President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen came to the briefing this morning to talk about the new arms treaty with Russia. After the president made his remarks, the others took some questions.
TAPPER: Madam Secretary, congratulations. Obviously, a couple of deadlines were missed on the way to today's announcement. What were the sticking points and how were they ultimately resolved? And then, what's your message to Europeans who are still concerned about the nuclear missiles aimed at them from Russia?
CLINTON: You know, Jake, in any complex negotiation, there are going to be points along the way where negotiators have to go back to their capitals, where the negotiators need to delegate in-depth conversations. You heard Mike Mullen say what he had to do with his counterpart, Bob.
I had to talk to my counterpart Sergei Lavrov many times. Because the presidents' — President Obama and President Medvedev — directions were very clear. We want to do this and we want to get it done in a timely manner. But it took a lot of work.
You know, just a few weeks ago I dispatched Undersecretary Tauscher to Geneva because we needed to make it absolutely clear that this was a priority at the highest levels of our government. The Russians responded to that very positively. And we began to just work out the last details.
In addition, though, it's important to note that we made a decision that we wanted not just to have the treaty agree to. We wanted the protocols agreed to.
Sometimes treaties in the past have been submitted while the work on the protocol still goes on. But we thought it was important that we really went through all the technical work in the protocols so that when we went to our Senate or when the Russian government went to the Duma, it wasn't just, "OK, so what's going to be in the protocols?" It was, "OK, we can look at the treaty and we can look at the protocols."
So that was also some of the time that had to be taken in order to really get the point where we both felt like we had the package necessary to go to our legislative bodies.
TAPPER: And your message to the Europeans?
CLINTON: Well, we have consistently conveyed to our European friends and allies America's absolute commitment to our NATO partners and to their defense. The phase adaptive approach that the president concluded was the best way forward on missile defense, we think, actually makes Europe safer from what are the real threats that are out there.
There is still work to be done in the NATO-Russia Council to build confidence in our Central and Eastern European partners with Russia. But everybody's aware that that is something that is still ongoing.
One of the reasons why it's so significant that the presidents will meet in Prague is because we want to send exactly that signal, that this is good for Europe, as well as for the United States and Russia.