|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 22, 2001
Dr. Rice Discusses Bilateral Meeting of President Bush and Russian President Putin
En Route Cristoforo Colombo Airport
3:27 P.M. (L)
MR. FLEISCHER: Does anybody have any questions?
Q Yes, when they talked about joining forces, to work together in regional conflicts, do you know which in particular they think they can, and what joint forces means?
DR. RICE: Well, they used as an example what they've been able to do with the French, in NK, in Nagorno-Karabakh. And it doesn't mean military forces, it means joining diplomatic efforts. I think that Colin Powell believes, for instance, that Igor Ivanov has been very helpful in the Middle East. And obviously we're cooperating in the Balkans, which is another area. So those are the areas that I think that they really meant, and those are the areas they discussed in most detail.
Q How did the Russians help in the Middle East?
DR. RICE: There have been several meetings between Arafat and Putin, Arafat and Igor Ivanov. Powell very often, when he's arranging the diplomacy he will call Annan, he'll call Solana and he'll call Igor Ivanov. And the idea is to get everybody giving the same message to Arafat. There have also been a couple of meetings with Sharon with the Russians. And obviously there are connections there, given the large Russian population. So I think they've actually been quite helpful.
Q What about these discussions that you're going to go on, to see - so you're going to go and set up discussions between Ministers of Defense and Foreign Ministers. And then do you have any sort of timetable on when you hope things start rolling or getting a decision on any kind of cuts?
DR. RICE: Well, I think the important thing is that the schedule of consultations, is how I would describe it, we would hope to have completed by the time that I leave Moscow. And I think you'll see that they'd be very regular, because they talked about an intensive schedule of consultations.
I don't think that either president has in mind a timetable at the other end, in other words, you have to do it by this date. But they clearly want to make this quite intensive, and want to get going very soon. So it's my job to go get that schedule put together.
Q Are they closer now to settling - are they further down the road now than they were after the Slovenia meeting? Did they make any progress today that's measurable?
DR. RICE: Well, I think that I'd just point you to the line in the joint statement that they already have some tangible areas of agreement. I think that they are making some progress on what the elements of a new strategic framework might entail, including discussions of defensive systems, although there's not yet agreement as to what form that would take, given the constraints of the ABM Treaty. But also that offensive reductions are a part of it, the non-proliferation efforts are a part of it, that discussions on terrorism are a part of it. So I think that what they've really moved forward on is what are the elements of a new strategic framework, and I think also, a kind of openness to the fact that a new strategic framework is a good idea.
Q Where are they on the terrorism part of the talks?
DR. RICE: At this point, the discussion is to have under probably Deputy Secretary Armitage some discussions on terrorism -- on efforts to combat terrorism. The President always makes the point that in fact missile defense is one part of a counter-terrorism strategy, because you would be denying to countries that might try to use ballistic missiles in a terroristic way the capability to do that. But I think these will be pretty broad discussions. Right now it's just a commitment in principle.
Q President Putin seemed very excited about the idea of linking offensive weapons to defensive weapons. Did the President bring that up first? What's your sense of that agreement? How does that work, because people may remember Reykjavik, where SDI was tied to - what's your sense of that?
DR. RICE: No, I think that there's something quite different in mind here, and in fact it was the President who first linked these, all the way back in his pre-election speech, but then at the Fort McNair speech he made very careful - very clear that he thinks these are all part of a package of elements of a new strategic framework. So again, I thought there was movement forward in hearing the Russian President say, all right, this has to be about defense and offense, not just as they tended to want to talk about offenses in the past.
Q Going into this meeting, though, was it sort of reiterated, and said - that he brought up in this meeting, or was it something that you were - that Putin brought to this?
DR. RICE: They had been talking, and it was actually Putin who said that he thought it would be good to say that they were about to discuss this, and they decided then on a joint statement.
Q Who was it that decided today? You guys hadn't already thought we'll have a statement?
DR. RICE: No, this came out in the meeting.
Q Dr. Rice, after the first bilateral, in Slovenia, President Bush said that he looked into Mr. Putin's eyes and saw that he could trust him. And later on, he annotated that a little bit to say trust and verify. If you trust someone, why would you need to verify?
DR. RICE: Well, I don't think he - I think what the President said was, he - first of all, he is somebody that takes people at face value unless they give him reason not to. And he said that he thought that there was a basis here for a candid and honest and straightforward relationship. And I think that the meeting today did nothing but reinforce that.
Because I want to emphasize that they don't sit there and sugarcoat for each other sensitive issues. The President brought up the problem of freedom of the press. He brought it up in the small meeting and also in the expanded meeting. They talked about their differences on Iraq. They talked about Iran. I think you're going to see here a maturing relationship.
And a maturing relationship is one in which you do not simply talk about what you agree about, and try to make the other side feel good, but it's really a relationship in which you can, in a friendly way, still talk about difficult things. And I think that's what the President was expressing at Ljubjana, and I think that that was certainly the character of the meeting today, as well.
Q Did they talk about the smart sanctions vote in the U.N.? And did President Putin give any expanded reasoning for why he thwarted us there?
DR. RICE: Well, the President did raise his disappointment that we were unable to come to agreement on Iraq, and that Russia was in fact the isolated party here. And President Putin said that he shared the goal of trying to make sure that Saddam Hussein would not be a threat to his neighbors or to his people again, but that they disagreed with the methodology here. The President listened to him. They agreed that the two foreign ministers would go back and hash it out.
But I think the President is very clear that he believes the United States and Britain have the right approach here. And it's going to be a matter of continuing to talk to the Russians about it. But there was no acrimony about it. But the President was very clear that he was disappointed that we were unable to get to an agreement on Iraq.
Q When you talked about going to Russia yourself, and setting up this timetable and the schedule of intensive consultations, are you talking just logistically setting dates, or also setting agendas, and what does that step-by-step unfolding look like, even just topic wise?
DR. RICE: Well, I'm also going, in addition to setting up dates and logistics, as you say, to listen to the Russians on what they have in mind for these consultations, so that we have a sense of how they see the agenda unfolding. I don't think that we're going to say on August 1 we have to discuss X, and on August 7 we have to discuss Y. I don't think it will be like that. But I do think that we want to get a good sense of the topics and subject matter that both sides want to put on the table as we go forward.
And I want to emphasize that these are ministerial level consultations. This is not a set of 15 year arms control agreements -- arms control discussions. This is at the ministerial level, and we expect to move quickly.
Q When do you actually leave?
DR. RICE: I leave from Rome, the day after tomorrow. I'm sorry, from Kosovo, the day after tomorrow.
Q Will the schedule you set be consistent with the very loose time table you and Powell and others have set out, in terms of dealing with the issues relating to the ABM Treaty and missile testing of months, not years, in that short period of time? Are you talking about setting an aggressive schedule that would allow you to get to the brunt of those issues in the next few months?
DR. RICE: It clearly will be an aggressive schedule. And I think both Presidents want it to be an aggressive schedule, allowing for the fact that these are busy people, these ministers. And so one has to allow for that. But they clearly want an aggressive schedule. We don't have a specific timetable in mind. We've made very clear that the constraints of the treaty are a problem for us, and that the President really believes that he's going to need to move forward at an appropriate time. But I think right now what we're focused on is getting in motion high-level consultations, to see how quickly we might be able to sketch out an agreement.
Q Back on the subject of linkage, what's your feeling, is it that there would be a linkage of nuclear arms reduction to just breaking the treaty, or that the arms reduction in nuclear forces would be a part in deploying an actual system?
DR. RICE: I wouldn't call it linkage. I think the better term is the one that's in the statement, which is that they're inter-related. And the reason that they're inter-related is that it's not that the offensive systems need to be maintained at a certain level to overwhelm the defensive systems, which was the thinking back in the Cold War days. Because the President has made very clear that this is a limited defense system, against several nuclear weapons, not against hundreds of nuclear weapons.
The way that they're related is that they are both elements of a new way of security, which is lower levels of offensive forces on lower stages of alert, so that there's less danger of accident, or unauthorized release, missile defenses aimed at specific limited threats, and that we get out of a force structure that really came out of a time when we worried about a Soviet march across Europe that would lead then to nuclear war. So it's in that sense that they're linked, not that the defensive systems require a certain number of offensive systems.
Q Or that a reduction in the offensive systems is a precursor for Russian agreement?
DR. RICE: Right, we see it as all part of the same package. And I think that the good thing about today's statement was that there is no sequencing here. This seemed to be a package.
Q You know, President Putin yesterday indicated he wanted specific information and details on what the problems were with the ABM, and what you wanted to change. Did you go into much more detail today?
DR. RICE: The President explained to him, as he said in the past, that the problem with the ABM Treaty is that it was signed to prevent you from building ballistic missile defenses. I mean, whenever you have a treaty that in every other line says, if you test in an ABM mode, you're in violation of the treaty, you have a problem with the treaty when you start trying to build ballistic missile defenses.
We consistently said that we don't think the way to approach this is to line in, line out the treaty, where we say this test requires that change in the treaty, because the treaty is so restrictive. And our view is that we need to move beyond it. We need to get flexibility for a robust testing and evaluation system. A robust testing and evaluation program is going to run afoul of this treaty. There's just no doubt about that, because just to give you an example, everybody's favorite potential system is a sea-based system of some kind, because of its flexibility. And in fact it would clearly not threaten the Russian deterrent. You can't test a sea-based system in an ABM mode. There are just too many limitations.
So I think the President, certainly when Don Rumsfeld and Sergei Ivanov get together, I'm sure Don can show him where this test or that test is a problem. But the fact of the matter is, the ABM Treaty was intended to prevent the development and deployment of ballistic missile defenses. And we have to always keep that in mind.
Let me just say one other thing. You can get five lawyers to give you different interpretations of when you're violating this treaty. And I'm a veteran of the sozdavat' (phonetic) controversy. Did the Russian verb sozdavat' (phonetic) mean to develop, or did it mean to establish? We don't want to get into that. We really want to get to a place where we have flexibility to do the testing and evaluation we need to do.
Q Just on that, is it fair to say then that Putin essentially was trying to see how to amend the ABM, and you're saying let's start something new all together?
DR. RICE: I think we've always said that we believe that the ABM Treaty is not only a problem for the limitations it places on testing and evaluation, but it's the wrong treaty for the wrong era. And it inculcates and hardens a hostile relationship that no longer exists. But we'll talk to the Russians as to form. I think that's part of the consultation that needs to go on.
Q From where Putin is coming from, is he looking much more at amending?
DR. RICE: I don't want to put words in his mouth. He has not, to my knowledge, yet said what he has in mind. So we need to talk to him about it.
Q How much of their talks today were focused on defense, ABM, things like that, and how much were on other issues?
DR. RICE: I'd say it was about half and half.
Q And what was the biggest other issue?
DR. RICE: They talked a lot about economic issues and economic cooperation. They talked some, within that context, about the kind of political environment that produces economic benefit, including the ability of citizens to express themselves, and so forth. So there was some talk about the Russian internal transformation.
Q So they did bring up Chechnya and bring up human rights - I mean, the rights of free press, and things like that?
DR. RICE: They did bring up -
Q Dr. Rice, unless I misunderstood your briefing back at the White House a week or two ago, you said that you weren't interested in getting into another treaty that would put restrictions on defensive weapons. Is that still the view of the United States, that you're not interested in another treaty that would restrict defensive weapons? And if that's the case, then in what way are defensive weapons part of these talks? Simply as a carrot to be offered to the Russians, so that they would agree to an offensive - in an offensive framework or -
DR. RICE: I'm sorry, the other way around. Right. No, the - what we're not interested in doing is replicating the old arms control process, by which it takes us 15 years to come to some agreement. We believe that that is something that happens when you have an implacably hostile relationship. And so we don't believe there's a need for such.
As I've said, we will talk to the Russians about what forms they have in mind. But I would expect, or certainly it's our view that these are more like defense planning talks, that you look at what is required for each side to insure itself. And when you look at - we understand that the Russians may not even see exactly the same threats that we see, because they have a different history and a different geography. That's okay.
Q Was there any progress at all - does the President feel there was any progress at all, or on the U.S. side, on the calls for economic reforms in Russia? I mean, you mentioned press freedom economic reforms was one of the other big-ticket items?
DR. RICE: I think that you'll find that they're going to try to engage this dialogue on press in a creative way, for instance. At one point, there was some talk about what is the economic basis of a free press. This is an interesting question, because Russia doesn't actually have an advertising culture for the press. And so do you want them to have state ownership of the press, or is it going to be corporate ownership of the press? Or how do you think about supporting a free press? I think that's a dialogue they're interested in having.
On the economic progress that they're making, nobody would disagree - nobody could say they don't have a long way to go still, but they're making some progress. There's a lot of legislation before the Duma. The flat-tax got passed, and I think everybody believes the tax system was one of the biggest problems that they faced. Implementation I think is going to be difficult, but I think it's impressive what they've done so far in that regard.
END 3:46 P.M. (L)