Secretary Clinton's Remarks with Russia's FM

Secretary Clinton's Remarks with Russia's FM

By Hillary Clinton - October 13, 2009

Osobnyak Guest House
Moscow, Russia


SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon. I want to start by thanking Minister Lavrov for hosting me in Moscow today, along with my delegation. We have had a very productive and comprehensive set of discussions. This follows on the work that we began over the last many months to transform the relationship between our two countries, to find common ground wherever we can, to further mutual respect and mutual interests, without in any way accepting the fact that there are not differences between us, because there are. But to talk about those differences, to share them openly, we think is also an important part of this new aspect to our relationship.

Just three days ago, Sergey and I were in Zurich working together to bring about the signing of the historic protocols between Armenia and Turkey regarding normalization of relations. Both of our countries strongly support this process, and it's another example of how we are working together.

We believe that the framework that has been established that was announced by our two presidents during the summit here in Moscow in July is extremely important. We have agreed to discuss a broad range of important matters in these 16 working groups, which, as Sergey has said, have begun their important consultations. We know that this takes time. It doesn't happen overnight. It requires building trust and confidence between us. But I am very convinced that this is important for each of our nations and our people, and indeed, the world.

Our work in the Bilateral Presidential Commission is looking closely at how we can pursue practical, concrete results on issues ranging from nuclear security and energy efficiency to scientific cooperation, economic growth, and even sports. Now, we know that the fact that these meetings are occurring does not guarantee results, but they do set in motion a process and an opportunity to build relationships that will widen the avenues of cooperation.

President Obama and I believe that it is this cooperative relationship and the acceptance of shared responsibility that is really at the core of the 21st century relationship between the United States and Russia. One example of that is the work that our technical experts are doing on a START agreement to cut our nuclear arsenal to demonstrate leadership from the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We are also committed to working together on the Nonproliferation Treaty. Our goal remains to complete the work on START by December 5th when the current agreement expires. The global initiative on nuclear terrorism to create a joint effort to secure vulnerable nuclear materials and set new standards is another important step that we are pursuing together. And we look forward to Russia's leadership in helping to make the Global Nuclear Security Summit next April in Washington a success.

As Sergey said, we have also broadened our area of cooperation when it comes to Afghanistan. We appreciate the transit agreement that is now in effect. We believe we have common interests to reduce the threat of extremism, terrorism, narco-trafficking. And this is the kind of very clear-headed, practical cooperation that is to our mutual benefit.

We obviously discussed some of the broader foreign policy issues that we both face. Iran's nuclear program remains a matter of serious concern, and we're working closely with Russia through the P-5+1 process. We had a constructive meeting in Geneva on October 1st. And we are working to ensure that Iran moves forward with us on this engagement track and demonstrates unequivocally that it is seeking only the peaceful use of nuclear weapons.

We had a long discussion and brought in some of our technical experts to review where we stand on missile defense. We explained that our assessment of the evolving threat from Iran led President Obama to adopt a new, different approach to missile defense. We are very interested in working with Russia to develop cooperation, including a joint threat assessment and intensified efforts to establish a joint data exchange center, as our presidents agreed to in July, as a means of making missile defense a common enterprise against what we believe are increasingly common threats.

We appreciate the cooperation that we've had on North Korea and Russia's very strong interest in the peace process in the Middle East. We look forward to being able to attend a conference in Moscow at the appropriate time as part of the process leading to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

Now, we will continue to have disagreements. And I think it's very important for both the American media and the Russian media to understand that we are different countries. We have different historical experiences, different perspectives. But we are planting those disagreements in a much broader field of cooperation, and hopefully, we are enriching the earth in which this cooperation can take root. We will not see eye-to-eye on Georgia, for example. We just have a difference of opinion. We have made it clear that we will not recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But we are going to continue to work in every other area where we do agree.

We will continue to raise questions concerning civil society and the rule of law and the role of NGOs. We think that that's a way to really deepen and broaden our engagement. But on balance, I feel very good about the so-called reset of our relations. Even though I didn't get the Russian word right - which Sergey immediately corrected me over - it is a real pleasure to be back in Moscow for the continuation of these dialogues that our two presidents and the minister and I and other members of our government are engaged in. We really are committed to this relationship. We believe strongly that working together, step by step, we are transforming a relationship that was once defined by the shadow of mutually assured destruction into one that is based on mutual respect and, over time, increasingly mutual trust, because we both have an obligation to the Russian people and to the American people, but indeed to all the people of the world, for us to lead on matters that are really at the heart of the future we hope to share.

MODERATOR: (In Russian.)

QUESTION: (In Russian.)


SECRETARY CLINTON: We had a very long discussion about missile defense and we outlined for the minister and the other officials at the meeting the basis of our threat assessment, which President Obama ordered to be conducted upon taking office. And the conclusion we reached that the concerns about the ICBM development in Iran were not as urgent as new concerns regarding the short- and medium-term missiles that they are developing. The United States believes that it is better to be prepared and defended against possible aggressive offensive action by Iran or others who might develop such weapons, and therefore, the phased adaptive approach which we have outlined is intended to protect against that threat.

We have shared this with our Russian colleagues. Our experts are going through all of the details, because we would like to see the United States and Russian collaborate closely on missile defense. We think it is in our mutual interest. We believe it is something that, given our respective nations' technological expertise, could be important for the rest of the world.

And as Minister Lavrov said, we want to ensure that every question that the Russian military or the Russian Government asks, we answer. We have invited your leading experts to our missile command and control center in Colorado Springs. We want to be as transparent as possible, because this is important so that we agree on the common threat and we agree as to how we will address that common threat. And we see this as yet another area for deeper cooperation between our countries.

QUESTION: On Iran, what did you ask the minister with regard to pressure and sanctions, and did you receive any assurances?

And for the minister, if I could ask, your president has said that sanctions are inevitable. Do you still believe that to be the case? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, again, with respect to Iran, we had a lengthy conversation. We reviewed the outcome of the October 1st meeting. The United States has always had a dual-track approach to Iran where we made it clear we wanted to pursue the engagement and diplomatic track. And the very strong, united approach that has been taken in the P-5+1 which, of course, includes the United States and Russia, we think is making an impact on Iran. Iran has several obligations that it said it would fulfill. We believe it is important to pursue the diplomatic track and to do everything we can to make it successful.

We believe that Iran is entitled to peaceful nuclear energy, but that it is not entitled to nuclear weapons. Russia agrees with us on that. At the same time that we are very vigorously pursuing this track, we are aware that we might not be as successful as we need to be. So we have always looked at the potential of sanctions in the event that we are not successful, that we cannot assure ourselves and others that Iran has decided not to pursue nuclear weapons.

I think what President Medvedev said was that they may be inevitable, not that they are inevitable. He said that they're not always preferable, but they may be inevitable. But we are not at that point yet. That is not a conclusion we have reached, and we want to be very clear that it is our preference that Iran work with the international community, as represented by the P-5+1, fulfill its obligation on inspections, in fact, open up its entire system so that there can be no doubt about what they're doing, and comply with the agreement in principle to transfer out the low-enriched uranium. Those would be confidence-building measures, and that would give us an opportunity to take stock of where we are on the diplomatic track.


MODERATOR: (In Russian.)

QUESTION: (In Russian.)


MR. KELLY: And the last question to Mary Beth Sheridan from The Washington Post.

QUESTION: Thank you. Minister Lavrov, a question for you. The U.S. is interested in gaining more Russian support for the effort in Afghanistan. You've allowed these U.S. overflights. Are you prepared to also provide other support, and specifically what?

And two questions, if I may, for Secretary Clinton. One is that it sounds like you did not get the commitment from the Russian side in terms of sanctions or other forms of pressure that could be brought to bear on Iran. Could you comment on that?

And second question: Are you considering loosening sanctions on North Korea to get the Six-Party Talks going? Thank you.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Mary Beth, as I said, we are actively pursuing the engagement track. We have two outstanding obligations plus another meeting upcoming between the P-5+1 and the Iranians. It is not any surprise to anyone, as I stated earlier, that in the absence of significant progress and assurance that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons, we will be seeking to rally international opinion behind additional sanctions.

But Russia has been extremely cooperative in the work that we have done together. Back at the United Nations General Assembly, Minister Lavrov and I were at a meeting together with the P-5+1 ministers, where a very strong statement was issued. In that statement, it said that other actions will have to be considered in the absence of Iranian meeting - Iran meeting its obligations. So we didn't ask for anything today. We reviewed the situation and where it stood, which I think was the appropriate timing for what this process entails.

We have absolutely no intention of relaxing or offering to relax North Korean sanctions at this point whatsoever. As you know, we're looking to restart the Six-Party process. Sergey and I talked about that. We continue to believe it is the best way forward. We may use some bilateral discussions to help get that process going, but that is not in any way linked to relaxing any sanctions whatsoever.

MODERATOR: (In Russian.) Thank you.

Hillary Clinton

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