Unofficial translation from Russian


Q: Mr. Ivanov, the State Duma of Russia ratified START-2 today. What can you say about the significance of this Treaty and how do you account for such swift ratification?

Ivanov: I don't think I need explain the importance today of the decisions taken by the State Duma to ratify the START-2 treaty and the 1997 agreements on anti-missile defense. It marks a serious step toward strengthening strategic stability in the world and in Russian-American relations.

The START-2 treaty has been pending before the Duma since 1995. This is understandable because there should be no quick decisions on such important matters of principle related to national security. As you know, in recent years the leadership of our country -- the President and the Government of Russia -- twice submitted or were ready to submit these documents for ratification, but on both occasions they failed to get the approval of the lower house of the Russian parliament due to subjective reasons. The first time the discussion of the ratification was postponed because of the U.S. and British military action against Iraq. The second coincided with the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia. The ratification today confirms the high authority that the President of the Russian Federation commands today.

Q: Does it indicate the emergence of a new relationship between the President and the parliament?

Ivanov: The ratification of START-2 confirms that all the branches of power are acting in a coordinated manner, especially on the issues of fundamental significance for Russia, including the issues of foreign policy.

Q: There is talk of new approaches to Russian foreign policy under Vladimir Putin. How will foreign policy change, in your opinion?

Ivanov: First of all, foreign policy will be more pragmatic. It means a realistic assessment of the international circumstances in which the foreign policy of the Russian Federation is developing, an assessment of our interests and possibilities in order to fully ensure the interests of Russia in the world and the provision of the most favorable external conditions for addressing internal tasks such as the economy, protection of the interests of Russian citizens, our countrymen abroad, etc.

It is in these specific areas that Russia will pursue a more active and aggressive foreign policy.

Q: Will the adjusted foreign policy impact on the Russia-Byelorussia union?

Ivanov: The treaty on the union state of Russia and Byelorussia has already come into force and it is now necessary to put it into practice. So, the Russian President's first visit will be to Minsk where specific issues of bilateral cooperation within the framework of the current Treaty on the Union State will be discussed.

Q: You are planning to visit Washington at the end of the month. What are the aims of your visit?

Ivanov: This will be my first official visit to Washington. The main task of the visit is to prepare the forthcoming meeting between the presidents of Russia and the U.S. So, my program promises to be wide-ranging and tight. It covers the whole spectrum of international problems, as well as bilateral relations.

I would like to stress that considering the fact that Russia ratified START-2 today much now depends on the steps Washington will make in this direction. We expect that the U.S. Congress will pass a similar decision and that the START-2 treaty will come into force. It meets the interests of both countries and of international stability as a whole. We are ready to start immediate negotiations on START-3 which would initiate substantial cuts of nuclear arsenals.

The law on START-2 ratification says that all these agreements can only be implemented given strict compliance with the 1972 ABM treaty by its signatories. So, we still have serious concern in connection with the plans to deploy a national anti-missile defense system currently being discussed in the U.S. Such a system would violate the 1972 ABM treaty and put in jeopardy all our agreements in the area of strategic offensive arms reduction.

We believe these are misguided plans and we offer an alternative which may be called the Putin Program, if you like. We suggest passing on immediately to START-3 negotiations in order to bring about further substantial lowering of the nuclear ceilings, to jointly consider the possibilities of cooperation on non-strategic anti-missile defense, to discuss possible missile threats involved and to work out joint solutions to contain them. We are prepared together with the American colleagues to discuss the strengthening of the regime of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We also propose to agree, bilaterally, a plan to implement the concept of global control of missiles and missile technologies. The implementation of our concrete action plan would undoubtedly strengthen international stability which would be in the security interests, among others, of Russia and the U.S. All these issues will come in for detailed discussion in Washington.

At the same time I would like to take advantage of my visit to the United states in order to hold meetings at the Congress and the Senate, with the representatives of the business community and the mass media in order to provide clarifications on the issues which may interest our partners, and most importantly, in order to convince them that the new leadership of the Russian Federation is interested in promoting constructive and businesslike relations with the U.S.

We think that thanks to our cooperation the atmosphere in the world has markedly improved in the last 8 years and it is very important that all the positive achievements of these years should be developed in every area for which conditions are very favorable at present.

Q: How dangerous are the Clinton administration's attempts to change the 1972 ABM treaty? What steps can Russia take in response in this case?

Ivanov: I would like to say that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is the basis of the whole world system of strategic stability that has been built over the past decades. A unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the treaty would undermine this whole system and all the agreements in this area which would undoubtedly complicate the situation in the world, deal a blow on non-proliferation regimes, etc. New real threats would arise, including for the United States.

Naturally, each country thinks about its own security, the strengthening of its defenses and ensuring its national interests. In considering the issues connected with the ratification of START-2 we have of course discussed the possibility of the new development of the situation if the ABM treaty is broken. In this case Russia would have to take adequate measures to meet its national interests. But we are confident that common sense will prevail in Washington and we will embark not on the path of confrontation, but on the path of cooperation, especially in such a delicate and important sphere as strategic stability.

Q: There are ever more frequent reports about alleged negotiations with Chechens, including Maskhadov. Are such peace negotiations really in progress?

Ivanov: First of all, I would like to say that the military operation in the Chechen Republic has been completed. No military actions, especially large-scale ones, are being conducted. The political phase of settlement has begun and it is pursued in several directions. The first is an active political dialogue with various representatives of the Chechen society. Contacts are also taking place with the representatives of Maskhadov. But all these contacts should be based, above all, on the Constitution of the Russian Federation, respect of the law of our country, and only those representatives of the Chechen society can take part in the dialogue who are prepared to respect all the principles I have mentioned. Secondly, local bodies of power are being formed in Chechnya, the representative of the Chechen Republic to the State Duma will be elected in August and concrete issues of restoration, economic and social issues are being addressed. All these steps, in our view, should ensure the restoration of legality and normal life in the Chechen Republic, bring back all the refugees to Chechnya and enable them to live with dignity, restore normal life, law and order in the republic.

April 17, 2000