Â Excerpt from State Department Noon Briefing, May 11, 2001
State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher briefed.
Q: Your wandering minstrels of NMD seem to be getting some mixed messages in their travels, from somewhat vague support from India, to outright rejection in Moscow, and serious questions from the Germans. I'm just wondering what your initial reaction is to these things.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think you accurately characterize at least what I have seen in the press and what I have seen others saying.
The Russians said there was a good discussion, something about more questions and answers at this stage, but that's not surprising either. Remember, the President made clear from the start these were consultations, these were real consultations to talk to friends and allies about these important issues. We were going to share our strategic thinking, and we were going to share as well some of the thinking about the direction we intend to go with.
But we are not at a stage of going out to announce decisions and ask for support. And that was not the nature of these consultations. And that is, I think, the importance of the consultations and that that fact is in fact recognized by the governments that we have seen. Our characterization of these talks generally -- and as you know I'll go through where everybody is and add a couple more stops to the itineraries.
But I think generally we have found that our allies and friends have welcomed the consultations, they have reacted positively to the Administration's efforts to discuss the issues with them before we make major decisions.
We obviously appreciate the willingness of the allies to discuss this issue and to engage with us in a constructive and cooperative approach. The fact that we are out there on real consultations, we're discussing issues of great importance, issues of new thinking that change some of the approaches, or at least add to some of the approaches traditionally taken on these issues. These are very weighty and important subjects for all of us, and I think we have a lot of appreciation out there for the fact that we are talking to them at this particular stage.
Let me go through, if I can, just to update you on where people are, and one or two other stops that we might not have talked about before.
Yesterday, Under Secretary Grossman continued his productive consultations in Rome. Under Secretary Grossman and his team briefed on our ongoing strategic review and the current US thinking on missile defense and solicited the views of the Italian Government there.
Following Rome, Under Secretary Grossman stopped in Bratislava to participate in a conference with prime ministers from the countries that are aspiring to NATO membership. So that was not a missile defense discussion, but they may have discussed missile defense, but it was to go to talk to these countries that are interested in NATO membership and that are going through the process of preparing themselves for NATO membership. That was yesterday.
So, today he is continuing his talks on missile defense in Ankara. While in Ankara, Under Secretary Grossman also presented Prime Minister Ecevit with a letter from President Bush that expresses our strong support for Turkey's efforts to manage the economic crisis and that encourages the Prime Minister to keep on the path of economic reform and economic growth.
The other team -- Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz, Deputy National Security Advisor Hadley -- concluded talks in Berlin and Warsaw yesterday. Today they were in Moscow for discussions with the Russians.
There will also be Department officials -- not these particular ones -- who will go to Kiev on Saturday for missile defense consultations. And as you know, the various members have been discussing their individual stops as they go around.
So I think -- again, getting back to your original question -- if you go through what we have said after the various stops, I think you'll see this kind of welcome appreciation for the consultations coming out of that.
Under Secretary Grossman said in Ankara, for example, that our allies recognize there is a new world out there today and that we need to take account of it. Finally, I'll just mention the fact that we will be sending a similar high-level team to Ottawa on Tuesday, May 15th, and we'll provide details on that later.
Q: Who is going to Kiev, exactly?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't have the names yet. It's not the Wolfowitz-Hadley-Grossman types. It's other experts. I don't know exactly, frankly. Tried to get that, couldn't get it.
Q: Who's going to Ottawa?
MR. BOUCHER: To where?
MR. BOUCHER: Not defined yet. That's something we'll have for you later.
Q: What about Armitage?
MR. BOUCHER: Armitage. He's in India and should be on his way back, right? Tomorrow, yes. Armitage is in India, should be on his way back tomorrow. Oh, that's right, he's -- no, he's listed under a different bureau. That's why. He's over here in the purples. He had a full day of consultation in India today, had a working lunch with the Minister for External Affairs and Defense, Jaswant Singh; met with Prime Minister Vajpayee, Cabinet Secretary and National Security Advisor Mishra, Special Advisor to the External Affairs and Defense Minister Arun Singh; and he met with Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the opposition party.
So he has been very active in India, having a broad set of discussions on US global strategic concerns and missile defense, and again solicited their views. The Indian Government told us they appreciated Mr. Armitage's presentation and they look forward to further exchanges.
Q: Can I -- I don't want to hog this, but did you -- when the -- who was in Rome, Grossman? Did he meet with any of the Italian opposition concerning the fact they're having an election on Sunday?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have a list who they met with, so I'll have to double-check on that one.
Q: And Mr. Grossman, when he was in Ankara, did he talk about Iraqi sanctions as well as all these other things?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure what other subjects might have been discussed. I think the principal focus obviously is missile defense. He also delivered the letter from the President that expressed his support for economic reforms. As you know, Under Secretary Grossman was previously Ambassador to Turkey, and therefore I would assume that he had a lot of different meetings on a variety of subjects, but the principal focus was missile defense.
Q: Any consideration of a delegation going to Pakistan, which is after all a nuclear state?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard of discussion of that.
Q: On the issue of the consultations, can you get any more specific at this point about what aspects of the decision haven't been made and what impact, I guess, these consultations would have on steering that decision?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first, much of the discussion is about strategic thinking, concepts that you've heard the Secretary speak about, concepts that you heard the President speak about in his speech where he announced these consultations, that in this new age we need concepts of strategic thinking that involve not only offensive weapons and reductions of offensive weapons, but also strong nonproliferation efforts and defense.
And so discussing with friends and allies who have been -- particularly those who have been immersed in the strategic issues for the entire period of the Cold War -- the need to update this thinking, to understand how these things work together and can work together in the new age.
We have, I think, had comments to make about the ABM Treaty before, final decisions on that still pending. We have had comments about the work under way at the Defense Department to determine what kind of systems we need. That is still not decided yet.
So there are a number of aspects of this that we'll proceed from the thinking to the actual execution and carrying out, where having the views of allies and partners at this stage is very important to us.
Q: You said the final thinking on the ABM Treaty. Can you -- I mean, what do you mean by that? That maybe in fact we will support in the end continuing that treaty, or --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we have raised that possibility.
MR. BOUCHER: We have said that it is outdated in its present form. There's the theoretical possibilities of modification or abandonment of some kind. So exactly how we proceed in that regard is not finally decided.
Q: Would it be fair to say that one of the goals of the consultation is to try and find an alternative to the ABM Treaty? Or is it more that you are trying to convince everyone that they don't need it?
MR. BOUCHER: We have come to the conclusion that this treaty is outdated and not important or relevant to the current strategic situation. I think -- so part of our discussion will be to discuss the overall strategic thinking and how various elements fit in that context, and whether this one fits or not. But as I said, there's obviously -- the stage that we are at is discussing the thinking and the possibilities, and looking for different people's views on how we might proceed as we decide how we might proceed.
Q: If I may follow up, is it also partly a process of trying to convince people of the threat that the United States perceives?
MR. BOUCHER: I think threat is certainly part of the discussion, yes.
Q: As I'm sure you recall, when Mr. Fischer was here, he said that it shouldn't be abandoned unless we have a better mechanism, better mechanism for arms control. Are you drafting any kind of proposals, replacement agreements, that would somehow, I don't know, control ABM systems or --
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard any particular discussion of anything like that. I'm not sure we're even at the stage where that would be considered.
Q: So it's going to be just a free brawl, then, just the rule of the jungle? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: Is that what I said? (Laughter.)
Q: Let's go to the videotape.
MR. BOUCHER: Somebody else has control of my microphone, or at least did a little listening device in Jonathan's head. (Laughter.) No, it's not the law of the jungle; it's not nasty, brutish and short. It's a sincere and real consultation with friends and allies as we go through some very serous and important discussions of strategic thinking with them, and as we go forward into deciding together and determining together what is the best strategy to maintain peace and stability in a new age. (end of excerpt)