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U.S. Seeks Mutually Workable Agreement with Russia

U.S. Seeks Mutually Workable Agreement with Russia

The United States hopes to reach an accommodation with Russia on the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty as it researches, tests and develops a missile defense program, says John Bolton, Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs. Transcript of John R. Bolton Missile Defense Interview in Moscow (Radio Ekho Moskvy) August 21, 2001. Source: Washington File (EUR305). U.S. Department of State. Washington D.C., August 22, 2001.

"We've made it very clear that we're not going to violate the ABM Treaty," Bolton said August 21 during an interview with Echo of Moscow radio. But the United States wants to find a way to work with Russia, "either to find a way to mutually withdraw from the treaty or in some way together [to] move beyond the constraints that the ABM Treaty places on our development effort," he said.

Bolton said that if the United States is not able to reach agreement with Russia, "then at some point in the not too distant future we would exercise our express right under the treaty to give notice of withdrawal. But withdrawal, of course, is not violating the treaty."

The under secretary said the United States wants to reach a new strategic framework with Russia that focuses on political, economic and military issues.

Bolton was in Moscow August 21-22 to continue a series of consultations that began when President Bush met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in Genoa in July. Missile defense, reducing nuclear arsenals and a new strategic framework were among the major issues discussed by the two leaders.

Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in September, then Bush and Putin will meet in October while attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Shanghai. Finally, Bush and Putin will meet again in November at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Bolton said he believes "that the two presidents would be disappointed in us if we didn't have something for them to consider when they get together in Texas." However, Bolton said the November meeting should not be considered an artificial deadline for a final agreement.

"We're going to try and make as much progress as we can and we'll see what happens," Bolton told Echo of Moscow. "The real issue, I think, is the deepening of the political and economic conversations between the two governments, and that alone would be substantial progress."

Bolton said the United States has provided the Russian side with an enormous amount of information on the program, the research and development and testing program of the ballistic missile organization at the Pentagon, and on what the United States sees as the international threat.

Bolton also answered questions related to NATO's role in Macedonia, U.S. views on the Middle East, the ABM Treaty, and U.S. and global economic conditions.

Following are terms and abbreviations used in the text:

  • G-8: Group of Eight, which includes the Group of Seven (G-7) major industrialized nations and Russia.
  • START: Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty I & II.
  • ABM Treaty: 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty originally signed between the United States and Soviet Union.

Following is a transcript of the Bolton interview as obtained from Federal News Service with no republication restrictions:

(Transcript copyrighted by Federal News Service, 202-347-1400) (begin transcript)

Radio Ekho Moskvy: Interview with John R. Bolton, United States Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs, August 21, 2001

Transcript Copyrighted 2001 by Federal News Service

QUESTION: Mr. Bolton, first of all, thanks for accepting this interview.

Bolton: I'm very happy to do it.

Q: And then this summer makes -- you are the number five high-ranking official here in Moscow within a month.

Bolton: Right. Who do you think -- who are the first five? Rice.

Q: Well, [National Security Advisor] Condoleezza Rice. Then [Commerce Secretary Donald] Evans and [Treasury Secretary Paul] O'Neill. And [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld.

Bolton: Okay.

Q: And now there's you. Now, this is the thing: now, with all that, well, let's say, huge diplomatic cooperation, we can see no results. How do you explain this?

Bolton: Well, what we are doing is following on to what Presidents Bush and Putin asked us to do in the wake of the G-8 meeting in Genoa, and that is to begin discussions of a new strategic framework between Russia and the United States. And that new framework, in our view, covers a whole range of issues -- not just military issues, but political and economic issues as well. So obviously there have been many relations and agreements between our two countries since the end of the Cold War, but what we think the two presidents want to do is carry that relationship to an entirely new level.

So a lot of what we have been doing in the meetings we've had in Washington and the meetings here in Moscow is to try and formulate new ways to work more closely and more cooperatively with the government of Russia. And that doesn't happen overnight, but we're already very encouraged by the tone of the discussions. When Condy Rice and Secretary O'Neill and Secretary Evans were here, they talked about a wide range of issues, and I think Secretaries O'Neill and Evans will be communicating what they learned to businesses and Congress in Washington. And I think on the political and military level we're already seeing the benefits of enhanced cooperation.

I'm in Moscow today really to help prepare for the next meeting between Foreign Minister Ivanov and Secretary Powell. You know, that will be in September. It will be their tenth meeting since Secretary Powell took office in January, and we can't even begin to count the number of times they've spoken on the phone. So I think at a political level we're really making very substantial progress.

Q: Yeah, but in a way, every official coming is preparing the next meeting. So these are things that Condoleezza Rice told the journalists and other officials coming also told the journalists. Now, let's try to review different aspects of the relations, and first of all, the strategic aspect of it. When Mr. Rumsfeld was here, he was told by Russian officials: "We want figures. We want proposals about series in strategic arms. We want proposals about modification -- or not modification -- of something about the ABM Treaty." So what is done up to now? Because the answer that the Russian side got every time was that "We are quite new in this area in the White House and the whole administration; just give us time to count the warheads and so on." So what is the situation now? What did you bring here to Russian officials?

Bolton: Well, we have provided a very substantial amount of information, both in our meetings today and in meetings that were held in Washington: information about the review that's ongoing at the Defense Department on our overall levels of offensive weapons, about the restructuring of the Defense Department that Secretary Rumsfeld is now studying; and also very extensive information on the budget proposals that we have before Congress for this next year showing, as our really very transparent budget process shows, reductions in nuclear force levels quite apart from START agreements or any further discussions we're having, unilateral reductions that the United States is taking. And we had a presentation today by Admiral Jewett of the Pentagon Joint Staff to elaborate on that further. We also have provided a very substantial amount of information about what our ballistic missile development program has already accomplished and what its plans are for the next year or 18 months, elaborating in very considerable detail for our Russian counterparts the kinds of systems that we're exploring and the kinds of capabilities that we'll have.

So the answer to the Russian inquiry -- "What are you thinking about? What are you doing? What are you planning?" -- we think we've provided a very substantial amount of information for them to consider and to better understand the limited national missile defense system that we're talking about. But I would just stress to you that the military channel, as important as it is, is only one aspect of the broader political relationship that the two presidents have talked to us about, and that was really -- the meetings we're having in Moscow this week are really concentrated on that broader political level.

Q: Do you think that time is pressing in all these talks and consultations? Because some experts say that normally by springtime America will be ready to make some testing that will not comply already with the old ABM Treaty. In that case, what is America to do if there is no agreement? Just violate it? Or make previous notice or something like that?

Bolton: Well, we've made it very clear that we're not going to violate the ABM Treaty, nor do we want to be subjected to criticism or second-guessing about what activities we're undertaking in development and testing of possible ballistic missile systems are or are not in violation of the treaty. So what we have said is that we want to find a way to work mutually with the government of Russia, either to find a way to mutually withdraw from the treaty or in some way together move beyond the constraints that the ABM Treaty places on our development effort.

If, contrary to what our preference is, we're not able to reach agreement with Russia, then at some point in the not too distant future we would exercise our express right under the treaty to give notice of withdrawal. But withdrawal, of course, is not violating the treaty. Withdrawal is exactly what the treaty contemplates. And that's what we've told our Russian counterparts we would do. But let me stress again, our preference is to come to a joint resolution of the question so that we can avoid the whole issue of treaty violation.

Q: In what form can it be avoided? I mean, will it be -- that's a question we've asked already to different -- other American representatives coming here. What will be the form of it? Just a gentleman's agreement? Or a formal document, a binding document? Because, well, it's not a question, an issue of a month or a few years. It will last, and it will last far beyond both administrations --

Bolton: Yeah.

Q: -- Mr. Putin's and Mr. Bush's. So, if it is just an agreement between the two leaders, what will happen in 10 or in 15 or in 20 years?

Bolton: Well, we don't really see that much resting on the question of what form the agreement takes, whether it's in the form of a treaty, whether it's in the form of a political declaration by the leaders. What we think is important is to focus on the substance of the agreement and moving the relationship to this new strategic framework that I mentioned before to have a more intense level of political cooperation. We're open on the issue of form.

You know, a treaty in a sense isn't anymore binding than a declaration. You can't sue somebody if they violate a treaty. And a gentleman's agreement, from our perspective, is giving our word. We take that just as seriously as the treaty. But, if ultimately it's a treaty form that's agreed to, we're not -- we don't really rest that much importance on it. We want to hear what the Russian side has to say about that, and we've been saying in our discussions is we should make progress on the substance of these issues and worry about the form later.

Q: Now, coming back to the timing question, normally there is a visit planned for Vladimir Putin going -- it is -- what it is called? "A visit to a Texas ranch." Right?

Bolton: Right.

Q: But it is more or less fixed or planned already for November. Do you think that by that time -- and do you want to make a substantial move forward by that time?

Bolton: Well, the two presidents actually meet first in Shanghai in October and then in Crawford, Texas, where the President's ranch is in November. And I think that the two presidents would be disappointed in us if we didn't have something for them to consider when they get together in Texas. But we don't -- also consider it an artificial deadline, and we're going to try and make as much progress as we can and we'll see what happens. The real issue, I think, is the deepening of the political and economic conversations between the two governments, and that alone would be substantial progress. But we'll just have to see what happens by November.

Q: By the way, do you have some reproaches to make to your Russian colleagues in these strategic talks?

Bolton: I'm sorry, do I have some --

Q: Do you have to reproach the Russian side?

Aide to Bolton: Is there anything that we reproach the Russian counterparts with in the course of these talks?

Q: I mean within the strategic part. Maybe when we say that the Russian side wants the American side to give different levels, series, and so on, what do you want to have from the Russian side and you still do not have?

Bolton: Well, I think that, as I've said, our preference is that we resolve our difficulties with the constraints with the ABM Treaty mutually, and I'm still hopeful that, as we discuss the program of testing and development on missile defense that we're undertaking, that that would still be possible. But the conversations that we've had so far, first in the military-to-military channel in Washington and now in the political channel, are really, I think, as much exploring each other's positions at the moment as anything else.

I think the most important thing that we've done from the American side is provide an enormous amount of information to the Russian side, both on the program, the research and development and testing program of our ballistic missile organization in the Pentagon, and also provided a very substantial amount of information on what we see as the international threat to the United States and to Russia as well that has led us to the conclusion that we need ballistic missile defenses. So, in providing all this information to the Russian side, we hope to help further inform their decision-making and give them a better understanding of why we're making the proposals that we are.

Q: Now I'd like to come into the international field. When you are speaking about the instability of some states and their problematic stand on different matters, how do you evaluate the possibility of cooperation with Russia? First of all on the Middle East issue and then the Balkans, since these are the two most hot points now.

Bolton: Yeah. Well, on the Middle East I know for a fact that Foreign Minister Ivanov and Secretary Powell talk all the time, quite regularly. I don't even think we could begin to count the number of telephone conversations that they've had in very active diplomacy on the situation in the Middle East.

Q: When did the talk the last time?

Bolton: Well, I don't know. Secretary Powell went off to New England on vacation on Friday, and I've been in Moscow. So I don't know when the last time was, but it was just last week, I know, when we were both still in Washington that they talked. And, as I say, their conversation really is an ongoing one at several different levels on several different subjects, and the Balkans, which you also mentioned, has been the subject of considerable conversation as well. When Secretary Rumsfeld was here, he spoke with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov about it, and we've had many discussions at other levels as well. So I think, even in cases where there may be differing points of view or differing analyses of the situation, I would assess the level of conversation between Moscow and Washington to be very intense.

Q: Some experts here say that Russia was somehow put aside in the Macedonian situation, in their attempting to disarm the Albanians there. So why is that? Did not NATO and the United States invite Russia to cooperate?

Bolton: Well, I think the Defense Minister explained that that was never really Russia's intention, nor in their interest to do so. I think they have been kept quite well informed through their representatives in Brussels as NATO has been planning this exercise. And, in fact, the American ambassador here in Moscow -- the new American ambassador, Ambassador Vershbow, who of course came from NATO -- actually gave Defense Minister Ivanov quite an extensive briefing of the thinking behind NATO's actions last week when Secretary Rumsfeld was here visiting.

Q: Getting back to the Middle East, is it right as some people understand it that the American position is "We shall make pressure on Israel; you could make pressure on Arafat and different Arab states that could, in their turn, make pressure on Arafat"?

Bolton: Well, I think that all of the external parties that are looking at the Middle East have made it clear that the violence has to stop. And in particular I think what we've said is the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority to bring the violence in the Occupied Territories to a halt and for the Israelis to exercise restraint is paramount. But, you know, as former Secretary of State Baker once said with respect to the Israel-Palestine question, we can't want peace more than the parties themselves. And that's one of the reasons why we have felt that some period of time where there's a complete absence of violence is necessary before more active, more visible diplomacy by any outsider really can be productive, because it's just simply not acceptable that violence is able to obtain advances in the negotiations. And I think, if that will proceed to be the case, the violence would only increase.

So much of -- however much all of us outside the Middle East want the parties to come to agreement, you can't underestimate the importance of them reaching agreement on their own. And this is a very unhappy time. There's no question about it. But it would be a mistake to believe that intervention by the United States or by anybody else for that matter could really make a difference until the parties themselves come to the realization that they're ultimately responsible for peace in the place in the place where they live.

Q: How do you evaluate the possibility of American-Russian and Russian relations to Europe? I mean to a united Europe, and more and more united every day now that the euro is coming and so on and so on. Well, Russia somehow is geographically closer and historically closer, but America is economically closer to Europe. What do you think? Is it another partner? Or is it your more close partner than Russia? How can we make that balance in relations?

Bolton: Well, I think it's a very complicated question on the political, military and economic levels. You know, ultimately Russia could join the Europe Union, and the United States never can the way they have it arranged now. And so it puts you in a somewhat different position. And I think for many Americans it's a question of exactly how the European Union will evolve and how it will behave vis-à -vis the United States. We're obviously close political and military allies through the NATO alliance, but many people have been concerned in trade and economic matters about some of the what seem to be protectionist positions that the European Union has taken.

So this is a very complex question. You have the issue of the Central and Eastern European countries, some of which are now in NATO but which aspire to be EU members, some of which are in neither organization but want to be both, and how all these pieces fit together I think remains uncertain and very complex. But it would be natural for Russia to find greater economic ties with Europe. We would think it would be natural and appropriate to have greater economic times with the United States, and that's the principal reason that Secretary of Commerce Evans and Secretary of the Treasury O'Neill were both here in Moscow just a few weeks ago.

Q: Some Europeans think that, talking about the strategic arms and especially the ABM Treaty, "You just talk over our heads and our interests are not taken into account." Would you agree with that in a way?

Bolton: With whose interests --

Q: With the European stand. Different European experts say that.

Bolton: Yeah --

Q: "Now Russia and America are talking among themselves about strategy, about ABM, about arms and so on. We are -- anyway, we are left aside. Our interests are not taken into account."

Bolton: Well, two things. First, really only Russia and the United States have the global capabilities in strategic weapons that we're discussing, so I think it's entirely appropriate that we have many of these meetings on a bilateral basis. But it would be a mistake to think that we're neglecting the Europeans. We have very extensive consultations with them, particularly the NATO allies. We're also briefing friends and allies in the Pacific as well. We've had delegations that have gone and visited European capitals. At the end of our meetings here in Moscow this week one of my colleagues will be going to Brussels to brief the North Atlantic Council.

So we've had very extensive discussions with them, and we've been encouraged with the growth of support for missile defense that we've seen in country after country in Europe, in Spain and in Italy and increasingly in the United Kingdom. And we're confident that, as they have a growing understanding of the protection that missile defense could afford to all of us in the North Atlantic community, that their support for missile defense will continue to grow.

Q: What about their possible [participation] in that, with that system?

Bolton: Well --

Q: What is the American stand about the possible European [participation] which makes it somehow an international system?

Bolton: Yeah, I think --

Q: For interception or something?

Bolton: I think in the United States every serious advocate of missile defense I know has always believed that, once it became technologically feasible, that we would make it available to friends and allies and others who want to participate in it to protect ourselves together against the threats from rogue states, and that, in fact, is one of the various subjects we're talking with our Russian counterparts about this week. We want to see what interest there might be in cooperation on strategic missile defense with Russia. But, you know, this gets us back to the ABM Treaty, which forbids cooperation on national missile defense. So to get into a position where we could cooperate fully with Russia we have to get through that requirement in the ABM Treaty.

Q: If that's right, what would you like better? To modify -- formally to modify the treaty or to prove that things that are being done are not violating the treaty? I mean, is it modification or somehow it's a slightly different interpretation of the text?

Bolton: Well, it's very hard to imagine a modification of the treaty that will allow us to do what we want to do, which is to provide a limited defense of our national territory. Limited in the sense that we want to protect against the capabilities rogue states have, which we've described as handfuls of missiles, not hundreds. It's not a system under anybody's notion at the moment that could defend against a missile attack by hundreds or certainly not thousands of missiles. So it's the kind of limited in the sense of limited in what it can handle in terms of incoming missiles, but national in the sense that it covers all of our national territory.

That is exactly what the ABM Treaty was designed to prevent, and it's our --

Q: Because there are just two regions?

Bolton: Well, there are just right now --

Q: One region in every country --

Bolton: Right, and you know --

Q: -- that is protected.

Bolton: -- here we are in Moscow --

Q: Yeah, and you are protected.

Bolton: -- which is -- that's exactly right. This is the only city in the world with a functioning ABM system, and I want to tell you I feel very safe here.

Q: Yeah.

Bolton: And it's just too bad that citizens of other cities elsewhere in Russia and in the United States can't feel as safe.

Q: Yeah, and you also have one region, just one point, in America that is protected. But now I think there is a problem with a system being installed or planned in Alaska.

Bolton: Well, the previous administration was thinking of installing a fixed land-based system there instead of protecting what is now a wheat field in North Dakota, an empty former missile field. But that plan by them was really intended to be as limited as possible, and we want to look at a broader range of systems. We need to test them. We need to develop them. We have not come to a fixed conclusion what sort of architecture, as we call it, for an antiballistic missile system we would want to have. And that again is where the treaty prevents us from doing development and testing for sea-based systems, air-based systems, space-based systems, or mobile land-based systems.

Q: So now that you've talked yourself with your Russian counterparts here, based on your personal impression, not on other people's, do you see the way out of what seems to a lot of people a dead end?

Bolton: Well, I don't think it's a dead end by any stretch of the imagination, and I think what the presidents were able to achieve in just two relatively brief meetings at Lubljana and Genoa have been pretty clear instructions to their assistants that they need to find ways to make progress toward the new strategic framework, toward a better, closer political relationship. So, as subordinates often do, we're struggling to find what the right way ahead is. But as we both -- both sides commented several times in our meetings over the past couple of days, the direction from the presidents is clear. So we have an obligation to find what that way will be, and we're in the process of trying to do that.

Q: Do you think that what you have done today and in previous days -- by the way, I think you've been also in an atomic research center.

Bolton: The Ministry of Atomic Energy --

Q: You've been there, yeah?

Bolton: Right, yeah.

Q: Are you just so curious about all these matters?

Bolton: Well, we have extensive programs here in Russia we call the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program that has a lot of different aspects, but which includes help in the de-weaponization, de-nuclearization of Russia's capabilities, helping its scientists and helping Russia move away from the economic and military dependence on nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. We have arrangements with Russia on importing highly enriched uranium to the United States for use in our civil nuclear reactors. We have concerns that we've discussed with MinAtom on proliferation questions of the export of nuclear technologies to states like Iran that we consider high risks, to be proliferants [sic] to states that could themselves acquire weapons, which would concern us very gravely. So, with MinAtom, with the Russian Space Agency, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Defense Ministry, really with a wide range of Russian interlocutors, we're trying to cover a wide variety of topics, and that accounts for the meetings.

And in our meetings today, even though they were between foreign ministries, we both -- both sides had representatives of their defense ministries, their intelligence communities, and we covered a whole range of subjects.

Q: And let me ask one of my last questions. I understand that you could say it's a question mostly to Secretary of Treasury O'Neill, but anyway our listeners will not forgive me if I do not ask the question about the dollar situation, because rumors are different. Some people say -- some experts and economists say in different countries, not only here, that the dollar is not quite stable now. What could you tell on that?

Bolton: Well, I think Secretary O'Neill has said several times if he's going to change the strong dollar policy he'll say it in a way that everybody understands. I think the policy remains the same. I think one reason I don't speculate in currencies is I don't fully understand why currency markets go up or why they go down. Maybe some people do, but I don't. And I think the fundamental question is when the American economy recovers and when it pulls the rest of the world's economies out of the slump that they're in now as well. And I think some of the hopeful signs we've had over the past few weeks -- the Federal Reserve meets today. Perhaps there will be more news there. But our objective, in terms of the domestic management of the American economy, is to resume economic growth in a strong and sustained fashion, which we think will have benefits for other economies around the world and make everybody better off.

Q: So you will not make your personal reserve in the euro? (Laughter.)

Bolton: I'm not going to get into currenc speculation. There's no upside to it, and I'm happy to leave that to the Treasury Department.

Q: Yeah. And now that I think the next meeting -- I mean, the high-ranking bilateral meeting is planned for September, yeah? What do you plan -- by you, I don't mean you, John Bolton, but you, the United States -- what do plan to do before the new meeting time comes? What else do you plan to do? And what do you expect from Russia?

Bolton: Yeah, we're going to continue the discussions that we've been having, and the objective is to get ready for the meeting of foreign ministers in September in New York or Washington -- and then the defense ministers meet again in Naples toward the end of the month -- and to report to them on the progress that we've made, the areas where perhaps further discussion is warranted, and to get their evaluation and direction on how to proceed. So it's an ongoing process, and I wouldn't want to say at this point there's a specific objective. I think we're hoping to move as far forward as we can, but at this point it's just to soon to predict.

Q: And no texts are planned to be prepared for the moment?

Bolton: Well --

Q: I don't mean a huge agreement. You know, even hundreds of pages, as Mr. Rumsfeld said it is not planned. But what, let's say, touchable is planned?

Bolton: Well, we're really not really at that stage yet, and I think it would be more important to see what progress we make substantively before we decide how to write it down, and that's what we've been going back and forth on for the past couple of days and that we'll be discussing again tomorrow.

Q: Thank you. And I think I am abusing of your time.

Bolton: Okay, well, thank you very much.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Bolton.

Bolton: Okay.

(end transcript)


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).