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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 54, February 2001

Russia's 'ABM-for-Europe' Plan: Remarks by Foreign Minister Ivanov

'Transcript of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Igor Ivanov's Press Conference in the Interfax News Agency, February 22, 2001'; Russian Foreign Ministry (unofficial translation), Document 299-23-02-2001, February 23.

"Opening Remarks by Minister Ivanov: 'It is well known that in the center of our recent diplomatic activity has been the whole complex of issues linked with START and ABM. We seek to preserve the constructive treaty potential, built up in this field in the previous decades, and to create prerequisites for continuing the nuclear arms reduction process. An important step in this direction has been Russia's ratification of the START II and Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaties, and our new initiatives for a further deep lowering of the level of strategic offensive arms. On the whole, the renewed foreign policy course of our country has turned out to be duly called for [and supported] by the world community. We see a greater interest and willingness to cooperate with Russia.' ...

Question: 'Is the achievement of agreements between Russia and the United States on START and ABM possible? What concessions could both sides make?'

Ivanov: 'The whole set of START and ABM problems, which we now combine in the term 'strategic stability'...requires a serious dialogue with the participation of Russia, the US and other parties concerned: the European states, China, and so on. If we speak of strategic stability, at issue are not only the security interests of Russia and the United States. Currently, and the international community recognizes this, the world is faced with new global threats and challenges. This involves questions linked with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, with such serious problems as terrorism, organized crime, etc. Even the strongest world power cannot solve them single-handed. Historical experience proves this. We suggest looking for joint ways. That is why we speak of the need, without destroying anything, to use together the possibilities that both advanced technologies and the potential of each country are opening up now. We believe that the ABM Treaty of 1972 provides enough possibilities for solving existing problems and overcoming the threats, of which sometimes our Western partners speak today, and in particular those stemming from missile technologies.

Russia's ABM-for-Europe proposal, which we delivered to the NATO Secretary General [on February 20], shows that such questions can indeed be solved within the framework of the observance of the principles of the 1972 ABM Treaty. Some Western media have offered the following comment: once we're suggesting an ABM for Europe, why can't the US deploy its own missile defense then? Such is not the case. Those who make such statements either do not grasp the substance of the matter, or just specially want to mislead public opinion. We didn't say this was the only proposal, intended specifically for Europe alone. If you like, this is a pilot project of how it is possible to solve the problems of missile defense today with the ABM Treaty remaining in force.

It has been argued on occasion that the 1972 ABM Treaty is outdated. True, it is indeed almost 30 years old. But such an approach is unacceptable concerning international treaties and agreements. The Charter of the United Nations was drawn up earlier still, the United Nations itself was established earlier still. Must we really say now: the world is different, so let us give up the UN? The ABM Treaty has enabled us, beginning in 1972, to create in the field of security and disarmament a whole security structure. Thanks to this Treaty we not only contained the nuclear arms race, but also agreed to their substantial reduction. In 1972 the USSR and the US had about 20,000 nuclear warheads. We were confident that we could destroy not only each other, but the entire world as well.

Realization of this led to the fact that in 1972, during the period of the Cold War, we did reach an agreement on principles in the field of missile defense. Then followed the START I Treaty, calling for the reduction of nuclear warheads to 6,000 units. And then came the accords on START II, where we go down to 3,000-3,500 allowable nuclear warheads... Without waiting for the ratification of START II by the US, Russia is ready for a further substantial reduction in strategic offensive arms, for the conclusion of START III. At first we spoke of 2,000-2,500 allowable nuclear warheads on each side, now we lower the bar to 1,500 and even below. And this is only what concerns the area of strategic offensive arms. To this add the [INF] Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles and a whole series of other accords in the field of disarmament. These aspects are closely interlinked, they can't be torn apart. That's what the unified disarmament and security architecture is all about. Removing even one of the foundations of this disarmament structure may send the whole edifice crumbling.

That is why we're saying that there can be no approaching the 1972 ABM Treaty in such an oversimplified way. This is not merely one of [many] treaties. It represents the cornerstone treaty in the field of security and disarmament at this stage. The 1972 ABM Treaty, while laying down certain principles for the US and Russia, which in this case is successor to the Soviet Union, does not shut off the prospects of a search for joint ways to neutralize possible threats. The international community must today analyze what these threats are, where they come from, and for whom they are a reality: for Europe, China, Japan, the United States, and Russia. It is necessary to jointly work out measures which will make it possible to neutralize these threats.

One example is the ABM-for-Europe, proposed by Russia. This scheme may also be replicated in other regions, taking account of the real threats. Simultaneously there is a whole package of proposals, brought forward by Russian President Vladimir Putin, for the creation of a global missiles and missile technology control system. If we say that we fear proliferation of these technologies, let us create a global control system. Not one country can today prevent the spread of missiles and missile technology single-handed. Only by joint efforts of the international community is it possible to achieve a solution to this problem. In the same vein we jointly agreed on the elimination of chemical, biological weapons and so on. Herein lies the essence of the Russian proposal.

Constructively, not rejecting the proposals of the other side, and accepting everything that meets our common interests - in this way, we are ready to negotiate. We will listen to the partner attentively, his arguments and concerns, jointly consider and assess the situation, and look for answers to existing questions. This is not a concession on anyone's side, which is in principle the wrong approach to negotiations. If it is a question of partners, we must together solve all possible problems.' ...

Question: 'George Bush's administration is making tougher statements with regard to North Korea than was the case during the Bill Clinton presidency. Today the DPRK Ministry of Foreign Affairs has come up with a strongly-worded statement, threatening to resume missile tests. How can such a hardening of the situation influence the course of settlement on the Korean Peninsula? And how with regard to this will the role of Russia alter?'

Ivanov: 'Let us return to my answer to the first question regarding strategic stability and a national missile defense system, which is being discussed in the US. Over a certain period of time, advocates of this project gave as the main arguments in support of the deployment of NMD the potential threat that might come from North Korea, Iraq or Iran. We have repeatedly said that if a threat does come from somewhere, it is necessary to look for a solution to this problem jointly. If North Korea's actions in some respects cause the concern of neighbours or somebody else, it is necessary together to carry out political, diplomatic work to search and find a solution to the problem.

This was one of the central questions during the visit of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin to North Korea. It was precisely after this that [the establishment of] a number of...diplomatic relations with the DPRK followed, the dialogue increased between the North and South and active contacts began with US administration officials, including on the questions of the nuclear and missile programs. That is to say, a substantive talk on these questions began. The clear prospect emerged that the concerns among some countries with regard to North Korea were to end. The course for normalizing the situation includes the following steps: the search of possibilities of removal of the concerns associated with the nuclear and missile programs of the DPRK, the resolving of the situation between the North and South, which will be one of the important agenda topics during the visit of President Vladimir Putin to Seoul, and normalization of North Korea's relations with its neighbours. All of this would lead to a stabilization of the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in the region as a whole, and would open the way to the removal of existing concerns. It is in this direction that we will be exerting our efforts. ...'"

© 2001 The Acronym Institute.