Press Conference on Meetings With RussiansJohn R. Bolton, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Press Conference with the Interfax News Agency
February 19, 2002
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Thanks very much. I just finished a short time ago a 45-minute meeting with Foreign Minister Ivanov where Deputy Foreign Minister Mamedov and I reported on our consultations today where we considered the various documents that weíre attempting to negotiate in advance of President Bushís visit to Moscow in May.
I also met yesterday with Minister of Atomic Energy Rumantsyev and Lev Koptev, head of the Russian Space Agency and Mr. Chernov the Deputy National Security Advisor to discuss those same issues and also questions of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I conveyed to the Russian side President Bushís interest in his visit to Moscow this spring and the importance he attaches to it, to demonstrate concrete and tangible progress in the bilateral relationship between our two countries.
On offensive nuclear weapons I conveyed to the Russian side President Bushís decision that he would seek to negotiate a legally binding instrument that would codify the deep reductions in operationally deployed nuclear warheads that was announced at the Washington/Crawford summit.
President Putin of course had announced deep reductions as well, and whether we can embody these reductions in an agreement by May of course requires the resolution of several very difficult issues.
In addition to the agreement on offensive weapons we discussed a possible political declaration that the two presidents might issue elaborating in more detail on the overall new strategic framework that is being developed between the United States and Russia. That document might cover issues of the offensive weapons question that Iíve described, the elements of cooperation that might be possible in the missile defense area, the work that we have done jointly in counter terrorism and nonproliferation, and the overall elaboration in the economic and political spheres of the bilateral relationship.
I would describe the negotiations overall as very positive with every good intention on both sides to try and overcome the substantial issues that we have to discuss to reach an agreement hopefully when President Bush arrives in May. So why donít I stop there and Iíd be delighted to answer your questions. I donít know if you want to call on people or if they could identify themselves, however you want to proceed.
QUESTION: Interfax Agency, Korzun. Mr. Bolton, did we understand you correctly that a document about a radical reduction in the number of offensive weapons might not be ready in time for the May summit?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, in any negotiation thereís always the prospect that issues between the parties prevent the agreement from being ready by a particular time and we have a number of difficult issues, questions of how exactly to account for the offensive strategic warheads, measures of transparency and verification, and a series of issues that still have to be resolved. I can tell you that both presidents are extremely interested in reaching an agreement, because they feel it would embody the new relationship between our counties.
Secretary of State Powell and Foreign Minister Ivanov have instructed their respective sides to take every effort possible to reach agreement, but Iíve been through this enough times to know that surprising things can happen despite the best of intentions. So, thereís a lot of work to do. It may sound like a long time between now and May, but itís really right around the corner.
QUESTION: RIA Novosti. My question is this. Which issues are the most complex (inaudible) ...the issue of the radical reduction of strategic weapons, or the declaration about Ö(inaudible)? If possible, can you say which concrete documents are creating the most trouble?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: You want to know all of my secrets, all at once. (Laughter) I think on the political declaration on the new strategic framework, obviously what we would like to be able to do is have the most detailed elaboration of the relationship that we can. And there are certainly a number of issues where cooperation between Russia and the United States has been outstanding and indeed, precedent-setting. Certainly since September the 11th, the cooperation in the campaign against terrorism is a good example of that.
There are a number of areas, such as the question of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction where especially in light of President Bushís State of the Union Address, we have been in consultation about ways to strengthen our efforts against proliferation, particularly for those states that are members of the axis against (sic) evil, Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.
Turning to the discussions weíre having on offensive nuclear weapons, there are very difficult issues involved in how one counts the nuclear warheads. Now you say, "How can it be difficult to count nuclear warheads?" In arms control, almost everything can be difficult. At this early stage I would not say that one can identify one issue as necessarily more difficult than the other. Itís still very preliminary. The two sides are asking legitimate questions to try to understand better the position of the other. Thatís really the stage that weíre in now.
QUESTION: (Inaudible). You mentioned the axis of evil. Is there any connection between your visit and the discussions today on the issue of nonproliferation and the cancellation of the visit of the Iranian Foreign Minister?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Youíll have to ask the Iranians that.
QUESTION: My second question was -- as you know, the Russians are very sensitive on the issue of tactical nuclear warheads, particularly the storage issue. Is the United States prepared to give any ground on this?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, so far the Russians havenít asked us to give any ground on them. And as Iím sure you know, in prior strategic weapons agreements there have been no requirements as part of the treaties about what was done with the nuclear warheads that were downloaded or removed from operational status. We have thoroughly explained the results of our nuclear posture review to both the Russian military and the Russian Foreign Ministry. While theyíve had a number of questions about it, I think they understand that the key point for their purposes is the deep reduction in operationally deployed warheads in the range of seventeen to twenty-two hundred.
(Inaudible interjection from a English-speaking journalist, by inaudible Russian translation)
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: The question for the United States is whether we have upward flexibility in the offensive weapons area, should the international geo-strategic situation change. There are several possible ways to deal with the flexibility that we require, which we have presented to the Russian side, and which we will discuss with them.
QUESTION: Vitaliy Portnikov, Radio Liberty. If we continue on the theme of President Bushís axis of evil, what was the reaction of your Russian counterparts to the definition of the countries that belong to the axis of evil? What was the reaction of the Russian side on this characteristic? Do you expect that this subject might be a theme for the upcoming summit in May?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Iíll let the Russian side characterize their reaction to them. What I will say is that there is no disagreement in principle on the threat posed both to Russia and the United States by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to, uh, states that are themselves sponsors of a variety of forms of terrorism. And it was really the fusing of the issue of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction that was the important doctrinal element of President Bushís State of the Union speech. I was ecstatic about that speech and Iíve been happy to discuss it with every one of my foreign counterparts that Iíve been with since that day.
QUESTION: Izvestiya. Could you please explain what is the novelty of the agreement that you are working on now? We have the impression that in the last 10 years nothing has changed in style or substance of the agreements.
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Iím not sure I, Iím not sure I fully understand the question. You said, "What is the novelty of the, what is new in them?" Well, what is new -- I think the -- what weíre trying to discuss with our Russian colleagues is how to frame a post-Cold War relationship where we -- neither side sees the other as an adversary and where many of the agreements that were -- that came out of, or originated in the Cold War context, are really no longer useful models. So, in a very real sense the process of discussion and negotiation that weíre having now is substantially different than what has occurred in the past. And that in and of itself is tangible evidence of the change in the relationship. So, if we reach agreement, it will not be -- on offensive weapons -- it will not be an agreement of hundreds or thousands of pages long that took years to negotiate. Foreign Minister Ivanov said it very well a few minutes ago when he said, "You know, we have some agreements that took years to negotiate and it didnít make them any better agreements for that."
QUESTION: Associated Press. Some Russian officials in public urged the United States to put some (inaudible) limits on its missile defense shield. Whatís your response to that? And I have a second question concerning Iran.
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, weíve just been through an extensive exercise with the Russians where we sought to find a mutually acceptable way to move beyond the constraints of the ABM Treaty. And we were not able to achieve that objective and the United States has announced its withdrawal. Having gone through that very elaborate process, I can assure you we are not about to begin a new process that would result in limits on our missile defense efforts. And your second question is on Iran and I still donít know why the Foreign Minister didnít come today.
QUESTION: No, the question is phrased not exactly like that. The question is, have you raised U.S. concerns about Russian ties with Iran in the military area and in nuclear energy and what was their response to that?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: I did raise our concern about Russian cooperation with the Iranian nuclear weapons program and their ballistic missile program. And Iím gonna give you a very diplomatic answer for the rest. We had a disagreement about the extent of the involvement of them in those Iranian programs. And weíre gonna have to work that out. But let me say this. It is very important as Russia and the United States and the West generally talk about their mutual security interests, that we all treat the question of nuclear and missile proliferation in the same way.
Obviously, if rogue states have alternative sources for nuclear, chemical or biological or ballistic missile technology, they will seek to use those sources and itís important for the United States and a very high priority, as President Bush said, to make sure we dry those sources up. And I just want to underline here the importance of President Bushís extensive discussion of this question in his State of the Union Address, probably the longest occasion in a speech of that importance where a President has spoken to the issue of proliferation. So no one should have any misunderstanding of the depth of his feeling on the subject or the intensity of his interest in resolving the problem.
QUESTION: (Russian, inaudible) Are you discussing ways of compensating Russia for financial losses associated with Russiaís construction work in Busher [transcriber's note: Iranian nuclear station] and the sale of conventional weapons to Iran?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: We are certainly discussing questions of -- involving -- advanced conventional weapons military systems that are of great concern to us. I donít think itís a question for us or for the Russian side of quid pro quo on these issues. For us this is a matter of fundamental importance in the shaping of Russian policy, to be consistent with that of the other major powers that have access to nuclear and ballistic missile technology, to prevent its spread to countries like Iran. I think ultimately itís not a question of what we say, itís a question of Russian national interest. How could any Russian citizen see any benefit whatever in a nuclear-equipped, ballistic missile-capable Iran?
QUESTION: Christian Caryl, Newsweek. Did you express today any similar (inaudible) criticisms of the kind you were already talking about, with respect to Iran, in relationship to Russian cooperation with Iraq and North Korea?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: We discussed it across the board, and uh, including for other states that didnít, uh, make the axis of evil list this time, but whose proliferation behavior weíre concerned with, such as Libya. Every one of those countries is a lot closer to Russia than it is to the United States.
QUESTION: Sorry, just to follow up. You mean, closer to Russia geographically?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Geographically. Physically proximate, right. Sorry.
QUESTION: You were talking about a changing dynamic in the relationship between Russia and the U.S. and that the agreements may -- there were agreements in the past that took years. But, with this date so close now, how (inaudible) an agreement for the Presidents to discuss? If we donít have one, (inaudible)...
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, I think I can speak for Deputy Foreign Minister Mamedov on this point. The negotiators certainly feel under pressure. But I think for both sides itís a question of the quality and substance of the agreement, that it has to be satisfactory from our respective national positions and thatís uh, thatís what the negotiations are for. I can tell you, they will be conducted at a very intensive pace. Ask me again on May 22nd.
QUESTION: Thomas Bonafield, ABC. But if there isnít an agreement, what are they gonna spend three days doing (inaudible)?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: There are a whole range of issues beyond the strategic questions that weíve been discussing, and I think there is gonna be substantial progress on other elements of the new strategic framework, such as the deepening economic relationship and a host of other things as well. And as for the tourism side of it, Iíve never been to St. Petersburg. If we have an agreement, maybe Iíll get there.
Translator (clarifying the statement): If thereís no agreement?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: If there IS an agreement. If thereís no agreement, I may not have to worry about it.
QUESTION: Interfax. Do you know anything about two Russian citizens who were captured in Afghanistan and are being kept at the U.S. base in Guantanamo?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: No, we didnít talk about it and I couldnít confirm it one way or another. Iíd be delighted to talk about the applicability of the Geneva conventions, but I canít speak to the specifics of the detainees.
QUESTION: Moscow Times. To get back to the arms reduction, Mr. Undersecretary. Can you say that these talks -- would you characterize them as positive? Can you say that they give you further hope that an agreement might be reached in May? And can you also indicate whether theyíve uh, that is, what form an agreement might take? Specifically, after these talks?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, at the moment, I donít see any insuperable obstacle to achieving an agreement, although obviously, as Iíve said, there are a number of serious issues that still require pretty detailed discussion. As for the form, on the offensive weapons document, as Secretary Powell has said, we kind of (inaudible) something that would be submitted to the respective legislative branches for their approval.
QUESTION: (Russian, inaudible).
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: I think that we have said from the beginning of the discussion since the Presidents met at Ljubljana and Genoa, that with respect to a range of possible agreements on strategic issues, that the United States was open as to the question of form. I think we have also understood for some time the strong Russian sentiment in favor of a legally binding agreement on that subject.
I think President Bush is thinking geo-strategically on this question. He thinks that itís important to demonstrate, both here in Russia and internationally, the extent of the maturation of the U.S./Russian relationship. And given the importance of a legally binding agreement to the Russian side, President Bush thought it was advisable that the United States agree to it. And thereís no question of a quid pro quo for that. That was a view that the President wanted laid out to the Russian side at the outset of the talks.
QUESTION: Business Week. Did you try to reach any kind of consensus about a possible U.S. attack on Iraq?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: No, that was not any part of our discussions today.
QUESTION: (Followup). I heard that the U.S. has tested Russian ABM systems, that is the S-400. Do you plan to use Russian research to cooperate in the creation of an ABM system?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: There are a variety of ways that the U.S. and Russia can cooperate in the missile defense program and indeed we have already begun discussions of several such possibilities. One of the points we made very strongly last fall was the threats that both Russia and the United States face from states that have a ballistic missile capability was a good reason to move beyond the ABM Treaty and find ways to cooperate together. And especially when the ABM Treaty expires on June the 13th, we hope there will be many ways in which we can cooperate together.
QUESTION: Interfax. So far Russia has asked to keep a linkage between national missile defense and START. Do you plan to leave this linkage in the declaration at the summit, or in any other agreement on ABM?
UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, thereís obviously a linkage in the overall national security calculation any country makes between offensive and defensive measures. But as for how that relationship is embodied, our contemplation, at least as of today, is that both of those questions would be handled in the political declaration that weíre discussing.
Thank you very much.