Press Availability
Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Brussels, Belgium
March 26, 2010


Assistant Secretary Gordon: Thank you very much. Good afternoon, everybody.

I thought I would say a very brief word about the START agreement in relationship with Russia, but then I’d be happy to take your questions on anything that might be of interest to you. I begin with START because it really was a major accomplishment to the United States and Russia announced yesterday after the President spoke, and they announced that after a year of negotiating we had reached an agreement on a new treaty that will be signed in Prague on April 8th. The treaty is a significant step forward on the President’s agenda that he announced a year ago in Prague about moving towards a non-nuclear world and making the world more safe and secure by reducing numbers of nuclear weapons.

The United States will also host, President Obama will host in Washington on April 12th the Nuclear Security Summit from almost 50 leaders from around the world involved in this issue to further this agenda that he announced, making nuclear weapons and nuclear material more secure. So we feel that the new START agreement is a major step forward on that agenda, but it’s not only that. It was also a major step forward in our relationship with Russia. Also about a year ago the President announced his intention of famously resetting the relationship with Russia which meant that we would look for areas of concrete cooperation in areas where we had common interests because we believe there are many of those. While not hesitating to disagree about the things that we disagree with. The START agreement is in that first category of an area where we have common interests in reducing the nuclear weapons and making the strategic relationship between our two countries more stable, making the world a safer place, so we got on with that business as we’ve gotten on with other important bilateral business, setting up a bilateral, binational presidential commission to deepen and thicken the relationship in 16 different areas, agreeing on Afghanistan lethal transit which has now led to more than 100 flights across Russian airspace to diversify our supply routes to Afghanistan. So we feel there are a number of ways in which this relationship is more productive, more practical, and frankly, we believe that the tone of the relationship is much better and the trust between the two sides is growing, and all of that again is reflected in our ability to reach this very difficult and very important treaty, all while standing firmly behind our principles and our friends.

So with that, I will stop. Again, I’m happy to take your questions not just about START and the relationship with Russia, but on some of the other subjects that may be of interest and that may have been discussed at this Brussels forum.

Thank you.

Question: Agence France-Presse.

I just want to understand, why was it so difficult to reduce [inaudible], such a [inaudible]? And considering that the [inaudible] you still have mothballed thousands of older nuclear weapons like the Russian Federation. What happens to all those thousands of weapons that are being stored? And is it also in this accord that it should be reduced or destroyed?

Assistant Secretary Gordon: Sorry, let me just clarify the last part of your question. What happened to what?

Question: The mothballed, all those things which have been stored by your country and Russia. Thousands mothballed, the ones you have underground, targeting some [inaudible] somewhere. So what [inaudible] is it? I think a provision about those weapons.

Assistant Secretary Gordon: I’m not really sure what you’re referring to in terms of mothballed or stored weapons. The treaty is very specific about what it is reducing. It is reducing deployed strategic warheads to a limit of 1550 which is about a third less than was in the 2002 Moscow Treaty. So it is clear, everybody knows how many deployed strategic warheads we both have that are actually on missiles or ships, and this agreement caps that limit 30 percent below.

There is also an agreement on launchers that reduces the numbers by some 50 percent, and a distinction is made between deployed missiles and non-deployed, but there’s not, the focus of the agreement is on deployed launchers. That, as I say, is a reduction of some 50 percent.

A further round of nuclear arms talks, we hope, will address further questions of non-deployed nuclear weapons.

I guess in some ways I’m saying one thing at a time. This was a negotiation about offensive nuclear weapons, primarily deployed, and that’s what we had success in negotiating.

Question: [Inaudible].

Why won’t the new START agreement reflect on talks in tactical nuclear weapons that have taken place, or don’t think about at the same, for example, in connection with drafting NATO’s new strategic concept and how might it reflect also on the Nuclear Posture Review which does or may take into account non-deployed strategic weapons?

Assistant Secretary Gordon: You raise three important but largely separate things.

As I said, this negotiation was about reducing strategic offensive nuclear weapons. Various people at times had ideas of incorporating other issues into this negotiation, whether it be tactical nuclear weapons or missile defenses, but we made clear and it was important for us to focus on what we thought we could get done in this context, which was the important thing to get done, which was limiting strategic offensive nuclear weapons.

There is a separate question about tactical nuclear weapons that at some point will need to be addressed, but we deliberately kept that out of this negotiation. As I say, we don’t expect this to be the last nuclear negotiation between us and Russia or us and others around the world. Indeed, we hope that by demonstrating our ability to work practically and reach an agreement in this area, it will have a positive impact on our ability to address some of the other issues that you raise. So that could well be for a follow-up round.

As for NATO and the strategic concept and the issue of tactical nuclear weapons, on that I can only say that this is an issue that needs to be decided by the alliance as a whole, and we will look forward to engaging in this discussion with all of our allies.

Question: Nick Paransa, French Technology International.

First the technical question. Are missile launching submarines named in any way in the treaty? Or how are they actually handled?

The second question, you were referring about going down, further reductions. How far down could the U.S. go without having to abandon the triad and also reach the point where theoretically missile defense, well, as I said, [inaudible] for the Russians where missile defense would actually threaten the nuclear force.

Assistant Secretary Gordon: Submarines are included. In terms of the limits on launchers, it refers to sea-based and land-based. So submarines count where launches are concerned, so it does definitely take that into account.

On the triad, I couldn’t give you exact numbers after which it would be impossible to maintain a triad. What I can tell you is that maintaining the triad was important to us. Going into the negotiation the President, the Joint Chiefs, the Defense Department felt that was an important consideration and we weren’t going to go to numbers that would limit our ability to maintain the triad, so this agreement allows us to maintain it.

Question: What about further reductions past that amount?

Assistant Secretary Gordon: Further reductions past that, we’ll have to look at that in the next round. What was, the negotiated mandate that we were not going to go to numbers in this round. We felt that maintaining the triad was an important thing for U.S. national security and weren’t going to push for an agreement that would eliminate the triad, and this is entirely consistent with that desire.

As for missile defenses, I also don’t have a specific answer to that question. What we know and have said is that this agreement, missile defense is not relevant to this agreement. When an agreement will leave both sides with more than a thousand nuclear warheads, neither of us have or are in the process of developing missiles defenses that would threaten such an arsenal. So President Obama has said yes, there may be a future day where missile defense and offensive nuclear weapons are going to have to be looked at, but clearly, our missile defenses are not relevant to this agreement because our missile defenses in no way will threaten Russia’s capabilities, certainly at these numbers.

Question: [Inaudible] from Pravda Newspaper.

Sir, there is a new strategic concept of NATO and the consideration and several countries, all the Baltic countries, consider Russia as a threat. From your point of view, a strategic concept should Russia feel as a threat? [Inaudible] and so on?

Assistant Secretary Gordon: No, I don’t think that NATO needs to see Russia as a threat. I think that what is important is that NATO’s Article 5 has provided reassurance to NATO members for decades or for the newer members less time, and that has been important in reassuring them and making them feel more secure and allowing them not to have to invest more than they otherwise would in their defenses. So we think it’s important to maintain Article 5 as a core commitment, but it’s not directed at a particular country or directed at Russia. As I began by saying, we are in the process of improving our relationship with Russia and we would like to get to a place where there is trust and confidence and the prospect of conflict between Russia and NATO members is really not even conceivable.

Question: So that agreed there should be no mention about Russian threats in the strategic concept?

Assistant Secretary Gordon: I don’t think NATO sees Russia as a threat, that’s right.

Question: [Inaudible] Middle East and [inaudible] Kuwait News Agency [inaudible].

Sir, as you know, the situation is very tense after yesterday’s fighting in Gaza. Do you have any some [inaudible] the situation. What do you think the U.S. and Europe can do to relaunch the peace process? Thank you.

Assistant Secretary Gordon: Well it’s obviously a very complicated and challenging issue.

Secretary Clinton was in Moscow last week to meet with her quartet counterparts including the EU, including the UN and Russia, precisely to coordinate international policies towards this issue which is of great importance to the United States and great importance to the other.

I’d refer you to the quartet’s statement which really addresses the way we are approaching it and underscores the degree to which I think there is international consensus, both on the importance of the issue and on the way forward. We’re going to, as difficult as it is and remains, we’re going to stay engaged because it’s of such fundamental interest to the United States.

Question: [Inaudible].

About the conditions of the U.S. on the nuclear weapons, do you have any idea no first use or sole use being would be included in the Nuclear Posture Review? And secondly the Japanese government is going to propose no use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon powers. What is your opinion on that? Thank you very much.

Assistant Secretary Gordon: Thank you.

I’m not going to foreshadow the outcome of the Nuclear Posture Review which hasn’t been concluded and announced yet, so I really can’t say anything about what it will say. I can say that in the past the United States has not adopted a policy of no first use, but I’ll ask you to wait until the Nuclear Posture Review is concluded before we can talk about what it will say.

Question: [Inaudible] Press.

How do you feel about the approaching of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the NATO? What do you think? Is it foreseeable that Bosnia gets MAP any time soon?

Assistant Secretary Gordon: As you know, Bosnia-Herzegovina has expressed its interest in a MAP, a Membership Action Plan. I think NATO addressed this issue at the December ministerial in Brussels. What NATO said is that it is extending the Membership Action Plan to Bosnia when Bosnia has undertaken required political reforms. So I think that answers the question. NATO does want to see Bosnia get a MAP. I think Secretary General Rasmussen when he was in the Balkans said it’s not a question of if, but when. There has already been a NATO consensus that MAP should be extended to Bosnia, but NATO also made clear that Bosnia needed to meet requisite, make the requisite political reforms in order to do so. So I think that’s a pretty clear statement of where NATO is on the issue.

I just want to say overall from the U.S. point of view, we want to see Bosnia moving in that direction. We want to see Bosnia become a member of Western institutions, the EU and NATO, and we stand by Bosnia, we’ll do all we can to help it move in that direction, but that’s going to require some work by Bosnian leaders as well.

Question: Dan [inaudible], [Inaudible].

This is a follow-up, really. After the failure to resolve the [inaudible] to Bosnian constitution [inaudible] effort, [inaudible] new ideas [inaudible] because America is involved in trying to resolve [inaudible]?

Assistant Secretary Gordon: Yeah, we’re going to stay involved. The Butmir effort remains on the table in the sense that we continue to encourage the Bosnian leaders to look at ways to satisfy the PIC conditions and objectives and to implement constitutional reform that could put it on the track and the path towards EU membership. So it is true that they weren’t in past months able to do that, but the effort doesn’t end. We’ll continue to work with Bosnia’s leaders to help it get to the point where it can be on the path to these Western institutions. We’re going to stay engaged now and through the elections and after the elections because that’s where we want to see Bosnia end up.

Thank you all.

[This is a mobile copy of Press Availability at Brussels Forum 2010]