October 26, 1999


                              THE WHITE HOUSE
                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 26, 1999

                             PRESS BRIEFING BY
                               JOE LOCKHART
                             The Briefing Room
1:06 P.M. EDT


          Q    Joe, the Russian Vice Defense Minister made a statement the
other day rejecting possibilities for amending the ABM treaty, saying that
if the U.S. goes for some kind of missile defense that they will -- and do
other things to increase their firepower.  If the Russians aren't prepared
to talk on this, where do you go with it?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, the Russians are prepared to talk about it.
The President spoke to President Yeltsin in Cologne.  That was followed up
in Auckland in a meeting between the President and the Prime Minister.  We
are talking at a variety of levels.  I think Mr. Holum from the State
Department was in Russia -- last week? -- having discussions about ABM,
about START III.  So there are discussions going on at all levels.
          I think the comments that were reported this morning missed the
fundamental point.  The limited national missile defense that we would
deploy, if we deploy it, would be primarily -- or it would be developed and
designed to deal with rogue states and the threat that they pose, not the
kind of nuclear arsenal that Russia has.
          So I think we're going to continue the discussions.  Those
discussions, I think, have been productive to date.  President Yeltsin,
President Clinton both expressed mutual concern in Cologne on the threat of
rogue states.  We're going to try to deepen our cooperation with Russia as
we move to our decision on deployment.  And if there are changes that need
to be made in the ABM, we will work them through with the Russians.
          Q    Joe, whether they missed the fundamental point or not, they
seem to be pretty hard-line comments, that the Russians would --
          MR. LOCKHART:  Again, I would dissuade you or discourage you from
focusing on one comment here or there.  We have had a series of
conversations at the highest level of the Russian government, between the
two Presidents, between the President and the Prime Minister.  And those
discussions are ongoing.
          Q    Has the President talked to President Yeltsin about this
issue, since Russia started taking this hard-line stance?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Again, I would discourage you -- you can take any
view you want, but I would discourage you from jumping to the conclusion
that a statement or two represents the Russian position.  We are talking to
them at the appropriate levels, and those conversations are ongoing.
          Q    But again, has he had that conversation since we started
hearing this rhetoric?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Again, the President I don't think has talked to
President Yeltsin in the last week or so, but I wouldn't put too much
weight on any particular comment made or any rhetoric.  This is an
important issue.  We will continue working with the Russians.  We have
dealt with them on a variety of levels and those conversations continue.
          Q    Did the Secretary of State bring it up with the Foreign
          MR. LOCKHART:  I don't know.  You'd have to ask at the State
          Q    Will he talk about it next week with Prime Minister --
          MR. LOCKHART:  I don't know that they'll meet.


                                   END                  1:40 P.M. EDT