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Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Monday, December 17, 2001
(Joint press availability with Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov in Brussels, Belgium)
Rumsfeld: I am Don Rumsfeld and that is Sergei Ivanov. I am from the United States and he is from Russia. We have met for a couple of hours. It was not long enough. And we will be meeting more during this week while we're here. And, with those preliminaries I'll let you hit the substance.
Ivanov: Shall I speak Russian or English? Russian maybe. Yes, I am Sergei Ivanov. He is Donald Rumsfeld. I just translated for you.
(Through translator) It is true that two hours of talks practically without any interpretation were not enough for us. And we agreed to continue or deliberations tomorrow in the format of two to discuss the issues of the bilateral relations and some international issues. Today we have also discussed the issues of our bilateral cooperation in the course of the anti-terrorist operation conducted in the territory of Afghanistan. Perhaps Secretary Rumsfeld will correct me, but I will say that in this area we can witness -- and I am not afraid of saying -- but what is unprecedented interaction. This interaction deals not only with the issues of cooperation regarding Afghanistan. Since the United States is undoubtedly a major country, a major NATO country, we have also discussed ways to enhance our relations in the format of 20. While saying a major NATO country, I mean first of all its the U.S. military might since in political terms, as we all know only too well, all NATO countries are equal.
The issues of strategic stability were separate on our agenda. We have come to an agreement that in January on an expert level we will start discussing the specific issues or military aspects of radical reductions of strategic offensive weapons. Both the levels of reductions and time frame of those reductions will be discussed and worked out as well as the issues of verification and transparency. Of course those parameters should be in compliance with the level of trust and confidence that has emerged in our relations today.
Rumsfeld: Now I would like to give a lengthy speech. But unfortunately I have arranged to host a very modest dinner some distance from here that is due to start in 20 minutes. So instead of a lengthy set of remarks on my part, I will simply say that we had an excellent meeting which will be continued. I think we maybe ought to respond to a question or two and I can take my leave and you all can go down to the Avenue of the Butchers and enjoy yourselves. I recommend the mussels; the moules are very good.
Ivanov: I do agree.
Rumsfeld: Go ahead Charlie.
Q: I wonder, you haven't mentioned the ABM treaty and missile defense at all. I take it from your discussions and statement that President Bush's announcement that the United States will withdraw from the treaty has not drawn a chill on your relations and that you will move full speed ahead with the new strategic relationship. Would that be fair to say?
Ivanov: Actually this unilateral decision of the United States was not a surprise for us. We still believe it was a mistake. We have been presenting our arguments on the issue for many years so I am not going to reiterate. But we still believe we still have a desire to bring the relations in the area of strategic weapons into a reliable and predictable area so we attach a lot of importance to the reductions of the strategic offensive weapons. It equally concerns other international treaties and agreements in the area of arms control and non-proliferation. Well as far as Russian concerns, I can say regarding the withdrawal from the treaty I can assure you that Russia has no concerns it is not afraid of that new situation. What is of our greater concern is what will be the attitudes and behavior of other countries under the circumstances. Thank you.
Rumsfeld: Why don't we try one from Russia?
Q: (Through translator) Well this is your first meeting since the United States announced it was leaving the ABM treaty. Was there a sea change, was there a qualitative change, would you think, in the relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation?
Ivanov: (Through translator) Well if my memory serves me right, it's our fifth or perhaps sixth meeting with Mr. Rumsfeld this year. So I can tell you that I did not feel any changes in our attitudes in the meeting. Speaking of Russia's responses as you have talked about them, I can tell you that this issue was not discussed today.
Q: Regarding the shifting situation in Afghanistan, can you just tell us the latest thinking about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, the progress of the war, and what the prospects are for progress in the near future?
Rumsfeld: The subject of the whereabouts of the senior al Qaeda and senior Taliban leadership is an interesting question. I know everyone is focusing on it. It seems to me that until they are located and dealt with it's not useful to try to speculate about how close one might be.
The second part of your question is that what's going on in Afghanistan is proceeding according to plan, we are pleased with the progress, and I had very good meetings in Afghanistan yesterday and feel encouraged about the progress that is being made. But it would be wrong to say that it is over, it's not, there still is a good distance to go.
Q: (Through translator) You were called one of the main adversaries of NATO's transition to NATO at 20, how do you explain that? And how do you explain the idea of transformation?
Rumsfeld: You don't believe everything you read in the press do you? My goodness gracious. I have a practice of being disinclined to comment on reports that are inaccurate. Indeed the truth is that some weeks and months ago I sat down with the minister in Moscow, as I recall, and without prompting proposed some ways that I thought Russia and NATO might cooperate more fully. So we need to be careful about reading mischief-makers.
And I have run out of time --
Q: One more.
Q: One more, please.
Rumsfeld: -- although I want everyone to know it has been a delight to be with you.
Q: Can you tell us if any of the prisoners captured in Afghanistan in recent days -- do you believe if any of them to be senior members of the al Qaeda leadership? And can you speak for a moment about Mullah Omar -- can you respond to reports...
Rumsfeld: Wait, wait, why don't we try one question because I am late?
Q: OK, well more specifically just about the seniors. Are any of the prisoners you believe them to be senior al Qaeda leadership?
Rumsfeld: We will know more after they have been fully interrogated.
I did not get a chance to comment on the first question, and I would say that one way to characterize what happened in the U.S.-Russia relationship is the way that President Bush did. That we are moving from mutual assured destruction to mutual assured cooperation.
And I will leave the minister he can answer both for himself and for me in my absence. (Laughter.)
Ivanov: I can give you five minutes. (To Rumsfeld) Okay, I will see you tomorrow.
Q: Mister Ivanov, are you pleased about the progress in Afghanistan?
Ivanov: In general yes, and I believe that the counter-terrorist operation is going ahead based on quite a predictable scenario. And the main military structure of the Taliban has been destroyed. But I would like to stress again, and I agree with Secretary Rumsfeld, saying that having destroyed the main military structure doesn't mean that you have destroyed the Taliban and the rest of al Qaeda.
It is still a long way. We are only too well aware of that based on the events in Chechnya where all major military units of the separatists have been destroyed a long time back. So the Russian army has not been operating actively there and still separate military cells -- as you may call them -- and separate mercenaries they remain there and their arrest or destruction remains our priority. At the same time I believe that concurrently with the continuation of the search for the terrorists and their arrest we should also think about restoring the normal life in Afghanistan. Otherwise peace will never come to that country.
Q: (Through translator) Well you know, you mentioned that the withdrawal from the ABM treaty undermines, puts in to doubt, 30 other security or arms control treaties. So in these terms what do you believe is the most dangerous vacuum created with that situation? You mentioned that your greatest concern is about other countries, so can you specify?
Ivanov: Yes, I can. Primarily in the first place it deals with all treaties, which to a certain extent, deal with non-proliferation issues. First of all, it is the non-proliferation treaty. Secondly, it is the nuclear test ban treaty. And thirdly, it is also under doubt, is that the U.S. side will have to make a decision on an additional protocol to the convention on biological weapons. I would like also to remind you of the fact that as of today there is no legal mechanism that would govern the strategic weapons reductions. Since the START I treaty has actually been completed -- I mean the number of warheads -- while the START II treaty has never entered into force and obviously may not enter into force. Perhaps these are the main points.
Q: Mr. Minister, you say that you are not, regarding the ABM treaty, you are not afraid of the new situation. But you are worried about the behavior of other countries. Are you worried that the U.S.' unilateral decision to withdraw will change the balance somehow, in reference to other countries, and encourage others to have a weapons buildup? And can you respond in English?
Ivanov: In fact you answer your own question quite right. Russia is not concerned or afraid regarding its military security. But we are very much concerned how the other countries will behave and whether they will abide or not to any international agreement thinking, logically, that if one country does not abide why should we?
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