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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > From the Under Secretary > Remarks > 2002

U.S.-Russian Arms Reduction Talks

John R. Bolton, Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Press Conference at the Palais des Nations
Geneva, Switzerland
March 22, 2002

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Thanks very much. It's a pleasure to be back in Geneva. I was here today with a delegation for the American side for the third negotiating session with our counterparts from the Russian Federation, discussing potential agreements that might be the subject of the Presidential summit when President Bush visits Moscow on May 23rd. Yesterday and today we discussed two documents, one a draft that we are negotiating on offensive nuclear weapons, and second, a possible political declaration discussing the new strategic framework between the United States and Russia.

This third meeting follows the meetings held in Washington last week when the Russian Minister of Defense, Sergei Ivanov met with President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell, and National Security Adviser Rice, and is in preparation for a meeting of Secretary of State Powell and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Madrid in early April. Obviously all of these meetings are in preparation for the May Summit.

Basically what we did over the past two days was to consider a number of the issues that remain unresolved between the Russian and the American sides on the offensive weapons document and on the political declaration. We also reached agreement on a number of more or less technical issues in further preparation for the ministerial meeting. We covered such things as how to account for the warheads that are the principal subject of this document. As you will recall, during the Washington Crawford summit, President Bush announced that the United States would make substantial reductions in its operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads from just under 6,000 to a range of between 1700 to 2200 over a ten year period. President Putin made a similar announcement and the purpose of our discussions has been to try to codify those announcements into a document that would be legally binding and would survive the administration of the two Presidents.

In addition on the political declaration on the New Strategic Framework, we are covering the whole range of strategic issues, offensive weapons questions, defensive systems, non-proliferation, counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism. There will obviously be other issues addressed at the May summit, other political issues, other economic issues, such as Russia's entry into the World Trade Organization. Those other issues, that is to say the non-strategic issues, did not play a part in our discussions here. Those are being discussed by other of our colleagues in the respective foreign ministries and other agencies.

So, that's a quick summary of what we have covered here over the past two days. I would say in summary the talks were very productive. I thought we made progress. We overcame a number of outstanding issues. We still have a number of issues to resolve, but, as President Bush recently said in connection with Defense Minister Ivanov's trip to Washington, he is hopeful that we will be able to have a signing ceremony in Moscow to codify the reductions in offensive weapons and those of us who work in the respective governments, with just two months to go before that summit, would be working hard to try carrying out their instructions. With that, why don't I stop. I would be pleased to answer your questions on that subject.

QUESTION: I wonder if you could be somewhat more specific about the areas in which you have made progress and what the differences are that remain. If you could perhaps also tell us what the numbers are in term of the cuts you are envisioning and I believe that the Russians are a little bit concerned that the United States wants to store the warheads that it plans to cut instead of destroying them. Was this discussed as well?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: The major subject of discussion, of course, is the reduction of approximately two thirds for the United States, from a level of about 6,000 warheads to the range of 1700 to 2200 operationally deployed warheads. We have had, over the past several months, extensive discussions on the subject of how to count that reduction. I know that probably sounds like something fairly minor, but in the world of arms control, the question of attributing warheads to various weapon systems versus actually counting the precise number of operationally deployed warheads can make a big difference. We've been exchanging information with the Russians over a several month period to give them a sense of what we mean by our proposed way of counting for these reductions. I think it is safe to say now, that although we have not reached agreement on that question, we have fully explained to their satisfaction what we have in mind. We have a number of other issues dealing with transparency and verification questions. We've had extensive discussions with them about the implications of having the START I treaty continue in effect, which is certainly our hope for the remaining life of that treaty.

The issue of warheads that remain after the two countries reach the reduced levels that we are talking about, has also being the subject of conversation, and in fact, was one of the principal topics that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Defense Minister Ivanov spoke about in Washington last week. The precedent in prior arms control agreements, of course, is that past treaties have not made any mention of what happens to the warheads that are downloaded. Some go into to storage, some are dismantled, some are used for other purposes. I think that while there is not complete congruence on this point yet, the parties have reached an understanding that in order to reach agreement by the summit in May, we have to focus on the subject that is of most concern to us, that is to say, the operationally deployed warheads. That's certainly the direction that we have been urging, and I think that we are going to continue to urge over the next several months. But there is not agreement on it yet.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you could talk a little more about the discussions you're having regarding offensive nuclear weapons?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, that what I was just talking about. The purpose of attempting to reach agreement is to codify in a legally biding document the reductions in operationally deployed strategic nuclear weapons that the two Presidents announced in Washington. On the part of the United States, President Bush has said that he wants to reduce operationally deployed warheads to the minimum number possible consistent with American national security, that's why he picked the range of 1700 to 2200. We would be prepared to do that whether we are able to reach agreement with the Russian side or not. But as I say, the hope of the two Presidents is that they can reach an agreement that would survive their respective administrations. Speaking on my part I hope that's a long way away. But, in any event, something would be legally binding beyond the political declaration.

QUESTION: Could you throw some light on what is the Russian perception is at this point on your draft nuclear posture review? We hear Russians privately express their concerns in the CD here. They say that this program, for all practical purposes, starts the arms race all over again.

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: I don't know how they can say that, frankly, when we are talking about a reduction of two-thirds in our operationally deployed nuclear warheads. I call going from 6,000 to a range of 1700 to 2200 going down, not up. In the conversations that we've had here, in the conversations we had in Washington last week, it was my impression that the Russian side understood fully what the nuclear posture review was about and it was a minimal subject of conversation. They've got one of those in Moscow as well. In fact one of the things that happened in this meeting was that General Baluyevskiy, the equivalent of the Vice-Chairman of their joint Chiefs of Staff, gave us a briefing on their nuclear doctrine and on some of their thinking on missile defense. So, among the professional military and diplomatic personnel involved, I must say there was not any surprise about it at all.

QUESTION: Do we understand well that this new treaty, if there is a new treaty, will replace START II which will never enter into force?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: We haven't decided on our part whether there will be a treaty or some other form of legally binding agreement but the intention would be that START I would continue in force. All of its provisions would continue in force, but because START II has not entered in to force, it would not. In other words, the document would be START I and then this agreement.

QUESTION: Have you discussed the problem of the replacement of the ABM treaty?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: We have had conversations since the announcement on December 13th last year by President Bush of our notice of withdrawal from the ABM Treaty about a variety of possible efforts at cooperation and transparency in connection with the ongoing United States effort to develop a limited ballistic missile defense system. We have explained to the Russian side at some length, as we did before our notice of withdrawal, that the limited national missile defense system are contemplating was not aimed at the Russian offensive capability. We've been willing to provide them with information about what our thinking is, what our development prospects have been for missile defense, and also to engage them in cooperative kinds of activities, because in many respects, the threats that the United States is concerned about from rogue states -- and I'll just name three, North Korea, Iran, and Iraq -- are threats that are likewise faced by Russia, which is in fact geographically much more proximate to those states than we are. We are hoping to have some concrete things to announce perhaps as part of the political declaration that I referred to a moment ago, when we arrive in Moscow for the summit. Just one little footnote: one of the things that inhibits our cooperation with the Russian on Missile defense is of course the ABM treaty. So until that treaty expires, we are limited in some of the things we can do but it's our hope to show to the Russian side that we are open and transparent on missile defense and to engage in cooperation in a way that might be mutually productive.

QUESTION: Could you elaborate a little bit on your possible cooperation on Missile Defense with the Russians. For example are you looking for sharing data on early warning systems, assisting the Russians in improving their radar system, or can you elaborate on any concrete issues?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: I think there are a number of measures that are under active discussion relating to data exchange that would allow us to work together to detect missile threats to both of our countries. There are a series of other things that we might be able to do in terms of scientific and technological exchanges on the question of missile defense. As I say, it is still relatively early in those discussions, although we were joined here, in Geneva, our prospective delegations between Foreign Minister Mamedov and myself by one of the working groups that was set up earlier to discuss missile defense cooperation. And I think I mentioned a moment ago, General Baluyevskiy gave us a fairly extensive briefing this morning which was continuing in the working group on some Russian thoughts on cooperative mechanisms. Our hope is that by the time of the summit in May that we will have some practical concrete areas of cooperation that we can announce. But those are also discussions that are underway, and I can't be more specific at this point because they are not advanced enought to be more specific.

QUESTION: Yes, you said that the second document would try to reach some sort of new strategic framework. Can you outline what the elements of that framework would cover and and any detail on what you may have agreed on or are close to agreeing.

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: The New Strategic Framework is a phrase that President Bush has used to try to characterize our relationship with Russia in the post Cold War era, to say that we have obviously moved beyond the Cold War antipathy between the two countries and that it is time now, recognizing this new relationship where neither side considers the other an adversary, to try to reflect that in our daily bilateral relations. So the New Strategic Framework really refers to the whole range of issues that we have been discussing. But specifically, the work that we are doing focuses on offensive weapons reduction, on missile defense, both of which I have discussed, on questions of non-proliferation and counter-proliferation, where we both have a substantial interest in making sure that weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems do not spread around the world. Counter terrorism, particularly since September 11, has been a very fruitful area of cooperation at several levels between Russia and the United States. So that is an on-going process. It is not intended to be a fixed agreement. We are going to reflect the progress that we have made up until the time of the summit but I have no doubt that the two presidents in their conversations will take it even further in the discussions they will have in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

QUESTION: I believe that the United States and Russia are apart on verification issues: you don't agree on how the warhead cuts should be verified. Have you been narrowing this down, and can you tell us what the difference in the two positions is?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Actually, there is a substantial area of agreement, beginning with the very firm view of both sides that we will keep the START I inspection verification and compliance mechanisms in place for the remaining life of that treaty. Both sides also, over the years of experience with that treaty, have come up with a number of suggestions that would reduce the burdensomeness of some of the inspections without reducing in any way their capacity to provide information. We have got some additional thoughts that we provided to the Russian side last week when defense minister Ivanov was in Washington, that are more particularly tailored to the kind of transparency that we would like to see as we come down to the lower levels that both sides have agreed to. There are a number of issues now relating to the fact that we will be talking about, at least in our view, operationally deployed warheads, as opposed to the kind of verification you need under the START I counting rules where warheads are attributed to particular delivery platforms whether they are carrying the warheads or not. We don't have at this point a written response from the Russian side to the document we presented to them last week, but we did talk about in the past couple of days. I think they will be responding to us fairly quickly. We have a separate working group which is addressing transparency and verification that we are hopeful will be meeting again before the next meeting that we have with Deputy Foreign Minister Mamedov, which we have agreed will be held in Moscow on April 23 and 24th.

QUESTION: With respect to the agreement you are negotiating, are you discussing a notification period for withdrawal and if so what is the period being considered.

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Almost every arms control treaty, in fact almost every major international agreement provides for some kind of withdrawal provision. The ABM treaty that I mentioned a moment ago obviously does. In our draft we have included a withdrawal provision. We had also proposed to the Russians, that short of actual withdrawal, there might be a mechanism whereby we could give notice if we felt international geo-strategic circumstances have changed to a point where the offensive nuclear weapons range might need to be adjusted, so that we could adjust that range without actually withdrawing from the treaty. And we have had some interesting discussions on that. I think it would be fair to say that we have not reached agreement. But I think that the Russian side does not have a much different view of the importance of flexibility for both countries, given the uncertainties that we face looking into the future. So those are important questions. We don't have agreement on them yet. In fact, I think it is important to note that we don't have agreement on anything in particular until everything is agreed. We say that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, but we are making progress on a number of fronts. That is an issue that although we don't have agreement I think there is a very clear understanding between the two sides of what flexibility we are interested in. That is not an issue that is going to be an insuperable obstacle for us.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on what you had just said there? You are saying that you would like a mechanism which would allow you to change the figures, to raise them, conceivably?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Right. If there were changed circumstances in the world that might be necessary. It might also be possiblem within the range, for the United States to vary up or down, or both sides, the way the drafts are written, to go below the range. That is one of the things that we see as important, and I believe the Russian side sees as important too, that is, when looking ten years down the road you are looking into a very uncertain future. While we are interested in providing for stability between ourselves, it is less uncertainty about us, than about uncertainty in the world. I think that is just a prudent way to proceed. And I am encouraged that I think the Russian side, at least in big picture terms, sees it the same way we do.

QUESTION: Mr. Bolton, I was wondering if you have any ballpark figures what it would cost to store an estimated 4000 nuclear warheads, or if as the Russians wish, to have a lot of them destroyed? Have you discussed the possibility of technical or financial assistance to Russia if they do wish to destroy the weapons systems that you might wish to store? And I understand there are some concerns by members of Congress on the hazardous side effects of storing thousands of weapons systems around the United States.

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, the question of storage or destruction is one that we have had discussions with the Russian side about. We are already providing a substantial amount of assistance, as are other countries, in terms of cooperative threat reduction programs and other programs, Russia, to reduce the amount of fissile material that is in warhead form. Part of the subject of storage versus destruction is a capacity problem. Dismantling a nuclear warhead is not something you do casually over a weekend. It is an involved, complicated and dangerous process so that there is a certain limit that both sides face in the destruction process.

That's one of the reasons why I think we had a very productive discussion between Secretary Rumsfeld and Defense Minister Ivanov in understanding why, for purposes of reaching an agreement by the time of the summit, we should really focus on what the two presidents have already announced in terms of reduction of operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads. Because once you get into the subject of storage or destruction, you also have to get into the question of production and a whole range of other issues that would make it effectively impossible to reach an agreement by May and therefor would give a misleading picture of just how much progress we have made in the relationship on these issues. So I think those are subjects probably for discussion later. Our focus would be on reaching an agreement by May on the operational coordinates. I am going to have to leave in a couple of minutes, so I will just take a couple more now.

QUESTION: Could I just ask you, does the American proposal foresee destroying all the warheads that will be made non-operational, or did you present a figure already to the Russians showing how many you would like to destroy and how many you would prefer to store.

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, we've talked in theoretical terms about what happens when you come down from the current level of approximately 6000 deployed warheads to a range of between 1700 and 2200. But I would just say again, bear in mind the precedent of earlier strategic weapons agreements where the subject of what happens to the downloaded warheads was just not addressed in the agreement because of the concern of focusing on what the immediate issue before the treaty negotiators was. The net of that is that this agreement -- I will predict a little bit ahead to what I think it will look like -- will not be any different from prior arms control agreements in that respect. And, although we are not there yet, I don't think that this is going to be an insuperable issue between the two sides. We'll see. We've got two months to go, and although it is not a lot of time, we are going to be working to see if we can't overcome the remaining areas of disagreement.

QUESTION: So, just for my understanding, your side would like to store all the warheads you are making non-operational, or you don't plan to destroy any?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well, we haven't made a decision on what to do with the warheads that will be downloaded. Some will be stored, some are spares. We want to have insurance against a problem of safety or reliability with an entire class of warheads. These are all questions that the Russians face as well. They have got thousands of warheads that are in storage now in Russia. The real issue is whether they are operationally deployed, and whether that constitutes a threat. And that is really the question we are focusing on.

QUESTION: This question is not directly related to the US Russian issue. It's about the refusal to certify North Korean compliance of the 1994 Geneva Nuclear Framework. Doesn't this lead to some kind of confusion about what is the real intention about the refusal to certify the North Korean compliance? What are the real criteria set by your government for the North Korea's full compliance with the framework. I wondered if you could answer this question please?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: I'd really rather not get into areas outside the negotiations we've had here, and I'm not sure, sitting here, whether the President has made a decision on that issue. Since it is his decision, it would be inadvisable, to say the least, for me to comment on the deliberations we have had inside the government. So my suggestion would be to get your colleagues in Washington to follow up on that question. And when I'm back there, they'll probably call me. Let's just take one more.

QUESTION: Sir, how long would it take to make a stored nuclear warhead operational again?

UNDER SECRETARY BOLTON: Well that is a very hard question to answer since a warhead that is not actually operationally deployed can be in various states of dismantling. The answer to your question is, in some cases a very short time, and in some cases a very long time. That is one of the reasons why the difficulty of defining the entire universe of pieces and parts of the nuclear weapons supply system is so difficult to codify in an agreement, and one of the reasons that both we and the Russians have focused only on the issue of most immediate concern.

Thank you very much. Nice to see you again.

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