Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official
The Briefing Room
2:05 P.M. EST
Good afternoon. Today we're going to provide you a BACKGROUND BRIEFING on the trilateral denuclearization agreement that was signed today at Budapest. The agreement was indeed a very important one, very historic, and is distinct from the CSCE plenary and meetings that went on. So we thought it would be useful and effective to have some administration officials here today to explain to you exactly what the meaning of the trilateral agreement will be for nuclear weapons reductions now and in the future.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. I'm going to be very brief because I know you want to get to questions. Let me just say at the outset, this is a really good deal. It was a good deal when it was made and it's really a more important deal now that it's been ratified and come into effect. And what I'd like to do is just hit three areas, sort of the background, historical context, briefly the accomplishments of the treaty, and then move on to next steps.
This began in 1982 in the Reagan administration, following the Carter efforts to get the SALT II treaty, which I negotiated, through. Reagan wanted deeper cuts, and so SALT became START -- strategic arms Reduction talks. It's gone on now for 12 years -- three presidencies, signed by President Bush, and in effect, could have been ratified shortly after that signature, except a funny thing happened on the way to ratification. The Soviet Union fell apart, and the result was that we had four new identities holding nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union. And since then, for two years plus, there has -- rather almost two years, there has been intensive work by this administration at the presidential level and just about every other level of the government you can imagine to solve the problems that were created by that collapse of the Soviet Union. As I said, there were four new nuclear weapons states, including Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Belarus. They all had to be made party to the treaty, and there were long negotiations about successor states' status and so forth.
Having gotten them to agree to be party to the treaty, we then, in Lisbon -- Secretary Baker worked a deal whereby they agreed that they would join the treaty as nonnuclear weapon states, members of the Nonproliferation Treaty, an absolutely vital consideration because, otherwise, we would have had, in effect, a proliferation of nuclear weapon states.
So after all this negotiation, the toughest nut was Ukraine, as I think you all know. It was only in the last couple of weeks that the Rada overwhelmingly approved accession to the Nonproliferation Treaty. And so the conditions were met. The Russians had said that they would not let the treaty go into effect until and unless all three of the other states had joined the NPT, and indeed they did. I can't emphasize enough the difficulty of the negotiations that were involved here and the intense work that was done by this administration, in addition to the intense work that had been done by the previous administration.
What does the treaty do? It reduces by almost 40 percent the strategic weapons on each side to a number around 6,000 deployed warheads. Back in '91 when the treaty was signed, each side had about 10,000. It's legally binding. It's verifiable. It's irreversible. And as far as I can determine, it's durable. It has the most comprehensive inspection and monitoring regime ever agreed upon in any arms control treaty. That's it. It's several pounds of, most of which is the verification and inspection.
It also provides, as I'll get into, a very valuable basis for the START II Treaty, which is somewhat thinner because it derives from the START I Treaty considerably.
So no new nuclear weapon state will emerge as a result of this. And I think the accomplishments are just extraordinary. And having, as I said, been in this business in the SALT II Treaty, I can tell you that I congratulate all the negotiators who worked on this treaty.
So where do we go from here? As I mentioned -- I mentioned START II -- it means the ratification of START I and the entry into effect of START I means that we can now go forward with the ratification of START II, which is before the Senate now.
That treaty, when entered into effect, will reduce the weapons on each side to no more than 3,500, possibly as low as 3,000. It will eliminate all of the most dangerous weapons, what were the Soviet, now the Russian, SS-18s, and will be another major step toward strategic stability.
An indirect effect which is vital at this time is the effect it will have on the extension of the Nonproliferation Treaty. That treaty comes up for review and extension in April of '95, and it now has 168 parties to it and many of them over the years have complained that the major nuclear powers have been insufficient in their efforts to reduce their own arsenals. Certainly the entry into force of START I and the perspective entry into force of START II is of significance.
And finally, at the summit last September the two Presidents agreed that once START II comes into effect we could have additional discussions on the possibility of further reductions of remaining nuclear forces. So this is a treaty which meets our strategic arms control desires and it certainly assists in maintaining the existing nuclear nonproliferation regime.
Q: What's the status of Ukraine moving its arms to Russia?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As far as I know, all of the tactical weapons have been out of Ukraine for some time, and the process is in order -- I'm not sure -- it's begun, the strategic weapons. It's not complete.
Q: It was ahead of schedule. So what's the status --a couple of months ago it was ahead of schedule. What's the status right now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, basically, we started via a side agreement to begin moving those weapons to Russia earlier this year. That will continue, and in fact now, some of the other weapons that were not included in that previous agreement will begin moving towards Russia for dismantlement. In the interim, all of the weapons are being deactivated, which is less than complete dismantlement. It is, in effect, removing the warheads from the launchers so that they cannot be used while awaiting transport to Russia for dismantlement. That will continue, and the entire process will be completed as soon as we can get it completed.
Q: Can't you be any more specific in terms of the numbers, though, what Ukraine had? Is it 176 or --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think I've got some of those numbers here. Have you got them? Ukraine, we had 700 warheads that are no longer deployed, 360 have been returned to Russia. Forty of the missiles have been removed from launchers thus far.
Q: Could you say something about the security agreements that were made in connection especially with the Ukrainian decision to --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The same security assurances were given each of them by Russia and the United States, and essentially, it's that we will not use nuclear weapons except when they make an attack in alliance with a nuclear state. We also commit ourselves to going to the U.N. Security Council for supporting if they are attacked. There are a couple of others that slip my mind. Respect the states' independence and sovereignty, refrain from the threat or use of force against them, refrain from economic coercion, consult with the Security Council if they're threatened by nuclear aggression, and consult if a question arises concerning fulfillment of these commitments.
Q: So Ukraine got nothing extra?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No.
Q: What's the timetable for the removal of all of the weapons now that are outside of Russia, to Russia for dismantling? When will they all be in Russia or gone from any possible operation?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: According to the treaty, by the seven years, starting from today, which the treaty -- during which time the treaty will be implemented. If it can be done more rapidly, it will be done more rapidly. But the commitment is to finish it within the seven years -- seven-year period.
Q: Why should it take that long for Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't imagine it will. In fact, some of them it will be much, much shorter. You asked by when, and they will certainly be done by then. All of the reductions under START I -- U.S., Russian and the other three smaller states will all be completed within seven years. Some of them, Kazakhstan, I imagine can be done much, much more rapidly. Also, Ukraine, Belarus, for all practical purposes, is down to a de minimus number, and will probably be completed much earlier.
Q: But Belarus and Kazakhstan still do have arsenals on their territory?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Some of the strategic weapons are still there. All of the tactical nuclear weapons were removed quite a while ago.
Q: And so how many are there? I thought that Belarus was totally devoid of any strategic weapons now.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's very close to it. De minimus.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: First, on warheads that have been taken off deployment status and returned to Russia, my colleague gave the numbers for Ukraine. For Kazakhstan, it is 810 no longer deployed. Approximately 500 have been returned to Russia. For Belarus, which only has the single-warhead SS-25 deployed on its soil, 45 warheads no longer deployed, 45 warheads returned to Russia. That means a couple -- tens of SS-25s still remain to be moved from Belarus.
If I could just follow on, on a question of removal, the four states directly involved -- Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus -- have a series of agreements on schedule for what is obviously a fairly complex action of taking the warheads off deployment status and moving them safely and securely in the schedule that's well within the START reduction period for the three streets.
Q: You mentioned earlier the U.S. Senate has START II and is beginning to try to go through the ratification process. Is Russia also going through it, or what is the progress of that and what is the next step for START II?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The treaty, as I understand it, is at the Duma. I'm not sure of exactly the procedures that are used there -- whether they have an executive calendar as we do or not. But the treaties have been sitting there because, by its own terms, it needs START I entry into effect to move forward. So it only happened this morning, so let's see what happens this afternoon, or next week, or whatever.
Q: And what happens -- after ratification -- it's been signed by both heads of state. So are you just waiting for another ceremony like the one today for it to go into effect?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it has to be approved by the --
Q: Both legislatures, right.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right. Well, by the Senate here and the --
Q: What's the outlook in the new Republican Senate?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, bear in mind, as I said at the outset, I don't think the outlook is bad at all. I think this treaty was negotiated by and signed by Republican presidents, and the START I Treaty was overwhelmingly approved by a bipartisan group, well over 90 votes in the Senate, and I don't see why it shouldn't be the same case with the START II Treaty.
Q: Let me give you a scenario. Let us suppose that other issues concerning Russia come before current -- the new Senate, like aid, for example -- funds and other things --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They might invade Afghanistan?
Q: and does not get good treatment. What then would be the outlook in the Duma for the ratification of START II, and, therefore, what effect might that have on the ratification of START --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that's kind of hypothetical speculation as to what scenario might transpire.
Q: Is it not the kind of speculation, though, that you have to deal with?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't deal with speculation. I think that's a big mistake.
Q: But, I mean, the administration would have to deal with it, right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me say that there has been bipartisan support, also, for that assistance, and therefore, our expectation is that the assistance program, as voted by the Congress and as we expect will be voted in the coming sessions, should continue and if the bipartisan support continues, as we expect it will, that should not be a major problem.
Q: Have you talked to the Senate about this yet? And I realize today was really the day of effectuation of this treaty. But have you talked to the Senate about moving on START II? Do you have any sense of how quickly they would be prepared to move on it? How quickly would you want them to move on it? Is this something you want done in 1995 before the election season really makes people crazy?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, obviously, they've been talked to and briefed, and they're well aware of what the content of the treaty is. But it's been held up pending this entry into effect.
When would I like to see it? As far as I'm concerned, the sooner the better. It's a good treaty, it benefits certainly the United States' security interest. Why hold it up?
Q: Is the administration, as a matter of policy, though, seeking to have this treaty acted on in six months, in a year?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, as soon as possible. Thank you for reminding us.
Q: Does START I require destruction of launchers, or is that START II?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's both. START I does as well.
Q: Will they be done under the eyes of American inspectors, or after the fact -- what is the verification regime? When does that start?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's already started. We've got sitting over here Ambassador Stephen Steiner, who is our representative on the JCIC, which is the commission in Geneva which monitors. And I think Steve's already initialed or signed close to 50 sub-agreements with the other parties to the treaty regarding inspection and --
Q: But have we actually done any on-site inspections? The so-called intrusive inspections?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We haven't done it, no.
Q: Do we know when those will start?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No inspections until the treaty is actually in operation, which only begins today.
Q: When will they start then?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The continuous monitoring, which we can do at one site in Russia and one site in Ukraine, can begin 30 days from today. And the baselines are scheduled to begin 45 days from today. That's where you go to all the sites and confirm what's there, what's declared under the treaty.
The date is supposed to be provided by all the parties 30 days from today.
Q: And is the nuclear movement center now operational?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, yes. It has been for years. And it will be very involved in all of the notifications.
Q: And do not notification provisions now kick in as of today?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Absolutely.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: A whole bunch already gone out.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have been -- both we and our START partners have been engaged in beginning the implementation of the treaty-required reductions even before entry into force. For example, this is something we first encouraged the Soviet Union and Russia particularly to do very shortly after the treaty was signed.
The United States has now removed 100 percent of the warheads from ballistic missiles whose launchers are to be eliminated under START. And we have eliminated, using START rules, 34 percent of the ballistic missile launchers that must be destroyed under the treaty. All of the heavy bombers that must be eliminated under the treaty are at our elimination facility at Davis Air Force Base. Russia has eliminated approximately 50 percent of the ballistic missile launchers which it must destroy under START. So we're well on our way to the full implementation of the treaty reductions.
Q: When you said 100 percent of the warheads for ballistic missiles, what are we talking -- five or 1,500?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The total number of ballistic missile warheads that have been removed from missiles is 3,906.
Q: You don't have on paper all that, do you?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We can probably get one for you fairly easily.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Can I, in closing, just reemphasize what my colleague did in his opening statement, and that is the nonproliferation benefits of this treaty. When the treaty was signed, of course, it was the Soviet Union. It's now a collection of independent states, the newly-independent states. All of those states, with the exception of Russia, are now either denuclearized or in the process of being denuclearized, and will in the end be nonnuclear weapon states. And therefore, the benefits in nonproliferation terms is really quite extraordinary and something that's important, although unforeseen back at the time the treaty was being negotiated; nonetheless, extremely important here in 1995 as we head into a Nonproliferation Treaty review and extension conference.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:25 P.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269405