For the full text, click here

Office of the Press Secretary
November 8, 2001

Press Briefing By National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice


Q    Dr. Rice, what does President Bush hope to get out of his meetings with President Putin, both on terrorism and ABM?  And since the President has decided on a nuclear stockpile number, what is the expectation that Putin will accept it?

DR. RICE:  First, to the second question, Ron, it's not a question of an acceptable number on offensive forces to the Russians.  We've said several times, and the President said all the way back in the campaign, that his desire to cut offensive nuclear forces comes from his belief, which has now been confirmed by a study by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a nuclear strategy review, under Secretary Rumsfeld's leadership, that the number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal exceeds the number of nuclear weapons needed for America's deterrent needs in this particular time.  So that's the -- Ron, I'm not going there -- (laughter) -- but that is the President's belief, that this is something that the United States should do in accordance with its own security concerns.

As to the relationship between the two Presidents, this, of course, is the fourth in a series of meetings between the Presidents.  The relationship is building steadily.  I think everyone can see that the relationship has gotten better and better.  September 11th gave a kind of new impetus to the relationship.

But it is a relationship that is very, very good, and also normal, in that not every meeting has to be accompanied, like the old summits were with the Soviet Union, by arms control agreements and by a series of agreements, because this is now a normal relationship that's moving forward progressively.

The two Presidents will have, I'm sure, an extensive discussion of counterterrorism.  They have continued to discuss this since September 11th in several conversations, as have their defense ministers and their foreign ministers.  They will, of course, continue to discuss issues about the new strategic framework and how to move to a relationship that is more in accordance with their new relationship, not something based on the 1972 ABM Treaty, but these are discussions that are progressive.

I wouldn't expect any particular arrangements to come out of any particular meeting.


Q    Does next week's visit essentially amount to Russia's last chance to move beyond the ABM Treaty before we are forced to essentially give the six-month notice that we've got to withdraw?

DR. RICE:  The President and President Putin are continuing to look cooperatively for ways to move their relationship forward.  And I just want to emphasize, there is a lot of talk about what we will or will not do on the security front.  But the President has been saying since he first started that this is larger than the security relationship.  And so economic relations are important, political relations are important. Common security threats like counterterrorism are important.

The President has also made clear that he believes that the acquisition of an effective missile defense system for the United States and its allies is one of his highest priorities, that he believes the only way to get there is a robust testing and evaluation system, and that he is not prepared to permit the treaty to get in the way of doing that robust testing.

So we will see about the timing here.  I just want to repeat what we've said several times:  The President is committed to a robust testing and evaluation program and eventually deployment.

Q    On that point, since we are now bumping up against that, because of the constraints of the ABM Treaty, I am just wondering if, indeed, again, this is sort of their last chance to get on board with us before we have to pull out and say, look, six months from now we are going to unilaterally withdraw?

DR. RICE:  We are going to be talking with the Russians through -- the two Presidents are speaking here at this meeting.  There will continue to be contacts with the Russians.  We are going to continue to work on the new strategic framework.  We will look at the timing of what we need to do when, yes.


Q    On Russia again, what is wrong with an agreement?  Especially if your newly-found Russian friends want it?  (Laughter.)  What is wrong with codifying this relationship?  Whatever you reach, whatever understanding you reach on strategic weapons, or defensive weapons?  What's wrong with signing a formal agreement?

DR. RICE:  We've said -- we have said that we are open as to the form that a new strategic framework might take.  But we're going to be working on a new strategic framework for a number of years, going forward, because it has many different elements that have nothing to do with nuclear security.

I think we all have to try and get out of a particular frame of mind about U.S.-Russian relations that just turns it into a newer version of U.S.-Soviet relations; that's what we're saying.  And so when it comes to something like nuclear offensive forces, we have no reason to need to match warhead for warhead in the way that we did in old Soviet times.


Q    President Putin believes that it's possible to interpret the ABM Treaty to allow for U.S. missile defense research.  Is that a basis for proceeding with this strategic framework?  And, secondly, if you're not matching warhead for warhead, are you still looking for Russia to announce some reductions in its stockpile?

DR. RICE:  What the President intends to do is to share with President Putin the results of the nuclear review that he initiated, and he has been promising to do that for some time and he will do it.  I would hope that President Putin will also share with President Bush what they are thinking about in terms of their offensive forces, and so I expect that they will have that conversation.

In terms of the ABM Treaty, the President has made clear that there are a couple of problems with the ABM Treaty.  One is that it limits our ability to explore fully the technologies that we need.  And, secondly, that we need to move beyond it because it is not representative of the kind of relationship that we now have with Russia; it comes from another era.

They are continuing the discussion of what the new strategic framework might look like.  There are clearly some elements that are even more obvious today than they were the last time they met.  I would suspect that any strategic -- new strategic framework would have a significant counter-terrorism element.  I would expect that it would have a significant proliferation element.  So the pieces of it are coming into relief; but, again, I wouldn't expect any particular moment in which you tie it all up with a red ribbon.

Q    You would still like to see the ABM scrapped, then?

DR. RICE:  The ABM Treaty is a treaty that belongs to another era, and I think that has not changed from the day that we have been here.