PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: It's a great honor for me to welcome President Vladimir Putin to the White House, and to welcome his wife as well.
This is a new day in the long history of Russian-American relations, a day of progress and a day of hope. The United States and Russia are in the midst of the transformation of a relationship that will yield peace and progress. We're transforming our relationship from one of hostility and suspicion to one based on cooperation and trust that will enhance opportunities for peace and progress for our citizens and for people all around the world.
The challenge of terrorism makes our close cooperation on all issues even more urgent. Russia and America share the same threat and the same resolve. We will fight and defeat terrorist networks wherever they exist. Our highest priority is to keep terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
Today we agreed that Russian and American experts will work together to share information and expertise to counter the threat from bioterrorism. We agreed that it is urgent that we improve the physical protection and accounting of nuclear materials and prevent illicit nuclear trafficking. And we will strengthen our efforts to cut off every possible source of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons materials and expertise.
Today, we also agreed to work more closely to combat organized crime and drug trafficking, a leading source of terrorist financing. Both nations are committed to the reconstruction of Afghanistan once hostilities there have ceased and the Taliban are no longer in control. We support the U.N.'s efforts to fashion a post-Taliban government that is broadly based and multiethnic. The new government must export neither terror not drugs, and it must respect fundamental human rights.
As Russia and the United States work more closely to meet new 21st century threats, we're also working hard to put the threats of the 20th century behind us once and for all, and we can report great progress. The current levels of our nuclear forces do not reflect today's strategic realities.
I have informed President Putin that the United States will reduce our operationally deployed strategic nuclear warheads to a level between 1,700 and 2,200 over the next decade, a level fully consistent with American security. Russia and the United States have also had vast discussions about our defensive capabilities, the ability to defend ourselves as we head into the 21st century.
We have different points of view about the ABM Treaty. And we will continue dialogue and discussions about the ABM Treaty, so that we may be able to develop a new strategic framework that enables both of us to meet the true threats of the 21st century as partners and friends, not as adversaries.
The spirit of partnership that now runs through our relationship is allowing the United States and Russia to form common approaches to important regional issues. In the Middle East, we agree that all parties must take practical actions to ease tensions so that peace talks can resume. We urge the parties to move without delay to implement the Tenet work plan and the Mitchell report recommendations.
In Europe, we share a vision of a European Atlantic community whole, free and at peace, one that includes all of Europe's democracies and where the independence and sovereignty of all nations are respected. Russia should be a part of this Europe. We will work together with NATO and NATO members to build new avenues of cooperation and consultation between Russia and NATO. NATO members and Russia are increasingly allied against terrorism, regional instability and other threats of our age. And NATO must reflect this alliance.
We are encouraged by President Putin's commitment to a political dialogue in Chechnya. Russia has also made important strides on immigration and the protection of religious and ethnic minorities, including Russia's Jewish community. On these issues, Russia is a fundamentally different place than it was during the Soviet era. President Putin told me that these gains for freedom will be protected and expanded. Our foreign ministers have sealed this understanding in an exchange of letters. Because of this progress, my administration will work with Congress to end the application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to Russia.
Russia has set out to strengthen free market institutions and the rule of law. On this basis, our economic relationship is developing quickly, and we will look for further ways to expand it. A strong, independent media is a vital part of a new Russia.
We have agreed to launch a dialogue on media entrepreneurship so that American and Russian media representatives can meet and make practical recommendations to both our governments in order to advance our goal of a free media and free exchange of ideas.
Russia and the United States will continue to face complex and difficult issues, yet we have made great progress in a very short period of time. Today, because we are working together, both our countries and the world are more secure and safe. I want to thank President Putin for the spirit of our meetings.
Together, we're making history as we make progress. Laura and I are looking forward to welcoming the Putins to our ranch in Crawford, Texas. I can't wait to show you my state and where I live. In the meantime, I hope you have a fine stay here in Washington, D.C., and it's my honor to welcome you to the White House, sir, and welcome you to the podium.
PRESIDENT PUTIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Ladies and gentlemen, I didn't know whether I would have an opportunity to address such a representative audience of the press and media. I would like to begin anyway with a thanks to the president of the United States not only for his kind invitation to visit the United States and Washington, but also for his very informal initiation of our negotiations earlier today. Myself and my colleagues are very pleased to be here at this historic building, the White House. And President Bush deemed it appropriate not only to tour me -- to guide me through the premises of this house where he lives. We saw almost every picture hanging on the walls of this great building. It's not only very interesting, it also changes for the better the quality of our relationship.
I would like to once again thank the president and the American people, and I would like to express our condolences in connection with the recent plane crash in the United States. As they say in Russia, tragedy does not come alone; tragedies always come in many numbers. I am confident that the American people would face this tragedy very bravely.
I would like to inform you that the Washington part of our negotiations is being completed, and our discussions proved very constructive, interesting and useful and will continue at Crawford. But the preliminary results we evaluate as extremely positive.
This is our fourth meeting with President Bush in the last few months. I believe this is a vivid demonstration of the dynamic nature of the Russian-American relations. We have come to understand each other better, and our positions are becoming closer on the key issues of bilateral and international relations. We are prepared now to seek solutions in all areas of our joint abilities.
We intend to dismantle conclusively the vestiges of the Cold War and to develop a new -- entirely new partnership for the long term. Of course, we discussed in detail the subject matter of the fight against terrorism.
The tragic developments of Sept. 11 demonstrated vividly the need for a joint effort to counter this global threat. We consider this threat as a global threat, indeed, and the terrorists and those who help them should know that the justice is inescapable, and it will reach them wherever they try to hide.
Also, post-crisis political settlement in Afghanistan was discussed. The most important thing for today is to return peace and the life in order to Afghanistan, so that no threat originates from Afghanistan to the international stability. Of course, we do not intend to force upon the Afghan people the solutions. It is for them to resolve those issues with the active participation of the United Nations.
We discussed in detail our dialogue related to strategic offensive and defensive weapons. Here, we managed to achieve certain progress. First of all, it has to do with the prospects of reaching a reliable and verifiable agreement on further reductions of the U.S. and the Russians' weapons. Here, I must say, we appreciate very much the decision by the president to reduce strategic offensive weapons to the limits indicated by him, and we, for our part, will try to respond in kind.
On the issues of missile defense, the position of Russia remains unchanged, and we agreed to continue dialogue and consultations on this. I believe that it's too early now to draw the line on the discussions of these issues. And we will have an opportunity to continue the work on this, one of the very difficult issues, at the Crawford ranch.
We also exchanged on a number of topical issues of international importance -- the Balkans, Iraq -- and we reiterated in a joint statement the resolve of the United States and Russia to facilitate settlement in the Middle East and the early resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
We also discussed seriously the development of relations between Russia and NATO, including taking into account a change in the international situation. We consider that there are opportunities for an entirely new mechanism, joint decision making and coordinated action in the area of security and stability.
We considered in detail a number of economic cooperation issues. The Russian-American dialogue on this area has become recently more constructive and more tangible. Such major investment projects as Sakhalin I and Caspian pipeline consortium are gaining momentum. Successful cooperation in the aerospace, mining, chemistry, car building and other industries. Direct contacts are expanding between entrepreneurs of the two countries, including within the Russian-American business dialogue.
It is with satisfaction that we note a certain progress in issues related to Russia's accession to the WTO, in recognizing Russia as a market economy country. And we felt a great degree of understanding that such issues should be resolved; I mean, dealing with the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, not de facto, but in legal terms. And in this context, our foreign minister and the secretary of state, Messrs. Ivanov and Powell, exchanged letters reiterating the resolve of Russia and the United States to observe human rights and religious freedoms.
Of course, the capabilities embedded in the bilateral relationship have not been fully implemented -- indeed, we have quite a lot of things to do, but we are confident that the success is by and large predetermined by our resolve to cooperate energetically and constructively. That, I'm confident, would benefit both countries and is reflected also in our visit to this country today. Thank you.
REPORTER: Mr. President, the Northern Alliance forces took over Kabul, and there are reports of executions of POWs and other violent reprisals. Can the Alliance be trusted to form a broad-based government? If not, what should happen next to stabilize Afghanistan, and what role, if any, should U.S. troops play in that political phase?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: First of all, we're making great progress in our objective, and that is to tighten the net and eventually bring al-Qaida to justice and, at the same time, deal with the government that's been harboring them. President Putin and I spent a lot of time talking about the northern alliance and their relationship to Kabul, as well as Mazar-e-Sharif and other cities that have now been liberated from the Taliban. I made it very clear to him that we will continue to work with the Northern Alliance to make sure they recognize that in order for there to be a stable Afghanistan, which is one of our objectives, after the Taliban leaves, that the country be a good neighbor and that they must recognize that a future government must include representatives from all of Afghanistan.
We listened very carefully to the comments coming out of the Northern Alliance today. And they made it very clear they had no intention of occupying Kabul. That's what they said.
I have seen reports, of which you refer to, and I also saw a report that said, on their way out of town, the Taliban was wreaking havoc on the citizenry of Kabul. And if that be the case -- I haven't had it verified one way or the other -- but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised. After all, the Taliban has been wreaking havoc on the entire country for over a decade. This has been one of the most repressive regimes in the history of mankind. But we will continue to work with the Northern Alliance commanders to make sure they respect the human rights of the people that they're liberating. And I also saw reports -- and I think President Putin mentioned this today as well -- that in some of the northern cities there was a great, joyous -- a wonderful, joyous occasion, as the citizens were free, free from repression, free from a dictatorial government. But we're both mindful and particularly mindful of the need for us to work with our northern alliance friends to treat people with respect.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: All our reactions were aimed at liberating the northern part of Afghanistan, the capital of Afghanistan, liberate it from the Taliban regime. And any military action is accompanied not only by the military resistance, but also an information resistance.
What we are witnessing right now exactly -- we tend to forget now the destruction of the cultural heritage of humankind. We tend to forget now the atrocities by Taliban, and we are talking less than usual of the Taliban harboring international terrorism. The information that the Northern Alliance are shooting the prisoners of war was launched a few days ago. The Northern Alliance were not in Kabul a few days ago. They were liberating northern parts of the country.
And for those who do not know, I will tell, the northern part of the country is inhabited by the ethnic groups represented in the Northern Alliance. I mean Uzbeks and Tajiks. It is very difficult for me to imagine them shooting their own population. I utterly exclude this. If there are any instances in the course of the military action of the violation of human rights and treatment of the prisoners of war, we must investigate and take action, but we need proof.
Talking of this, we should not forget the things that we see. The way people need advancing northern alliance troops liberating the cities and villages of the Taliban. The women, getting rid of chadors and burning them. And this I would like you, ladies and gentlemen of the press, to pay attention to. Thank you.
Question: Specific numbers were mentioned here with regard to the reductions of offensive weapons. When and if at all one could expect that such specific numbers made public be substantiated by some papers, maybe during a possible visit by President Bush to Moscow? And by the way, when could this visit take place?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Got to get invited first.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: Mr. President is aware of that, and I would like reiterate he has an open invitation to visit the Russian Federation with an official working or a private visit in any form at any time convenient for him. I mean, the best time would be during the time of the beginning of the year, White Nights in St. Petersburg. Of course, the official part would start in Moscow in the capital of the Russian Federation. But as for the business part, I think that, before that time, our advisers will continue working, and we, for our part -- for the Russian part -- are prepared to present all our agreements in a treaty form, including the issues of verification and control.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I think it's interesting to note that a new relationship based upon trust and cooperation is one that doesn't need endless hours of arms control discussions. I can remember watching the news years ago and seeing that people sit at tables for hours and hours and hours trying to reach reduced levels of nuclear armament.
My attitude is, here's what we can live with, and so I've announced the level that we'll stick by. And to me, that's how you approach a relationship that is changed and different. And we would be glad to -- I looked the man in the eye and shook his hand, and if we need to write it down on a piece of paper, I'll be glad to do that. But that's what our government is going to do over the next 10 years.
And we don't need an arms control agreement or an arms control -- let me say this, we don't need arms control negotiations to reduce our weaponry in a significant way. And today, you've now heard, for the first time, the level that I think is commensurate with the spirit of reducing our own weaponry and, at the same time, keeping the peace.
REPORTER: You mentioned vast discussions on the ABM treaty. What progress are you making? And are you convinced you won't have to withdraw from the treaty now?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I'm convinced that the treaty is outdated. And we need to move beyond it, and we're having discussions along those lines. We had good discussions today. We had good discussions in Shanghai. We had good discussions in Slovenia, and we'll have good discussions in Crawford.
This is obviously a subject that's got a lot of ramifications to it. I've clearly heard what the president has had to say and his view of the ABM treaty. He's heard what I've had to say. And we'll continue working it.
But my position is, is that it's a piece of paper that's codified a relationship that no longer exists. It codified a hateful relationship. And now we've got a friendly relationship, and I think we need to have a new strategic framework that reflects the new relationship, based upon trust and cooperation. But we'll continue to work it.
REPORTER: A question to President Bush. His advisers expressed concern over the situation with the freedom of speech in Russia, but after Sept. 11, it would seem to me that the situation is changing somewhat in the United States, too.
There are special rules for covering a terrorist -- anti-terrorist operation; bin Laden is denied any opportunity to present his views in the media, quite appropriately, in my view; and so on and so forth.
The authority of the special services have been expanded, and there have been rumors that some members of your administration went to Hollywood explaining to them a few things. Where is the line in the sand where, beyond which, it is impossible to cross, delineating a voluntary restraint on the part of the media and the ...
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. First of all, I've been trying to tame our press corps ever since I got into politics, and I failed miserably. They get to express their opinions, sometimes in the form of news ... any way they want to.
I asked them the other day, "Would it be OK if I cut a 30-minute tape, a piece of propaganda, no questions, just here, here it is, here's 30 minutes of me talking, please run it, not only across your airwaves, but run it internationally, if you don't mind, I've got something to say about the conflict and our fight against evil."
They said, no, they're not going to do that. If I'm going to have to get on the news, they've got to ask me questions. And so, we extended the courtesy to Osama bin Laden. He doesn't get you to just cut a 30-minute tape, where he may be calling his soldiers to action or he's definitely condemning all Jews, Christians, threatening individuals, to be able to put a 30-minute propaganda tape on the free airwaves. And we made that suggestion, we didn't dictate. We just suggested.
And some of the news organizations or all the news organizations readily agreed that was a responsible posture to take. And for that, I'm grateful. But the press in America has never been stronger and never been freer, and never been more vibrant, sometimes to my chagrin and a lot of times to my delight.
Whoever thinks that I have the capability and my government has the capability of reining in this press corps simply doesn't understand the American way.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: I would also offer a couple of words. Today, giving a rostrum to international terrorists would be equal to giving an opportunity to lead your newspapers of the second World War times to an opportunity to print Dr. Goebbels' articles.
This question could be turned in a following way: What is the limit and what is the measure of giving an opportunity to the terrorists and destructive elements to use media in pursuit of their anti-human, inhuman objectives? Let's look at it this way.
REPORTER: If I could return to the situation in Afghanistan, where the concern seems to be a potential breakdown in civil order and a possible dramatic increase in civil conflict between the tribes and the Northern Alliance and other groups, which President Putin's country has experience with.
What specifically can be done in the next several days to ensure the safety of the citizens of Kabul, and does the Northern Alliance, now that they have taken that city, enjoy pride-of-place at the bargaining table in the future of Afghanistan?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: There is no preferential place at the bargaining table. All people will be treated the same. That's what we're working with our friends, the Russians, on, and that's the concept we're working on with the U.N. And that's only fair. That's been the vision all along. That's been the vision we talked about in Shanghai; it's the vision we have shared again today.
Secondly, I repeat, the Northern Alliance, with whom President Putin has got some influence and I've got some influence, has told us both they had no intention of occupying -- and they said this publicly -- they intend not to occupy Kabul, which is fine. That's the way it ought to be. And we will continue to work with their commanders.
We've got troops there with their commanders, and we will continue to urge restraint. I think before we jump to conclusions, we want to make sure we understand what the facts are, because the evacuating army has been one that has held this country, terrorized this country for a long period of time. But any -- regardless of that -- any army, advancing or retreating, needs to treat people with respect, and we will continue the work that they do so.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: Well, the thing is that the Northern Alliance did not take Kabul by storm. The Northern Alliance has been looming over Kabul for a long time. That was our mutual agreement with President Bush.
And suddenly they discovered, all of a sudden, that Kabul had been abandoned, and they had to insert their certain security elements to prevent looting and robberies and murderers. There was complete lawlessness in that city, and the situation must be put under control. And it was very difficult; it would be very difficult for us if we -- well, now, to meet with the Northern Alliance leaders to tell them that they've negated their obligation.
The city of Kabul was abandoned by Taliban. They were trying to preserve their manpower and their equipment, a very cunning move on the part of Taliban. Maybe, technically, their decision was right, but we should not be deluded on that score. Quite a serious amount of work is still ahead. They did not disappear. They just moved out of the city a few kilometers from there.
And I'm absolutely in agreement with the president on the need to follow the developments with a view to preventing abuses of human rights and maltreatment of the POWs, although the line that we agreed upon has not been yet reached. Dear colleagues, the final question.
REPORTER: Two questions to two presidents. Mr. Bush, what is the evaluation of the situation in Pakistan, which was always in the sphere of influence of the United States, and whether there are any dangers that the forces up in a position to General Musharraf would gain control of the nuclear weapons?
And to President Putin, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan made available their air bases and, therefore, it is to the United States Air Force giving the green light. Can you tell us whether you need a green light -- gave us the green light? Aren't you apprehensive of the struggle for power and influence in that area?
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I had a very good dinner with President Musharraf last Saturday night in New York City. This is the first time I had met him. My secretary of state had met him in Pakistan, as had my secretary of defense and other officials in my administration. All of us came away with our respect for President Musharraf and our desire to make sure that his administration is successful in Pakistan.
The best way to make sure that terrorists do not end up with nuclear weaponry in that part of the world is for President Musharraf to provide a stable government and to fulfill what he said he would do, which is to have elections in a short period of time. And I believe he deserves our nation's support. And so we're putting together an economic package that will help him with debt, help him with expenses of the ongoing operations, help him with trade. And we will continue a dialogue with the Pakistan leader with the full intent of finding ways we can cooperate in order to bring stability to that part of the world.
PRESIDENT PUTIN: On the possible redrawing of the spheres of influence and the enhanced American influence in Central Asia, I would like to say the following: I am more concerned with the presence of the terrorists' training camps in northern Afghanistan, who send guerrillas to the Caucasus, have been sending in recent years. After Ahmed Shah Massoud was killed, I had a very, very sad feeling.
That was prior to Sept. 11. I told President Bush, at that time, that perhaps some serious developments are in the making. This concerns me very much. If we look at the relationship between the Russian Federation and the United States from the old standpoint -- distrust and enmity -- it's one thing. If we are looking through the prism of partnership and alliance, we have nothing to be afraid of. This is one thing.
Secondly, one shouldn't forget that both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are independent states and decide their foreign policies independently, who to cooperate with and at which level. But I am focusing my attention at the following circumstance. And I related it to President Bush quite frankly. We just mentioned President Musharraf. We all should support President Musharraf. This would be the right thing to do. And we agree with this, and we accept this. It is also true that American flags have been burned in the streets of the Pakistani cities, but one should not leave that unnoticed, in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the Muslim countries, too, American flags are not being burned. Moreover, those countries cooperate for the first time so openly and so consistently with the United States and with the international alliance against terrorism.
Being Muslim countries, with their own problems, none of them are squeaking or crying foul; they are trying to address their own problems on their own. And in these conditions, the continued application of the Jackson-Vanik amendment to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and so on and so forth, one wouldn't call it justified and just.
We need to and want to build a new relationship in the new 21st century. Thank you very much.