Media Availability at U.S. Strategic Command 2011 Deterrence Symposium

By Rose Gottemoeller | Omaha, Neb. | Aug. 10, 2011

(In Progress)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: New START is going well: very well in its implementation so far. It's been a very intense pace of the inspections which only started in the first week of April. So there's been a really steady pace of inspections in the last four months and frankly all of the concerns that were raised during the ratification debate are being assuaged now essentially by the process of implementation. This is what, of course, we expected but people had to see how it went. Also, there is a long history of ups and downs in START and INF implementation, so good reasons to be skeptical to begin with. But as far as I'm concerned, it's been a very good run so far, very pragmatic, very business-like, positive overall attitude on both sides. I think it paid off that we established this kind of business-like approach in Geneva during the negotiations: it's kind of carried forward now into the implementation of the treaty. So, I like to say that New START is the first post Cold War treaty, even though structurally it's still focused on limitations on ICBMs, SLBMs, and bombers. Clearly there are some post Cold War aspects with the way the Treaty is operating now. So with that small introduction I'm happy to try to answer your questions.

QUESTION: One thing that you said during your speech was that you're not ready for negotiations yet with Russia on the next round but you are ready for conversation that you wanted to start immediately. I was curious what the reception from Russia has been on that. Are they ready to start immediately as also? What is the thinking on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: We've obviously got the DOD assessment going on, the DDPR going on so we have to work our way through those. I call them the homework exercise. We are basically talking to the Russians about getting together and having some discussions and we are really hopeful that we can get down to those discussions soon. It is the holiday period in Moscow right now, so at the moment everybody's down at their dachas but we're really looking forward to sitting down soon and beginning to talk about some of this stuff.

QUESTION: What would that entail exactly when you say conversations rather than negotiations?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Well conversations can take many different forms and indeed there have been a lot of conversations going on: you know the track two community has been extraordinarily active and there's been some really good work. I'm not endorsing anything particularly, please don't take this as an endorsement, but I'm just thinking about the work Steve Pifer has been doing at Brookings as an example of some of the work that's been coming out where he's been getting Russians and Americans together. Then you have some activities on the government level that can take place and will take place in the context of the Presidential Commission - The U.S.-Russian Presidential Commission that has a working group on arms control. Under Secretary Tauscher, my boss, chairs that. So that's one venue that these discussions can take place in; there might be some other venues as well. When you have a negotiation like we had in Geneva, we had a big interagency team and delegation, but in this case I think we can have basically more players active. You see the example of what's happening on the missile defense cooperation. I've mentioned that there are the Tauscher-Ryabkov negotiations and we also have some military to military activities: there just different venues where you can have a conversation and that's useful I think.

QUESTION: Just looking forward, you talked about China. Is the P5 the venue for that? Would you be interested in trying to open a bilateral channel with China?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: You know already we have a strategic dialogue with China which has military and security as well as economic aspects to it, so I would already say there is a bilateral venue that we have begun to populate with different topics and I'm not at liberty talk about exactly what is on the agenda, but we do have a very good initial discussion with China going on. It extends from security to economics and more political topics. So, there's already good action there. But the P5 venue has certainly turned out to be a very useful one because we are focusing on some issues of verification and transparency and mutual confidence building and that is a good way to begin any conversation.

QUESTION: I'm writing more broadly about the Obama administration's long-term vision for nuclear weapons policy and the ultimate goal of zero that the President laid out at his speech in Prague. I'd love to get your perspective from the point of view of issues that you work on that factor into that and the State Department generally. How much progress has been made since that speech, in part because I'm hearing from some arms control advocates who express disappointment about the pace of progress?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: I have to say that, and you'd expect me to say this, but from where I sit we've been making terrific progress because, of course, my responsibility was the New START Treaty. We not only negotiated it in record time in a year from start to finish, it's unheard of, we also ratified the treaty in a very difficult political environment so we feel, first of all that from that point of view, we have had a very fast moving train and it's been very successful. And we've gotten the treaty entered in the force with minimum neuralgia and actually as I said a lot of business-like pragmatic progress so that's that. The other pieces are not my responsibility but they're equally important. You know the same month, April of 2010, that we signed the START Treaty we also had this enormous Nuclear Security Summit in Washington and President Obama got leaders from across the globe to commit to putting fissile material under better and more secure physical protection over the next four years and again this is not my bailiwick but from what I can tell very good progress is being made in that realm. The Administration, working with others, has been able to gain agreement and actually gotten HEU moving in situations that had long been static, working with Ukraine, for example, working with Belarus. So next year in Seoul there will be the next Nuclear Security Conference; the South Koreans are hosting it and there will be a stock taking on this but as far as I can tell there's been really good progress. Some other goals that have been hanging out there for a decade or more, I worked these issues in the Department of Energy in the late 1990's: A 123 agreement for nuclear cooperation with Russia, the Obama Administration got that thing across the finish line. So in my view I don't frankly hold any truck with those who criticize us for slow action because we have been making steady progress and hauling things across the finish line that have been hanging fire for a decade or more. The Plutonium Disposition Agreement is another one: Secretary Clinton brought that into force with Minister Lavrov a couple of weeks ago, July 13th in Washington. So as you can tell I have scant patience with those who are critical.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. Can you…Well - Sorry, I'll leave it there.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: (Laughter.) Do you want to think about that for a minute?

QUESTION: I wondered if you mentioned the possibility that Russia might have long-range conventional capabilities that were of concern to the United States in the context to the question about CPGS.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Yea, nothing new here they have very capable cruise missiles that have dual capabilities so again I get a little impatient hearing criticism from the Russian side that the U.S. is developing conventional prompt global strike whereas the Russians have very good dual capable systems that go to very long ranges so that's the only point I was making; there's nothing new here particularly.

QUESTION: But do you see that as a potential topic for future negotiations and what would be the venue for that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Oh I don't know, I think it's premature you know. The United States and Russia still have over ninety percent of the nuclear weapons in the world; we've still got work to do on the nuclear agenda quite clearly. But I do think it would be useful to have a conversation about the stability effects of conventional long-range systems and it shouldn't be just this is something on the U.S. side of the table; all I'm saying is there are very good capabilities on the other side of the table, on the Russian side; and among others as well. You know the problem of missile proliferation is one that we are battling all the time and the vast majority of long-range missiles that are new around the world are of course not nuclear armed. So there are lots of issues that have to do with long-rage delivery capability.

QUESTION: When the plan to achieve CPGS by putting conventional warheads on the ICBMs was raised the Congress killed it in part because of their concern that it might be misinterpreted. You're talking about these conventional cruise missiles that the Russians have; is there any concern in your mind that these can be mistaken somehow?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: No, because we are not in a conflict situation with the Russian Federation. I mean people forget that the overall strategic relationship with the Russian Federation has changed profoundly since the Cold War. I wish it were better, but we're in a pretty good place with the Russian Federation. We have to continue to work on improving it and again I've cited Lew Dunn once but I thought his comment was a good one, that Russia has to decide what kind of long-term relationship they want with the United States; but certainly as far as we're concerned it should be a positive one. So in any event, just in terms of the strategic stability implications of long range strategic strike that is conventional in nature, yes, we need to have a conversation about that with the Russians and with others as well. It's not simply an issue for the United States; we're not the only ones that deploy such capabilities.

QUESTION: I just wondered if you could talk a bit about what you see as the chances for further arms control agreements with the Russians.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: I think they're excellent; I mean we agreed in the preamble to the New START Treaty that we would continue to pursue a step by step approach toward further reductions. Now there are ways to go about it, which we've tried before, that is, reciprocal measures that are not legally binding in nature. Certainly that is an option but frankly I believe there is still a place and a very important place for legally binding negotiations on further reductions - we're committed to that, and it is I think a trajectory that we'll continue to be on with the Russians.

QUESTION: And I wanted to ask you a big State Department question if I might? As you know the first stage of the budget deal with congress and the President agreed this week has two separate spending caps: one for non-security spending and the other for security spending which includes the State Department, DHS Defense and VA. Do you have any concerns that? I mean some of the people that I talked to it about they said it was written that way because the lawmakers who favored the Department of Defense want o dump the pain on other agencies on in particular on you and on DHS. Do you have any concerns about that? Going forward what do you see as the major challenges you're going to face in this new budget era?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: You know what, I really can't comment on this; it's not an issue that I have responsibility for at all. Tom Nides, the Deputy Secretary, I'm sure would be able to bend your ear on it [laughs] but it's not my responsibility.

QUESTION: There's some talk that there could be cuts to the modernization plan. That could be kind of right for cuts as part of this whole big deal. That was key on getting New START ratified. Looking down the road is that a concern of yours because modernization is still going to be in the conversation as new reductions is considered?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Right, you know the President is committed to the modernization plan; that was clear statement at the time when the New START Treaty was ratified and we've been working with both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill to underscore that message.

QUESTION: But I mean Kyl's leaving right?


QUESTION: So some of that pressure might reduce.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: I don't know. I could not speculate on it.