THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE STROBE TALBOTT
8:10 P.M. (L)
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 of days.
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.
We 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 control.
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 particular.
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.
The first 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.
That 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.
The joint 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 measures.
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.
And the 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.
Now, 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 security.
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.
Nothing in 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.
DEPUTY 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.
I 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.
I 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 about this?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Barry, you've never seen me ecstatic.
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?
DEPUTY 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 it.
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.
Q Has the disagreement over the ABM Treaty now essentially frozen progress on START III?
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.
Q There was no movement on START III at these meetings today?
DEPUTY 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 practical steps.
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 candidates?
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 slippery slope?
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 there?
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?
DEPUTY SECRETARY 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?
DEPUTY 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. (L)
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