US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley talks to Russian journalists

US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley met with several Russian journalists on February 22, during his brief working visit to Moscow. This newspaper attended, along with the ITAR-TASS and Interfax news agencies and the Kommersant newspaper.

US National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley met with several Russian journalists on February 22, during his brief working visit to Moscow. This newspaper attended, along with the ITAR-TASS and Interfax news agencies and the Kommersant newspaper.

At the start of the meeting, before taking questions, Hadley said that he did not come to Moscow especially in order to respond to comments made by President Vladimir Putin at the Munich international security conference. The Moscow visit was scheduled well in advance.

Stephen Hadley: American-Russian relations are multifaceted. We are cooperating across a number of issues. There are some disputed areas, of course – and some dissatisfaction that such areas exist – but this is actually a perfectly normal situation in relations between two major powers. And we don’t regard President Putin’s remarks as an invitation to confrontation. We don’t consider that his speech was made for that purpose, and we don’t regard his statements in that light.

The United States and Russia have a broad, in-depth agenda of issues where we are cooperating. The trade niche could be expanded significantly: Russia and the United States recently concluded talks on Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization, and there are great opportunities for bilateral trade as well. Energy cooperation is another area where there is great potential for Russian-American cooperation. We hae technologies that can be exchanged, and we could take the lead among other states in this field. We are cooperating well on WMD non-proliferation, North Korea, and Iran.

My point here is that Russia and the United States share certain common concerns. It is in the interests of both countries to work together, and by working together, to realize that which unites us.

Question: Some Russian leaders have mentioned the possibility of rebuilding our arsenal of intermediate-range missiles, to be targeted at missile defense system elements in Europe. Others say that these missile defense elements are no threat to us. How serious is the United States about taking the Russian government’s opinion into consideration: to the effect that deploying a missile defense system in Europe is useless as a means of countering potential attacks from Iran and terrorists?

Stephen Hadley: The missile defense system we are building is very limited – in both its capacities and its size. It is not directed against Russia in any way. It is directed against those countries which have demonstrated that they intend to build ballistic missiles, along with nuclear weapons which may be delivered by those missiles. This primarily applies to North Korea and Iran. The first element of the missile defense system has been deployed in Alaska – against North Korea. This system was activated late last year, after North Korea tested its missiles. That problem can be resolved by resources based on US territory. But due to geographical considerations and the laws of physics, defenses against Iranian missiles cannot be located on US territory alone. Therefore, it has been decided to deploy a limited part of our missile defense system on the territory of European countries, in order to defend the United States and European countries. We communicated with Russian representatives at various levels, explaining that such a system does not pose a threat to Russia or a threat to the deterrent arsenals of the Russian Armed Forces. Obviously, some Russian leaders are questioning this, and we shall continue explaining our position.

Question: Sergei Ivanov, former defense minister and now senior deputy prime minister, has said that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is a Cold War relic – a statement that could be the prelude to Russia’s withdrawal from the INF Treaty. How would you respond to that?

Stephen Hadley: We regard Mr. Ivanov as a very serious person, and we are taking his statement very seriously. I’m not entirely clear on the point of withdrawing from the INF Treaty in response to a very limited deployment that poses no danger at all to Russian systems. Mr. Ivanov is free to raise any issues, of course, but I don’t entirely understand the connection between withdrawing from the INF Treaty and our limited missile defense system.

Question: Some American officials have said that Ukraine is also very interested in hosting American missile defense elements. Are there any talks under way?

Stephen Hadley: I work at the White House, not the Defense Department, which is more closely involved in those matters. So I haven’t heard anything about any talks with Ukraine. We are holding substantial negotiations with the countries already mentioned in the media: Poland and the Czech Republic. And with Britain as well, to some extent, which already hosts a radar that will become part of the missile defense system. I think we’ll be talking to these countries in the foreseeable future.

Question: What do you think of China’s policy? Are there differences on this matter between the Republicans and the Democrats who now control Congress?

Stephen Hadley: I’m a member of the Republican Party, serving a Republican president, and working in a Republican administration. So I can’t say anything on behalf of the Democratic Party – and I don’t think the Democrats would want me to do so. As for China, it’s becoming a very powerful player in the international arena, in many respects. And our goal is to ensure that China becomes a responsible player. A good partner for the United States, Russia, and other states. So that we can work with China to respond to the challenges facing us: in security, energy, and environmental protection.

Question: How do you see the prospects for the six-country negotiations on North Korea, and how good is Russian-US cooperation in that area?

Stephen Hadley: Relations between Russia and the United States in this process are very good. That’s why we are seeing the positive results that appear to be manifesting themselves. Now we’ll wait for the next step from North Korea: within 60 days, it has to seal some of its enterprises, allow IAEA inspectors to return, and present lists of its nuclear facilities. If this is done, further steps will be taken – the North Koreans will receive certain preferences. Right now we’re waiting to see if they keep their promises on schedule.

Question: After President Putin’s speech in Munich, many observers started saying that the period of partnership between Russia and the United States is over. Do you agree?

Stephen Hadley: I don’t think that either President Bush or President Putin regard relations between us in that light. Our relations are complex and complicated, of course. There are differences and dissatisfaction on both sides – Russia’s concerns about American policy, and vice versa. But as I said, this is an entirely normal situation in relations between two major countries. All the same, there is a foundation for relations between us: common interests, important to both sides. And we are working to ensure that they are realized. Such cooperation shouldn’t be viewed as gifts to each other – it’s in the interests of both countries. That’s why we are working together. At least, our leaders – both President Bush and President Putin – officially view these issues exactly as I have described them. True, we are moving into an interesting period, affecting the political climate: both the United States and Russia have elections coming up. During this transition period, the task for the governments of our countries is to maintain a focus on the areas where we have common intrests.

You know, Putin’s speech in Munich made it clear that he has certain concerns and disagreements with American policy. Some of them are entirely justified. We also have some concerns about Russia, and disagreements – regarding democratization and freedom of the press. And we also express them quite frankly in discussions. Despite all this, we still have common interests, and the task for our countries is to mobilize these common interests in order to achieve positive results – for our two countries and the international community as a whole.

Question: As a very high-ranking official, working on sensitive security issues, aren’t you bothered by the ubiquitous press? How do you get along with journalists?

Stephen Hadley: The press is an integral part of any democratic society. In order for a free press to be effective, it must have the right to ask the government questions and receive answers. This can be uncomfortable for the government. And sometimes this creates the impression of confrontation between the government and the press. But the press is a source of information for the authorities, and ensures government accountability.

Here’s an example. Late last week, The Washington Post published a series of two reports on services for veterans at the Walter Reid Military Hospital near Washington. And I was pleased to see that Defense Secretary Gates and the Defense Department responded very quickly to these articles, making a start on solving the problems identified there. One senior military official said he regretted learning of the situation from the press – he should have been informed some other way – but he was glad to learn of it anyway. I think this is an example of the government and the press doing their jobs properly. The press conveys the nature of problems to the public, and the government solves those problems.