Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


10-11 ABM Treaty

DPB # 59

THURSDAY, JUNE 15, 2000 2:00 P.M.

MR. BOUCHER: ..............

QUESTION: Regarding the White House lawyers’ assessment of what can be done in the Aleutian Islands without needing to abrogate the ABM Treaty or change it, are the State Department lawyers weighing in on that? Do they concur with the White House lawyers’ assessment? What is State’s position on this?

MR. BOUCHER: I think the understanding that I have is these are Administration lawyers, which would mean that they are probably a combination of everybody’s lawyers. So I am sure we do concur in the assessments that are being made.

But the point is we haven't made a determination yet as far as when work on an ABM radar might violate the ABM Treaty. This kind of analysis is obviously necessary to inform the decision that needs to be made on missile deployment for national missile defense. We’ve been looking at these areas for some time. We know the four criteria that need to be addressed, that the President has said he will address when he makes a decision. But, at this point, we’re examining the issues; we haven't made a determination.

QUESTION: You said they concur and it’s Administration lawyers from all sectors. Does Secretary Albright then feel confident that she can go to our allies and justify breaking ground and even the pouring of concrete in the Aleutian Islands without having to --

MR. BOUCHER: I think at this point, this analysis is being done but there has been no determination of how to proceed or what to do or whether we need to. This is part of the background analysis that needs to be done for the President’s decision on missile defense.

I need to remind you that the goal and the intent that we’ve been pursuing, the policy that we’ve been pursuing is to maintain the ABM Treaty and its contribution to strategic stability but to amend the ABM Treaty to take into account the new threats. That is what we did in Moscow. That is what we’ve been discussing with the allies and, frankly, that is what our allies would like to see us do. So that is the policy that we’ve been pursuing. Now, obviously, we are going to do other analysis to inform the broader decision.

QUESTION: I’m not trying to belabor the point, but if the President has to make this decision -- as you say, the decision has not yet been made -- wouldn't he need to take into account the Secretary’s assessment of whether or not she can go to our allies, whether she can go to Russia and others and justify proceeding with some of the work that needs to be done in the Aleutian Islands and argue that it’s not against the treaty, going against the grain of the treaty?

MR. BOUCHER: That’s why you have to do this broader analysis. But we haven't made a determination and the President hasn't made his decision. We know the four criteria that he will use and this is part of that picture that he needs.


QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- today said that a recommendation by the lawyers has been forwarded to Clinton. Are you saying that hasn't happened -- about at what point the ABM may be broken if work begins?

MR. BOUCHER: You can ask the White House, but I think they will tell you that they are not going to comment on who has been briefed. We are examining the issue, as we’ve said, but we have not made a determination. That’s the precise and accurate statement of where we are.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Is it correct, though, that the White House requested this analysis? I mean, they’ve been looking into -- is it correct that the Administration has been examining whether or not they could avoid breaking the law by going ahead with the first -- breaking the treaty by going ahead with the first phase?

MR. BOUCHER: You’ll have to ask the White House whether they requested this or how this came about. But everybody that’s working on this issue agrees that you need this kind of analysis to inform a decision on the deployment and we’ve been looking at these issues for some time. But, at the same time, we make quite clear what the four criteria are. This is part of the overall analysis that needs to be done, as is the ongoing assessment of the threat. And when the President makes the decision, he will have all these things.

At this point, we have not made a determination. We are pursuing the goal of maintaining the ABM Treaty and amending it to deal with new threats. That is the course we intend to pursue and have pursued. And that’s the one that the President and others have taken up, when they talked to the Russians, including during the summit in Moscow.

QUESTION: Can you say how actively people in this Department, though, have been running around searching for possible loopholes to get through the --

MR. BOUCHER: That’s not the intent. The intent is to analyze the situation and make sure we fully understand it.

QUESTION: And you could also interpret this as suggesting that the goal is not so much a full analysis as seeking an opportunity and to avoid the issue until the next administration?

MR. BOUCHER: I can tell you what we’re doing. I can tell you what we’re trying to negotiate. I can tell you the four criteria that the President has set for his decision. I can tell you that the President has said clearly he intends to make this decision. And I can tell you that we’re doing a full and complete analysis of all the factors involved.

If you still want to put some kind of interpretation or spin on it, go ahead. But those are the facts. I do the facts.


MR. BOUCHER: Right now, I’m doing the facts.


(The briefing was concluded at 2:35 P.M.)


[end of document]