|U.S. Has Not Set a Deadline for Withdrawal from ABM Treaty |
U.S. Has Not Set a Deadline for Withdrawal from ABM Treaty
Excerpt: Deputy Spokesman at August 22 State Department daily press briefing. Source: Washington File (EUR306). U.S. Department of State. Washington D.C., August 22, 2001.
"We have set no deadline for withdrawal from the ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty," Deputy State Department Spokesman Philip Reeker said August 22, in response to questions about remarks made by John Bolton, under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, during a radio interview in Moscow.
Reeker, speaking at the daily State Department briefing, said that while the United States continues to talk with Russia, "we have not set a time when this [withdrawal] would happen. We have talked about the limitations that the ABM Treaty places on missile defense planning. We feel it is time to move beyond that. We are trying to work with the Russians to do that."
Under Secretary Bolton said the United States is "not going to violate the treaty; we are trying to work with the Russians to find mutual ways of moving beyond the limitations that the treaty has, and that's what our consultations at all these different levels are all about," Reeker said.
While the United States tries "to find ways to jointly, with the Russians, move beyond the ABM Treaty.... [w]e are simultaneously moving ahead with our missile defense program, which will of course bump up against the ABM Treaty, in some months, not years, as we have said. But we have set no deadline for withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, and Under Secretary Bolton's comments, if read correctly, make that quite clear."
Following is an excerpt from the State Department transcript: (begin excerpt)
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, Wednesday, August 22, 2001 -- 12:45 P.M. (on the record unless otherwise noted)
Question: There is a widespread perception that Mr. Bolton in Moscow said that if there was no alternative agreement by November, then the United States would feel compelled to tell the Russians that they were withdrawing from the ABM Treaty.
Mr. Reeker: Under Secretary Bolton did not say this. Widespread perceptions may be based on erroneous press stories. There is no deadline, as we have said before. And as Under Secretary Bolton clearly stated in the radio interview that he did in Moscow -- and we can certainly provide you the transcript -- if you actually read the transcript of that, you will see in his interview with the Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy that Under Secretary Bolton was discussing the fact that our two presidents, the Russian president and President Bush, expect to meet in November. They will also meet in October in Shanghai for the APEC Summit.
In fact, Under Secretary Bolton said we don't consider it an artificial deadline, when he was asked about November, and he said we are going to try to make as much progress as we can, and we will see what happens. The real issue, he reiterated, is the deepening of the political and economic conversations between the two governments, and that alone would be substantial progress.
So that is what we are focusing on. As we just noted, the two presidents will meet in November. They will also have met in October, in addition, to Under Secretary Bolton's discussions that he has had in Moscow this week. I think we have said before that Secretary Powell will meet with Foreign Minister Ivanov in September. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was in Moscow last week, and expects to meet also in September again with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov. And we hope to make progress with the Russians in these and other discussions.
I think in his consultations in Moscow, Under Secretary Bolton and his delegation provided facts and briefings on US plans on missile defense and strategic offensive nuclear forces for their Russian counterparts, and as part of the strategic talks, we also had a constructive discussion on nonproliferation.
As you know, we wish to find ways to jointly, with the Russians, move beyond the ABM Treaty, which we believe is a relic of a bygone age. We are simultaneously moving ahead with our missile defense program, which will of course bump up against the ABM Treaty, in some months, not years, as we have said. But we have set no deadline for withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, and Under Secretary Bolton's comments, if read correctly, make that quite clear.
Question: Phil, as you just noted, that you are moving ahead with the missile defense plan, and it is going to bump up into the treaty, as in a matter of months, not years, it is correct that if you want to withdraw unilaterally from the treaty, you have to give the Russians six months notice, correct?
Mr. Reeker: I believe that is what the treaty stipulates, right.
Question: And it's also -- and it is my understanding -- well, at least, the Pentagon said the other day that, in fact, in April they want to begin the real, the definitive construction on this island in Alaska, which would be a violation of the treaty if the treaty was still existent. And November happens to be six months before April.
So is it not too much of an inference for people to make when they see that this kind of convergence of events, and coupled with Mr. Bolton's comments, for people to assume that you have said to the Russians, well, look, maybe this isn't a hard-fast deadline, but this is when --
Mr. Reeker: No, in fact, I think it is too much of an inference, because as I have told you right now, there is no deadline, as Under Secretary Bolton said yesterday. There is no deadline.
Question: Has there been a suggestion that, should progress not be made, the US is prepared to declare that it will abandon the treaty in November? Not a deadline, but just --
Mr. Reeker: No, I think we have said there is no time -- while we continue to talk with the Russians, we have not set a time when this would happen. We have talked about the limitations that the ABM Treaty places on missile defense planning. We feel it is time to move beyond that. We are trying to work with the Russians to do that. If you read Under Secretary Bolton's transcript in its entirety, he also talks about the fact that we are not going to violate the treaty; we are trying to work with the Russians to find mutual ways of moving beyond the limitations that the treaty has, and that's what our consultations at all these different levels are all about.
Question: But if you were going to go ahead -- if the Pentagon was going to go ahead and start this construction in April, you do agree that you would have to notify the Russians six months in advance --
Mr. Reeker: I have to let the Pentagon speak for its plans in terms of anything in April.
Question: Well, Phil, I don't think the Pentagon actually goes over there and says, we're going to abandon this; it's the State Department that is --
Mr. Reeker: Right, and I don't have, Matt -- I don't have anything that definitively describes specifics in terms of plans, paper or otherwise, in defining at what point we would bump up against the ABM Treaty. We are not there yet. That is why we are talking to the Russians. That is why we intend to continue talking to the Russians.
Question: Phil, "bump up against" has been used frequently. Does that mean the US will violate the treaty without withdrawing from it?
Mr. Reeker: I think I just said, Barry, that we will not violate the treaty. Under Secretary Bolton said -- and again, you really should look at his transcript -- that we won't do that. We are working with the Russians. If we need to withdraw from the treaty, that's another matter. We are working with the Russians to try to mutually find steps we can take to relieve ourselves from the limitations created by this 30-year-old treaty.
Question: I thought what you were doing, and you did it quite well, is to --
Mr. Reeker: Thank you, Barry. I believe that was a compliment.
Question: -- make it clear that Bolton did not say we've set a deadline for abandoning the treaty. I also know that there is a process for abandoning the treaty set out in the treaty, and it requires six months notification.
Mr. Reeker: I think Matt mentioned that, and we acknowledge that.
Question: He's right. But there remains the question, if the Administration, as it said many times, intends within months, not years, to "bump up against" the treaty, that raises the possibility that this Administration will violate an agreement, will violate a treaty without withdrawing from it.
Mr. Reeker: Barry, I have just told you we won't do that. We are working now to find ways to make changes, mutually agreed-upon changes, with the Russians about the ABM Treaty. We have the option to withdraw from the treaty, as you just indicated. Those are facts. They are not mutually exclusive facts. That is why we are having a continuing series of very high-level, very senior discussions -- a dialogue that the two presidents agreed would take place. And the two presidents themselves will meet in October, in November, to review these things.
So I don't think there is anything mutually exclusive here. It is a process that needs to continue. The point is, due to some erroneous reporting, above-the-fold headlines that were wrong, Under Secretary Bolton did not say that there was any deadline, official or unofficial. He said there is no deadline. And so there really isn't any news on this subject today.
Question: I might add that amending the treaty was ruled out by the Administration months ago. I guess, unless the Administration is going to put blinders on and ask the Russians to don the same blinders, the treaty is going to be violated. The treaty clearly prohibits what the Administration is on a course to do.
Mr. Reeker: Barry, you are arguing against yourself, because you just said that we are allowed to withdraw from the treaty if we so desire.
Question: But to do the kind of things that the US plans to do in months, you have to give six months notice. You're not giving six months notice, but you're going to bump up against the treaty in months. Maybe it means seven months.
Mr. Reeker: Barry?
Mr. Reeker: We are far away from dates that have been discussed at the Pentagon. There are no fast and firm decisions. There are no deadlines in this. We are continuing a dialogue.
Question: Phil, what are the consequences if you don't reach an agreement with the Russians on alternatives by the summit, or during the summit for that matter? I mean, is the summit, in some sense, a lost opportunity to get some agreement here?
Mr. Reeker: No, I think this is something we are going to continue a dialogue about. The dialogue takes place with senior officials from this Department, Secretary Powell included; Under Secretary Bolton, who has just finished talks in Moscow; the Pentagon, as we discussed. They continue that dialogue because we are working very clearly -- we are being very transparent with the Russians about what our plans are, what we are looking at, what the budget implications are. And so that will just continue.
Question: So would the United States be happy to continue consultations with the Russians after the summit, even after the summit is over?
Mr. Reeker: I think one just has to wait and see as we go. Let's let things happen one step at a time here.
Question: You mentioned in there that Under Secretary Bolton's talks are finished in Moscow? I understood he was staying a couple more days. Are there no more talks?
Mr. Reeker: I believe he may be staying on in Moscow for a couple more days. I believe his formal talks are over.