News

USIS Washington 
File

01 September 1998

TRANSCRIPT: NSC, DOD, STATE BRIEFING, TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 1998

(Clinton/Yeltsin on Russian political/economic reform and command and
control of the military, US-Russian early warning agreement to be
signed Sept. 2, program for management and disposition of weapons
plutonium, new North Korea missile, Middle East, India/Pakistan
nuclear issues, Russian nuclear weapons under secure control,
Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction agreement) (5750)


White House Deputy Press Secretary for Foreign Affairs P.J. Crowley,
in Moscow, introduced briefers and question takers Robert Bell,
Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs on the Berger
NSC Staff, Ted Warner, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy,
Strategy and Threat Reduction, Gary Samore, senior director on the NSC
Staff for NonProliferation, and Debra Cagan, director of policy and
regional affairs for Russia and the Independent States at the State
Department.


Following is the White House transcript:



(begin transcript)



THE WHITE HOUSE



Office of the Press Secretary

(Moscow, Russia)



September 1, 1998



PRESS BRIEFING BY ROBERT BELL, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR
NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS; TED WARNER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE
POLICY, STRATEGY AND THREAT REDUCTION; GARY SAMORE, SENIOR DIRECTOR
FOR NONPROLIFERATION, NSC;
DEBRA CAGAN, DIRECTOR OF POLICY AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS FOR RUSSIA AND
THE NEW INDEPENDENT STATES


Hotel National

Moscow, Russia



COLONEL P.J. CROWLEY: Good afternoon. Behind some of the issues that
have drawn many of the headlines this week with regard to the summit
meeting -- on economics, on politics -- there are some of the
traditional security, nonproliferation, and arms control issues that
have been among the cornerstones of the U.S.-Russia relationship and
U.S.-Russia partnership. So here to brief on some of those aspects
today we'll provide you with two briefers and then four distinguished
individuals to answer your questions afterwards.


Briefing first will be Robert Bell, who is the Special Assistant to
the President for National Security Affairs, to talk about agreement
on exchange of information on missile launches and early warning. And
he will be followed by Gary Samore, who is the Senior Director for
Nonproliferation at the National Security Council, who will talk about
an agreement regarding plutonium disposition.


We'll start off with Bob Bell.



BELL:  Thank you, P.J.



I'll begin with a brief statement on the early warning agreement, and
then Ted Warner and myself will be happy to take any questions you
have on that. Ted has been very involved in the military-to-military
talks that preceded the summit and the diplomatic meetings that we've
had in recent weeks that led up to the agreement as well.


The principal achievement for this summit in the area of arms control
is the agreement the two Presidents will sign tomorrow committing the
United States and Russia to the sharing of early warning data on the
launches, worldwide, of ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles.
As part of this initiative, the two Presidents also have agreed to
establish a multilateral missile pre-launch notification regime.


As some of you know who have been with us before, at past summits,
including in 1995 and 1997, the two Presidents had directed that their
two militaries explore early warning sharing as it relates to theater
missile defenses. With this agreement today, this cooperation will now
be expanded into the strategic arena. We believe this is a very
important initiative for two reasons. First, the agreement strengthens
strategic stability by establishing further protection against the
possibility of a nuclear launch by one side triggered by the
misinterpretation of data concerning the origin, aim point or missile
type associated with a particular launch.


Many of you are quite familiar with the much reported incident in
January 1995, when the Russian command and control system appeared to
have been temporarily confused by the detection of a Norwegian
scientific rocket launch. This agreement today on early warning
sharing is especially relevant at a time when Russia's early warning
system is under stress from budget difficulties, systems failures and
the closure of early warning radars on the soil of nations outside
Russia.


For example, pursuant to an agreement between Russia and Latvia, the
Russian early warning radar at Skrunda was shut down just yesterday.
And I would note that Senator Jeff Bingaman, who is accompanying the
President on this trip, has been particularly engaged over the last
several years on this issue of strategic stability and his concern
about the Russian command and control system.


Second, the agreement takes account of the continuing worldwide
proliferation of ballistic missiles and of missile technologies, and
represents a major step forward by the United States and Russia in
cooperating to address this common threat.


Now, in terms of the specific aspects of this sharing arrangement, I
would emphasize that while key elements have been agreed in the
military-to-military discussions and diplomatic exchanges that
preceded the summit, there are many details that experts will still
need to agree upon in the coming months. But let me mention first the
five key elements that have been agreed to by the two Presidents
today.


First, the data sharing will be reciprocal and continuous. We will
provide information to them, they will provide information to us on a
continuous and virtual real time basis. Second, the data will include
information on strategic ballistic missiles, theater and
intermediate-range ballistic missiles, and space-launched vehicles
launched worldwide. Third, the data will include information derived
from each country's launch detection satellites and their ground-based
radars. Fourth, each side will process its own early warning data at
their own national centers before providing it on to the other state.
And, fifth, the multilateral pre-launch notification regime for
ballistic missile and space launch vehicle launches will be open on a
voluntary basis to all countries that choose to participate.


Now, in this regard I think it's important to note that in addition to
praising the U.S.-Russian early warning agreement, the United Kingdom
is announcing today that henceforth it will provide five days advance
notice of all launches of its Triton missile system.


Now, remaining to be decided are questions relating to the exact scope
and specificity of the data being provided and the architecture for
relaying and receiving it. For example, the United States and Russia
will need to consider whether, in addition to the national centers
each nation will establish to provide the other with the early warning
data, whether we should include a separate or third center that would
be operated and manned by both nations. At such a center the United
States and Russia could have military officers sitting side by side to
answer questions about each other's data, or to initiate
communications back to their own respective command and control
systems to try to resolve any ambiguities. And the joint statement
that the two Presidents will sign tomorrow makes specific mention of
the possibility of establishing such a common center operated by the
United States and Russia.


These and other remaining technical questions will be addressed by
experts from the two sides, including Ted Warner and myself, with the
goal of completing a detailed plan for the approval of the two
governments as quickly as possible, leading to the actual exchange of
data as soon as practical.


In conclusion, I would simply say that we believe this agreement,
which follows in the tradition of other important strategic stability
measures -- including the hot line, the nuclear risk reduction
centers, the detargeting accord -- will move us another important step
back from the nuclear precipice of the Cold War and help make it a
safer world.


SAMORE: Hello. I'd like to brief you on an important agreement that
the Presidents will sign tomorrow on the management and disposition of
weapons plutonium, which is significant both from the standpoint of
arms control and from the standpoint of nonproliferation. And
afterwards, myself and Debra Cagan, who helped to negotiate the
statement, will be happy to answer your questions.


Under the terms of this statement, both the United States and Russia
have agreed to withdraw approximately 50 metric tons of weapons
plutonium from their nuclear weapons program, which is enough
plutonium for thousands of nuclear weapons and represents a very
significant portion of the total plutonium holdings in both countries.


Furthermore, both countries have agreed to cooperate in transforming
this weapons plutonium into a form that cannot be used -- physically
cannot be used for nuclear weapons. And we and the Russians have
identified two technical methods that we believe are most appropriate
for carrying out this transformation. One is the use of this material
as fuel in nuclear power reactors to generate power. And second is to
mix the plutonium with high-level radioactive waste and then store it
in a nuclear waste repository. Both of these techniques have the
advantage of changing the plutonium so that it can no longer be used
for nuclear weapons and, therefore, could not be used either in our
arsenal, the Russian arsenal, nor would it be available for other
countries.


In addition, the two Presidents have directed their experts to begin
negotiations promptly and to seek to complete a detailed bilateral
agreement by the end of this year which would lay out the timetable
and a number of the details necessary in order to carry out this very
ambitious program.


Such an agreement would include the schedule for building facilities
both in the United States and Russia in order to carry out these two
processes. It would include international verification measures so
that both countries would be confident that the transformation was
taking place and that the material could not be returned to nuclear
weapons. It would include appropriate provisions for safety and for
the protection of the environment. It would include security and
accounting procedures for the nuclear material. And finally, it would
have to include financial arrangements.


Although I can't give you a precise figure, this is likely to be a
very expensive program, running into hundreds of millions of dollars
in both countries, and so, therefore, we'll have to work with the
Russians to establish appropriate financial arrangements. And in that
regard we are hoping that other countries which share our interest in
arms control and nonproliferation will be willing to contribute in
this project and, in particular, the G-8 have expressed an interest in
working with the U.S. and Russia, both technically and financially in
order to carry out this program as quickly as possible.


And finally, I want to mention that Senator Domenici, who is with us,
with the President's delegation here in Moscow, has been a very strong
supporter of this program, and we're counting on the Senator's
leadership in Congress in order to help us carry this program out.
Thank you.


Q: I have a question. Is this data sharing supposed to be
non-selective? Your point 4 says that each side processes the data
that it has before it provides it to the other side. But is it meant
that it cannot say, well, we won't send this particular set of data on
this particular launch, or, in fact, will each side get to pick and
choose what it sends?


BELL: Well, first I think you have to appreciate, Sam, that we already
have a requirement to process the data. You can't -- the users of any
information, including our own military commands around the world,
couldn't just take the raw data and work with it. So we already have
facilities that are set up.


One important one is in Denver at Buckley Air Force Base, for
strategic ballistic missile information. Another one is at Falcon Air
Station, now called Shriever Air Station, in Colorado Springs. And
they take the down-link from the various systems and fuse it, process
it, and provide it to users at the tactical level. The users are
commanders in chief of regional commands around the world who may need
this information for war fighting. In some cases we're sharing
tactical information with other countries, including our NATO allies.


So there's already a system set up to down-link, process, and pass on
the information. What we're proposing to do here is to expand the
extension of that to Russia, A; and, B, to give them not only
information derived from our tactical ballistic missile warning
system, but also strategic warning.


Q: -- all the information that our own users get of the types of data
that you described? We won't select, and they won't select out
particular launches or particular instances?


BELL: There are some key details that are still to be resolved here.
We're going to have to get the military together now to get down to
the fine print in terms of the exact definition of the scope and
specificity, as I said, of the data.


But we want to be as forward leaning as we can in this, because if
it's going to promote the goal of enhancing strategic stability to the
maximum degree it can, it needs to be as complete a provision of data
as we can make it.


Q: You know what I'm asking. Do we get to withhold particular points
if, in our judgment, it should be withheld, and do they get to
withhold particular points, or is the commitment whatever data we have
on these types that you described that we will give each other -- it
goes once we've processed it?


BELL: I don't want to speculate at this point, Sam, about what might
or could be withheld. I just want to make the point that we're going
to have to have centers that fuse and process all this data and then
pass it on, and we're going to have to work out the details on that
scope question with the Russians once we get into the detailed
discussions next month.


Ted, do you want to add anything to that?



WARNER: I think the allusion we were making on the question of getting
the parameters was really not along the line you were talking about,
it's trying to decide which are the appropriate parameters for
warning. And we will have to work out -- as you do that fusing of data
and filter it, it's not an issue of trying to leave out a particular
launch, it's just within any launches, what are the right parameters
that each side needs for warning purposes.


Q:  So you wouldn't leave out a particular launch?



WARNER:  That's not the general direction.



Q: On a related subject -- one is the nature of the discussions
between the United States and Russia on the North Korean launch; and
secondly, the status of our efforts to get Russian support to persuade
the Indians to cease their nuclear program.


BELL: I cannot comment on the second one because I've not been
debriefed by Strobe after his most recent engagement with the Indians,
except to point out the obvious, which is that we've been pressing the
Indians and the Pakistani government to show restraint in terms of
their missile programs. On the first one -


Q:  But I mean to try to get the Russians to help us in that effort.



BELL: Exactly. I have not been in touch with the President since his
meetings this morning, so I don't know whether the North Korean launch
came up. But I would point out that that launch, had it occurred with
this system up and running, this is exactly the kind of information
that we would have passed on to the Russians under this arrangement --
the arrangement about the Taepo Dong-1 launch and where it went.


Q: Can I just ask you a question on the plutonium? How much plutonium
do the U.S. and Russians have? Have the Russians made any commitment
as to what they might do with the plutonium that they're left with, or
do they intend to retain that as some sort of good? And basically -- I
know you haven't worked out the details, but how long a process is
this likely to be? Two years? Ten years?


SAMORE: Those are all very questions. I can't tell you exactly what
the Russian stockpile is, but we believe that the 50 tons that we're
talking about does represent a significant amount, as much as 25
percent of their total holdings. On the U.S. side, it's even a larger
percentage, as much as 50 percent of our total holdings of plutonium.


Now, obviously both the U.S. and Russia -- and my colleague, Bob Bell,
could speak to this better than I can -- we have embarked on a very
ambitious arms control program. As we reduce the number of nuclear
weapons, that frees up more plutonium and more highly-enriched
uranium, which we then have to figure out a way to safely store it
until we can dispose of it. And one of the most important cooperative
efforts we have in place with the Russians is to find a way to utilize
that material so that it's no longer available for nuclear weapons and
can't possibly contribute to proliferation.


In terms of the time frame, we would like to do this as quickly as
possible, but because it's such a large amount, and because there are
limits on the extent to which you can burn this material in existing
reactors, I think we are talking about a number of years. So at least
on an interim basis, for several years at least, we're going to have
to focus on making sure that this material is safely stored. In fact,
we have a program in place with the Russians to build a storage
facility at Mayak, which is scheduled to be completed in the next few
years. We will try to burn the plutonium as quickly as possible, but I
think it's likely to be at least five years and perhaps more until we
can get through this 50 tons.


Q: Are you saying that as weapons are dismantled the stores of
plutonium increase, even as plutonium is being stored and disposed of
in some way?


SAMORE: The 50 tons is a big chunk for us to deal with right now, so I
can't tell you what we will do as we get down to lower and lower
numbers, and therefore additional material becomes available. But, in
theory, obviously, as we have less need for plutonium and
highly-enriched uranium as our nuclear weapons arsenals become
smaller, I think we then have to start thinking about how to, A, store
that material, and, B, how to dispose of it.


Q: Just one last quick question. Bob, this ballistic warning sharing
arrangement, I know you haven't finished it yet, in terms of the
details, but you project this becoming operational when? This year,
next year, before the year 2000?


BELL: The United States would like to have the final detailed plan
ready for the governments to approve within a few months. And if the
experts can make good progress, we're hopeful of meeting that time
line. Then it's just a matter of standing it up. In past cases where
we've had sharing arrangements, for example, at the tactical level
with our NATO allies, we were able to translate that into an
operational capability in a year or two. So we would hope that that's
a time frame that might be met in this case certainly before President
Clinton ends his term in office.


Q: The President talked yesterday about the danger of Russian arms or
Russian nuclear products falling into the wrong hands, particularly
with the pressure of economic troubles.


What's your assessment of the current situation and whether there's an
increased danger of the spread of nuclear weapons and nuclear
technologies because of what's going on right now?


BELL: Well, I think the whole point of the President being here and
the engagement that he's involved in with President Yeltsin today is
to keep us on a path where Russia is making political and economic
reform and the command and control of the military remains very intact
and very secure. That's certainly been the assessment of senior
American military leadership up to now. When General Habiger was here
just a few months ago and was given unprecedented access to the
Russian nuclear establishment, including the first visit by a senior
American military official to a tactical nuclear storage facility and
a submarine launch ballistic missile base, his conclusion was that
Russian nuclear weapons are under secure control.


We have seen, of course, nothing in the last week that would put that
assessment at risk and I just don't want to speculate about scenarios
in terms of which way this current crisis could proceed down the road
that would bring that into question.


Ted Warner is the senior defense official in charge of the Nunn-Lugar
program, which is designed precisely to maintain this pattern of
cooperation with the Russians in this area. So let's ask Ted to
comment.


WARNER: That would be another point, beginning with the Nunn-Lugar
cooperative threat reduction program in the early 1990s, some of its
early emphasis was on the security of the Russian nuclear weapons and
nuclear material at their various depots and as they were moved about,
particularly in that early stage when we were reducing the -- bringing
weapons out of other parts of the former Soviet Union.


We have continued that effort. When Secretary Cohen was here in
February, he and Marshal Sergayev went out -- -Pasad, northwest of
Moscow, and visited a facility which is really the transfer point for
additional materials -- both physical materials for physical security
and materials to keep working on the personal security issues. We
continue to cooperate in that area. I mean, it had been a high
priority for us; it remains a high priority. The Department of Energy
has similarly been working with the institutes in Minatom on that kind
of security in the research establishment.


So this is a longtime staple of our strategic partnership of this
decade. It's one that remains very important and in this situation I
think is even more important. We will continue that cooperation.


Q: Could you describe a little bit about the early warning system and
how much danger there is now of accidental launch of a Russian missile
-


WARNER: We do not believe that -- we've been through this discussion
in the United States with some outside experts. We do not believe that
there are significant dangers today, but we believe that these steps
will even further reduce what we think were already very low
possibilities.


What this will do will provide the Russians with yet further sources
of information. And I might go back to the pre-launch notification
regime, that when combined with better pre-launch notification on a
global basis of anyone who's going to test such missiles -- those that
voluntarily choose to do this -- now with the sharing of the
information to monitor and be able to cross-check against one's
different systems, I think we've reduces what was already a very low
danger even much lower.


Q: Is the end result of the direction you're going with this agreement
the abolition of all nuclear materials so that there could be no --
for weapons purposes, that is -- so there will be no nuclear weapons?
Is this route the route that will get there?


MS. CAGAN: No, I think that we, of course, are committed to, as we
said in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, eventually to nuclear
disarmament. But we're not at that point yet so we're not moving in
that direction yet. What we are doing is, both the United States and
Russia are firmly committed to further reducing their nuclear
stockpiles. And as we break up the remnants of the Cold War, we have
to do something with this material.


The Plutonium Disposition Agreement, like the Highly-Enriched Uranium
Agreement, are designed to dispose of this material in an irreversible
way so that it can never again be used in a nuclear weapon. Now, the
reasoning behind this if you just have it laying out there it become
potentially a target for someone who might want to smuggle it -- which
is why we had a couple of years ago the G-8 action plan on illicit
nuclear smuggling, which has worked very, very effectively. And the
idea is to take the material out of the nuclear warhead, dismantle it
appropriately, store it safely and securely -- which is the program
that Ted was talking about, some of the DOE programs on materials,
physical protection control and accounting, and then get rid of them
through plutonium through either MOX fuel or as Gary said,
immobilization or in uranium, through blending the uraniums to be used
in commercial reactors. And that's what we're trying to do, so it's
not just laying around out there for easy pickings.


Q: About the plutonium, you said that it would cost hundreds of
millions of dollars. I guess the Russians can't be too thrilled about
that, and I was wondering whether the G-8 participation in the
financial aspect would be a condition for the Russians to sign on -


SAMORE: Obviously, one of the most important details we'll have to
work out of the financial arrangements. So I can't tell you exactly
what that's going to look like. Certainly the U.S. hopes -


Q:  -- there was interest in the G-8 -



SAMORE: Yes, certainly the countries in the G-8 that have been most
interested in working with the U.S. and Russia to deal with this
problem are Japan, France and Germany. And we certainly hope that we
can expand that to the other G-8 countries. We think this is a goal
that all of the G-8 share and we hope that there will be a role for
all of the G-8 countries to play. But that's something that we'll need
to work out in the course of this year as we pursue these
negotiations.


Q: But the financial agreements would have to be sorted out before the
Russians sign on the deal, or no?


SAMORE: No, I think the two things work in parallel. I mean, we've
already identified the technical processes that make the most sense in
terms of transforming this material as quickly as possible -- the two
techniques that I mentioned to you. We still need to work out a lot of
details, not only the finances, but also verification arrangements and
safeguards and so forth.


I think it's quite possible this is a situation where you have to work
on both the finances and those other kinds of details at the same
time, and I hope that the agreement we reach with the Russians at the
end of this year would include a framework for both finances as well
as the technical and the political aspects of it.


Q: Would both these agreements require a ratification by the two, by
the Duma and the Congress before they become effective? And secondly,
on the early warning system, which other countries have expressed
interest in possibly joining this arrangement?


BELL: The agreements per se do not require congressional approval. But
to the extent that the agreements require authorization of
appropriation of funding to implement them, Congress, of course, will
have a role, and we'll be fully consulting with Congress as we go
forward on this.


On the early warning sharing agreement, we have not -- we're just
reaching agreement on that today. We've not advertised that to a wider
audience and, indeed, it's the U.S. view that this should begin as a
bilateral arrangement. We can consider -- we, together with the
Russians, can consider later down the road whether the early warning
data sharing ought to be extended to other countries.


But as Ted Warner said, a very important complement to this early
warning sharing will be a multilateral pre-launch notification regime,
where conceivably every country in the world that tests ballistic
missiles can file information about those launches at a central
clearinghouse that we would operate with the Russians, so that your
early warning systems are cued in advance that there's going to be a
launch to detect.


Q: Two questions. Just checking the facts. Was it 50 tons on each
side, or combined?


SAMORE:  Yes, 50 tons on each side.



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




THE PRESS:  Thank you.



(end transcript)