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 Home > News & Policies > November 2001

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 15, 2001

National Security Advisor Briefs Press
Press Briefing by National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice on Visit of President Putin
Crawford Community Center
Crawford, Texas

1:20 P.M. CST

DR. RICE:  Good afternoon.  I've just come from the lunch at the end of the meeting, and President Putin is getting ready to depart.  It was really a wonderful meeting, quite remarkable meeting, very relaxed.  The two men spent a lot of time together.  Their wives spent a lot of time together.  Despite the rain, the President did take President Putin, yesterday afternoon, on a tour of the ranch.  But they had a lot of time to talk together about a number of substantive issues.

I think the dominant issue really was about Afghanistan and the war on terrorism.  They continued that conversation yesterday afternoon.  They talked about it at great length this morning again.  So that turned out to be the dominant issue of this part of the trip, just as it was really the dominant issue in the more formal part of the trip.

So I'm now happy to take questions.

Q    What did they say about Afghanistan?  What did they agree on?

DR. RICE:  Well, they were really reviewing the situation on the ground.  They were reviewing the progress of the Northern Alliance.  They were sharing with each other information, what they knew about the situation on the ground, what they knew about the intentions of various parties.  They talked about the importance of getting the political arrangements accelerated now, given the accelerating situation on the ground.

Both instructed their Foreign Ministers to press that point very, very hard with the United Nations, as well as with their colleagues in other places.  They talked about the importance of continuing the message to the Northern Alliance about a broad-based government.  But I have to say that they are both pleased that, so far, the Northern Alliance has continued to talk about the importance of a broad-based government.  So it was pretty detailed and practical, and they were really trying to problem-solve about a number of the issues that they face.

Q    Can you tell us anything about the time line, moving forward on plans for the ballistic missile system?  And was that time line adjusted in any way as a consequence of these three days of meetings?

DR. RICE:  Well, these meetings continued the discussions that they've had about how to move forward in a new strategic framework, how to deal with the issue of defenses in the context of a new strategic framework.  I remind you, the President has always said there are three elements to this. They talked quite a bit about the offensive force reductions, about the nonproliferation efforts, and they did talk some about defenses.  They're going to continue those discussions, but I think the time line has not really changed.  The President continues to believe that he has got to move forward with the testing program in a robust way, so that we can really begin to evaluate the potential for missile defenses.

I think that President Putin, himself, said this morning, and he's said several times during this visit, that he understands the President's argument about the threat, although he may still continue to believe that the ABM treaty has a certain importance to the post-Cold War era, as it did in the pre-Cold War era.

Q    Can I follow up?  You said the President has made clear that differences remain.  Can you tell us, from your perspective, where progress was made, where understanding has changed on the ABM Treaty, and where the main difference --

DR. RICE:  I think the main progress that's being made is that they continue, both at their level and then at the expert level, to share more and more information about how U.S. plans are developing for missile defenses.

I want to remind everybody this is a robust research, development and testing program, evaluation program.  So there was another briefing for the Russians when we were in New York, prior to the meeting in Washington, about the progress of those plans, about some of the time lines that are driving those plans.  And they continue to talk about that.

But there was, I think, a real understanding that whatever happen -- and I just here quote President Putin -- whatever we do to address our concerns about missile defense, this is in the context now of a substantially changed relationship from where we were several months ago. And that's just an extremely important point to keep in mind.  This is a smaller element of the U.S.-Russia relationship than it was several months ago, and certainly than it was before September 11th.

Q    Speaking of time lines, did the President give any indication that the six-month time line could be triggered if Mr. Putin doesn't get on board and jointly withdraw?  Did that come up in any hint or any way, shape or form?

DR. RICE:  They simply talked as they have talked before about the President's desire to get on with his testing and evaluation program.  I think that everybody, including the Russians, understand that we're soon going to run up against certain constraints of the treaty.  And we're continuing to work with them, continuing to work through those.  But that was the context in which it came up.

Q    So it wasn't like the end of the year we're going to start the timer?

DR. RICE:  They're continuing to just work through the issues.  I think I said when I was with a group of you before, this is a set of issues that they're working progressively over a period of time.  And no particular kaboom breakthrough is to be expected at any particular time, but they are continuing to work the issue.  And we'll see how long we can go before we have to actually begin the testing and development program.

Q    Did the two Presidents discuss the apparent attempts of al Qaeda and bin Laden to obtain nuclear devices?  And can you address the report that manuals on nuclear construction were found in Kabul?

DR. RICE:  I've read the same report, Bill.  It's a press report.  I can't address it from any more authoritative stand than that, but obviously, we will look into it.

The Presidents did discuss the problems of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and they did discuss their joint concerns about bin Laden's desire to acquire weapons of mass destruction.  And they pledged again very close cooperation in intelligence-gathering, in information-sharing to try and thwart this problem.

So, yes, they did discuss it, and there is actually a line in the joint statement that obliquely refers to their concerns about all aspects of this, including nuclear proliferation.  And they did discuss it at some length, but mostly to agree to continue sharing intelligence and to deepen that cooperation.

Q    You made it clear that the President has made clear to President Putin his desire and his intention to get on with the testing of a missile defense shield, which as it's now constructed would be a violation of the ABM.  So how does President Putin respond to that?  Does he express his displeasure?  Does he do anything to suggest that he would block such an effort by the United States?  Or does he suggest that he's willing to lay the groundwork for an agreement down the line?

DR. RICE:  What they are moving forward on and what President Putin has been saying is that this is an issue now in the context of a larger relationship that continues to be a source of disagreement between the two sides, but in this larger relationship, it's not going to have an effect on the relationship as a whole.  I mean, he said that there in the high school.

They understand, the two of them, and President Putin has clearly made clear to the President that he understands, the President's view of what he has to do in terms of missile defense, the President's view of how to address the threat, and that he's sympathetic to that, even though he, himself, continues to believe that this ought to be done within the context of the ABM Treaty.

So I think the most important statement that President Putin made here was that this is in a much broader relationship.  And I just want to say again, we are not where we were six months ago, both because we have a lot greater understanding on both sides of how we view strategic stability; the Russians have a much clearer understanding of what it is we're thinking of doing; and the relationship has moved to one that is not centered just on nuclear weapons and the ABM Treaty.

Q    If I could follow, so, from the United States' perspective, Russia will not stand in the way of testing of nuclear missiles?

DR. RICE:  David, that is not what I said.  I said we understand each other considerably better on this, but the President has made clear that, one way or another -- and we're still in the one way or another phase -- one way or another, the United States is going to have to get out of the constraints of the ABM Treaty so that we can begin to explore in a robust way, rather than in a constrained way, what our options are under -- for missile defenses.

Q    Dr. Rice, in their conversations when you talked about the U.S. -- the President talked more about what U.S. intentions are, did you discuss in detail the testing program -- in any more detail than in previous briefings?  And then, also, was there any kind of ultimatum offered at all by President Bush about a need to get out of the ABM Treaty by any certain time?

DR. RICE:  The President has continued to say what he has been saying, that this is -- the testing program is going to eventually have to commence in a way that we believe is inconsistent with the treaty.  We're not going to violate treaties, so we're going to have to find a way to get out of those constraints.

The testing program has been outlined to the Russians in some detail. That was done again.  We are continuing to give them updates and more detail about what is being planned.  But I just want to caution, it's intended to be a robust program, but not every test that we are going to do is even known to us at this point, and we've made that clear also to the Russians.

Q    At the press conference with the students, President Bush said today that we would dismantle and destroy our warheads.  When they went to Putin, he said, we will dismantle them, but he didn't seem to say they'll destroy them.  What is your understanding what Russia will do with those warheads?

DR. RICE:  I think the understanding of what both will do here is that this is a draw-down over a long period of time.  It takes a long time to bring nuclear arsenals down, over 10 years or so.  The disposition of warheads, I believe that what the President was referring to is we will not have these warheads near the places at which they could be deployed.  In other words, they will truly not be deployable warheads.  In that sense, their capability will not be accessible to the United States.

Now, how you then dispose of them, how you deal with the materials, how you deal with reliability issues in the existing stockpiles, so do you want to keep ones that are not on station someplace else -- those are all details to be worked out.  Remember, this is a review that just began -- or just concluded in the United States, and so we've got a little work to do on some of the issues about disposition of warheads.

Q    On that point, the President actually said "destroy the warheads" when he was asked about that.  We are talking about reducing and destroying the number of warheads, is that right?

DR. RICE:  We are in the process right now of examining precisely how this draw-down takes place.  You probably know  that even the warheads that we have already agreed to take off-station in the -- all the way back to the START I treaties are not yet non-operational.  So this is a long process that has to take place.

Q    But is he right that we would be destroying these weapons?

Q    President Putin said during the news conference that he really wanted to have a treaty that would encompass in the end all of these agreements.  He seemed to be referring to something that would link the offensive cuts with whatever you do on ABM.  Did he bring proposed treaty language?  And in the past you have been very hesitant to get involved in a treaty.  Tell us whether or not your thinking, where the President's thinking has changed on this.

DR. RICE:  Well, he did not bring treaty language.  What the final form of the new strategic framework looks like, I think we're open as to form.  We do not believe that it needs to look like the thousands and thousands of pages that attended all the SALT and START treaties.  So it clearly doesn't have to look like that.

We are more than willing to talk with the Russians about various levels of codification of such an arrangement.  We have not said "treaty." They have said they are interested in a treaty.  But this is an open discussion, I think, at this point, David.  Nobody has ruled out --

Q    Did they pursue that at all?

DR. RICE:  No, we did not pursue that at this time.  But nobody has ruled out codification.  We have said, both of us, that we are prepared to make this verifiable in some form -- perhaps even using some of the verification procedures out of former treaties.  But nothing is off the table in the regard of what this actually looks like in the final analysis.

Q    On that point, if I may, with regard to the ABM Treaty, is it all or nothing?  Do you stay in or just get out?  Are those the only two options, or is there something else?  And, if I could, on the personal relationship, the sort of almost Martin and Lewis routine the two Presidents did today, what significance does that have?  What glimpse of their personal relationship does it give us?  And what significance does it have for the substance of U.S.-Russia relations?

DR. RICE:  On the ABM Treaty, we've made clear that there are a couple of reasons the ABM Treaty is a problem.  One is its constraints; the other is its very nature in that it really does codify a relationship that we think no longer exists.  We're going to have to move beyond it.  What "move beyond it" actually means -- does that mean that there is a new strategic framework in place?  That's the nature of these discussions, and those discussions are continuing.

But I just want to point out again, Jim -- and it gets to your second point -- what President Putin said here is extremely important.  This is now a very broad relationship in which the nature of our nuclear relationship is a small part.  This is a 180 degrees from where we were with the Soviet Union, which was where it was the only issue, really, in our relationship.  So that is very important.

I do think the personal relationship between the men is going to serve them well.  But the President made an important point at the high school when he said, it has to be a relationship that can survive the two of them. And that means it has to be a relationship that is also based on interests. And I think what we're seeing is that Russia and the United States have a lot of interests in common.  Quite apart from the fact that these two men do like each other, they have a similar sense of humor, they get along extremely well, the interests of Russia and the United States are moving in a common direction.  And that's really the very most important thing about this.

And I am going to miss the plane unless I go.  Again, Ron, it takes a long time to bring these down.  The issue of how you deal with the warheads has a number of facets, including what you do with the materiel, what you think the reliability of other forces is.  We'll have to see.

Q    Did he accurately state policy, though, when he said, they will be destroyed?

DR. RICE:  We are working -- clearly, a number of them will be destroyed.  A number of them will be destroyed.

Last one, and then I've really got to go.

Q    On the future of Afghanistan, since they did spend a good deal of time talking about that, what specifically can you tell us that they agreed upon in the immediate future for Afghanistan, as far as a government structure, as far as stepping up the humanitarian delivery of food, bringing in other nations to be helpful in that process?  What specific can you tell us about those conversations?

DR. RICE:  Well, they talked quite a bit, for instance, about getting the land bridge to Mazar opened and active on the humanitarian front.  They talked a great deal about the Brahimi idea of trying to get a meeting together with various elements.  They talked about getting the -- obviously, Kabul has now become the kind of focal point in a way that nobody would have predicted several days ago, and so they talked about what kind of temporary representation one might need to get into Kabul for meetings, so you can begin to design for the long-term.  And it was at that level of specificity.

Okay, I've got to go.  Oh, my goodness!

(A cake is presented to Dr. Rice.  The press sings "Happy Birthday -- a rather pathetic rendition.)  (Applause.)

DR. RICE:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  It's absolutely beautiful.  I wish I had more times to play these these days.

Q    We just want to see the "Cotton-eyed Joe."

DR. RICE:  You heard about that, did you?  I will tell you, I also got a beautiful birthday cake last night, which was very, very nice.  But you should all keep your day jobs with the singing.  (Laughter.)  Thank you very much.

I'm going to take a piece with me, and then you should all enjoy it. Because I'm going back to Washington, you're in Crawford.  (Laughter.)

Q    How many candles do we put on it?

DR. RICE:  That's a secret.  State secret.  (Laughter.)

END  1:35 P.M. CST