THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE WILLIAM PERRY, AND SECRETARY OF TREASURY ROBERT RUBIN
The Briefing Room
2:25 P.M. EDT
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: As you all know, President Clinton will participate next week in an important series of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of V-E Day, as well as to meet with the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia. In Moscow and Kiev, the President will honor the immense wartime sacrifice of the people of Europe, especially those in the East -- in Russia and Ukraine and Belarus and Poland -- on whose territory the bloodiest fighting took place.
It also will be an opportunity for the President to recall the wartime alliance with Moscow. That alliance, of course, was based upon opposition to a common enemy. It was an alliance that did not outlast the defeat of that enemy. Today the progress toward democratic institutions in the Soviet Union has given us an opportunity to build a lasting set of new relationships, this time based upon shared interests and shared values among the peoples and governments of our countries.
Working constructively with Russia and the other new independent states is in the overwhelming interest of the United States. The stakes are just enormous. The question is not whether we will engage with Russia, but how.
From the outset, President Clinton has pursued a policy of pragmatic engagement with Russia and the other new independent states. We've been able to provide critical support for political and economic reform in these countries, and, as a result, we are a safer nation than we were two years ago than at the present time.
The United States and Russia have cooperated very successfully on matters that are of vital importance to every American. I personally worked with Russia on a wide range of interests, a wide range of issues that are of great interest to the people of the United States, from peace in the Middle East, to troop withdrawals from the Baltics, to the agreements Ukraine and Kazakhstan and Belarus to have them give up their nuclear weapons, to discussions on the arresting of North Korea's nuclear weapon. Now, to give another example, we are working very closely with Russia on the indefinite extension of the nonproliferation treaty.
Pragmatic engagement with Russia means that we'll continue to cooperate with them where our interests coincide and to manage our differences candidly and constructively where they do not coincide. We, obviously, face a number of important new challenges in what is and always will be a very complicated set of relationships. However complex they are, we certainly are not nostalgic for the Cold War. Today, every difference of view that emerges is not a crisis. When Russia's actions threaten our interests, we will continue to speak openly, appropriately and to act constructively. We'll be finding solutions with them, with a common aim to find those solutions.
The support that we have given Russia over the period of our administration have been more than justified by the results that we have achieved. We'd be very short-sighted to withdraw our support just because we didn't agree on every single issue. It's essential that we remain steady and patient, with a clear sense of perspective.
To encourage pluralism in Russia, we continue to deal with Russia as a pluralistic society. In that vein, the President, when he's in Moscow, will meet with a range of Russian leaders, particularly those who are committed to reform. In his televised speech at Moscow State University, the President will pay tribute to the tremendous effort the Russian people have made to achieve political and economic change. He'll encourage them to stay the course, despite the pain and frustration of what they're going through.
Any lasting relationship -- the President strongly believes any lasting relationship with Russia must be based upon a solid relationship with the Russian people, and that is the fundamental reason why he has decided to go to Russia for the commemoration for this important event.
In his meetings with President Yeltsin on the second day of the trip, the President will be addressing a number of issues based upon our pragmatic engagement and our new ability in this post- Cold War period to deal with Russia in a business-like and constructive way on the issues that we can agree on and those that divide us. We'll be focusing in particular on our continuing effort to strengthen European security.
As you know, the President has put forth a comprehensive program for the strengthening of OSCE, for the invigoration of the partnership for Peace, for the establishment for a special relationship between Russia and NATO and to continue on the steady, careful path of NATO expansion. It's important to recognize that these initiatives have given Russia's new democracies, those who are now members of the Partnership For Peace, a very tangible incentive to complete their post-communist transformation, to reform their military establishments, and to stay on the path to democracy and market reform.
In his visit to Moscow, the President will be reiterating that NATO's enlargement is moving forward deliberately and openly. He will stress it's in Russia's interest to have a constructive dialogue with NATO and to not isolate itself from the mainstream of Europe. The path to NATO-Russia engagement is open. We will be making the point to Russia that it is their decision to make. Full participation in the Partnership For Peace and the signing of the separate document between Russia and NATO would be the best way for Russia to move forward.
The President will also be discussing a number of arms control issues, and Secretary Perry will be alluding to those in somewhat more detail. Let me touch on one, and that is cooperation with Iran on nuclear matters, to which we are opposed.
The President will stress our strong conviction that any nuclear cooperation with Iran poses very serious risks for Russia, poses most serious risks for undermining the Middle East peace process, interferes with our aim to stop nuclear proliferation, and the point we'll be making most firmly, it's in Russia's own interest to cease this nuclear cooperation with Iran.
In the course of those discussions, the President will be reviewing certain very sensitive information concerning Russia's -- pardon me -- concerning Iran's true intentions. He'll be reminding President Yeltsin that none of the G-7 countries feel that it's safe to cooperate with Iran on nuclear matters. To put it simply, Iran has no legitimate basis for trying to develop a nuclear reactor program. We hope that over time the Russians will come to share this conclusion that we feel so deeply.
President Clinton will also have an opportunity to express his concern over the very recent reports that the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry has indicated that it has made a tentative agreement to sell gas, centrifuges to Iran, and to engage in extensive training of Iran's nuclear physicists. This effort in our judgment would contribute directly to the nuclear capability in Iran, to its bomb making capability. And the President wants to make it clear that he feels that this should be halted at once.
Of course, we understand that Russia has an economic interest in this kind of cooperation, but we feel that the President's decision to ban U.S. trade and investment in Iran shows that we're prepared to make sacrifices to halt the nuclear march by Iran and its support for terrorism. And we hope that over time Russia will come to agree with us in this conclusion.
Turning to another subject, the President will restate our concerns about the conflict in Chechnya and urge an end to the quest there by Russia for a military solution. We believe that Russia should implement a permanent cease-fire; that it should cooperate fully with the OSCE assistance group that's now operating there; and also to allow the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian goods, medicines and foods and the like. As long as it continues this tragic struggle in Chechnya it will have, I think, adverse implications for Russia's democracy, as well as getting Russia a bad name in international circles.
I want to emphasize the importance of the President's stop in Kiev. It will be the second time within six months that the President has met with President Kuchma. Last year, under President Kuchma, has been a landmark year for Ukraine. It's given up its nuclear weapons and it's acceded to the Nonproliferation Treaty. It held three presidential elections, and saw a peaceful transfer of power, launched a program of economic reform. And I must say that the effort the United States has made to assist Ukraine has been an effort that I think has paid very big dividends for the United States. And it is well worthwhile.
With Ukraine's reform now on track, the President's aim in this particular meeting will be to lay out a new U.S.-Ukraine agenda based upon expanded trade and investment. We want to strengthen our economic and security ties, and have an expanded cooperation in space and science.
Despite a host of problems, Ukraine is making strong steps in the right direction and I think it justifies our support; indeed, it justifies expanded support. The President has been working hard to get ready for this trip. Both of the last two evenings we've had long sessions going over the difficult agenda that I have just spelled out for you. I think the President regards it as extremely important trip, and I think the preparation has reflected the seriousness with which he is addressing this.
Now, may I turn to Secretary Perry.
SECRETARY PERRY: Thank you very much, Secretary Christopher. Last month I visited Ukraine and Russia for the purpose of, first of all, as a preparation for the summit meeting, but even more importantly, just part of our regular engagement with Russia on matters of security interest.
I want to emphasize that we cooperate with Russia on security issues of mutual interest to both countries. In my visit, about 90 percent of our time was spent developing more and more effective ways of cooperating in these areas of mutual interest. About 10 percent of the time was spent discussing problem areas in security and trying to find ways of resolving those issues. I give you those two percentages because the media reporting on the visit all dealt with the 10 percent, in the problem area, nothing on the 90 percent which was the -- and what I'd like to do briefly today is describe to you a little bit what the other 90 percent is and give you some basis for judging whether it is worth our concentration of effort in these areas.
The areas of cooperation, where we have mutual interests, first of all, preventing the re-emergence of a nuclear threat between Russia and the United States. Secondly is preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, biological and chemical to rogue nations to terrorists which could threaten both of our countries. The third is cooperation on military exercises, peacekeeping, search and rescue operations, humanitarian relief. We've already had four or five such joint exercises.
We have a few more planned for this year -- confidence building, detailed meetings, military-to-military, defense-to-defense officials. And all of these form the basis of our very detailed engagement which we have with the Russians in the security area.
Now, in this field, let me just take one of the areas, which is the nuclear area, and describe to you the progress that's being made in that area, the things we're discussing, the things we have underway.
Already we have eliminated 2,400 nuclear warheads -- 2,400 nuclear warheads have been removed from the missiles and the strategic bombers in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan; 600 missiles and bombers have been dismantled. Now, both the United States and Russia are well ahead of the schedule on this dismantlement that's called for in the START I Treaty. Indeed, Russia reports just this past week that the last nuclear weapon has left Kazakhstan, and that Kazakhstan is now a nuclear-free state. Ukraine and Belarus will be free of nuclear weapons next year.
Now, to put that in some perspective for you, I visited last year, Pervomaysk, which is in the Ukraine, one of the premiere ICBM sites in the former Soviet Union. And at that time there were 700 nuclear weapons at that one site, all targeted to cities in the United States. A year from now that whole site will just be wheat fields. All of the weapons, all of the silos, all of the launches will be gone.
I wanted to show you two pictures I took on this last trip to illustrate this dismantlement. This is a picture that was taken in Russia at the Engels Air Base, which is where they have the dismantlement of their bombers underway under START I and under the CFE Treaty. There are almost 100 bombers in various states of dismantlement at this air base. It is truly an awesome site to see this.
What you see here is a Bear bomber being sawed up into little pieces by a Russian. We have sent equipment to them to facilitate and to speed up this whole process, including huge crushers and shearing machines, and a most dramatic machine called a guillotine, which chops the wings off of airplanes in a mass production basis.
The next picture shows a scene at the Pervomaysk. This is an SS-19 ICBM, which was removed from the silo while we were there and taken for destruction. On my previous visit there we saw the warheads being taken off the SS-24 ICBM. This is the site which I said had 700 warheads a year ago, and a year from now will be nothing but wheat fields.
The point I make on emphasizing this program is that we do have disagreements with Russia in the security field. But in this core area of cooperation that is so important us, it is strong and it is producing results, and we must stay engaged with Russia to continue this process.
Clinton-Yeltsin summits not only perform this engagement, they have helped to keep this reduction of the nuclear threat on track, indeed, they have brought about an acceleration of it. So there is nothing more important to our security relationship than keeping this nuclear reduction on track and underway, and this is a key part of our engagement with Russia today.
SECRETARY RUBIN: Thank you, Bill. This is not an economic summit. On the other hand, as Secretary Christopher said, economic policy is integrally related to foreign policy. And I might add as an aside that that's reflected in the really excellent working relationship that the economic team has with the foreign policy team in this administration. For Russia and for the Ukraine, economic reform clearly lies at the heart of political reform, social reform, and all of the objectives that this administration is seeking to achieve.
There is an impression abroad, I think, that Russia has had a very difficult time economically, and clearly, there are many very serious problems. On the other hand, an enormous amount has been accomplished. Prices are free, industry has been privatized -- something like 12,000 of the largest companies have been privatized under the first stage of the privatization program -- and well over half -- and I think this is the most striking statistic of all -- in the roughly four years of economic reform, well over half of GDP is in the private sector.
Moreover, while GDP has fallen, real income has risen, and the reconciliation of those two numbers is number one, GDP does not include -- or their GDP statistics do not pick up much of what goes on in the private sector; secondly, a lot of what has been lost has been military and other production that has not been part of the real income of the Russian people.
Having said all that, what an enormous amount has been accomplished, a great deal remains to be done. For one thing, Russia needs to build confidence in its reform effort into consistency. We are very encouraged by Russia's 1995 economic program which, with our support, earned an IMF standby program of $6.8 billion. On the other hand, if you go back over the last three years, what you had is a number of programs that have started out with great hope in the macroeconomic stabilization area and then been dashed. In our judgment, 1995 is clearly a pivotal year for economic reform in Russia.
In the spirit of supporting that reform, we will continue to support IMF, World Bank lending. We have taken leadership in the G-7 with respect to rescheduling the 1995 debt rescheduling. And if Russia sticks with this program -- and this is an enormous incentive in addition to the IMF program for sticking with reform -- if Russia sticks with this program, then we will support next year multiyear rescheduling of Russia's debt.
While we're in Russia we will also discuss tax policy and the legal foundations for private markets, both of which are critical for Russia's economy as it goes forward. Russia's capital markets are substantially underdeveloped. We think there is an enormous amount that we can do to help them work through the requisites for effective capital markets.
It's very interesting -- the entire value, or market valuation of Russia's top 50 companies is $20 billion. That's less than quite a number of the largest companies, individual companies, market capitalization in the United States.
Secretary Christopher mentioned the Ukraine, and it tends to get a little bit overlooked as people look forward to this trip. But the Ukraine is extremely important. They began down the road of economic reform later than Russia, but as Secretary Christopher said, since President Kuchma's election last summer, Ukraine has embraced bold reforms and has begun freeing its economy from the strictures of the past. A solid start has been made in the Ukraine. That was responsible for securing the IMF support for $1.5 billion standby program. The G-7 in Naples pledged to support $4 billion from the IMF, World Bank, and various bilateral sources over a two-year period. Already $2.7 billion has been committed, and there are commitments for a further $1 billion.
We are very actively involved in working with Russia and very actively involved in working with the Ukraine on the requisites for economic reform in both countries. Thank you.
Q One item -- perhaps, Secretary Perry --conventional weapons. During the last summit the two Presidents agreed there would be no new Russian arms deals with Iran, but existing contracts could be fulfilled. It turned out some had three years to go and involved submarines. I don't know if you've ever gotten the list. I wish you would tell us what they're going to do. And can you whittle that down any -- technicians and experts go along with those, as well, don't they, as well as with nuclear deals? Isn't there any alarm or concern there? Didn't you let them off a little too easy last time?
SECRETARY PERRY: They're about halfway done with those contracts. Let's take the nuclear -- or the diesel electric submarines, for example. Two of them have been delivered; a third is to be delivered. That's typical of the status.
We do not see cause for concern on the level and the nature of conventional arms being transferred. We would prefer they not be transferred, but we're -- quite satisfied with the agreement not to continue transfer.
The Russians have a very, very substantial capability in conventional arms and in conventional arm technology. And it would give us a very substantial problem if they were to make a free transfer of those to the Iranians. So I'd like to focus on the positive side of that, which is their agreement to cut that off after those present contracts.
Maybe Secretary Christopher would like to add to that.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, I'd add to that by saying that we hope that Russia will join the so-called COCOM regime which is an agreement that we've entered into with our European allies and I think the only thing that stands between Russia joining, that is,working out the arrangements with respect to their sales to Iran, those negotiations are going forward. The Vice President has been exchanging information with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin on that subject, and we're hoping we can bring Russia into COCOM so as to regularize and limit their conventional weapons transfers in the future.
Q Mr. Secretary, you talked about the pressure the President intends to use on the Iranian deal -- the gas centrifuge and the lightwater reactors. But you didn't really talk about whether or not the U.S. is able to say that there will be consequences for the relationship if Russia goes forward with this deal, and I wondered if you might tell us whether there will be any consequences?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, let me back up just a step or two on that. As I said in my statement, the United States believes that there is no legitimate basis for Iran to seek a nuclear reactor. They do not have a shortage of energy, and so we deduced that they are seeking a nuclear reactor program is because they have intentions to create a nuclear weapons capability and that's confirmed by our other -- other information that we have.
We intend to make that information available to the Russians. We have all ready done a good deal of that, and I'm sure that will be a focus of the conversation between President Yeltsin and President Clinton. I answer the question in that way as a beginning because we think it's strongly in the interest of Russia to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability. Why in the world they'd want to have a near neighbor developing a nuclear weapons capability with the reputation that Iran has for recklessness?
Now, beyond that, as you know, we've recently learned that Russia is considering the sale of gas centrifuge equipment to Iran, I think, which only can confirm what the intentions of the Iranians are. Another very strong reason for encouraging them not to go forward. The United States will be making those arguments in the strongest terms. We understand that Russia has a economic interest in this sale, but the decision the President took last Sunday, I think, puts him in a very good position to argue to the Russians that they ought to recognize that sacrifice the United States is making and make a similar sacrifice over time.
As I have said on other occasions, the extent to which Russia is welcomed into the institutions of the West, such as G-7, I think, will depend upon the perceptions of their conduct in matters such as their relationships with Iran, as well as their situation in Chechnya. I think they have all ready suffered considerably in the international community by reason of their actions. The European Union, the Council of Europe have all taken cognizance of what they are doing, and I think that is the principal basis that we would have at the present time for urging them not to go ahead -- plus their own self interest, which is the strongest reason of all.
Q So, if I could just follow up, you're then saying that the United States will not say, if you go forward with this, then the U.S. is prepared to do that?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think that the United States has such a broad relationship with Russia that we should not make any single the issue the talisman of that relationship. We should not hold the whole relationship hostage to any single issue, important as that issue is. But we'll have a strong basis for making these arguments. We'll continue to make them over time.
Q Mr. Secretary, I would like to ask two-part question. I would like to ask what decisions does President Yeltsin have to make right in this -- that it's possible to ease the relationship and overcome some of these problems? And Secretary Perry, I would like to ask you, is NATO a military organization? And if it is, why shouldn't Russia feel threatened if you want to expand? I mean, who's the enemy?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: As you know from things you've read, President Yeltsin has reserved to himself many of the major decisions in connection with the forthcoming summit.
We're not expecting any great series of breakthroughs. We're not expecting all the outstanding problems to be resolved. What we do expect and are certain we will have is an opportunity to have a serious engagement with Russia, a serious discussion.
I think that we can expect to call their attention to matters that they maybe have not perhaps fully considered in the past. There are steps that can be taken on many of the issues that would be positive from the standpoint of the relationship. But I would urge you not to judge this particular meeting, this particular summit by tangible progress on 8, 10 issues. I would urge that it be judged on whether or not we've had a solid engagement, whether we've been able to exchange views, whether there has been a recognition of the positions that we're putting forward.
But, that being said, I would hope that by the time we return, by the time of the end of next week, we'll have solid progress on several of the issues.
SECRETARY PERRY: I have said many times to Russian leaders that NATO poses no threat to Russia, and NATO does not see Russia as a threat to it. What NATO does today and what its members perceive that it does today is create a zone of security and stability in Europe. And the reason all 16 of the NATO members continue to participate in NATO is because they believe that zone of security and stability is important and they want to be a part of it.
We have discussed with Russia and recommended to Russia things they can do to participate in that zone. The first and most important is to become not only a full-fledged member of the Partnership For Peace, a participant in the Partnership For Peace, but be a leader in the Partnership For Peace and taking initiative in joint exercises, for example.
And, secondly, to form a security agreement with NATO, forming what could be, for example, a consultative commission which discusses security issues of mutual interest between NATO and Russia. All of that would tend to bring Russia into this same zone of security and stability.
Q Secretary Christopher, are you satisfied that all this public pressure on Mr. Yeltsin on these transactions with Iran has not had the unintended consequence of making it harder for him to give ground on these things, instead of the other way around?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I see the public attention to this as being a very positive factor. My own feeling is that we brought to President Yeltin's attention -- and President Clinton will have an opportunity to do so even more -- some facts that perhaps he wasn't fully aware of. I think that the proposed sale of the gas centrifuge plants by the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry is something that deserves the greatest attention, which I have reason to believe perhaps had not in the past.
So, no, I see it as a very positive factor. I want to emphasize that the decision the President took with respect to Iran was one that we hope will have a long-term effect. We do not expect miracles. We did not expect at the time the President took the decision that all of our allies would say we're going to take an exactly similar position. But we do think it enhances our capability to speak with not only the Russians, but also the other countries that might be trading with Iran and urge them not to give concessionary credits, and certainly not to engage in nuclear cooperation.
Q trying private quiet diplomacy on this first, or not?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, we certainly have been talking with the Russians about it over the last many months. But I think that this kind of a dialogue between our two countries is a positive, constructive matter. These are matters of importance to the Russian people, as well as the Russian government. So I would see no basis for trying to conduct these discussions purely in secret. It seems to me desireable that there be a transparency about these matters, both as to what Russia intends to do, as well as the opposition the United States has.
Q Secretary Christopher or Secretary Perry, news reports coming out of Russia today seem to indicate the Russians will give Cuba nuclear collaboration. Have you heard anything about it?
SECRETARY PERRY: Pardon me? Give Cuba --
Q Cuba seems to have an installation --
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I've not seen those reports today.
Q Secretary Christopher, Sergei Kovalev is in town, as you know, and has spoken with a number of top administration officials and expressed concern that the President and the administration have not spoken out forcefully enough on Chechnya, and is suggesting even that Clinton's appearance in Moscow at this time amounts to acquiescence in the Russian activity there and military actions there. What is your response to that and, again, to follow Rita's question, what will be the consequences of Russia's continued assault on Chechnya people?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, let me emphasize first that from the very beginning, going back to last December 17th, as soon as the Chechnya exercise began we spoke out against it. I spoke out against it in the very earliest days, calling for them to stop the endeavor and to respect human rights in connection with that. Our position has been consistent on that all the way through.
The Deputy Secretary and I met yesterday with Mr. Kovalev. We had a good discussion with him about what might be done in Chechnya and I continue to think that it's desirable for the President to engage on that subject. I think we have a pragmatic engagement with Russia and the essence of that is to be able to discuss matters where we differ.
So I think it's desirable the President be able to meet face to face with President Yeltsin and to make clear to him the disadvantage that that conflict is to Russia, both in terms of its relationships, as well as its relationships in the international community. I don't have any question but that we have made clear our views and will continue to make clear our views. And I think that Mr. Kovalev, who has performed many respect heroically in this matter and has to recognize that the United States is doing what it can to try to ensure that this conflict comes to an end.
As far as the penalties, I can only repeat that the trend of Russia's acceptance into Western institutions will be importantly influenced by the way they conduct themselves in such matters as Chechnya, as well as others. They've come a long way toward integration into Western institutions, but I think the extent to which they take the next steps -- for example, with respect to the G-7 -- are going to be importantly influenced by their conduct in such matters as Chechnya.
Q There's been some hope within the administration that by the time the two Presidents met again both countries would have ratified START II. What is your assessment now of the prospects with the Russian Parliament ratifying the treaty, and how do you believe public pressure on issues like Chechnya and Iran has affected that?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, as far as the United States is concerned, I think we're proceeding in an orderly way. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has completed its hearings, and it seems to me that we're moving toward ratification, with the leadership of Senator Lugar, who is the Chairman Pro Tem on this issue.
We've had an unusually good opportunity within the last several days with a delegation of the top members of the Duma here. I've met with them, and Secretary Perry has met with them, and they've indicated that they're going to proceed with the ratification of START II. They think it will be a considerable process. Hearings have not begun, but nevertheless, I think they are determined to move ahead on this. I think it will take a substantial period of time to do that, but nevertheless, I don't see any signs that they do not feel as we do that that particular treaty is in the self-interest of both of the nations. And we're proceeding down that track.
Q Mr. Secretary, just to follow up on that, there's talk in Russia that the Duma would like to modify the treaty. Can you accept any modifications?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We don't see any basis for modifying the treaty. And those members of the Duma that I talked to and Secretary Perry talked to talked about ratifying the treaty in its present form. I can't exclude the fact that there's some individual members of the Duma who might want to modify the treaty, just as there might be in any parliamentary body. But we're considering that very important treaty in its present terms.
Secretary Perry, you don't have any different view of that, do you? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY PERRY: Not on your life. (Laughter.)
No, I discussed with the three leaders of the Duma just the day before yesterday this very question, and they are moving ahead vigorously to try to get a ratification of this treaty just as we are. My estimate is it's going to take them longer than it takes us because they're not as far along in the process. They have -- as Secretary Christopher indicated -- they have not even started hearings yet.
I do expect proposals from some members of the Duma for changes in it. My belief is that those proposals will not prevail and that there will be an up or down vote on it -- on the treaty as proposed. And I believe that vote will ultimately be successful. What I cannot forecast is when that's going to happen. Hopefully, we hope and the Duma members I talked with also hope it will be done before the parliamentary elections coming up later this year.
Q Back to Iran. Will you be satisfied for the purposes of this summit if the Russians would agree to put aside the sale of the gas centrifuges, would you consider that a significant accomplishment?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Not at all. We would not be satisfied by that. The nuclear cooperation reflected by the reactor sale and the technology that would go with that, the scientists that would accompany it, seems to us to be a step in the wrong direction toward the creation of a nuclear weapons capability.
Now, let me divide that part of it from the recent information about the gas centrifuge sale, which seems to us to confirm what Iran's intentions are. It's a very strong reason for not going forward with the program in any respect. I want to emphasize that we're not expecting great breakthroughs at this time. We expect this would be a process that will continue over time, but we hope to persuade the Russians over time that this nuclear cooperation with Iran is very strongly not in their self-interest and that we hope the whole program will be brought to an end.
Q Secretary Rubin, can you give us some specific examples of agreements or ways and means in which the President is going to help the Russians along or move the process of economic reform along on this?
SECRETARY RUBIN: I don't think there will be particular agreements coming out of this trip. But the Russian -- we met with Deputy Prime Minister Chubays when he was here for the G-7 meeting, and he -- there's a very strong and understandable interest in pursuing debt rescheduling, as I mentioned. And we'll be discussing that when we're in Moscow in a separate set of meetings.
There is great interest in Russia in developing capital markets, and we'll be working with them, providing technical assistance in capital markets. I think there are a lot of issues with respect to the tax structure and various other components of an architecture that you need if you're going to have economic reform. It's not a question of individual agreements, it's a question of continuing our work with them in these various areas.
Q Do you know if either the Cyprus and the Kurdish issue will be an agenda of the summit?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Cyprus?
Q And the Kurds.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I have not seen the Cyprus issue on the agenda of the summit. It's entirely possible that the Kurdish issue will be discussed in connection with the Turkish action in Iraq. But I think the mention of those two subjects is an indication of just how rich the agenda might be, and I want to emphasize that the two Presidents only have the second day and perhaps a small part of the third day in which they might meet. And they'll have a very full plate with the issues that I mentioned.
Q spent fuel from the reactors? There's a report just now from the U.N. -- Iranian sources saying the fuel would be returned to Russia. Is that part of some bargain? Does that help at all?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Spent fuel from which reactor?
Q From those reactors that they provide, the reactors that the Russians provide. That the fuel be taken back to Russia -- apparently willing to concede that.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We're hearing a number of reports about ways in which the program might be scaled back or things that might be done. Frankly, we think the entire nuclear cooperation program should be brought to an end because it really reflects the desire on the part of the Iranians to move to a weapons capability. And although there may be some desirable changes like this which would be welcome standing alone, nevertheless, I think our aim and our expectation is that we will be making the argument in the broadest terms and will not be ultimately satisfied by anything other than the end of the nuclear cooperation program, which I want to emphasize all members of the G-7 have ended as far as cooperation with Iran goes.
Q You said that you recognize that Russia has economic interests here and that's one of their motivations. Is there anything you can do to replace the money that they'd make from the sale?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Let me say two things about that. First, since ending this program is in the self-interest of Russia, I would not think that they needed that kind of incentive. But we do recognize they do have an economic interest. If they go forward with this program, it would be virtually impossible for us to have peaceful nuclear cooperation with Russia which would be a benefit to them. If the program comes to an end it will open the door to considerably greater peaceful nuclear cooperation which could be to their financial advantage.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END3:05 P.M. EDT