The Briefing Room THE WHITE HOUSE March 18, 1997


We've already taken remarkable strides together -- the United States and Russia -- over the preceding few years. We've agreed to a comprehensive test ban, indefinite extension of the Nonproliferation Treaty, the elimination of nuclear weapons from the three former states of the Soviet Union. We've worked together on improving nuclear safety and ratifying START I. Now, we are waiting the Duma ratification of START II. And together with START I, that will cut both our arsenals -- both our nuclear arsenals by two-thirds from the Cold War levels.

We have been discussing with the Russians guidelines for START III negotiations which could begin immediately after START II is ratified and enters into force. We need to be realistic about the prospects of progress in this area. There remain disagreements between us and the Russians, particularly in the area of the distinction between antiballistic missile defenses, which were restricted by the treaty of 1972, and our desire to move forward with theater missile defenses.

Both sides agree on the need to preserve the ABM Treaty. Both agree on the need to defend against the growing threat of short-range missiles with theater missile defenses, and we agree with the issue of how you distinguish between ballistic missiles and theater missiles is a difficult one which must be resolved. But we have emphasized repeatedly to the Russians that we are developing theater missile defenses to protect our troops. When Foreign Minister Primakov was here this past weekend, he had a very, I think, compelling briefing at the Pentagon and heard a very forceful statement that our intention with the development of these systems is not directed at Russia, but rather directed at protecting our troops and those of our allies against short-range missiles. So we will need to see whether we can make some more progress in this area.

In any case, we believe that the Russians should proceed with START II ratification, which would then let us move into START III. And I hope that we can make some further progress in Helsinki, but these negotiations will continue thereafter if we don't. .................

Q: Madam Secretary, all through this town in think-tanks and elsewhere, people who are really not philosophically very different from the people who work with this administration are very anxious about NATO's expansions impact on arms control. I mean, they're not talking about Yeltsin, they're talking about the communists, the military, the nationalists, etc., who are holding back the START treaty and who will see NATO expansion as, rightly or wrongly, as a threat. Now, if you folks care about arms control, isn't there anything you might do to soften this impact, or is there anything where you can work around START, perhaps extend for four or five years, as has been proposed by some think-tankers, the compliance with the 2003 deadline?

ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that it is very important to see these issues in their own separate baskets while they clearly have an impact on each other. We need to understand NATO enlargement as an issue that is important for a new Europe.

Obviously, as Sandy has said, we are interested in moving the START II process forward and making sure that those limits are lived up to. But I think the important part is to make sure that people understand why we're doing these separate issues. .............

Q: A question on ABM, please. START II is hostage not only to NATO enlargement, but also to this demarkation dispute in the ABM Treaty, at least in the Russian point of view. Are the two Presidents personally going to discussion ABM demarkation in Helsinki, and is President Clinton going to offer new proposals or compromises on higher capability theater missile systems?

BERGER: We believe that START II ought to proceed to ratification in the Duma without regard to any lingering disputes with respect to ABM-TMD demarkation, and that's our position and the position the President will reiterate to President Yeltsin. To the extent that they believe it is important for there to be a clarification of the demarkation issue, the Presidents may discuss that, but we've made it very clear that we believe that the theater missile systems that we are developing are consistent with the ABM treaty, and that we intend to proceed with those systems, and that we don't believe that they do violate the ABM treaty.

So there conceivably could be some discussion of it, but our view is that in any case it would be good for the Russians to proceed with ratification of START II.