26 May 2009

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller outlines U.S. position on the new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia

The official representative of Russian MFA has announced that the first round of negotiations on START will take place in Moscow May 18-20. However earlier after your meeting with Mr. Antonov in Rome they said that such negotiations will take place in Washington D.C. in May. Where is the truth?

We have decided to meet in Moscow in May.

Are you going to be there?

Yes, of course.

You have said that your first negotiations with Mr. Antonov were quite constructive. What is your position – how much closer did the positions of the U.S. and Russia get on the future treaty. Are you still pessimistic that both of our countries will be able to reach an agreement by December and work out and ratify a new treaty to replace the old START.

I actually believe I have been quite optimistic so far. I am optimistic with a measure of common sense. The key thing is that our two countries seem to have decided that we do want in fact to pursue very intensive negotiations between now and December 2009 to try to achieve a new treaty to replace START when it goes out of force December 5. That is actually a key point of agreement between Moscow and Washington, and in fact gives me cause for optimism, because there is a very clear goal laid out for negotiators. And indeed when our two presidents provided instructions for the negotiators to pursue that goal as they did in London at the beginning of April that gives us a positive environment trying to get that done.

So you believe both sides will reach an agreement by December?

Yes, I very much hope so. I believe it’s the intent of both sides to pursue that goal of finishing by December.

In Moscow they paid attention to the fact that in the US there was no negotiator appointed on the U.S. side. And at the very last moment the American side may decide to sign an intermediate, not a full scale document. How can you comment on that? Would you agree that the negotiator’s team on arms control has been shaped?

I am afraid I do not understand the question, because I am the START negotiator. The main negotiator.

It is clear that our team is taking some time to take shape because the Obama administration is new and many individuals are still to be confirmed by the Senate, but I will note that the Secretary of State and President Obama have pushed very hard for my confirmation to be one of the first because they believe that START is so important and they wanted to make sure that I would be in place as early as possible, so I could begin those negotiations. It is very important to note that both the President and the Secretary of State were very keen to see me confirmed by the Senate as soon as possible.

If we want be able to achieve the agreement by December 5 are there any options to escape a legal vacuum in the area of arms control.

As you may have noticed when Secretary Clinton was before the Senate before she was sworn in as SECSTATE she got that question, and certainly we would need some extra time to ensure that the treaty is ratified by the Senate and the State Duma. She said that we should find some mutually acceptable way for the negotiators to have more time. We should find some acceptable way to move forward and not to fall into a legal vacuum.

Russia and the U.S. agreed to reduce the nuclear war heads below the level agreed by the treaty of Moscow, but in Moscow many observers believe it is too early to speak about the radical reductions. Can you comment on that and what is the ceiling of weapons that seems to be the most reasonable in current circumstances?

As you know while we are negotiating START we have in the US the nuclear posture review, and its very important to complete that review before the United States will start deep reductions as President Obama called for in his speech in Prague. That is why we are taking that phased approach to negotiations as President Obama and Medvedev agreed in London in their instructions to the negotiators that there will be some additional reductions below the Moscow Treaty numbers, that is, below 1700. But deeper reductions have to wait until the completion of the nuclear posture review.

We can complete a replacement for START and start deeper negotiations after 2009-2010. I think it is a quite sensible approach because the nuclear posture review will take a very careful view of all aspects of nuclear doctrine and strategy.

Do you think the United States is prepared to include into the new treaty the same mechanisms of control that were included into START? And not only the warheads but launchers as well?

In the presidents’ instructions after London it was quite clear that the focus of negotiations will be strategic offensive armaments and that it includes delivery vehicles and warheads.

Russia criticized the previous U.S administration because it did not want to limit the warheads in storage, but only the placed warheads. Has the U.S. position changed on that?

I think it is important to note that in the history of the strategic arms limitation talks – SALT and the Strategic Arms reductions treaties in the 1980’s-1990 ‘s the subject of the negotiators was always constraint on delivery vehicles rather than on the warheads on them. There have never been in arms control negotiations at this point an attempt to constrain warheads in storage. It is a very important step for the future. It is worth noting that in the late 1990’s when I was working in the Clinton Administration, we advanced a proposal for a warhead protocol at that time and it does require very intensive verification measures. At that time, the United States and Russia were not able to come to an agreement on verification measures. It’s a new phase and a very different approach to the strategic arms reductions we have ever had in the past. I think we have to consider it as something for the future.

And by the way I think it will be important for the Russian Federation to come to terms with it. Because one of the reasons we did not proceed with the START warhead protocol of 1999 was that the Russian Federation could not agree on that.

In Moscow they would like that the new treaty that will replace START limit strategic launchers in the non-nuclear capacity. Can United States agree on that?

I don’t want to negotiate through the press.

Do you think that the treaty of Moscow will be needed if the United States and Russia will achieve the agreement for the replacement of START?

I think it is important to note that we are incorporating aspects of both treaties into the approach that we are taking to this START follow on negotiation. In other words we are incorporating the concepts from both START and The Treaty of Moscow into the negotiations.

It has not been the position we have been taking, so far, that the treaty of Moscow will be superseded. Our position is that the treaty of Moscow will remain on the books so to say.

The START follow on treaty will be much more specific in character, for example, in the way it will include verification measures from START. As the president said, it should incorporate START-1 verification measures, but also grow on the experience of implementing START, and make some improvements for those measures. It will definitely include more detail than the Moscow treaty.

The Russian side is linking the problems of START and ABM. Do you think it makes sense? As you know Moscow reacted negatively to the U.S. pull out from the ABM Treaty of 1972. What do you think about the possibility of renewing the ABM Treaty?

I don’t think we should go back to the past. I will say that presidents Obama and Medvedev, when they met in London, had a very important interchange. They agreed on two documents. One was an instruction document for the START follow on talks. They were very focused on START, and the replacement of START. And because of the short timeline we have it is very important to keep the focus on the START follow on negotiations. We have to focus like a laser light. But they also laid out an ambitious agenda at the presidential level to pursue major topics of interest to both countries. And one that received emphasis in the second document was cooperation on strategic defense missile systems. I think here there is a real opportunity for cooperation between the United States and Russia but we have to really think about what we want to do. And I am urging that we have a high level discussion on strategic defense cooperation at a very early date.

What is your attitude to the Russian idea to include Gabala and Armavir into the monitoring of missile threats from Iran instead of deploying ABM in Poland and the Czech Republic.

At the time I lived in Moscow when I was a director of Carnegie Moscow, I thought that the offer was very interesting. And I think it deserved further exploration. I understood from talking to Russian counterparts that the offer is still on the table. I think, personally, that is an offer that the United States should be willing to explore.

Do you think the U.S. is interested in connecting its ABM project with the project that is going on in the framework of NATO to create active zones of ABM of the “theater of military action”

Russia and NATO had a very good work program under the aegis of the NATO-Russia council to work together on theater missile defenses. And this work program resulted in some excellent joint exercises of various kinds including one at NORAD in Colorado.

And they really undertook some very extensive and interesting joint exercises. This is the agenda that should be looked at again. I hope that there will be an opportunity.

With the growing threat of North Korea and its nuclear program do you think the U.S. can activate its efforts on ABM by placing elements of ABM in Japan.

The United States already has extensive theater missile defense cooperation with Japan. We are working very closely on ship-based systems of various kinds. We are working very closely on missile defense.

What are additional steps that Russia can make to intensive the P+1 process? What does the U.S. expect from Russia in those terms?

Russia has extensive cooperation in the nuclear energy sphere with Iran. And the Bushehr reactor project has given Russia a real insight into the Iranian export community. It has many contacts that could be used in negotiations, and further more, Russia has made some interesting proposals in the past by the head of the Russian atomic energy agency Kiriyenko to use the Angarsk nuclear fuel services center as part of the solution to the Iran problem. Russia had some good ideas in the past that make use of Russian dominance of the nuclear energy industry . I hope this kind of approach will continue.

The U.S. was quite concerned about the supplies of S-300 Russian missiles to Iran. Is the U.S. still concerned about that?


The Russian side has said that those systems do not have an offensive, but a defensive character and that the supplies of those weapons do not break international law. How can those supplies affect U.S.-Russian relations and U.S. plans to engage Iran?

First of all it is a tribute to Russian air-defense technology that the U.S. is so concerned about the S-300. I do think that the U.S. is very concerned about the potential sale of S-300s to Iran, because they could be very destabilizing in that region.

When we talk about nuclear weapons and the negotiations on nuclear weapons does it mean we discuss nuclear weapons on the territory of the United States or U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe, in Germany for instance?

The United States would be delighted to enter into negotiations with Russia on non-strategic nuclear weapons in countries beyond the United States. But my understanding is that the Russian Federation has not been too keen to engage in those negotiations. I believe that in the near future, after December, we will be able to engage in some negotiations on those weapons systems. In the old days we used to say tactical nuclear weapons.

The United States will be delighted to talk about tactical nuclear weapons.