“US is not intending to threaten Russia in any way” – US top military official
RT: Chairman Michael Mullen thanks very much for being with us today.
M.M.: I am glad to be with you.
RT: Do you think we can have an agreement on nuclear arms reduction to be signed by the two presidents while you are here?
M.M.: Well, the upcoming summit is a really critical meeting, obviously. The intent is to certainly reach that kind of agreement. It’s really up to the two presidents to make the final decision and to sign it. But I am encouraged by the progress that I am aware of from the negotiations viewpoint. I think it’s a very important undertaking.
RT: How important is the new strategy for the Obama administration? Are you willing to compromise to get this signed? Whatever it takes?
M.M.: Well again. I don’t make those decisions. It’s really President Obama’s decision. We all think that this treaty and the following treaty are really critical issues. And certainly President Obama has stated this aspiration of a goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons. And so that speaks to the importance of this particular treaty.
RT: How do you value the role of strategic nuclear arms and the concept of zero nuclear weapons? Is this a survival option?
M.M.: We are a long way off from that. Certainly there are a lot of nuclear weapons right now. And our two countries Russia and the United States have the largest arsenals and so that’s why I think the leadership of these two countries is so important to look at ways to reduce them, while, at the same time, sustaining our security interests. And I am hopeful that that would be the outcome of the negotiations – the agreement.
RT: The nuclear tests from North Korea have raised great concern all over the world. Do the US and Russia have a common approach to this problem?
M.M.: Well, I think that we are together very much and that’s indicated by the agreement with the United Nations Security Council Resolution, which is a much tougher resolution than the one that existed before, and it speaks to the belligerent behaviour of the North Korean leadership, and the hopes and also the increased pressure to try to get the leadership of North Korea to conform to the international norms.
RT: The US plans to base its missile defense system in Eastern Europe has been met by opposition in Russia and has also been criticized in Eastern European countries. Does the US take this criticism into consideration? Does this project have an alternative?
M.M.: Certainly, there’s a review going on in the United States right now, under the auspice of President Obama’s new administration. So there’s no final decision which has been made in this respect. Certainly we recognize the sensitivity of the issue. Russians I’ve met with over the past couple of years raise this routinely. And, at the end of this review, I’m sure there will be both discussions and decisions made which just haven’t been made up to this point.
RT: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recently proposed to put an American radar in Russia. Of course, it has been met with opposition in Moscow, and the idea has been rejected. Is the new administration going along with this proposal, along the same lines?
M.M.: I think the comments made by Secretary Gates with respect to the radar during the previous discussion with the Russian leadership over the last couple of years are, more than anything else, meant to send a signal that we’re looking for a way to cooperate on this project. It is not intended, from the United States’ perspective, to threaten Russia in any way. Obviously, we have disagreements with respect to that. What Secretary Gates has tried to do was to reaffirm that we’re trying to look for common ground here, and I think we will in the future.
RT: Do you think the two countries can cooperate in creating a joint defense system?
M.M.: I think that the cooperation between the United States and Russia is absolutely critical across a host of issues. That’s why I’m here, to spend time with General Makarov and look to renew military relationships. We’re covering a lot of issues, on some of which we agree and on some of which we don’t. It’s that contact, that dialogue, and that cooperation which are so critical, including the one on missile defense.
RT: NATO expansion has been another sore point for Russians. Is the inclusion of Georgia and Ukraine into your organization still a priority for Washington?
M.M.: Again, that’s one of a host of issues in the new relationship with Russia, which is signaled by the summit that’s coming up. And we’re going to continue to engage and understand each other better, and look for ways to do this in a way which would support both of our interests.
RT: The final question. Russia and the US are both involved in fighting pirates off the coast of Somalia. Could this be an example of how the countries can cooperate?
M.M.: It is a good example. Piracy is a threat that we’re all going to have to face. We’ve been able to work together and it is a reminder of what is possible against these emerging threats.
RT: Chairman Mullen, thanks for your time.
M.M.: Thank you.