Interview With Maria Tabek of Ria Novosti

Rose Gottemoeller
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Washington, DC
December 23, 2011

QUESTION: New START Treaty implementation is going pretty well but US representatives used to say that New START is just a first step. The U.S. wanted to discuss with Russia further reductions not only of strategic nuclear weapons but also of non-strategic. Have you already started these discussions and if so at which stage are they at now?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: December 22nd was the one-year anniversary of the ratification of the New START Treaty in the US Senate. That was a major event in not only in U.S. political life but for the Russian federation as well since ratification took place – I believe a little bit later by the Federation Council and the Duma. The Treaty actually entered into force February 5th, 2011. It was very difficult fight, hard work for us in the executive branch and I was very much involved in the team that was leading the effort for the executive branch to get the treaty ratified. For me it is a special day.

We are very happy about the way the implementation of the treaty is going so far. It's interesting to me that we really kept the pace with each other - the USA and Russia. Russia has now done 17 inspections and we have done 16. I suspect that soon after Christmas we'll have our 17th. And each of us has the right before the 5th of February 2012 to do 18 inspections. Every treaty year from February to February we have a right to do 18 inspections - we in Russia and Russia here in USA.

So, just a few clarifications. You asked me about tactical nuclear weapons as we say or non-strategic nuclear weapons. President Obama the day he signed the New START Treaty on April 8th of 2010 said that we should be looking for the next nuclear reduction negotiation and began to plan for it. He mentioned three categories actually for future reduction negotiations. The first category would be further reductions in deployed nuclear warheads. These warheads are the easiest ones to see from outer space, from either Russian satellites or US satellites. Up to this point in the history of arms control efforts we've always focused on deployed weapons.

The President proposed two new categories. One - non-deployed nuclear weapons, weapons that are in storage facilities or reserve and the third category is non-strategic weapons or tactical nuclear weapons. Those last two categories are brand new and for that reason we have been very interested in working with Russian Federation on some new approaches that will be necessary for verifying such agreements. We are also interested in some of the conceptual and definition questions that are involved because what we consider a tactical nuclear weapon may be different from what the Russian Federation considers to be a tactical nuclear weapon or non-strategic nuclear weapon.

At the moment we are engaged in what I would say is a "homework period". We are preparing a way for new negotiations but we are not yet ready to embark on new negotiations.

QUESTION:What is the problem? Why can't you start new negotiations?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: It's not really a problem. As I said I consider it's highly necessary to do this preparatory work. We really have to figure out how to scope new negotiations and I'm emphasizing that we are ready for serious discussions but we are not ready yet for reduction negotiations. We really have to figure out the new conceptual structure.

QUESTION: How long do you think this "homework period" will last?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Oh I can't predict entirely because we have some work to do, there is another factor that I should mention. That is the fact that the US is engaged in a so-called deterrence and defense posture review with our allies in NATO, and that affects defense in Europe whether conventional or nuclear. So before that review is completed we wouldn't be ready in any event because we have to understand how our allies think about nuclear weapons in Europe. So that will be completed towards the time of the NATO Summit in Chicago in May. And furthermore, here in the United States, we are pursuing an analysis under the umbrella of the 2010 nuclear posture review to look at the future of our strategic nuclear forces. And that is in terms of force posture and in terms of nuclear doctrine. It's very important to complete that review as well. This review should be completed pretty soon. These are other factors that are not related to US-Russian discussion, that are related to NATO deterrence and defense posture review and to our internal US review.

QUESTION:Russia makes a connection between New START and the US missile defense plan in Europe, threatens to leave New START if the US keeps developing its missile defense system. Do you believe that Russia can actually withdraw from New START and if so what will happen next? How situation might develop in this case?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: I don't want to speculate on the different hypothetical scenarios but I will say that first of all the position that the Russian spokesmen have articulated and even of course President Medvedev has made some high-level statements about, this is very important and serious and necessary to pay attention to. But I would say these statements are consistent with the Russian position as we have understood it from the time of the New START Treaty negotiations in Geneva in 2009-2010.The Russian position has been quite consistent so there is nothing new here.

The second thing I would mention is that the Treaty does have a so-called withdrawal clause, which is a typical part of any nuclear arms control treaty. A country must believe that it is in its own national security interest to engage and to implement that treaty. So as far as I understand Russia is making the point that if a time comes when it no longer believes that the treaty is in its own national security interest it will have the right to withdraw. And we do not dispute that. We embraced this right ourselves. I really want to emphasize that it's a routine aspect –the withdraw clause - in any strategic arms reduction treaty and therefore it has been present in every treaty that we have signed.

And so, we do not accept that Russia has a reason to withdraw now from the treaty and as I understand that's not what Russia is saying. But Russia has expressed its concern about future missile defense development. We will continue to make our case and we believe that missile defense cooperation is the way to really develop the predictability for the RF and develop confidence in Russia in what the missile defense system is capable of doing. We do not accept or believe that our missile defense system will undermine the strategic nuclear offensive deterrent of the Russian Federation. We've been very clear that we do not believe that legally binding guarantees are necessary. And in fact the important point here is to engage in cooperation. It's a pragmatic point. That it is through the real work together on this program that we will begin to understand what the benefits are for Russia and what our mutual benefit will be in cooperating in this way. And Russia’s technical concerns will be satisfied. It’s very pragmatic. So we've been emphasizing it for months now and will continue to do so.

QUESTION:What are the chances for US and Russia to come to agreement on missile defense? Isn't it too late? Even Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin who has just become Vice Prime Minister stated that it might be too late.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: By the way, congratulations to Mr. Rogozin. President Medvedev laid out Russia's concerns regarding missile defense in a speech couple of weeks ago. But he has also been very clear that the door is not closed to try to develop cooperation and he has really urged Russian and US negotiators to continue to work hard to try to find some way to move forward with cooperation. And this effort has continued to be underway. My boss, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher, and her counterpart Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov continue to talk regularly and to meet. They just met here last week in Washington. And the US ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder has been meeting with Ambassador Rogozin, he will have a new counterpart from the Russian side, obviously. So there are vigorous efforts on the way to reach agreement on this. And the fact that President Medvedev has urged the negotiators to continue their work - I will take that as a serious tasking and we'll do everything we can do to reach agreement.

QUESTION:Don't you think that NATO in some ways is an obstacle between US and Russia in terms of missile defense cooperation? There are lots of voices these days saying that NATO is not a very effective organization anymore. Wouldn't it make more sense to develop strong relationship with Russia rather than keep relying on NATO?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: I don’t accept the premise of your question. We see the NATO alliance being an effective alliance working very closely with us in conflicts and difficult situations around the world and we see the partnership with the Russian Federation and other countries who are not members of NATO being again very beneficial in tackling a number of problems. We have to mention, for example, piracy off of Somalia where we have a situation where Russia is working very closely with NATO countries, with China even involved. So again I think we have to keep an open mind about security challenges because they are different now than they have been historically and they are very different from the years of the Cold War. So again, I don’t accept the premise that it is not effective to work in a NATO-Russia context.

QUESTION:In terms of the "reset": do you think that after Russian elections it will be more difficult to continue it? Do you agree with opinion that Russia and U.S. need a completely new agenda to work on because the old one is already over?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: I don't. Of course you know, it's up to the Russian people to complete your election process but in terms of our agenda of working with Russia we will be continuing to push and pursue it as intensively as we can.

QUESTION:Do you plan to develop or change your bilateral agenda? Are you going to look for some new directions of cooperation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: I do not see it quite that way. We've got an active agenda and we've accomplished a lot. Of course my baby is the New START Treaty but we also had longstanding effort to complete the agreement for nuclear cooperation, the so called 1-2-3 agreement, and also the WTO deal. I think we will just continue to work. Obviously a very important priority from my perspective is to establish cooperation in missile defense. That I would say is probably the top priority. I think just in my own area continuing to plan and develop the concepts for future nuclear arms reductions and also developing new approaches to conventional arms control in Europe - those are going to be very significant efforts that we will work on together with Russia, with NATO and our other partners in Europe. And then looking on the multilateral front we are very keen to launch an effort to negotiate a fissile material cut-off treaty in the conference on disarmament in Geneva and I'm going to be as we say "pressing full steam ahead" - "na vseh parah" in Russian. So we will be pressing full steam ahead on that agenda that I'm responsible for.

I see no hesitation in other parts of our government to pressing forward also very intensively.

QUESTION: Another deadlock in bilateral relations: conventional armed forces in Europe? What are the chances of Russia and US to find some common grounds in this area?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Conventional arms control in Europe is again not simply a bilateral matter it's not just a matter between Moscow and Washington. It's multilateral that involves NATO countries who are our allies and also involves other countries who are not members of any alliance, it involves countries like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, the South Caucasus, Armenia and Georgia, Moldova, I was just there last week in Moldova – and also Ukraine, Belarus – so there are many countries that have an interest in this matter. And I really see it as a complex series of discussions, but nonetheless, while I was in Europe last week I could see the great deal of enthusiasm for moving forward in modernizing conventional arms control. I think about the exciting possibilities for 2012, I think this is an area with some very exciting possibilities for this. And now I would like to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my friends in Moscow!