U.S.-Russia Strategic Dialogue
Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN)
Foreign Press Center Briefing
May 17, 2002
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SEN. LUGAR: (Joined in progress) -- affairs did not proceed rapidly, and it was not until a spring trip in 1992, in which we went to Russia and Ukraine, met physically with persons who might really affect Cooperative Threat Reduction in those two countries, and this trip in 2002 commemorates that time. In the meanwhile, I will not go through the statistics of destruction, but at a time in which our president is about to meet with President Putin of Russia in a summit conference, and to sign a very important treaty that will outline the reduction of strategic warheads over the next few years, it is important to note, at least as the scorecard in our office does, updated by the Pentagon from month to month, that an estimate of 13,300 strategic warheads were present at the time the Nunn-Lugar Act commenced. Over 5,800 of those have been taken off of missiles and disassembled, and there are equally impressive statistics for the numbers of missiles destroyed, silos destroyed, and in more recent years strategic bombers and strategic submarines, including the beginning of destruction of the six Typhoon submarines. So those elements are there, and we will commemorate that. But specifically we are going to proceed on the first Sunday, May 26th, that we are in Russia to Pokrav, which is a vaccine production facility that I have visited before, and therefore I am commending to my colleagues, because it is still a work in progress.
The facility was under the direction of the Russian Ministry of Agriculture for the production of vaccines against animal diseases. In our last visit to Pokrav, these diseases were indeed exotic disease from all over the world. The issue, at least if there is one in terms of the biological warfare aspect, is that there is a potential dual use for these vaccines. That is, the materials in fact that are in the vials in the icebox could be used to eliminate livestock as well as save it. And, as a result, we are interested in that, as are many Russians. I would indicate that my first visit found full cooperation among a very talented staff of Russian scientists and professionals who are concerned about the security of the place, likewise its future.
But, in any event, it has been selected as a site that is of importance in terms of Cooperative Threat Reduction, and in which some action on the part of Russia and the United States would seem to be required.
In Moscow, on the 27th of May, we will have a conference which Senator Nunn and I will speak, and likewise there will be recognition of Senator Pete Domenici for his activities with us. Later on in the evolution of the Nunn-Lugar story, Pete Domenici, the senator from New Mexico, came into the picture, and he has been instrumental in the United States Department of Energy programs, which have joined the Department of Defense programs. And of course the International Science and Technology Committee is funded by our State Department, and likewise by international contributions now from many nations, and it is an attempt to find stipends for as many as 2,200 Russian scientists at last count, so they will be involved in productive efforts other than weapons of mass destruction.
But at this conference, we are going to discuss the program in a fairly high-profile way in Moscow. A very important group of Russians officials have been invited, including President Putin, and the minister of defense and others. We have no idea of precisely of who will attend and speak at this point, but the welcome has been widened to those who can be instrumental and accelerate in the cooperation between our two countries at a time that our theme will be that there is good reason to do that -- if we have a good track record of achievement, but in fighting the war against terrorism and trying to think through how we bring security to facilities as well as materials and weapons of mass destruction in other countries. This is an excellent time for Russia and the United States on the impetus given by our president and President Putin to go into this in more detail.
Now, our delegation will fly out to Kartoli (ph) on May 28th. That is a site near Chelyabinsk, and there we will have the destruction of an SS-18 silo. Having participated in these destruction efforts before, they are always dramatic. This was one in which you literally press the buttons. Usually there are more than one button there, so that many can participate in this. But in fact an explosion does occur some distance from the platform. In this case this will be emblematic of the end of a particular site. For example, in Ukraine, in Kazakhstan and Belarus, under the Nunn-Lugar program all nuclear weapons have been transported to Russia or destroyed; and, likewise the sites, including silos and the guide wires and the rest of the infrastructure that was built really over the course of 40 years.
But on that same day that we go to Kartoli (ph), we will proceed to the Mayak fissile material storage facility. This is a vast storage facility that was somewhat under construction when I last visited two winters ago. Now the first wing is about complete. It will store the plutonium from 6,250 nuclear warheads. The warheads for instance taken off of strategic submarines at Severodinsk go by train to Mayak (ph). And that would be true of each of these facilities as these warheads in fact are disassembled and plutonium is extracted from them.
Obviously the taking of the warhead from the missile is a very important act. It means that it is no longer aimed at the United States of America. But the problem then begins in terms of the disassembly of the warhead itself -- and dangerous procedure -- and one that finally brings forth usually uranium, highly-enriched uranium or plutonium. Now, in this case Mayak (ph) is plutonium storage. And in due course the United States, Russia, others may work out what is to happen to the plutonium. But in the interim stage this is where it goes for the safety of all of us.
The following day we will go to Shchuchye, the chemical weapons storage facility, which is also in that general neighborhood of Chelyabinsk. The Shchuchye facility is important, because it is one of seven facilities in which the declaration by Russia of 40,000 metric tons of chemical weapons -- about a seventh -- are at this place. It differs from the others because it has many small weapons. By that I mean as small as 85-millimeter shells, each one of them filled with nerve gas. There are at Shchuchye (ph), according to the Russians with whom I visit when I last was there at that facility, about two million individual weapons -- sometimes the size of Scud missiles, and some even upwards. They are on shelves in relatively old buildings. With the United States and Russia working together, this is a secure facility. But the problem is that although Russia ratified, as the United States did, the Chemical Weapons Convention some time ago, we have only proceeded thus far to make certain of security around the 40,000 metric tons, and barely any of it has been destroyed -- as in the case of the nuclear programs. The reason is lack of financial resources by Russia. And so in the same way that the United States through Nunn-Lugar got into the nuclear program, we are into the chemical destruction program, and we hope that that will come to fruition soon. That is the beginning of the destruction facility, and we are heartened by the fact that it has now attracted more international notice. During a trip to Germany in January, I learned that the Bundestag had appropriated some monies for this purpose at Shchuchye, and likewise Norway, Great Britain and Canada -- maybe others.
So an important part of this visit, and the high profile for that facility, will be the need for international thoughtfulness. This is not purely a bilateral Russian-United States endeavor. This is really on behalf of those who are concerned about weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation throughout the world. And my point with regard to describing the weapons at Shchuchye is simply to say that in a common-sense way these weapons are easily transportable.
If you are worried about proliferation, this is the first point to worry about it. In fact, during one visit I put an 85-millimeter weapon in a small suitcase -- well, obviously there was room for two more -- asked a Russian major to photograph that for the benefit of my colleagues -- so we all sort of understand the portability and the problem that may be there.
Now, that will conclude our CODEL. Members will fly back to the United States after those visits and after the conference. I would mention that among those who will be with us in the Congressional delegation, in addition to Senator Nunn, who is no longer a senator but obviously heavily involved in this program, through the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a private organization funded by Ted Turner with his own philanthropy for a five-year period of time. I serve as a board member of NTI, as does Senator Domenici, for example. And many members of that board will be coming by civilian aircraft, and they will join us at the conference. Senator Bob Graham of Florida, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, will be with us; Senator Pete Domenici, whom I identified, the ranking Republican member of the Budget Committee; and an instrumental figure in the Energy Committee for many years, Senator Jeff Bingaman, who is now the committee chairman; and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, who is a member of the Intelligence Committee, and a ranking member of one of our appropriations sub-committees. From the House: Congressman Spratt of South Carolina and Congressman Shays of Connecticut will also be joining us, and we appreciate that.
At this point let me cease fire and respond if I may to questions that you may have.
Q Andrei Suransky (ph) Tass News Agency of Russia. Mr. Senator, you just spoke about the importance of the new treaty on the deeper nuclear arms cuts, which both sides is going to sign in Moscow. What are the chances of this treaty to be ratified by the Senate? If I am not mistaken, it needs at least two-thirds of support, and do you have these votes?
And, secondly, what would be your personal point of view on this treaty? Does it have any weak points, or it is just a perfect treaty without any flaws? Thank you.
SEN. LUGAR: I support the treaty. In fact, Senator Biden, as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and I as the temporary ranking member, given Senator Helms' hospitalization, conducted a hearing on this subject just this week, in which we had excellent witnesses. It was timely -- we did not know at the time the hearing had been called on strategic arms that the treaty would be coming to the fore. But to answer your question directly, Senator Biden and I have indicated that we would hope to have consideration in the committee of the treaty very soon, so that it could proceed to the Senate floor. And our hope would be to have ratification of that treaty during this calendar year. We think that is important, to indicate that leadership. We suspect that members of the Duma, with whom we will be meeting when we are in Moscow, will share our enthusiasm, but also may share our enthusiasm for our acting first. I met with a distinguished group of Russian parliamentarians just a month ago, and they had some feel that it was likely that we would be coming to this point of agreement, but they suggested that they would like to see activity by the Senate promptly -- that would be very helpful in terms of consideration in Russia.
Now, as the quality of the treaty, it appears to me that a lot of constructive things have occurred in that treaty, namely an outline as to how Russia and the United States, maintaining the inspection provisos of START I, which allow a very high degree of verification, particularly with nuclear weapons, so that the trust and verify idea of Ronald Reagan is preserved. But at the same time, both the sides at their own pace may want to reduce these weapons in the ways that they wish to do so.
Now, my feel from visiting with Russians for a long time has been that there has been an eagerness to get on with this, because many of the weapons are old. They become more suspect in terms of maintenance, or even the dangers of improper maintenance. And they simply require a lot of money to keep secure, to deal with, and are perceived as unnecessary.
Now, in the Russian military and in our military weapons have always been seen as symbols of prestige. There has been a thought that even if these are expensive and they are dangerous, you have to be very thoughtful about getting rid of all of them if the other side for somehow doggedly wants to hang on. So this treaty really sort of opens up the possibility of our doing rationally what our president, President Bush, indicated in his campaign he wanted to do unilaterally. However, we do not need that number of weapons, and certainly not on the end of warheads and in a status of alert.
A lot of good things can flow from this beyond simply the text of the treaty. But the text itself is simple and important. I can think of all sorts of other things, and I have outlined some today in terms of the chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction that are very important. And we have a lot of work to do, and that will be more difficult. It is more difficult to verify. And in many ways the degree of trust between our two countries in these areas is substantially less than in the nuclear area -- perhaps because we have been working that one for a longer period of time.
So this is a beginning -- I look at it that way. It is not that I criticize the treaty, but I would say it is on the face. You see what you get, and there are a lot of other objectives it seems to me we need to talk about.
Q Ivan Leved (ph) with the -- (inaudible) -- News Agency. Mr. Senator, would it be correct to say that the CTR program will be considered to help Russia to implement the new agreement that will be signed at the upcoming summit in the same way as it was used to help Russia to fulfill its obligations according to START I treaty? And these years, what challenges to the Nunn-Lugar program will -- the new agreement will pose to the Nunn-Lugar program? Will it require any, let's say, changes in this program? Have you already discussed this issue with somebody in the Pentagon who supervises the CTR program? Because the new agreement -- it differs from the previous ones in the arms control. It deals with nuclear warheads. It is a very sensitive and difficult task to monitor the dismantlement, the reduction of the nuclear warheads in comparison with the carriers and so on and so forth.
SEN. LUGAR: I have had such discussions. But let me be frank that clearly it would appear to me that for Russia to move from roughly 6,000 warheads to 2,200 or 1,800, or whatever may be the objective, it is going to be very expensive. That's sort of the first thing that is obvious. It's been expensive to move to the point in which both sides are roughly fulfilling the START I objectives.
Now, one of the reasons why Russians came to see Senator Nunn and me to begin with was the feeling that it was in the best interests of Russia and the United States that we both move in the direction of the destruction of these weapons -- particularly the excess that was involved. But from the start the Russians indicated that the budget problems, the very severe economic problems of the country, were going to make that very difficult. Therefore we had a choice. Now, some Americans took the position from the beginning that this is Russia's problem -- we'll solve our part of the problem, but we also have other domestic problems -- Medicare, Social Security, education for our young. And they argued when we started the Nunn-Lugar program -- why should we spend the first dollar Russia in with regard to the destruction of weapons? Now, some of us argued there were very good reasons to do that -- not only for America and Russia, but for the world. This is a very dangerous predicament of a huge buildup in both of our countries that occurred in a long period of the Cold War.
So we don't have unanimous feeling about that, but after 10 years the Nunn-Lugar program is still moving ahead, and much stronger as a matter of fact, with the recognition that Russia must bear a very strong proportion of that load, but that the United States' monies and expertise and contractors are a very important factor in success. I think that will continue to be the case.
So, in response to your question, it would appear to me that the issue before the Congress before long will be: Should we appropriate more money for Nunn-Lugar than we are doing now? Now, my guess is that the answer will be yes, and that probably will be my advocacy. And, fortunately, I still have several years to go in this term of office. So we have an opportunity to argue that, and hopefully be persuasive. In the same way I have argued it is in our interests as well as Russia's for us to work on the chemical weapons destruction, which clearly both of our countries have taken on obligation, but we are sensitive to the problems of the finances of Russia.
Now, in due course we believe Russia's finances will improve, and therefore our programs ought to recognize that year by year. I do not for a moment believe that Russia will have the same economic problems year after year. And a lot of our diplomacy and our work in cooperation with President Putin will be to try to provide much more of a normal flow of commerce -- much greater possibilities for Russians to gain new wealth and a standard of living, because we believe that is more likely to lead to a healthy relationship over the course of time -- with us, with the Europeans, with others. And that clearly will make it possible for Russia to do more to fulfill obligations.
So we will have an annual debate here. This is not a program that you can put on hold, and say this is five years. Every year we argue about it, and there are new members of the Senate, new members of the House. They weren't there in 1991. Many have never been to Russia. But that is important simply to state frankly we have our own debates here, very transparent, and you will observe all of them and the difficulties that we have. But at the end of the day, I believe that we are going to have a more vital program. And the stronger the cooperation between Russia and the United States, as we take a look at the rest of the world, that is likely to invigorate the program a whole lot more. And so I applaud the two presidents, President Putin and President Bush, for recognizing that, even given all the difficulties, all the background noise, because it appears to me that we are on the threshold of some excellent possibilities.
Q My name is Nikolai -- (inaudible) -- the Romanian Television, the public station. And my question is: How will this treaty affect other countries in the area? Romania is not a direct neighbor to Russia; it is a direct neighbor to Hungary, which is a NATO member. But it still lies in the area. So how will this treaty affect balance within the region? Thank you.
SEN. LUGAR: I believe the treaty affects Romania in the same way that it affects all the countries that are within range of these missiles, namely to the extent that there were fewer of them, that they have security -- all of us are safer -- the Russians to begin with, the Romanians closer by, the United States farther away. The objective of Cooperative Threat Reduction is simply a recognition that in these two countries uniquely Russia and the United States -- huge amounts of weapons of mass destruction were built for years -- 40 years -- more than there is any conceivable need for militarily. And yet they are expensive, they are aging, they are dangerous. And the possibilities of others misappropriating materials, if not the weapons themselves, given the terrorist threats that now we see in a number of countries add a dangerous new twist to the whole story.
So you could take the position, as I have described to some of my colleagues, in which you just hope that everything will work out all right, and that the missiles will sit there, and nothing will ever happen to them, and that might be the case -- ditto for the nerve gas or for the biological materials. But a prudent person who has some responsibility for the safety of his or her country really can't do that. President Putin doesn't take that position. He's very concerned about the security of all of that -- so is the president of Romania, and so is the president of the United States, and those in the Senate who have tried to advise. So my guess is we are all safer -- everybody who lives in the world -- because of this treaty. I would add, as I have in response to the other question, we need to do a whole lot more. There are other kinds of weapons that can likewise have devastating effects, and will, in the hands of people who are seeking them and who have given every evidence of trying to get them and to use them.
Q Jean-Pierre Agramali (ph), Italian News Agency ANSA. Have the European allies of the United States a word to say in this dialogue between the United States and Russia? Are they just to pay something for Russia dismantling warheads? What the role is for the Europeans?
SEN. LUGAR: Well, for many European countries, who are allies of the United States and NATO, I think there will be a very direct contribution. I went to NATO headquarters in January to talk to the permanent representatives, at the request of our Ambassador Burns, at a workshop, in which we discussed the war against terrorism, but likewise the future of NATO, its objectives, its missions, what we are about. Very clearly there is an intense interest on the part of NATO nations, including Italy. And the Russian-American relationship when it comes to arms control, or arms reduction as the case may be now, and likewise what role they may play. And Europe is playing a role with the scientists and the stipends that I mentioned earlier. Some European countries are going to play a role in the destruction of chemical weapons at Shchuchye, for example. I hope there will be much more of a contribution, and that would be my advocacy as I visit with these allies. Lord Robertson was here in Washington, I think three weeks ago -- it was my privilege to introduce him at the Council on Foreign Relations, and it gave an opportunity to visit on these issues -- the role of NATO, the role of European countries working with the United States, and now working with Russia, and the new relationship that has been announced at Reykjavik and it will be coming into greater maturity by the time we get to the Prague summit.
In response to the gentleman from Romania, obviously the Prague summit is of great importance to other countries in Europe, Romania included. An action we took on the Senate floor this morning with the NATO Consolidation Act was very pertinent to that situation. We made a declaration by a very large majority, with just six dissenting senators, after a rather vigorous debate last night, that we ought to expand. That ought to be the policy of the United States. We ought to expand robustly, in the way that our president suggested in his Warsaw message, and that we ought to work vigorously with each of the major candidates. This particular bill in fact authorized expenditure in seven countries, including Romania, to try to bring about more training, more interoperability in the use of equipment so that each one of those candidates would be more likely to be selected during the course of time. And we pledged during that debate for the Foreign Relations Committee and our Armed Services Committee to have vigorous hearings, examining the prospects of each country -- so that the Senate is not deaf and mute about this. We have an opportunity to share that data, and for other countries to understand in a very transparent way what we are interested in.
And the nuclear issues, the terrorist issues are bound to come up through all of this, as they did in our debate about NATO consolidation yesterday and this morning.
Well, thank you very much for -- please go ahead -- you've been patient. Yes?
Q Thank you, senator. This is -- (inaudible) -- and it's not about -- since you are here we want to ask you about what's been going on since Wednesday night about this allegation that the president had some certain information about a terrorist attack. And I would like to ask your response, if you think the president has been treated fairly by the Democrats or the media. Also, I would like to ask the senator what kind of information were you provided throughout the summer of last year? As far as -- (inaudible) -- is concerned?
SEN. LUGAR: I am a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and the Intelligence Committee, and I would say we were provided a lot of information. We have access to the daily so-called (SYB ?) reports by CIA, and a number of the allegations that have been made about al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and other reports were in some of these summaries -- not everyday, but occasionally Osama bin Laden bobbed up as a subject, or thoughts that someone might have an idea of an attack somewhere in the world. The president was seeing the same material. Conceivably the director of the CIA, George Tenet, on those days that he briefed the president personally, may have added additional material through an oral briefing that was not in the format that at least the leading policymakers of the country receive about the same time every morning. So there's always that possibility.
I would just simply say that all of us bear a responsibility in public life to try to be more creative as you take a look at that kind of data. All of us wish we had known more about the Middle East, about Osama bin Laden, about the whole network of terrorist organizations attached to him, about the capabilities. In retrospect, you always wish you might have jumped to the right conclusion. But I would simply say, as most are saying, including the White House briefers and others who are much more learned about this than I am, that this is sort of quarterbacking after the event. It's sort of the blame game that occurs when there's great anguish -- and there is.
Now, we've been in a war, and for the moment some people feel there's sort of a lull in this. So we are doubling back. The intelligence committees are going to have a full-scale investigation of was the CIA adequate -- how about the FBI? Are we connected with the Immigration Service data or Treasury? Or how does homeland defense come into all of this if we have this rigorous separation that the CIA does intelligence abroad, and the FBI at home, but they never meet because of civil liberties in this country? All of this.
Now, these are not new subjects. And I would say since September 11th we have been getting into them in a big way. And if we had a government that has sort of stovepipe mentality in which each of these groups talk to each other but somehow their computers never matched, the data never flowed -- that is our fault as a nation for being so rigorous that we had to keep things in just that order that we could not see the forest because of the trees. But finally, at the end of the day, some would say even if we had had all of this interoperability, the specifics of a Trade Center attack by these folks -- or the Pentagon -- was virtually unknowable. It came as a total shock because it really was a surprise to each one of us who had been reading all this all this time. And I have been reading about bin Laden for the last five years -- not the last 20, but the last five fairly intensively -- I am sure the president likewise.
So I -- it's a free country, and Democrats can criticize the president, and some feel the president is far too popular because of the success of his leadership and ought to be brought back down to size, and this is sort of one way of doing it. But that's not a very pleasant thing to watch. And I thought for instance the editorial in the New York Times this morning was fairly even-handed in which it said in the best of all worlds someone is omniscient -- they just get a glimmer and they see exactly what's going to happen. But I don't think, to be very speculative about this, that the third plane that hit the Pentagon knew where it was going when it started.
Now, these are things that occur. I am grateful it didn't hit the Capitol, because I was there that day. And I -- the panes in my windows in the Hart Building rattled pretty stoutly, and I thought they had hit the Capitol. It was the Pentagon -- shockwaves all the way back to where I'm sitting there in the Hart Building. So, you know, I have a vivid memory of precisely the thing, and that really concentrates the mind on what you ought to be doing and what you need to know. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: Thank you, senator.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you.
MODERATOR: And thank you, ladies and gentlemen.