News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Wednesday, October 20, 1999
Presenter: Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD PA

USIA Foreign Press Center


QPierre Glachant with Agence France Presse. Do you plan other initiatives in the next weeks to convince the Russians to change their position about the ABM treaty because Moscow, apparently, is not so interested in your proposal of cooperation about the construction of a radar in Siberia.

MR. BACON: The answer is yes. As you know, we've already started that. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott spent some time in Moscow discussing our proposals for a national missile defense system which would require some changes in the ABM treaty. We think the ABM treaty is a fundamental building block of arms control. We want the treaty to continue, but the treaty allows for review and for change and we believe that some changes are appropriate to allow us and Russia to address new threats on the horizon, and those are what we would call possible attacks from rogue nations -- small, limited attacks, certainly, compared with the strategic nuclear attacks that both the Soviet Union and now Russia and the U.S. prepared for over the decades. And I addressed some of those issues earlier, in terms of our strategic deterrence.

So we will continue our discussions. Secretary Cohen, as you know, because you were on the trip, went to Moscow and met with his counterpart, Marshal Sergeyev and -- he, of course, is the former leader, commander of the Strategic Rocket Force in the Soviet Union, so he is very knowledgeable about these issues -- discussed some of the changes we'd like to make. And we will continue to talk with the Russians.

The point we're making is that the system we want to devise, our national missile defense system, should President Clinton decide to deploy it next summer, and the changes we want to make in the ABM treaty do not threaten Russia. What we're building, and what we're proposing, would do nothing to stop the type of attack that Russia could today launch against the United States or any other country in the world.

What we are looking at is a very limited system that could deal with a very small number of warheads coming at us, not the thousands that Russia could launch today under the current limits. So we think this is an important point.

We think that Russia faces some of the same threats we do from emerging nuclear powers, who may not respond to deterrence in the same way that Russia and the United States have. And, therefore, we will continue to talk with them on this.

MS. RANSOM: The next question is on the right.

QHi. My name is Arkadi Orlov. I am with the Russian News Agency RIA. And, Mr. Bacon, my question somehow is related to the previous one.

There are reports that the U.S. administration is offering to Russia some kind of help in the initial missile defense, provided it is deployed. Could you tell something about this? Could you comment on that?

Thank you.

MR. BACON: Well, that is true. What we have -- I think "cooperation" might be a better word than "help."

Russia has an extremely sophisticated strategic rocket force, extremely sophisticated radar technology. Unlike the United States, Russia does have a national missile defense system deployed around Moscow. We don't have one deployed anywhere in the United States now. So Russia has considerable knowledge and skill in this area.

And what we have proposed is ways that the U.S. and Russia could cooperate to address what we believe is a threat to both countries. And some specifics have been published in newspapers recently. I can't -- those types of things have been discussed. I don't believe we have made firm proposals at this stage. Our discussions have been -- these are the types of cooperative events we could look at, the types of cooperation we could approach together. But there are still a lot of decisions that have to be made, both in Moscow and in Washington, on this.

The crucial point is that we see this as a common problem, and we think there are common solutions to this problem; not an American solution vice a Russian solution, but common solutions. And we would like to work with Russia to achieve those solutions.

QWhat are those --

MR. BACON: Well, as I said, some of them have been printed. They could deal with specific radars, they could deal with sharing surveillance technology. One thing that's been discussed publicly many times is the Clinton-Yeltsin proposal for a shared early warning center. Russia has volunteered to establish that center in Moscow.

There have been discussions underway -- on our side they've been conducted by Assistant Secretary of Defense Ted Warner, who has been to Moscow several times to meet with his counterparts on this. These are ways that build on the confidence-building measures that we already have between the two countries. The shared early warning center would have Russian and American technicians sitting together reviewing radar infrared and other data that indicates missile watches, so that we sort of eliminate chances for miscommunication and misunderstanding in crisis situations, whether they're real crises or anomalies that occur sometimes. You know, if there is a gas fire somewhere in the world it can sometimes be picked up on our satellites and misinterpreted as a missile launch. This is a problem that's common to both countries and has happened in the past. And so by having our technicians sitting together, we can quickly sort through these types of potentially scary or destabilizing events. That's one thing that we're looking at, but there are others as well.