THE WHITE HOUSE
the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE
MR. HAMMER: Good evening, everyone. Tonight, we have Deputy
Secretary of State Strobe Talbott who will be briefing you on the results of
the just-concluded summit between President Clinton and President Putin. Mr.
Talbott has an engagement later on, so this won't go on terribly long, but here
is Mr. Talbott.
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Thank you, Mike. Good evening
to all of you. I think it was clear from the presidential press conference that
you all just attended, or at least watched on television, that President
Clinton and President Putin covered a great deal of ground over the last couple
You heard a number of the issues referred to during the course
of the press conference -- global issues, regional issues, bilateral issues,
economic, strategic, diplomatic. They did, however, particularly during the
working private dinner that they had in the Kremlin last night, spend a good
deal of time talking about the future of the strategic relationship and how we
can move forward to address new threats to the security of the international
community and to the security of the United States and Russia in particular,
and also how we can continue to make dramatic progress over time in reducing
the nuclear legacy of the Cold War.
Now, during the course of the event
that you just saw, the two Presidents signed a joint statement on principles of
strategic stability. And what I would like to do in the short time that we have
here is add a bit to what President Clinton had to say on that subject.
I think in a very real sense, the principles document, as we've come to
call it, is a classic example of something that we have tried to do and very
often succeeded in doing overt seven-plus years of this administration in
dealing with the Russian Federation, and that is to maximize our areas of
agreement, but also to manage those differences that remain between us. And
there is both agreement and disagreement manifest in this document.
are not claiming, nor are the Russians claiming that this joint statement puts
to rest the cluster of issues surrounding the national missile defense system,
the ABM Treaty, or the future of the START agreement. And all of those, I think
properly, have been the focus of a lot of attention. That said, we do see this
joint statement as a useful interim step that provides, we think, an important
framework for pushing ahead on the issues that are subsumed by the principles
document -- namely, strategic offense, strategic defense, and strategic arms
We think the principles document constitutes a set of
guidelines for the future of our strategic relationship in general with the
Russian Federation, and for further work on the ABM Treaty and START III, in
Now, what I would like to do is parse the document a little
bit with you. I trust you all have copies of it now. It's not absolutely
essential -- well, okay, by all means go get copies. I'm going to refer to
several of the paragraphs when I underscore or highlight what I think are the
four key points that are contained in the joint statement.
point is that it affirms that both countries are committed to maintaining and
strengthening strategic stability. That's paragraph two. Now, what this means
in very simple terms is that neither side will seek unilateral advantage
against the other, or seek to take actions that would deprive the other of a
credible retaliatory deterrent.
Both President Clinton and President
Putin believe that in managing strategic relations between the world's two
largest nuclear powers, stability and mutual deterrence still matter. Now,
mutual deterrence as codified in the ABM Treaty of 1972 has been a cornerstone
of stability for the past 28 years. And we expect that it will remain so in the
future as both sides continue to reduce strategic offensive arms.
leads me to the second point that I want to underscore, and this is contained
particularly in paragraph six. The joint statement acknowledges that the world
has changed since 1972, when the ABM Treaty was signed. Now, in many ways, the
world has changed for the better -- most notably with the end of the Cold War
and the reduction of U.S. and first Soviet, then Russian, deployed strategic
offensive forces by roughly 40 percent.
But while the threat of global
thermonuclear war has dramatically receded, other threats have arisen. And one
of the most serious of those new threats is the proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction and ballistic missile technology. That is the means to deliver
nuclear and other mass destruction weapons.
And as you'll see in
paragraph six, the joint statement acknowledges that that threat, that new
threat, which has come sharply into focus and into being since 1972 and in
recent years, represents a potentially significant change in the strategic
situation and in the international security environment.
statement also acknowledges that the ABM Treaty itself, by its own terms, as
President Clinton put it during the press conference, in the minds and in the
language used by the framers of the ABM Treaty, permits the parties to consider
possible changes in the strategic situation and, in the light of those changes,
to consider proposals for further increasing the viability of the treaty --
that is, steps that would make the treaty more relevant to the current and
prospective security environment. And there, I would call your attention to
paragraph number 8.
And it's in that spirit that the Presidents
directed their governments to develop concrete measures that would allow both
sides to take necessary steps to preserve strategic stability in the face of
new threats. That's paragraph 14. They've asked Secretary Albright and Foreign
Minister Ivanov to report to the Presidents on efforts to develop these
Third point: Consistent with the joint statement and
consistent, I think, very much with the exchange that you heard between the two
Presidents this afternoon, they've also instructed their experts to develop a
series of cooperative measures whereby the United States and Russia can jointly
address the problem of ballistic missile proliferation.
I'll give you a
few examples of the kind of cooperative measures we have in mind. One is
implementation of the shared early warning agreement, which was designed today
also by the Presidents and on which you've been briefed earlier. Second is more
extensive bilateral and multilateral cooperation on theater missile defense.
Now, both sides have ideas and have put forward ideas in this area, and
were already cooperating in some ways such as joint TMD exercises. Third area
of cooperation -- joint work in an open, multinational arrangement that would
ultimately be open to all to combat missile proliferation. And here, what we
are thinking about and talking to the Russians about would be to synthesize --
that is to take the best of ideas that are out there from both sides with
regard to strengthening the missile technology control regime, and also in
developing the Russian idea of a global control system. The purpose of this
effort would be to construct a multifaceted, multilateral approach to
preventing the proliferation of ballistic missile technology.
fourth and last example I would give are initiatives to further develop U.S.
and Russian cooperation in the field of nuclear weapons safety and security.
Now, let me if I could pause for one moment on this question of
cooperation. The two sides have ongoing programs in some of these areas, and
we've been discussing new ideas for cooperation over time in the future. Our
experts will meet in the coming weeks to develop a comprehensive plan, drawing
on the ideas of both sides, for the Presidents to review when they next meet on
the margins of the G-8 summit in Okinawa.
Now, I think it's already
clear that what we're talking about here is a multidimensional threat that
requires a multidimensional response, and that requires cooperation in many
different areas. And there is one area of cooperation where we clearly have
more work to do, where our work is not done as a result of this summit. And
that is diplomatic cooperation on the ABM Treaty itself.
Our view --
the United States' view -- is that the United States and Russia are going to
need to work cooperatively to adapt the ABM Treaty to meet the emerging
ballistic missile threat. How exactly we're going to do that is still at issue.
That brings me to the fourth and final point that I want to underscore
in the joint statement, and it's in paragraph 15, which is that the joint
statement reaffirms that there is a very close logical connection or linkage
between strategic offense and strategic defense -- and, therefore, between
strategic offensive arms control, START, and strategic defensive arms control
of the kind that we've carried out under the aegis of the ABM Treaty.
The joint statement commits the two sides to intensive talks on further
reductions in strategic forces in parallel with further discussions on
ABM-related issues. Now, this is not a new point of agreement between us. The
same linkage was very much a part of the discussions in the agreement between
President Clinton and President Yeltsin during the Cologne summit last year.
Experts are going to meet over the summer with the objective of working
out what we're calling the basic elements of a START III treaty. But they're
also going to continue high-level exchanges on the ABM Treaty and how we
believe it should be changed to accommodate the new environment.
that's what's been agreed, and I think it's a lot. It represents important
progress toward developing a joint approach for dealing with new challenges to
our security. But I want to reiterate and be very clear about those issues that
are still open.
The Russian side is more than capable of speaking for
itself here. But I think that the clarity and realism with which each of us
understands the other's position is an important part of what's been
accomplished here -- first and foremost, between the two Presidents during
their very intensive discussion of this issue over dinner last night.
President Putin made absolutely clear to President Clinton that Russia
continues to oppose the changes to the ABM Treaty that the United States has
proposed since last September -- that is, the changes necessary to permit
deployment of phase one of our limited national missile defense plan. Russia
believes that NMD will undermine strategic stability, threaten Russia's
strategic deterrent, and provoke a new arms race.
So I want to be quite
explicit on this point. The joint statement does not reflect or imply Russian
agreement to change the ABM Treaty along the lines of our proposal, or, for
that matter, along the lines of any other proposal. But as I said earlier,
while it's true that Russia has not accepted our proposals, they have, through
the adoption of these principles, agreed to a framework that includes
discussion of possible changes to the ABM Treaty to meet new threats to our
Now, I talked about how clear President Putin was. President
Clinton was just as clear in stating his belief that the ABM Treaty can and
should be adapted to allow for a limited national missile defense without
damaging strategic stability or undercutting mutual deterrence between the
United States and Russia.
As I think he made quite clear in the press
conference, with regard to NMD, President Clinton told President Putin that he
will make a decision later this year on whether to move forward with that
program, and he will make that decision on the basis of the four criteria that
he laid out last year, which were technology, threat, cost, and impact on
overall national security, including impact on arms control.
the joint statement, indeed nothing that has transpired at this summit,
prejudices President Clinton's decision or limits his options, or, for that
matter, the next President's options with respect to national missile defense.
I'd be happy to go to your questions.
Q Strobe, if I can try
and break apart the two parts of the argument the Russians aren't buying -- the
Russians agree that there is a threat emerging there, but I assume it's safe to
believe there was not agreement on the nature of that threat.
SECRETARY TALBOTT: That is correct. You're in a very good place to get
authoritative elaboration of the Russian position. But that is certainly part
of what we've been hearing from them. They feel that the threat is exaggerated,
but at the very core of their objection today to the proposed NMD is concern
about what they see as a threat to the Russian strategic deterrent.
have colleagues here in this room -- Under Secretary of Defense Slocombe,
Assistant Secretary of Defense Warner, and others -- who have been engaged over
a period of many, many months in extraordinarily detailed, non-polemic, highly
technical discussions with the Russians here in Moscow, in the "tank" in the
Pentagon, and elsewhere on this issue. Clearly, we haven't eliminated the
difference between us, but we have had -- we certainly understand the technical
arguments, and I think that we have made some progress at the level of facts,
physics, and geography.
Q If I could just follow, the second side of it
is, what part of the President's assurances that this does not constitute --
that this does not undermine the Russian deterrent -- what part of that did the
Russians not accept?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Well, I don't want to --
I've gone a long way toward parsing both what has been agreed and being frank
with you about where we still have additional work to do. Having participated
in these discussions over the last nine months, I think that the objective case
that the United States has made is very compelling, but for it to become the
basis of an agreement with the Russians, they need to see that, too.
think it's worth keeping in mind that while President Putin clearly has
followed this issue very closely, and he's had his head of the Security
Council, his Foreign Minister, and a number of his top advisors engaged
directly with us, this was really the first serious and sustained opportunity
for him as President to hear directly from President Clinton.
Q Did the
Russians reiterate today or last night what they have said up until just a few
weeks ago, particularly Mr. Ivanov in Washington -- there's a way to deal with
this threat, however we may disagree on the dimensions of it? With theater
missile defenses, with the 1997 agreement, which had you and other people in
the administration quite ecstatic as having accomplished quite a bit in getting
the Russians to buy into the U.S. interpretation of four different types of
tests which could be conducted within the limits of the ABM Treaty, do they
still say that's the way to go? Or do they now say, we don't know how to go
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Barry, you've never seen me
Q You were pretty ecstatic. The senior official was.
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Theater missile defense, theater-based
antimissile systems, are very much on the table as something that we ought to
be discussing with the Russians, and we have been discussing with the Russians,
and indeed, it's something that we've been discussing with our allies. Because,
again, this is not a simple problem. There is not just one imaginable
manifestation of this new threat.
And we are prepared to pursue with
the Russians cooperation in the area of TMD, as long as they understand, which
I'm sure they do, that it would be a supplement, and maybe you could even say a
complement to what -- to other things that we very well may have to do. But
it's not a substitute for NMD, in other words.
Q So they now see it as
simply a supplement and not a remedy?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: They
understand that we see it as a supplement --
Q How do they see it? What
do they say about how they see it? Did they reiterate their position of just a
few weeks ago, or has there been, quote, "new flexibility" on it?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: I wouldn't want to characterize the Russian
position in that fashion, not least of all because by far, the most substantive
discussions on this subject took place between the two Presidents and it's
going to continue between the two Presidents, but it's also going to take place
between ministers. Secretary Cohen, for example, will be coming to Moscow
before too long. Secretary Albright and Secretary Ivanov are going to keep
working on this. John Holum is going to be meeting with his Russian
counterpart, Ambassador Kapralov.
Obviously, we wouldn't have put as
much effort into trying to summarize and crystallize our points of agreement if
we didn't feel that those points of agreement provided the basis for moving
forward in the future. In other words, what you see here today, I think, is
neither what many were predicting or were concerned about, which is a dead end,
nor is it a destination. But it's a clarification of the path forward. And I
think you heard from the two Presidents, from their level, a sort of management
impulse to both governments to keep working on this issue, not be driven by
artificial deadlines. And we've got both time and a clearer sense of the
framework within which we should work.
Q Could you square what you said
about the Russians thinking that they feel the threat is exaggerated with point
six of the joint statement, where it says that they agree the international
community faces a dangerous and growing threat? What is the Russian perception
of the new and emerging threat? And is it country-specific?
SECRETARY TALBOTT: Elaine, I really think that the only honest and appropriate
answer is to refer you to them for their best effort to answer that question.
We happen to think that the threat posed most particularly by the North Korean
ballistic missile program, the so-called Tae-po dong program, is an objective
reality. The world that we're describing here, the world that is covered by the
ABM Treaty, changed very vividly on August 31, 1998, when the North Koreans
fired that missile, and the question is, can the ABM Treaty, can the
U.S.-Russian strategic relationship, including in its cooperative dimension,
change to take account of those new realities. And as for the Russian answer to
that and the Russian view on that, I'd refer you to them.
Q Did the two
Presidents speak about specific threats -- North Korea, Iraq, Iran?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Yes. And they could do so fairly
economically, because their ministers and experts had spent a great deal of
time on this and there was a good deal of background -- they were sort of off
to a running start on this subject last night, because they both have worked on
And the essence of what President Clinton said was the following:
He believes very much in the ABM Treaty. I think that was clear again in what
he said again today. And it certainly is not his preferred option to do
anything that would harm the ABM Treaty or that would require the United States
to withdraw from it. At the same time, he made very clear that his options on
what he may decide as President he has to do to protect the United States
remain wide open.
The ABM Treaty, in its essence, protects the
principle of mutual deterrence between the United States and Russia. It
protects the principle that Russia has a right to a credible, retaliatory
capability. But the ABM Treaty does not protect the right of North Korea or any
other third country to threaten the United States with ballistic missiles.
Q The President suggested in the press conference that we might be
prepared to go below START III framework numbers on offensive warheads if we
had some assurance that this new threat would be taken care of -- is that an
approach that we think the Russians may find interesting and may buy into?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: The President has said consistently that the
United States is prepared to discuss a future strategic arms control beyond
START III. But we're not at START III yet. We're not at START II yet. We
haven't implemented START II. Despite that, we have begun discussions with the
Russians on target numbers, which is to say a range of strategic offensive
levels for START III.
Three years ago, in this meeting that Barry was
referring to, that represented the culmination of intense deliberation within
the United States government and intense negotiation between the United States
and Russia that had a result. And the result was that the target for START III
should be 2,000, 2,500. So let's take this thing a step at a time.
Has the disagreement over the ABM Treaty now essentially frozen progress on
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: No. In fact, I think that what you
see in this document should provide an impulse to forward movement -- whatever
the opposite of freezing is. I don't think it was frozen, by the way, up until
now, because it basically establishes clear agreement between us that these two
processes are going to have to move forward together -- the control of
strategic defenses and the reduction of strategic offenses. And it's in that
spirit that we're going to be getting together with them very soon.
There was no movement on START III at these meetings today?
SECRETARY TALBOTT: Well, there is not going to be definitive and decisive
movement on START III until the overall strategic context of our strategic
offensive arsenals and the Russians is clear. That context now includes new
threats of the kind that we've talked about here. And the Russians acknowledge
that as a principle, and the question is now translating that principle into
Q Can you -- given the derisive reception of the
Clinton-Gore administration to Governor Bush's discussion of NMD, ABM, and the
whole sort of area of Russian relations, how did you take the unsolicited sort
of words of President Putin that he can do business with either of the
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Well, first of all, I'm not going
to accept the premise of your question. I'm not going to characterize either
the Republican position on this issue or the Clinton administration's
characterization of the Republican position on this issue. I can tell you that
what President Putin had to say on the subject struck me as basic good sense,
which is that the Russian Federation and its President will deal with whomever
the American people decide is to be their President.
Q Strobe, did the
Russians say this weekend that they feel that if the President does go ahead
with approval of phase one, that he will be in violation of the ABM Treaty? And
what did they say when you point out that what you're talking about would knock
down only a fraction of the Soviet strategic arsenal, that it would be no
threat to their arsenal? Do they say, nyet, that this is the start of a
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Their concern about NMD is in
part captured by the last thing that you said. That is, they're concerned that
phase one will not only lead to phase two, but will lead on and on and on.
Our position has been that the NMD program in its two phases is very
carefully designed to do two things -- one, to deal with a certain kind of
threat, namely, relatively small numbers of third country ICBMs; but, two, to
leave intact mutual deterrence and the Russian retaliatory capability. It's
also our view that we've come a long way, we've come 28 years with a lot of
changes in the world -- notably, including in this country, and in the essence
of the nature between this country and our country -- and we've done so with an
ABM Treaty that's now 28 years old. It was modified two years after it was
signed, and it's now time to take a good, hard look about ways to save it, to
make sure that it lasts for another 28 years. That's what this is about.
I think that without in any way prejudging where the Russian Federation
will come out on this issue, they understand our position even more clearly now
than they did before -- not least because their President has heard it directly
from out President.
Q A couple of days before this weekend's talks,
President Putin gave an interview with NBC, and after that interview there was
a lot of reporting that Putin plans to propose some sort of joint missile
defense involving both countries sharing technology. Did Putin raise anything
of the kind?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Well, there has been discussion
between us and the Russians -- Walt Slocombe and Ted Warner have had a lot more
detailed conversation along these lines than I have because there's been a lot
of good military-to-military contact, as well -- about the possibility of
cooperating on various kinds of missile defense. We haven't ruled any of that
out. We see some of it as being potentially responsive and relevant to some of
the problems that we might face in the future, problems that we would like to
face jointly with Russia.
But there is, kind of right in the middle of
the road, one very big problem. And it's the prospect within the next five
years or so of a North Korean ICBM. And theater missile defense, for a variety
of technical reasons, cannot deal with an ICBM -- or at least we're not sure,
we don't have any reason for confidence that we could develop a system of, say
-- just for example, since it's been in the news -- theater-based boost-phase
intercept, in anything like the time frame in which this threat is maturing.
MR. HAMMER: Last question.
Q How much time was spent discussing
Chechnya? And was there any kind of meeting of the minds, any kind of progress
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: I would say quite a bit of time was
spent on Chechnya. And there's something, to be honest, a little bit lopsided
about this conversation. I realize I'm responsible for that, because we've
properly spent a lot of time discussing one great big issue. But there were a
lot of great big issues covered at this summit, including between the two
Presidents last night, and Chechnya was one of them. And we came back to it
today in the larger format as well.
And I would say, as for the
substance, it was pretty well captured in the press conference this afternoon.
Certainly the essence of President Clinton's view and attitude on the subject.
Q Strobe, just one quick one. Did they discuss at all Russian organized
crime in this country and in the United States?
TALBOTT: Bill, the issue of -- to give it its negative name, corruption, and
its positive name, the need for a rule of law as an underpinning of Russian
reform -- was a theme. It's a theme on which President Clinton was very candid.
And President Putin was very candid and forceful. And it came up particularly
during the economic plenary with some of the economic advisors and ministers
joining this afternoon.
Q What did they decide?
SECRETARY TALBOTT: Serious problem, got to work on it together, like a number
of others I could mention.
Thank you very much.
END 7:43 P.M.