[START-3 & EKV EXCERPTS] DoD News Briefing
Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD(PA)
Thursday, January 23, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.

Q: Can you tell us to what extent the United States is studying a further round of a reduction of nuclear weapons between the United States and Russia? Why the START II Treaty is still in limbo in the Russian Duma?

A: Let me talk about that. First of all, our policy on START II has always been that the Russian Duma must ratify START II before we can go forward to a new level of arms reductions. That policy has not changed.

We have also made it clear for some time that we are willing to move quickly to negotiate or begin negotiations of the START III agreement after START II is ratified. As you know, the Senate's already ratified START II but it hasn't been ratified yet by the Duma. That would, presumably, lead to a fairly significant further reduction in arms levels. As you know, the START I agreement caps strategic nuclear weapons at 6,000 countable warheads. START II moves down to 3,000 to 3,500. So a significant reduction beyond that would be anticipated in the START III agreement.

Since Secretary Perry, and I believe President Clinton and President Yeltsin have talked about the possibility of moving toward a START III agreement after START II is ratified, the Pentagon has been looking at what further force reductions would be possible, would be acceptable. This is part of an ongoing, it's one of the many reviews we do around here all the time. And this will be part of the QDR. There are panels in the QDR on strategy and force structure, so it would straddle those two, certainly. There are also panels on modernization and infrastructure, readiness and human resources. To answer the question you asked me earlier, I don't see one specifically on industrial base and mergers, but it could occur as part of the modernization or part of the infrastructure panel.

Q: Is the aim here regarding the nuclear arms reduction to create some sort of a framework of what the future reductions would be so that the Russians can more clearly see what would happen after the ratification to provide an incentive for the Duma to ratify START II?

A: We think that START II Is sufficient incentive alone for the Duma to ratify it. We think it's a good agreement. It's an agreement that's been signed by the Russian government, and we think they should ratify it quickly so we can move forward to the next round which would be START III. But the point here is that ratification of START II is a necessary precondition before we move forward to START III.

Q: When Secretary Perry attempted to make that case to the Duma in October, he met quite a bit of opposition and suspicion so it would seem that there might be a need for some extra incentive or assurances.

A: I think we've made it very clear to the Russians on a number of occasions and at a number of levels that START II is the step that has to be taken to get to START III negotiations. Our position on that hasn't changed. We've also discussed with Russian officials at a number of levels the desirability of moving below the levels set in START II. They have discussed that with us.

For instance, when the Russian Defense Minister, Igor Rodianov, met Secretary Perry for the first time in Norway last fall, he mentioned that he felt that levels of nuclear weapons were too high and that there was room for reduction. We share that. We believe there is room for mutually agreed-upon further reductions in strategic nuclear arsenals, but the key to doing that is Russian ratification of START II.

Q: Things happen on a number of fronts. Strobe Talbot was in Moscow today talking with Rodianov. There are reports from Brussels the United States is prepared to cut, to offer Russia cuts in its long range naval nuclear warheads. And putting aside for a minute the idea that START II is needed in order for formal negotiations to start up, how about unofficial talks? And these talks that you're talking about, that you've mentioned between various levels of Russian and U.S. officials, have numbers been mentioned on where these cuts might go down to on START II?

A: I'm not aware that we have gotten to that degree of specificity at all, because our policy is very clear, that they have to ratify START II before we can move forward on START III. Clearly given the magnitude of arms reductions under the START I and START II agreements, you could expect significant further reductions under START III. I think everybody would like to find strategic stability at lower levels of armaments. Certainly the Russians have said that and we've said it as well. What we are doing now internally is looking at what possibilities might exist for us.

Q: Why just internally? The Russians are worried, but under START II it would cut their most modern missiles, the big missiles, and that in fact under START III... I mean without START III, they would have to build more missiles. ...concrete assurances that they won't have to do that in order to get START II passed.

A: I understand what the Russian position is, and our position is that if the ratify START II we can move very quickly into START III negotiations. We've made that very clear to the Russians. They know what our position is. So far it hasn't, that alone hasn't been enough to convince them to ratify START II, but we're hopeful that they will ratify START II because it makes sense to reduce tensions and risk through arms negotiations.

Q: But if they feel that START II is going to leave them at a disadvantage, why should they go ahead and approve START II and then negotiate on START III?

A: They signed the START II agreement. We assume they signed it because they felt it enhanced their security rather than diminished it. That's why we signed it.

Q: Do you have any readout on the failed missile test from Kwajalein, when the next test might be scheduled, and if there is any estimate of the loss in terms of time, the program, how far it puts the system back, but also in terms of money since the target missile did take off from Vandenberg, and basically the whole effort seemed to be pretty useless.

A: There have been two efforts to test what we call an exo- atmospheric kill vehicle out of Kwajalein. This basically is a package of sensors that's designed to discriminate between warheads and dummies or decoys. We had hoped to do one on January 13th, and that didn't work because of a malfunction of the global positioning system on the rocket; and another test was scheduled for January 16th, and that failed to launch. Although, as you point out, the target rocket did launch from the United States, but the one that was launching the sensors was unable to launch.

First of all, they're studying the problem and deciding what to do next. The only rocket that fired was the one from Vandenberg that carried the targets and the decoys, and that cost about $7.5 million, so that's the cost so far.

Q: They haven't given a date of when they expect to try again?

A: They're hoping to try it again in May. That's when the next sensor test is scheduled for.