THE WHITE HOUSE
the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY
ON EARLY WARNING SYSTEM AGREEMENT
4:03 P.M. (L)
ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Later this afternoon, President Clinton and President
Putin will sign a memorandum of agreement, whose formal title is on the
Establishment of the Joint Center for the Exchange of Data from Early Warning
Systems and Notification of Missile Launches. Informally, this whole endeavor
over the last couple of years has been known as the Shared Early Warning
It builds on a joint statement that was agreed, as was
noted earlier, between President Yeltsin and President Clinton here in Moscow
in early September of 1998, when they had a joint statement on the exchange of
early warning type of data, and the potential establishment of a multilateral
notification system for the launch of ballistic missiles.
culminates a set of negotiations that have been ongoing off and on, given the
nature of our relationships here between the two countries, but were
intensified this spring and brought to conclusion just within the last week or
so, and were really finally brought to conclusion by this impending summit and
concluded as we have gone into the negotiations today.
The purpose of
this whole effort is to provide a near real-time exchange of the detected
information about the launch of ballistic missiles and space-launch vehicles
that are detected by the warning systems of the two sides. The warning systems
in this case are the space-based satellites, infrared systems, and the early
warning radars each possesses.
The reason we do this is we seek to
strengthen strategic stability between the sides, mutual deterrents, by further
reducing the danger that ballistic missiles might be launched on the basis of
false warning of attack. There has been concern about this possibility off and
on for many, many years. The concerns were raised again in the mid-1990s on
this, and this led to the initiative to begin work in this area, which is now
concluding with the agreement to move forward to create a joint warning center.
The joint warning center in question will be located here in Moscow.
That location had been agreed last in September, but now we've gone into much
more detail, and that center will be established over the next year or so. And
then there will be a period of operational testing for about three months, and
then the center will be fully operational.
Now, there are other
purposes that are also served by the creation of this center. One of those
purposes is to increase the mutual confidence between the sides about the
effectiveness of their early warning systems. And it also is a way to focus
attention on the continuing worldwide proliferation of ballistic missiles.
As far as the operation of the center is concerned, it will be the
first time that American and Russian military personnel will be permanently
involved in a joint military operation over an extended period. Once
established, the current agreement provides for 10 years of operation of this
joint warning center, and with the option to successively, by mutual agreement,
extend the existence of the center for subsequent five-year periods.
The type of information that is provided is the type of information
that these launched section sensors typically produce -- the geographic area
from which a launch has occurred, the time at which a launch has occurred, the
generic type of missile as best they can detect that is involved here, the
azmuth of the launch, the projected area of impact of a ballistic missile, and
the projected time at which that missile would impact.
launches, of course, instead you get the front end. You get the information
about the time of launch, the area of the launch, the generic nature of the
missile in question, and the general azmuth in which it is proceeding.
This whole center, of course, as you may well remember, builds upon
recent successful experience between the two sides. At the time of the rollover
into the year 2000, there was a temporary center of very similar character that
was established in the last days of 1999 at Colorado Springs, Colorado. It was
jointly manned by Russian and American military experts from the last days of
'99 in through the first couple of weeks of the year 2000. That experience was
very valuable for us in getting a way to work out what amount to the
procedures, the modes of presentation of the data.
What will happen
will be that the personnel of the two countries, once the joint center is
established, will sit side by side and see desktop computer projections,
geographic map-oriented projections, of the relevant information once
detections are made. This information will also be provided in alpha numeric
form about longitude and latitude and so forth, but easily the most visible and
accessible information is that that will be available in these projections.
Let me close at this time and be open to your questions.
Would this system give Russians full access to any information the United
States had about a ballistic missile launch anywhere in the world?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The system is to be set up in phases,
and by the end of the third phase, it will include information on ballistic
missile and space launches of third parties. It will only do so when there is
some indication, because of the azimuth of the projected missile or space
launch, that it might come over the territory of one of the two parties that
are signatories to this agreement.
There is also a provision, if either
side believes that there is some ambiguity, and there might be danger of false
interpretation with serious consequences, they have the option of providing
that information to the other side.
Q -- it would be completed by when?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The phases, they will begin the whole
process, if we are able to keep the schedule we've projected, in the fall of
2001. And we seek to move through the phases kind of as rapidly as possible. We
don't -- we look to them to be in the matter of a few months.
sorry, this will be blind to any launches that would not be headed for either
the United States or Russia? Are you going to filter that out? Or why would you
not want to know any launch?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It would
be -- the data provided between the two parties will include all of their
ballistic missiles. As far as the third parties are concerned, it is limited in
the manner in which I just described.
Q But how is it limited? I mean,
is it limited technically, or just because you're filtering it out?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's limited by the filtering that will
be done by both sides, because this was the agreement on what they agreed to
Q But won't you lose a lot of valuable potential information
by doing that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We don't think so, not
for the purposes it was set up. The purposes it was set up is to avoid the
possibility of false warning of attack.
Q But if the President wants to
share information with the allies to provide for a missile defense system that
everyone could use, why would you not want to also look at this information? If
someone launches a missile towards England or something, it wouldn't know that,
it wouldn't tell you?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is about a
shared early-warning system between the United States and Russia. These are the
parameters under which that sharing will occur.
Q On that same subject,
though, there was a famous incident several years ago in which a Norwegian
research missile launched, and the Russians apparently misinterpreted that as
something else. As I understand it, under the system you set up that missile
launch, were it to be repeated, would not be part of that system?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, that's not really the case, because
it does provide that information on detected launches which could create an
ambiguous or dangerous situation will be provided by each side.
makes that decision?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- we would
consider that -- well, it will have to be made on a case-by-case basis as a
case emerges. So it's within the warning system networks of the two sides.
Q When you say it would automatically, given the very narrow time
constraints that you're operating under here --
OFFICIAL: This is the manner in which it was agreed and arranged.
Will Russia and the United States have equal access to all the data that is
picked up by this system? Even if --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:
Yes. The system displays in the joint warning center, side by side, the data of
the two sides according to these parameters. Each side provides it, makes it
available for real-time consultation between the specialist officers who are
there. Those officers in turn will be in reliable direct communication to the
appropriate command posts, command centers that concern themselves with these
matters on both sides.
Q Is the information provided instantly? And how
does this compare with any similar system of sharing information the U.S. might
have with Britain or any friendly, civilized countries? (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The information is processed
information, but it is provided within a time which is measured in a minute or
less. So it is virtually real-time information, because that's what's important
in this case. And it is similar in fidelity to that provided to others.
Q Could you mention some of the others?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'd rather not.
Q You mean it's
a security matter whether we share information with Britain?
ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not sure I have an accurate --
Q But it
isn't a security matter whether we share information with Russia?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In all truth, I'm not up to date on all
the ones there are --
Q I see. Okay.
OFFICIAL: -- and I'd rather not begin those and leave someone out, and
something of the sort.
Q Can you tell us, does this include only
detections and not planned launches? And what's the volume of data, based on
past experience, that you expect to exchange through this?
ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know the volume of data. I could try to look
We hope to complement this with a pre-launch notification
system of a multi-national character, which was proposed back in 1998. And we
have been negotiating with the Russians, and continue to negotiate with them,
on that matter. And we believe that the best combination will be when you have
a pre-launch notification database, which in turn can be consulted as one in
fact encounters the detection of real launches. It remains to be seen when we
complete that second part of this overall initiative.
Q So just to
follow up, if we launch some kind of missile in a test, we don't tell them
about it until it actually fires?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We
have some other obligations that others might be able to tell, that are
connected to our previous strategic arms control agreements in this manner. I
can check on the specifics, but in those type of things, we already tend to
exchange information under earlier agreements.
Q Was the motivation for
this agreement the Norwegian incident, where Russia went on alert over that
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It is certainly one of the
most publicly known incidents that did spark broader interest in this potential
problem of launching on the basis of false warning that one was under attack. I
wouldn't say it was the only source; for instance, this type of idea was being
discussed between the two sides as early as the early 1990s, and that preceded
the Norwegian incident.
Q To follow up on that, have there been a
number of incidents where the Russians have gone on alert that we know about
that haven't been publicized?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not to my
Q Who actually makes the display? Will there be a Russian
display which then they can relay information to the United States side, and
will there be a U.S. display which there would then be -- which the U.S. would
relay information to Russia about? It would not be the same display?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They are not a single integrated
display, they are side-by-side displays of the kind you described.
we happened to see, say, an Israeli launch or something like that, and it
wasn't headed to Russia, we are under no obligation to say a word about it; is
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's correct.
Q Who actually makes the decision about whether a third
country launch is sufficiently ambiguous to warrant --
ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Clearly, those parameters will be established by the
particular operational entities that monitor the launch process all the time.
And they will have very clear guidelines about the provision of most things,
and they will have to have some guidelines on this question of potentially
Q Going back to the case of the Norwegian incident where
one side -- the West -- thought it was completely unambiguous and
unthreatening, and the other side saw it as potentially quite ominous -- I
mean, isn't there a potential disconnect here?
OFFICIAL: I think not. We specifically tried to capture that kind of an
incident, and we would believe that rocket launches close to the periphery of
Russia would generally merit such attention. On the numbers question, there
will be 16 Americans associated -- I mean, the individual, the military
personnel that worked on this process. There will be a counterpart number of 17
Russians that are directly in the crews that rotate and provide the
round-the-clock coverage. Once this is done, it is round-the-clock, 24 and
seven, through the 10 years.
There are another 60 or so personnel that
will be associated with the security and upkeep of the installation itself here
Q Will the Colorado facility be shut down or is that defunct
now, or is that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's already been
shut down. It was, in fact, before the rollover, but it proved to be a very
useful test bed on both hardware and procedures.
Q What information
will this provide to American security analysts and is this available already
through the assets the United States currently has?
ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The purpose here is to provide near real-time launch
detection data which tends to have for a ballistic missile, I mean, tends to
have a half-life in importance only for a few tens of minutes. That data
doesn't tend to be made available to American security analysts that I'm aware
of on any regular basis. That's really the purpose of this, is to use this
what's called tactical warning data and make it mutually available.
Let me go back to the disposal of plutonium --
OFFICIAL: You've got the wrong person --
Q I guess I'm not clear why
exactly you need a joint center. I mean, why can't the two countries sort of
provide the information to each other? Is there a symbolic element to this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it's much more than symbolic. There
certainly is a symbolic element, but it's much beyond that. It provides a
direct, face-to-face ability to do consultations. If there is some issue of
ambiguity, it allows one of the two sides that has some uncertainties to
immediately deal with people they know on a day to day basis and relay their
uncertainties and those individuals in turn are in direct, permanent, secure
communications back to their higher headquarters, if you will, and they are
able, therefore, to relay that same concern to the senior leadership on the
other side and seek to resolve any ambiguities within minutes.
given that, how high a level are the officials going to be that are going to be
looking at this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The officials here
tend to be, I guess, up through probably about company-grade officers, up
through lieutenants and captains, that will be the professionals manning this.
The heads of the teams are likely to be somewhat more senior than that. But
they will have access to watch officers on both sides who are colonels and
Q And will there be any new national technical means
developed for this, or will it use only existing?
OFFICIAL: It is to use the existing means. As those means evolve over time,
they will be coupled into the system.
Q Not specifically for this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not specifically for this. This is to
take advantage of the existing and the evolving warning systems of the two
MR. HAMMER: Thank you very much. Just an announcement in terms
of further briefings today. You may have heard that after the President's press
conference, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott will come for an
on-the-record, on-camera briefing, and then after that, Gene Sperling will
brief on the economic summit. Thank you.
Q When will that be?
MR. HAMMER: It's all depending on when the press conference ends. Yes,
immediately after the press conference.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 4:20 P.M. (L)
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