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Presidents Clinton and Putin Discuss Arms Control Proposals and New Era of U.S.-Russian Relations

Aired June 4, 2000 - 10:51 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, I'm Kyra Phillips, the CNN Center in Atlanta.

President Clinton and President Putin of Russia are wrapping up their weekend summit in Moscow, both men are about to issue a joint statement, as they sign some agreements.

We're going to listen in as we observe the signing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in Russian)

PHILLIPS: While we wait for both presidents to make their joint statement, we can tell you that they are signing an accord, and this involves destroying 68 tons of weapons-grade plutonium, that's enough to make thousands of nuclear warheads. Now, you may ask what's going to happen to the plutonium? A number of things.

If this was to get into the wrong hands, and it was to be circulated, it could be directly used in weapons in the wrong hands, so instead, now since the signing has been made, the plutonium will be converted into nuclear reactor fuel, while in the United States some of it will be used for fuel, and then the remaining plutonium will be mixed with highly toxic nuclear waste and stored.

Now, U.S. officials put the cost of this agreement at about $1.75 billion for Russia and about $4 billion for the U.S., and that is to take care of the process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in Russian)

(speaking English): Presidents also issued today joint statement concerning management and disposition of weapon-grade plutonium, designated as no longer required for defense purposes and related cooperation. Joint statement on global cooperation to combat global warming.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): Good day, ladies and gentlemen. I will allow myself to begin summing up our two days of work with our guests and partners, with the president of the United States, Mr. Bill Clinton, and members of his team. For two days now, we worked very intensively, and I have to say right off the bat that -- I have to say that both in terms of the spirit and the quality of our talks, as well as the results, the Russian side cannot but express its satisfaction.

We discussed issues of interest, in our opinion, not only to the United States and the Russian Federation, but to the other countries as well on global matters. All of mankind's interests, really, is -- lies here. We discussed in great detail everything that had been done in this very important -- and issues of interest to both of our sides and that which was done over the last several years.

We agree that we're going to be acting in this direction jointly in the future.

We discussed the issues of new global threats; threats such as terrorism, and narcotics, crime. We talked about issues which, to our mind, are -- that have a certain solution and in the estimation of our American colleagues maybe have a different kind of solution. We exchanged ideas and opinions on issues to which we had different solutions in the past. These talks were very candid, very open and very topical.

As you know, with my colleague, the president of the United States, has signed several documents including statements on security. And many things are determined and defined there -- much is said in these documents. The result, I think, can be summed up by saying that we not only confirmed the high level of our relations, but we also expressed the trend of development of our relations between those two countries in the near future.

I wanted to stress here, ladies and gentlemen, the following, that over the last period of time, say a year or even more, the relations between our two countries have been of a varied kind prior to our -- or at one time we had relations increasing and improving, then they would begin falling. But that high level which was reached over the last eight years by the efforts of the Russian leadership and of the administration of President Clinton allowed us to always find a way out of these crises with honor to not only to re-establish good relations, but also to solve problems where we had disagreements. and we really cherish this.

I am pleased to note here that in these very tough questions we observed not only a desire to speak, but also to find joint and mutually beneficial solutions.

We discussed also topics that had to do with bilateral economic interests. Here I wanted to say that the Russian federation, in the face of your humble servant and the chairman of the government, the prime minister, Mr. Kasyanov, the leading ministers of the government who participated and took part in these talks and negotiations, not only informed and described to our American guests what's happening economically in Russia today, but also discussed with our partners joint actions, joint activities both of a bilateral nature as well as within the framework of international financial institutions.

I wanted to stress here as well as the Russian federation aims not only to go through its transformation, about which many people have so much spoken, but very decisively to, in a practical way -- I mean moving ahead on the tax code and moving ahead on production sharing.

Here we have some issues which we have not yet been able to resolve between us and the state Duma, but I think these are rather technical issues. I think together with the deputies in the state Duma, we're going to be trying to find solutions and finally get this legislation.

We spoke about the upcoming international events, the Okinawa summit, the millennium summit and the United Nations in New York, the Brunei meeting. In this way with Mr. Clinton, myself, we have reached an accord on further joint progress along a whole series of issues which not only we discuss today and yesterday, and which we will still have an opportunity to discuss some more tomorrow to move ahead on these issues at the events that I have listed.

On behalf of the leadership of the Russian Federation, I want to thank the American delegation not only for accepting our invitation and coming to Russia, but for a very constructive and business-like discussion and attempt to find solutions. Thank you so much for your attention.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would like to first thank President Putin and the Russian delegation for making us feel welcome and for these talks. I have come to Moscow at an important time. Russia, after all, has a new president, a new government, a new Duma. Its economy is showing encouraging signs of growth. This gives Russia a pivotal opportunity to build on the strong record of engagement between our two countries. It is also an opportunity for the United States.

I welcome President Putin's interest in building a Russia that enjoys the enduring strength of a stable democracy. President Yeltsin lead Russia to freedom. Under President Putin, Russia has the chance to build prosperity and strength while safeguarding that freedom in a rule of law.

We've had good discussions both last night and today on a range of common interests including non-proliferation and arms control. We expressed our differences with clarity and candor, and I, for one, appreciate that. The importance of this relationship to ourselves and the world demands that we take every opportunity we can to find common ground and that where we cannot find it, we express our differences with clarity and candor.

I congratulated President Putin on the key role he played in the Duma's ratification of START II and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The United States ratified START II first, and I hope we will now follow Russia in ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. I also look forward of the ratification of the START II protocols by our Senate so that we can get about the business of further reducing the number of nuclear missiles that we have.

I am very pleased today we agreed on two other major steps to reduce the nuclear danger. We reached an important agreement each to destroy 34 tons of military-grade plutonium, enough to make thousands of warheads -- this raw weapon material, that will now never fall into the wrong hands.

We also agreed to establish a joint data exchange center in Moscow to share early warning information on missile and space launches. This is terribly important. It is the first permanent U.S.-Russia military operation ever. In this new center, Russian and American military officials will be working side-by-side, 24 hours a day to monitor missile warning information. It is a milestone in enhancing strategic stability and I welcome it.

The president and I also discussed our common commitment to prevent the proliferation of missile technology and our determination to exert firm control over exports of sensitive technology and strictly enforce export control laws and regulations.

We discussed our common interest in commercial space cooperation, including the successful joint venture that launches commercial satellites. We agreed that our teams would soon need to discuss future cooperation in the commercial space area with the aim of moving toward eliminating existing constraints on commercial space launches.

We also had a thorough discussion of our work on the Start III Treaty and the issue of national missile defense. We have agreed to a statement of principles which I urge you to read carefully. It makes clear that there is an emerging ballistic missile threat that must be addressed, though we have not yet agreed on how best to do so. We have acknowledged that the ABM Treaty perceives the possibility of changes in the strategic environment that might require it to be updated.

We have reaffirmed our commitment to pursue further reduction in offensive arms in parallel with our discussions on defense systems, underscoring the importance of the doctrines of strategic stability and nature of deterrence as the foundation for this work. We've asked our experts to keep working to narrow the differences. We need to develop a series of cooperative measures to address the missile threat, and we have agreed that we will continue to discuss it in our next meeting.

We spent a large share of our time discussing economics. I am encouraged by the economic plan President Putin has outlined and by the current recovery. I look forward to Russia's continuing to implement proposed reforms that will actually make the recovery last, reforms such as tax reforms, anti-money laundering legislation, strong property rights protections.

I look forward to Russia's successful negotiations with the IMF. This is a good economic team with a very good opportunity to increase investment in Russia both the return of money that Russians have placed outside the country and new investments from other countries.

Later this month our former ambassador to Moscow, Bob Strauss, will come to Russia with a delegation of investors, including some of America's best-known chief executive officers, to discuss opportunities in Russia and the steps Russia is taking to improve its investment climate. I think this will be only the beginning of a very successful effort at economic reform, if the intentions that President Putin outlined become reality.

The president and I also discussed another area where we disagree: Chechnya. I restated that the opposition that I have to a policy that is well known, essentially I believe a policy that causes so many civilian casualties without a political solution ultimately cannot succeed. I also urged President Putin to move forward with transparent and impartial investigations of the stories of human rights violations and to authorize a speedy return of the OSCE to the region.

Finally, I stressed to President Putin the importance the United States places on protecting religious freedom and the rights of an independent media.

I strongly agree with what President Putin himself has said, that Russia has no future if it suppresses civic freedoms and the press.

We agreed to advance our technical cooperation on climate change. We believe it's essential to complete work on the Kyoto Protocol, including market mechanisms, to protect the environment, promote clean energy, and reduce costs. I think Russia has a great economic opportunity here, as well as a great environmental one.

And on these issues, the president and I are asking the U.S.- Russia Bi-National Commission, under the leadership of Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Kasyanov, to carry forward the work.

I was encouraged by our discussion, pleased with our agreements, pleased with the candor and clarity of our disagreements. I am eager for more progress. I'm also looking forward to the chance to talk to the Russian people tonight in a radio talk show and tomorrow, as I have the opportunity to speak to the Duma and the Federation Council.

Again, Mr. President, I thank you for this, and especially for these two agreements, and I look forward to our continued work together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We'll have four questions, first question, Mayak (ph), please use the microphone.

QUESTION (through translator): Russian radio station Mayak. The question to the president of Russia: What is the priority you give to Russian-American relations in the world and a world that, as we see, is changing and forming in a different way? Thank you.

PUTIN (through translator): The history of relations of the former Soviet Union and the United States of America and now Russian Federation and the United States, this history, as I've said, has many dramatic as well as many positive elements.

We were allies, there was a period of time when we suffered through confrontation between our two sides. One would hope that the very worst in our relations is far, far behind us.

For today, the United States is one of our main partners, and as far as Russia's concerned, it will never choose or make the choice regarding the United States in order to start once again confrontation. Never. We are for cooperation, we are for agreeing -- coming to agreement on problems that might arise, and naturally, new problems like this exist and have existed and probably will exist. That's not important.

What's important is that the approach to finding a solution is only one, it's unique. It cannot be aimed at destroying everything positive that's been achieved in the recent past, but also looking into the future and this kind of chance and this intention among the leadership of Russia as well as I understand among the leadership of the United States. The president of the United States, we're going to follow these principles, these kind of tendencies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Walter Mitchell (ph) of the Associated Press.

QUESTION: Is there a chance that the United States would exercise its option to withdrawal from the anti-ballistic missile treaty if it is not possible to negotiate changes to permit a national missile defense, and was this possibility raised in your discussions with President Putin?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, I have not made a decision on the national missile defense stage one. It is premature, I have the statement of principles that we have agreed to I thought reflected an attempt to bring our positions closer together.

I do not believe the decision before me is a threat to strategic stability and mutual deterrence. The Russian side disagrees, but we had a lot of agreement here and again, let me say I urge you all to read that.

I do not want the United States to withdrawal from the ABM regime because I think it has contributed to a more stable, more peaceful world. It has already been amended once and its framers understood that circumstances might change and threats might arise which were outside the context of U.S. now-Russian relations. We acknowledge that there is a threat, it needs to be met and we're trying to bridge our differences and I think that's where we ought to leave it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): "Mishivisa" newspaper, independent newspaper.

QUESTION (through translator): President Clinton, Mr. President, how do you -- what do you feel about Russia's continuation of reducing with its START III the number of warheads down to 1,500 warheads? Thank you.

CLINTON: I missed the translation, could you give it to me again?

QUESTION (through translator): What would be the attitude of the United States, Mr. President, on the Russian position of coming down to 1,500 warheads within START III?

CLINTON: Well, look, we have previously agreed to a range of 2,000 to 2,500 on START III. If we were to come down below that, it would require us to change our strategic plan, and we believe it would be much better if we were going to do that if we could also know that we were defending ourselves against a new threat which we believe is real.

So we'll continue to discuss all these things.

Let me say, I am eager to get down to the START II levels, and I'm eager to go below the START II levels, but I also want to try and solve the new threat as well. And I will do whatever I can to achieve both objectives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last question will come from Randy Mickelson (ph) of the Reuters News Agency.

QUESTION: This is for both presidents. Now that you've met together as presidents, how would you describe each other's personalities and leadership qualities, and how do you see them affecting relations between the two countries? And in particular, President Clinton, are you any more or less assured about the future in -- of democracy in Russia following your meetings today?

CLINTON: You want me to go first?

PUTIN (through translator): As you know, this is not our first meeting between myself and President Clinton. President Clinton, now for almost eight years, heads one of the most powerful countries in the world. He's a very experienced politician. In my mind, we've established now, not only good business ties, but also personal relations. For me, President Clinton is a very -- person who is a very comfortable and pleasant partner in negotiations.

I think that if all -- if everyone behaves the way President Clinton has behaved, not trying to find dead ends and problems, but to seek ways of moving ahead, I think between us in the future our relations really will be successful.

Take a look at the ABM Treaty. There are a lot of problems there. We've written down in our statement, about which Mr. Clinton just spoke, a basis -- a principle -- a basis, for maintaining the ABM Treaty as a major key point in the whole strategic balance and for maintaining security.

Now the starting point with the possibility -- of seeing new threats arrive, we have a commonality. We're against having a cure which is worse than the disease. We understand that there are ways and a basis that we can build upon in order to solve even this issue, an issue which seems to be one of the most difficult to solve.

So I repeat, we know that today in the United States there is a campaign on-going. We are familiar with the programs of the two main candidates. And if these programs are implemented and there it says, for instance, the necessity to positively improve relations between Russia and the United States, that baton that Mr. Clinton is going to pass on to next president, no matter who gets to be president, we're willing to go forward on either one of these approaches.

Thank you.

CLINTON: Well, let me say first, I think President Putin has an enormous opportunity and a great challenge. If you want to know what my personal assessment is, I think he is fully capable of building a prosperous and strong Russia while preserving freedom, pluralism, and the rule of law. It's a big challenge. I think he's fully capable of doing it.

And I want to use the time I have remaining as president, not only to further the interests of the United States in meeting our national security threat, but also to further our interest in having a good, stable relationship with a Russia that is strong and prosperous and free, respecting pluralism and the rule of law. That is what I'm trying to do. I think he's fully capable of achieving that, and I'm encouraged by the first two days of our really serious work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for you participation.

PHILLIPS: This is Kyra Phillips back at CNN Center in Atlanta. You've been watching breaking news of the summit in Russia, the Moscow summit with President Vladimir Putin and President Bill Clinton. Two highly significant agreements were made: first, the destruction of 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium, plutonium that could make thousands of nuclear warheads; the second agreement is to create a missile launch early-warning system, and this would reduce the risk of mistaken nuclear launches.

John King, our senior White House correspondent, is with the president in Moscow. He's also been following the summit.

John, what do you make of the agreements and the discussion?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, the two agreements -- follow-up agreements to concepts negotiated first in the Clinton-Yeltsin summits of years past, both designed to reduce the threat and the possibility of an accidental missile launch and the transfer of Russian nuclear technology or materials to what Washington would consider rogue nations.

Also interesting, just the personal dynamic between these two leaders: Asked to rate each other at the end, President Putin called President Clinton a supremely gifted politician, said he was very comfortable negotiating with him. President Clinton returned the favor, said he thought President Putin had every opportunity to put Russia on the right track.

The president did work in a reminder that the U.S. standard would be preserving Russia's democracy. No agreement, though, on the big issue: Russian objections to the U.S. national missile defense plan. The president hoping a joint statement they agreed to on that subject provides a foundation for an agreement in the future.

The two leaders acknowledge there was a threat of a rogue nation launching a missile. President Putin, however, saying that he thought building a missile shield like the United States is considering doing would be a cure worse than the disease.

So obviously a disagreement still and a very significant one over what to do, and that's even more significant because the president is facing a fast approaching deadline to decide whether to go ahead and deploy the U.S. system.

PHILLIPS: John, another disagreement -- President Clinton brought this up -- was the situation in Chechnya with the military.

What is your take on the future with that issue?

KING: Well, it was the Chechnya campaign on which Mr. Putin built his popularity to which he coasted to a landslide victory in the Russian presidential election. The United States' view now, as it was before the Russian elections, is that Russia should quickly enter into a political dialogue with the Chechen rebels. President Putin, though, has shown no indication to do that. The campaign continues.

Russian casualties are mounting, however, and U.S. officials think at some point President Putin will want to bring this to an end so that he can concentrate on economic reform, something the two leaders discussed in great detail today. Neither side, in public, moving from their position on the Chechnya campaign.

U.S. officials hoping, though, that pressure not only from the United States, but also from international organizations like the International Monetary Fund and others -- when Russia goes looking for economic help, the United States hoping more pressure about the Chechnya situation will bring President Putin to look for a quick end to that conflict.

PHILLIPS: John, this delegation of investors that Clinton did talk about, sending this delegation to Russia, is this a first, is this the first time something like this has been proposed?

KING: Certainly not the first time investors have come here. Under a commission founded by the vice president, Al Gore, and the Russian prime minister -- that position has changed hands several times in the last eight years -- that commission has on numerous occasions brought over U.S. investment teams here.

One of the problems, though, is the U.S. companies say they are not treated fairly under the tax code, that there is no stable court system here under which they can proceed if they have grievances against either the Russian government or their business partners. You heard President Putin in his remarks today saying he wanted to move aggressively to address those issues such as the tax code here in Russia.

U.S. officials obviously encouraged by the Putin economic team, and to put former ambassador Bob Strauss, a close friend of the president's, a high-ranking Democratic Party official and a man who was well-regarded when he was the U.S. ambassador to Russia -- to put him in charge of that delegation sends a signal that at least for now the Clinton administration is looking to very actively encourage American investors to come here and look again. PHILLIPS: John King covering the breaking news with the U.S.- Russia summit. We're going to ask you to hold on for a moment. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: I'm Kyra Phillips at CNN Center in Atlanta.

You're watching breaking news, Presidents Bill Clinton and Vladimir Putin have completed signing two very highly pertinent, significant agreements in Moscow.

Our John King has been covering this, and we're going to continue our discussion, John, about getting further with regard to the reduction in strategic nuclear warheads. Can we continue discussing that?

KING: Well, the two leaders did discuss it today. Again, though, no firm agreement here. Right now, the United States has about 7,000 strategic nuclear warheads, Russia about 6,000. The START II Treaty envisions both countries getting down to no more than 3,500 by the year 2007. It's a possibility that deadline might have to be extended a year or two. The leaders have agreed to try to reach a START III agreement.

Now, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin in the past discussed a framework under which the two countries would go to 2,000 to 2,500 nuclear warheads. President Putin, largely for economic reasons as much as strategic regions -- reasons, wants to go as low as 1,500. The president was asked about that and he said he was not sure that was realistic at this time.

He said there is some skepticism in the U.S. military high command that going that low would leave the United States unprepared in case of what the administration considers the emerging threat, the possibility of "rogue nations," in Washington's words, like North Korea, Iran, and Iraq developing nuclear missile technology.

That an issue still on the table and it is an issue hung up a bit by the continuing disagreement over the national missile defense as well. President Putin saying he would like agreement on the missile defense plan. Of course, he wants Washington to scrap it before he gets into the nitty gritty of negotiating deeper cuts in strategic nuclear missiles.

PHILLIPS: John King live in Moscow, thank you very much.

And we'll have more on the summit in Moscow coming up at noon Eastern Time, Wolf Blitzer will talk live with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

I'm Kyra Phillips in the CNN Center in Atlanta, thanks for watching.

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