Daily Press Briefing
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
(Excerpt of Portions Related to START)
1:37 p.m. EST
Briefer: Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon. Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State, and happy December 22nd to all of you.
A couple of things before we take your questions. Just to note, since we haven’t chatted in several days because of the weekend and the snow here in Washington, over the weekend the U.S. delegation led by Assistant Secretary Rose Gottemoeller has returned for a recess from the START negotiations in Geneva. The team has gone through an intensive period of negotiations with their Russian counterparts over more than two months. Our goal remains to conclude a solid treaty for the President’s signature as soon as possible, and we expect that the teams will resume their negotiations in Geneva in mid-January.
QUESTION: Just on START, if you could – this is now the second deadline that’s been missed. You had the 5th and then you’ve been saying you want one before the end of the year. It’s not going to happen. How disappointed are you?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we continue, I think, to faithfully carry out the charge that was given to us by President Obama. The 5th was a point at which the existing treaty expired by agreement between the two countries. We are abiding by the spirit of that agreement as we continue these negotiations. They’re being done in good faith. We had hoped to resolve the complex issues that these treaty negotiations present by the end of the year. I don’t think that we’re particularly concerned, given the complexity of these issues, that it’s taking a longer period of time.
Clearly, over the course of these two months, we have made dramatic progress. There are still issues that we continue to work through, so there’s still more work to be done. But I think we remain confident that given good faith and the ongoing efforts of both sides, that this will get done.
QUESTION: And what’s your current assessment of when you think that might happen?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ll – I think we expect to pick it up again in mid-January. And taking a break, it gives us a chance to kind of come back and understand what the unresolved issues are and to come back to the table in January with new proposals on both sides.
QUESTION: So you have no goal? I mean, you —
MR. CROWLEY: Well —
QUESTION: This could go on forever as far as you’re concerned as long as you —
MR. CROWLEY: I can’t – well, we – the fact – I mean, the fact that the 5th came and went because we have an understanding with Russia that we are going to continue with the status quo – I mean, we’re not talking about an environment of 20 years ago when we were doing this before. This is a much different environment than we exist in today. We have confidence in the good faith on the Russian side. I think they have confidence in the good faith on our side based on not only the working arrangement that the two teams have developed, but also the ongoing consultations that – and high level that we’ve had, including the meeting between President Obama and President Medvedev in Copenhagen last week.
But we are going to continue to work on this, and there are complex issues. I think we’re confident that we will arrive at a satisfactory conclusion and a new treaty that meets our national interests and meets Russia’s national interests. And – but when it gets done is when we are finally able to overcome the last couple of hurdles that still confront us.
QUESTION: It sounds like there’s no goal. I mean, that’s what I’m trying to get at.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the goal —
QUESTION: I mean, there isn’t a goal as far as timeline. I mean —
MR. CROWLEY: Kirit, remember the goal is to get a treaty not only that we arrive at an understanding between the United States and Russia, but we also have to arrive at a treaty that is clearly in our interest, that we can present to the United States Senate and receive its advice and consent. So we’re not negotiating just to get a treaty – any treaty. We’re negotiating to get a treaty that is in the interest of the United States and, we believe, in the interest of Russia.
So it’s not something you can sweep a wand at and say, “Okay, we’ll just solve this problem.” The issues that we’re working through in terms of numbers and verification and the complex issues regarding these kinds of systems, it does take significant time to work through. It’s very, very complex. But we continue to work on them. We’ve made progress. We think we’re in a pretty good position. But we thought that after a couple of months of very intensive work, it was useful to take a break, and we’ll resume this in early January.