News Briefings

DoD News Briefing

Thursday, September 14, 1999
Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen

Press Conference with the Director of the Zvezdochka Ship Yard Nikolay Kalistropov at the Zvezdochka Ship Yard in Severodvinsk, Russia

Mr. Nikolay Kalistropov: On behalf of the group of people who work here at (inaudible), and the (inaudible), we would like to provide a very warm thanks to the people of the United States of America, to the U.S. Government, and in particular to the U.S. DoD, and personally to General Kenny and Mr. Alberto for their very careful, precise and effective work that they have carried out here in providing us a very large amount of assistance for resolving what is for us a national problem.

And I would like to say and note that I am happy to say that we are resolving problems and problems are continuing to be resolved and I would like to assure the U.S. that Zvezdochka is applying all its efforts, the maximum amount of its efforts, to assure that its obligations are being carried out, that everything is being done on time in a quality manner and very responsibly.

We do have, of course, a very strict schedule that we need to adhere to, so allow me please to say thank you to those original pioneers on what I would call a very noble task. It was three years ago that we had Senator Nunn and Senator Lugar and also the former Secretary of Defense Mr. Perry. So if you would, please, provide them with a very warm and large thanks from the members of our collective, that is our team of people here at Zvezdochka and also from everyone in town.

And in memory of the visit here we have some very small souvenirs that we would like to provide to the members of the American delegation. We would like to wish them good health and all success to all of our guests and hope that this visit will not be the last one, and that we can continue to have very long and (inaudible) cooperation.

Just so you know, this actually was made out of products that were made here at this factory and from some of the salvaged materials. This material comes from the pressure hull of a Delta III submarine.

And we have some other items from [sic] you from some of our very capable people who tried very hard for you.

I would also like to give a similar gift to the U.S. Ambassador as well.

I would also like to give the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Dr. Warner, who is present, the same gift.

If there's another Assistant Secretary of Defense in the house? (Laughter)

Thank you very much.

Secretary Cohen: Thank you very much. I was going to say that that was almost a demonstration of a lack of efficiency by engaging in over-production.

We have heard of beating swords into plowshares. This may be the first time that I see you've beaten them into a pair of scissors as well.

But let me just say a few words about the history of the relationship with our two countries. For so many years the United States and then the Soviet Union were engaged in a rather massive arms race. But less than a decade ago we were able to negotiate a START I agreement which called for the reduction of our respective nuclear arsenals from 10,000 strategic weapons down to 6,000. And if the Russian Duma will ratify the START II Treaty, we'll be able to reduce those levels down from 6,000 to as low as 3,000. And if the Duma will ratify START II as I believe they should, we can move on to START III where we can reduce those levels even more, as low as 2,000 strategic weapons.

That will make a great contribution to a world of security and stability, and at the same time also provide for jobs for the people here and also back home in the United States.

While we are here to witness the dismantling of several of the Delta class and even Typhoon submarines, we should point out that the United States also has destroyed some 23 submarines and some 368 submarine-launched ballistic missiles as called for by the START I agreement.

As we have noted before, this is an expensive proposition -- the cutting up and the dismantling of these nuclear submarines. We have spent roughly $1.7 billion under the Nunn/Lugar program. We are committed to spending $2.7 billion over the next six years.

I might say that one of the reasons I wanted members of the American press to come and to witness this visit today and to see the progress that has been made in this fine yard under your very strong and gifted leadership is so that they can go back to the United States and communicate to the American people the benefit of the program which the Congress and the country has been strongly supporting.

It is my hope that the American people will continue to support this very important program and they will see, again, the very able leadership that you've provided and the talent, the hard work and the dedication of the Russian people who are carrying out the work at this fine facility.

Now we'd entertain your questions.


Q: Mr. Secretary, might I ask if you've received any signals or any assurance from members, influential members of the Duma, that START II might be passed this year?

Secretary Cohen: I have spoken with a number of key members of the Duma, just as I have spoken with a key member of the Ministry of Defense, Marshal Sergeyev, who also supports the ratification of START II as do the key members of the Duma that I have spoken to. They have also indicated to me that as a practical matter, because elections are imminent, that it's unlikely that we will see a ratification of the START II agreement until after a new Duma is constituted, until they have their elections in December.

Just as the United States Senate has ratified the START II agreement, we believe that it's important for Russia to do the same, and we believe that key members of the Russian Duma understand that.

Q: We understand, Mr. Cohen, that you have actually written two books and also some books of verses. We are wondering which Russian poets or writers you are familiar with and know.

Secretary Cohen: I am familiar with Yevtushenko and Andrei Lostensenski, both of whom I consider to be personal friends.

Q: While there have been negotiations on the elimination of the multipurpose submarines here in Russia, I'm wondering when the United States is planning on disposing or salvaging of its multipurpose submarines which would be the Ohio class submarines.

Secretary Cohen: We are required under the START I agreement to reduce our forces as well, and under START II we will go down to even lower levels.

We have a somewhat different approach to reaching our levels under START I than the Russians do. We will place greater emphasis on our sea-based systems; the Russians place greater emphasis upon their land-based systems. But we will both achieve the levels that we've agreed upon in START I.

As a gesture on our part to show you we are committed also to reducing the levels of our submarine force, here is a piece of the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON.

Mr. Kalistropov: First of all let me say thank you very much for this [testament] that you have given to me, but what I really would like to say touches upon another subject.

What the Russians have received, and we understand very well that what it is that Russians have received, the gift that we have received from the United States is we have been given the Nunn/Lugar program. I have to say that what they have given us is bigger, larger, and it's a lot more than just the very idea or the concept.

I would like to say that what this program has given us is that it has given us faith, it has given us hope for civility throughout the world, and maybe this is said many times, but nonetheless it has given us the opportunity to do so much.

I would like to say that this program will go down in history as we enter the new millennium as a very bright example, and unfortunately only one of a very few such examples where we can say truly that it will give us, it allows us to achieve a cooperation, to feel calmer, to feel safer, to achieve agreements, and it opens up the door for us for many opportunities, for many different areas in the 21st Century, for us to pursue as new endeavors.

Thank you.

Secretary Cohen: This does not come from any scrap metal of our submarines. At least I don't think it does. But on behalf of the Department of Defense I'd like to give this to you. Perhaps you can find a place on your desk for it to remind you of the good work that you are doing and also the gratitude that we have that you are achieving the kind of production and efficiency that truly makes this a remarkable yard.

Mr. Kalistropov: Thank you.

For all those here who are present at the briefing we do have a small packet of souvenirs which contains an album dealing with Severodvinsk and brochures dealing with the products we...