News

03 October 1997

[EXCERPT] TRANSCRIPT: STATE DEPARTMENT NOON BRIEFING, OCTOBER 3, 1997




BRIEFER:  JAMES P. RUBIN

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3, 1997



INDEX


ARMS CONTROL

11-12 Dept. of Defense Laser Test/Not a Treaty Violation/Impact on
Passage of START II by Russia


RUSSIA

12-13  Control and Security of Nuclear Weapons


 

Q: How does the State Department feel about the Pentagon's decision to
go ahead with the anti-satellite test?


RUBIN: Well, as you know, Carol, I have some familiarity with this
issue over the years and there is always going to be discussions back
and forth on a subject like this. But having checked with our people,
I have no reason to believe that we here in the Department had any
specific problem with this test.


The reason is that the kind of test that it is doesn't pose any
problem with becoming an anti-ballistic missile system and this
experiment does not violate any arms control agreement. As you know,
there is no anti-satellite treaty, other international law, or US
domestic law. It is an experiment. It is designed to collect data that
will help improve computer models used for planning protection
measures for US satellites.


This is not a test of an anti-satellite system. This experiment will
not destroy the satellite, will not result in any orbital debris, and
will not pose any risk to other satellites. Furthermore, this laser,
as I said, does not have an ABM capability. We, therefore, see, no
reason why this experiment should cause any problems with the Russians
or any other country. I can't rule out that officials in the State
Department might have asked some questions, but this is an experiment
that we don't believe is anything but a good use of research and
development funds.


Q: Well, as the Secretary has argued in the case of the Middle East,
where there is a climate of distrust or at least there is a problem or
some tension, sometimes even things that seem to be in other
situations maybe benign, in certain environments, they are viewed more
as greater tension-producers. And I just wondered, given the fact that
you're having so much trouble getting the START II treaty through the
Russian Duma and that there are elements in the political ferment of
Russia that are concerned about the ABM treaty and what the United
States may be doing in terms of missile defenses, do you believe this
is the right time for this kind of a test?


RUBIN: Today is, what, Friday? Last Friday the Secretary of State and
the Foreign Minister of Russia signed two arms control agreements --
one very important one on the ABM treaty and how to make sure that
anti-tactical ballistic missile defenses were permitted and strategic
defenses were prohibited. We have been working very, very well with
the Russians. There is no crisis of confidence in the relationship
between the U.S. and Russia. Frankly, Secretary Albright finds her
ability to work very closely with Foreign Minister Primakov one of the
true surprises and something she's very pleased about in her job.


So there isn't the kind of environment in this case that would lead to
the analogy that you were suggesting some might have. So we don't have
trouble with this test. As I said, it's not a test of an
anti-satellite system. It's an experiment that will not destroy the
satellite, will not result in any debris, will not pose any risk, and
we see no reason why it should be a problem, especially in an
environment where things are moving forward with the Russians on
subjects like the ABM Treaty.


Q:  (Inaudible) the Russians?



RUBIN: Yeah, let's stick with Russia. I know where that next one's
going.


Q: Do you? I'll bet you do. An eminent Russian scientist came all the
way from Moscow yesterday to testify to Mr. Weldon's Committee on the
House that, indeed, he knew the scientists that designed and made
these hand carryable munitions, sometimes called suitcase atomic
devices, but they're not that small. He knows they exist. He knows
that Lebed made a very accurate study. He testified to that effect and
he believes, as Lebed does, that some of these weapons are unaccounted
for. The Russians are saying that they never even existed; whereby,
our Defense Department refutes that.


Jamie, is there a problem with these types of weapons that the
Russians will either not account for them or can't?


RUBIN: Our view of allegations that numbers of suitcase-sized warheads
were missing from Russia's inventory have not changed. There is no
evidence other than hearsay to support such claims; therefore, we give
such claims little credibility. Russian officials, including Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin, as well as Defense Ministry Officials, Atomic
Energy Ministry Officials and others have strongly denied these
specific allegations and confirmed that all Russian nuclear warheads
are under Russia's control.


This is a subject of the highest possible interest to the Secretary of
State and the President. We have a number of officials in this
Department and many in other departments who work every day on
programs to try to ensure that nuclear weapons don't get out of
control. As you know, movies are made about the people who do work on
this subject and there are a lot of them. We have remained in close
and cooperative contact with Russia on questions involving command and
control of their nuclear arsenals. The government of Russia continues
to assure us that it retains adequate command and control and that
appropriate physical security arrangements exist for these weapons and
facilities. We have no reason or evidence to doubt these assurances.


We believe Russia, like the US and other nuclear powers, produced
nuclear weapons of various sizes from strategic warheads hundreds of
kilograms in weight to smaller atomic demolition munitions. We cannot
comment, however, about the precise specifications or dimensions of
any nuclear weapons, but we have no information or evidence suggesting
that nuclear weapons were ever developed for or put under the control
of the KGB, which is part of the story here.


The U.S. Government is taking considerable steps to assist Russia in
improving the security of its nuclear materials and technology through
the Nunn-Lugar program and other programs. The United States is
working cooperatively with Russia and other governments to further
enhance the physical security of Russian nuclear storage facilities.


I've been following this issue for a long time and there are always
different accounts of what happened in Russia during the Soviet period
and what capabilities there were. There are many different experts who
have many different opinions as to what was or wasn't happening. I can
tell you this, that there's probably no issue where you have the
combined resources of the US Government working as well together and
with such determination as on the issue of security of nuclear
weapons. We work on it every day -- hundreds, if not thousands, of
people in the government -- and if they say that we have no
information on this and they say that these accounts are hearsay
that's pretty compelling.


Q: Wouldn't it be appropriate to challenge them or to go to say
(inaudible) the KGB head that was in charge at the time?


RUBIN: Well, I welcome, you know, your efforts. I'm just saying that
we worked this problem. We are aware of these allegations. This is not
news to us, these kinds of stories. That's my point. So we do what we
can here in the government to try to get to the bottom of stories, to
try to work with the Russians. From the top all the way down to the
lowest levels, there are always going to be stories that you can't
ever get to the bottom of, but for now that's our position.


Q: So, no challenge or accounting should be asked for of the Russians
of these types of weapons?


RUBIN: We have worked with the Russians on this subject and I am sure
that in the course of that work the issue of atomic demolition
munitions, which are the ones that might be small, have been
discussed.

..............


(end transcript)