Despite what they described as “open, very frank” discussions about Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs, U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded their Sept. 26-27 talks at Camp David without any concrete decisions on how to address the crises.
At a joint press conference Sept. 27, Bush said the United States and Russia “share a goal…to make sure Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon or a nuclear weapons program.” Putin maintained that “Russia has no desire and no plans to contribute in any way to the creation of weapons of mass destruction, either in Iran or in any other spot, region in the world.” He noted that Russia’s decision to help Iran build a nuclear reactor at Bushehr is in full compliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and agreed with Bush that both countries will continue to urge Iran to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency requirements.
The United States has criticized Russia’s assistance to Iran in constructing the $800 million reactor and providing nuclear fuel for the plant. Russia has maintained that it will require Iran to return any spent fuel, although the two countries have yet to sign an agreement enforcing this pledge. (See ACT, January/February 2003.) Concern over Iran’s nuclear energy program escalated in September after international investigators detected traces of highly enriched uranium in two facilities. (See “Concern Heats Up Over Iran’s Alleged Nuclear Program,” p. 20.)
Both presidents agreed that North Korea must cease its nuclear weapons program. At the press briefing, Bush reiterated his call for North Korea “to completely, verifiably, and irreversibly end its nuclear programs.” Putin, however, also pressed the United States to offer Pyongyang “guarantees in this sphere of security,” drawing attention to U.S. reluctance to provide such explicit guarantees. (See “U.S. Shows More Flexibility in North Korea Talks”) On the Iraq front, Bush failed to secure military or financial support from Putin for Iraq’s reconstruction.
Also during the summit, both sides discussed implementation of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, which entered into force in May 2003. (See ACT, June 2003.) The Bilateral Implementation Commission, which is scheduled to meet twice yearly, has yet to convene. The commission’s first meeting may be scheduled later this fall, in late October or early November.