An official website of the United States government

Assistant Secretary Rose Gottemoeller: Press Briefing on the New START Treaty
June 8, 2010


Press Briefing on the New START Treaty

Rose Gottemoeller
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Verification, Compliance, and Implementation

Geneva, Switzerland
June 3, 2010

Photo Gallery

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: Thank you all very very much. I am extremely grateful to the Geneva press corps for your support throughout some very intensive negotiations. We spent most of 2009, the latter half, and the first half of 2010 here in Geneva, as you know, and so were successful in concluding with the Russian Federation the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START as we call it. Again, your support throughout the negotiations was very much appreciated and your understanding, because we were conducting very intensive negotiations on a very confidential basis. So we were spending a lot of time working very hard and not a lot of time out in the open or in access to the public.

I am here this time on a somewhat different mission. My colleague and I, Ambassador Anatoly Antonov, the Russian chief START negotiator and I have been briefing the new START treaty to important international organizations. We briefed the NPT Review Conference on May 10th in New York, and this week we have been in Vienna to brief the OSCE and also the IAEA. Yesterday we were in Brussels to brief the EU and also the so-called EAPC on NATO premises. You’re going to ask me what EAPC stands for, and I’m not remembering right off the bat. [Laughter]. But it is NATO plus its action plan partners, its Partnership for Peace partners. Today we are briefing the CD here in Geneva, and so it’s very good to be back in Geneva and with the opportunity to present the results of the negotiations on a bilateral basis to the Conference on Disarmament. Because, of course, we are hoping to see that momentum from the START negotiations extend into a number of multilateral arms control and non-proliferation efforts. We already saw the bounce last month at the NPT Review Conference, and we’re hoping that it will provide a bounce going forward for many particular tasks that are very important for the international community and the arms control and non-proliferation.

At the same time my first priority, and I also know Ambassador Antonov and his colleagues in Moscow are facing also the challenge of ratification by our respective legislatures. Honestly, I stole away these few days to come to Europe and do these briefings from a very intensive ratification process. That’s already begun. We submitted our START ratification package to the U.S. Senate on May 9, and hearings have already begun. Secretary Clinton, Secretary Gates, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, had their first hearing before the Senate on the 18th of May. That was the first official kickoff at a high level, and hearings are continuing. I’m having my first hearing next week with other members of the negotiating team.

I know it’s also an intense process in Russia. They just submitted their ratification package last week and I know from press reports and hearing from my counterpart that they too were diving in with briefings and hearings before the state Duma.

All in all it’s a very active period, and I’m glad we had this opportunity. I’m very pleased, again, to be back in Geneva, and it’s good to see you all. I’ll do whatever I can to answer your questions.

PRESS: I maybe have a question about the momentum. We saw the result of the NPT Conference in New York. Some say it’s failure, others a success. It’s not very clear. Do you really think you had momentum from this NPT Conference as far as the new START is concerned?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: I can tell you what I experienced during the briefing that we did on May 10th, and I can tell you what we’ve heard from others. Again, I’ve been focused as a priority on the ratification process, so I was not participating in the U.S. delegation in New York. That was the responsibility of Ambassador Susan Burke, who was our head of delegation there. My boss, Under Secretary Ellen Tauscher also spent some considerable time there, rather intensive at times,

I would underscore in my view, and in the view of the U.S. government overall, it was a successful conclusion with a consensus on a very significant action plan with a number of very important non-proliferation asks carried forward at this point, and I think that that was a great accomplishment compared to where we were in 2005, for example. In my view, first of all it restores the overall venue of the NPT and its regime as a place to be working some very serious and difficult problems. I don’t want to shortchange the problems. They are difficult and serious. But this review conference certainly restored the NPT regime as an environment to work on serious non-proliferation problems, first of all; and second of all, I’m just pleased with the way the details of the action plan turned out. I think the right tasks are there with regard to what we need to commit to and have to pursue further. Again, I would just refer you, I’m sure we can provide the action plan. I didn’t bring it with me today so I don’t have it in front of me, but there are I think it’s 67 tasks or something like that that have been laid out, so it’s quite a moving agenda, and we’ll see what we can accomplish between now and 2015.

I ducked your question a bit. I want to just circle back to the point about the START treaty itself and the kind of bounce it provided. Because what I saw in New York was, there was a great positive wave of reaction to the negotiation. Can I say that this bilateral accomplishment by the United States and Russian Federation, specifically spurred action? Yes, I think I can, because people were very impressed that we had gotten this major treaty done in a rather short period of time. By the way, we started in Rome on the 24th of April, 2009. That was our first session. The very last “I” was dotted and “T” crossed on April 24, 2010 here in Geneva in this mission. So as a matter of fact it was exactly one year from start to finish for these negotiations, and that’s, in my view, itself a tremendous accomplishment because past treaties have taken nine years, six years, long periods of time. START took nine years to negotiate, the first START treaty.

In any event, the mood in New York was incredible when I was there. So many people coming up to me, and because we did the briefing and coming up to my counterpart and saying what a great effect it was having on the overall mood and atmosphere of the NPT Review Conference. Then I heard afterwards from our delegation many of the same kinds of comments continued throughout the month.

So I do think there was a positive and a specific influence on the mood of the Review Conference.

PRESS: Here in Geneva what I guess balances the efforts — We hear in Washington all the time. What balance would you vote for from the Conference on Disarmament? How would you vote that the momentum carries forward?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: I think the challenge for the Conference on Disarmament is the degree to which the conference will be ready, willing and able to move forward on a negotiation on a fissile material cutoff treaty. Again, this was something that was discussed very specifically. You used the word bounce. I won’t say bounce in this case. A push was given to the FMCT from the Review Conference as a specific task to pursue, and so I know that there will be very serious discussions as to how to proceed forward on that here in Geneva. Again, I hope that the overall influence of the successful START negotiations will provide a kind of positive environment for those discussions to go forward. Certainly I feel like the Russian Federation and the United States both support moving forward on a fissile material cutoff treaty, and we also might have the kind of moral wind at our back, so to say, thanks to the fact that we were able to complete the START negotiations and get a new treaty signed by our Presidents.

PRESS: In the past Russia’s been quite adamant that going ahead on FMCT, they could support that but there are other issues they want to go ahead with as well. Space weapons, for example, one that’s been seen as inflammatory in some U.S. circles. Is that still seen as a kind of one-for-one, that they would have to move forward together? Or is the U.S. position still that FMCT comes first and we talk about the other things later?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: No. I think we’re ready to talk about it all at once but it’s a difference of degree.

I think as I’ve understood the consensus that had developed here in Geneva it was to proceed with an FMCT negotiation, per se. But the other items clearly have been placed on the agenda by the Russian Federation and there are other items that others have placed and I think there’s a willingness to discuss them. But in terms of really getting a focused serious negotiation going, I think the priority is on the fissile material cutoff material negotiations.

PRESS: How would you see you’d overcome the Pakistani objection to going ahead with this? Given their security concerns.

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: I know there are a lot of serious discussions going on behind the scenes and I simply cannot comment on the details of them, but I think there is certainly an effort to recognize Pakistani security concerns, as you say, and at the same time to find a way forward that would allow the negotiations to begin. But again, those are behind-the-scene discussions and I’m not going to try to dive into them further.

PRESS: In the mean time, what concerns do you have about [inaudible], nuclear supplies and how safeguarded they are? How safe they are.

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: As you know, we have pushed all along the universality of the NPT and again, that was one of the messages coming out of the review conference. The United States continues to really push that as a goal overall for policy. Our view is that programs around the world should be incorporated into, at a minimum, safeguards arrangements that –


A/S GOTTEMOELLER: IAEA safeguard arrangements that permit enhanced security and safety for all concerned. It’s an international concern.

PRESS: If I can follow-up on my colleagues’ question, you mentioned there’s some discreet talks going on – on the Pakistan issue. Are we talking of the Pakistan-China option here? The Pakistanis getting the nuclear deal that you gave the Indians effectively, and blinking an eye to it?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: I’m not prepared to comment on that any further as I said as to behind the scenes —

PRESS: Would you object to the statement, you got a deal with the Chinese?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: That’s something I’d rather not comment on. I’m not able to comment on.

PRESS: I’d like to get back to the NPT conference. You were saying it was a great accomplishment compared to 2005 which was a big failure. Because you did reach a consensus. On the other hand, one of the achievements of the conference was the conference which should be held in 2012 for a nuclear free, weapon free Middle East. I think that was going to be a very big challenge to hold this conference. How do you see that? And how do you see the U.S. administration dealing with this? Knowing that they have a position of [inaudible], for example, but you also have the uranium nuclear issue which is —

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: Yes, indeed many difficult and complex issues. The President spoke of this and also General Jones I think gave a very good and clear series of remarks talking about, first of all of course, support for the notion of this conference moving forward, but also clearly laying out a number of conditions that we feel will be important with regard to the conference and particularly the concern about making progress on the overall security situation in the Middle East. It will be important, I think, and that has always been the U.S. position, stretching back to 1995 in the original resolution that talked about establishing an exploration of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. That was stretching way back to 1995, but it was always in the context of overall progress on security in the Middle East for all countries in the Middle East, and furthermore I think the President and General Jones were very clear that no country should be singled out in this regard. It has to be indivisible security for all in the region. So those are some important issues that are going to have to be worked.

As you know, the idea is for a facilitator to be named. That will be an interesting job, but I see no reason not to proceed forward in the hope that that will be able to knock the conference together and move forward.

PRESS: Just to follow up, will you consider in a way to the high price for the U.S., considering the fact that in the [inaudible] situation [inaudible] singled out, but your primary goal maybe was to keep this non-proliferation regime on its feet. Was it a very high price to pay or –

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: I think it is very important that consensus was sustained through the ending of the Review Conference. And as I said, the absolute great accomplishment is that we came out with a very clear work plan and a new kind of, in the substantive agenda for the NPT regime. Compared to where we were coming out of 20005, I think there is overall certainly, I feel, a very positive and overall, it’s too strong to say optimism because there are such difficult and contentious issues to be dealt with, but a sense of hope and a sense of positive momentum.

PRESS: On that very issue, some of the Arab countries in the region have been saying that one of the preconditions is for the Israeli defense facilities, the nuclear facilities, to be under full International Atomic Energy Agency oversight. And without that happening they don’t have the confidence. They’re saying every other country in the region is asked to comply. The Syrians are under a lot of pressure. The Iranians have their problems with the Atomic Energy Agency

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: For good reason.

PRESS: Yeah. What is the situation with, as a confidence building measure, getting some kind of arrangement with the inspectors from Vienna on the Israeli facilities?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: I really don’t know anything about that issue. I don’t know how –

PRESS: They’re not party to the NPT but –

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: I understand that, but in terms of where those discussions have been and where they may be going, I just simply do not know anything about the issue so I’d rather not comment.

PRESS: The flip side of that is the Israelis have been very critical how they were singled out in the resolution as the one country that has not confirmed that they are basically a nuclear weapons state because of the way they define it.

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: As I said, I’ll make a general point which is I think an important one, that the view of USG is that no country should be singled out with regard to where we go forward on [inaudible].

PRESS: Getting back to the CD, you said these talks are going on behind the scenes obviously involving Pakistan and presumably India as well.

What do you think the prospects are for the CD to get some sort of negotiating mandate this year?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: Well, I hope that will be good. We started out a year ago in the spring at this time. We started out with some very positive decisions being made in terms of consensus on moving forward with FMCT negotiations and as we’ve been discussing, those have slowed over the past year. But again, I hope the results of the NPT Review Conference will help to restore some momentum there.

PRESS: Momentum, but do you think the prospects — It usually ends in September doesn’t it anyway, the CD? Do you think there are prospects of getting something — This is the second session, isn’t it?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: I hate to speculate on that. All I can say is, again, I feel this myself a feeling of hope and positive momentum. That’s all I can say.

PRESS: To go back to the U.S.-Russian relations, the core of the START negotiations here. How important do you see the U.S.-Russian engine, in a way, in the non-proliferation discussions? Because we know that yours are two major nuclear states, but on the other hand, the concerns now are more about non-state actors, terrorist groups, things like that. So what impact can those countries have on starting from the START negotiation and what you discuss here?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: I can say, and again I’m reflecting on the experience of the RevCon as well as of our own negotiations. We in our bilateral negotiations had a lot of catch-up work to do because of the many many years since we had engaged in a major negotiation on a bilateral basis for a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. So we had a lot of catch-up work to do. At the Review Conference in New York there was the normal, I would say, relationship in the P5 and the P5 has always played a kind of leading role as the five nuclear weapon states under the NPT in any review conference. But I think essentially the fact that the U.S. and Russia picked up the pace in their bilateral relationship on these security issues served as an important policymaking engine. Going into the review conference. I know again, not so much from my personal experience, but from talking to our delegation and those who were involved including Ambassador Laura Kennedy who played a very important role working with Ambassador Burke. That the U.S.-Russian teamwork at the NPT Review Conference in New York was extraordinarily important. Not the only factor, of course, but one that was very important through the month and in bringing the RevCon to a successful close. And I do think the fact that we had had this intense period of 12 months of bilateral negotiations on START, they kind of, they pulled that teamwork into focus. We’ve made general statements — We, Washington and Moscow as well — about how this has been beneficial to the reset button, et cetera, et cetera. I think yes, it’s possible to make that general statement about U.S.-Russian relations. But I think in this particular case, we essentially had really refurbished our working relationship in nuclear policy issues through the START negotiations and it paid off at the NPT Review Conference in New York.

PRESS: How? If I can come back to the treaty, are there any specific clauses prohibiting modernization and the capability of the weapon systems to have more firepower? And there’s been controversy on the so-called deployed strategic ballistic missiles and heavy bombers. How do you define this item? What does it mean in layman’s terms?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: It’s clearly defined in the treaty. If a system is deployed under the treaty, it has a warhead loaded on it. The exception being heavy bombers which do not carry nuclear warheads on a day in/day out basis. So essentially there are very few heavy bombers that are not deployed according to the definitions of the treaty, and if you’re interested enough –

PRESS: [Inaudible].

A/S GOTTEMOELLER:— it’s all clearly defined. For example, non-deployed bombers –

PRESS: They’re not part of the 700, correct?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: Non-deployed bombers would not be part of the 700. They would be part of the 800. But it’s a very discreet suite of categories including things like test heavy bombers, bombers that are at test ranges and only used for testing purposes. So if you’re interested enough you can dive down into the definitions which are all freely available on the State Department web site, and read what the definitions are of deployed and non-deployed systems.

But essentially with regard to missiles, ICBMs and SLBMs, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and the sea-based SLBMs. If a warhead is on the missile then it is deployed; if a warhead is off []for any reason, whether it’s in maintenance, whether it’s going to the destruction facilities, elimination facilities. Once the warhead comes off it for purposes of the treaty it becomes non-deployed.

PRESS: So again, we don’t know how many are in stockpile.

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: How many which? Missiles or warheads?

PRESS: Warheads that might be in stockpile. That’s not clarified in the treaty.

A/S GOTTEMOELLER:That has never been part of a strategic arms limitation or reduction treaty. Essentially, so far in the history of bilateral arms control between Russia and the United States, the concern has been essentially with accounting for the delivery vehicles and the warheads on them. Once the warheads go off, then go into storage, for example, or go into an elimination queue, then the treaty does not account for them any longer. This has been the case starting with SALT in 1972 and up to the present era.

The interesting thing about the next reduction negotiation, and President Obama announced it very clearly in Prague, is that when we go on to the next stage of negotiations we will be looking to begin constraints for the first time in history on non-deployed warheads.

The reason why it has not been tackled up to this point is for a long time we were very dependent on national technical means of verification, and you can see a big missile sitting in a silo from a satellite going overhead, but you cannot see a warhead inside a storage facility. So it was about a means — conceptual and also practical, for verifying and monitoring the implementation of a treaty.

PRESS: On my initial question —

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: Just to finish that thought. The challenging aspect of future negotiations will be that the verification tasks will have to extend into discreet facilities like warhead storage facilities, and that will be a challenging task. Technically, politically, and well, overall. Politically I mean in policy terms because both countries, all countries concerned would have to make some decisions about access to sensitive facilities.

PRESS: On my initial question about is there any clause that limits the modernization or the power of an existing weapon system. So you can effectively bring down the numbers but increase the kill radius of a weapon so you can actually de facto have more power.

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: If you look at Article 5 of the treaty, is with regard to modernization and it essentially says that under the terms of this treaty both parties have the right to modernize their strategic forces as they see fit. Now Article 5 also says that if a decision is made to produce some kind of new weapon, then the parties will have a right to bring it up in the Bilateral Consultative Commission and talk about whether and how the provisions of the treaty should become applicable to a new weapon system.

That language in Article 5 has gone forward from the START Treaty. Both counties when we negotiated START in 1990 wanted to have the flexibility to modernize their strategic forces. It’s the same with this treaty. But the overarching message is that both countries are resolved to bring down numbers of nuclear warheads on nuclear delivery systems and that is I think the strongest message of this treaty.

Nevertheless, the notion of modernization is present in the treaty and is explicitly allowed for in the treaty.

PRESS: But I asked back in April from the State Department or the White House, basically a ledge on what this treaty secures and what is out of the treaty to see the differential between what is achieved here and what is out there down the road. As you’re saying in the next round of negotiations you might even introduce some measures on warheads in storage or weapons deployment systems also not in use, maybe being repaired or decommissioned. So is that information going to be made available at some point?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: It’s now availability because everything has been published. The treaty itself, the protocol, and the technical annexes. And the treaty itself has a list of existing types associated with it. The existing types of strategic offensive arms are constrained by the treaty.

So you can read all about it in the —

PRESS: There is detail of the stuff in stockpile?


PRESS: The warheads in records, the stuff not captured by the treaty, is that included in an annex?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER:It is not because it’s not a subject of the treaty. But we did now in May in New York release warhead numbers, if that’s what you’re talking about, and I would look to the announcement that Secretary Clinton made during the Review Conference about reduction of, I didn’t bring the chart down with me, reduction of warheads. Since 1967 at the height of U.S. warhead deployments we had over 31,000 warheads and now we’re down to 5,116, I think. Those numbers also are readily available. I have a nice chart that shows how the numbers have come down. I recall that they also published a year by years table of the eliminations. I don’t have it with me, but that is really available. It should be available on the Defense Department web site.

PRESS: Okay.

PRESS: Is November still your target for ratification?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: Coming out of the Review Conference you might have noticed a statement was made that we look forward to ratification by the end of the year. But by the end of the year means any time up to that. My view is that we move as expeditiously as possible. My own goal is to work very hard this summer and see if we can get the treaty ratified.

PRESS: Work very hard this summer. In other words sooner.

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: Yes. Sooner rather than the end of the year.

PRESS: Just to go back to the NPT Review Conference, some say that it was a short term success, others maybe help solve problems in the long term. Do you think you might be in a better position now with this NPT Review Conference result to resolve the Iranian [inaudible]?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: I think so, yes. My view is, again, I talked about having these significant results in terms of having the action plan out there and so forth, so there’s a very clear agenda of action moving forward, and I do think that essentially the overarching momentum will be very helpful in terms of working on the issues with the Iranians.

PRESS: Just on modernization as well, in the FMCT would there be a prohibition on modernization? Would the United States which has, and Russia for example, which have plenty of fissile material in all their warheads, they could then repackage that in newer and more powerful weapons?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: The United States and the Russian Federation have actually had a unilateral moratorium on the production of fissile material for some time. The United States hasn’t produced new fissile material since the 1980s. So as far as where

Moscow and Washington are on this issue, we are both, I would say, in a situation of restraint already.

Now in terms of U.S. national policy, President Obama was very clear in Prague, very clear in his Prague speech in 2009, that the United States will not be producing new warheads. He said as long as nuclear weapons exist we will maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal, but the emphasis is on stockpile stewardship of existing warheads, and the President’s been very clear that we’re not in the business of producing new warheads.

PRESS: But nothing under the treaty would prevent a country like Russia from repackaging already existing fissile material?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: Again, the treaty does not speak to warheads and constraints on warheads as is the case historically and up to this point. As I said, we’re now looking for future negotiations to begin to tackle that problem. But it’s not been a problem that we’ve tackled up to this point and it is certainly not one that is part of this treaty.

PRESS: The stockpile issue, and the CTBT. People have said that if there’s anything that’s going to give momentum in the CD here, it’s full ratification of CTBT which has been hanging around for 14 years now. What’s the state of play of that? What are the prospects? Why put forward START and not the CTBT for ratification full speed? What are the prospects that the Russians and the Chinese will follow on the CTBT? And —

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: The Russians have already ratified —

PRESS: I mean the Chinese, sorry.

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: You’d have to ask the Chinese that question. But as far as START is concerned, I think it really in my view is important as a priority to get START ratified and entered into force. For one thing, once the old START treaty went out of force in December, basically the verification regime went away. So there was a practical reason to move out as swiftly as possible and get START ratified.

In terms of the CTBT, again, the United States, and this message came out of the RevCon as well, the United States remains very committed to moving out on ratification of the CTBT, but we had some homework to do.

You may be aware, for example, that there’s a very important National Academy of Sciences Study that is underway in the United States, and what has happened since ratification failed in 1999 over the intervening ten years there has been real progress on installation of the International Monitoring System, the IMS system. The seismic network around the world is much more extensive than it was in 1999, so we asked the National Academy of Sciences to do an in-depth study of really what is different, what has happened in terms of verification prospects for the CTBT in the intervening period, simply because we’ve managed to get the IMS more up and running than it was in 1999.

So there’s homework that’s going on, and I’m very hopeful that you’ll see results of the NAS study very soon. And when START is ratified then we can move out briskly on ratification of the CTBT.

There’s no diminution of the task. The tasking from the President. He’s resolved to get that done. He said it in Prague, he said it again in Prague when he was back there to sign the START treaty, and it came out of the RevCon as well that this was going to be a push.

PRESS: Just to make sure I understood you, when you said you’d be looking, your own goals, looking very hard this summer. Actually full ratification of START. Even though the Senate’s got financial and other legislation.

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: Don’t forget the Supreme Court Justice.

PRESS: So that’s what your hope is that this summer they would actually get —

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: Yes. But remember, the U.S. definition of summer goes to the autumnal equinox, September 21st. [Laughter].

Thank you all very much.

PRESS: What’s new on the Hill on the CTBT? Are people ready to do it?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: Actually there’s a really interesting piece I just saw. I would refer you to John Isaacs, Council for a Livable World. He just put out on his web site yesterday his assessment. He’s a real Hill insider. He’s an NGO, a very experienced guy.

PRESS: Which — Council for a Livable World?

A/S GOTTEMOELLER: Council for a Livable World. He just put out an assessment yesterday that made me jump for joy because he said it looks like it’s going okay in terms of the mood on the Hill in terms of the mood on the Hill about START ratification. So I’d recommend that you — It didn’t come from me. [Laughter].

PRESS: There seem to be some former Department of Energy experts who think that likely the operational testing, we’re going to modernize your weapons.

A/S GOTTEMOELLER:That’s a good point. [Inaudible]. There’s expert opinion on expert opinion, so [inaudible].

PRESS: Thanks for doing this today.

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157624202724438″]