Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


RUSSIA (Chechnya)
10-12North Caucuses Deployment Issue / CFE Treaty / Russian Non-Compliance with CFE / SanctionsAgainst Russia / Links to Usama Bin Laden and Dagestan and Chechnya

DPB #128
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8, 1999, 1:10 P.M.


QUESTION: On Chechnya and Russia, do you have anything to say on the report the Russians will not obey the CFE agreements in the North Caucasus due to the situation in Chechnya?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, we are familiar with the North Caucasus deployment issue. It is correct that the Russians have told us and other CFE treaty partners that they seek to comply with the Conventional Forces In Europe treaty but have exceeded limits in Russia for the North Caucasus region. The Russians have promised to provide us additional information about their military activities in Chechnya with regard to these treaty limitations.

The good news is that Russia has come forward and discussed this issue, demonstrating its commitment to notify pursuant to the treaty. It also demonstrates that the treaty is an important tool for constraining military equipment levels and ensuring international scrutiny. The bad news is that they have exceeded the limits.

Let me say in that regard that, overall, Russian compliance with the CFE Treaty has been generally good. The question of the flank region has been a long-standing one. Their levels have exceeded the flank limits for some time. We take compliance very, very seriously. We're reviewing the details of the information they've provided to us and we'll be taking this matter up with them on a number of levels in the coming days.

QUESTION: How much have they exceeded the limits?

MR. RUBIN: Substantially. There are two limits. One limit is the existing limit and the other limit is the larger limit that would come into play if the treaty were adapted and approved this November. We're talking about many, many hundreds of pieces of equipment over the limits in the armored combat vehicle category.

QUESTION: Is there any way to bring them back to the limits?

MR. RUBIN: Well, they would have to bring themselves back to the limits.

QUESTION: What about - what is the value of the treaty, then, other than that they're now --

MR. RUBIN: Well, the treaty doesn't provide a military enforcement mechanism to launch an invasion of Russia by which we could take the Russian armored combat vehicles out of the Caucasus and return them to Russia. That would be the standard that you're suggesting there.

What the treaty can do is to identify the problems. It can require that Russia notify and it can help bring international pressure to bear on them to comply. That's what arms control treaties can do. Those who create artificial suggestions or straw men as to what a treaty can do, we can't answer those criticisms. Some of that has come in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty debate. People have sought a guarantee from us signing a treaty that another country won't test. Treaties don't do that. Arms control treaties don't do that. They don't have military enforcement measures that the United States would use military force to guarantee such an outcome.

What they can do is provide verification, provide international legitimacy for certain rules and regulations that each country is committed to, and that if they violate they are subject to international pressure and, in certain cases, sanctions. So that's what can be done in the real world. In I don't know whose world we can guarantee that an exceeded limit in a country like Russia could be reversed through military force.

QUESTION: Is this an out-and-out violation or is there some clause in the agreement which the Russians can cite; for example, emergency deployments or national interests?

MR. RUBIN: Well, they have been exceeding the flank limit for a long time so they clearly have been exceeding that limit for some time. This is not a matter of a temporary deployment that gives them some provision under the treaty. They have been exceeding it for a long time.

One of the ideas that we have been pursuing in the discussions to adapt the treaty is to increase that limit, but what I can tell you is that even the increased limit is below where they are now by a significant number of armored vehicles. So what has to happen here is we have to be very candid and honest and make clear that the Russians are exceeding the limit; at the same time, not throw the baby out with the bath water, as some might want us to do in the case of such a violation; point out that Russian compliance with the treaty has been generally good, with some exceptions; and now begin a discussion, a serious discussion at the appropriate levels, to try to ensure that the Russians come back into compliance.

QUESTION: You say they have been exceeding it for a long time. Can you be more precise on that? And why have they delayed so long in informing you that they have exceeded it?

MR. RUBIN: Well, there are two issues. There is one issue is that they have been above the limit for a long period of time, the lower limit. They are now - we and they have been working on an adapted treaty to have a higher limit that takes into account the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Soviet Union, and adjusts this treaty, adapts it, to the modern situation. They have not been in excess of that adapted limit, which we would have expected to go into force beginning this November, two months from now, at the OSCE Summit.

The point I am trying to make now is that their current deployment is above even the adapted treaties limit, and that's why it is such a matter of concern to us and something we will take up with the Russians.

QUESTION: To East Timor, are you actively considering sanctions against Russia for exceeding the limits substantially?

MR. RUBIN: Roy, you asked me a question about what we could do to ensure that the Russians came back into compliance which led me to give you a discussion of arms control treaties in general - what can be done and what can't be done.

The mode that we would approach a violation in would be to discuss with the Russians the reasons for exceeding of the limits, to get an explanation of what their intentions are in the future, and to try to bring them back into compliance. The question of sanctions is not a question I am prepared to entertain at this time.


(The briefing concluded at 1:50 P.M.)

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