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The Relationship Between the U.S. and Russia Is More Complex than Missile Defense

The Relationship Between the U.S. and Russia Is More Complex than Missile Defense

Source: News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense: DoD News Briefing: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, Tuesday, August 13, 2001. Remarks at a roundtable with Russian political scientists

Moderator: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the information telegraph agency of Russia ITAR-TASS. Today we have the wonderful privilege and great honor to welcome the Secretary of Defense of the United States of American Mr. Donald Rumsfeld. Present today in this room are experts on Russian-American relations, experts on military cooperation and journalists. And if you don't mind, we would ask the secretary to agree to the following procedure. Perhaps, the Secretary of Defense would like to say a few words to you and then he would perhaps be kind enough to answer your questions. Mr. Secretary, do you have any objections of all this procedure? Maybe you will say a few words from the podium, and then you will be so kind to answer the questions of all here.

Rumsfeld: Thank you very much. I'm delighted to be here. We arrived last evening and have had a very full day. We've had some extensive discussions with the Minister of Defense. We have met with his delegation and many of the senior experts who had recently been in the United States. President Putin graciously hosted our delegation, and we had an excellent visit with him on a whole range of subjects. And we've just enjoyed an excellent lunch with the Minister of Defense and a large group of his associates from across the Russian government. We then had some additional talks with the Minister of Defense and have just arrived here.

It's been a nonstop day. I've been to Russia a number of times over the decades. The first time was 1974 when I joined President Ford for his meetings with General Secretary Brezhnev in Vladivostok. My most recent visits have been as a member of a U.S.-Russia forum that was sponsored by the Rand Corporation, and I have been back every year in the past five or six years.

The process that we're in with Russia is something that reflects the changes that have taken place in the world, the evolving nature of the threats that exist and the changes that have taken place in our relationship between our two countries. A vivid example of that was return to NATO, where I had served as US ambassador to NATO into the early 1970s, and sitting there at that table and seeing representatives from Poland and Hungary and then looking at the members of Partnerships for Peace and meeting Minister Ivanov for the first time was a dramatic indication of some of those changes.

I don't want to shock or surprise anybody, but the truth is that the relationship between the United States and Russia is considerably broader and deeper and more complex than missile defense. In our country, the American people are the ones who guide and direct the course of our government, regardless of which power is in power.

They don't think in terms of government bureaucracies. They don't think in terms of weapons systems. They don't even necessarily separate political issues and economic relationships from security relationships. Indeed, all of those elements of our multifaceted relationship fuse seamlessly in our citizens' minds, and they come to judgments about a relationship, about a country, and about a people because of all of the impressions they get from the press, from the television, from journals, from friends. And the impression that I would hope they have and I believe they have is that the relationship between the United States and Russia is on a new footing, that we as countries are not only not enemies but indeed we are countries that have a great deal in common and a great deal of common interests. Indeed, that which is most important to the American people and that which is most important, I would assume, to the Russian people is that we have a world that is at peace, where people can go about their business and seek prosperity and happiness. And certainly a good relationship between our countries is one of the things that can underpin and create an environment that is, indeed, hospitable to enterprise and to investment and to prosperity. And with that I'll stop and answer those questions that I know the answers to and respond carefully to the ones I don't.

Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Please, questions.

Question: Institute of the World Economy and International Relations. You know that the question of NATO expansion to the Baltics remains one of the sore issues for Russia because it creates a host of problems, including the problem of Kaliningrad. I would like to remind you that in the mid-1990 Mr. Eagleberger said, and I quote, "Anyone who thinks about taking the Baltic states into NATO needs his head to be examined." This was as late as 1994. So, Russia's position is quite understandable. Russia has been cheated by NATO twice as it were, in the early 1990s when PFP was proposed as an alternative to NATO expansion and a second time when NATO promised not to expand to the Baltic countries. I think there are still ways to turn NATO expansion into a non-confrontational process. Of course, it will require efforts on the part of NATO and the involvement of Russia in the dialogue between NATO and the Baltic countries. What do you think about it?

Rumsfeld: Without going into history, NATO's policy has been, in my view appropriately, that countries that desire to be in NATO can apply, and to the extent that those countries fulfill the qualifications that NATO has set forward, it's the option of the country to make the request and that NATO will then give consideration to it. President Bush has recently indicated that he felt that he did favor expansion of NATO, without specifying which countries might or might or not meet the requirement. Other countries have commented on that. What will actually take place in the period ahead, I don't know. It's up to the NATO nations to make a judgment. But we do know that there is a long queue of countries interested in joining NATO, and that says something about the nature of our world, about the interests of those countries and the fact that NATO apparently is seen by a great many countries as -- oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. (Transcriber note: Pauses for interpreter ! to catc! h up)

Moderator: Question. Question, please. You, please.

Question: Vadim Solovyov, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, a supplement to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, I am the managing editor. Mr. Secretary, I have two questions to you. Question one. The Russian side claims that the United States in raising the issue of revising the 1972 ABM Treaty is not putting forward any concrete proposals for revision.

Interpreter: I wonder if the translation maybe could be made on that mike so other people in the room who don't have both languages can hear the translation.

Moderator: No, it's okay. Absolutely.

Rumsfeld: I mean, it's your meeting, not mine. I don't want to --

Moderator: No, no, I know.

Rumsfeld: All right.

Question: Now, is that the true situation? (Laughter) Now, is it true, therefore, that the United States does not have any concrete proposals on changing or amending the 1972 treaty?

Rumsfeld: Let me put it this way: The 1972 treaty was designed to prevent countries from having more than one ballistic missile defense site. That was at a time when their concern between the United States and Soviet Union was

THE concern with respect to strategic nuclear weapons. In the 29 years since, a number of nations have been working to develop weapons of mass destruction and the ability to deliver them. The Soviet Union had disappeared and the relationship between the United States and Russia is a totally different one than it was between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Given the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the ability to deliver them, the United States has concluded that it is a wise thing to not continue to be vulnerable to ballistic missiles. And since that treaty's purpose was to remain vulnerable to ballistic missiles, clearly it constrains the deployment of ballistic missile defense. So we do have specific proposals, and that be that the ballistic missile -- Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty be set aside and a new arrangement between our two countries be established so that we will, in fact, be able to take steps to no longer be vulnerable to handfuls of ballistic missiles. There is obviously no way that we're talking about a system that would begin to deal with hundreds, let alone thousands of nuclear weapons. We're talking about small numbers from so-called rogue states.

Moderator: Thank you. Please?

Question: I would like to say the following: It's well known that about a year from now, as the anti-missile defense system is being developed, the United States will have to go beyond the framework of the 1972 treaty if things go as they are going now. Now, my question is this: If within that year there will be no corresponding agreement with the Russian side, then does it mean that the United States will withdraw from the treaty anyway? Thank you.

Rumsfeld: Yes. The answer to the question is that the United States -- you're quite right. If our testing and development program is successful, and that remains to be seen exactly how it will evolve, but our anticipation is that the research and development and testing program will, in fact, come up against the constraints of the treaty -- which is the reason that the president and I and others in the administration have indicated to our counterparts that we need to have a process that will enable us as two countries to have some approach that is logical or takes us beyond a treaty that inhibits from doing exactly that which we need to do. And, as you suggest, the treaty has a provision whereby either side can withdraw with six months notice. And certainly our hope and expectation would be that, between now and the time that treaty would expire or be changed, that we would have an arrangement with Russia that would be satisfactory to both sides. And, of course, that's one of the things that have been discussed between our presidents, between Secretary Powell and his counterpart, and between me and the Minister of Defense and our very senior-level working groups that are engaged in that process.

Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Please?

Question: I am Major General Lebedev, retired, and I took part in the negotiations with the U.S. side on strategic weapons. I have one brief question. My first question, if I may ask you, Mr. Secretary, could you share your impressions on the consultations that just took place between the Russian side and the U.S. side? This is my first question.

Rumsfeld: Could I hear the second question?

Question: Well, I would like to ask you the following: If you are saying that the U.S. anti-missile system is designed to counter hundreds or perhaps thousands of missiles, does it mean that basically you're going to do without space-based or space systems?

Rumsfeld: Just so there's no confusion, I said nothing like what you just said. With respect to your second question, I specifically said that any system we deploy will be designed to deal with handfuls, not hundreds, not thousands of ballistic missiles. And, if I misspoke or there was some misunderstanding, I want that clarified. Now, with respect to your first question, General, my impressions are that, as a result of the discussions we've had both in Brussels and here, I think each side is getting a much better understanding of our respective perspectives and our positions and our views and our concerns and our hopes and expectations and aspirations for the relationship.

(To interpreter) Oh, I'm sorry. I keep forgetting that. Punch me. And I think that's very important. I mean, I've learned a lot, and I know -- I think I have a much better understanding of how difficult it is to go from a hostile relationship for 40 or 50 years to a totally different circumstance. You and I were active during the Cold War. I mean, the cold, hard truth is when I go to bed at night I do not worry about the Soviet Union attacking NATO. I just don't. I don't worry about a strategic nuclear exchange between the United States and the old Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union is gone. And how -- if a whole group of people in two countries spent their whole adult lives functioning within what we could characterize as a Cold War construct and your behavior pattern with respect to everything you did was organized and arranged on the assumption that you were dealing between two hostile states, I mean, how do you shed that baggage? It isn't easy. We have a whole network of treaties that were designed a quarter of a century ago or less that were calculated to have two hostile states function without conflict. We don't have that network or that set of linkages with other states, friendly states. I mean, the short answer is we need to get over it. And recognizing that that's not possible to do in five minutes, or even five or ten years apparently, then what we have to do is find ways through transparency, through verification, through interchanges. And I'll stop -- (to interpreter) punch me.

Interchanges, consultations, transparency, verification, monitoring -- whatever it takes to de-mystify what we're doing. To the extent suspicion, even misplaced, persists, then we ought to be able to find ways to de-mystify that and to reduce those suspicions. And I think it's terribly important for our country and for your country. I mean, it's not my business to say what's in the best interest of the Russian people, but I can say that, if you look down from Mars on Earth, we kind of see that countries are divided, and the countries that have the freer political systems and the freer economic systems and are integrated into the world economy are the countries that are doing the best for their people. I mean, it's just a fact. Anyone looking at the data can see that. And it is in our interest that Russia be prosperous, be successful, and be a part of the world economy just as we are. And as a person in business for the last 25 years I could sit in my office in Chicago and make a decision as to where I wanted to invest. Where did I want to put a plant? Who did I want to form a joint venture with? And I could do it in this country or that country. It didn't make a lot of difference. And the policies of the government didn't make a lot of difference -- of the United States government.

What really mattered to me was whether or not I could get a return for the shareholder, and that depended on an environment that was hospitable to invest and to enterprise and where there was reasonable certainty and a free press and transparency and a free political system. And the collective power of that investment worldwide is enormous. And it seems to me that that is very much in Russia's interest, as it is in ours for Russia to be successful.

Question: My name is Alexander Savelyev, and I'm from the Institute of World Economics and International Relations. I took part in the negotiations on defense and space issues within the framework of START I. Now, Mr. Secretary, my question is of a somewhat general nature. I would like to ask to what extent the current administration in the United States takes into account the experience or the lessons from the previous administrations in the United States, specifically the Reagan administration.

Let me clarify my question, if I may. Well, as you know, at the outset the Reagan administration showed a lot of enthusiasm with respect to the creation of this impenetrable shield, and they also raised the issue about the possible withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. However, the reality forced them to come to the conclusion that this program was untenable; it was impossible to implement it. And, therefore, the issue of abandoning the ABM Treaty was withdrawn from the agenda. And now I have this impression that the U.S. administration, as it raises the issue of abandoning the ABM Treaty, it's really rushing things too much. Well, you said here just now that you'll do this if the tests prove to be successful, but what if they're not successful? Well, in fact, I think -- and, in fact, I can bet you a bottle of whiskey --

Moderator: Let's -- (inaudible) -- because --

Question: -- because out of the next upcoming two tests one will be unsuccessful. Well, perhaps it's possible to remain within the framework of the ABM Treaty because it does not ban the tests and it does not ban the deployment of the system, for example, in Great Falls before moving forward to some other mechanisms or agreements.

Rumsfeld: Well, first, as I've indicated, we're not talking about some sort of impenetrable shield. We're talking about a capability to intercept relatively small numbers of ballistic missiles. Second, the reason we're doing research and development and testing prior to deployment is to determine what might make sense to deploy so that we have that capability. Next, as you know well as an expert, no weapons system works 100 percent of the time.

The smartest of the "smart" weapons don't work 100 percent of the time. Next, you predicted that at least one of the next two tests will fail. I can't see into the future, but when the United States was developing the Corona program -- the satellite that was capable of observing the Earth, the first one -- the first 11 tests were failures. President Eisenhower decided to go on and test a second, third, fourth, eighth, tenth, eleventh, and it worked. The same thing was true with the Polaris missile. The same thing was true of the Wright brothers when they tried to fly. I don't have any idea how many future tests will fail. Having been in the pharmaceutical business and investing a lot of money in research and development, I know that failures are not losses. Failures are a learning process.

Moderator: Thank you. Please?

Question: I am Yelena Ovcharenko from Komsomolskaya Pravda. Mr. Secretary, do I understand correctly that you have not brought any specific, concrete proposals to these consultations in Moscow and that no numbers were mentioned with respect to thresholds, levels, and deadlines with respect to the reductions of strategic weapons? And then the question arises: Except the well-known idea that the United States does not like the ABM Treaty, are there any proposals? And when do you think that the U.S. and Russia would move from consultations to negotiations? Are there any specific schedules or any specific timeframe? Because some people believe that, on the part of the United States, that the United States is intentionally dragging its feet so that it could, in the process of these consultations, simply withdraw from these consultations unilaterally.

Rumsfeld: Well, I don't doubt that there may be some people who assume that, but they would be wrong. Let me walk at your question in three ways. First, the contention that we don't provide details on the subject of ballistic missile defense. The fact is that we had briefings in Washington for the senior-level group from Russia and gave them extensive briefings. They were briefed by our experts on our entire ballistic missile research-and-development test program. They left with enough paper that it looks like the Moscow telephone book. Second, with respect to levels, did we bring specific numbers?

I have been asked by Congress and by the President to do a nuclear posture review, and I have been doing it. And we have been carefully reviewing what we believe to be the present circumstance and needs of the United States, what we think to be the needs in the near term and midterm and longer term, and guided by the president's request to have the lowest possible number, we have been reviewing every aspect of the program. I suspect we'll come to a point where I will be able to make a recommendation to the president sometime in the next month or two, at which point we'll have a number. And, if anyone thinks it's intentional delay, they're wrong.

The president has been pushing me, and the only thing that's caused the delay is my ability to absorb all the complexities of the problem. But there's one thing that's clear to everyone involved in it, and that is that the United States does not need the thousands and thousands and thousands of weapons we have. And I fully intend, as I work on the budget for the calendar -- correction -- the fiscal year 2003, which we're starting to develop now for introduction to the Congress in January of 2002, we have to have enough knowledge that we can put in that budget the funds that will be needed to modify our strategic nuclear force substantially.

Moderator: Thank you.

Question: Vitaly Zhurkin, Russian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Europe. Well, I completely agree with you, Mr. Secretary, that the Russian-U.S. relationship is much broader than the missile defense issue. Well, I would like to ask the following: Is the Republican administration considering the issue or does it have any considerations about the fate of the various agreements that were concluded in Europe at the times of the Cold War? In other words, are there any plans to either modernize these agreements or perhaps to enter into new ones? And question number two: the inevitability of the missile defense. Now, both sides have agreed specifically in Genoa about the linkage between the offensive and defensive systems. Now, what is the opinion of the U.S. side? Will this linkage acquire, let's say, a quantitative form? Or will it remain at a conceptual level?

Rumsfeld: I don't recall any suggestions to modernize other agreements, with the single exception that from time to time both sides have indicated that in downsizing offensive nuclear forces. Some of the accounting rules might inhibit either side or both from modernizing their force in the most cost-effective way. But those have been mostly musings to the side and not any part of a central discussion or consultation. For example, the United States recently indicated that we were going to dispense with our Peacekeeper missile and that we intended to take some of the Trident submarine ballistic -- nuclear ballistic missile capabilities down. And yet, even if there were nothing in that silo that had anything relating to a strategic nuclear weapon, it would still fall within some sort of accounting rule. It's that type of thing that I'm referring to.

Now, with respect to the linkage between offensive and defensive, you're quite right. Our two sides have agreed to discuss them together. There's nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, the defensive capability that we're testing and thinking about is not something that alters that equation. No matter what number you come down to with respect to offensive weapons, it's going to be hundreds and hundreds and hundreds, and the defensive system we're talking about is talking about handfuls. Now, if it's -- some people feel it's desirable to link them, fine. But in terms of looking at the equation, its relevance is modest.

Moderator: Are there any other questions? Last question, please.

Question: Thank you. Vladimir Petrovsky, the Academy for Military Sciences, the Political Science Department at MGIMO. I would like to ask you, Mr. Secretary, have you discussed with your Russian counterparts the prospects for the Russian-U.S. cooperation in the military area, especially on a regional level? What I mean is Europe and the Pacific Rim countries. Well, and now my second question, if I may, we know that common threats --

Moderator: This is going to be the last one.

Question: Okay. We know that --

Rumsfeld: At least this is just two-part question. The earlier one was an eight-part question.

Moderator: Well, it is the last one.

Question: Okay. If somebody has a common threat, these people become closer, people of countries. Now, is it possible, for example, that joint efforts will be made Russia and the U.S. to combat terrorism, specifically in Central Asia? Thank you.

Rumsfeld: The short answer to your question is that the bulk of those types of regional issues would fall within the areas of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs. But, clearly, elements of them fall within the Ministries of Defense, and we have had discussions where we discussed common threats. Indeed, we had threat briefings and discussions in Washington with the senior-level group just last week. If you think about it, the United States and Russia are currently involved in aspects of the Balkans.

We have, in fact, discussed terrorism in a broad general sense, but not with respect to specific activities. Indeed, I would submit that the circumstance of Russia and the United States has a number of similarities. To the extent a state or a non-state entity wishes to do something adverse to Russia's interest or the U.S. interest, one would think they would be unlikely to want to confront directly armies, navies, or air forces. Instead, they logically would migrate towards so-called asymmetrical threats that give them leverage and advantage, whether terrorism, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, weapons of mass destruction, ultimately cyber attacks and that type of thing, which makes the subject of proliferation something that's front and center. And that, ladies and gentlemen, as I understand it, concludes our meeting.

Moderator: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

Rumsfeld: I thank you all for being here. I've enjoyed being with you. Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.



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