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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

A Discussion on the New START Treaty

Rose Gottemoeller
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation
U.S. Chair of Global Zero Ambassador Richard Burt, Director of the Center for Peace and Security Studies Bruce Hoffman and Author and Contributing Editor David Hoffman
Georgetown University
Washington, DC
September 13, 2010


PROFESSOR BRUCE HOFFMAN: Good afternoon. On behalf of the Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Center for Peace and Security Studies it’s a great pleasure and tremendous honor to welcome this afternoon Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, Ambassador Richard Burt, and David Hoffman. It’s perfect for me, in fact, because David Hoffman, who has had a distinguished nearly three decade-long career with the Washington Post, is going to serve as moderator and is actually going to formally introduce Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller and Ambassador Burt.

Let me just say one thing that’s extremely important to all of us, that it’s always a special delight to welcome back onto campus a graduate of Georgetown University and not least as distinguished one as Secretary Gottemoeller. Secretary Gottemoeller was a student in what used to be the School of Language and Linguistics where she majored in Russian. She subsequently also taught here at Georgetown in MAGES, Master of Arts in German and European Studies in the 1980s, and it’s thus again, just a really special pleasure and an honor to have her back and to have Ambassador Burt and Mr. Hoffman with her.

So without further ado, David.

MR. DAVID HOFFMAN: Thank you very much. And thank you everybody for coming. We have a live webcast and I’d like to say thank you very much to the Center for Peace and Security Studies for co-sponsoring this with the State Department. I’ll hope we’ll have a lively question-and-answer session today. Both Ambassador Burt and Secretary Gottemoeller are experienced arms control negotiators.

My name is David Hoffman and I’m a journalist. And for many years I was the White House correspondent for the Washington Post and then later a State Department correspondent, and finally, Moscow bureau chief and foreign editor. And for all those years I was trying to find out what these two people were doing at the negotiating table facing off against both the Soviets and later the Russians in some of the most important negotiations of our lifetimes.

These negotiations have now produced again another strategic nuclear arms treaty, and this treaty will be considered in the coming days by the United States Senate. So the things we’re going to learn about today are very topical and important for decisions that the Senate will be making soon.

As the author of a recent book about the Cold War arms race, I’m a big believer that history offers us many lessons for today, and I hope we’ll have a chance to ask both of them about what those lessons are because they both have experience not only in the issues on the table today in the current treaty, but of course, 20 and 30 years worth of experience. And I have to say when I first came to Washington, Ambassador Burt was a correspondent at the New York Times covering these issues, and I, with great anticipation, picked up the newspaper every morning to see what scoops he had or what things he was going to do to Richard Perle at the State Department and at the Defense Department and vice versa, so both of them richly experienced.

I won’t take up any more of our time, but here’s how we’ll do it. We’ll have brief introductory remarks by each, then we’ll have a discussion among them for about 20, 25 minutes, and then we’ll open up for the last half for your questions and answers.

So first, Ambassador Burt, a brief introduction.

AMBASSADOR BURT: Well, thank you very much for that introduction, David. And I can’t claim, like Rose can, that I’m a graduate of Georgetown University. But kind of in a much more minor category I can claim that my son played lacrosse for Georgetown Prep, so – (laughter) – which in some corners in this region is more important, but certainly not in the campus of Georgetown.

I think, in a way, we may have almost gone – done this in reverse order, because I’m not going to try to steal Rose’s thunder; she is the negotiator of the new START Treaty. And I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about that treaty, because in my view – and Rose will flesh it out – there really shouldn’t be much debate about whether this treaty is in the U.S. interest or not. Clearly, it is. It doesn’t represent a giant step forward towards the goal of Global Zero. That is the idea of eliminating all nuclear weapons worldwide.

But perhaps, at this point, more importantly, it has put the United States and Russia back on the road to making progress towards Global Zero, and perhaps creates momentum towards moving beyond simply a Russian-American dialogue on strategic arms reductions towards actually creating a more global or multilateral framework for discussing further arms reductions which could include China, India, Pakistan, Britain and France, and others. Because I just emphasize this very strongly, that really should be our goal.

We shouldn’t look at these arms control agreements, in my view, as just a series of episodic negotiations, but part of a process of leading to zero nuclear weapons worldwide. And particularly, at a moment in international history when the real threat of nuclear weapons certainly do not stem from the likelihood or the possibility of a U.S.-Russian nuclear war, I think that is very low, if nonexistent at this point. The threat is a very different threat. It emanates from the growing number of failed states, from the growing number of weak states with weak governments, and the growing availability of nuclear technology.

To give you one little thing to think about: Pakistan. Here’s a country with a government that is weak and increasingly faces a series of demands that it finds it difficult to meet, a country where al-Qaida exists, and if they could, would probably strike at the United States and other countries again, and a country that has a stockpile of nuclear weapons. That is a kind of witch’s brew to make us think about the real threat of nuclear weapons going forward which is the further spread of nuclear weapons – not the strong stable states like the United States – but to a growing number of weak, unstable states where not only could those states themselves possibly use nuclear weapons in a crisis, but where those weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists.

So in thinking about Global Zero and the long-run goal of nuclear elimination, we should see this agreement as a very important step to creating a process of coming to grips with this new age of nuclear danger. Now, there’s a kind of paradox, to me at any rate, about the debate in this town in the U.S. Senate over this new START Treaty.

This morning, because I couldn’t remember the exact numbers, I went online and reminded myself of what the Senate vote on the treaty that I was involved in helping achieve in 1992, the old START Treaty, what was the Senate vote? It was 92 to 5. In other words, there were only five U.S. senators that came out against that treaty.

I’m not going to ask Rose just to tell me how many senators she thinks will oppose this treaty. And I do think, by the way, that it will be ratified sooner or later, and I hope sooner. But it will certainly – it’ll certainly generate more than five opposition votes. And I have trouble kind of understanding that, because in 1992, of course, we were just ending the Cold War. There was still, needless to say, after an experience of 40 years of distrust, of competition and paranoia between the United States and the Soviet Union, one would have thought that people would have been much, much more skeptical and concerned about supporting a treaty which called for things like on-site inspections, which called for the first nuclear reductions on the two sides. But there wasn’t.

So it’s paradoxical to me that 20 years after the Cold War, that in a year when the Russian Federation supported the United States at the UN Security Council on new sanctions against Iran, in a year when the Russians have been much more open and cooperative in helping us address our engagement and involvement in Afghanistan, and in a period when the American president and the Russian president, I think since the beginning of the Obama Administration, have met 18 times and have publicly together called for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons, there seems to be so much opposition to this new treaty. Does that say there’s something wrong with the new treaty, in my judgment? Absolutely not, but there – it may say something is wrong with our politics.

And so – you want me to conclude here? I will. I’ll simply say that perhaps we need to take a look at our politics, not only at the dysfunctionality, the lack of bipartisanship on an issue as central as this, but some other issues that we – may be discussed in our Qs and As.

MODERATOR: Good, thank you. Rose, please give us your perspective.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Well, thank you very much and thank you, everybody who is responsible for organizing this event. It’s great to be back here on campus today. One thing that Ambassador Burt didn’t mention is that he used to be my boss. I’ll return to that in just a minute, because I did work as a very lowly State Department advisor on the START-1 delegation in 1992-1993. And it was a formative experience for me professionally, but I want to circle back to that in just a moment.

I wanted to actually start at a place I’ve been told never to start, and that is to make an apology, but it’s an interesting apology, because the reason I was a few minutes late – and I’m sorry for that – was I was up on Capitol Hill negotiating, as part of the ratification process, for the new START treaty. And it’s a very intense discussion. Then as I got onto campus, lo and behold, who should I run into but Senator Lugar. He was walking out to the gate. I think he must have had some event here today. And I asked him how his morning had been going and he said, “Oh, well, I talked to this senator and that senator,” and so forth and so on. I said, “Well, I hope they’re all in a good mood,” and he said, “Yes, let’s keep them in a good mood.”

So I just wanted to convey to you with this opening apology that there is a great deal of momentum at the moment toward ratification of the new START treaty; that is, the Senate giving its advice and consent to the new START treaty. On Thursday, Senator Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has already notified that there will be a business meeting to consider the resolution for ratification. And we are hard at work trying to make sure that the Senate has all the information that they need in order to give their advice and consent. It’s been a very, very serious process, a very hardworking process. I can tell you I worked all through the weekend, as did my colleagues on Capitol Hill. So everybody’s got in mind that this is a moment. This is a moment of momentum. We can move in a decisive way toward ratification of this treaty and we should grasp at it.

There is one message, though, I really wanted to emphasize – it’s not only an historical moment, in my view – where our two main parties, the Democrats and Republicans, can come together to reach a decision on really an historic step forward in our strategic arms reduction efforts toward, as President Obama has said, eventually moving toward a world free of nuclear weapons. But it’s also a moment of, I think, an opportunity for profound bipartisanship. And as Rick has already said, that is the history of these arms control efforts through the years. They have been bipartisan in their nature.

And I think that is what we would like to really stress in this period, and let’s keep working. It’s a heavy slog, I have to tell you. There are lots of serious issues. And if you’ve been paying attention to the debates at all around the many hearings that we’ve had, you’ve heard about some of the issues – the missile offense/defense relationship, the potential for so-called prompt global strike, conventional range strategic systems, and whether there is any way that the treaty constrains such systems. I will tell you no. But we can come back to that in the question-and-answer period. Whether there are any, kind of, secret deals here that the Senate needs to be concerned about; again, I say no. We can come back to that in the question-and-answer period.

But it is an historic moment to move forward, to bring us to a point where we again have inspectors on the ground, in the Russian Federation, and Russian inspectors are coming here. At the moment, we are blind to what is going on in the Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces. In terms of an on-site presence, of course, we’re not totally blind. We have our national technical means, we have our satellites, we are able to tell a great deal about what’s going on inside the Russian Federation’s nuclear forces. But it is that on-site inspection capability that was the great innovation of first the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, but later on, the START Treaty perfected on-site inspection. And we’re moving in this treaty to even greater perfection and more intensive on-site inspections than we had during the START and INF period.

So at the moment, we don’t have the opportunity – the treaty’s not entered into force yet. But we want to get back to the point where, as Senator Lugar likes to say, we have boots on the ground in the Russian Federation; we can be inside Russian nuclear facilities with eyes on their missiles, their submarines, their bombers, everything that we need to understand what’s going on with their nuclear forces. And of course, it’s the same for us.

In that way, these treaties are very stabilizing, because we view that as long as they understand what we’re up to and vice versa, there is no opportunity for miscalculation, there is no opportunity for worst-case analysis that drives each side to pour more money into nuclear weapons when it’s not really needed, because we don’t really threaten each other that way anymore. But we need to have that mutual confidence and understanding to have that truly stabilizing relationship. So I think that we’re at an historic moment and I hope we see some real progress this week. I anticipate we’ll see some real progress this week.

Now, one final word on Rick Burt as a boss: He was really a good boss, but it was a very tough period in those negotiations as I recall. We were driving on some issues that had never been contemplated before, such as how do you actually go inside a certain kind of weapons facility and look at the missiles there; how do you do that in a way that is, again, giving that mutual confidence and transparency but not, in any way, giving up sensitive, secret information. And again, both countries have a concern about that.

So we were working very, very hard on those issues at that time, and the theme I wanted to pick up on is one that Rick’s already brought to your attention. That is that these negotiations and the agreements that have been reached have been on a continuum – one builds on the other. And START was building on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF treaty that was completed in 1988.

Now, we’ve had 15 years of experience in implementing START, and part of that was a very tough slog because as you’re figuring out how to do things, you got to get your inspectors up to speed, they’re working on all these details of how to make the procedures actually work – well, we learned a lot in that process, we and the Russians together. And this treaty takes advantage of that learning, that learning curve that’s been climbed up by both the United States and Russian Federation. Now, I think we’re moving on to an even better treaty that really will benefit the national security of this country in very significant ways.

So with those introductory remarks, let’s get on to the conversation.

MODERATOR: We’ll try and stimulate a little discussion among us before I open it to your questions, and I guess I have a question for both of you, and get an observation. Rose, you talked about how this treaty is a continuum. Well, as many of you know, that at the peak of the Cold War, there were some 60,000 nuclear warheads together on both sides, the United States and Soviet Union. And today, we’re already down to 23,000 because the Cold War is over, we’ve begun to eliminate them.

But I’d like to ask you, Rose, what’s so magic about this number of 1,550 warheads that you negotiated? And I’d ask Rick also, because you’re affiliated with Global Zero, why 1,550? Why not, say, 550? What do we really need for deterrence and for America’s security in today’s world? In light of the fact that the President in the Prague speech has talked about a vision of a world without nuclear weapons and in his Nuclear Posture Review, in some language that I think hasn’t been widely acknowledged or seen, he also indicated that we really still have too many nuclear weapons.

So if we have too many, is this really just a train station, a stop on the way to Global Zero, or is this really a big, important end in and of itself? I’d like to hear both of you address it.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: This is a significant step. If you know about the treaties that have kind of piled up over the last 15 years, in addition to the START Treaty, which took the number of deployed weapons down from about 12,000 on each side to about 6,000, then the Moscow Treaty brought those numbers down even lower. And it was agreed that we would have operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads in the range of 1,700 to 2,200. So this treaty takes reductions a step lower to 1,550. But we always knew that this treaty was going to be a kind of – I call it a bridge or a transition treaty to deeper reductions, because we knew that the START Treaty was going out of force on December 5th of last year, 2009, and that we needed to have a transition to further reduction negotiations that will be, in some ways, much more challenging.

President Obama has already said in Prague – when he signed the treaty this last April, he said, “Next, we move on to nonstrategic nuclear weapons – so-called tactical nuclear weapons – and we move on to non-deployed nuclear weapons, weapons that are in storage facilities.” Well, those are a lot more difficult verification problems for one thing, and we knew that negotiating such a treaty would take a lot longer.

So yes, in some ways, this is a way station or a bridge – he called it a train station, I prefer to think about it as a way station – it’s a way station on a road to deeper reductions. But it does – and it can put in place, as soon as it enters into force – not quite that very day, but within 60 days of the exchange of instruments of ratification, this treaty can enter into force. And in that way, we will again be proceeding to work together with the Russians on further reductions. And I expect also that we will be proceeding with further negotiations. The President has already spoken on that, as I said, and we need to get cracking on that.

AMBASSADOR BURT: Well, I agree with a lot of what Rose has just said. I guess I would just add a couple of points. When you ask what’s the difference between 60,000 nuclear weapons or, say, 20,000 nuclear weapons, in my view, not much. I mean, what you’re talking about is: How many times do you want to bounce the rubble, in terms of you run out of targets more quickly than you run out of weapons.

So what’s critical, it seems to me, is the political question of when do you get down to a level when the rest of the world, and particularly countries that are thinking about acquiring nuclear weapons, say, wow, those guys are serious about this process, they are really discharging their commitments that they made in the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. I mean, that they are taking this process seriously. Because I think that that’s the crucial relationship here that needs to be focused on in the public debate.

And if you don’t mind, Rose, I would say my only real criticism of what the Administration has been saying, or more importantly not saying, is to not emphasize the relationship between START – new START and nuclear nonproliferation. Because I think what we have to do is demonstrate that the existing nuclear powers, the “have” countries, understand that they have to reverse their buildup and they have to start reducing in a serious fashion.

So what Rose said about a next phase, which would not only cover the deployed weapons but also the non-deployed weapons, the weapons in storage, the so-called sub-strategic weapons, the so-called tactical nuclear weapons, when we can get down to a level of 1,000 or so weapons, in my judgment, you create an environment where then you’re – you have a chance, a decent shot, at bringing in the Chinese and the Indians and others.

And once you’ve created that kind of forum, that kind of global negotiation over numbers of nuclear weapons, then I think you start to build strong political barriers to further proliferation. You put nuclear weapons in a class of sort of chemical and biological weapons; they become too controversial for states to want to cross the nuclear threshold. And that’s what I think we want to achieve, and I think with this new START agreement we have a chance to take a big step towards that goal.

MODERATOR: Thanks. Both of you have brought up the question of politics today and both of you have long experience in different administrations. I’d like to put the question to you this way. It seems that the doubts and the undeclared senators are all Republicans. We’re all watching the Republicans to see if they’ll join the Democrats to give us a big enough majority to approve the treaty. Well, Reagan – you served Reagan. And I wonder, if he were here today, if he were sitting here with us, would he listen to these complaints from the Republicans about funding of the nuclear weapons establishment or verification issues? I mean, what would Reagan advise his party to do today, Rick?

AMBASSADOR BURT: Well, I have no doubt that Ronald Reagan and my other presidential boss, George H.W. Bush, with the emphasis on H, would have both strongly supported this agreement, but Ronald Reagan in particular. I mean, Ronald Reagan actually was probably the first president, not Barack Obama, but Ronald Reagan was the first president that talked about eliminating all nuclear weapons. He was extremely uncomfortable with having the authority to press a button that could lead to the deaths of millions of people. And he was – he became, as president, very concerned about the U.S.-Russia nuclear relationship, and as soon as he found a partner in Mikhail Gorbachev that he felt he could work with, as you pointed out, he negotiated in 1987 the treaty covering intermediate-range nuclear forces, and those forces were completely eliminated, the so-called, famous Zero Option. And he was the first president that didn’t just negotiate strategic arms limitation, but he was the first president who created the START process, Strategic Arms Reductions.

I think one of the – so that’s another irony or paradox we’re in the – we live with today because so many of these Republicans in the U.S. Senate who have questioned the treaty and could possibly vote against it are people, if you ask them, gee, are you a Reaganite, do you support Ronald Reagan’s policies, they would enthusiastically say yes.

And one of the kind of interesting situations we’re in today is I don’t think there is a single nuclear arms treaty that has ever been ratified – arms reduction treaty or limitation treaty – that has ever been ratified under a Democratic presidency. The first – the ABM Treaty and the first agreement putting limits on offensive nuclear forces was ratified during the Nixon Administration. The Carter Administration negotiated what was called SALT II and it never went up to the Senate because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. As I was saying, the INF Treaty was ratified under the Reagan Administration and the START treaty was ratified under the Bush Administration.

And I just think one of the problems is good, old-fashioned, red meat politics. The Republicans don’t – just can’t resist this opportunity to say, well, you know the Democrats are weak on national security. And that’s one of the real barriers that the Obama Administration faces here. I have no doubt whatsoever, if we had a Republican administration, this treaty would be already ratified.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: That’s what so ironic about one of the main – one of the main debates that’s been going on is about modernization budget for the nuclear weapons stockpile for the infrastructure. And over the last eight years, there was a great deal of difficulty getting budgets sufficient for the national nuclear stockpile and its infrastructure, and that was a great concern arriving in the year 2009 and it was something I began to hear about from Republican colleagues while I was still in Geneva, that we need more funding for the stockpile.

Well, it’s been made a kind of issue now in the ratification debate over this treaty. And I will say that President Obama has been extraordinarily serious about ensuring that we have a good budget for our national nuclear weapons infrastructure and working very hard on that. So much so that our friend and colleague Linton Brooks has spoken out and said when he was the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration a couple of years ago, he would have killed to have this kind of budget. So I just want to make the point – I think in some ways, Rick’s hit some of the right themes here, but I do want to make the point that the Obama Administration has been hitting hard on these national security requirements and I think our bona fides are excellent in that regard.

One thing I did want to mention – I’ve heard this before about Democrats never ratifying treaties – we did some extraordinary heavy lifting during the Clinton Administration to get the CWC, the Chemical Weapons Convention, ratified, and also the Adapted CFE, Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, ratified. I will point out that that was 100 to 0, by the way, so we haven’t done so badly.

AMBASSADOR BURT: No, I was talking about nuclear arms reductions, strategic arms reductions, but you’re right, of course.

MODERATOR: Okay, good. I think it’s now time for us to take some questions from the audience, and I’d like you to identify yourself , if you can, when you stand up and ask a question. And I think the first question goes here to Dane (ph), please.

QUESTION: First of all, thank you to both the Center for Peace and Security Studies and to the State Department for putting on this great event, to Ambassador Burt and Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller, for a really great discussion. We’ve always appreciated you engaging the younger generation in dialogue and discourse. It’s actually imperative in order to advance the idea of how we solve the issue of nuclear proliferation.

So my question is on behalf of Global Zero, which is, as Ambassador Burt mentioned, an international movement to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. If that’s the goal, to eliminate the risk of nuclear catastrophe, and this is a significant step – the new START treaty – then what’s the next steps? What are the next 20 years going to look like? What do we have to do now in order to achieve a world where we don’t have those risks, or at least that they’re – the risks are nullified? And what international challenges will we face? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Do you want to start? I will say that the very first set of steps is outlined – probably none of you have taken time to read the new START treaty end to end, but the very next steps are outlined in the preamble to the treaty, where we talk about moving on rapidly to new negotiations and including expanding them to a multilateral approach to bring other countries in as well. So we’re already thinking ahead about what the next negotiations will look like. As I already mentioned, President Obama’s call for nonstrategic weapons and storage facilities to be on the agenda, and I think that we will work hard to figure out how to move to that negotiating table and move out on those next negotiations.

But in addition to that, I thought it was very good the way you brought up the nonproliferation regime. How are we going to strengthen the nonproliferation regime? Our negotiations with the Russians and the other nuclear weapons states, they are only one aspect of strengthening the nonproliferation regime. I actually agree with Rick that it’s very, very important that we show that we are ready really to move out on these reduction agendas and that we are really serious about it. But in addition to that, the other countries who are parties to the Nonproliferation Treaty – and that’s just about every country today – and by the way, it is our policy, as it has long been, for the Nonproliferation Treaty to be a universal treaty. All countries, we believe, should belong to the NPT. But the countries that are not nuclear weapons states under the NPT also have to step forward and fulfill their obligations to be responsible with regard to the nuclear fuel cycle that is used for peaceful purposes.

And that’s why we’re so concerned about what Iran is up to, for example. They say they’ve got a peaceful nuclear energy program going on, but then why aren’t they more cooperative with the International Atomic Energy Agency in terms of ensuring that it’s probably safeguarded and that we and the whole world community understand what’s going on there?

So the point I wanted to make is, yes, we have to work the nonproliferation agenda very hard, but everybody’s got a responsibility to that regime. And it’s not only the nuclear weapons states, it’s everybody’s got to gather together and work hard to strengthen it.

AMBASSADOR BURT: I just – let me just pick on this – make one simple, brief point, because I agree with everything that Rose said. We live in – and I say we – I’m not talking just about the United States, but in a good part of the international system, we live in democracies. And things don’t happen unless there’s public pressure to make them happen. So it’s not like a bunch of foreign ministries and foreign ministers and heads of government deciding to do something and wanting to do it; they need to feel pressure from below.

And that’s why there’s, I think, a real need for the kinds of people that are here today, the kind of organizations like Global Zero that’s represented here, but other groups to promote these issues, to promote this agenda, so that governments feel some heat to do something about it. I mean, the fact of the matter – and we’re enormously lucky – I mean, in my view – to be here today to talk about this new treaty.

But the fact of the matter is I don’t think we would be here today, we wouldn't be talking with a large group of people in a room about Global Zero, we wouldn't be talking about this agenda of nonproliferation, if it wasn’t for one man: Barack Obama. I mean, he happens to believe it. Now, I think there are some other people in his administration who do too. I also know there’s some who don’t.

But the fact is that he has pushed this. He made this a priority to reengage with the reset relationship with the Russian Federation. He brought it up with Dmitry Medvedev in their first meeting in London at the margins of the G-20 summit. He went to the UN Security Council, and I think I’m correct in saying he’s the first president to ever chair a UN Security Council meeting, and he got an agreement on the general goal of Global Zero. And he convened this Nuclear Security Summit, for example, last spring. So it’s remarkable how far one well-placed politician can go, but even Barack Obama can’t sustain this agenda without some real political support, both here at home and abroad.

QUESTION: Erica Marat, Russian Service of Voice of America. Anatoly Serdyukov, the Russian defense minister, is coming to D.C. to meet with Secretary Gates. Do you expect START to be the subject of their conversation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: It is my understanding that Defense Minister Serdyukov and Secretary Gates will be meeting here in town to pursue issues that are part of the overall agenda for the U.S.-Russian Presidential Commission. And it may very well prove to be a topic of discussion, but it’s, I would say, not the prime purpose of the visit. They’re getting underway a longstanding mutual commitment to begin a kind of joint subcommittee under this presidential commission.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) wear this shirt today. I didn’t know it would match the scene. My name is Carmella Jones (ph). I am a member of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy and an active job seeker. I’d like to thank Georgetown for holding this discussion today and the distinguished speakers. My question is for all three of you.

Mentioning Ambassador Burt’s comments about getting other countries to follow and for Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller, her responsibility – your responsibilities today, with the new treaty, are you expecting Iran to listen or eventually get more allied countries, either India or China, to come into a ring of negotiations with Iran to eventually get more allies into this reducing nuclear arms? Thank you.

MODERATOR: Rose, you want to start that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Yes, I think one of the interesting effects that we’ve already seen – and to tell you the truth, I wanted to just note that what Rick had to say is really true from the period when nuclear weapons were a big deal – some of you in the room remember the freeze movement from the late – the ‘80s, the 1980s, and how there was a great deal of public attention to this. In recent years, since the end of the Cold War, I think people thought oh, we’re done with nuclear weapons, stick the issue on the back burner, not pay all that much attention to it. So I wasn’t really sure when we negotiated this treaty how much buzz it would generate, how much it would get people interested. And I’ve been very, very happy to see that in the international community on the world stage, it has gotten a great deal of interest.

We had a very good outcome at the NPT Review Conference in May right after the treaty was signed in April because there was this kind of positive buzz – oh, the United States and Russia, they’re back at the table again, they’ve moving out, they’re trying to get something done in this regard. And so we saw a coming out of this Review Conference in May an actual consensus document, and it’s a big deal because the last Review Conference in 2005 wasn’t able to reach consensus and ended in disarray.

So there was a feeling, I think, that yes, now we have the opportunity to move out on some of these nonproliferation issues. And so I hope that the effect will continue to work its magic on the international scene. I’m not so naïve to think it’s going to solve every problem or ensure that we do have momentum that’s maintained over time. That’s why I think it is so important that the public and the general overall community continue to push on these issues, and I very much welcome this opportunity today to bring together a couple of different groups here at Georgetown. But I think this is exactly the kind of venue that we need to have and we need to repeat and we need to develop to make sure that there’s as much attention as possible to these issues among the public.

QUESTION: I’m not exactly one of the young people here at Georgetown, but I remember a discussion with Robert Strausz-Hupé a long time ago, we all knew and admired in many way. And he talked about this issue of zero nukes and he said the trouble with zero nukes is that when you have a certain amount, no matter what it is and everybody agrees on what it is, then you avoid the problem of the maverick state, the mavericks who can create a weapon somewhere in the middle of nowhere and all of a sudden they’re a great power. And so he said essentially the best can be the enemy of the good. And I wonder how you can deal with that issue so that you can say, okay, let’s ratify this, but it’s not necessarily the way to zero, it’s just part of our current security strategy. Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Well, that’s a great question, Dick. And I’m not surprised that Robert Strausz-Hupé would have raised that. I mean, I think he was at a generation of kind of strategic thinkers who raised compelling questions like that. But I do think there’s some answers to this, and that is we’re not talking about a technology or a weapons system that can only be possessed by a magic circle of very industrialized, modern, large economies. I mean, it’s been over 60 years since nuclear weapons have existed, and the availability of that know-how, of that technology, and even the materials, has spread substantially. That’s why increasingly weaker states can acquire theses through all kinds of hidden means, or at least acquire the components for that.

I don’t believe that when North Korea was capable of developing a handful of weapons which it currently has, it suddenly became a major power or a great power. It’s not a great power. And even in a zero nuclear weapons regime, if a company were – if a country were able to somehow covertly develop a small number of weapons, I don’t think they could then overnight announce that they were now the world’s preeminent power. For one reason, we have conventional capabilities that could take those – that could take out that capability very quickly. We don’t – increasingly, with long-range precision strike weapons, you can carry out strategic missions without, in the process, having to threaten millions of people’s lives.

So I don’t sort of buy that scenario, but there are lots of questions of getting to what I call the end game, of getting down to zero, and that’s only one. There are other kind of difficult problems you have to address and we have to begin working on them. But that is not a reason now for not advocating the goal and, B, making progress towards it.

You can really, in my judgment, still have a situation of being able to threaten unacceptable damage to an adversary with less than 500 or so nuclear weapons. So we still have vastly too large of nuclear arsenals. So we have to think through these problems, and some are very challenging. I don’t see – I haven’t been able to detect or see any real showstoppers that would – should lead us to conclude it’s not a worthy goal.

MODERATOR: Okay, some more questions, please.

QUESTION: Hello, Tim Starks from Congressional Quarterly. My question was for you, Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller. You mentioned running into Senator Lugar. He has a resolution that he’s been working on. I wanted to see if you could talk to me about any of the reservations the Administration might have about that, if any. And you also mentioned that you anticipated progress this week, which suggested to me you think that this will come out of committee. Do you have a stronger sense of what will happen? Do you have the numbers you need for majority ratification in the Senate?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Well, I’ll just repeat what I said before, because we have a process going on, as I mentioned, that’s very intense this week, very, very active. The Senate’s – the staff up there are working very, very hard, senators working very, very hard to get all the information they need. And we’ve been really getting to them all the information that they’ve been asking for to try to make sure they do have all the information they need for their advice and consent.

The reason I’m feeling optimistic is that we have a clear signal from Senator Kerry when he put the notification out that he wants to bring this up at the business meeting this week on Thursday that people are wrestling very actively with this issue. And you all heard – probably heard the same reports I heard this morning coming into work or when you woke up that this is a new congressional season starting; everybody’s back from their summer break, but there’s actually very, very little time before they break to go out for the elections. And so the fact that everybody’s working very hard, they’re intent on moving out on the treaty, really trying to get some progress to get it out of committee this week, and, I hope, actually get a vote on the floor in the next couple of weeks – these are all signs to me of momentum and of positive momentum. But as to the results, I think, well, it’s still up in the air.

QUESTION: And on the first question about Senator Lugar’s resolution, what are your thoughts on that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Nope, not going to talk about that. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) adjunct professor here at Georgetown Center for Peace and Security Studies. Secretary Gottemoeller mentioned modernization, and that might be one issue, that you have to chip in in order to get a majority in the Senate. Now, modernization is complicated and makes things more difficult, of course, in the future.

But I want to ask this question, in order to get closer to what Ambassador Burt has in mind, and that is zero nuclear weapons. The next critical step will be short-term – short-range nuclear weapons, tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. And we know that nuclear weapons have a limited lifetime.

And the question that I would like to ask you is: Tactical nuclear weapons will be much more difficult to negotiate than strategic weapons, correct? I mean, the numbers are difficult. And to sit down and try to find a solution for all that might be very, very difficult. Do you think that non-modernization in that category, tactical nuclear weapons, could be a possible bridge to achieve what Ambassador Burt has in mind? And would that be a possible strategy – non-modernization, formal commitment, not to modernize in that category?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GOTTEMOELLER: Interesting idea, Dieter. I will – Rick will probably want to comment on this as well. What I wanted to say is that increasingly, the lines between tactical nuclear weapons and strategic – so-called strategic nuclear weapons are being blurred. As a matter of fact, whether a warhead is considered a tactical weapon or a strategic weapon depends on what its delivery vehicle is, whether it’s a shorter-range missile for a tactical range or whether it’s an intercontinental-range missile or bomber than can deliver weapons at intercontinental range. But those differences are becoming blurred as the numbers go lower and lower and lower.

And I, frankly, think we’re entering the stage, as we contemplate this next negotiation, where actually, we’ll have a single basket where nonstrategic and strategic weapons can reside together for purposes of the negotiation. We’re definitely, as numbers get lower, coming to that stage. So I’m not quite sure that your proposal, in that regard, works if we are looking across a spectrum and thinking about reductions on that kind of conceptual basis.

But it is an interesting idea, and I think one area where it will be important to work sooner rather than later with – not only with the Russians, but also with our NATO allies – because some of these systems are deployed in NATO European countries – will be on upping the level of mutual confidence. Again, confidence and transparency-building measures, I think, could be a positive early stage to pursue as we look at where we’re going to go next in the negotiations process.

MODERATOR: Okay. Rick, we’ll ask for a quick comment.

AMBASSADOR BURT: Well, yeah, just very – on this technical question, the answer – if this were a question posed to the United States, I think you’d get a rousing yes, because I think there is really a very small constituency in the United States and especially U.S. military circles for sub-strategic weapons.

The U.S. surface fleet has been denuclearized. It’s well known that the United States and its allies deploy just a few hundred gravity-delivered weapons deployed forward in Europe. And there’s no great enthusiasm for these systems because actually, military planners have trouble figuring out how they would actually even use them.

The problem is Russia. Russia, first of all, is not transparent about them. We don’t really know or understand how many of these weapons they have. We know that they’ve got a lot of them; at least 2,000, maybe double that. And the problem is, on the Russian side, I think that as expressed in the – by Russian military, senior military officers, is that they’re not so concerned about deploying these weapons vis-à-vis the West, but they’re concerned about China. And so that’s one reason why, again, some form of multilateral framework at some stage is going to be important here, because the Russians base their force planning, to some degree, obviously on what they see as a growing threat from China. But to solve the problem in the next stage of negotiations, if we try to make it just work on sub-strategic as a single category, I think the asymmetries are such we’re not going to get anywhere.

But I think here, if you take this issue of stored warheads, of non-deployed warheads that are associated with strategic delivery vehicles, this is an area where I think most people believe the United States has a big numerical advantage. So there’s a potential tradeoff here. And maybe you could have a one ceiling of, say, a thousand or so systems where the United States would have just a small number of so-called tactical weapons, and the Russians could, under their freedom-to-mix approach, could have a larger number, and thus a smaller number of intercontinental-delivered systems.

MODERATOR: Well, thank you both very much, and I think you can all see today why we have such great negotiators. You just saw some examples of their skill and their wisdom and their knowledge. Our time is up, but I’d like to thank everybody for coming and, as you can see, there’ll be big news in the coming days, weeks, months, and years on these topics. Thank you very much.


PRN: 2010/1256

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