Bill Clinton photo

Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official

January 14, 1994

The Briefing Room

2:07 P.M. (L)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good afternoon. I'd like to just briefly review the events of the day and then take you through the basic documents that were signed or issued today by the U.S. and Russia.

Let me just say first that the President came to Moscow with several objectives. One was to reaffirm the U.S.- Russian partnership that he established with Yeltsin in Vancouver. I think as a result of the past two days in the meetings, the agreements, that he has done that.

The second was to emphasize continuation of U.S. support for reform in Russia, economic and political, strong U.S. support. In his statements and in his meetings, he did that as well.

The third was to reach out to a broader crosssection of the Russian leadership and the Russian population in order to build a policy that can be sustained over the long-term and not just over the short-term. That is why he met with so many varied political leaders last night at Spaso House. That's why he saw the Patriarch of Russia yesterday. And it's also why he's been out walking the streets seeing average Russians.

There were four issues that ran through the two days of meetings that have just been concluded. Four major issues have dominated. And let me just review the progress on these four issues. On economics, of course, we heard from President Yeltsin an unambiguous, unequivocal pledge that reform would continue. You heard that at the press conference today.

On Partnership For Peace, a very strong interest on the part of the Russian government in this NATO proposal and a specific pledge by Russia to participate in this proposal, much like the pledge that President Kravchuk of Ukraine gave a couple of nights ago at the airport.

Third, and probably most importantly, was the trilateral nuclear deal that was signed this morning that my colleague will speak to. And fourth was a discussion of foreign policy issues that took place both yesterday and today. And that discussion centered on the cooperation we have on foreign policy and also on some of the differences that we have on foreign policy.

And I would like to note one issue in particular, and that is the Baltics. The two Presidents discussed Latvia and Estonia and the presence of Russian troops in Latvia and Estonia yesterday. They followed up and discussed that issue today. I think it's fair to say that I believe -- we believe that we've made some progress over the last 24 hours on that issue. We are very hopeful that there will be an agreement soon between Russia and Latvia to withdraw troops and an agreement -- similar agreement between Russia and Estonia.

Having said that, let me just mention the documents that were signed today. Earlier today in the Kremlin, the President, President Kravchuk and President Yeltsin signed the trilateral nuclear agreement. And my colleague will be speaking to that.

Secondly, the President and President Yeltsin in their bilateral press conference signed the Moscow Declaration. This is a very broad declaration that speaks to the security, economic and political foundations of the relationship. Included in it is a reference to detargeting. Also included in it is Russia's interest, specific interest in Partnership For Peace, and lots of other things if you care to talk about that.

There were two documents issued in the name of President Yeltsin and President Clinton. One was a joint statement on human rights. This is a very interesting document. It calls specifically for a rejection of anti-semitism, and it appeals for ethnic and religious tolerance -- gap -- back a few years have spoken together on the issue of antisemitism. And we were very pleased to be able to conclude this agreement. There was also a joint statement on nonproliferation that my colleague will discuss with you.

In addition to those presidential documents, Secretary of State Christopher and Foreign Minister Kozyrev signed a number of agreements. Let me just list them for you, and if you have questions we'd be glad to take them: A memorandum of intent concerning the cooperation in the area of export control -- my colleague will speak to that; an air transport agreement; an agreement on cooperation in the fields of public health and biomedical research; an agreement on cooperation in radiation health effects. And there are also two documents issued in the names of the Foreign Ministers -- one on the Middle East and another on COCOM.

Q: Are we going to get those?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You'll be getting all these shortly. Let me just say my colleague will be speaking now to the trilateral agreement and to detargeting. My other colleague will discuss nonproliferation and export control. My other colleague -- who can talk more specifically about the Moscow Declaration and human rights.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We'll take questions after everybody's done a little sum up -- right?

Let me just take you through the trilateral statement and its accompanying annex. The statement signed by the three Presidents this morning is a statement that essentially does two things. First of all, it lays out the commitment once again of Ukraine to become a nonnuclear state in the earliest possible time, according to the overall obligations laid out in the Lisbon Protocol.

That agreement -- as you know, the Lisbon Protocol is an integral part of the START I Treaty and is also associated with the NPT. However, you also know that for some time the commitment of Ukraine to that document has been in a somewhat -- in a stall mode. And we had both, I think -- in Washington, Moscow and in the Kravchuk government in Kiev have been very concerned about that stall mode. And I think overall the implication of the statement signed today by the three Presidents is that it breaks loose the stall and again lays out a very firm commitment by Ukraine to proceed to eliminate strategic nuclear weapons from its territory in the earliest possible time. It's very positive in that regard also in that it begins to define exactly what is meant by the earliest possible time. And I'll get into that in just a moment.

But first I wanted to mention to you what exactly is the annex. There are two parts. The statement, as I said, lays out the commitment once again to Lisbon, but it also lays out the incentives for Ukraine. That is the security assurances that are very clearly laid out there for the first time in print; also the promise for technical and economic assistance for dismantlement of the weapons. That's associated with the Nunn-Lugar program. And finally, the compensation for the HEU in the warheads -- strategic nuclear warheads in Ukraine.

Those are all things that the Rada has indicated concern and interest in seeing come to Ukraine, and they are now laid out very clearly in this commitment by the three Presidents.

Now, the Annex is an interesting document. I said that this set of documents really breaks loose the whole problem that was associated with the Lisbon Protocol in Ukraine, and I think the Annex was a key part of that process of breaking it all loose. It's what we call the three-corner deal because it allows for the early transfer from Ukraine to Russia by the end of October -- I'm sorry, mid-November 1994. Then the other part of it is that Ukraine will be immediately compensated for those warheads as they are transferred from Ukraine to Russia. And what made that early compensation possible was the United States' willingness to advance money -- $60 million -- on the HEU deal. And that's why we call it the three-corner deal. That was a key agreement that was put together between the three sides that really moves the process forward.

Now, let me talk for a minute about the definition issue -- what I mean when I said that now we are getting some definition on the phrase, "at the earliest possible time." All of the most modern and deadly weapons in Ukraine -- the SS-24 ICBM missiles -- that's 46 missiles, 460 warheads -- will have their warheads removed within 10 months. They will be deactivated and no longer in operational -- combat operational status.

Q: Could you repeat the numbers?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Forty-six missiles and 460 warheads; 10 warheads per missile.

Their warheads, along with some SS-19 warheads, will begin to return to Russia by also the same date -- 10 months within the signature of the agreement, which is today.

Now, that, you may recall, has been a subject of some rancor between the Rada and the Ukrainian government over the last six to nine months. Those in Ukraine who are interested in thinking about a nuclear future were very focused on the SS-24 missiles as weapons that would be in place for some time.

The other weapons in Ukraine, the SS-19s, which, by the way, Ukraine is also committed to continue deactivating -- they have been deactivating those systems since the summer -- there are now two regiments of SS-19 missiles that have been deactivated by having their warheads removed. That amounts to 20 missiles overall, and 120 warheads total.

So they have actually begun and that's the kind of evidence we've seen that has given us some encouragement that this deal is really going to unfold at a steady pace.

The SS-19 warheads and their missiles, however, are older systems that are entering into obsolescence in any case. And so the Ukrainians -- from the outset across the Ukrainian political spectrum there has been agreement that they should get rid of those systems. The SS-19s have very volatile liquid propellant and there has been an agreement, a consensus, in the Ukrainian body politic, both executive and legislative branch, that those things should just be gotten rid of because they pose a profound danger.

So I really think that the value of the annex, this three-corner deal and the associated statement, is that it gets the 24s off the block, so to speak, gets them off the agenda in Kiev. And I think that is extremely valuable.

Let's see what else. Okay, now, as far as the other aspects of what has been discussed with regard to the statement and the annex, we have discussed today -- the three Presidents discussed today certain understandings. The Russian side and the Ukrainian side discussed between them certain understandings which they wish to keep private, and we're going to respect that -- they're diplomatic exchanges.

I wanted to assure you very strongly that the United States itself has not entered into any private obligations or private agreements of any kind. These were strictly private matters between Ukraine and Russia which they wish to keep confidential, and we have agreed to respect that. These were issues that the three Presidents discussed this morning.

Q: Private on what score?


Q: Yes, in what area?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They are simply issues that they wish to keep confidential and we're going to basically respect that.

Oh, a few words about detargeting. This is actually part of the joint statement and I think it is also a very exciting part of what has begun to occur now as the two sides, U.S. and Russia, come out of the Cold War and are less and less on a hair trigger with regard to their strategic nuclear forces and their armed forces overall. We've seen on the conventional side, of course, an overall disengagement of the Warsaw Pact as it, of course, has gone away, and NATO. But on the strategic side, as well, we're in a situation now where we do not need to be at very hair-trigger levels of combat readiness.

And the overall, I think, importance of this detargeting arrangement is that in terms of the day to day operational readiness of the forces, they are at a level where any country is no longer -- no country is any longer targeted by the arsenals of Russia or the United States. And this is a very, very positive development, and should be, I think, of reassurance not only to our two countries, but to other countries around the world. So that is an extremely positive step today.

And I will be willing to take all kinds of questions about the technical details of that. I understand you've had some briefings the last couple of days, but if anybody has any questions on that, I'll be definitely willing to talk about that. That was a key part of the Moscow Declaration.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me only make a couple of brief comments, in part because you don't have the documents that I was going to discuss with you and, until you have the documents, it will probably not be able to have too many questions.

But there are three documents that are linked. The first one is the joint statement on non-proliferation that was agreed to by the two Presidents.

Q: We have that.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And you have that one. So I'd be happy to go through that one with you. And then there are two that Secretary Christopher signed with Minister Kozyrev. You don't have those; the State Department will get those to you as soon as I possibly can. And if some of you would like to talk about those later I'd be willing to come back and talk to you.

But one is a joint statement on conventional weapons and export controls. This follows on from the promise that President Clinton made to President Yeltsin at Vancouver whereby we would aim to phase out the old regime of export controls known as COCOM, and put in its place a new multilateral regime to control armaments and sensitive duel-use technologies in trade for areas of concern, and particularly trade for rogue countries among those being, in the view of the United States, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea.

You will see in the joint statement once you have a chance to read it that we have outlined a common set of goals and purposes between the United States and Russia for this new regime and what we would be seeking in that new regime. And in that connection, signed a memorandum of intent on export control cooperation whereby the United States and Russia will work together to put in place in Russia a responsible export control regime that will cover not only weapons of mass destruction, but also conventional weapons. So it's an aspect of nonproliferation that is a little less known to many of you, but an important part of President Clinton's overall agenda. Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just say we are now all available to take any questions you may have.

Q: Can you tell us what's involved in detargeting? And let's say you aim a missile for the middle of the North Atlantic and you want to retarget it back to what its original target was, say, perhaps where we're sitting now. How long does that take?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just underline that this is what we think of as a strategic confidence-building measure. It is a measure that's taken by the two parties because they are at a point where the whole nuclear doctrine of the two sides is not dependent on these kinds of hair trigger approaches -- fast response, early turnaround and so forth. So it is a confidence-building measure, but from a technical point of view it is possible to retarget or insert targets in some cases into these missiles fairly rapidly, within a fairly short period of time. So it is --

Q: Within a matter of seconds?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not a matter of seconds, no, but within a fairly short time, within a matter of minutes. So it is -- let me say that it differs somewhat from weapon system to weapon system. I know there have been a lot of questions out there about, well, are they all targeted at the ocean or what are the targets now.

For the more modern of our systems, the Peacekeeper, for example, the D-5, the more modern systems, they actually are detargeted in that their targets are removed. The older systems, the Minuteman III, for example, its guidance system needs to continue its guidance computer, needs to have a target in it. And those are the missiles that are actually, then, targeted into what are called open ocean areas.

There has been quite a bit of discussion at this point, I know. Let me just underline for you where these target sets are concerned, they would only be affected -- in other words, they would only be struck by a missile in the case of a complete accidental or unauthorized launch. But we are very confident in our overall means and methods of controlling unauthorized or accidental launch. And, in fact, these strategic detargeting measures improve the overall, or strengthen the measures of control against accidental or unauthorized launch. So I really think it's extremely, extremely unlikely that targets in the open ocean area would ever be struck by a missile.

Q: are teams from each country going to observe any detargeting procedures? Will there be a kind of ceremony? Any kind of verification of this at all?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me say how this thing came about. We have had now -- actually, there are antecedents back into the Bush administration of the so-called "Strategic Stability Working Group." There is now a strategic stability working group that is very active, run on our side out of OSD, the Department of Defense; and on the Russian side out of the Ministry of Defense. They are talking about a number of socalled "strategic stability measures," or what I like to call "strategic confidence-building measures," that include things like notifications of exercises and that type of thing. Lowering overall levels of readiness -- what we call Def Con levels --that type of thing.

There are a number of measures that are under discussion in this group. It's a very active group, and one of the first things they have defined sufficiently and are ready to get out there is this strategic detargeting measure. So I can say it is a group that is also truly a symbol of a new era in the idea that Russian generals, heads of the strategic rocket forces would be sitting down from some of our leaders from OSD, dealing with strategic issues; and talking at this level of detail I think would have been simply astonishing a few years ago.

Q: Can you elaborate about the --

Q: On May 30th, are you simply going to announce the missiles have been retargeted? Is there to be some ceremony? Are teams to be exchanged? What is there to this outside from today's announcement?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know if there is any ceremony that will be planned for the 30th of May. But there will not be any verification measures associated with this.

Q: So there's nothing beyond today's announcement?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not sure. On May 30th there may very well be a ceremony of some kind. But as I said, there will certainly be continued discussions as this unfolds. One fascinating part of this whole process of getting to where we are today is that the two groups actually exchanged very detailed discussions of how they would go about detargeting these missiles. This is astonishing that we could get to this level of detail of talk through this stuff.

But, no, there are no actual verification measures associated with this. This is in the realm of the parallel unilateral activities that we have taken on in recent years, for example, to remove warheads from tactical nuclear weapons, to take bombs off of bombers and take them off of operational alert. None of that is associated with a verification regime as under START.

However, we have still considered these parallel unilateral activities to be both an extraordinarily useful piece of evidence -- that we are moving away from the Cold War era. And don't forget they are also linked with this very, as I said, interactive process between the MOD and our DOD. So I really think that they are a very useful nature.

Q: Do they object to verification?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, the issue didn't really come up.

Q: Can I ask you about Yeltsin's comments regarding the Partnership? At the news conference, he said, "If you admit them one by one" -- the countries -- "that's not good. I'm opposed." So where is this explicit acceptance of the Partnership? His interpretation seems to be that he is in favor of some long-term integration of these countries, but not individual admission, which is the sense of what the President has proposed.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think he was referring to one aspect of the larger question. And I remember the question, it was, what is the future relationship between Russia and NATO, which is a different question than what is Russia's position on the Partnership For Peace.

President Yeltsin gave President Clinton a specific commitment that Russia was not only enthusiastic about the Partnership For Peace, but that Russia is going to participate in the Partnership For Peace. That allowed President Clinton in his statement at the press conference to say categorically, unambiguously that Yeltsin had made this statement to him that Russia would participate. In addition to that, here in the Moscow Declaration is a specific commitment in writing to the Russian government to participate.

Q: What do you mean by participate? Do you mean that Russia would seek admission the way the Czech Republic has?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, as you remember, on Tuesday -- I believe it was -- it was either Monday or Tuesday in Brussels, NATO offered -- made an open invitation to the countries of the East to participate in Partnership For Peace. There is a process by which you, in effect, sign up. And a number of the Eastern, Central European, Eastern European countries have done that. Ukraine has expressed an interest. And now Russia has expressed an interest. So they will need to obviously be in contact with NATO and go through this process of completing forms. But that's just a technicality. The political commitment was made today.

Q: But he is not acknowledging that participation would eventually lead to individual entry by --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, not at all. And, again, I think that -- as I understood the question posed to President Yeltsin and his answer, he was speaking on a longerterm basis. But on this specific question of PFP, it's clear. It's in writing. It was direct in the relationship --

Q: No, no, on both points I have the same question and I don't think you've answered it, honestly.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You don't think I've answered honestly, or honestly, you don't --

Q: No, I don't think you've answered it. On participation -- you talk about filling out forms. Participation involves joining exercises --


Q: sitting with NATO commanders.


Q: Is Yeltsin's consent to that arrangement as far as Russia is concerned mean that Russian officers will now take part in those experiments? And secondly, he is saying about --it seems to me he's saying all or none go into NATO. And you know there are gradations of interest among the Eastern European countries. So he's not talking in some theoretic term. He's saying en masse or not at all.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. Let's separate the two for just a minute. Let me ask the question. I'll ask the question, then I'll try to answer it. Did President Yeltsin say to President Clinton that he wanted Russia to join the Partnership For Peace? The answer is yes.

Q: As a preliminary to --

Q: Wait a second. Let him finish.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The answer is yes. He said unequivocally and unambiguously, Russia will join the Partnership For Peace. Russia intends to go through the process of joining.

Prior to today, both in Washington and in Moscow -- including in several hours of discussion yesterday at the Russian Ministry of Defense, meetings at the State Department a week ago Monday -- we talked through -- our experts talked through with Russian military and civilian experts the process of joining the Partnership For Peace. The Russian government has a very clear understanding of what that is. So there's no doubt in our minds that he's made the commitment. It is also here in writing in the Moscow Declaration.

You talked about joint exercises, active participation. We already have joint military exercises planned between one of our divisions and a Russian division later on in '94.

Q: NATO. NATO. They're going to have them in Poland. Will they have them in Russia?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right. And so now we must begin the process between NATO and Russia, Russia joining the Partnership For Peace, to define exactly the military activities -- training, whatever -- that we will undertake with Russia. The two presidents did not get into a discussion at that level of detail. As leaders of the two countries, they made a political commitment to each other to engage in this process. Now those of us who work beneath a level of president must meet and define what it is exactly that Russia will do. But there's just no question on our part.

Q: Now, how about joining -- the whole group, all or nothing? Andrea is exactly right. He said very firmly, "I oppose it." He has something in mind that he doesn't like. I don't think it was a philosophical statement. There's a process underway where various Eastern and Central European countries will come at different times. And he is saying, "Uh-uh, all together or not at all." That's what I think he's saying. Am I wrong?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, is there a question? Do you have a question?

Q: The question is, what is his stand on the granting and entering of Eastern and Central European countries, including Russia, into membership in NATO?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I was not in the one-on-one, but I have seen the transcript of the one-on-one and as far as I can recollect, the two presidents did not discuss that particular issue. Now, President Yeltsin made the statement that he did in the press conference. He's made a number of statements in the past. That is a much larger question which we see as a longer term question. And you know what our position is from having been in Brussels and Prague.

Our position is that NATO is not now going to make a decision on new members; that this is an evolutionary process ; that the Partnership For Peace and the way that countries engage in it with NATO will be a large determinant of whether or not they're going to be new members and which of the countries will be the first to enter. So that would be my answer to you on that.

Q: Just to follow on that, did it come up at any level here -- did a Russian concern get expressed at any level here when they said, "Okay, joining Partnership For Peace is good, we're interested. But what concerns us is that further down the road you're going to let the Central Europeans into NATO as full members before Russia or the former republics will be ready, and we want to let you know right here, right now we're not in favor of that. It's everybody or nobody." You said it didn't come up in one-on-one. Did it come up anywhere? Are they expressing any concern?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, again, I wasn't in that particular meeting so I can't speak to everything that was in that discussion, but I don't believe that particular point came up in this summit. But it's fair to say that in the past couple of months in our private discussions with the Russians and in the past, and certainly in public, the Russians have enunciated variations of that point of view. And that's really not a surprise.

Q: Can you please tell me what's happening to the 600 gravity bombs and the bombers in Ukraine? Are they part of this deal?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, they are part of the deal. They are not actually gravity bombs, they are airlaunched cruise missiles.

Q: All of them?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All of them are affected by --

Q: All the weapons on the bombers are air-launched cruise missiles?


Q: What's happening to them, and why aren't they noted -- why isn't it noted in what we have, in the documents we have?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the language in the statement refers to elimination of all nuclear weapons in Ukraine and all systems to be affected by the deactivation. So in fact all weapons are covered. And that's clearly understood by all parties to this agreement that that covers the 46 SS-24s, 130 SS-19s and the 600 ALCMs, each of which has a single warhead on it.

Q: And what happens to the long-range bombers?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, under START they are required to eliminate those systems under START in the seven-year reduction period of START. By the way, I think one of the important things about this statement and annex is that, as I said, it gives us some definition now on this issue of what is the earliest possible time. I am confident that we can significantly beat the seven-year START reduction period for a lot of these systems based on what they're willing to commit to now on early deactivation.

But let me get back to your question on how you eliminate systems under START. Under START they can eliminate those bombers by cutting them up, otherwise destroying them, or they can convert them to conventional platforms. And that is -- they have to decide how they're going to do that. That was all worked out as part of the Lisbon deal.

Q: Will those airplanes belong to Ukraine?


Q: Could you clarify one point on the SS-24s? In the first 10 months do they get dismantled or -- rather deactivated, or do they get deactivated and moved to Russia?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They get deactivated by having their warheads removed. And some of their warheads start moving back to Russia. We begin a process of warhead transfer that will continue. Some of that is dependent on the availability of transport capability. By the way, that's one of the things we helped them with under Nunn-Lugar -- containers and that type of things, rail cars. So part of it will depend upon capacity and part of it depends on how fast they can actually move the systems.

Q: How difficult or time-consuming would it be for Ukraine if it still had SS-24 warheads on its territory at some point to reinstall those before the final transfers are completed?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, don't forget the way the SRF works in Ukraine these days is that those systems are still under the control of -- well, it's very difficult to say because the SRF guys are professional rocket forces officers, most of whom have sworn allegiance to Ukraine. But we hear again and again from both the Ukrainian and the Russian sides that they continue to work very closely with their colleagues in Moscow. I think it would be, to me -- I just don't know. It's a very difficult question to think about, but it gets to the question of how you're going to handle those personnel. And really I think those personnel once deactivation begins to occur will not be really in a position to get them back on the missiles.

Q: To what extent does the Zhirinovsky factor drive this thing to conclusion here this week?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it was an economic issue -- the crisis in the --

Q: The deactivation, detargeting; not the Ukraine issue. To what extent does the Zhirinovsky factor drive this deal to a conclusion?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't think at all. Not at all. Not at all. It really had to do with, as I said, some overall strategic confidence-building measures that have long been talked about between the two sides. And this was just a very good opportunity to do so. And also in the context of what we were doing with Ukraine, it was an additional kind of beneficial effect for the Ukrainians.

Q: This is the third time by my count that Kravchuk has solemnly signed a document promising to get rid of Ukraine's nuclear weapons -- at least three times, including Lisbon, but Lisbon was only the second time. And each time, the deadlines change. I'd like to ask you, in terms of your sense of Ukrainian politics, do you expect him to bring this up for ratification to this Rada or to wait until the new elections? And if so, aren't you worried that same process that happened in Russia in the parliamentary elections will happen in Ukraine, where after all there's hyperinflation and real economic problems?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think, first of all, let me say that I think that we are feeling very good about this agreement because, as I said, it breaks lose the kind of stalling that occurred with Lisbon. And it does that in two ways. First of all, there are some real incentives for the Ukrainian Parliament and for the Ukrainian people overall.

But the Parliament had expressed its concern in particular ways and done so very openly over the last couple of months. We know exactly what those concerns are. And the statement deals with those concerns. We know that President Kravchuk is going to go back, confer very closely with his Parliament and basically talk them through it and show them that their concerns have been met. That's number one.

And number two, we had started in the summer to work very closely with the Ukrainians. You may remember when Les Aspin went in June. We first broached the idea of an early deactivation initiative just as the United States is deactivating systems that would come down under START I, and Russia is doing so. We suggested that Ukraine might wish to join in an early deactivation initiative as well. And they have shown us in concrete ways that they are willing to do so. I said we've seen 120 SS-19 warheads come off missiles. And we have begun to see that same process unfold with the SS-24s. So I think that there's good reason to feel confident.

Q: If I could, just the specific question -- do you expect him to bring this up for ratification for this Rada or to wait for new elections to another one, which after all are in March?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The question of whether it has to be ratified or not as START is ratified is a subject for discussion between Kravchuk and his Parliament. I know because he has told us that he is going to confer with them very, very closely.

I said the other night, I think, that you have to recall that Lisbon, START I, NPT are nested very closely together with this statement which, in fact, as I said, fulfills some of the desiderata or some of the requirements that the desiderata had. So whether he uses it essentially as a mechanism for conferring with them or uses it in some other way, I just can't -- I know he's going to do the first; I don't know what else will happen.

Q: They haven't ratified START I in the sense that you believe it to be ratified, is it?.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I didn't say anything different from that. I mean, I did not say that I believe that they ratified it.

Q: Why is this thing called a statement and not an agreement? He keeps saying agreement and you keep saying it's a statement. What is the difference between a statement and an agreement?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: A statement of this kind is standard diplomatic practice. When you have a commitment of three presidents in this case, it is associated, as I said, with START I and the Lisbon Protocol, which is an integral part. They are integral documents and this statement is associated with that in such a way as to move forward the implementation of Lisbon and the overall implementation after it enters into force of START I.

So it's essentially a mechanism and a standard diplomatic mechanism to move forward obligations that in this case, by the commitment of the Presidents of these three countries. Not only President Kravchuk, I might add, but President Yeltsin of Russia and our own President, President Clinton. So there are three presidents associated with this document.

Q: So it's not this that has to be ratified, it's START I that has to be ratified.


Q: And then the seven years begins once the ratification is complete?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The obligations -- the time frame obligations undertaken here, that is to deactivate all SS-24s by 10 months, is from the date of signature of this document, January 14, 1994. EIF of START, entry into force of START starts that clock running.

Q: A statement is less than an agreement? It's what you'd --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know if it's less an agreement --

Q: Doesn't anybody know?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's a different kind of diplomatic mechanism.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just try to address your question. It is in writing called a statement. But when three presidents sit in front of the whole world and all of you and sign something and commit themselves to it -- and we've gone through months of negotiations that are represented in a very detailed annex, that have very specific commitments that need to be matched, that is an agreement, that is a commitment that one country makes to another. In this case, the three countries make to each other.

So what's lying in back of your question as I hear it is, is there some way that this is kind of less than an agreement that countries have to agree to? No, it's not. This is something -- this is an agreement between three countries represented in a statement, if you will, that all three of the countries expect will be adhered to. And we take that seriously and Kravchuk does, as well.

Q: I'm sure they take it all seriously, but if what you say was true it could have been the "North American Free Trade Statement" and the "North Atlantic Statement Organization." I mean, it's clear that this language is not chosen randomly.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We did not sit down and try to think of a word that would confuse you or a word that would mean something less than certainty.

Q: Why did you choose this word?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We sat down and we negotiated an agreement, a series of commitments as represented in that annex among three countries. And so in reality, we expect that this will be carried out and the commitments will be adhered to, and that is what is most important.

Q: And so what you're saying -- can you answer one more question? How does this differ from their agreement to sign the Lisbon Protocol, for example, other than that President Clinton is now -- two other Presidents watched him say he was going to -- what's the difference?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's another way to come at the question that I've heard several people answer, and that is the Lisbon Protocol and START and the NPT already exist. That is a treaty regime. There is and existing treaty regime that is, really this statement, this commitment of the three presidents, both reconfirms and gives a push forward. And that is it's overall value. There is an existing treaty regime. We didn't need to do Lisbon over again.

What we needed to do was give a kick-start to Lisbon and that is what this statement and its annex does, particularly, I must say, I think -- as I said, there's a certain genius to this three-corner deal because it really does get the process of warhead transfer going in a way that clearly provides incentives for the two parties in question, Ukraine and Russia.

Q: And the only public thing you've said about the warhead transfer process is the 24s and the ten months?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's a combination of SS-19 and SS-24's -- 200 of them in 10 months.

Q: What's the state of free trade after this between the two countries? What are the barriers on each side? And is the volume of trade supposed to increase in either or both directions?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The question is what is the status of free trade and the restrictions on each side. This is in many ways one of the more important long term issues in the relationship because if the Russian economy is going to grow and privatize, they've got to find a way to reduce their barriers to trade. And I think it's fair to say that the West had to find a way to reduce it's barriers to trade with the import of Russian products.

There was a general discussion in the economic meeting of this subject. President Yeltsin raised it and President Clinton had a number of ideas on how we could work together. And as you saw in the press conference today, President Yeltsin had a number of things to say about it. So very important. We're hoping to expand trade and investment and by giving it a higher profile and by knocking down barriers on both sides.

Q: What are some of the existing U.S. barriers and what were some of President Clinton's ideas to eliminate them?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, there had been a barrier of -- Russia had not had access to the generalized system of preferences. It now does as a result of Vancouver. And this is preferential treatment for Russian exports to the United States and in 44,000 categories, Russia now has duty free access. Just in the last couple of months that it did not have before and that is a very specific thing that we have done.

In addition, we have signed a bilateral investment treaty which provides for national treatment and that needs to be ratified now by the Russian Parliament.

I think it's fair to say that our dumping laws, in many respects, restrict the access of Russian, the export of Russian commodities to the United States and that's been a real problem with uranium and aluminum and steel and potash and other areas.

On the other side of the ledger, there are a number of regulatory and tax barriers that inhibit our companies from trading and investing, we think on a fair basis. So there was an agreement that Vice President Gore and Vice President Chernomyrdin would continue to work on these issues.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 2:53 P.M. (L)

William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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