Transcript: George Stephanopoulos Interviews Russian President Dmitry Medvedev

The "GMA" anchor spoke with Medvedev the day after signing the new START treaty.

ByABC News via logo
April 11, 2010, 10:25 PM

— -- "Good Morning America" anchor George Stephanopoulos interviewed Russian President Dmitry Medvedev the day after Medvedev and President Barack Obama signed the new START treaty.

The following is a transcript of the exclusive interview, which took place on Friday, April 9, 2010.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:Mister President, thank you very much for having us in St. Petersburg. This is going to be an interview played to a very broad American audience. And I just want to get to get your view on what's the single most important thing that the average American needs to know about Russia today exactly?

MEDVEDEV:That Russia is the same normal regular country as America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What does that mean?

MEDVEDEV: That means exactly what I said that we have similar values. And have basically probably the same, what the regular americans would like to have. We'd like to give the population the most comfortable conditions of life which unfortunately we can't always provide. we have a lot of threats which we are fighting and we have tasks that we'd like to achieve, to develop and we have the same values as a democratic country established about 20 years ago.

STEPHANOPOULOS:And we see now a landmark agreement between the United States and Russia over nuclear weapons, signed in Prague. And-- it was a hard fought agreement. And the-- the issue of missile defense still seems to divide the United States and Russia. And I just have a very-- simple question. If the United States continues to develop missile defense in Europe, will Russia withdraw from the START treaty?

MEDVEDEV: I would try to explain it as I understand the process today. For pretty long time and not without difficulties we spoke with our American partners about the agreement about the relationship between strategic offensive arms and the anti missile defensive systems. The point is this is about nuclear forces, or to be exact, with the difference in the configuration between those systems in Russia and the United States. And with the plans that we have and our American partners. As a result of very complicated deliberations, we got to the formula, which is being included in the preambles of the treaty. And that formula is a reflection of very famous judicial principles. Or let's say it this way, that formula says that there is an interconnection between the strategic offensive arms and missile defense. But it's mentioned there also about the circumstances which were the basis the signage of that treaty agreed upon by both parties. So if those circumstances will change then you would have, we would consider it as the reason to jeopardize the whole agreement. That doesn't mean that because of that rule, if the American side starts to build up the missile system that the treaty would automatically lose its power. But this is an additional argument which binds us and which gives us the opportunity to pose the question: is that quantity change of the defense missile configuration leading to a change of the situation in the quality concern? So if we in a certain moment evaluate that the quality of the situation has significantly changed, we would be forced to pose such a question to our American partners. But I would like to make sure there is no impression that any change would be a reason to abandon a signed agreement. Even more, we agreed upon and we spoke about with President Obama and talked about with American representatives that we should cooperate in the creation of global missile defense systems. But if that process will go eventually on such a scenario which, according to our impression, will lead to the quantity changes, then such a question could be posed by our side. And this is the principle of that reasoning, and understanding as well about that oral statement yesterday.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So if Russia feels the systems that we built up is a threat, then you withdraw. That's the qualitative change?

MEDVEDEV: Then we can pose the question about premature end of that agreement. But I hope that something like that would not happen. And that we will be busy with those problems of sophistication of potential and the questions about the anti missile defense, we will consult each other and it's our wish to work on it together.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned that this language is in the preamble. Based on my reporting, I heard that in one of your final conversations negotiating with President Obama, you tried to get this language into the body of the text. And he pushed back quite forcefully. What kind of a negotiator is President Obama?

MEDVEDEV: I think that Mr. Obama as the President of the United States of America, he's pursuing the interests of the United States. And me as President of the Russian Federation, I'm trying to defend our interests. The point is that we don't have such huge plans about creation of missile defense systems like in America. But we do understand ourselves that if you build up or escalate the missile defense means to certain levels, they will be able to break the parity. Because what's the basis of today's agreement is the strategic offensive arms. It's based on that, the parties by compromising, by consulting with experts, came to the conclusion that there is a certain parity between us. The parity of certain delivery means and certain warheads, so we are lowering it down, the level of delivery systems and warheads. And we're setting the limit, which is much lower than in the 1991 agreement. But if the fixed parity is being preserved, which is 700 I believe, and 800 undeveloped and developed and 750 heads and the other party radically multiplies the number and power of its missile defense system, obviously that missile defense system is indeed becoming a part of the strategic offensive nuclear forces. Because it's capable of blocking the action of the other side. So an imbalance occurs, and this would be certainly the reason to have a review of that agreement. There is something, and I would like to remind you, I believe you have also a judicial background in your education, there is a famous latin proverb: clausula rebus sixtantus, the agreement is being considered in effect as long as the circumstances in which it was born remain. If they change, that would be the reason for a review of the agreement. That's for any agreement. Such circumstances in this case are related to the development of the anti missile defense system.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've now met with President Obama many times. At least 15 meetings and phone calls.

MEDVEDEV: Sixteen times.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Sixteen. Okay, I knew it was 15. I wasn't sure about the 16. What do you make of Barack Obama the man?

MEDVEDEV: He's very comfortable partner, it's very interesting to be with him. The most important thing that distinguishes him from many other people – I won't name anyone by name – he's a thinker, he thinks when he speaks. Which is already pretty good.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You had somebody in your mind, I think. (LAUGHS)