements that were made by the authorities in Teheran yesterday.

QUESTION:  If everything goes in line with a negative scenario, what sanctions against Iran are possible? What are you going to do if those sanctions are not supported by Russia and China?

RADEMAKER: Your question contains a number of assumptions that I am not prepared to agree to. Your question assumes that Iran is going to continue to disregard the unanimous will of the United Nations Security Council. The presidential statement of March 29 was an exhortation. The Security Council could make that exhortation legally binding by adopting a resolution under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. And certainly the question of sanctions would not be confronted until the Security Council had taken such a step.

Your question further assumes that the Security Council has ordered Iran, under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, to resume suspension of enrichment-related activities and that Iran will disregard or defy such a mandatory request. And your question further assumes that if Iran defies a mandatory Security Council resolution, China and Russia will be prepared to acquiesce in that defiance. So, as I said, there are a number of assumptions here that I am not prepared to agree with.

QUESTION: I wonder if you could give us a status report on American efforts to secure nuclear materials here in Russia. And let me know what is -- (inaudible) -- the problem that the Russians won't give America access to some sites where it wants to do security upgrades because they are in secret cities or otherwise sensitive places.

RADEMAKER:  A complete response to your question would require a press conference devoted only to that issue. And I think there are other questions that reporters here have to ask, so, I will not provide a full and detailed to your question. I'll give a summary answer. The United States today is spending over one billion dollars a year on what we call threat reduction activities, primarily in Russia. And under the G-8 global partnership that was agreed at the Kananaskis summit of the G-8 in 2002, our G-8 partners committed to match that US contribution over the next ten years. So, the collective undertaking is to provide 20 billion dollars in funding over the next ten years: ten billion dollars from the United States and ten billion dollars from other members of the G-8 and a few countries beyond the G-8. We consider these programs to be very important and, frankly, central to our efforts to combat proliferation and provide for international security.

One practical problem we encounter with these programs is that our Congress insists on a high degree of accountability for the billion dollars in funding that it provides every year. Our Congress wants to make sure that the money is not being stolen, that it is being properly spent and that we are buying a billion dollars worth of increased security every year.
Another practical problem on the Russian side is that there are facilities in Russia that for national security reasons Russia feels it needs to protect. And then there is a latent concern, I believe, in ussia that some of the efforts that we need to undertake for purposes of accountability are perceived as efforts to collect information - you can say perceived as espionage -- by Russian authorities.

So, one of the practical challenges in implementing these programs is to strike the balance between our need for accountability and Russia's need to be satisfied that its national security is being protected.

QUESTION:  International mediators are gathering in New York on the Palestinian issue. And you know that funding has been stopped already. Do you think there may be some changes after that meeting in the US policy because now the situation is getting very critical and it can result in a humanitarian disaster, 140,000 families are left without shelter.

RADEMAKER: Earlier I was asked about Iraq and I indicated that was not my area of responsibility and I did not feel qualified to comment, and the same is true with regard to the Palestinian question. But I would be delighted to respond to any questions that might be asked about arms control and nonproliferation matters.

Moderator: Two more questions.

QUESTION: Is the agenda of tomorrow's meeting known already? Are any documents going to be signed? And about the umbrella agreement on threat reduction which, I understand, expires soon. Is it going to be extended?

RADEMAKER:  Tomorrow's meeting is one of the series of meetings to lay the groundwork for the St. Petersburg summit of the G-8. So, we will not be issuing a statement following tomorrow's meeting. The product of our work will be incorporated in the outcome of the St. Petersburg summit.

With regard to the CTR extension, as you probably know, we have had a difficult time wrestling with the issue of liability. But recently we have made progress in this area, and we do expect it will be possible to reach agreement on the CTR extension.

QUESTION: Does the United States have nuclear weapons in Europe? And what are your thoughts in this connection and in connection with the current Iranian situation? And the second question, is there any concern inside the United States about the implementation by Russia of its commitment to reduce its tactical nuclear weapons in Europe?

RADEMAKER: Yes, the United States has a relatively small number of tactical nuclear weapons in Western Europe. Russia also has tactical nuclear weapons. As you know, the first President Bush and President Yeltsin adopted in parallel what are today called the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives. These were parallel undertakings by the United States and Russia to reduce the level of non-strategic nuclear weapons deployed by each side. They did not reflect an arms control agreement, they reflected parallel unilateral undertakings.

The United States has fully implemented its undertakings under the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives. I am not aware of anyone in the Russian government or elsewhere who questions whether the United States has done so. We believe that Russia has not completely fulfilled the Russian side of the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives. The last time I was in this room was in October of 2004 and I was asked about this issue at that time.

And I provided essentially the same answer then that I've just given. My statements were reported in the press and the following day both the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defense issued statements. Those statements affirmed all of the steps Russia has taken to reduce its non-strategic nuclear weapons. And for someone who did not read the statements carefully the impression might have been left that Russia was asserting in it it had fully implemented its Presidential Nuclear Initiatives. But a more careful reading would make clear that Russia was not claiming to have fully implemented all of the undertakings made by President Yeltsin under the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives. And no Russian official with responsibility for this matter has ever claimed to me that Russia has fully implemented the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives.

Certainly, there have been steps taken by Russia, very important steps, in the direction of fulfilling the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives. But those steps fall short in certain key respects of full implementation. Nobody is going to ask me about this Foreign Affairs article?

QUESTION:  A question about this article. You have met with the representatives of Russian agencies. Did anyone express concern or make any observations on this article during these meetings? And does this article really reflect the direction in which the United States government is moving?

RADEMAKER: No Russian official has raised this article to me. And I think the reason for this is that Russian officials do not need the advice of American university professors in order to reach their own conclusions about Russian security requirements. I'll read one statement from this article which is manifestly untrue. The article states: "The United States' nuclear forces have grown stronger since the end of the Cold War." And with that as their premise, the authors proceed to draw conclusions about the implications for Russian security. It is demonstrably untrue that the United States nuclear forces have grown stronger since the end of the Cold War. I saw no mention in this article of the Moscow Treaty, for example, which is the 2002 treaty that provides for a two-thirds reduction in the number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the United States and Russia by the year 2012.

Under the previous arms control agreement, the START agreement, Russia and the United States were limited to 6,000 nuclear warheads each. Under the Moscow Treaty each side has promised to reduce two a level of between 1,700 and 2,200 by the year 2012. By the time Moscow Treaty reductions are fully implemented in 2012 our numbers indicate that the level of U.S. strategic nuclear warheads will have been reduced from Cold War levels by 80 percent. That's the case with respect to strategic nuclear forces.

With respect to non-strategic nuclear forces, as we discussed a moment ago, the United States has fully implemented its undertakings under the Presidential Nuclear Initiatives. As a result, the United States today has reduced by 90 percent the number of non-strategic nuclear weapons that we deployed at the height of the Cold War. So, how anyone can say that our forces are growing stronger in the face of an 80 percent reduction in strategic nuclear forces and a 90 percent reduction in non-strategic nuclear forces remains to be explained to me.

This article identifies as a dangerous development the redeployment of nuclear warheads from our MX missiles to our Minuteman-3 missiles. And it is true that the warhead on an MX missile is a better warhead than the warheads previously deployed on Minuteman-3. But the reason this redeployment is taking place is because we have eliminated all of our Peacekeeper MX missiles. So, what this represents is a transfer of previously deployed warheads to a new missile in the context of a significant downsizing of our strategic nuclear force. Again, it is a mystery to me how anyone can see in this a threatening development.

The article assets that our Trident nuclear submarines now patrol more frequently in the Pacific Ocean, which is said to be threatening to Russia. I cannot comment on where our nuclear submarines patrol, but I can point out that we used to deploy 18 Trident nuclear submarines and we are in the process of converting four of those to non-nuclear weapons roles. As of today, four of our Trident submarines no longer deploy nuclear missiles. In addition, we are reducing the number of nuclear warheads that we deploy on the missiles on the Trident submarines.

So, again, any evaluation of all of the facts points only to the conclusion that our Trident nuclear force is less threatening to Russia today than was true in the past. This article also assumes Russia is doing absolutely nothing to enhance its own nuclear capabilities, which is not consistent with my understanding, which derives from my reading of press releases issued by the Russian government. Russia is deploying new missiles, the Topol-M, and conducting research and development on new types of warheads and new types of delivery systems. And the important point is, all of this activity on both the Russian side and the American side is being carried out in full compliance with our obligations under the START treaty and the Moscow Treaty.I think I've said enough.

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