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U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing






Russia is going to lay siege to Grozny /There are acute concerns on the attacks of civilians. Chechen representative to U.S. calls for the West to withhold financial aid / US is not going to link Chechnya to the subject of ABM

DPB #142
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 1999, 1:20 P.M.


QUESTION: Is there any reaction to the comments by Colonel - General Vladimir Yakovlev who has said that if a commission were set up between the United States and Russia to examine the threat from rogue states, then it could be discussed in more detail the need to create national anti-missile systems. He said this on Russian television after the summit.

MR. RUBIN: Well, certainly any time that Russian military leaders understand and share our concern about the danger emerging from the proliferation of ballistic missiles to certain troublesome countries is a welcome sign. What we have been trying to discuss with Russia is to make them - in our discussions, help them come to agreement with us on the need to recognize that the 1972 ABM treaty was signed at a time when this particular set of threats was not as acute and that the arrival of these threats does change the security environment and the ABM treaty itself made clear that it was appropriate for the parties to discuss changes, depending on the security environment as it emerges.

So we have been trying to have that discussion. We expect it to be a long discussion, not an easy discussion. We've been trying to sensitize Russia not only to the threats and concerns that we have about the danger of missile proliferation from these dangerous countries but also the way in which we can see an anti-missile system be deployed without calling into question Russia's strategic deterrent. So any sign that they have come to a greater appreciation of this threat and want to work with us cooperatively on this threat is certainly welcome from our standpoint.

QUESTION: A follow up - is there any - are you aware of any - (inaudible) - from Russia having been made to set up such a commission or is this --

MR. RUBIN: I'm not. That's the first I've heard of it, but certainly the idea that they would want to work closely with us on defining the threat and then dealing with the threat would be welcome.


QUESTION: Jamie, also on Chechnya, last week I think the Secretary was asked whether there was any quid pro quo being offered by the Russians and the answer was, and I think she rejected the possibility that we would - that in response to Russian concessions on SDI we would lay off on assaulting or criticizing them on Chechnya.

Is there any concern, though, that they may be doing that very thing? Making an offer on SDI in some way even as they are carrying on full tilt in Chechnya?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say this. First of all, I agree with Secretary Albright. Second of all, you have to understand the way high-level diplomacy really works. And the way it works is if the Russians indicate flexibility on Iraq or SDI, it undercuts their ability to continue to argue the merits of the case, whether or not it is because they are linking it to some other issue. In other words, if Russia for five long weeks has said, we'll never do X and we'll never do Y and we'll never do Z because it's got these dangerous consequences or is against our interests or whatever, and then the next day they say well, actually, it would be okay if we did X, Y and Z, provided you did something on another subject. And we reject the linkage and we've made very clear we are not going to link the subject of Chechnya to the subject of ABM or the subject of Iraq or any other subject.

But by doing so what they end up doing is making it clear that they have flexibility on the positions and we just focus on that. And that's the way the real world works. There is always somebody who imagines that linkage can be doesn't in some grand way but, in my six years of experience of observing these kind of discussions in New York and in Washington, I've never seen it happen.


(The briefing was concluded at 2:15 p.m.)


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