The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 6, 2008

Press Briefing by the National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley
Aboard Air Force One
En route Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland

6:51 A.M. EDT

MR. HADLEY: This has been a fascinating trip and a very successful trip, from a couple dimensions. One, we have a situation where in the same trip both the NATO Alliance at the summit in Bucharest, and President Putin in the strategic framework that was adopted today here in Sochi, and in his comments which were very interesting during the press conference, you have both now the NATO Alliance and the Russian Federation signed on to pursuing missile defense.

We have been trying to engage the Alliance and Russia in missile defense now for about 15 years, and it has finally all come together today. And you have -- in some sense, the willingness of NATO to go along and work missile defense was enhanced by the fact that they knew we were talking to the Russians about bringing the Russians into cooperation on missile defense, which we were able to nail down today.

And you have the Russians indicating today that they are prepared to participate in missile defense not only with the United States, but as part of the NATO-Russia dialogue. So it has all come together, finally.

Now, a lot more to be done. What did we get? We got both Russia and NATO now recognizing the threat. We have Russia making clear that it is willing to join with the United States in developing a system for defending against ballistic missiles in which the United States, Russia and Europe would participate as equal partners. And we have NATO willing to concede that the Czech and Polish installations that we are pursuing should be part of that system, and developing options which they'll review in 2009 to develop the other elements of a missile defense architecture.

I thought it was very interesting, even going beyond the regional aspect, that Putin, of his own today -- President Putin -- raised the prospect of cooperation between the United States and Russia on global missile defense. This is something that he offered.

And it really picks up on something he said at Kennebunkport last July or August, when he said that missile defense could be an area of strategic cooperation between the United States and Russia. I think a lot of people discounted that at the time. I think it came to fruition today. A lot of work to be done. As we know, there's a lot of work to be done on transparency and confidence building measures that will give Russia assurance that when agreed and implemented, that what's going on in the Czech Republic and Poland is not aimed at Russia. We've got work to do there.

We obviously have more work to do in NATO, in terms of developing options and bringing people further along. But I think we've made a lot of progress today at bringing both NATO and Russia onto the page of missile defense.

Second, a lot of people thought that going into this trip there would be a question about NATO's commitment to Afghanistan. And I think if you look at what was said and done and announced in connection with the NATO summit in Bucharest, you have a recommitment of NATO to that mission, a recognition of its importance not only to the future of NATO, but also for the security of all of us in the NATO Alliance, and a stepping up of a number of countries to start doing more.

It's not enough. We're going to be dealing with this problem for years to come. But it's a recommitment, an adoption of a vision and a willingness to try and explain this mission better to people in Europe and in the United States; to make a greater commitment to it, and to do an effort now to streamline the command structure on the civilian side, get it more organized, and develop the kind of integrated civil-military plan we needed to succeed.

Interestingly, Russia uses the occasion of President Putin's coming to Bucharest to announce an arrangement which will facilitate the movement of non-military supplies into Afghanistan, and the prospect, I think, of greater cooperation between Russia and Afghanistan. As you heard in the comments by Defense Minister Wardak here in the last day or two. So I think real progress on the issue of Afghanistan. Again, both with the NATO Alliance and with Russia.

Finally, enlargement. A real question, I think, going into the summit, as to whether the issue of a MAP program, a Membership Action Plan for Ukraine and Georgia would split the NATO Alliance and cause a dust-up and confrontation with President Putin; some speculation that if NATO took a positive leaning position on MAP for Ukraine and Georgia that maybe President Putin wouldn't even be able to come to Bucharest, would decide not to come, and that the Sochi meeting would be a contentious one.

Again, we were able to, in a really remarkably informal and open process in the NATO Alliance, reach an agreement that makes it clear that Georgia and Ukraine's future is member of NATO -- that is clear -- and that NATO supports a Membership Action Plan and a mechanism for that decision to be made going forward.

Putin, nonetheless, does come to Bucharest. He is very candid and straightforward in his reservations about MAP, but it's delivered in temperate language, clearly in the context of where he wants to be constructive, in terms of future relations between Russia and the NATO Council. And as you saw in the press conference today, it did not in any way poison the Sochi meeting, in any way.

President Putin has been very clear on his views, but was able to do business in Bucharest with NATO and was able to do business in Sochi with the President of the United States.

Finally, I think a lot of people expected -- or did not know what to expect when the President came to Sochi. And I think, as you saw, this was a -- very well demonstrated in the press conference -- this was a President Putin that wanted to be constructive, and a President Bush that wanted to be constructive. Both of them wanted to pull together in one document the areas of which we are cooperating, which I think if you read the documents, it will be clear that they are both broad and deep. They wanted to pull that document together. They wanted to see if we could resolve some outstanding issues that have divided us. I think they succeeded in terms of a way ahead on missile defense. And I think they each wanted to have a firm foundation for the U.S.-Russian relationship to hand off to their successors, who President Bush was able to meet today on the Russian side with Dmitry Medvedev, and which of course will be decided in our elections.

So a very, I think, positive day for U.S.-Russian relations as providing a firm foundation going forward. That doesn't mean we don't have disagreements. Some of the issues President Putin made referred to concerns about future political progress in Russia, what the new administration's view will be about democracy and all the things we're concerned about, but a framework in which these two successors -- the successor Presidents will be able to deal with these issues.

And finally, in terms of personal relations, I think it was a very warm and a little nostalgic meeting between the two Presidents. I think the President noted that it is probable that other than Tony Blair, he's probably met with Vladimir Putin more than any other foreign leader. As he said, those -- and as President Putin said, those have been frank conversations, some have gone well, some have been quite frank. They were not able to reach agreement on all areas, but they were able to define areas of cooperation where our interests converge, and while being frank about areas of disagreement, not let them get in the way of the cooperation where it was possible. That is a, I think, a remarkable accomplishment by these two men. I think they've been good stewards of the U.S.-Russia relationship. And it depended heavily, I think, on their personal relationship, as you saw today.

And I think with that, I would stop.

Q Can I ask you about this sort of -- you mentioned President Putin coming to Kennebunkport last year. If I remember correctly, last year he said he wanted to create a joint system with Russia, the United States and Europe. He offered very specific ideas about it. And he said today there was no breakthrough. So why is today any different than what happened in Kennebunkport?

MR. HADLEY: He didn't say there was no breakthrough.

Q He said there were no breakthroughs.

MR. HADLEY: I beg to differ, and if you look at what is in the statement, to which was agreed in the presence of the two leaders, it says, "The Russian side has made clear that it does not agree with the decision to establish sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, and it reiterated its proposed alternative."

They have not -- they are still unhappy with those two sites, we know that, yet it appreciates the measures that the U.S. has proposed -- these are the confidence building and transparency measures -- and declared that if agreed and implemented, such measures will be important and useful in assuaging Russian concerns.

So we have a mechanism for assuaging their concerns about the Czech Republic and Poland, but more to the point, we have in the first paragraph a commitment with both sides expressing an interest in creating a system for responding to potential missile threats, in which Russia, United States and Europe will participate in equal partners. And in our view, our view, still to be worked with the Russians, what they have offered and what we are doing with the Czech and Polish republics can be elements of that broader architecture, all of that to be determined. I think that is a real progress on the missile defense issue.

What he said when he said no breakthrough is, their position remains to be that at this point, they still have concerns about the Polish and Czech site. But as they point out, we believe and they believe that we're on the path towards assuaging those concerns, and putting that in a context of a broader cooperation on theater missile defense. And interestingly, Putin volunteered it ought to be part of a broader cooperation on missile defense between the United States and Russia globally.

Q He said he was positive about the concessions that you talked about, when Secretaries Gates and Rice visited in Moscow. So what's changed then this weekend? What did this weekend do to move that beyond that meeting?

MR. HADLEY: What we got this weekend is what we did not have before, which is a recognition and statement by the Russians that those transparency and confidence building measures would, if finally agreed and implemented, assuage Russia's concerns about our facilities there. We did not have that before. We also did not have the President of the Republic and the President of the United States agreeing to developing a system for responding to missile defense in which we, Europe and Russia would participate as equals. He did not have that commitment before. And what we also got, surprisingly, was interest by President Putin in U.S.-Russian cooperation at the global level. All needs to be worked out with details by the experts on the two sides. This will be a long road. But I think we can say that the two countries got on the road today.

Q When you say this will be a long road, are you talking about --

MR. HADLEY: Missile defense systems take years to build and construct --

Q No, no, I understand that, but will there be --

MR. HADLEY: There's going to be a lot of discussion, there's going to be a lot of discussion to develop the details on these transparency and confidence building measures; they're going to have to be done in a way that are reciprocal, that are acceptable to the Czechs and the Poles. You know, there's a lot of details that need to be worked out. But I think the course was set by the two leaders today.

Q So do you think that it will be achieved during this presidency?

MR. HADLEY: I don't know. I don't think that matters. What matters is that the two Presidents have reached an agreement to set our two countries on the path for cooperation here. And they can leave that to their respective successors. That's real progress.

Q Can you talk about the issue of permanent inspectors that I think President Putin mentioned? How important is that, and how difficult is that?

MR. HADLEY: We have talked about, and I'm not sure how much we've said publicly on this, but we have talked about a mechanism by which there can be technical measures, by which the Russians would be able to see, for example, that the radar is focused south, not east or north. And we have also talked about having Russian liaison personnel who could be certified to their embassy and would be able to work at the sites. And that's, of course, if you take those two together, it's a way to try and respond to what President Putin talked about, which is ongoing assurance that this system is what it says it is.

Now, these things still need to be worked out in details, and our President has made clear from the very beginning that they need to be reciprocal and they need to be worked out with the Czechs and the Poles, because they are sovereign states, and their sovereignty needs to be respected. So that's part of the details that need to be worked out.

Q Does that include something more than what you just mentioned, as far as the physical person at the site? Like do they want to hire the scientists, somebody who can monitor it with more --

MR. HADLEY: What I talked about is what we've talked about with the Russians. We've also begun talking about it with the Czechs and the Poles. I'm not saying it's all agreed by all of those parties. There's more work to be done. But that's the concept we're talking about, and it is -- I think that concept, that the Russians have in mind when they say, "if agreed and implemented, it will assuage their concerns." And we think we're making progress here.

Q When you say "confidence building measures," does that refer to some of those examples you just cited?

MR. HADLEY: Yes, some of those examples. But again, it will take time to flesh this out into a regime of experts, how it's going to work, and all the rest.

MS. PERINO: We'll do two more, and let them eat; they're getting ready to eat.

Q Do you think that Putin is really turning over foreign policy to Medvedev, and that he is not going to pay a role in this; that he's going to be silent and just deal with the economy and social issues?

MR. HADLEY: Well, I think you heard him today, and he emphasized that Medvedev had been part of the development of that policy. And I think he sees a lot of continuity in the policy. I think the other thing that's interesting is, my expectation is that Medvedev will also be helping out President Putin, because remember, Medvedev has been very engaged on domestic policy, which will now be Putin's responsibility as Prime Minister. So my guess is that these two men, who have worked very closely together now for almost two decades, will have a very collaborative relationship. That seems to me a good thing, not a bad thing.

Q So the President probably won't pick up the phone and be talking to Mr. Putin anymore after May 7th?

MR. HADLEY: I think it made very clear -- President Putin made very clear that Medvedev is going to be President of the Russian Federation, and that it is the President responsible for foreign policy, and as he said, that Medvedev will be seeing the President at the G8.

Q You said it didn't matter if it changed during the presidency --

MR. HADLEY: What changed?

Q Going back to your question about the missile defense, if it happened during the presidency. But all the 2008 candidates have said the Russian election was rigged, and it was unfair; John McCain said it was rigged; Barack Obama said it's unfair, Hillary has made similar comments. So how are you going to -- going forward, how are you going to do that? I mean, it could change in 2009.

MR. HADLEY: I think you can take that position, but I think those candidates, whichever ones becomes President, will find that there are areas in which it is still in our interest to work with Russia on. And one of them will be missile defense. I can't imagine that we're going to stop cooperating with Russia in the six-party talks, or a new administration will stop cooperating with Russia on Iran, or will stop cooperating with Russia on preventing nuclear terrorism, or will stop the cooperation with Russia to provide greater security at nuclear weapons sites in Russia and nuclear materials storage sites in Russia, so that nuclear materials don't fall in the hands of terrorists. I think any U.S. President will come in and decide whatever their policy on the issues you've described, there are still areas where it is in our mutual interest to cooperation and save lives of Americans.

That's it, thank you.

END 7:11 A.M. EDT

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