Interview by Elena Chernenko of Kommersant Daily
Acting Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security
Question: What’s the purpose of your visit to Moscow?
Acting Under Secretary Gottemoeller: I’m traveling to Moscow to meet with my counterparts to discuss arms control issues of mutual interest to the U.S. and Russia, in particular, the future of conventional arms control in Europe. Also, I will be speaking to students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations on arms control in the information age, and will be meeting with experts at my old “home base” in Moscow, the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Question: Quite recently you took on a new position in the State Department. What do you intend to focus on? And what do you want to achieve in relations with Russia?
Acting Under Secretary Gottemoeller: I want to stress that I am continuing with my responsibilities as U.S. Assistant Secretary for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance. But now I’ll combine my previous functions with the responsibilities of Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security.
In listing the parts of my portfolio, I want to start with something that I believe is vitally important for both the U.S. and Russia. I’m talking about nuclear terrorism. Today this is one of the most extreme threats to global security. President Obama has spoken about this on many occasions. The U.S. and Russia have been cooperating in this area for a long time, making every effort to see that nuclear materials do not fall into the hands of terrorists. The physical protection, control, and accounting of nuclear materials are priority issues for both of our countries. This was one of the key topics at the recently concluded Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, in which Presidents Obama and Medvedev personally participated.
The second part of my portfolio has been much in the press in Russia, especially in recent months – I’m referring to our efforts to develop missile defense cooperation. The U.S. wants, and is prepared, to cooperate with Russia on missile defense, and we intend to continue negotiations with Moscow on this subject both in diplomatic channels and at the military-to-military level. Our goal is to bring together the capabilities of the U.S., Europe, NATO, and Russia to jointly address common missile threats. So we’re working with Russia bilaterally and also through NATO channels to find forms of cooperation that will benefit the U.S. and Russia and our European partners.
The third part of my portfolio involves conventional arms control. We intend to revitalize the system of conventional arms control in Europe and are prepared to begin working on that in the coming months. Conventional arms control has three pillars: one is the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, the CFE Treaty, which has had a great historical role; the second is the Vienna Document on strengthening confidence-building measures in Europe; and the third is the Open Skies Treaty, where Russia is playing a very important role in its implementation. The U.S. intends to work on all three areas in order to revitalize the negotiations on conventional arms control in Europe.
And, of course, I’ll continue working on implementation of the new treaty on the limitation of strategic offensive arms (the New START Treaty). After all, I spent many years working to prepare this treaty.
Question: Yes, in Russia you’re best known as the American “face” of START.
Acting Under Secretary Gottemoeller: (Laughs.) When President Obama signed the treaty, he talked about the need for further reductions in all categories of nuclear arms, including deployed strategic nuclear arms, non-deployed – for example, those held in storage facilities – and nonstrategic nuclear arms – or, as they’re also called, tactical nuclear weapons. And we’re interested in conducting the relevant negotiating process with Russia in the future. But in order to do that, right now it’s necessary to work on confidence-building and security measures.
Question: Well, you certainly have a lot to do.
Acting Under Secretary Gottemoeller: And that’s not all! I don’t want to overwhelm Kommersant’s readers, but there are a few other areas that I feel are extremely important. One is U.S.-Russian cooperation to counter piracy. Russia is making a major contribution to international counter-piracy efforts, in particular, to the work of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. Not a lot is said about this, but it’s a very important area of cooperation.
One other problem that I feel is extremely important at this particular time is man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), specifically, their uncontrolled proliferation. In December of last year we stepped up the negotiations in this area, primarily because of the situation in Libya. We would like to continue to work with Russia and other countries in stopping the smuggling of MANPADS from Libya. Together, it’s easier for us to create barriers to traffickers dealing in this dangerous kind of weapon and to combat its proliferation around the world. I’m glad the U.S. and Russia are cooperating in this area.
Those are some of my priorities, but I felt it was very important to show you how diverse the work of the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security is and the wide variety of areas in which the U.S. and Russia have experience in cooperating to ensure security.
Question: You already mentioned the New START Treaty. It’s now been a bit over a year since the exchange of instruments of ratification. What can you say about the implementation of the Treaty?
Acting Under Secretary Gottemoeller: New START, indeed, has recently passed its first birthday. In my view, this first year was very successful. Implementation of the treaty has already contributed significantly to increasing confidence between the U.S. and Russia, and therefore it has improved the relationship between our countries in general. Over the year both the U.S. and Russia have carried out their obligations under the treaty, but at the same time they have fully exercised the rights and utilized the opportunities provided to them. The two countries have each conducted the maximum of 18 permitted inspections.
I found it amusing that as soon as one side would announce its intention to conduct an inspection, the other side immediately expressed a desire to do the same. We’re playing tag (laughs). And the sides also exchanged more than 2,000 notifications about their strategic arms. The U.S. was learning about Russian arms, while Russia was learning about U.S. arms. I want to stress that this is an equitable and mutually beneficial process.
Question: How did it make you feel when President Dmitriy Medvedev said in November of last year that because of differences on missile defense Russia could withdraw from the New START Treaty?
Acting Under Secretary Gottemoeller: Out of all President Medvedev’s remarks the most notable for me were his words about his firm intention to continue searching for ways to cooperate with the U.S. on missile defense. President Obama, I know, shares that view regarding cooperation with Russia. But in general, I want to note that withdrawal clauses are part of almost all international agreements dealing with security issues. New START has basically the same provisions for withdrawal by one side as previous agreements of this kind. I want to stress that each country has the right, if a treaty is no longer in its national security interests, to withdraw from the treaty. But I think the first year of New START implementation made it very clear that this treaty benefits all the participants.
Question: But how do you propose to break the impasse on missile defense?
Acting Under Secretary Gottemoeller: President Obama has said on many occasions that the U.S. is committed to finding a mutually acceptable approach on missile defense cooperation with Russia. We believe that such cooperation can enhance the security of the United States, our allies in Europe, and Russia. And we don’t intend to conceal anything about our plans and intentions. President Obama has also indicated that we can’t limit the U.S. and NATO missile defense system to a legally binding framework. But he has repeatedly stressed both publicly and privately that U.S. and NATO missile defense efforts are not intended nor are they capable of threatening Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrence forces. And we are prepared to put that in writing. We are definitely prepared to do that.
I’m not naive and I know this is a difficult process, for both Moscow and Washington. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort to find a mutually acceptable solution. But I’m convinced that cooperation in this area is possible and is worth the effort.
Question: Recently the U.S. media reported that Washington is allegedly prepared to accommodate Moscow and provide some sort of “secret” information on its missile defense components. Is that true?
Acting Under Secretary Gottemoeller: The United States is committed to missile defense cooperation with Russia as President Obama and Secretary Clinton have repeatedly made clear. Our governments are continuing to discuss a mutually acceptable approach to practical missile defense cooperation. However, I am not going to comment on our diplomatic discussions.
Question: Not long ago it was officially announced that the Russia-NATO Summit in Chicago was being postponed indefinitely. This is thought to be due to the lack of progress on missile defense. Could you comment on that?
Acting Under Secretary Gottemoeller: Russia insisted that the summit agenda should be solid and substantive. But the NATO countries wanted the same thing! Also, it’s important to understand that the relations between the alliance and Moscow aren’t just limited to missile defense. It’s certainly a very important area of cooperation, but it’s by no means the only one.
NATO and Russia are successfully cooperating on Afghanistan – by July of this year, under a contract with the U.S. Defense Department, Russia will be shipping 12 more Mi-17 helicopters to Afghanistan, in addition to the 9 that have already been delivered. NATO and the Russian Federation are cooperating to combat smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan. The NATO-Russia Cooperative Airspace Initiative will begin full operations this spring. So we would have issues that would make up a solid and substantive agenda for the summit. But, of course, we understand that the problem of missile defense is important and we are prepared to discuss it.
Question: And what about the U.S. proposal for Russian experts to visit the Missile Defense Agency in Colorado Springs and participate in U.S. missile defense tests this spring – is it still on the table?
Acting Under Secretary Gottemoeller: Yes, the invitation is still on the table. We’re discussing a whole series of confidence-building and transparency measures with Russian officials. I don’t know all the technical details, but I do know that they’re still expecting the Russian experts in Colorado Springs. In fact, this kind of cooperation has already taken place: in the summer of 2011 Dimitriy Rogozin, who was then Russia’s ambassador to NATO and is now Deputy Prime Minister, personally met with military staff and observed U.S. missile defense tests in Colorado Springs. This was a worthy precedent, and I hope it will be continued this year.
Question: We already talked a bit about conventional arms control in Europe. In 2007 the Russian Federation declared a moratorium on its participation in the CFE Treaty. In addition, the NATO Countries have not ratified the adapted CFE Treaty, insisting on the withdrawal of Russian troops from Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. How do you propose breaking this impasse?
Acting Under Secretary Gottemoeller: To repeat, we’re prepared to work on revitalizing the negotiations in this area, both with Russia and with our other partners. But in order to break the impasse on this problem we will have to agree on some basic items and concepts. Otherwise we won’t understand where we want to go. Right now, in 2012, we have time to do that “homework.”
But, of course, international arms control agreements cannot and should not resolve all the bilateral and other problems, like the frozen conflicts you mentioned. Such agreements, can, however, build confidence between the parties to such territorial disputes and improve security in the zone of the conflicts.