Text Only | Disarmament Diplomacy | Disarmament Documentation | ACRONYM Reports
back to the acronym home page
WMD Possessors
About Acronym

Disarmament Documentation

Back to the Index

Press Conference by President Bush, March 13

Press Conference by President George W. Bush, The James S. Brady Briefing Room, The White House, March 13; White House transcript.

Question: The Pentagon is calling for the development of low-yield nuclear weapons that could be used against China, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Russia, and Syria. Can you explain why the United States is considering this new policy, and how it might figure into the war on terrorism?

President Bush: I presume you're referring to the nuclear review that was recently in the press. Well, first of all, the nuclear review is not new. It's gone on for previous administrations. Secondly, the reason we have a nuclear arsenal that I hope is modern, upgraded, and can work, is to deter any attack on America. The reason one has a nuclear arsenal is to serve as a deterrence. Secondly, ours is an administration that's committed to reducing the amount of warheads, and we're in consultations now with the Russians on...this matter. We've both agreed to reduce our warheads down to 1,700 to 2,200. I talked with Sergey Ivanov yesterday, the Minister of Defense from Russia, on this very subject. I think one of the interesting points that we need to develop and fully explore is how best to verify what's taking place, to make sure that there's confidence in both countries. But I'm committed to reducing the amount of nuclear weaponry and reducing the number of nuclear warheads. I think it's the right policy for America, and I know we can continue to do so and still keep a deterrence.

Question: Why a policy, though, that might go after a country like Libya or Syria?

President Bush: First of all, we've got all options on the table, because we want to make it very clear to nations that you will not threaten the United States or use weapons of mass destruction against us, or our allies or friends. ...

Question: Vice President Cheney is on the road now trying to build support for possible action against Iraq. If you don't get that, down the road you decide you want to take action, would you take action against Iraq unilaterally?

President Bush: One of the things I've said to our friends is that we will consult, that we will share our views of how to make the world more safe. In regards to Iraq, we're doing just that. Every world leader that comes to see me, I explain our concerns about a nation which is not conforming to agreements that it made in the past; a nation which has gassed her people in the past; a nation which has weapons of mass destruction and apparently is not afraid to use them. And so...what the Vice President is doing is he's reminding people about this danger, and that we need to work in concert to confront this danger. Again, all options are on the table, and - but one thing I will not allow is a nation such as Iraq to threaten our very future by developing weapons of mass destruction. They've agreed not to have those weapons; they ought to conform to their agreement, comply with their agreement. ...

Question: [Y]ou seem to be saying, yes, you would consult with the allies and others, including in the Mideast, but if you had to, you'd go ahead and take action yourself.

President Bush: Well, you're answering the question for me. If I can remember the exact words, I'll say it exactly the way I said it before. We are going to consult. I am deeply concerned about Iraq. And so should the American people be concerned about Iraq. And so should people who love freedom be concerned about Iraq. This is a nation run by a man who is willing to kill his own people by using chemical weapons; a man who won't let inspectors into the country; a man who's obviously got something to hide. And he is a problem, and we're going to deal with him. But the first stage is to consult with our allies and friends, and that's exactly what we're doing. ...

Question: Mr. President, on the question of Iraq, how does the increased violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians affect what Vice President Cheney is trying to do, and affect the case you're trying to make with our Arab allies for a regime change, or just unconditional inspections?

President Bush: Well, I understand that the unrest in the Middle East creates unrest throughout the region, more so now than ever in the past. ... [But] while I understand the linkage, for us the policy stands on its own. The need for us to involved in the Middle East is to help save lives. And we're going to stay involved in the Middle East, and, at the same time, continue to talk about Iraq and Iran and other nations, and continue to wage a war on terror, which is exactly what we're doing. I want to reiterate what I said the other day. Our policy is to deny sanctuary to terrorists anyplace in the world, and we will be very active in doing that. ...

Question: Mr. President, back to nuclear issues, the Russian Defense Minister expressed the hope today that agreements on the New Strategic Framework could be signed by the time of your visit next May in Moscow. Is it realistic? And second, are you ready to sign documents in a treaty form? And third, have you made progress on the issue of destroying versus storing nuclear warheads?

President Bush: Well, I share the Minister's optimism that we can get something done by May. I'd like to sign a document in Russia when I'm there, I think it would be a good thing. And, therefore, we've got to make sure that those who are interested in making sure that the Cold War relationship continues on are kind of pushed in the background. In other words, we've got to work hard to establish a new relationship. I also agree with President Putin that there needs to be a document that outlives both of us. What form that comes in, we will discuss. There is...this question...about storage [of warheads] versus destruction. We'd be glad to talk to the Russians about that. I think the most important thing, though, is verification, is to make sure whatever decision is made, that there is open verification so as to develop a level of trust. There is a constraint, as well. I mean, the destruction of nuclear warheads requires a lot of work and a lot of detailed work, and that, in itself, is going to take time, and that's got to be a part of the equation, as well. But those are all issues we're discussing. I had a good - very good discussion with Sergey Ivanov yesterday. I'm confident that President Putin is interested in making a deal, coming up with a good arrangement that will codify a new relationship. ...

Question: Mr. President, what do you make of the dust-up over the nuclear review? And have you made any decisions about its recommendations? In particular, what is your view about building smaller nuclear weapons, which some people believe would make them more likely to be used?

President Bush: Well, first of all, I view our nuclear arsenal as a deterrent, as a way to say to people that would harm America, don't do it. That's a deterrent, that there's a consequence. And the President must have all options available to make that deterrent have meaning. That's how I view the review.

Question: But what is your thinking, sir, on smaller nuclear weapons, which some analysts believe would be a major departure and would make them more likely...

President Bush: My interest is...to reduce the threat of a nuclear war, is to reduce the number of nuclear warheads. I think we've got plenty of warheads to keep the peace. ... If need be, we'll just reduce unilaterally to a level commiserate with keeping a deterrence and keeping the peace. So I'm interested in having all -- having an arsenal at my disposal, or at the military's disposal, that will keep the peace. We're a peaceful nation and moving along just right and just kind of having a time, and all of a sudden, we get attacked and now we're at war, but we're at war to keep the peace. And it's very important for people in America to understand that at least my attitude on this is that we're not out to seek revenge. Sure, we're after justice. But I also view this as a really good opportunity to create a lasting peace. ...

Back to the Top of the Page

© 2002 The Acronym Institute.