USIS Washington File

09 November 1999

Transcript: Holum, Wolf Worldnet on Nuclear Non-Proliferation

(Nov. 9: Discuss ABM Treaty, CTBT, other issues) (8,170)

Ambassador John Holum and Norman Wolf were the guests November 9 on
the U.S. Department of State's Worldnet "Dialogue" program on "U.S.
Policy on Nuclear Non-proliferation."

Holum is senior advisor for arms control and international security
affairs at the U.S. Department of State, and Wolf is senior advisor
and special representative of the President for nuclear

Questions from journalists in Moscow, Prague and Kiev focused on U.S.
intentions with regard to the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the
recent failure of the U.S. Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty (CTBT), and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).


In response to questions about the ABM Treaty, Holum said the United
States has "no intention" of withdrawing from the treaty. "What we are
trying to do is work cooperatively with our Russian partner to
negotiate modest amendments to the treaty that would permit deployment
of a national missile defense that would not threaten Russia's
deterrent, that wouldn't have any significant capability against
Russia, but would allow both countries to deploy modest national
missile defense systems to protect us against the rogue state threat."

Holum said the amendments the United States seeks will strengthen
rather than weaken or undercut the treaty "because they demonstrate
that this treaty that was negotiated in 1972 can be adjusted, can be
modified to account for new realities, for threats that weren't
contemplated at the time the treaty was negotiated."

Regarding concerns that the United States is abandoning arms control
efforts and multilateral fora such as the United Nations, Wolf said
that "nothing could be further from the truth."

"More and more it is recognized in the United States that our security
is inherently that of the security of the rest of the world, and that
the non-proliferation effort must in fact be a global effort," he

Following is a transcript of the program:

(begin transcript)

Office of Broadcast Services
Washington, D.C.

GUESTS: Ambassador John Holum, Senior Advisor for Arms Control and
International Security Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Norman Wolf, Senior Advisor and Special Representative of the
President for Nuclear Non-proliferation

TOPIC: U.S. Policy on Nuclear Non-proliferation
POSTS: Moscow, Prague and Kiev
HOST: Rick Foucheux
DATE: November 9, 1999
TIME: 07:00 - 08:00 EST

MR. FOUCHEUX: Good afternoon, and welcome to a special edition of
Worldnet's "Dialogue." I am Rick Foucheux.


In Helsinki in 1997, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed on the
outlines of the START III agreement, which would cut the two
countries' strategic arsenals even more deeply, to 80 percent below
their Cold War peaks. Senior U.S. and Russian officials began meeting
late this summer to discuss both START III and the ABM Treaty.

(End videotape.)

MR. FOUCHEUX: We are most fortunate to have with us today two key such
officials, Mr. John D. Holum, the administration's senior adviser for
arms control and nuclear security affairs; also joining us today is
Norm Wolf, the administration's senior adviser and chief negotiator
for the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic
Energy Agency. Good morning both of you, welcome very much to our


We now welcome our participants who are standing by in Moscow, Prague
and Kiev. Let's begin with your questions and comments.


Q: Sergei -- (inaudible) -- newspaper. The United States has not
ratified the NPT -- the Senate has not ratified the NPT treaty. To
what extent will this complicate or compound the U.S. position on the
ABM Treaty talks with Russia? Thank you.

AMB. HOLUM: Well, we do intend to continue the effort to ratify the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. This is a detour. It is not a reversal.
We are not changing course. This was a very abbreviated debate brought
up in an unfortunate partisan circumstance that didn't allow members
of the Senate to examine the treaty closely. And for us to do the
normal kind of review that we do, for example, when we ratified the
Chemical Weapons Convention, and to attach understandings and other
steps to the resolution of ratification that makes it more appealing
to more senators -- that kind of effort still remains to be done.

Remember that the United States is not preventing the treaty from
entering into force. We regret that we are not leading now the cause
to ratify the treaty, that the United States is not among those who
have ratified. But there are 17 other countries whose ratification is
essential in order for the treaty to enter into force. As we continue
our own efforts in the United States, we are going to encourage others
as well to ratify the treaty.

I view that as a distinct issue from the ABM Treaty modifications we
are working on with our Russian colleagues. The reason for seeking
modest amendments to the ABM Treaty is to deal with the circumstance
of a few countries who seem to be remaining outside the global norm,
the global agreement against both nuclear weapons and long-range
missile capabilities.

We are not seeking a major disruption of the ABM Treaty; we are
seeking a moderate adjustment of the treaty, not involving any nuclear
testing, any nuclear capabilities, but the ability to deal with a few
tens of incoming weapons from a country such as North Korea or Iran,
who are developing the capability to send missiles and weapons of mass
destruction over inter-continental ranges. But this is a proposal that
does not in our judgment upset the nuclear balance. It poses no threat
to the nuclear deterrent of Russia. We think it should therefore be
negotiable in our work with Russia, as well as ultimately other
members of the treaty.


MR. FOUCHEUX: We thank you for those questions, Kiev. Let's move on
once again to Moscow. Moscow, please go ahead with your questions or
comments for our guests.

Q: Mr. Holum, currently in Russia they're frankly talking about a new
cold phase in the relationship between Washington and Moscow. This
cannot help but negatively impact the whole negotiation process,
disarmament process. What does Washington intend to do to ameliorate
and rectify this situation?

AMB. HOLUM: Well, I hope that proves not to be the case. We have made
enormous progress bilaterally between the Soviet Union and Russia and
the United States in turning back the potential for nuclear holocaust
and in lessening the role of nuclear weapons and reducing their
numbers. The START II treaty will eliminate -- to bring us down to
below 60 or 65 percent below the Cold War peaks of nuclear weapons
when that's brought into force. The Helsinki agreement in 1997 between
Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin will bring us 80 percent below Cold War
peaks. In the meantime we are intensely engaged in cooperative efforts
to bear the cost of taking down not only the nuclear delivery systems
but actually dismantling warheads and bombs. We are working
cooperatively on steps to dispose of spent fuel, to dispose of
plutonium extracted from nuclear weapons, to purchase and ultimately
burn up highly-enriched uranium that comes out of nuclear weapons. So
there is a broad range of cooperative efforts.

Now, it's true that we've had various times during the course of the
last decade down periods in our relationship. Political tensions have
tended to rise and fall. One of the things I think that is encouraging
about the trend is that we have managed to keep these programs going
to keep these common efforts going throughout those ups and downs in
the political character of our relationship.

I think ultimately that is a reflection of the fact that both
countries see a common interest, a self-interest in both cases in
reducing the nuclear danger and in eliminating some of these costly
and dangerous systems. Chemical weapons is another area where we are
cooperating, and both countries have concluded that even maintaining
these old stockpiles of chemical weapons is a danger to our society.
So it makes sense for us to continue to cooperate in that and other
areas, even when we are arguing off and on over other issues. We have
managed to avoid linkage of issues across the board, and I think
that's in both of our interests.

MR. FOUCHEUX:  And Moscow once again -- please go ahead in Moscow.

Q: Russian Television. A question for Mr. Holum. Are you in any way
afraid that the U.S. intention to back out of the ABM Treaty will
undermine the nuclear system all over the world? Even the START I,
START II treaties, they stipulate that the ABM Treaty will be abided
by in the forum that it was concluded in originally. Thank you.

AMB. HOLUM: Thank you. We've made clear, and the president has
repeatedly said that the -- and agreed -- that the ABM Treaty remains
a cornerstone of strategic stability. And we have no intention of
withdrawing from that treaty.

What we are trying to do is work cooperatively with our Russian
partner to negotiate modest amendments to the treaty that would permit
deployment of a national missile defense that would not threaten
Russia's deterrent, that wouldn't have any significant capability
against Russia, but would allow both countries to deploy modest
national missile defense systems to protect us against the rogue state
threat. But no decision has been made even on deployment of a U.S.
national missile defense. As the president has said, that ultimate
decision will depend on cost, it will depend on the threat, it will
depend on the technical feasibility of the system, and it will depend
on the status of our arms control negotiations.

Pursuant to the agreement of our two presidents in Bonn in June, we
have had several rounds of discussions with our Russian colleagues on
this question, on possible amendments to the ABM Treaty, as well as on
how we would approach the START III, the further negotiations to
reduce strategic offensive arms. I can't report that those discussions
have been successful, but I think we have laid an information base and
are at least understanding each other's positions better.

But I want to underscore again that our intention and our very strong
interest is to approach this problem in a cooperative way, to do it
through mutually agreed adjustments, modest adjustments to the ABM
Treaty, and also to approach the threat from rogue states in a
cooperative way in terms of the operations of any national missile
defense programs.

Q: Another question from the Russian Public Television. You just said
that make certain modifications to the ABM Treaty and this will not do
any serious harm. But suppose Russia does not agree to such
modifications in the ABM Treaty? Such moods actually do exist
currently in Russia. No way would we allow for changing this ABM
Treaty. The U.S. press many times has run articles to the effect that
the U.S. has a moral right to withdraw from this ABM Treaty in order
to implement its goals. Don't you think that this can engender a new
arms race? Russia of course in the economic sense is not fully capable
to have a full-blown arms race and to respond in the ABM sense to the
United States, but Russia as an adequate response can continue to
develop its TOPOL (ph) weapons, its offensive capabilities, so this
can push Russia towards developing its offensive capability and
delivery systems for MIRVs and so forth, because Russia would not be
able to set up its own ABM. Don't you think that currently we are
faced with a huge threat from this arms race? Thank you.

AMB. HOLUM: I think a renewed arms race would be unfortunate. But I
also don't think it's either in prospect or would be called for by the
circumstances. Remember that the -- as you know, the ABM Treaty does
contain a supreme national interests clause that allows either country
to withdraw from the treaty upon six months' notice. But what we are
trying very hard to do, and what I certainly intend to do, is to
devote all the effort I can, and I hope we will have the same -- I am
sure we will have the same involvement from our Russian colleagues --
to avoid having that question ever come up, because again the kind of
system we are talking about does not defeat the object and purpose of
the ABM Treaty. The contributions of the treaty to strategic stability
can be preserved if the treaty is amended in a very limited way to
allow a limited defense that wouldn't interfere with Russia's

Now, what I would argue very strongly is that far from weakening the
treaty or undercutting the treaty the amendments that we are going to
be talking about in negotiations would actually strengthen the treaty,
because they demonstrate that this treaty that was negotiated in 1972
can be adjusted, can be modified to account for new realities, for
threats that weren't contemplated at the time the treaty was
negotiated. It seems to me it is both of our interests, recognizing
the value of the treaty, to put our best efforts into trying to
preserve those benefits, not by putting up a brick wall against any
adjustments, not by keeping the treaty frozen in time, but by making
clear that the treaty is flexible enough to accommodate changes in the
strategic environment. That's what we are trying to do in these

Q: Mr. Holum, Interfax Agency. Russian press has published reports
that you the United States suggested to Moscow -- proposed certain
confidential concessions. I don't know what they are about -- in
exchange for Russia's giving up its highly negative stance on the ABM
Treaty. Can you clarify what concessions could they be talking about?
Thank you.

AMB. HOLUM: I don't know what they are talking about, if they are
talking about concessions from our negotiating position. What we've
determined from the beginning of this process is that we wouldn't try
to play negotiating games with Russia, that we wouldn't come in and
jack up our negotiating position in order to be able to give away
concessions later on in the process. We came in basically saying,
Here's the threat, here are the limited kinds of responses we think
are warranted, and the modest adjustments to the treaty that would be
necessary to allow them. But without, and being very straightforward,
without building in concessions. So I don't know what concessions that
might be referring to.

Perhaps it relates to the fact that we have discussed in the context
of these negotiations possible other cooperative measures with Russia
that would make Russia, as well as the United States, more secure
against the growing threat of missiles from rogue states, keeping in
mind that Russia is much closer to Iran, to North Korea, to the places
where missile and weapons of mass destruction capabilities might be
combined in the near future. So Russia also has an interest in being
able to protect itself against those capabilities. And so we've talked
about things like shared early warning, other kinds of steps, help on
radar systems, that would make Russia, as well as the United States,
more secure against these dangers. That underscores again the way we
are looking at this as a cooperative enterprise, both in negotiating
adjustments to the treaty rather than walking away from it, and in
working on the kinds of defenses that the two countries can share.


Q: Voice of Ukraine newspaper. Madeleine Albright has stated that the
CTBT Treaty will be reintroduced to the Senate at a time that is more
appropriate. Is that before the presidential election or after? And
what will be the future fate of this treaty? Will it be rejected by
the Senate again? And maybe Democrats will not win the election. Thank

MR. WOLF: I got part of that question, and I'll try to answer the part
that I heard. The decision on the ABM Treaty and whether to go ahead
with deployment of this limited national missile defense system that
Mr. Holum has talked about, that decision is due to be made in June,
and I don't believe there is any likelihood that that decision will be
made at an earlier date. I'm sorry, beyond that I did not catch the
rest of the question.


MR. FOUCHEUX: Okay, thank you in Prague. Let's return once again to
Moscow -- more questions in Moscow. Go ahead please.

Q: Good afternoon, Russian Information Agency, Novistye. Mr. Wolf, in
the opinion of many foreign and Russian experts, Pakistan, India, and
even more so North Korea, in no time soon will be able to set up
delivery systems that would be able to reach the territory of the
United States or parts of Russia. Just simply they are still using
oxen to harvest. And the non-ratification by the Senate of the CTBT
treaty and U.S. attempts to withdraw from the ABM Treaty and to start
setting up a national nuclear defense is viewed by those experts as
active lobbying on behalf of the military industrial complex of the
United States within the Senate and within the administration. Could
you comment, refute or confirm or just say anything on this issue?
Thank you.

MR. WOLF: Certainly there is no effort to create a -- shall we say an
impenetrable shield that would allow the United States to live
blithely under this shield and ignore the rest of the world. That is
not what is intended. And indeed as Ambassador Holum made clear, the
shield that is contemplated, the national missile defense that we have
in mind, would address a modest threat such as that that could be
posed by North Korea for example. It would not be adequate to address
a threat such as that posed by the Russian missile forces. So clearly
there is no way that in that context that one can withdraw from
nuclear arms control agreements. We are, as John Holum indicated,
actively engaged with Russia in a variety of places in addition to the
START III negotiations, to try to collectively work on reducing the
nuclear threat. And we will continue to be actively engaged.


MR. FOUCHEUX: All right, let's return to Kiev once again. Go ahead in

Q: In 1992 Russia and the United States talked about setting up a
global ABM system. Are they still thinking about, and involving
Ukraine's and other European countries' potential to this system?
Thank you.

MR. WOLF: Could you -- I didn't quite catch the question I am afraid.

MR. FOUCHEUX: He was talking about the agreement in 1992 between
Russia and the U.S. to set up a global ABM system. Would that
continued, and would it involve other countries such as Ukraine?

MR. WOLF: I am afraid I don't know of any such plan to create a global
system. We certainly have talked with Russia about an early-warning
system, so that if there were a missile launch information would be
conveyed to the Russian authorities if we picked it up for example,
telling them precisely what the launch was; or even better, perhaps
providing advance notification of launches before they occur, so there
is no misunderstanding with respect to what is happening.

Presumably under this approach we would also receive similar warning
from Russia: if they were to engage in a launch, they would provide
advance notification. These negotiations have been going on for some
time now and I believe they are close to agreement. Similarly, because
of concerns about the Y2K issue, there is a plan in place that has
been negotiated to provide greater assurance to both Russia and the
United States during the transition into the year 2000, and this would
include the presence of Russian military at U.S. early-warning sites,
such as the one out in Colorado.

But I am afraid with respect to any global ABM approach, I am not
familiar with that.

MR. FOUCHEUX: And we go once again to Moscow. Please go ahead again in

Q: Russian Public Television. Mr. Wolf, as it is known, a final
decision about deploying an ABM system will be taken by the Clinton
administration June of next year. Russia takes a very negative
approach to those plans. Under what conditions can the U.S. give up on
setting up and creating such a system? Thank you.

MR. WOLF: Well, as Ambassador Holum indicated, there are four factors
that would go into a decision with respect to whether to deploy or
not: cost, the threat, technical feasibility, and the status of the
negotiations between the United States and Russia. I think it would be
premature to speculate as precisely which one of those factors would
have to be out of alignment as it were for the United States to give
up with a system. Certainly if the remaining tests that are to be
conducted of the system that is being contemplated go well, I am sure
that will add increased inducement to go ahead with the system. But at
this point I could not conjecture what circumstances would persuade us
or persuade the administration not to proceed with this system.

MR. FOUCHEUX: Mr. Wolf, we were happy to have both you and the
ambassador on our program today. We are about to close up. We have
about a minute and a half to go. I wonder if you would have any
closing comments for our guests as well.

MR. WOLF: The only comment I would make would be to emphasize that the
United States, despite the setback of the CTBT vote, has no
expectation of withdrawing from the world. I was recently in New York
last week for three or four days talking with colleagues, and
certainly there was a real concern that, number one, the United States
was abandoning nuclear arms control efforts; and, number two, perhaps
even abandoning multilateral fora such as the United Nations. All I
can say is nothing could be further from the truth. More and more it
is recognized in the United States that our security is inherently
that of the security of the rest of the world, and that the
non-proliferation effort must in fact be a global effort. This is not
something that we can do on our own. We must work with others if we
are to keep the nuclear genie from spreading to other countries. Thank

MR. FOUCHEUX: Thank you very much, Norm Wolf, senior advisor and chief
negotiator of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the
International Atomic Energy Agency. Thank you very much for being with
us today. Thanks as well to your colleague, Mr. John Holum, senior
adviser for arms control and international security affairs, who as
you know was with us earlier in the program. And we have a big thanks
as well to all of our participants in Prague, Kiev and Moscow, as well
as our entire international audience of Worldnet. We thank you very
much for watching. Have a good day.


(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State)