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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 52, November 2000

President Putin Statement on Nuclear Reductions

Statement by President Putin

' by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir V. Putin,' unofficial translation, November 13, 2000.

"At the turn of the century the world has reached a crucial point in the sphere of nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and securing of strategic stability. Recently we have seen some unquestionable achievements here: exceptionally responsible decisions were made by the participants of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, a substantive dialogue on disarmament took place at the Millennium Summit in New York, a number of important resolutions were approved at the First Committee of the UN General Assembly. Russia made a contribution of its own by way of ratification of the Treaty on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (START II), the package of the New-York agreements of 1997 on anti-missile defence and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. There has emerged a consensus in the international community that there should be no pause in nuclear disarmament and that the disarmament process needs to be intensified. Radical progress along this way has really been called for. Russia is ready to go for it.

We see no obstacles that could hamper future deep cuts of strategic offensive armaments. As is known, we made a proposal to the US, including at the top political level, to set ourselves a goal of achieving radically reduced levels of 1,500 nuclear warheads for our countries, which is quite realisable by the year of 2008. But this is not yet the limit - we are ready to consider lower levels in future. We agree with the opinion, also expressed in the US, that it would not take some protracted talks and to begin it all from ground zero to reach such an agreement for we have accumulated considerable experience and there exist already legal mechanisms within the framework of the START I and START II. We hope that the US Senate would follow the example of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and complete the ratification of the START II and the ballistic missile defence agreements. However the most important thing now is that Russia and the US begin without any further delay to advance jointly or in parallel towards radically reduced ceilings for nuclear warheads.

Attainment of this objective should be carried out in the conditions of preservation and strengthening of the ABM Treaty of 1972. We are told that the situation in the world has changed drastically within the past three decades: new missile threats have emerged, which allegedly require making appropriate changes in the ABM Treaty. The situation has changed indeed, but not to the extent of justifying destruction of the existing system of strategic stability through emasculating the ABM Treaty. It is possible to take measures to counter proliferation of missiles and missile technologies without leaving the framework of the ABM Treaty, but acting first of all by way of political and diplomatic methods. The intense dialogue between the US and North Korea on missile problems gives a clear example of it. In a multilateral format ways of improving political and legal mechanisms of missile non-proliferation are being actively discussed and a new code of conduct in this field is worked out, as well as creation of a Global System of Control over Missiles and Missile Technologies (GSC).

For those countries who raise the question of a military and technical ' net', we offer once again broad co-operation in the field of theater missile defence, which fits within the framework of the ABM Treaty. Technological progress for that is already achieved. The Moscow Centre for exchange of data on missile launches now being created by Russia and the United States, which should be open in the future to all states concerned, could be an element of such co-operation. We have already invited European and other representatives to participate in this work. I hope that the new US leadership would not object to such use of the Centre in the interests of strengthening regional and global stability.

In addition Russia is ready to continue without pause the dialogue with the US on the ballistic missile defence issues over which we differ. Obligation to consider all issues pertaining to the ABM Treaty is written into the Treaty of 1972. Accordingly we are open for continued discussions of that sort within the framework of the Permanent Consultative Commission, a negotiating forum, working successfully since 1973, and if necessary we could agree on a higher level of our representatives in the Commission.

Implementation of the pragmatic and long overdue programme in the field of real nuclear disarmament proposed by Russia will enable us in practice to strengthen strategic stability and international security on the threshold of the 21st century."

Source: Unofficial translation, Press Release No. 48, issued November 14; Embassy of Russian Federation, London, UK, http://www.great-britain.mid.ru/GreatBritain/pr_rel/pr48.htm.

Foreign Ministry Briefing

Press briefing by Yuri Kapralov, Director of the Department for Security and Disarmament, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, November 14.

"We have invited you in order to draw your attention to the statement of the President of the Russian Federation which was published yesterday on issues of strategic arms reduction and the strengthening of strategic stability. The statement speaks for itself and I need hardly recapitulate it here. We would just like to single out some points in this statement. First of all, the statement of the Russian President sends a signal both to the present and the future leadership of the United States, to the new administration whoever will come to power in the US. It is also a signal to the rest of the world community indicating that Russia is prepared to move consistently and resolutely towards reduction of nuclear weapons.

We call for movement along that path without delay, and this is what we would like to emphasize. We believe the dialogue should not be interrupted on these issues which are vital for international security and strategic stability and for ensuring confidence about the intentions and actions of each other. The Russian Federation maintains such a dialogue with the US administration at all levels as well as with the teams of the contenders for presidency in the United States. Of course, we are proceeding within the limits of the law, of what is allowable. But such contacts exist and nobody makes a secret of them. They have a working character.

In putting forward a new initiative of our readiness for still more drastic cuts of strategic nuclear weapons the President naturally proceeded from the national interests of Russia. But he also took into account the widespread feeling in the world in favor of nuclear disarmament. He also took into account the statements that we hear from prominent political figures in the US on that score.

We have mentioned strategic stability. We would like to draw your attention to the fact that Russia consistently comes out for the preservation and strengthening of strategic stability. This topic was reflected in the recent speech delivered by the President of the Russian Federation at the UN Millennium Summit in New York and in the speech of the Russian Foreign Minister there, much of which was devoted to the preservation and strengthening of strategic stability. Considering the numerous crisis situations in the world today we believe that the preservation and strengthening of strategic stability would merely help to resolve these conflict situations and will not distract attention from these tasks.

I want to stress that the position set forth in the statement of President Putin is aimed at cooperation. It is by no means confrontational in character. It takes into account what has been achieved in the field of arms control and disarmament, including strategic weapons. We are encouraged by the reaction from the United States, the first reaction that reached us to these proposals. As you know, a State Department spokesman said that the United States shares Russia' interest in further reducing strategic nuclear weapons and intends to pursue the process while addressing the problems of new missile threats.

We have maintained and do maintain contacts with the Americans both on the political and expert levels. During the past year several meetings of experts were held to discuss the problems of strategic weapons and ABM and the maintenance of strategic stability as a whole. For several months beginning from June President Putin and President Clinton issued statements on strategic stability. And the latest statement of September 6 issued in New York maps out a concrete program of cooperation in this field.

This Russian initiative was not timed for the presidential election. We did not expect the process of election of the US President to drag out, it was difficult to foresee. So, I think you will believe us that the President' statement expresses the fundamental policy of Russia aimed at reducing armaments and reflects out profound interests. This initiative was of course prepared long before it was announced. Once again, it is a signal and a position that will enable the new US leadership, without any delay and given the political will, to move together with us towards still more radical cuts of strategic offensive weapons."

Questions and Answers

"Question: ' [Putin] said yesterday that he wanted the two countries to further their dialogue on missile defense...'

Kapralov: ' I would like to repeat that our position on the ABM Treaty is not a confrontational one. We resolutely come out for the preservation of the ABM Treaty in its present form. If you read this treaty, for instance, its Article I, you will see that this treaty cannot exist in any form except for its present one. The only ban in this treaty, and the crux of this treaty, is that it bans the development of a national ABM system. To use the language of the treaty, it bans the deployment of an anti-missile defense of the territory of a country. Now judge for yourselves. If somebody proposes to replace the ban on this with a permission to develop such a national system, how should this be called: an adjustment of the treaty or an absolutely new one? ... Yes, the Americans are right when they say that it is not a holy cow and changes in the text have been made. Yes, changes have been made. Initially, the treaty allowed for two areas for the deployment of ABM systems. Not a national ABM system but two very limited areas. Later on, again on the proposal of the American side, we agreed that the sides should limit to one area each. Each country had only one area in which to deploy an ABM system. For us this was around the capital city while the Americans decided on the area where their ICBMs are deployed. Now the Americans have mothballed everything there. ... Secondly, when we come out for the preservation and strengthening of the treaty, the ABM Treaty, we come out for the basis, for the preservation of the basis on which during the past thirty years strategic offensive weapons have been successfully reduced. After all, as you remember, quite substantial reductions have been accomplished. This is the only basis that allows for a further advance along this road. An erosion of the treaty, a dismantling of the treaty will create a totally new situation that will not make it possible to further reduce these armaments. ...

For the second year in succession most countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly in support of the preservation of the 1972 ABM Treaty in its present form. The First Committee recently adopted a resolution to this effect. Seventy nine countries, including Russia, voted for this and there were only three votes against - the United States, Micronesia and Israel. A rather strange situation. The United States is a party to the treaty, it continues to say that it comes out for the strengthening of this treaty and at the same time it opposes the resolution that supports the treaty.

Our position on the ABM Treaty is a clear one. It is a well considered one. Both technically and politically we cannot take any other stand. But I would like to draw your attention also to the following. When we oppose proposals to dismantle the treaty we at the same time offer a constructive alternative. And this constructive alternative can be traced in all our statements, in all the actions of the Russian side in the past years. What do we have in mind? The United States, in any case, when coming out for the design and deployment of a national ABM system, points to a threat posed by some countries which are now called countries that cause concern. We convincingly demonstrate that at present there is no such a threat and that in the near future there will be no such a threat. As to a more distant future, we offer a broad program of cooperation designed to remove the concerns that the United States names as the reasons or pretexts for the development of its national ABM system.

In particular, we are making the emphasis on diplomatic and political methods. The main cause named by the United States in support of the deployment of its national ABM system was the missile programs in North Korea, in the Democratic People' Republic of Korea. As you know, in the course of his visit to the DPRK, in the course of his talks with the North Korean leadership President Putin received assurances and promises that this problem could be solved on certain conditions. Our example was followed by the Americans, something that really gratifies us. Contacts were established, Secretary of State Albright who received even more far-reaching assurances that the DPRK was ready to stop its missile programs. She was told that the DPRK did not intend to threaten the United States of America. As you see, this work on the political level that we are urging is effective. As I said, this gives us reason to be pleased.

We have even more concrete and more far-reaching proposals to set up a global system to monitor the non-proliferation of missiles and missile technologies. Recently, when in New York, when addressing the United Nations Millennium Summit, President Putin came out with a new initiative on the non-militarisation of outer space. We are now working very vigorously on the preparation of an international conference, tentatively in Moscow next spring, at which virtually all prominent specialists and experts working in space-related areas could study in great detail the question of how to avoid a new arms race in outer space, how to avoid the creation of attack systems that could conduct warfare in outer space, how to avoid the creation of ground-based systems that could destroy targets in outer space and how to proceed together to make sure that outer space becomes an arena of wide-scale peaceful cooperation, what should be done to promote peaceful cooperation in outer space. If other countries exhibit the required degree of interest and we believe that such an interest should objectively exist we hope that the conference will be useful in practical terms and will not just be a political event. ...'

Question: ' There is a view among experts that Russia can simply not afford to maintain the current ceilings of warheads which accounts for its desire to see the deepest possible cuts of nuclear weapons and for the hypothetical possibility that Russia will eventually make concessions in the negotiations with the Americans. What is your assessment of these claims?'

Kapralov: ' may be a little impolite, but we have a saying that everyone understands things in proportion to how he is spoiled. Our economic position is certainly not better than that in the United States. It is a fact we hope that the measures being taken by our government will ensure sustained growth and the situation will be changing. At the same time I would like to point out that nuclear forces is an not an expensive armed service and in principle less money could be spent on maintaining them than on some other defense purposes. As for the race in the context of creating a national missile defense, from the outset our experts said that we would not respond in kind to the deployment of a national missile defense in the United States. It would be stupid on our part. There are many more other means for neutralizing a national missile defense system and for penetrating it. ... We have the means for penetrating a national missile defense, means that nobody else probably has. And in that respect some quarters envy us and would like to cooperate on this with us. And the constructive part of our position consists in this, that we are offering cooperation on missile defense, but not strategic missile defense.

If anyone feels a threat from ballistic missiles, non-strategic missiles, and if you talk about Europe, for example, Europe is not under threat from strategic missiles, we are prepared to cooperate in developing theater missile defense systems as Mr. Putin made clear during his visits to Italy and Germany. We have corresponding technologies and in principle we are capable of responding to the deployment of national missile defense. ...

You know that some countries are just as resolutely opposed to these plans as we are. They include China and I am sure you are not underestimating the importance of that great power. And they include France which voted together with us in support of the ABM Treaty, in defense of the ABM Treaty. As you know France is a NATO member and a close ally of the United States. So, this problem has many aspects to it. It has both political and technical aspects, but we are deeply convinced that we are right. We are not using our position on ABM for confrontation, we are not using it in order to get some political dividends. But we are defending the prospects of our own peaceful development. We are telling our Western partners and other partners, do not force us to follow a different way of development. We seek peaceful development and democratic development and this is the aim of our initiative and our arms limitation policy. Any attempts to divert us from this path will meet with resolute rejection which is what we are doing now.'

Question: ' Mr. Bush has said that he intends to further cut nuclear arsenals unilaterally without negotiations. Although it is unclear whether or not he will become the next president, what do you think of his idea? And does Russia at present proceed from the need to maintain the negotiating process with the US and to maintain nuclear parity?'

Kapralov: ' We have been consistently and firmly speaking in favor of maintaining negotiations. ... We...state that...strategic offensive weapons can be reduced only if the ABM Treaty is preserved and strengthened. This is a reality against which you can have no reasonable arguments. As for the position of presidential candidate, Governor Bush, we know his position. We want to wait for the elections to be completed in the US in accordance with the Constitution and for the future president of the United States to be determined so that he could act in this capacity, because these are questions that are too serious to discuss hypothetically. There must be no assumptions. We must proceed from clear and realistic positions.

As regards Russia, such a position has already been stated. This is what makes this statement so valuable, because the future US President, no matter who moves into the White House, be it Governor Bush or incumbent Vice President Gore, he will know where Russia stands and what it seeks to achieve. Therefore, he will be able to determine his own position. What kind of position this will be will become clear later because we know that sometimes positions are announced and then they may change or be amended. There may be different disarmament processes. We know an example of unilateral cuts in non-strategic nuclear weapons. You know these initiatives, they date back to the beginning of the 1990s. They were put forth by the Soviet Union and then furthered by the Russian leadership. And there were US initiatives. These were very serious cuts, and they were made on a reciprocal basis but without any agreement. These were unilateral initiatives. Nevertheless, the experience of the last decades indicates that if there is sufficient political will, given the complexity and importance of this problem, of course, it would be better to reach a consensus. Because even now, if you attentively read the statements made by the American side and political circles, you' see that they raise questions of verification. This is too serious a sphere to be based just on declarations. ... [T]here are a whole number of questions that specialists have to take into account. I have no latest data for the last years, but I remember that 20 years ago there were more than 3,000 false alarms from early warning systems in the US in one year. This might have been a flock of geese detected by a radar, and the radar alerted the operator that something was flying and it was not clear what exactly was flying. All these strategic systems are real things and real weapons which are created not to play with. ...'

Question: ' regards parity, what do you think about this?'

Kapralov: ' know, we proceeded and proceed from the understanding that there must be parity. How things will evolve in the future - as you know, there are many aspects to the strategic situation. I can give you one example. Sometimes we hear calls for reducing tactical nuclear weapons. We say let' do it. But if you look at tactical weapons, all of Russia' tactical weapons are concentrated on Russian soil. Our tactical weapons cannot reach the US. The United States has withdrawn part of their tactical weapons to its soil from Europe within the framework of the process I had mentioned above. But part of them remains there. But these warheads, if they are used, God forbid, will differ little from strategic ones. This is why, US tactical weapons deployed in Europe are part of the balance we must take into account. Therefore, whether or not there will be parity, this is a complex picture. ...'

Question: ' [C]an [President Clinton] serve as something more than a mailbox for Putin' messages?'

Kapralov: ' issue of mailboxes does not arise. ... I think we should not so drastically change our attitude to people who hold some post and then normally, in accordance with existing legislation and procedures, leave this post. ... We assess him by his actions. In the course of his presidency we had quite an active cooperation, including in the field of arms reduction. We did not always agree on everything but still we appreciate what has been accomplished. And we are hoping for a continuation of this process. I will give you the following example. At a recent meeting with Assistant Secretary of State Holum, in the course of these expert meetings that are sometimes reported, well, Mr. Holum told us in a friendly manner: don' think that President Clinton' decision not to adopt now a decision on the deployment of a national ABM system was taken under the pressure of Russia. And we told him very sincerely: we are not thinking along such lines at all, we believe that President Clinton took this decision proceeding from his wisdom and not proceeding from any pressure put on him or proceeding from somebody' actions. ...'"

Source: US Federal News Service, transcript of official Kremlin International News Broadcast, November 14.

Comments by President Clinton

Remarks by President Clinton, interview with CNN television, Viet Nam, November 19.

"Question: ' Your successor, I assume, relatively shortly after he takes office, will receive a [nuclear reductions] proposal from the Russians to go even beyond anything you and the Russians have discussed. Mr. Putin, because of the obvious budget constraints in his country, wants to go to roughly a thousand strategic warheads. Is that in the interests of the United States national security? And do you see any potential to get to that level, and also, perhaps as part of that deal, get a compromise on the ABM Treaty that would allow the missile defense program to go forward?'

President Clinton: ', first of all, I don' want to say anything that will compromise my successor' options. I think that' important. Now, I think it is quite possible that we could agree to go down to fewer missiles in our nuclear arsenal and theirs. I think that it' important that there also be fewer warheads. That is, there' a difference between missiles and warheads. I don' think we ought to go back to highly dangerous, richly-armed MIRV missiles, multiple warhead missiles. But what we have to do is to have a target design that we believe is adequate to protect the United States and that our missile component will serve. And if we do that, then we could agree with them to reduce the number of missiles. And I' hoped that we could get that done even beforehand. So I' encouraged by that.

Now, on the missile defense, I think the trick there will be somehow having the Russians and others with equity interests here believe that we all have a vested interest in trying to develop enough missile defense to stop the rogue states and terrorists from piercing the barriers not only of the United States, but of Russia, China, of any other country that might want to participate. And there is a way, I think, to get this done, but it will require a lot of joint research and a lot of trust, and a lot of understanding about what the problem is and how we' going to develop it. If the technology existed which would give us high levels of confidence that one or two or five or ten missiles could be stopped from coming into the country, it would be hard to justify not putting it up. On the other hand, the reason I didn' go forward is I think it' very hard to justify wrecking the existing treaty system which has served us so well for so long, in effect, gambling that somehow, some day, some way, the technology will be there. We don' want to do that. The best way to proceed is to do the research and try to find a way to bring these other countries in to this. Because, really, if you think about it, everyone should have an interest in the capacity of a country to resist the errant missile or the missile that would be fired by a rogue state or a terrorist. And they can do this together.

What I tried to do was to buy some time so my successor could sit down with the Russians, with the Chinese, with any others who are parties and interests - and our European allies, of course - and tried to plot out a future that would leave us safer than we are today. The whole point is to keep getting safer - not to do different things, but to have a system which leads to a safer world. And we have to consider what the impact of all these things are on the Indian Subcontinent, where there are nuclear missiles; on the Chinese who might decide to build - acquire a lot more missiles or develop them or not. And so my successor will have time to do all that. And I hope we' given the next President and our partners the maximum number of options."

Source: Transcript - CNN Interviews President Clinton in Ho Chi Minh City, US State Department (Washington File), November 19.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.