Disarmament DiplomacyIssue No. 24, March 1998
Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission: Press ConferenceNews Briefing with Vice President Al Gore and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin following the tenth meeting of the US-Russian Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation, Washington, 11 March 1998.
Remarks by Vice President Gore
"In so many ways, the US-Russian Commission on Economic and Technological Cooperation has made a real difference in the relationship between our two nations and in the lives of the American people and the Russian people. We have opened up opportunities in Russia for American trade and investment. We have nurtured new, once unimaginable cooperation on nuclear security, infectious diseases, science and technology, environmental protection, the development of small businesses, the conversion of massive Cold War industries. We've explored outer space and cyberspace, and we have attacked all manner of problems and opportunities. ...
A specific area the prime minister and I discussed was our common concern about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and about the need for both of our countries to work together aggressively on this problem, which, after all, affects the security of both our nations. I'm pleased that Russia, pursuant to its policies, has established new and stronger legal authority to keep sensitive technologies from leaking beyond Russia's borders.
Implementation is key. Building on previous export control cooperation between our two countries, we have agreed to expand and intensify our collaboration. By working together on export controls on weapons, weapons materials, and dual-use goods, I believe we can and we will strengthen existing international non-proliferation regimes and promote regional stability. ..."
Remarks by Prime Minister Chernomyrdin
"We started with the fact that we defined the major aspects and trends which could, in a short period of time, provide for this necessary breakthrough. These turned out to be space, energy, setting conditions for normal trade and commerce. In the framework of the Commission, we have eight committees working - on capital markets, several working groups, and yesterday, we discussed the fact that now there is a need to set up a new important committee. That's the committee on nuclear affairs. ...
We've been working hard in the fuel efficiency, and stability has been achieved in nuclear research. And I believe our relationship has become predictable and safe and to a great extent due to the fact that we've been able to find common ground, both as regards the questions of the peaceful use of nuclear energy and also what has to be done on the reduction of arms and processing of weapon-grade uranium for the purposes of energy.
Both to Russia and the US, it's of principal importance that we are cooperating in implementation of the defense conversion facilities. We have created so many lethal weaponries over the past years that today, to clean up those piles of weaponry, it will be possible only jointly.
And our Commission has been working in this area through the operat ion of the Committee on Conversion. And in the framework of that committee, also having to do with elimination of offensive weapons and setting up storage facilities of fissible materials, we have already invested basically $1 billion. And I think that's not bad, but that's only a beginning. ...
I hold in high regard the consultations which were held here in Washington on the improvement of national systems of export control. Now they will be continued on a regular basis. And what we need to seek is that such tangible and positive changes in our work happen more and more. ...
I will add just the fact that very shortly we will need to address some urgent problems of the next US-Russian summit, which I'm sure will become a new benchmark in implementation of a joint course of these two countries to develop partner relationship. ...
...the whole world is aware right now that the United States of America and Russia, above all, are addressing the issues of disarmament. These two great powers are doing so. The most powerful and most armed States have set their first priority [as] disarmament and one more time disarmament, and above all, elimination of nuclear arms of mass destruction. ..."
"Question: 'I know everybody is interested in the contents of your conversation with President Clinton, and above all, whether it has been possible to advance in defining the venue of the summit and the time frame of the presidential summit?'
Chernomyrdin: '...perhaps there is no need in hiding anything from you. These questions have to do with our agreements. We have not ratified the START II, which is very important, needs to be done, and it affects all of us. So far our parliament are delaying this at this time. So I believe that the government should be more purpose-oriented to do work on that one. And all the agencies concerned should be involved. There are some other questions. So they need to be elaborated for the purposes of the meeting of our presidents.
And I am convinced this meeting will take place, and I'm sure it will not be easy. By far, this should set forth the trend of our bilateral relationship being aimed at the horizon of the 21st century. And we'll do our best to seriously, very seriously prepare that summit.'
Question: 'Mr. Vice President, did you receive any assurances from Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on the specific question of Russian missile technology exports to Iran?'
Gore: 'Well, you heard the prime minister's statement a moment ago about the Russian national interest defined in its own terms to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to prevent the proliferation of delivery systems, such as ballistic missiles. Russia has no interest in seeing these kinds of dangerous materials and weapons and systems spread to any of its neighbors.
And we have developed a close enough working relationship so that we are now able to have Russian experts and US experts work in a joint team very intensively to develop ways to further the Russian national interest and simultaneously address the concerns that we have expressed.
The policy enunciated by the prime minister in his conversations with us, with President Clinton and me and with our American colleagues, in his statement just now, in his statement on Russian television earlier, the policy is exactly correct.
Implementation of the policy is always a challenge for the United States as well as for Russia. And in meeting that challenge, this joint team of experts is helping us immeasurably to make sure that we both reach our common objectives. And we're making tremendous progress, and the new agreement on joint work pursuant to export controls furthers this work. We're making tremendous progress, and I'm grateful for the work that we've been able to do together.'"
Source: Transcript - Gore, Chernomyrdin at press conference 11 March, United States Information Service, 12 March.
Editor's note: on 23 March, Chernomyrdin was dismissed as Prime Minister (see News Review). The same day, Vice President Gore issued the following statement:
"For the past five years, I have worked closely with Viktor Stepanovich Chernomyrdin to enhance cooperation between Russia and the United States, and to advance the cause of reform in Russia. We have accomplished a great deal in this time for the benefit of both our peoples.
President Clinton and I will continue to work closely with the Russian government to build a peaceful and more stable world, support Russia's aspirations for reform and a prosperous and democratic future, and deepen our engagement with the people of Russia."
© 1998 The Acronym Institute.