Interview With Virginia Dumitras of Adevarul Newspaper

Rose Gottemoeller
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Chisinau, Moldova
December 20, 2011

QUESTION: In 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart President Dmitry Medvedev signed a new nuclear arms reduction treaty. What is the most important aspect of this document?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: This treaty provides for mutual stability and predictability between the United States and the Russian Federation, who are the two biggest nuclear powers. Between us we still have over 90% of the deployed nuclear weapons in the world. Since the early 1970s we have been engaged in nuclear arms limitation and reduction, and this new treaty is a stabilizing and confidence building mechanism that will continue that process.

QUESTION: Are the United States of America and Russia able to cooperate on the nuclear arms reduction issue, or does Russia perhaps have a specific interest?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: It is very interesting that even during the "darkest" days of the Cold War, the United States and the Russian Federation, which at that time of course was the Soviet Union, worked very closely together on reducing and limiting nuclear arms. We have a history that proves that even during bad times we were able to work together because these treaties are in our mutual interest. They provide for enhanced security and stability between the two great nuclear powers. We have found that the implementation of the new treaty is going very well. Even today we have inspectors from the Russian Federation in the United States who are inspecting our facilities, and we have been coming to Russia for the same purpose.

QUESTION: How certain is the United States about installing an anti-missile shield in Romania, after Russia called this decision a continuation of the arming strategy?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: We have had an excellent collaboration with Romania in cooperating on ballistic missile defenses. This cooperation will develop now over the coming years, and we expect that our installation in Romania, in close collaboration with the Romanian authorities, will be part of phase two of the European phased adaptive approach for missile defenses. Our cooperation with Bucharest is an important step in this field. We are talking to the Russian Federation very seriously about cooperation on missile defenses; we think that this cooperation enables a strong relationship to develop between Russia and the NATO alliance.

This cooperation will allow us to work together on enhancing security in the whole Euro-Atlantic area, and that will also benefit the Republic of Moldova because we are concerned about new nuclear missile threats emerging from different parts of the world. Missile proliferation is a very serious problem. We see missile defenses as the way to counter that threat, and the more we have cooperation in that regard the better. That is why we will continue to talk to Russia.

I know that Moscow is concerned. According to them, such missile defenses may undermine their nuclear strategic deterrent. We do not agree with that, and we have said to Russia that this is all about defending the Euro-Atlantic region against new missile threats. The system is not capable of undermining the Russian nuclear strategic deterrent. We have been saying to them that the best way to develop confidence in the system is to cooperate. That is why our government, working together with the NATO alliance, has been trying to convince Russia to cooperate on a number of projects. We are going to continue to work on that. We think it is very important that President Medvedev recently said that there is still a possibility of trying to work on this problem; he is not closing the door. The Russian Federation in general is not closing the door, they are willing to work on these issues. However difficult, we think there are some real opportunities.

QUESTION: What is the aim of your visit?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: I came here to have a serious discussion on the future of conventional arms control in Europe. Moldova is a very active and responsible player in this area. Moldova chaired the review conference for the Conventional Forces in Europe arms control treaty that took place at the end of September in Vienna, and Moldovan diplomats did a very good job. We believe that the missile defense program that the U.S. is developing, the European phased adaptive approach, will benefit all countries in the Euro-Atlantic region, including of course the Republic of Moldova.

QUESTION: Since 2007, Russia has ceased to provide information to other CFE treaty parties on its military forces as required by the treaty. Is the U.S. exploring options for a new post-CFE security architecture?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: It is too early to say that we are actually exploring negotiations. First we need to understand some important issues that are of interest for all countries involved in pursuing a new agreement. The original CFE treaty was negotiated 20 years ago and put in place at a time when the Warsaw Pact and NATO were still facing off against each other. Now the situation has changed fundamentally and we need to step back and consider what we need today. We wanted to talk with Moldovan experts and government officials about how they see the issues, the threats, and the challenges that must be confronted in your country, and what role conventional arms control may play in that effort.

QUESTION: Moldova struggles for EU membership but still the Transnistrian region remains under the control of Moscow. How can we succeed in our way to EU membership with a territory controlled by nobody?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: I have observed that Moldova and the EU have started working together positively and intensively on trade issues, and I believe there is real potential for your country. These commercial ties will strengthen Moldova’s profile and benefit your economy overall. I do not believe that the important issues that are continuing to be addressed in the 5+2 process regarding Transnistria need to be a barrier to the beneficial cooperation that is beginning to develop with the EU on economic and trade issues. These relations must continue to be developed to benefit Moldova. And the negotiations within the 5+2 process need to continue so that a solution is found for the Transnistrian problem.

QUESTION: In Moldova there are analysts who are for and against Moldova joining NATO. In your opinion, should our country be part of this organization? What does NATO have to offer to Moldova?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: This is something for Moldova's citizens and government to decide. NATO remains open to partnership. NATO has some particular conditions and requirements with regard to countries that are interested in partnership and potentially membership in the Alliance. I know the Republic of Moldova is engaged in many cross-border efforts that address security issues, economic issues, law and governance, and crime and corruption – and Moldova is tackling these issues in a very serious way. All of those efforts are welcome.