Press Availability
Rose Gottemoeller
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation
Press Availability With Russian Foreign Ministry Chief of Security and Disarmament Issues Ambassador Anatoly Antonov
U.S. Embassy
Rome, Italy
April 24, 2009


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MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we’re lucky to have with us today Ambassador Anatoly Antonov from Russia and Assistant Secretary Rose Gottemoeller from the United States. They do not have much time. It will be a very brief opportunity, but we’ll try to take a couple of questions after they make a statement.

AMBASSADOR ANTONOV: Dear friends, it’s a great honor for me to be in American Embassy in Rome. And first of all, I would like to thank Ambassador of United States in Rome for hospitality. We just conducted bilateral consultations with Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, and it was introductory meeting. We have exchanged views regarding task which has to be fulfilled, as – to elaborate new arrangement which could replace START treaty. As you know, that we have to make first report to our presidents, which – who are planning to meet in July. And I hope that we are capable to create a new draft treaty which could replace START treaty by the end of this year.

I just would like to say that it was very constructive meeting between United States and Russia. It was not a round of negotiation. Again, I would like to confirm it, that we hope that very soon, our delegations will meet starting real negotiations. Today, there was just only exchange of views how to proceed, how to fulfill our obligation in accordance with the decisions made by our presidents in London.

So Rose, maybe you will say few words. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Thank you very much, all for coming today, and I’d like to thank my counterpart, Ambassador Anatoly Antonov for a very productive beginning. I can say we got off to a fast start on the START follow-on talks this morning. It’s also a pleasure to be here in Rome, and I wanted to thank the Italian Government, as the president of the G-8 at the present time, for providing this venue. It certainly has been a very good environment for our beginning talks.

As Ambassador Antonov said, this was very much an introductory meeting and a meeting to organize our further work. We will expect to meet the next time in Washington in May, and then we will have further meetings in Moscow, and perhaps in other venues in June, and try to complete all the work so that our presidents will hear a good report from us when they meet in Moscow in July. As you will remember from the London meeting between President Obama and President Medvedev, they instructed us to prepare a report of progress on these START follow-on negotiations by the time they meet in July. So we expect, and from the basis of this very productive meeting today, I would say that we will have a good report for them in July.

And now, we are ready to take a few questions, happy to do so. Yes, and if you’d identify yourself, I’d appreciate it.

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m Patricia Thomas with Associated Press television. A general question: There’s been a lot of talk about resetting relations between the United States and Russia. Also, there’s talk – now we’re coming up on Obama’s first 100 days. How much of this – of what you’re doing here is the beginning of a new U.S. policy? Or is it sort of just moving on because the deadline is coming up in December? And also, if both of you could answer that.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: All right. Maybe I will begin. You know, it’s very important what we have been able to accomplish even so far, I would say, in President Obama’s first 100 days in office, in making a fresh beginning with Moscow, as well as with some of our other counterparts around the world. But I do believe that in particular, the notion that we can make a fresh start in the strategic arms reduction process is very important.

Some people say, “Oh, this is old business, we’ve been doing this for years.” Yes, indeed, we have been at it for many years. Since the early 1970s, we’ve been limiting and reducing strategic nuclear arms. But I think that there are two very important goals to our present activity. First is to rebuild confidence in the relationship, and this is a very meaty way to do so, to talk about these weapons that are so important to national security, but also so dangerous to the security of the world overall. So very important to be stressing nuclear weapons in our early discussions at this present time, a very important way to rebuild confidence. And now I’d like to suggest perhaps Anatoly has a comment as well.

AMBASSADOR ANTONOV: Thank you very much, Rose. Of course, we have a history of our relations with the United States. And you know that we have a START treaty which expires on the 5th of December. And as the Russian Federation, we raised this issue many times with previous administration to speed up the process of elaborating new treaty. And maybe you are aware that my president, Mr. Medvedev, made a statement which was announced by my minister of foreign affairs on the 7th of March, where we invite United States to start real negotiations to find a way to elaborate a new treaty which could replace current START treaty. So – and we are very much satisfied that our two presidents met in London and they have agreed to start such negotiations. And we are very much satisfied to see Rose as the chief negotiator from American side. And as I mentioned in the beginning, I hope that we are capable and we will prepare a new draft till the end of this year. At least we will do our utmost, our best to meet this time target. Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

AMBASSADOR ANTONOV: Speak up, please.

QUESTION: Yes. I’ll use the microphone, too. Now, I wonder if you could pinpoint for us a final objective of the talks; namely, say figures, number of warheads, a general idea of what the end draft could be. And a second question, I wonder if you could elaborate on how these talks fit into a wider picture, including the missile shield dossier and the Iran nuclear problem.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: You want to go first this time?

AMBASSADOR ANTONOV: Thank you very much for this question. It seems to me that you can find an answer in the statement of our two presidents, where they agreed to have low levels, which were identified in Moscow Treaty. So, today, I again would like to confirm there was just only preliminary discussion how we could organize our negotiations. So that’s why we didn’t discuss details of a future agreement. Today, we discussed what kind of problems we have to tackle, what should be basic elements of a possible treaty, where we could meet again and how to do our best to fulfill instructions of our presidents.

Of course, as the Russian Federation, I just would like to say you that we can see that the missile – so-called missile shield is a very important issue. And we can see that it is very important to address this issue during our negotiations. I don’t know how could we solve it, but at least I hope that we could find all answers to our questions regarding security issues. And again, what I would like to say that why we would like to have this treaty. We would like to strengthen international security. Now, of course, we are not planning to elaborate this treaty just only for the sake of disarmament. No, we are real negotiators and we are thinking about the security of our countries.

And we are sure – we are sure that this treaty, new treaty, will help to improve relations between the United States and Russian Federation. We are sure that this treaty could promote confidence, predictability in the world. And I hope that it will be a very impressive impulse to international movement regarding the – getting rid world from nuclear weapon, which this idea – this novel idea was confirmed by our two presidents in the statement made on the 1st of April.

As to the (inaudible) point of your questions regarding the Iranian nuclear program, of course, it’s a very important issue. We will continue to discuss this issue, but there is another format to deal with this problem. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: I would just generally underscore the point that these negotiations will be very important, I think, to hitting the reset button in the U.S.-Russian relationship, restoring some mutual confidence to make progress in a lot of areas. The matter of our important work with Iran in the context of the P-5+1 negotiations, I think certainly the overall environment that I hope will be created by success in these negotiations will help to build up momentum in some of these other important negotiations.

But Anatoly is quite right; they do take place in different lanes, so to say. They’re quite different groups of negotiators. This is a bilateral effort between our two countries to negotiate this follow-on to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. So I think we can say there will be, we hope, a general positive effect, but in terms of exact relationship, it’s not there.

We will take one more question, and I would ask you, sir.

QUESTION: (In Russian.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: (In Russian.)

AMBASSADOR ANTONOV: Should I say in Russian, yes? (Laughter.) I apologize. (In Russian.)

I just would like to repeat what I have just mentioned – (laughter) – it will be not polite, my dear friends – that I said that I am very much satisfied with this meeting. As I said, that they’re just only preliminary talks, how to organize, how to effectively organize the first round of our negotiations. Rose has a few experts from her side, as well as I invited some experts from Russian side, and I hope that next time we will meet in Washington. But please don’t forget that there is a very important event will be held in New York. On the 4th of May there will be a third session of preparatory committee for 2010 video conference, where I hope also we will --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: On nonproliferation –

AMBASSADOR ANTONOV: On nonproliferation treaty, sorry. We will see each other. There is a good opportunity for us to exchange views. But the first round of full-fledged negotiations will be held in the middle of May, that there will be great delegation from United States and the same composition will be from Russian side.

Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Thank you all very much.

[This is a mobile copy of START Treaty Follow-On Talks]