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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 47, June 2000

Cohen Visit to Moscow

Cohen-Sergeyev Press Conference, June 13

'Joint Press Conference with Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Russian Minister of Defense Igor Sergeyev in Moscow, June 13, 2000,' US Department of Defense transcript.

Remarks by Cohen

"We made good progress today discussing ways in which we can continue to cooperate, certainly with the soldiers in the Balkans, with shared early warning and helping to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. We have agreed to intensify our level of cooperation in all of these areas.

We have also indicated our willingness to explore ways in which we can cooperate on issues involving theater missile defense, but I will also indicate that there is continued disagreement over the urgency that the United States feels in terms of the nature of the threat coming from rogue states and how it should be addressed. The United States believes it's important to continue our research and development efforts in the field of national missile defense for the possible deployment of a limited type of system.

In the meantime, we certainly are willing to explore the concept that the Russian president and the military leadership have in mind for protection against rogue states by defending through a shield that would be over the rogue states, something like an umbrella, over the rogue state areas. We are interested in exploring that. We do not see that as a substitute for a limited national missile defense system, but something that would be in addition to [it]. We have agreed that our experts should continue to meet to discuss the nature of the concept and the technology that might be involved in establishing umbrellas of protections against the rogue states in the future. There are many problems associated with a boost phase type of intercept from a technological and practical point of view. We certainly are interested and willing to explore these issues with our Russian friends."

Remarks by Sergeyev

"First of all, I would like to mention that we did exchange our views on how to promote our cooperative efforts… We have just signed a plan of cooperation between the two militaries for the year 2000. The focus of the bilateral program is to improve the quality of exchanges, rather than to raise the numbers of exchanges.

Of course, most of the time in our conversation has been taken by our exchanges on the ABM matters. We do welcome the United States' interest in continuing our exchanges on the establishment of the non-strategic ABM assets. We do support the idea of continuing our bilateral efforts on the level of specialists or experts. At the same time, we kept our policy positions on the question of the so-called NMD, national missile defense.

First of all, the Russian policy position is that we don't see the feasibility of opportunity at this point in time to modify or update the 1972 ABM Treaty. To take out the outstanding concerns of both of us, we do propose that a political effort should be undertaken in order to establish a so-called political umbrella for the United States and the Russian Federation against the so-called other rogue states through the system of arrangements and agreements. Of course, such a protection system should be based on the dedicated commitments of both sides and of the dedicated agreements, and those obligations should be appropriately verifiable. Our view is that this version of implementation of such a political umbrella is going to be more effective; it is going to be less costly; and it will be less dangerous and detrimental to the national interests of either side. Also, it is of greater importance because it will be in the interest of many other lands and in the interest of strategic stability. … [I]t will be a promising arrangement, having the capacity for many years to come. Pulling out of the 1972 ABM commitment would amount to restarting the arms race. Should the very cornerstone of strategic stability become eroded, we will have a big problem of putting things in check in this area. Should we fail to reach an arrangement in this area, the battle or war between the shell on one hand and the armour on the other hand will continue indefinitely."

Questions and Answers

"Question: 'Marshal Sergeyev, did I understand you correctly that the Russian proposal on missile defense is a political agreement and not a theater missile defense or a boost phase missile defense or is that also included in your proposal? And is there anything in your proposal that would counter what Secretary Cohen has said that it would not protect the United States in any way? And Secretary Cohen, would the United States be willing to go as low as 1,500 [warheads] in START III talks if Russia agreed to modify the ABM Treaty?'

Sergeyev: 'There has been one more disparity in this regard...to do with our different approaches to the assessment of security threats. Well, if you take some threat, we regard it as a potential threat or a virtual threat, while the Americans might be tempted to regard the same threat as the actual threat, the real threat. So, I think it would be a good idea to join forces with on a bilateral level to arrive at some arrangement to assess the quality of the threats, meaning [that] what we have to do is arrive at some criteria, at some benchmark, in order to view the degree of threats and which we are lacking today. We don't have that in place now. The positive movement in this area would really produce good results in the area of stability.'

Cohen: 'Basically, we are exploring the differences between our assessment of how soon the threat will emerge. The United States believes that North Korea, by way of example, will have an intercontinental range by the year 2005. There's some disagreement in terms of the Russian assessment of that date. We will continue, of course, to discuss it with our Russian friends, but that is our intelligence community's assessment. In addition, we will always explore ways of politically providing protection for our respective countries, but we also have to look at the capability as well as intent. Our focus is on capability. The third point that I would make is that we will continue to examine Russian proposals in terms of providing protection in a boost phase against any of the rogue nations, but we still do not see this as a substitute for the limited system that the United States is now considering. We made no decision on deployment as of this time, but we cannot see this as a substitute for it, given the fact that a great deal needs to be done in terms of the technology involved, such as boost phase systems, and the practical implications of it. We are continuing to discuss this and continue to share information amongst our experts.

With respect to your second question, we are now exploring in the START III talks the limits and the range [2,000-2,500 warheads] that was agreed to between President Clinton and President Yeltsin at Helsinki. That is the focus of our discussion to date.' …

Question: 'Marshal Sergeyev, [what other details can you provide?] … And Secretary Cohen, what is your clearest understanding of this Russian system?'

Sergeyev: 'Well, I have already touched upon the principal conceptual visions; I am not in charge of the effort to develop and build this system. For our part, we have expounded to our American colleagues the principal features of that boost phase defense system. This is not a new proposal. This is just one part of our bilateral, overall more general effort, that we have been undertaking… The interest on both sides to this question is so high today that we do recognize the need for us to join forces in order to come up with some non-strategic theater anti-ballistic missile solution. … Secretary Cohen in his remarks indicated that it [a joint system] should be made conditional on the intactness of the national missile defense for the United States. Well, but that is part of the strategic missile defense to us. This topic will…be discussed on the level of experts from both of our countries.'

Cohen: 'What we have indicated is that we are indeed interested in cooperating on a theater missile defense system between NATO and Russia, but a theater missile defense system does not protect the United States. We also indicated that we are willing to listen to proposals about a boost phase intercept system, but our understanding is that it requires a great deal of technical challenge…in terms of the ability of the interceptor missile radar that would be required to track the long-range ballistic missile, the ability to distinguish the flame of the missile and the burn from the missile itself. All of these would indicate that the time frame that we are looking at would be further on than the 2005 time frame that we believe the threat to the United States will be present. So, what I've indicated is that we are going to explore this with the Russians. We are interested in it, but it should not be seen as a substitute.'

Question: 'So, is the Russian side proposing a boost phase concept…that would protect the United States?'

Cohen: 'That would protect Russia and the United States. It raises a number of practical questions in terms of where such a boost phase intercept system would be deployed such as how many regions, what would be the local determination, how would it be controlled, how would it be manned, and who would make the decision in terms of whether it could be launched to intercept a long-range ballistic missile. So, there are a lot of problems associated with it but we're willing to explore all of those with our Russian friends.'"

Press Briefing, June 13

'Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen: Press Briefing at US Ambassador's Residence in Moscow, June 13,' US Department of Defense transcript.

"Question: 'Did you get any more details? Obviously they're talking about a boost phase system…'

Cohen: '… President Putin wanted our experts to get together to study the issue in terms of boost phase. I think there are a number of technical aspects to it that really need to be clarified, and I tried to raise those and did raise those throughout my meetings. … With respect to the threat, you may have read today's Moscow Times, that the head of their Strategic Rocket Forces indicated there are between five and eight emerging threat areas. And without identifying them, I think it's also clear that they recognize that there is a threat emerging by way of the spread of missile capability and also the spread of WMD, weapons of mass destruction. …'

Question: 'Aren't you still at an impasse though on NMD? And what was your reaction to the strong comments that Sergeyev said that this would restart an arms race.'

Cohen: 'I didn't expect there would be any major breakthrough in terms of results in that issue. … There had been some statements in the press that an NMD program was designed to defeat all of the Russian systems, for example, their bomber force and their cruise missile capability. Well that's completely contrary to the facts. Our NMD system wouldn't be able to deal with a bomber threat or cruise missile technology. So it's just a question of raising the issues that have surfaced and then being able to discuss them across the table, and then attempt to narrow some of the differences. … So that was all that I expected.'

Question: 'What is the political umbrella concept that he talked about? What was your response to that?'

Cohen: 'I think what he was talking about is diplomacy, working together to discourage countries such as North Korea, Iran and others... Many countries want to engage in diplomacy to discourage the North Koreans and others from developing long range missile technology, but that was more of a general concept than an actual deterrent against a rogue state ever contemplating firing a missile at the United States.'

Question: 'Doesn't that already exist in the missile technology control regime?'

Cohen: 'That's a control regime. I think he was talking in the nature of diplomacy.'

Question: 'Have the Russians actually spent any money on this boost phase system? Have they actually done any research or development on it?'

Cohen: 'I don't know. … You have a real problem in terms of where you would deploy such a system, and what areas... You'd have to have a very sophisticated radar, which does not exist, that would be able to distinguish whether it's a satellite launch or a ballistic missile launch. Be able to distinguish it very quickly, then to be able to track it and be able to distinguish and discern between the plume of the missile launch from the missile itself. All of that would be required in a matter of the 300 seconds, because then the missile would start to gain too much speed for anything to catch up to it.'

Question: 'Are you still of the opinion that a boost phase system would violate the ABM Treaty?'

Cohen: 'Whatever the interceptor, if you are intercepting a missile with a range in excess of 3,500 kilometers or a speed greater than five kilometers per second, that transgresses the demarcation.'

Question: 'Did you point that out to them?'

Cohen: 'Yes. And secondly, if you are defeating a long range missile system, wherever you put the interceptor, it still is an NMD system which requires modification of the ABM Treaty. So either way it does require modification. … They talk in terms of a non-strategic intercept system, but the reality is if you're going to intercept a missile that's on its way to your territory, that is a national missile defense capability which requires modification of the ABM Treaty.'"

Cohen-Sergeyev Meeting, June 9

'Press Conference at NATO Headquarters, Friday, June 9,' US Department of Defense transcript.

"Marshal Sergeyev and I just finished a bilateral meeting. … As always, I found Marshal Sergeyev very direct, straightforward, and professional. I am glad that Russia is back at the [NATO-Russia] Permanent Joint Commission because an expanded dialogue between NATO and Russia will be an important contribution to European security.

As you know, missile defense has emerged as an important element of the European security dialogue, and the reasons are clear. Russia and the United States now agree that we face a growing threat from rogue nations, such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq, who are attempting to either buy or to build weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles to deliver them. Some European nations also worry about this emerging threat. Russia and the United States agree that we must respond to that threat through diplomatic efforts to stop proliferation and by developing defensive systems to protect our nations from possible attack. Russia and the United States agree that we should explore ways to cooperate in defending against an emerging threat that we all face.

President Clinton and President Putin agree that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty should remain a cornerstone of strategic stability. The treaty allows amendments to fit new strategic realities, such as the emerging new threats that we face. The problem, unfortunately, is not limited to North Korea's active program. Iran, by way of example, has chemical weapons and is seeking nuclear and biological capabilities and, working with missiles based on North Korean design, is also trying to develop missiles capable of reaching major cities in Europe, Russia and, eventually the United States. Iraq has not given up its desire to acquire long-range missiles with similar capabilities.

Obviously, we will need to hear more details on the Russian proposal, but I understand that Minister Sergeyev said that the system he has in mind would be a theater missile defense system according to the parameters of the so-called 'Demarcation Agreement' signed by Russia and the US in 1997 and would therefore not need any modification of the ABM Treaty. This means, in effect, it would have the capability only against attacking missiles with ranges less than 3,500 kilometers.

If that, in fact, is what Russia has in mind, there is a serious problem. Any effective defense for Russia, the United States, or Europe would have to work against long-range missiles - those with a range of greater than 3,500 kilometers - and defenses against missiles of that range would require an amendment to the ABM Treaty. Specifically, most European nations are more than 3,500 kilometers from potential launch sites in Iran, and obviously, it's more than 3,500 kilometers from North Korea to Europe. A system limited to shorter-range threats would not protect the American population. As we discuss this issue, we will continue to insist that if there is going to be a defensive system deployed…it must protect all of the United States territory. If it's a European defense, I would certainly assume that Europeans would want it to defend all European countries as well.

Today, Marshal Sergeyev amplified President Putin's suggestion that Russia and Europe work together on the development of a missile defense system. Such a system could supplement, but not substitute, for the system that the US is developing. He also suggested exchanges of information on the threat and the notification of planned missile launches. I welcome these proposals, and I hope to explore them further in discussions he and I will have in Moscow next week. We are ready to explore ways to meet the security needs of Russia, the United States, and Europe as long as these solutions emerge in time to meet the evolving threat, and the United States looks forward to working with Russia and our NATO allies to meet the emerging threats that we face. …"

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.

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