[EXCERPTS] DoD News Briefing
Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
[This joint press conference follows the signing of a
statement of military cooperation in areas of mutual
interest between Secretary Cohen and Minister
Rodionov in the Pentagon Briefing Studio.]
Secretary Cohen: .....
First, I'm happy to welcome Igor Rodionov on his first
visit to the Pentagon and to the United States in his
position as Russia's Minister of Defense.
We agree that the United States and Russia should
reduce strategic nuclear forces further, and START II
will cut existing arsenals by as much as 50 percent in
both countries from START I levels. President Clinton
and President Yeltsin have pledged to seek large
additional reductions after the Duma ratifies START II.
Minister Rodionov and I are announcing today a contract
to build a facility that will eliminate rocket motor cases
and missile canisters from 410 intercontinental ballistic
missiles that are being decommissioned under START I.
The $52.4 million contract to Lockheed/Martin will be
built by Russian workers and will employ Russian
workers, and the project is being funded under the
Nunn/Lugar program. This facility will be just as
important in helping to eliminate weapons under START
We agree on the need to reduce chemical weapons as a
threat. Under the Nunn/Lugar program we are building a
pilot plant in the Urals to destroy chemical weapons. The
United States hopes that the Russian Duma will soon
ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention.
We also agree that we have to continue our dialogue,
even when we have different views. As the world's
leading military powers, Russia and the United States
have an opportunity and an obligation to lead the rest of
the world in the reduction of tensions. Both Minister
Rodionov and I take this obligation very seriously, and
I'm looking forward to future discussions with Minister
Rodionov in Europe, in Russia, as well as in the United
We agree there is room for our militaries to work more
closely, both on a bilateral basis and through the
Partnership for Peace.
I'd like to focus for just a moment on the specific
agreements that we endorsed this morning.
First, a renewed Joint Statement of Military Cooperation.
This provides the basic framework for the relationship
between our departments. This year we will cooperate in
more than 100 exercises, visits, and training events.
Second, a new level of mutual effort in cooperative threat
Third, a new commitment to intense, regular interaction
between our highest military education institutions -- the
National Defense University and the Military Academy of
the General Staff.
And Fourth, the establishment of a set of new expert
working groups to explore specific cooperation on
military reform, counterproliferation, theater missile
defense, post-Bosnia peacekeeping, and military
education for the 21st Century.
I now invite Minister Rodionov to address this group.
Minister Rodionov: Thank you very much, Mr.Secretary.
Now we have all reasons to believe that Russia and the
United States have a lot of points of contact on many
directions of mutually advantageous cooperation.
Our intention is to broaden cooperation in this field of
curbing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,
as well as to renew consultations within the framework of
existing agreements on prevention of dangerous military
Secretary Cohen: With great trepidation, Ken, I'll ask
you to invite questions from the press.
Q: Minister Rodionov, I'm Charles Aldinger with
Reuters. I'd like to ask, there was a report in Washington
this week that due to malfunctions, Russian nuclear
missiles have been accidentally put on alert recently. Is
this true? And is it possible that Russian nuclear missiles
could be launched accidentally or without authorization?
Minister Rodionov: I have never heard anything about it.
As the Minister of Defense of Russia I stay in the office
not the working day, but 24 hours. And 24 hours a day,
I monitor how effective is the safety system for nuclear
strategic forces in Russia. Sometimes in our press we
also have statements of some irresponsible individuals
which try to heat the public opinion.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to say that we
do experience some shortages in funding, in financing our
armed forces. But nevertheless, the strategic nuclear
forces have the same level of funding as they used to
have for many years.
Admiral Kuroyedov is the Commander-in-Chief of the
Pacific Fleet. He can prove the correctness of my words.
Recently with a visit, our Commander-in-Chief of
Strategic Missile Forces came to the United States to
prove the correctness of my words.
I want to assure you that we will do everything possible
to insure that the safety and protection of our nuclear
arsenal would never decrease.
Q: Speaking on issues in which, perhaps, you also may
not agree, could you give us your view of the status of
the safety of the Russian nuclear arsenal? Do you believe
that Americans are safe from an accidental Russian
Secretary Cohen: I have discussed this issue with the
Commander of STRATCOM who has been in close
contact with his counterpart, and have had extensive
discussions this morning with Minister Rodionov. I
believe based on those conversations, that the strategic
nuclear forces are under secure control, and that the
issue that we have to address for the future is to reduce
the level of strategic weapons that both the United States
and the Russians now have to much lower levels, and for
that reason would hope that the Russian Duma would
ratify START II so that we would move very quickly to
START III discussions, and to reduce our strategic
arsenals substantially below where they are today.
Minister Rodionov: I know the effectiveness of American
intelligence, and I appreciate highly the professionalism of
this agency. We have a direct telephone link with the
Secretary of Defense of the United States. And if
anything happens, I'm sure the Secretary Cohen would
say 'Yes, I have some data. If you slacken the command
and control system somewhere... and its reliability
reduced, and immediately I would take measures.
I would call myself in a similar position to my counterpart
in the United States; because we are both interested in
the reliability of these systems.
Q: Is the United States ready to develop military
technical cooperation with Russia, along with military
Secretary Cohen: The short answer to that is yes. What
we need to do is to have an agreed, negotiated statement
that will allow us to share technical information with our
Russian counterparts, and we are eager to do so. We
must have an agreed statement first, however. This will
be particularly true in the areas of theater missile defenses
under which both Russian and American troops can be
threatened, particularly if they're engaged in joint
peacekeeping operations, and in view of the proliferation
of missile technology and that of weapons of mass
destruction, I believe it's imperative that we work
together to reduce that threat to our troops and to our
Q: Yes, Bill Gertz, Washington Times. It was reported
today... Minister Rodionov, it was reported today that
the Pentagon's intelligence agency has determined that
you are opposed to START II ratification, even after the
changes to the treaty were made in Helsinki. What is
your position on START II?
Minister Rodionov: It's not exactly true. When I was in
the position of the Commandant of the General Staff
Academy, at the very initial stage of conclusion of this
document, START II Treaty, I had some doubts about
the use of this treaty to Russia. But as the process moved
along and the cooperation developed and a number of
documents were signed between our sides, and
especially after the Helsinki meeting of our two
Presidents, I removed all doubts about this issue and
now I am a great supporter of the START II Treaty, and
I am doing everything possible to convince our
legislators, especially in the defense committee of the
Duma, to ratify this document.
I am deeply convinced that we can insure the security of
our country even by a lesser number of missiles and
warheads, and we need to do it.
Tuesday, May 13, 1997 - 11:50 a.m.