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Condoleeza Rice Briefs on Bush-Putin Meeting

Condoleeza Rice Briefs on Bush-Putin Meeting

Transcript: Condoleeza Rice Briefs on Bush-Putin Meeting in

Shanghai (Anti-terror cooperation, missile defense issues top agenda) (2940)

Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin of Russia met October 21 in Shanghai for talks that focused on their joint commitment to fighting terrorism, as well as their ongoing discussions on disarmament and missile defense, U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice told reporters.

Rice said that in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, Russia has been "forward-leaning" in terms of intelligence-sharing, offering to help with search-and-rescue missions, and providing political support. "We consider Russia a full partner in the coalition for the war on terrorism," she said.

For Bush, Russia's response to the September 11 events are evidence that efforts to launch a new phase in U.S.-Russia relations may be bearing fruit, Rice indicated. The president "stated categorically that he believes that the new relationship that he has been talking about since [his meeting with Putin] in Ljubljana is being realized," she said.

Regarding arms control, Bush told Putin that the United States is working to lower American offensive weapons to a level "more consistent with the realities of the 21st century and more consistent with the new needs of deterrence," Rice said.

Bush reaffirmed his desire to "move beyond" the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty "to something that is more representative of the new relationship with Russia," Rice said. Although the president has not set a deadline for the ABM issue, he believes that "this is a matter of some urgency" because of the need to explore technologies that will permit the building of "limited defenses."

Although she acknowledged that Putin does not share Bush's view, Rice pointed out that both presidents have signaled a willingness to continue their discussions on this issue. The two leaders will meet again in November, for talks in Washington, D.C., and then at Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. "They look forward to their next meeting," Rice said.

Pressed for more details, Rice said that officials are not looking for "any specific breakthrough at any given meeting," and that both leaders understand that the structuring of a new U.S.-Russia relationship "is going to take time."

In Shanghai, where Bush and Putin participated in the October 20-21 meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders, the two also had what Rice called "a very candid dialogue" about the importance of strengthening the independent media in Russia, and about the situation in Chechnya and Georgia. Bush emphasized that the war against terrorism should not be used as an excuse to repress minorities and that "it was extremely important to have political dialogue in places like Chechnya and to respect the territorial integrity of Georgia," Rice said.

Following is the White House transcript of the briefing:

(begin transcript)

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary (Shanghai, People's Republic of China) For Immediate Release October 21, 2001

PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR DR. CONDOLEEZZA RICE ON PRESIDENT'S MEETING WITH PRESIDENT PUTIN

Portman Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, People's Republic of China

9:23 P.M. (Local)

DR. RICE: Okay. I just want to make a couple of opening remarks, and then we'll have about 15 minutes for questions. And then I have to run -- because you know when the President is ready to go, the President is ready to go.

The talks just concluded with President Putin of Russia were excellent, very good talks. They had a one-on-one, or one-plus-one, for a short period of time. They were joined by the foreign ministers, and then did the press conference, and went, then, to an informal dinner with several members of the Russian and American delegations.

They confirmed their joint commitment to the anti-terrorist campaign. We particularly appreciate with the Russian Federation its very forward-leaning attitude on intelligence-sharing. The Russians, of course, have made offers of help with search and rescue; they have given political support. As the President said in his press conference, we consider Russia a full partner in the coalition for the war on terrorism.

The Presidents discussed the new strategic framework. The President again talked about the importance of moving beyond the ABM Treaty. He stated categorically that he believes that the new relationship that he has been talking about since their meeting in Ljubljana is being realized, as is evidenced by the way that Russia responded to the events of September 11th.

The President also told President Putin that the United States is working toward the fulfillment of his campaign promise and also the speech that he made at Fort McNair last spring, that promises to lower American offensive weapons to a level more consistent with the realities of the 21st century and more consistent with the new needs of deterrence.

The President again made clear his desire to move beyond the ABM Treaty to something that is more representative of the new relationship with Russia. President Putin understands this. He stated his position. But as both Presidents have said, we believe that we have a way forward to continue to work on this very important set of issues concerning the strategic relationship.

They reviewed economic relations and their satisfaction with the trips of Secretaries O'Neill and Evans and Trade Representative Zoellick to Moscow and the business dialogue that was launched at Geneva. The President again reiterated his support for Russian accession to the WTO, once Russia is able to meet the terms that are necessary to be a functioning member of that organization.

Finally, they did have a very candid dialogue about some difficult issues -- about nonproliferation, about the importance of strengthening the independent media in Russia. And they talked about Chechnya and about Georgia, the President saying again that the war on terrorism is extremely important; any responsible political leadership today in the world has got to distance itself from international terrorism, but noting that this should not be used as an excuse to repress minorities and that it was extremely important to have political dialogue in places like Chechnya and to respect the territorial integrity of Georgia.

They look forward to their next meeting, which will be in Washington and Crawford.

So, I'll take questions.

Q: Dr. Rice, if you're hoping to have an agreement by Crawford, why weren't any numbers given to the Russians? How low are you prepared to go, and what did you tell them about that today, given that there were no numbers?

DR. RICE: First of all, we are continuing to work on this issue, and they're going to work at it at Washington-Crawford. They're going to work at it beyond Washington-Crawford. We're not looking for any specific breakthrough at any given meeting. I think we said very early on that the structuring of a new relationship is going to take time. And they see these meetings as a series of opportunities to just keep advancing the ball.

In terms of the number, or numbers or levels, the President said that he would be getting back to President Putin soon. The review is not quite finished, but the President has made very clear that he considers this an important goal.

Q: Dr. Rice, we often look through subtle shifts in wordings. In Ljubljana, President Putin said the ABM Treaty was a cornerstone. Tonight he described it as an important element of stability in the world. Do you deduce from that any particular shift or any particular opening, or do you have any optimism about the way he's now describing the ABM as compared to the way he did in Ljubljana?

DR. RICE: Well, I don't want to try to parse the words of the Russian President. I don't think that would be fair to him. He's been very clear that he both believes that there is still importance to the ABM Treaty and that he believes a new relationship with the United States is important. And I think we do believe that, slowly, but surely, we are coming together to a better understanding of how the two sides view strategic stability, how the two sides see the important elements of a new strategic framework. That's what this has all been about. So we do believe we're moving forward.

We moved forward, for instance, at Genoa with putting both offense and defenses on the table. So, in fact, yes, we've been moving forward. But I don't want to get into the business of trying to parse his language.

Q: Well, if I may follow up, do you see any qualitative difference in the two phrases?

DR. RICE: Again, I'm not going to try to parse the Russian President's language. I think we are moving forward.

Q: I'm not asking you to interpret what he meant, I'm asking what you thought -- what you interpreted --

DR. RICE: I think we're moving forward. I think that we've been moving forward now, step by step, since Ljubljana. But I would caution on trying to put too much weight on one term or another. I do think that we're moving in a direction that is going to get us to a framework that -- ultimately to a framework that's more representative of the kind of relationship that we now have.

Q: Condi, as you were preparing the President for the meeting today, was there a talking point in his papers that called for an announcement of withdrawal from the treaty by the end of the year? And if so, did he deliver that?

DR. RICE: The President did not talk about a deadline with President Putin. The President has made clear from the very beginning that he thought it was time to move beyond the ABM Treaty. He said that this is a matter of some urgency because he believes that the important thing is to begin to explore the technologies that will allow us to get to the place that we can build limited defenses. And he's made very clear that he wants to move in that direction. But he did not deliver a deadline.

Q: Was it ever in his talking points?

DR. RICE: He did not deliver a deadline.

Q: Have they set a date for their meeting in the United States next month?

DR. RICE: Judy, the date I will have to get to you. Do we have a date? The 12th through 14th, I believe, are the dates. But you want to check that.

Q: If the President wants to get beyond the ABM, does that mean he want to scrap it or revise it?

DR. RICE: I think the President has made clear that he believes the ABM Treaty is outmoded -- he said it again tonight -- that he thinks that there are better arrangements that we could have with the Russians. The ABM Treaty not only restricts our capability to test and develop missile defenses, but it, of course, is representative of an entirely different era, an entirely different relationship with another country, for that matter. So he clearly doesn't believe that it's representative of the relationship and that it has a place in the relationship with the Russians. But we're working with the Russians to try to move forward.

Q: Dr. Rice, you said that the President didn't give President Putin any deadline. Does the administration still have a timetable for dealing with the ABM Treaty? I thought you had indicated earlier on, the administration had, that by the end of the year you needed some relief from the treaty, either withdrawal or a modification that would allow testing to go ahead.

DR. RICE: What we've indicated is that we have been -- that we are not going to permit a program of testing and development to be constrained by a treaty that we think is outmoded. We think the important thing here is to move forward with some urgency to really begin to explore and to have a robust testing and evaluation program.

We've made clear that we think prior testing and evaluation programs have been made to be treaty-compliant, and that we don't intend to do that in the future. But, again, we're working toward this and the President has made very clear that he thinks that it's going to be time to move on fairly soon.

Q: So, just to follow up, there is no longer a timetable that calls for changes to the treaty by the end of the year?

DR. RICE: The President has always said -- and he has not changed his position -- the President has always said that he believes there is some urgency to moving beyond the ABM Treaty because he does not intend to allow the testing and evaluation program of the United States to be constrained by the treaty. That position has not changed since Ljubljana, and it did not change tonight.

Q: -- significant is President Putin's continued strong support for the military operations in Afghanistan -- he's going to stop in one of the former Soviet republics on the way back. Is he on any sort of a mission to advance that cause there?

DR. RICE: President Putin?

Q: Right.

DR. RICE: President Putin is a stalwart partner in this relationship. They did talk some about the desire for a broad-based representative postwar government in Afghanistan that could represent the many different ethnic interests there. The Russians made very clear that they believed that it had to be broad-based, in fact, that one of the mistakes of the past had been to not recognize the truly multiethnic character of Afghanistan. So I suspect that when President Putin makes these stops along the way that he'll be carrying that message.

He's been very helpful. Of course, the Central Asian countries are independent countries, they're no longer members of the Soviet Union. But the Russians have been supportive of our dialogue with those independent countries, as well.

Q: Was the issue of the length of the military campaign addressed in the meeting?

DR. RICE: I think that President Putin has made very clear when he talked to President Bush that he understands the importance of this mission, and that the key is to finish the mission.

Everybody would like to see this campaign end. But it's not going to end until the goals have been achieved. And the goals are to root out al Qaeda and render it incapable of carrying on its murderous campaigns. It's to make certain that the Taliban, which has supported al Qaeda, is not capable of using the territory of Afghanistan any longer to harbor terrorists. And it is to send a very strong signal to any state that harbors terrorism that it's not a growth industry, it's not a good place to be. And so I think that until those elements are in place, this campaign has to continue, and I think President Putin understands that.

Q: Condi, if by the summit in November there is an agreed upon reduction of offensive weapons, would the President then be more comfortable in being specific about a date to withdraw from the ABM Treaty? Would that fall under the timetable you said just a minute ago, by saying it will be time to move on fairly soon?

DR. RICE: Well, David, again, nothing has changed here. And there are a lot of different elements that are coming into play in putting together new strategic framework. And I think that when you're talking about revising a relationship that was as fundamentally hostile as the one between the United States and the Soviet Union and getting the one that's now U.S.-Russia, and that represents the new era, it's not surprising that it is taking some time.

The offensive arms reductions is something that the President feels very strongly about because he feels, not just because of the issues concerning defense, but because he feels it makes sense for America's nuclear forces to be at a level consistent with our true deterrent needs. So that's on a track. He's also concerned that we not do anything to constrain our ability to robustly test and evaluate our options on missile defense. So these are all moving along. Yes, there is an offense-defense link, but not in the sense that there was an old offense-defense link of a certain number of weapons that leads to a certain kind of ballistic missile defense. That's not the point.

The President's made clear that the new strategic framework should have, on their own merits, lower offensive numbers, room for the development of limited defenses and strong non-proliferation efforts. And that's what they're doing.

Q: I don't mean to belabor the point, but is it the President's feeling that by setting a date certain, he might, in effect, do something to set back the relationship, because it might corner President Putin a little bit when he doesn't want that to happen?

DR. RICE: The President has been very clear about this from the very beginning, and he hasn't changed his view. The driving force here is not some artificial idea of a deadline. The driving force here is that the President believes that we are going to need to move beyond this treaty because we have to have a robust testing and evaluation program, and because it's not representative of the relationship that we have with the Russians and are building with the Russians. But I think he's been very clear about this since Ljubljana, and that hasn't changed.

Thank you very much.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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