Briefing on the Russian Ministry of Defense Conference on Missile Defense in Moscow
Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense
MR.VENTRELL: Thank you all for joining the call this afternoon. This is Patrick from the Press Office. Today, we have with us Ellen Tauscher, Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense, and Madelyn Creedon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, who are leading a U.S. delegation to participate at the Russian Ministry of Defense Conference on Missile Defense. As a reminder, this call is on-the-record, and before we go to your questions, we’re going to allow each of our speakers to make some brief opening remarks. So without further ado, Ellen, over to you.
MS. TAUSCHER: Thank you, Patrick. Good evening, everyone. The United States welcomes the opportunity to participate in this Missile Defense Conference organized by the Russian Ministry of Defense. We appreciate the chance to make our case in a broader forum. As you all are undoubtedly aware, and as we have stated many times, our view and analysis is that the United States’ missile defenses don’t undermine Russians’ strategic deterrent. And we have explained our position in numerous official and public channels, and we will once again present the technical facts at this conference.
It is in our mutual interest to engage in cooperation and avoid confrontation. While the United States and Russia are cooperating on a wide range of issues, from Afghanistan to counterterrorism to trade, cooperation on missile defense could be a game changer in the U.S.-Russia and NATO-Russia relations. Cooperation has the potential to enhance the national security of both the United States and Russia, as well as build a genuine strategic partnership. It presents an opportunity to put aside the vestiges of the Cold War thinking, and move away from mutually assured destruction, toward mutually assured stability.
At the same time, the United States is committed to all four phases of the European Phased Adaptive Approach. We have been transparent with Russia about the timing, deployment, and scope of U.S. missile defense deployments.
While we can work cooperatively together, we cannot agree to pre-conditions outlined by the Russian Government. We cannot agree to any limitations on our missile defense deployments. And – we are able to agree, however, to a political statement that our missile defenses are not directed at Russia. I have been saying this for many, many months now. Such a political statement would publicly proclaim our intent to cooperate and chart the direction for cooperation, not limitations. I hope my Russian colleagues recognize that we have no capability or intent to undermine strategic stability, that our objective is not about winning public relations points, and that our cooperation is a much better approach than sticking to the previous pattern of competition.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CREEDON: Thank you. I very much agree, and I also want to express our appreciation for Defense Minister Antonov’s invitation for all of us to participate in this conference. We view this as an opportunity to exchange various viewpoints on missile defense, and also view it as an opportunity to hear the various views of our colleagues from the approximately 50 countries that we understand have sent representatives to this meeting.
We believe that this exchange will allow the United States, in particular, to provide in a very public way the reasons that the missile defenses that the United States is developing both for the protection of the homeland and also within the EPAA are simply not aimed at Russia. And we’ve listened to Russia’s concerns. We continue to seek solutions that will address them, but we believe that the best way – we continue to believe that the best way is through cooperation and not confrontation.
So we hope very much that this meeting tomorrow and on Friday will revitalize the spirit of cooperation and that we hope that in the near future, we will actually be able to enter into constructive, mutually beneficial cooperation on missile defense.
MR. VENTRELL: Thank you. With that, Operator, we’re ready to go ahead for our first question.
OPERATOR: Thank you. At this time, we’ll begin the question-and-answer session. To ask a question, you may press *1. To withdraw your question you may press *2. And once again, to ask a question please press *1. One moment for our first question.
Our first question comes from Viola Gienger from Bloomberg News. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Yes. Hello. Thank you very much for doing this call. I wanted to ask about how many people in addition to the two of you leading the delegation would be in the U.S. delegation. And you mentioned that this is an opportunity to put the U.S. case forward in a very public way. Can you tell us a little bit about your thinking in attending a conference like this, where – when the U.S. and Russia clearly are still staking out their own positions? And do you see any change coming forward in the next few days?
MS. TAUSCHER: This is Ellen Tauscher. There are approximately eight people on the delegation, and of course we’re supplemented by the great people here in our Embassy here in Moscow. I think the best way to answer your question is that we are pursuing this cooperation because it would be in the security interests of both the United States, NATO, and Russia to strengthen our capabilities. And we have made it very clear that we believe that genuine cooperation would provide Russia with increased transparency into our ballistic missile defense plans and capabilities and would reassure Russia that our systems are not directed at them.
Russia’s cooperation the European missile defense system would result in a more capable system. We could combine our missile defense systems in areas where we have overlapping capabilities, like sensors, and cooperation would also signal that the United States and Russia agree on dangers posed by the proliferation of ballistic missile and nuclear technology.
QUESTION: But do you see any shift, any signs of any shift in the respective positions? Because they – as you’ve mentioned, you’ve been making your case for many months, perhaps even years. And do you see any signs that there may be a potential meeting of minds on at least some of the points?
MS. TAUSCHER: Well, as you know, President Obama and President Medvedev, when they met in Seoul, agreed to have the technical experts and officials continue talking about the opportunity for cooperation on missile defense. And so this an opportunity for us to continue those conversations.
As you know, the Russian Federation is inaugurating their new president next week. We are in a political season ourselves. So it’s important that as we make these transitions that we continue talking. There are many different issues on the table, both technical and political, and we see this conference as an opportunity to bring these issues more to the public forefront and to discuss it in a much more multilateral way then we have previously. We think that’s very good news, and we’re interested in continuing the dialogue.
I wouldn’t say that we’re at a stalemate in any case. We know what the areas of concern and questions are. But because many of them are technical and some of them are political, it’s important that we continue these technical and expert conversations moving toward the opportunity of cooperation in the future.
QUESTION: Did you say you would or would not say it’s a stalemate? And do you think Putin’s inauguration will –
MS. TAUSCHER: I would not say that we’re in a stalemate.
QUESTION: And does Putin’s inauguration make any difference?
MS. TAUSCHER: Does it make what?
QUESTION: Any difference in how this issue plays out between the U.S. and Russia?
MS. TAUSCHER: I mean, I think although a lot of these issues are technical, we cannot forget that we are in two political seasons. The Russians are coming out of their political season, and we’re in ours. And so it’s important that we maintain the technical talks and the political talks and work to answer some of these concerns and some of these questions. We’ve been clear about what our redlines are and the Russians have made clear what their concerns are. We are working, I think, in a very strong interagency way on both sides to begin to answer those questions, but it’s not – keep in mind, this has been a 30-year irritant in the relationship. It’s not going to be solved overnight, and it’s important for us to take a methodical and a serious and sober chance to get these questions answered, and that’s what we’re doing.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Jim Wolf with Reuters. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Yes. Thank you very much for doing this. A couple of quick things. First, I hear you saying that the U.S. will continue to seek solutions that will address the Russian concerns. One solution that I’ve heard mentioned I’d like to bounce off you for your reaction, and that is the possibility that the U.S. might give up the idea of putting interceptor missiles in Poland in respect of some of Russia’s most urgent concerns about what they say they consider the threat to strategic stability. Can you comment on that? And also, what about the financial – your participation of Europeans in the Phased Adaptive Approach?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CREEDON: This is Madelyn Creedon. The United States is and remains committed to implementing the missile defense system in all of its four phases, and I think we’ve made that very, very clear. We’ve also made very clear that we will not accept any limitations on either the number or the capabilities of these systems. So I hope that – I mean, we’ve said that, we’ve made it very clear, and we hope it continues to be very clear. So no. There’s no indication that we might give up the interceptors in Poland. We’re not agreeing to any limitations on our systems.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Mike Mount with CNN. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for taking my call. I had a question on the treaty, I guess, that Russia has offered – I guess, NATO and the U.S. designed – in terms of – that the missile defense system will not be used against any of the Russian systems. I know in the past you all have said you won’t sign a treaty like that. My question is why you won’t sign that. If the system won’t be used against the Russians, what is the problem with signing it? It kind of lacks transparency there by sending that message out.
MS. TAUSCHER: First of all, there is no operating document or a treaty between – that anyone has put down on the table. There certainly isn’t anything from the Russian side in the form of a treaty about the Phased Adaptive Approach. We have made very clear for a long time that we can make political statements that, of course, this system is not targeted against Russia or a raid against Russia. It is – we’ve made very clear and the President made clear in his September 2009 announcement about the Phased Adaptive Approach that this is about a threat coming from the Middle East and that our concern is not only real and legitimate, but it is a concern that our NATO allies share, because in November 2010 in Lisbon, they changed the mission of NATO to include territorial missile defense and to accommodate the Phased Adaptive Approach.
So first and foremost, there’s nothing from the Russians that we have rejected. The Russians have consistently said that they wanted something that was legally binding. And what we have said is that we believe that there are a number of political statements that have to be made first and foremost. Secondly, that we can’t do anything legally binding that would include limitations on the system and our ability to protect ourselves, forward-deployed American troops, and NATO allies.
So there’s nothing on the table. We haven’t rejected anything. We are actually early in these talks. We’ve had extensive conversations about a number of different things, but this is still a very early phase, and I think that what’s important is that nothing has been rejected other than for our position, which we’ve made very clear from the beginning, that we cannot and will not make any legally binding agreement that includes limitations on our ability to protect ourselves.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Michael Evans with The London Times. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks for doing this. Can you hear me? Yes. You can hear me hopefully. Can I ask – you mentioned that you would be prepared to make a political statement. What did you mean by that? Obviously not a treaty, but how would the political statement deal with the Russians’ concerns?
MS. TAUSCHER: Just as we’ve said, this system is not a system that can undercut their strategic deterrent. It has robust capabilities to hold at risk short, medium, and intermediate range missiles from the Middle East that could target either the United States homeland or our European allies in NATO. But it is not a system that could actually hold at risk the Russian strategic deterrent. So it is a little apples and oranges, I guess you could say.
But we’ve made that very clear. We have gone as far as having Russians come and see what is publicly available, and we think that the case is very significant, and the science is there. So that’s what we continue to say. That’s what we continue to assert, and the Russian concerns are concerns that we’re very willing to listen to, but at the same time, they cannot be concerns that we will mitigate by offering any kinds of limitations on the system.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Will England with The Washington Post. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks very much. Just to get back to the question of politics and transitions, I just want to ask: Do you anticipate any evolution of the Russian position under the new presidency of Mr. Putin?
MS. TAUSCHER: Well, I don’t have any hopes for anything other than that we continue these conversations and that the system and our offer for cooperation is met on its merits and that it is an opportunity to move away from a world of mutually assured destruction to a world of mutually assured stability in the sense that we both share common threats and that we both share an opportunity to work and leverage existing systems that we have in a way that improves them.
At the same time, NATO would protect NATO and Russia would protect Russia, but at the same time there is an opportunity for us to work cooperatively, which we think tremendously changes the old-fashioned default position of the arms race, and moves it from competition to cooperation.
So we believe that that is an evolving part of the relationship. We hope that the Russians see it the same way we do.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Ivan Lebedev with TASS News Agency of Russia. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you. Do you hear me? I hope --
MS. TAUSCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you. Well, my question is about the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago. It looks like the Russian delegation – Russia has decided not to take part in NATO-Russian Council meeting during the NATO summit in Chicago because of the disagreements on the ABM issues. So it looks like you receive rather mixed signals from Russia. On one hand, the negotiations or technical talks are going on. On the other hand, Russia decided not to go to Chicago. So are you disappointed with this decision? What do you think about it? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CREEDON: Well, one of the issues, though, that we need to understand here is that the United States – not only is the United States committed to implementing our system, but since 2012 is in fact an election year in both countries – well, though yours is over, but your transition hasn’t occurred – it’s also an election year in the United States. So I think it’s pretty clear that this is a year in which we’re probably not going to achieve any sort of a breakthrough. But both President Obama and President Medvedev agreed, not withstanding this situation, that it was in the best interests for both our countries for our technical experts to continue to do the work of better understanding our respective positions, to provide some space for continued discussions on missile defense cooperation in the future, and so that’s what we’re going to do. We’ll spend the next nine to ten months trying to work through some of the technical aspects of what’s a very complex proposal.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Ellen Barry with The New York Times. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Ellen, you mentioned that this is not a stalemate, and I guess I wonder: How will we know when it is a stalemate? Are there sort of guideposts that would tell us that? And how would a stalemate change the behavior of both parties to this? Would it have any effect on American plans going forward? And would you expect any specific steps from the Russian side?
MS. TAUSCHER: Well, a stalemate would not have resulted in the comments out of Seoul by President Medvedev and President Obama to continue to have their experts – technical experts and officials continue to talk about this. So because we had that that tells me we do not have a stalemate. And because we’re here in great force, it tells me that this is not a stalemate. And because we continue to have conversations – I continue to have conversations with my counterpart – the deputy foreign minister in the interagency, all the counterparts continue to have conversations.
So it’s not a stalemate, and I think you will know that it’s a stalemate when people stop talking about it and when we have nothing to say and certainly not when we’re all here in Moscow at a conference talking about missile defense. So I think that – I think it’s important to say that these talks are fraught with history and with a lot of baggage on both sides. But we have made our commitment to our NATO allies and we have announced – the President has announced what the Phase Adapted Approach is, and I will tell you that there’s nothing I can imagine that will stop us from making those deployments on time. We’ve already made the first, as you know. We have all of the agreements in place with Poland, Romania, and Turkey. So this is just about moving out on a timely basis and meeting the deadlines for the deployments because all the other hard work has been done.
So I don’t think that there’s really anything that’s going to change anybody’s mind about going forward with the Phase Adapted Approach as we have outlined it.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Mike Shuster with National Public Radio. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hello. One of the concerns that Russian officials have expressed is not that the initial deployments of missile defenses in Europe by the Obama Administration would threaten their strategic deterrent, but that in the long run the Russians fear that different future administrations could easily expand that system to the point where it could technically threaten the Russian deterrent. How – what arguments have you used to address that concern of the Russians?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CREEDON: Well, right now, we’ve been very open and very transparent that the EPAA is a four-phase system. We’ve been very clear laying out what is part and parcel of each phase, and we’ve been very clear, I believe, in terms of when each phase will occur and as we – and when we will transition to the next phase. So I think we’ve been pretty clear. So the opportunity for change is obviously always there, but this President has been very clear about what his plans are. And that’s what the Department of Defense is working on, is implementing those four phases as well as the work in Alaska and in California to defend the homeland.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Doug Guarino with the National Journal Group. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. Just a clarification from Ellen’s opening remarks. You said something to the effect of how this could – this issue could create a game changer in terms of the relationship between the U.S. and Russia and NATO-Russia. Was that meant to imply that if Russia doesn’t sort of come around and relax some of its demands, that the relationship would go south?
MS. TAUSCHER: No. It’s a game changer in a positive sense. We obviously are also talking to the Russians about the contours of our relationship in general, the reset that has been successful, and moving forward past what had been a relationship characterized by many things, including an arms race. And we don’t want to be in that characterization any longer. We want to move from the world of mutually assured destruction to a world of mutually assured stability.
And since the system that we are deploying in Europe to defend both our European allies and the United States against a Middle East threat is not one that is oriented toward Russia, we feel very confident that it would be a game changer. And cooperation on missile defense in Europe between NATO, the United States, and Russia is a game changer. It’s a game changer for European security, it’s a game changer for the relationship writ large as far as how we cooperate, and it follows the reset, we think, in a very nice fashion. So this is not about – we’re not threatening anybody; we’re not suggesting how things might not work out. We actually have a very positive point of view on this, and it’s about the opportunity to change things in a positive way.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from John Liang with Inside Missile Defense. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. My question is for Ms. Creedon. And you’ll preface this with asking if you’d forgive me, because I came in a little bit late. So forgive me if this question has already been asked, but I have a question concerning the House Armed Services Committee last week, during its markup, noted that duties – Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office was working on a comprehensive and detailed cost estimate for the EPAA and was supposed to have provided a briefing to lawmakers on its initial findings in March, and the committee noted that that briefing had not yet been provided. What is the status of that CAPE study? What are your – if – do you know any of what the preliminary conclusions were? And when do you plan on briefing Congress on those conclusions?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CREEDON: The CAPE study is underway. It is looking at the cost of EPAA. But one of the things that it’s – I think it’s important to understand here is that the EPAA is an effort to bring to Europe and to the defense of Europe, in partnership with NATO, a variety of different assets. So a very – and I’m sorry for – but I’ll get a little bit into the weeds here. So very often, when CAPE does a cost estimate, it’s a cost estimate of a program, like a specific program. And because the EPAA is not, in DOD parlance, a program, what CAPE is doing is looking at the costs of each of the individual programs that will be utilized to build the EPAA.
So for instance, they’re looking at the cost of the SM-3 IA. They’re looking at the cost of the SM-3 IB. They’re looking at all of the costs of all the various increments that will be utilized not only in EPAA, but also in other Phased Adaptive approaches as we move towards other areas of the world. So as a result, it sounds like it’s a simple tasking, but it’s not. It’s actually far more complicated. So all of that aside, we’re hoping that we will have all of this wrapped up fairly soon. Sometime this summer is our – is the hope.
MR. VENTRELL: To our speakers in Moscow, do you still have time for a couple of more questions?
MS. TAUSCHER: Sure.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay. Operator, go ahead.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Bill Gertz with National Security Journalists. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Yes, hi. My question is about the draft agreement that was prepared for the Deauville Summit. Apparently, it was never signed over concerns that it contained legally binding restrictions. Could you address what happened with that draft agreement? And Republicans on the Hill are calling for that document to be released.
MS. TAUSCHER: I think I know what you’re talking about.
QUESTION: Also, if you could address what the President meant in his open mike conversation when he said he would have more flexibility on missile defense after the reelection, would that mean providing such legally binding guarantees that the Russians want?
MS. TAUSCHER: On the last part of the question, as we said, the United States is committed to implementing our missile defense system, and we’ve repeatedly said it’s not aimed at Russia. And given the longstanding difference between U.S. and Russia on this issue, it will take time and technical work before we can reach an agreement. And because 2012 is an election year in both countries, it is clearly not a year in which we are going to achieve a breakthrough. Therefore, President Obama and President Medvedev agreed that it was best to instruct our technical experts to do the work of better understanding our respective positions, providing space for continued discussions on missile defense cooperation going forward.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Amy Butler with Aviation Week. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you very much. Ms. Creedon, this question might be geared more toward you, but I’d love to hear both of your inputs on this. I’m curious. Ms. Tauscher mentioned that there’s nothing that she can imagine that would prevent the United States from implementing PAA. I am curious because the technical side is something that you cannot control, and the SM-3 IB has had a testing failure. There’s also a financial crunch going on that could basically stem efforts to get a IIB out for the final phase. Can you talk to me a little bit about your confidence or concerns with regard to the technology maturation in getting these increments out into the field?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CREEDON: Well, with all these, it is a technically complex system, and maturing the technologies is important. And a key aspect of that, particularly with the various modifications and iterations of the SM-3, is that we do, in fact, test them, and that we test them under operationally realistic circumstances because this Administration is committed to a fly before we buy approach, which is very different from how we placed the initial GBIs up in Alaska. So part of the problem right now we have is also dealing with the residual issues of the GBIs in Alaska. So we’re working on that. We’re getting those fixed. And at the same time, we’re developing the new capabilities for the SM-3, and we will continue to test and test until we get it right.
I mean, I should also add, I think, to your – although it was a little bit garbled, but to your other comment that this is also obviously a partnership with our Congress. So our Congress also has to be supportive of this effort and make sure that the Department of Defense actually has the money to continue this rational program of test-develop, test-develop as we go forward.
OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Alexander Grigoryev of Voice of America Russia Service. Your line is open.
QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. Russia will – is – Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov today said that he will present special committee from motherland which show that threats, which missile defense to Russia. Do you have counterarguments about that? Do you have any – did you have any special research as how serious the threat toward Russia? Do you – can you argue about that? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CREEDON: Well, I’ll start and the special envoy can carry on here. But I think the first thing is, obviously, we haven’t seen the presentation and are looking forward very much to actually seeing the presentation. But in general, the United States has been very clear that the systems are not designed nor intended to negate in any way Russia’s strategic defense. It’s, in fact, very important to us that we maintain strategic stability between the U.S. and Russia.
MS. TAUSCHER: I think it’s important to remember that we have listened to Russia’s concerns and we have taken them seriously. We have been transparent with Russia and have held close consultations with them over the last several years. We have discussed how the European missile system is designed and configured to counter ballistic missile threats from the Middle East. We have demonstrated through technical discussions that the system is not directed at Russia and cannot intercept Russian ICBMs. And we believe the best way for Russia to be convinced is to join us in missile defense cooperation. Russia can use its own eyes and ears to see for itself that our missile defenses cannot negate or undermine its strategic deterrence.
MR. VENTRELL: Thank you all. At this time, we have to end our call, but thank you all for joining and have a good afternoon.