George W. Bush photo

Press Briefing by the National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley

April 06, 2008

Aboard Air Force One

En route Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland

1:54 P.M. EDT

MR. HADLEY: In the negotiations of the Strategic Framework Agreement, there was a back and forth on language between us and the Russians. And that language was not agreed going into Sochi. And we really never got agreement on it until finally today, in the presence of the two Presidents. What we were seeking in that agreement -- and we viewed it as an agreement -- was two things: one, an agreement by Russia to work together on a system or architecture for regional missile defense in which Russia, Europe, and the United States would participate equally. That's the first thing we sought.

And the second thing we sought was a Russian agreement that the confidence building and transparency measures that we had offered them, with respect to the Czech and Polish sites, would -- I need the word from the transcript --

Q: Assuage.

MR. HADELY: -- would assuage their concerns about the two sites. That's what we sought, and we could not get, until at the dinner table with Condi and I, and Lavrov and his deputy, worked out the language that Condi drafted on a piece of paper. It had both of those elements. There was a concern about the word "assuage." Lavrov wanted to take that back. That was one thing. And in addition, Lavrov said, look, if we do this, we have to nonetheless maintain the position that we don't like those two sites. And we said, okay, you can restate your position that you do not like those two sites, but what we need from you is, "the transparency and confidence building measures would assuage their concerns."

And what we got today was a Russian agreement to the two points that we were seeking all along: one, that they would cooperate in the development of a system for regional defense in which Russia, the United States, and Europe would participate as equals, and second, a statement that while they did not agree to the two sites, did not accept them, nonetheless the transparency and confidence building measures we offered -- if finally agreed and implemented -- would assuage their concerns. So we got the agreement that we sought, and the only one we could get at leaders' level.

Now what I said in response to a question earlier was, the details -- working out the details of those confidence building and transparency measures, the how it would work, who would be where, I said that will take some time. And I was asked, will we get it done on our watch? Would we like to get it done on our watch? Sure. Is it critical that we get it done on our watch? I would say no, for two reasons. One, we got the agreement in principle that I described, and secondly, it's going to take time; these are very operational details they're going to have to work out with respect to how to handle sites on which ground has not yet even been broken. So that's going to take some time.

That's what I wanted to say. Thank you very much.

MS. PERINO: Do you have any questions?

Q: Is there anything you want to add about the actual involvement of the two leaders, and what they -- you said that this essentially required the involvement of the two leaders. Do you have any further detail about how they worked it out?

MR. HADLEY: In the end of the day, the two leaders asked Condi and Lavrov to work it out in their presence, and then they signed off on the language.

Q: During the --

MR. HADLEY: Correct, right. And each of them had been briefed going in, so each of them knew what the remaining issues were. So we got an agreement, it was the only agreement we sought, and the only agreement we could get, and the rest of it, in terms of the operational details, are going to have to be worked out in the months ahead. And it's difficult, because we're talking about how to operate with sites that not only are not built, we haven't started even to break ground.

Q: When you say -- were you talking about they're vague, or that they need some more negotiation --

MR. HADLEY: It will be worked out by the operations. As Putin keeps saying, the experts need to get together and figure out the details of how -- what will work. And of course it's not just between Russia and the U.S., but as we said, it needs to be reciprocal, which brings in the Czechs and the Poles, and it needs to be one that the Czechs and Poles are comfortable with, because obviously they're sovereign states, and we have to recognize their sovereignty.

So my only point is, it's now at the expert level, and it's going to take some time. It will involve us, the Russians, Czechs, Poles.

Q: It's still going to be in Poland and the Czech Republic.

MR. HADLEY: What's going to be in Poland and Czech Republic?

Q: The interceptors and the radar.

MR. HADLEY: Those sites will be there, but remember what we said is, they need to be reciprocal, so that to the extent there are Russian sites that are part of this system of regional defense, in the same way the Russians would want to be at our sites, we would want to be at Russian sites if they are going to be part of this system. So you can see this is going to take some time to work out.

Q: Steve, not to be semantic here, but to say that they're -- this would assuage their concerns, it's not saying that they're going to accept it, these missile defense sites -- they may have no choice, you can do it without them, but the agreement that the President sent the Secretaries to Moscow for was to get them to say, yes, we understand it's not directed at us, we're not going to be targeting you with nuclear missiles, and so forth. Do you see what I mean? I mean, they haven't yet agreed to the deployment of these sites in Eastern Europe.

MR. HADLEY: They may never formally say, we welcome these sites. I think it's likely they will never say we welcome these sites. But, you know, if the sites are built, and as I described, Russians show up, liaison officials who are accredited to their embassies, and who work at the sites, you can decide in your own mind whether you think Russia has accepted the sites or not. I would argue that at that point they will have accepted those sites.

Q: They also used the phrase, "don't have a veto," right? I mean, you can put them there if you want to. But the question is, they haven't yet agreed to these details. They're willing to say let's talk about --

MR. HADLEY: Nobody has agreed to these details. What they have agreed -- and this is very important -- we are at the point where if these issues are agreed and implemented, they will assuage their concerns. So what they're saying is, the package we offered, if we can nail it down and implement it, will work. That's what we heard.

Q: How big is that if? That's what -- I mean, he sounded -- he was still very adamant against these sites on one hand. On the other hand, he --

MR. HADLEY: I think that's exactly right. For a lot of reasons, he needs to say, as they said last night, we continue to oppose these sites. They've got their politics. But what he also said was, the measures we have described, agreed and implemented would assuage their concerns.

Q: It just says it's going to be important and useful in assuaging. It doesn't say as if -- our concerns go away. Important and useful --

MR. HADLEY: It says it will assuage their concerns. And what are their concerns? The concerns he's mentioned all the way through was that it would be directed against Russia. And as Putin said, this would allow him to be confident that the system was not directed against Russia. That's what these measures are designed to do.

Q: How can they be assuaged by measures that aren't nailed down yet? That's what I'm a little confused by.

MR. HADLEY: What he said -- you've just got to look at the language: "If they're agreed, and implemented, they would assuage Russian concerns." What he's saying is, we've got a model. If we can nail it down, and if it goes in operation, it will assuage our concerns with this site. That's what he's saying.

Q: But it's still a condition. There's still a --

MR. HADLEY: There's huge ifs here. We're talking about sites on which ground has not been broken. I mean, we're early on. We've got as much of an agreement as you can expect to get from these two leaders at this point in time.

END 2:00 P.M. EDT

George W. Bush, Press Briefing by the National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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