Thanks for participating in this press conference. I’ll say a few words about the upcoming event the day after tomorrow. On April 8, in Prague, Russian and US Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama will sign a Treaty between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on Measures to Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. This document will replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the USSR and the USA, which expired on December 4 last year. With the entry into force of the new Treaty the Russian-US Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions of May 24, 2002 will cease to have effect. The parties have long since fulfilled, even over-fulfilled their obligations under the two previous treaties.
The preparation of a new document started long ago. As early as the autumn of 2005, the Russian side invited the American side to begin to prepare a new treaty, but preliminary consultations with the George Bush administration at the time showed that the American partners were not ready for substantive work on the basis of equality and mutual consideration of interest.
We moved off dead center after the change of administration in the United States. At the meeting of President Medvedev and President Obama in London on April 1, 2009, it was decided to start negotiations for a new full-blown bilateral treaty on strategic offensive arms. The President of Russia approved an interagency delegation to the talks. It worked on the basis of his directives and instructions. The documents were also drafted in an interagency format. The Russian President personally monitored the talks, and repeatedly became directly involved in dealing with the most complicated issues, in particular during his regular meetings and telephone calls with the US President. About fifteen such contacts took place.
The Russian delegation’s stance at the talks rested on a carefully verified analysis of the real situation in the nuclear arms sphere and on the objective strategic requirements and possibilities of our state. The decision of any question was preceded by an expert study in the interagency format. We invariably held that the principle of equal and indivisible security of the sides is the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament. On this basis, we were working to conclude an agreement which, with an agreed lowering of the upper limits for strategic offensive arms, would strengthen the security of Russia and global strategic stability and would ensure the sustainability of our relations with the United States.
When working on the Treaty, we consistently sought to ensure that all of its provisions were articulated strictly on a parity basis. Any agreement in the field of disarmament, especially such an important one as the new full-blown SOA treaty, is based on a complex set of interrelated trade-offs generated by delegations during the negotiations. Therefore, the most important thing is to maintain a balance of interests which actually define the concept “strategic stability.” We believe that we succeeded, and that everyone will benefit from this predictability.
The Treaty stipulates that Russia and the United States reduce and limit their strategic offensive arms in such a way that within seven years from the date the Treaty enters into force the total amount for each side must not exceed, firstly, 700 units for deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers; secondly, 1550 units for warheads attributed to them; and thirdly, 800 units for deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers, and heavy bombers. Under the new Treaty the total number of warheads will be reduced by a third and the threshold level for strategic delivery systems will be lowered by more than two times. Moscow and Washington have thus confirmed their leadership in questions of disarmament and clearly demonstrate our common commitment to the obligations under Article 6 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Unlike the old START Treaty, the new Treaty allows the parties to determine the composition and structure of their strategic offensive arms independently. Furthermore, a similar regime is applicable to all SOA of any type alike, excluding special verification measures for particular systems. This ensures parity and equality between the parties, and also reflects the new level of trust between Moscow and Washington. The new Treaty covers all existing strategic offensive arms, regardless of their equipment – nuclear or non-nuclear. Conventional non-nuclear warheads are included in the limits for warheads, under the Treaty, and their delivery systems in overall levels of delivery vehicles. This agreement will serve as a starting point for further dialogue on the impact of conventionally tipped ICBMs and SLBMs on strategic stability. This is of fundamental importance because we believe conventionally armed strategic offensive arms to be destabilizing. The verification mechanism of the new Treaty is greatly simplified, this enabling reducing the cost of monitoring activities and significantly diminishing the burden on inspected facilities. Simplified are the procedures for conversion and elimination of strategic offensive arms, along with provisions relating to information exchange; the nomenclature of notifications is significantly reduced. The new Treaty contains no restrictions the monitoring of which would require the use of telemetry data. Nevertheless, we agreed to harmonize the procedure for exchange of telemetry data, based on the need for more transparency and predictability of the actions of the parties; moreover, each party decides for itself the nature of the telemetry data for transmission to the partner.
Unlike all previous agreements on the reduction of strategic offensive arms, the new Treaty is concluded when there are no international legal constraints on the development of strategic missile defense systems. You know that in 2002 the former US administration unilaterally withdrew from the ABM Treaty of 1972. In preparing the Treaty it was impossible to ignore the inextricable relationship between strategic offensive and defensive arms and the increasing importance of this relationship in the process of reducing strategic offensive arms. The relationship is clearly stated in the Treaty itself; that is, in a legally binding form. In addition, the parties’ obligation is laid down not to convert and not to use ICBM launchers and SLBM launchers to contain antimissiles, and vice versa. The parties also agreed to discuss the distinguishing characteristics of antimissiles from ICBMs and SLBMs, and of launchers of antimissiles from launchers of ballistic missiles. We are certain that this will increase the transparency of the programs in the area of strategic missile defense.
It is laid down that the Treaty is concluded in conditions of the parties’ existing levels of strategic defensive systems. In case of a change of these levels each party reserves the right to decide the question of its future participation in the process of reducing strategic offensive arms. The Russian Federation, in particular, will be entitled to withdraw from the Treaty if the quantitative and qualitative capacity building for US strategic missile defense begins to have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the Russian strategic nuclear forces. Of course, we ourselves will determine the extent of such influence. This will be especially specified in the statement of the Russian Federation, which will be part of the package to the Treaty, and in the response statement of the United States. Our clearly defined position will be taken into consideration.
By and large, the new agreement marks a transition to a higher level of interaction between Russia and the United States in disarmament and nonproliferation; the foundation is being laid for qualitatively new relations in the military-strategic area, as well as in the promotion of mutual and global security. The Treaty creates additional opportunities for continued development of the bilateral partnership of Russia and the United States. It is also important that the signing of the Treaty precedes the upcoming Summit on Nuclear Security and the Eighth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, to be held in April and May respectively.
Undoubtedly, the signing of the Treaty will be beneficial for strengthening the nonproliferation regime, and for expanding the nuclear disarmament process, including the creation of conditions to impart a multilateral character to it over the long run. We call upon all states without exception, especially those that have nuclear arsenals, to join the efforts of Russia and the United States in this area and to contribute actively to the process of disarmament. In conclusion I will note that the Treaty is the first of its kind, which is absolutely equal in both letter and spirit. Parity is ensured in all its components without exception, from the principles underlying its philosophy to the quantification, monitoring, verification, and other procedures.
Question : Now in the US and other countries the idea of a “global nuclear zero” is being actively discussed. How does Russia regard this proposal?
Sergey Lavrov: The President of the Russian Federation has repeatedly commented on this theme. We – and this will be enshrined in the Treaty, its preamble – consider very important the ultimate goal of a world without nuclear weapons. It is clear that moving toward this goal is impossible in a vacuum, abstracting ourselves from all that is happening in the field of security.
We believe that in order to talk seriously about practical steps to move towards a world without nuclear weapons, it is necessary to draw attention to a whole array of factors that could potentially destabilize global strategic security. This is, first of all, the prospect of weapons appearing in outer space. Russia and China have jointly launched an initiative for an international treaty prohibiting the deployment of weapons in outer space. So far not all countries support this initiative.
A second factor that may have an equally serious destabilizing effect on the global environment is non-nuclear strategic offensive arms. This is what we have talked about in the context of the preparation of the new Treaty. This problem is designated in it. Clearly, it remains to be addressed. So, before practical actions are coordinated to move towards the so-called nuclear zero, it is necessary to look at the already mentioned and other aspects of global security, which may erode strategic stability. The world’s states are unlikely to agree to a situation where nuclear weapons will disappear, only to be replaced by no less destabilizing arms in some members of the world community that will militarily and strategically be able to solve practically the same tasks. So it is in the context of reducing all kinds of offensive arms that we can talk about moving towards a world without nuclear weapons as well. However, I repeat, we have not yet identified the basic framework for this work. Consensus on this matter is not yet available. Still, we are ready to discuss this issue in conjunction with the aspects noted by me.
Question : You have mentioned the linkages between defensive and strategic offensive arms several times. Will they be considered in the process of signing this Treaty in Prague between Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama? How important is the signing of this treaty for the elimination of all nuclear weapons in the world?
Sergey Lavrov: Honestly, I’ve already touched on these issues. I have already said that the relationship between strategic offensive and defensive arms is enshrined in the treaty itself, which means that it has a legally binding form.
As to the significance of the Treaty for moving toward a nuclear-free world, its signing is certainly a major step in this direction. This is a step which creates the conditions for the other states with nuclear arsenals join in at the next stage. I am convinced that this issue will be discussed. In order to move toward a nuclear-free world, we must, as I said earlier, decide today on strategic offensive arms, on strategic arms in general, on non-nuclear ones currently being developed, particularly in the United States. This is a serious issue. The overall global strategic stability depends on it. We’re talking about the fact that nuclear weapons are best to eliminate, not because we just do not like nuclear weapons, but because we want to see no weapons on earth which would destabilize the global climate. That’s what I’m sure we will talk about at the following stages.
Question : The US has already announced, at least preliminarily, the prospects for developing its antimissile systems, particularly systems in Europe. At what stage may these defensive systems pose a threat to the Russian strategic nuclear forces? Second question: You said that this is the first equal treaty. Does this mean that START-1 was unequal and detrimental to the interests of Russia?
Sergey Lavrov: Your first question: Of course, we are closely watching the development of plans for a missile defense system of the United States. As ordered by the President, we have established a dialogue with the American partners on these issues. We want it all to be discussed openly and honestly; ideally, of course, it would be absolutely right to start a joint threat assessment, and only then, when we reach a consensus on what those threats are, and where they arise, to deal with their neutralization.
The plans the United States is now unilaterally developing have several stages. The initial focus is on regional systems, systems that do not prejudice strategic stability, and do not create risks for the Russian strategic nuclear forces. When and if our monitoring of the realization of these plans shows that they are reaching the level of a strategic missile defense, and this level will be regarded by our military experts as creating risks for the Russian strategic nuclear forces, it is then that we will have the right to take advantage of those provisions which this Treaty contains.
Of course, START-1 was a historic document. It played a very important role both in the practical progress towards reducing nuclear arsenals, and psychologically, in a departure from the logic of the Cold War. The Treaty played a role in building confidence and predictability. However, as it was implemented the moments appeared that no longer corresponded to the rapid passage of time. This treaty lagged behind the progress of change after the Cold War. In a number of its characteristics, it had a unilateral, discriminatory against our country character. All these elements are excluded from the new Treaty. Full parity is ensured in the Treaty to be signed the day after tomorrow in Prague.
Question : What is the probability that the American establishment will agree to the Treaty? I mean the military-industrial complex.
Sergey Lavrov: We are talking about procedures that each country has. They are such that after being signed the Treaty is to be submitted to the parliaments for ratification. The Presidents of Russia and the US agreed that this would be done without delay. We expect the Treaty to be in Congress and the State Duma before the end of this month. Who and how will then influence the ratification procedures, who and how will influence members of parliament in the first and second cases, I will not venture to guess. I can only speak for the Russian side. The Russian side is absolutely convinced that the Treaty, which we will sign and submit for ratification, deserves to come into force. It ensures the national interests of Russia without compromising US national interests. It reflects the balance of interests between the two powers. This Treaty, most importantly, makes a significant contribution to global stability. We are ready to exhaustively discuss all the arguments with our partners. We believe that the American side has every reason to do likewise in the defense of the treaty in Congress.
Question : In 2002, the US withdrew from the Treaty of 1972. Does Russia consider the possibility that the United States in the future may withdraw from the soon-to-be-signed Treaty?
Sergey Lavrov: These are slightly different things. The Treaty of 1972 imposed restrictions on the creation of global missile defense systems. The US withdrew from it. We expressed serious regret over this. We are still faced with the consequences of that important step; because all issues relating to the creation of a unilateral missile defense system are still not definitively resolved. We today talked at length about this. The present Treaty does not deal with antimissile systems, but with the reduction of strategic offensive arms. Nevertheless, it sets forth the linkage between strategic offensive and defensive systems. Each side has the right to withdraw from the Treaty. This is the usual norm, which is present in almost all international treaties without exception. In our case the parties will have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if they deem at some point that the situation has qualitatively changed and these qualitative changes pose a threat to the national security of the appropriate party. This is the usual norm. Again, I assume that the Treaty is drawn up in such a way that if it is faithfully fulfilled, then the security of both Russia and the United States will be strengthened, as well as global security.
Question : The US is planning to deploy missile defense elements in Romania and Bulgaria. Will Russia withdraw from the Treaty if the US continues this policy?
Sergey Lavrov: Now I do not even want to speculate about it. With regard to Bulgaria and Romania, we have already voiced our comments. We believe that in a situation where on the instructions of the Presidents of Russia and the US direct consultations are being conducted, a direct dialogue is being conducted between our and American experts on missile defense issues, it would be better to avoid such surprises. Ideally, as I said, it would best be to begin a joint analysis of threats and only later, when we come to a joint understanding of these threats, to make decisions about what steps are needed, including the question of what facilities and where to have. We have always advocated that it should not be just an effort between the United States and the Russian Federation, but that the European countries should also most actively join it. I hope that we still have the opportunity to begin such work.
With regard to the practical aspects of the contemplated unilateral US missile defense systems which you mentioned, as I said, we are closely watching this. We have noted that in the first few stages, the system will not have strategic characteristics. What will happen next – we’ll see. When and if the strategic features of this system emerge, we will look into the extent to which they create risks to our strategic nuclear forces.
Question : In development of the question about the pursuit of global zero. You have already said earlier that Russia is in favor of all nuclear weapons being deployed solely on the territories of the countries to which they belong. In your opinion, is the United States ready for that? What do you think are the prospects for imparting a global character to the INF Treaty?
Sergey Lavrov: Indeed, the question of nuclear weapons being confined to the territories of those countries to which they belong is quite relevant. Note that in the Treaty to be signed in Prague it is laid down that a country’s strategic offensive arms should be confined to its territory. Of course, there is also such a kind of nuclear weapons as tactical nuclear weapons. They are not yet all located in the United States in the part in which they belong to it. This is a question that is already being actively discussed in Europe. I think that this formulation of the question is valid.
Regarding the second question. Yes, a few years ago Russia and the United States took the initiative to ensure that our bilateral agreement on the renunciation of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles becomes universal, and that on its basis a multilateral instrument is developed which would universally ban the possession of this type of weapons. Many countries, including Europe, backed our initiative. But this idea has not yet received universal support. Moreover, many states are actively developing weapons which are intermediate- and shorter-range missiles. We believe it would be wrong to let things take their course, because in the absence of these weapons, in particular, on Russia’s part their appearance in some other states will not contribute to global and regional political stability. Then we’ll have to take some decision.
Remarks by Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev at New START Treaty Signing Ceremony (April 8, 2010)
Treaty between USA and Russia on measures for the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms (April 8, 2010)
START: Op-Ed by Hillary Clinton: « Our Giant Step Towards a World Free from Nuclear Danger » (April 7, 2010)
START: Op-Ed by Vice President Joe Biden: « A Comprehensive Nuclear Arms Strategy » (April 7, 2010)
START: press point by Sergey Lavrov (April 6, 2010)
Statement by Barack Obama on the Release of Nuclear Posture Review (April 6, 2010)
Remarks of Joe Biden at National Defense University (February 18, 2010)
Speech by Barack Obama dealing with nuclear issues (April 5, 2009)