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Special Event

Bush Outlines Defense and International Relations Plans

Aired May 23, 2000 - 10:40 a.m. ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: George W. Bush now at the podium there, National Press Club in Washington. The issue is expected to be ballistic missiles and the reduction of nuclear missiles.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... to nuclear security that matches a new era. When it comes to nuclear weapons, the world has changed faster than U.S. policy. The emerging security threats to the United States, its friends and allies, and even to Russia, now come from rogue states, terrorist groups and other adversaries seeking weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them.

Threats also come from insecure nuclear stockpiles and the proliferation of dangerous technologies. Russia itself is no longer our enemy. The Cold War logic that led to the creation of massive stockpiles on both sides is now outdated. Our mutual security need no longer depend on a nuclear balance of terror.

While deterrence remains the first line of defense against nuclear attack, the standoff of the Cold War was born of a different time. That was a time when our arsenal also served to check the conventional superiority of the Warsaw Pact. Then the Soviet Union's power reached deep into the heart of Europe, to Berlin and Warsaw, Budapest and Prague. Today these are the capitals of NATO countries. Yet almost a decade after the end of the Cold War, our nuclear policy still resides in that already distant past.

The Clinton-Gore administration has had over seven years to bring the U.S. force posture into the post-Cold War world. Instead, they remain locked in a Cold War mentality. It is time to leave the Cold War behind and to fend against the new threats of the 21st century. America must build effective missile defenses based on the best available options at the earliest possible date.

Our missile defense must be designed to protect all 50 states and our friends and allies and deployed forces overseas from missile attacks by rogue nations or accidental launches.

The Clinton administration first denied the need for a national missile defense system. Then it delayed. Now the approach it proposes is flawed, a system initially based on a single site when experts say that more is needed. A missile defense system should not only defend our country, it should defend our allies with whom I will consult as we develop our plans. And any change in the ABM Treaty must allow the technologies and experiments required to deploy adequate missile defenses.

The administration is driving toward a hasty decision on a political timetable.

No decision would be better than a flawed agreement that ties the hands of the next president and prevents America from defending itself.

Yet there are positive, practical ways to demonstrate to Russia that we are no longer enemies. Russia and our allies in the world need to understand our intentions: America's development of missile defenses is a search for security, not a search for advantage.

America should rethink the requirements of nuclear -- for nuclear deterrence and a new security environment. The premises of Cold War nuclear targeting should no longer dictate the size of our arsenal.

As president, I will ask the secretary of defense to conduct an assessment of our nuclear force posture and determine how best to meet our security needs. While the exact number of weapons can come only from such an assessment, I will pursue the lowest possible number consistent with our national security. It should be possible to reduce the number of American nuclear weapons significantly further than what has been already agreed to under START II without compromising our security in any way.

We should not keep weapons that our military planners do not need. These unneeded weapons are the expensive relics of dead conflicts, and they do nothing to make us more secure.

In addition, the United States should remove as many weapons as possible from high alert, high-trigger status, another unnecessary vestige of Cold War confrontation. Preparation for quick launch within minutes after a warning of an attack was the rule during the era of superpower rivalry. But today, for two nations at peace, keeping so many weapons on high alert may create unacceptable risks of accidental or unauthorized launch.

So as president, I will ask for an assessment of what we can safely do to lower the alert status of our forces. These changes to our forces should not require years and years of detailed arms control negotiations.

There is a precedent that proves the power of leadership. In 1991, the United States invited the Soviet Union to join it in removing tactical nuclear weapons from the arsenal. Huge reductions were achieved in a matter of months, making the world much safer more quickly.

Similarly, in the area of strategic nuclear weapons, we should invite the Russian government to accept the new vision that I have outlined, and act on it. But the United States should be prepared to lead by example because it is in our best interests and the best interests of the world.

This would be an act of principled leadership, a chance to seize the moment and begin a new era of nuclear security, a new era of cooperation on proliferation and nuclear safety.

The Cold War era is history. Our nation must recognize new threats, not fixate on old ones. On the issue of nuclear weapons, the United States has an opportunity to lead to a safer world, both to defend against nuclear threats and reduce nuclear tensions. It is possible to build a missile defense and diffuse confrontation with Russia. America should do both.

Before I answer any questions, I would like to ask some of the statesmen with me to make a few comments, starting with former Secretary of State George Shultz.

GEORGE P. SHULTZ, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you, Governor.

One of my most vivid recollections is a discussion between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan after we had been discussing drastic reductions in ballistic missiles. And Gorbachev said, "If we're able to reduce the list of missiles drastically, why do you want to have a system of defense against them?" And President Reagan replied, "Because knowledge about missiles is widespread, rogue states, enemies of one or the other, terrorists groups, can get a hold of them, so we must have an insurance policy."

The problem that President Reagan foresaw is a reality.

And so it must be a reality for the United States that we learn how and put up a really effective defense against ballistic missiles.

So, Governor, congratulations to you on moving us along in that direction.

BUSH: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Former Secretary Henry Kissinger.

HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: When the anti- ballistic missile agreement was signed, we lived in a two power world. The basic confrontation was between the United States and Soviet Union. And in those days, missile technology, anti-missile technology, relatively rudimentary, it was believed to make a contribution to the then state of strategy to have an agreement on ballistic missile defense.

Today the world is no longer bipolar. Today the threats have moved into many different areas. Deliberate vulnerability and the technologies available to avoid it cannot be a strategic objective, cannot be a political objective and cannot be a moral objective of any American president.

And therefore, I strongly support Governor Bush's proposal. It's not aimed at any country. It does not attempt to define what is a rogue state, because what is a rogue state today may change, and what is not a rogue state today may also change.

It is asserts that when a technology is available to protect the United States, all of its states, against some significant level of attack, it must be explored, and that it leads to -- the easing of tensions must simultaneously be pursued and will simultaneously be pursued by political means and in the spirit that the governor has outlined.

And it's for this reason that though the ABM Treaty was negotiated when I was national security adviser that I wholeheartedly support the initiative just put forward by Governor Bush.

BUSH: General Powell.

GENERAL COLIN POWELL (RET.), FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Thank you, Governor. A great pleasure to be here this morning.

During my days as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I would come in every morning and I would be briefed on where the Soviet submarines were off the Virginia coast. I would examine our own alert status; I would also review the alert status of the Soviet missiles all over those fields in parts of the Soviet Union, knowing that those cruise missiles on their submarines could reach us in just 14 minutes and their intercontinental ballistic missiles could be here in 30 minutes, and we had to respond quickly if we ever faced that terrible day.

Well, those submarines are gone and for the most part those missiles have been reduced in number, and we've had some successes over the last 10 years in reducing the threat to mankind from strategic offenses systems pointed at one another, between us and the Soviet Union -- us and Russia.

But it's time to do even more. It's time to take a fresh look at the entire political situation that requires the continuing existence of strategic offensive weapons.

We can go down further, I believe, with the proper political guidance given to our military leaders and with the kind of assessment that Governor Bush has called for this morning and he would assign to his secretary of defense. We need to take a fresh look at the world. We need to talk to the Russians. We need to talk to the Chinese. We need to talk to our allies about what the requirement is for strategic offensive systems.

They're not going to go away. We have to make sure that we are able to deter any threat against us from nations that currently have weapons but are not our enemies or nations who might have weapons in the future.

So strategic offensive weapons are the first line of defense, but after that comes the new possibility, the new potential that exists in defensive systems.

And so, it would be irresponsible of us not to try to put in place an insurance policy with our missile defense systems -- theater missile defense systems and national missile defense systems -- that protects all America, protects our allies and has the potential of protecting nations that might have been our adversaries just a few years ago.

And I believe strongly that what the governor has announced here today is the right direction to go: to do everything we can to convince potential adversaries, old adversaries, new friends, and potential enemies out there who might yet emerge and are pursuing the kinds of technologies that could bring harm to this nation, that it won't work, we can deter you with our offensive systems, and we're going to put in place defensive systems that are for the benefit of all mankind and not just the United States.

I think we should not trap ourselves into any arrangements in the near future that would prevent us from taking full advantage of the opportunities that are out there. We are not against any state, but we have an obligation to protect our people and protect our friends and allies with strong offensive systems and by plumbing the full depths of the defensive possibilities that are out there.

So I am pleased to align myself with this statement. Thank you.

BUSH: Questions?

QUESTION: I just want to clarify, when you say that we should be prepared to lead by example, are you saying that you would be prepared to significantly reduce America's nuclear arsenal whether or not Russia follows suit?

BUSH: Yes, I am. And I would hope -- I would work closely with the Russians to convince them to do the same.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: No, I would never do anything to put our nation at risk. I will work with the secretary of defense to come up with a level of weaponry consistent with the notion that -- to deter -- notion to keep the peace through deterrence. But at the same time, make a clear signal to the Russians that we are willing to reduce our arsenals to assure them and to assure the world that we are a peaceful nation. We have peace in mind.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: The definition of sufficient reductions, it's going to be determined after I consult closely with the secretary of defense and the defense establishment in my administration, the people in my administration.

Secondly, START III should not be an excuse to limit our ability to develop an anti-ballistic missile system. QUESTION: So are you saying that we ought to share the national missile defense system with our allies in NATO and perhaps even with our allies in Russia as well? When you say "protect our allies," who do you mean?

BUSH: I mean people in Europe, for example, but I also mean Israel.

Yes, I think we ought to consult closely with our allies as to sharing information and technologies with the Russians. It depends upon how Russia behaves. It depends upon how Russia conducts itself as a member of the family of nations.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) technology with Taiwan?

BUSH: I think we ought to own the technology, but I'd be willing to use it, if need be, to uphold the Taiwan relations law.

QUESTION: President Clinton will be in Moscow in a week. What are you authorizing him -- or what would you like to see him do, I mean...

(LAUGHTER)

You're saying that you would like to see, number one, that it's brought down to...

BUSH: No, what I'm really suggesting is, is that he not hamstring the ability of the next president to fully develop an anti- ballistic missile system to protect ourselves and our allies. As I said, no treaty, no agreement, would be better than a flawed agreement. I'm concerned that this administration is not fully devoted to the development of an anti-ballistic missile system that will work.

QUESTION: Governor Bush, this is the second time that you've talked in detail about a national missile defense system. In the New York Times you talked about cost and how you'd pay for it in the context of the proposed tax cut, saving Social Security (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: We have a $4 trillion surplus. I intend to reserve over $2 trillion of that for Social Security, $1.3 trillion for tax cuts, the remainder will be available to meet priorities.

Secondly, it is -- the cost of an anti-ballistic missile system is worth the cost to protect ourselves, to protect our allies. The ability to determine the final cost will be the ability to determine, you know, what the new research and technologies look like if the current treaty prevents us from fully exploring all options when it comes to the effective deployment of an anti-ballistic missile system.

QUESTION: At the end of the United Nations conference in New York last Saturday, the United States and four other nuclear powers agreed to (OFF-MIKE) elimination of nuclear arsenals for...

(CROSSTALK) BUSH: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you support the agreement? Are you still opposed to the ratification by the United States Senate of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty? And how seriously would you work for the nuclear -- elimination of nuclear weapons at the present...

BUSH: I will never reduce the levels of the nuclear stockpile of the United States to a position where we jeopardize our safety and security. And no, I don't support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

QUESTION: Are you willing to review the U.S. defense policy of the last decade? Are you willing to review the U.S. policy regarding Cuba, which has been blocked for the past four decades?

BUSH: I'll review the policy toward Cuba when Fidel Castro has free elections, frees prisoners and has freedom of the press.

QUESTION: Governor, another foreign policy question this week on China. Are you satisfied that the administration has done everything it can to get PNTR passed? Do you believe it's going to pass? And have you, yourself, lobbied for it?

BUSH: Well, I've said in a pretty strong statement in Seattle the other day, and a congressman walked up to me last night and said, "You know something? I want you to know that because of your statement, I'm voting for the bill."

I'm going to go to the Hill today. I'm going to encourage members to vote for it. I think the president's given it his best shot. And I was happy to see the vice president finally emerge and make a statement. QUESTION: There's going to be four debates this coming fall.

BUSH: How do you know?

QUESTION: President's commission...

BUSH: Oh, OK, I see.

QUESTION: And...

BUSH: According to Mr. Gore, he wants 60 debates.

QUESTION: Well, the commission says that you have 15 percent in polls to be on the debates. The consensus seems to be that if it's you or Vice President Gore, you're going to put the country to sleep.

BUSH: Really, well I appreciate that objective analysis.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Would you agree to have Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan on the debates? BUSH: And all the rest of the candidates, too?

QUESTION: No, just those two.

BUSH: Why not all the rest?

QUESTION: Because they have 5 percent, and the rest have minimal...

BUSH: Well, maybe they will be surging in the polls by then. We'll worry about the debates -- on the debates at the appropriate time.

QUESTION: The Russians seem to regard the ABM as the cornerstone. You are saying that you will (OFF-MIKE). My question, are you willing to talk to the Russians before you take the final...

BUSH: Of course.

QUESTION: You will?

BUSH: Absolutely, as I told your foreign minister, that I look forward to working with the, you know, Mr. Putin and explaining my point of view and my attitude about the post-Cold War era. I'm going to look him right in the eye and say, "You're no longer the enemy, and we're not your enemy. Surely we can work together to bring certainty into an uncertain world." I look forward to that, and I think that's going to be very important for the next president to clearly state the intentions of the United States, that we're a peaceful nation and that we look forward to working together with Russia to keep the peace, that the world has changed dramatically.

QUESTION: How do you define the national greatness of the United States? Do you think that the national greatness of any country should be defined?

BUSH: The national greatness of the United States is how we love each other, how one neighbor will help another neighbor, whether or not we can educate our children. But one thing I won't do as president is to allow our military preparedness to slip below levels necessary to keep the peace.

I won't let the morale in the United States military deteriorate, like it has under this current administration.

BUSH: I understand it's important to have a well-focused, well- paid military to keep the peace. And I am going to ensure Mr. Putin that that's exactly what my intentions are, and that we should work together.

I'll also assure our allies and friends in Europe of the intentions -- of my intentions.

It's important for us to strengthen our alliances, which I am going to do.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... talking about unilateral reductions of deployed weapons (OFF-MIKE) all to go to stockpiles? And if the Russians...

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: Who is asking the questions? Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Wall Street Journal.

Are you talking of unilateral reductions (OFF-MIKE) Russians reciprocate, would you keep to those reductions? Are you also talking about reducing stockpiles?

BUSH: I'm talking about -- both. I'm talking about making sure the level of stockpiles and deployed weaponry is such that we can keep the peace and have a strong deterrence.

I recognize we're in a different world, and I'm going to send that signal to the secretary of defense to analyze the world the way it is today, not the way it used to be. It used to be when the Soviet Union had a powerful presence in what now are NATO countries -- it's a changed world. And our attitude ought to change. And...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Well, hopefully they will. I'll look forward to working with the Russians. But if they don't, the level of nuclear readiness is going to meet our needs. It's going to meet the needs of the United States of America.

And I will never put our security at risk. America can be assured of that.

BUSH: Jackie.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Your name's not Jackie, but that's OK.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: No, no you won't.

(LAUGHTER)

Just teasing.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Now that you've elbowed her out of the way.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) what is the difference between China's communist government? By those standards for Cuba, you mentioned free press, free elections, (OFF-MIKE) BUSH: Difference is, as far as I'm concerned, that we are trading with an entrepreneurial class in China, that by trade with China that we're encouraging a group of entrepreneurs and small- business owners to be able to get a taste of freedom, that we're giving them an opportunity to grow. That's not the case of Cuba.

In Cuba we're trading, in essence, with a government-controlled entity. And my worry is that capital flowing into Cuba will help prop up the Fidel Castro regime.

My belief is by trading with an entrepreneurial class in China, it will enhance the spread of freedoms in China. And there's a big difference.

QUESTION: The standard that you mentioned before was about free elections and freedom of the press, none of which exists in China.

BUSH: Well, but it's also a standard of which I've failed to mention that there -- who we're trading with, who we're doing business with, who -- when we trade with China, we're trading more and more with people that are in the private sector, entrepreneurs. Free enterprise has taken hold in China, and I think that's a measure to the extent that freedom takes hold in China as well. And I think there's a big difference. Jackie. And then you.

QUESTION: Governor, either here today or in a meeting on Thursday in Austin, will you ask General Powell to be your vice president, your running mate or to take some other position, especially given the topic here today, as secretary of state...

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: I'm not going to tell you.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: What I'm going to tell him what I want to talk to him -- I'm not going to tell you what I talked to him about. I hope he's for me. Let me just put it to you that way.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: Now that's not exactly objective journalism.

(LAUGHTER)

BUSH: I hope he's for me.

QUESTION: Can General Powell answer that question as to his attitude about the vice president or some other cabinet position?

BUSH: You don't have to, if you don't want to. POWELL: I think I've answered that on many occasions. The answer is well-known. I won't take any time away from the governor to belabor you with it.

BUSH: And don't you ever accuse him of being smarmy again.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Governor, this program to defend the country against missile is problematic from the beginning from a technological point of view, both during the Reagan administration, your father's administration, now during the Clinton administration. What technology do you see out there that makes you hopeful that once you implement your program you could actually defend this country against an...

BUSH: What I see out there is a couple of things. One, the world has changed a lot since the '80s. Science is evolving; laser technology is evolving. There's a lot of inventiveness in our society that is -- hasn't been unleashed on this particular subject.

And secondly, I see a treaty that makes it hard for us to fully explore the options available, the options available to keep the peace. And I -- there needs to be an administration with the firm commitment to exploring all options and all opportunities, be able to understand, you know, whether or not a space-based system can work, like some hope it can.

And under this administration, we have -- I don't think there's been the full commitment to determine what the opportunities and options are for the country. And I think it's important to take a full look at whether or not we can keep the peace.

I'm going to remind people in this country -- the interesting fact, a lot of people think we can defend ourselves against an accidental launch. I think if you were to ask Americans, they will tell you that, you know, yes, we've got the capability of defending ourselves. But it's not the case. And I believe the post-Cold War era dictates a different way of thinking.

QUESTION: Governor, as a follow-up on the money question: Are you...

BUSH: On the?

QUESTION: Money question.

QUESTION: Related to...

BUSH: I'm against soft money.

QUESTION: Are you prepared, if necessary, to reduce the size of your tax cut to fulfill this broadening vision that now extends to defense policy?

BUSH: I don't have to -- I'm not going to have to do that. There's enough money in the budget to do so. And there are savings to be had -- and there are savings to be had in the budget as well, and I believe there's ample money to do both.

Final question, Judy.

QUESTION: Governor, are the people who are waiting -- waiting on the stage behind you this morning involved in the foreign relations (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Of course.

QUESTION: And have they all agreed to continue to advise you on foreign policy and defense matters?

BUSH: Yes, they have. And I'm honored to have their support, I'm honored to have their opinions. I told -- I told my supporters I was interested in thinking differently. As we go into the 21st century, I want a different point of view when it comes to how to keep the peace. And it's the right thing to do for America, and it's the right thing to do for the world.

Thank you all for your time.

HEMMER: Flanked by a rather strong and impressive lineup, George W. Bush, the governor of Texas, outlining what he would consider his direction for a national defense system, if elected president. Colin Powell, George Shultz, Henry Kissinger all there on the stage with him.

George W. Bush saying, quote, "It is time to put the cold war behind and build an effective missile defense system that would not only protect all 50 states," in his words, "but also allies of the U.S." Also he said, as president, he would instruct his secretary of defense to help reduce the number of weapons and -- but not to reduce them to the level that would put the U.S. at a point of insecurity.

He says, the relationship the U.S. has with Russia is now out of date, and said, "The cold war era is history. We must recognize new threats and not old ones."

Up to Washington, listening along with us, national security correspondent David Ensor.

David, we did not get many specifics on this, but we did hear a direction. What else do we know about this?

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you do see a difference of emphasis, and kind of a shot across the bow to the Clinton administration. You have Governor Bush, in effect, asking President Clinton not to make any kinds of deals with the Russians in his upcoming summit with President Putin that would preclude the deployment of a large-scale national missile defense. Governor Bush saying, he wants to defend all 50 states and our allies. Now, that is an ambitious plan indeed.

He clearly doesn't want to see President Clinton making any agreements about amendments to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Amendments that President Clinton and his administration have said they would like to have that would allow for a limited national missile defense, of the kind the administration has been pursuing in the last couple of years.

That limited defense would involve a single ground-based set of missiles probably based in Alaska, that would be designed to knockout any incoming missiles from say, for example, North Korea that might be launched against the United States. Governor Bush saying that is not an adequate in his view, and in the view of many experts that he has spoken to, that he wants a broader system that can defend the whole country and its allies. And he doesn't want President Clinton to make any agreements with the Russians that would preclude such a system.

HEMMER: All right, David Ensor, live in Washington. David, thank you.

Now twelve minutes past the hour. Also want to reiterate here that George W. Bush now saying, it is time to assure the world that we have peace in mind. His words again from the National Press Club in Washington.

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