- Joseph Cirincione, President, Ploughshares Fund
- Mikhail Margelov, Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee, The Federation Council of Russia
- Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chairman, Subcommittee on European Affairs, U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
- Sergey Kislyak, Ambassador of Russia to the United States
JOSEPH CIRINCIONE: My name is Joe Cirincione. I’m president of Ploughshares Fund and it’s my pleasure to moderate this last senatorial panel. And it’s going to be asked – we’re going to take a look at some of the questions that are right upfront: What are the chances that the respective legislative bodies will actually ratify this important agreement?
Let me briefly introduce our two speakers. Mikhail Margelov is chairman of the committee on foreign affairs of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation. He’s also chairman of the European democratic group of the parliamentary assemble of the Council of Europe and he’s also the Russian chairman of the new international disarmament campaign, Global Zero. Before becoming a distinguished political figure in Russia, he was a public relations expert and has worked both for Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin in those roles.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is newly elected to the Senate. She was elected during the election cycle of 2008. And a very interested fact that I didn’t know, although many men have been governors and then elected senator, Sen. Shaheen is the first woman in U.S. history to be elected a governor and then go on to be elected a United States senator; the first woman elected governor of New Hampshire, the first woman elected senator from New Hampshire. She’s a former teacher in that state. I’m happy to say that I have a geographic connection – I was married in Nashua, New Hampshire, 32 years ago.
SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): Ah, you’re almost a citizen, then!
MR. CIRINCIONE: (Chuckles.) I’m practically a constituent. My wife was just up there this weekend visiting friends and family.
MR. : They don’t pay any taxes up there! (Laughter.)
MR. CIRINCIONE: I should switch residency to New Hampshire. (Chuckles.) So I hope your Senate career lasts as long as my marriage. A former teacher, we’re just delighted that you could take the time to come with us today.
Let me get right to the point here. We want to know what the chances are that this treaty is going to be ratified by the U.S. Senate and by the Russian legislative body, the Russian senate and Duma that have to react on this.
And let me start first with you: What’s the mood back home? What’s the mood in Moscow about this treaty?
MIKHAIL MARGELOV: Sometimes I think that I really regret that the Russian parliament today is not more Supreme Soviet as it has been during the Soviet era – (laughter) – because I already heard some voices from the State Duma accusing me personally that I betrayed my motherland again and sold everything to American imperialists because I openly stated as well as my colleague in the State Duma, chairman of foreign affairs committee Konstantin Kosachev, that we support the idea of the ratification – as the two presidents put it “the simultaneous ratification.”
And I think that we already started the process even prior to receiving all the documents needed in both U.S. Senate and the Russian Duma and the Federation Council because as I understand hearings go on here on the Hill, we had a full week of intensive consultations of our colleagues in the U.S. Senate here about the ratification process.
And already, the discussion is going on in the Russian parliament. Our process is slightly different from the process of ratification here. We do it by two chambers: by the Duma, by the lower chamber and then by the Federation Council.
The recent agreement between two administrations to submit documents to the parliaments during the first decade of May, if that happens –
MR. CIRINCIONE: First week of May.
MR. MARGELOV: Decade. The first decade of May. Or, first two weeks of May. If that happens in time, if that happens on time, that will mean that foreign affairs committee of the State Duma will immediately start hearings and it may lead to the discussion on the draft law and we ratify it by a law, by a law.
So they may prepare draft law, I guess, sometime in June. Then, they will have three readings of that draft law in the State Duma. Then it comes to the floor. And if it is adopted, it goes to the Federation Council. Within 14 days, we have to consider the draft law and vote on it.
I do not foresee any problems for the Federation Council on voting in favor of that law on ratification but what I really foresee, I foresee a tough discussion, tough debate in the State Duma because honestly speaking, all the best experts on arms control are supporting the Communist faction and they have institutional memory. And the largest part of the Duma members, they do not know anything about the subject of arms control and arms reduction because it was totally out of our radar screen for the last, what, 10 years.
MR. CIRINCIONE: Let me ask you to explain that for me. So most of the arms control experts are supporting the Communist faction – one of the four parties in the Duma. What does that mean? What’s the Communist position on this treaty?
MR. MARGELOV: That means that almost all the retired generals who remember that a missile is a real baby – well, ideologically, they’re closer to my political opponents. And that means that they will be supporting, the Communist faction, the argument with serious analysis and with, well, reliable expertise which will –
MR. CIRINCIONE: Critical of the treaty.
MR. MARGELOV: Oh, yeah, of course, of course critical of the treaty, which will make the discussion for our colleagues in the State Duma much difficult. In the Federation Council, we are a more conservative chamber. Sometimes they say more responsible chamber. My Duma colleagues hate me for that.
SEN. SHAHEEN: We like that. (Laughter.)
MR. MARGELOV: And I seriously think that in the Federation Council, the decision will be – the positive decision will be taken with less efforts than in the State Duma.
MR. CIRINCIONE: Huh. Okay, let me pause you right there. Senator, tell me what the mood of your colleagues is so far. I know this is very recent news. It’s only been signed for a few weeks now, but what’s your sense of the ratification chances?
SEN. SHAHEEN: Well, let me first give a disclaimer that you mentioned in the beginning, which is that I just got elected in 2008 so I’m new to the Senate so I’m still learning, but not new to politics, certainly.
And I know it’s no secret to anybody here that the Senate has been very divided along partisan lines on many of the tough issues that we’ve tackled to date. Now, having said that, foreign policy has historically been a very bipartisan issue in the Senate.
And we have seen that with the leadership of Sen. Kerry at the Foreign Relations Committee and Sen. Lugar. They have worked very closely together. And they both have already come out and indicated their support for the treaty and their intent to have a thorough and thoughtful process in the Senate. The committee is expected to take up the treaty sometime before Memorial Day.
There are only 26 senators still serving now who were there for the ratification of the first START treaty. And it’s a bipartisan group. There are about eight – eight of them are Republican – or, were Republican at the time. We’ve had a couple switch parties – on both sides.
MR. MARGELOV: Sometimes it happens. (Chuckles.)
SEN. SHAHEEN: Yes. But the Senate has dealt with ratifying START treaties three times. And each of those three votes have been overwhelmingly bipartisan. So I’m hopeful that people appreciate that while the process will give us an opportunity to thoroughly examine what’s in the treaty, to raise difficult questions, that in the end, this will not be a partisan issue and shouldn’t be a partisan issue. This should be an effort to work together for what’s in the best interests of our constituents and of the United States.
And at the end of the day, I know that Chairman Margelov – and I had the opportunity to meet him last night so I know he has a great sense of humor – but this decision is going to be made ultimately based on what’s in the best interests of the United States and, from their perspective, what they believe is in the best interest of Russia.
MR. CIRINCIONE: Now, you’ve also noted elsewhere that of those 26 senators still remaining, all 26 of them voted in favor of the original START agreement –
SEN. SHAHEEN: That’s correct.
MR. CIRINCIONE: – and you point out these votes – START treaty: 93 to 6. START II: 87 to 4. The SORT treaty: 95 to 0.
I know it’s early but there’s basically two groups of people in Washington. There’s the people who care about the policy details and there’s the larger group that cares about the politics. Who’s going to win? What’s going to happen? We always want to get predictions of the future. What do you think? What’s your gut telling you about this START treaty? Can we get it ratified with 80-plus votes?
SEN. SHAHEEN: Well, I’m not going to give you odds on the votes – the vote count. But as I said, this is an area that has historically been very bipartisan. And look, we saw last week the nuclear summit here, the largest gathering of world leaders in America since the U.N. was founded. Everybody was here, I think, primarily because they understand that one of the greatest threats to all of us, to every civilized society, is that nuclear weapons will wind up in the hands of terrorists. And it’s important for us to begin to address this issue. And this is a first opportunity for Russia and the United States and we have truly been leaders in this area, as we all know, to say we appreciate the threat and we think it’s important for us to continue to voluntarily reduce the weapons that we have.
MR. CIRINCIONE: I’ll come to it, a few questions about the Senate, but you’ve written that what we need is in your Moscow Times op-ed from April 5: “If we are able to achieve a quick synchronous ratification of new START, it would be a tremendous victory for both sides and could pave the way for a string of new resets in our bilateral relations.” What do you mean by that? You think it’s actually possible to coordinate the nearly simultaneous ratification in Moscow and Washington?
MR. MARGELOV: Well, like it or not but two presidents agreed in Prague and here in Washington about the synchronicity of that process in the U.S. Senate and in the Russian parliament.
Why is it important for us, for the Russian domestic consumption, so to speak? Many of us remember the sad story of the START II treaty. It was ratified by the Russian parliament but was not ratified here. And it caused a kind of bitter feeling in the Russian political elite that the Americans are not serious.
Another important aspect is that we have chosen with the Obama administration the topic of arms reduction as the first step in the reset of our bilateral relations. If we really want to see the stage II of that reset, yes, we have to proceed forward simultaneously.
But honestly speaking – and I keep on saying that I’m sick and tired of resetting our bilateral relations every four or every eight years – I would be really happy to see the normal, ongoing, stable, pragmatic relations between the two of our countries without any resets anymore. And I am not the only one who wants to see that, so we have to do it. We have to deliver.
And then, doing the ratification both here and in Moscow, we will send a very important signal to so-called third countries that the START III agreement is not just an agreement between two governments, between two cabinets, between two presidents but it is supported by the public. That’s it.
MR. CIRINCIONE: Yes. Sen. Shaheen, you chair the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee subcommittee on Europe. Has your subcommittee talked about the importance of this treaty even informally – I know there haven’t been formal hearings yet – in the U.S.-Russian relations and the impact on Europe?
SEN. SHAHEEN: Well, we haven’t done any hearings on it yet but there has been an effort really ongoing. I chaired Rose Gottemoeller’s hearing last year when she was appointed to head up the negotiating team for the United States. There have been briefings periodically by the negotiating team for not just members of the foreign relations committee but for other senators. There is a national security working group that is headed by Sen. Kyl that has sponsored those.
I think you mentioned some of the discussions you’ve had in the last week since you’ve been here in Washington with the interparliamentary group that is appointed to work on. It’s headed by Jud Gregg who’s from New Hampshire and Ben Nelson to work on issues of mutual concern between Russia and the United States. And you’ve had some good discussions, I understand.
MR. MARGELOV: Oh, yeah.
SEN. SHAHEEN: So there have been ongoing efforts to keep people up to date on what’s going on and I think if we can think about other ways that we can continue to communicate as we go through this process that that will be helpful for both the Senate and the Federation Council and the Duma.
MR. CIRINCIONE: Can you tell us a little – go ahead.
MR. MARGELOV: If I may add to that a very important thing, the message which we were trying to bring to our American counterparts was very simple: We did not want to impose anything on you with that idea of synchronized ratification.
What we want, we want just the cooperation and coordination on the practical level. The political decisions are on our side and on your side and no one may interfere in the political decisions. But the technicalities of course we will do together.
MR. CIRINCIONE: We’ll open it up for questions in just a second. Tell us just a little bit about your conversations on Capitol Hill – was it yesterday? – and what your sense is of some of the senators’ concerns.
MR. MARGELOV: Well, we met with, I guess, almost 10 or 12 senators and about five or six members of the House.
MR. CIRINCIONE: You can tell this guy used to be in public relations. Very nice, very nice.
MR. MARGELOV: And not revealing any secrets, I will tell you that what I like is that our American counterparts listen to our arguments; listen to our arguments very attentively. And I think we were heard.
MR. CIRINCIONE: Okay! (Laughter.) That’s mysterious enough. Let’s open it right up for questions. We have someone in the aisle.
SEN. SHAHEEN: Not just a PR person but a politician, too. (Laughter.)
Q: Thank you very much for being here. My name is Dick Rock (sp). I’m a former U.S. arms control inspector. And so I’m thinking the documents that I used were about 8 inches thick to do verification inspections and I’ve taken a look at the protocol – the technical protocol – and it’s a lot less than that. And so I’m just wondering what kinds of questions might you ask with respect to verification provisions of the new START treaty and are they going to be enough?
SEN. SHAHEEN: I would actually reverse that question on you as the expert who has done this. What kinds of questions do you think we should be asking about because one of the things that we’re talking about in terms of the treaty is that it does address verification in a way that’s important? So if you have – I’d be interested in hearing your concerns.
MR. CIRINCIONE: Go ahead. Give the man a microphone again? Thank you very much.
MR. MARGELOV: And may I support my colleague saying that for us, as for the legislators, what is important is to hear the point of view of experts. We are not experts on the verification process. We rely upon the assumptions which you give to us.
MR. CIRINCIONE: So could you tell us briefly what you would say in three hours of hearings? (Laughter.)
Q: All I would say is when I was in the business – and I don’t want to be continued to be a START expert because my license has been expired for many years. However, I would say that “trust, but verify” was very, very important throughout the START I ratification hearing process. And I think those same kinds of questions – how can we prove this is going to happen; do we have enough people on the ground; do we have enough transparency; can we count the number of warheads; do we have enough experts on the team who can look for these kinds of things. There’s a whole bevy of questions that would come forth, I would think, and something to consider.
MR. CIRINCIONE: Great. Thank you.
SEN. SHAHEEN: Thank you.
MR. CIRINCIONE: The gentleman behind you had a question as well. No? Next question? Go ahead.
Q: Hi, this is Richard Solash from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. My question was about the public in both the United States and Russia. We’re speaking a lot about the political will that is needed to have START ratified in both countries but what is your sense of the public’s reaction to the replacement to START? How much are people even aware of what it means and how much do people broaden it out to a sign of warmer relations between the U.S. and Russia?
SEN. SHAHEEN: You know, there was a recent poll – I can’t remember if it was Harris or Gallup – that showed that 70 percent of Americans support ratification of the START treaty. I think there is a general appreciation that – at least from constituents that I talk to – that nuclear weapons are a huge threat, nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists are an even worse threat; that we do live in an interconnected global society today.
I mean, the recent volcanic eruption in – we were having this conversation yesterday that Chairman Margelov and his colleagues might be stuck here for a while unless the volcanic cloud cleared. I mean, if you need any more evidence of how interconnected we all are, that should be a wake-up call. So I think people understand that, understand the need to work closely together in areas of mutual interest. And I think for most Americans, the Cold War is over and the thought is to look at how we can cooperate when it’s in our interests but still maintain the weapons that we need to defend America. And I think there’s nothing in the treaty that would call that into question.
MR. CIRINCIONE: And, Senator, you see this threat – nuclear-reduction treaty – as connected to efforts to stop nuclear terrorism and new nuclear states.
SEN. SHAHEEN: Well, I do. I think it’s for most Americans that they see the effort to reduce nuclear weapons, to deal with nuclear know-how and materials as part of the same challenge. And the need to reduce that threat also reduces hopefully the potential for terrorists to get a hold of nuclear weapons.
MR. CIRINCIONE: And you do – you as well?
MR. MARGELOV: Well, I also share that vision. But responding to your question, I would like to say that if I try to think about that question from historic perspective, the Soviet and the Russian out in the public has always been supportive to the idea of nuclear arms reduction. The Soviet Union was coming up with peace initiatives and in the Russian Federation, in the political class and in public, there is a kind of institutional memory of coming up with new peace initiatives.
But what is also important is that for the public in Russia today, particularly after two terrible terrorist attacks on Moscow metro, it’s quite understandable that real threat comes not from American warheads but from bad guys.
MR. CIRINCIONE: Thank you. Hands are proliferating. Right there, yes, sir. Take the microphone please and introduce yourself.
Q: Bernard Gordon, University of New Hampshire. Good to –
MR. CIRINCIONE: A-ha, a plant!
Q: – see you, Senator.
SEN. SHAHEEN: I knew nothing. (Laughter.)
Q: Jeanne did not know I’d be here. My question really is to both of you, to Chairman Margelov and to Sen. Shaheen. Much of the underlying doubt about the treaty draft has been expressed by people associated with Sen. Kyl. And there’s a suspicion that’s been circulating that the issue will be insufficient attention to maintaining modernization of the weapons and of the ingredients that are involved in the weapons.
So my question really is, first to Sen. Shaheen, is that view a growing problem? And to Chairman Margelov, is there anything equivalent to those kinds of concerns on the Russian side with the fear that there’s a hidden problem of lack of modernization?
SEN. SHAHEEN: Well, I think it’s not clear yet how big an issue that will be because the Senate is really just at the beginning of this debate. But I think people should feel reassured because the Obama administration has already said they are committed to – they’re talking about spending $5 billion in the next five years for modernization.
MR. CIRINCIONE: An increase of 5 billion.
SEN. SHAHEEN: That’s right. It’s not an issue that is addressed by the treaty. So I think that should not be an obstacle for people in supporting the ratification of the treaty.
MR. CIRINCIONE: Do you have that kind of debate in Moscow?
MR. MARGELOV: Yes, actually. We had a kind of tough debate on that issue in Moscow prior to the signing of the treaty. One of the good things about preparing the text of the treaty, to my mind, is Sen. Kyl and Sen. Feinstein from the U.S. side and Sen. Zasohov (ph) and Sen. Ozerov from the Russian side, visited to negotiators team in Geneva and were involved in the discussion. I think it was a very positive thing for the inter-parliamentary discussion about the treaty. My colleagues felt involved in the process and it was a very important signal, to my mind, from two administrations – from Obama administration and from Medvedev’s administration.
But as for the concerns which you are talking about, I think that even the most conservative Russian retired generals understand that the START III treaty does not prevent us from modernizing our nuclear arsenal if we are capable to do that.
MR. CIRINCIONE: Okay, let’s take a couple of questions together now. Gentleman on the side right there? We have five minutes.
Q: Hi, my name is Lewis Madanick, I’m with the Open World Leadership Center at the Library of Congress. We’re talking about trying – this is a little off missiles and actual weaponry, but we were talking about trying to gain nuclear energy independence and there’s talk of a nuclear renaissance.
We’ve not talked about if the world’s capability to produce nuclear energy – isn’t it greatly increased due to the Obama administration has given the permit for a plant? That means there will be more fissile material to go around and since, I believe, 1976 and the Carter administration, the United States has not reprocessed fuel and we have a huge storage question here.
How are those issues resolved? I know that’s not particularly START issues but if there’s going to be more nuclear material in this world, how do we stop proliferation?
MR. CIRINCIONE: Thank you. Gentleman up front here, please?
Q: My name is Robert Beecroft, three-year veteran of the SALT II negotiations, where, among other things, the macabre humor between the delegations was that we would need to calculate how many times we could make the rubble bounce.
Now, we’re in a different world. What concerns me is that there is a whole generation of young people who really trivialize nuclear weapons, who know nothing about the impact of nuclear weapons. My question, and it’s a question for parliamentarians on both sides, is how can we engage young people to understand the threat of nuclear weapons and what they can do?
MR. CIRINCIONE: Comments? Energy – youth.
MR. MARGELOV: If I may start with the second question, about youth. One of the reasons why I’m co-chairing with Rick Burt the Global Zero Initiative is because my older son, who is almost 19 years old, does not understand anything about nuclear arms, about détente, about arms race, about things like that.
I think it’s important to educate the younger generation about that kind of threats which we grew up with. That is why, when I’m back in Moscow on Monday, I’m meeting with a large group of students of MGIMO, the Moscow Institute of International Affairs, who want to ask me questions about nuclear reduction and arms race and stuff like that. That’s why Sergey Rogov brought his students here to participate in the hearings on the Capitol Hill on ABM, on START III agreement and stuff like that. I fully share your concern.
And on energy, I think the answer is clear. The ball is on your side. We have 123 Agreement which has to be ratified here and we are ready to develop cooperation with the United States of America in the sphere of nuclear energy. Otherwise, it’s going to happen like it happened lately with the United Arab Emirates, who are purchasing the nuclear reactor from South Korea but neither from you nor from us. We are losing the market at this rate. (Laughter.)
MR. CIRINCIONE: Sen. Shaheen has to leave at noon sharp, which is in exactly two minutes.
SEN. SHAHEEN: We have about – so I’ll be quick.
MR. CIRINCIONE: You get the closing word.
SEN. SHAHEEN: I certainly agree with Sen. Margelov when it comes to a lack of understanding among young people about the nuclear arms race and what happened – the Cold War between the U.S. and the Soviets. But I do think they have a clear – a very clear understanding of the threat of terrorism and the potential for that to disrupt their world because most of these young people were at a very impressionable age on September 11th and you ask them what their impressions are of that period and they can tell you very clearly. So they understand the threat in our world and the importance of addressing that threat. So I’m quite optimistic that they are very engaged in this debate about how we’re going to address our future as a world.
On the issue of energy, I happen to believe we’ve got to move very dramatically to address climate change, that it’s not only an environmental issue, it’s in our interest because of national security and also, as you say, because of economic reasons, that we are – we need to be a leader again here in new technologies.
And one piece of that is going to be nuclear technology and that one of the things we’ve got to do and the Senate energy bill makes an investment in research into nuclear technologies that can help us deal with waste, that can look at how we do a better job at building nuclear plants, so I think that’s going to be a piece of what we do as we move toward an energy/climate bill in the Senate.
MR. CIRINCIONE: Thank you very much and please join me in thanking the chairman and the senator for a terrific discussion. (Applause.)
MR. MARGELOV: Thank you.
MR. CIRINCIONE: Thank you very much. You now exit stage right.
SEN. SHAHEEN: Thank you.
MR. CIRINCIONE: The Russian Federation ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. Thank you very much. I wanted to make sure I hit all those vowels. Thank you, sir. (Applause.)
You can take the podium right here.
AMBASSADOR SERGEY KISLYAK: Thank you very much. First of all, thank you for inviting me. Secondly, my apologies that I wasn’t able to be from the very outset so I missed a discussion that seemed to have proved to be very interesting and I am so delighted to see our lawmakers sitting and discussing how they will help the governments to make true on the promise to the people on the START reductions.
It’s a new time. One of the evidence is my delay for this meeting, because I was speaking to another audience today on basically the same issue. Carnegie Endowment had a conference on nuclear posture of the United States and they wanted to hear what the Russian Federation feels about it. We have that thick pile of invitations to address security issues between Russia and the United States.
Honestly, I feel like if I have become 20 years younger when I was working here as a consulate for political-military affairs. We got, each and every day, that thick a pile of invitations to speak on arms control. The difference being, at that time, we were managing hostile relations. The interest towards us, Russians, the Soviets at the time, and our views on nuclear arms control, was to better understand what is the threat.
Today, we are discussing arms control as a, I would say, increasingly as a way of management – managing nuclear potentials that we have inherited from the Cold War, but not as a part of instruments of our current relations. We have gotten out of the situation of the Cold War and I would submit that we see no reason, no basis, for the resurrection of the Cold War between two of us because, as market economies, you are – there are no ideological divides we share, mainly the same challenges throughout the world that we need to address together.
Most probably if we work on these challenges together, we have a slim chance to succeed. If we do it in parallel, this chance is much slower. If we do work on current challenges and current crises acting against each other, we are doomed to fail, both you and us. So I think that working together on the new challenges is very important and we are very much satisfied that during last year, at least, we see more and more willingness of the American counterparts to work with us on these issues as real partners.
We have a lot of things to contribute – we have worked on nonproliferation in the past, even in the days of the Cold War. But I do not (recline ?) the times when we were working on small and bigger issues as partners, designing steps, developing steps, helping the other countries to understand what can be done, be it on regional nonproliferation issues or developing a strategy for the nonproliferation conference, to ensure its success.
That’s a new feature. Even the negotiations between two of us, during this year of work in Geneva, were markedly different from what was the case 20 years ago. I remember at that time, as a young arms controller, it was so tense – not intense; it was intense, but it was tense, because we were trying to outsmart each other. We were trying to manage hostile relations.
Currently, our delegations sit together, I wouldn’t say as one because each of them would have to mind its own security interest, but the way the negotiations were conducted was quite, quite different. They were explaining what are their concerns, what are their reasons, what are the red lines, if you will, however, I hate this word, because not a single red line that was advanced in the beginning of negotiations held to the end.
But at the same time, it’s quite a different process of negotiating. I think it’s a good sign. I was asked today in the morning how the agreement that was reached would affect the process of reset of our relations. I would say that first of all, the agreement itself is the result of reset. Secondly, the agreement in itself and the negotiations was a process of making true on the commitment of now to reset the relations and most probably is the first tangible result already achieved.
But while working on it, we have given, I think, more dynamics to the resetting in other areas as well and I hope that in other areas, we will be working as intensely as on this one because currently, our relations are not and are not supposed to be limited only on managing nuclear relations. We have much more common interest.
And I would say that both presidents, President Medvedev and President Obama, agreed that we need to give START to the whole spectrum of our relations and they have agreed on establishing a joint commission, presidential commission, that already established 16 subcommittees, co-chaired by cabinet and sub-cabinet level on both sides, and that we see things developing pretty, pretty fast.
I would say that I was complaining to my friends that before the end of this month, we will have 23 Russian delegations in town. (Laughter.) The embassy is always strange: We do not work on tables, we do not read it – we work with delegations. But it’s a welcome change. It’s a welcome change because each and every delegation works on its own sector about bilateral relations.
In 15 minutes, I will have to run to meet the head of general staff of Russia, arriving here for the first meeting with Adm. Mullen in the newly established Joint Commission on Military Affairs, co-chaired by the CHODs of two countries. We are looking forward to that kind of conversation.
I am not naïve to expect that just by the matter of fact that we have established committees, relations will change immediately – it doesn’t work this way. It’s not like a light in a room – you switch on and everything goes on. It needs to be built day by day, small things and bigger things, and things are developing.
I heard the question about the verification and that thick file of instructions to verify each other in the previous agreement. This one is still thick, so verify WDI but verify is still there. But that’s also interesting – that’s a new feature. It’s smaller, however thick, and it relies heavily on the experience already achieved during 10 years of the implementation of START.
When we developed verification for the previous agreement, we all were working based on absolute lack of trust, lack of experience, lack of understanding as to how the inspectors will be treated on the other side. I would add to this, for the very first arms control agreement that provided for verification here in Magna and Salt Lake City, I then was a counselor for political-military affairs here at the embassy and you know what? I had never been there. I have never been given access to the Russian inspectors inspecting America’s facility in Salt Lake City. That was the Cold War.
Currently, we built verification based on understanding what is needed and I can assure you that for us, it is as important as it is for the United States to be sure that the treaty is fully complied with by the United States. But it’s built based on a wealth of experience, wealth of understanding as how do it work, already procedures tested and already known by two sides. So in a way, we didn’t reinvent bicycles and also reduced the amount of efforts that were result of the lack of trust in the beginning of the process and focusing on work that matters today – it’s another feature, a new feature in the arms control discussions that are developing today.
Many ask what’s next and it’s certainly a very good question to pose and we have heard what our American friends are saying. They want to go ahead with further deep reductions between two of us and I say always that we also share the goal of going to zero and our president is as committed as President Obama. But we also understand that it’s not a kind of overnight event and it has to take into account the wealth of security questions that do affect your thinking about deterrence.
Having ended the Cold War, we haven’t yet been able to go away from the deterrence – it’s still part of your strategic posture, it’s still part of our strategic posture. Whatever we do, even with the new character of the discussions and new willingness to work, it’s still limited by the framework of deterrence that “you keep a deterrent and we keep a deterrent as well.”
Sometimes I hear proposals that even tomorrow we can start reducing down to 1,000 or 500 to the level of the other nuclear-weapon countries – I would be very cautious about that. One has to move down and we will but also take into account other factors that make us or make you maintain the deterrence. You cannot just physically reduce numbers without due regard of the missions that these numbers have to accomplish.
We also need to be aware that while you’re reducing new numbers, you need to be sure that the other nuclear-weapon countries, one way or another, are a part of this process. You need to be sure that while you drastically reduce numbers, you need to be protected from appearance of new nuclear-weapon countries in the world.
You need also to remember that the lower you go with the numbers, the more important the ballistic missile defenses become. You also need to remember that if countries start to build offensive strategic weapons with conventional warheads, that they might be as provocative or as destabilizing as nuclear ones – even more so, because one country can decide to use it for purposes other than attacking, say, us, but it will be perceived by Russian early warning systems as one that is posing a threat. It’s something that is very, very difficult to deal with.
And by the way, this current treaty – there is no exception for nuclear strategic weapons with conventional warheads. If the United States decides to develop this, they will be counted as nuclear weapon systems because, as far as we are concerned, they are as provocative, as potentially destabilizing, as nuclear weapons.
So there is a wealth of issues that need to be dealt with and dealt with seriously if we are serious about commitment of our two presidents to go further with the reductions. We are willing to so and we very much welcome the new spirit of these discussions and newly reemerged interest in arms control as a tool of, I would say, currently not managing our hostile relations but in building stability on a cooperative basis. We have a long way to go before we are satisfied that we are fully in relations that are stable and not fragile as was the case in years before us.
So if there are any questions to me – you don’t allow me to answer questions? I accept it. (Laughter.)
MR. KEMPE: We’ve run out of time.
AMB. KISLYAK: But for the record, I was available to answer. (Laughter.) Thank you very much indeed. (Applause.)
MR. KEMPE: Ambassador Kislyak, we will have you back for your own time and event to answer questions. We’d very much like to – we know your expertise in this field and thank you for coming. This was a wonderful day, organized at short notice, timely. All I want to say on behalf of Sen. Hagel, our chairman, and the Atlantic Council is thank you for coming. Thank you to the speakers.
I thought what Rick Burt said was quite interesting, that he had participated in the end of an era in negotiations of arms control and this is the beginning of a new era of arms control. I will only say that what I heard today was also we don’t quite know yet what that era is going to be. But we certainly heard a lot of good indications of some important opportunities that lie in front of us. So thank you very much, all, for coming. (Applause.)