Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials
7:50 P.M. (L)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You've been hearing a number of statements, and so I won't make a long statement by way of introduction. But I would like to pick up on a couple of the points that have been made by the President and the Secretary of State with respect to the importance of what has happened today with respect to the Clinton administration's overall nonproliferation policies.
In the first instance in NATO, in addition to the Partnership For Peace, an initiative of the United States as we sought to transform the NATO Alliance. Another initiative that hasn't gotten quite as much attention but is also critical as we see NATO's evolution, and that is that NATO will work together and find ways in the new world to not only promote our overall nonproliferation goals around the world, but to prepare within the NATO planning structure and force structure for the possibility that diplomacy might fail and that our forces might find themselves in situations in which dangerous weapons have proliferated.
And so a key element of our overall nonproliferation policy has bringing that as a priority to NATO as it transforms itself and evolves into the new world.
And then, secondly, and more dramatically, the announcement that we've made today that this Friday the three presidents of Ukraine, Russia and the United States will be signing an agreement whereby our overall nonproliferation goals with respect to Ukraine will be confirmed and bring about the success of our efforts over the past year to gain the implementation of the Lisbon Protocols by Kazakhstan, Belarus and now Ukraine.
And so let me then just pick up briefly on the framework that will comprise this agreement; that we will put in place a framework for Ukraine that will include continuing a process that's already underway, and that is the deactivation of nuclear weapons on Ukraine territory. At the same time, the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom will provide security assurances for Ukraine when Ukraine becomes an adherent to the Nonproliferation Treaty; and, finally, assistance in the dismantling of their nuclear weapons and then compensation for the nuclear materials that these weapons currently hold.
And we can go into some of the details of how it is that the various elements of that framework will be carried out. But it is a framework that does include many details. It's been a complex negotiation. We are prepared to announce that an agreement will be signed by the three presidents on Friday, and at this point what we'd like to do is just share with you that overall framework.
Thank you. Let me ask my colleague to follow up with a few brief comments.
SECOND SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's important to remember when you look at this overall agreement that there's been quite a bit of activity going on on several fronts over the last nine months or so. We've had bilateral activity going on between Russia and Ukraine that brought them really a very long distance toward working out the overall framework of the deal -- compensation going to Ukraine in the form of fuel rods, movement of weapons back to Russia for their elimination. The overall structure of the deal was really worked out in a bilateral context between Ukraine and Russia, but they got only so far and did not bring it to a final resolution.
So the United States, in the early fall, came into the mix and began -- really at the request of both President Yeltsin at the Tokyo Summit back in the summer and President Kravchuk -- became involved in a trilateral process to try to drive the deal through to conclusion. And over the last couple of months we have been working very intensively with both sides to drive the deal through to conclusion.
Now, that's on the specifics of the particular deal that we're talking about now. But you've got to remember, too, that it's nested in the overall Lisbon Protocol commitments of Ukraine and Kazakhstan and Belarus, Russia and the United States, for that matter. That deal was signed in May 1992. It was put together as an overall framework under which those countries -- Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine -- could become parties to the NPT and nonnuclear weapon states at the earliest possible time. So we are looking now at essentially yet another package of deals or arrangements that makes that more concrete and brings it into reality.
Q: Do you have any idea of the value of the uranium, the reprocessed uranium, that will be sold for reactors and split between Russia and Ukraine -- because, you know, wild figures have been thrown around, like $12 billion?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That $12 billion number is the value of the entire HEU deal. That is the contract between the United States and Russia over a period of approximately 20 years it'll stretch out. And in that time period there will be a regular sale of blended-down uranium, and the United States will then take that uranium, process it into fuel rods and resell it on the market for such fuel rods. So that is the amount for the total contract over time.
Now, as far as the value of what will go to Ukraine, that it's a combination of fuel rods for Ukrainian nuclear power reactors. And I have to say that this is a key element that was worked out between the Russians and Ukrainians. This is something the Ukrainians want very much because they are energy poor, their resource base for energy is poor overall, but they do have some actually very modern power plants in addition to the Chernobyl-style reactors, which we all know about. But they see that as a way to begin to develop an independent energy resource base. So it was very important for them.
In terms of the overall value calculated over time, it's a little bit difficult to say because the market fluctuates and so forth. But I think we're looking at a number around a billion dollars approximately.
Q: But $20 is not only --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, twelve billion --
Q: I mean, the $12 billion, yes, is a --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. And another important thing to remember is as far as the HEU deal is concerned, from the very outset, we've made it clear that compensation arrangements had to be worked out not only with Ukraine but with Kazakhstan and Belarus as well. And that's an important part of all these pieces coming together during this week. It's a remarkable confluence of events.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just add one point on that, and that is what had earlier been said by the Secretary, and that is that the compensation through this highly enriched uranium contract is a commercial enterprise with no cost to the American taxpayer. It's been worked out with that as its key principle. And so this is done without any cost to the American taxpayer.
Q: Have you calculated the cost for the dismantling?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We actually have looked at that. You're aware that we've said for sometime now that Ukraine would receive at least $175 million in Nunn-Lugar funds. We've gone back and taken a look overall at what the cost would be for dismantling. And it is difficult to estimate once again because you're talking about working in Ukraine on the ground there with a very different kind of economic structure and so forth. But we are looking at, I think, beginning from the floor of $175 million and looking across a range that will take us somewhat higher than that but not a whole lot higher than that.
Q: Could you tell us if there's any -- do you plan to increase at all the $155 million in economic aid for Ukraine as a result of this? Is anymore money going to be asked for?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What we've said is that our efforts in making good on the Lisbon commitments would set the stage for a broadening and deepening of our economic relationship with Ukraine. And that's very much part of why we spent the energy that we have to get this particular agreement. So it does open up a whole new relationship.
Q: No, no, no -- but what -- but right now it's $155 million that was committed last October. Is there anything more on the plate --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: At this point we are not going to say that there's anymore but -- in specific terms, but we're definitely that we're opening up a new relationship.
Q: How long do you expect it to take to implement the agreement, and when do you expect that Russia will be the sole remaining superpower in the former Soviet Union?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If I could just -- before we get to that question, I'd like to add one final point on this economic assistance question. As my colleague said, we are starting now a process, a very intensive process of working together with the Ukrainians on their whole spectrum of economic reform. It's been a real problem because up to this point they haven't really dived into reform, economic reform, in the same way that the Russians have, for example. So we are definitely willing to work with them, and we'll work with them intensively.
I can also tell you the $155 million is a floor, and we're willing to go above that. They have to show us some evidence that they are ready to move energetically on reform. We are willing to work with them on that. There will be a high level Ukrainian economic delegation coming at the end of January to Washington. And my colleagues on the NSC and elsewhere in the government will be working with them very closely.
Q: Have you said when Kravchuk is coming or whether you're going to invite him on Wednesday?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He will be coming to Washington at some point in the near future. We have not set a date precisely yet.
Q: timing question, please?
Q: Could I restate my question, please?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Why don't I say I've heard the question, and that has to do with timing. And I think -- let me just begin by saying the most important part of the agreement that will be signed on Friday is a commitment on the part of Ukraine now to put in place a process by which the deactivation of their missiles, which is currently underway, will be added to a commitment to begin to move those weapons to Russia in the framework of the compensation, assistance and security assurances that I've talked about.
What has been blocking that, our efforts with Ukraine, is that fact that we couldn't get a process underway. We couldn't get the steps to be taken to have this start to work. And so, at this point, that's what the success is, plus a commitment that all the nuclear weapons will return to Russia. So focused on the fact that we get the process underway, we get the most dangerous weapons moving out of Ukraine, and we have a commitment that all will finally go away.
Q: you have a commitment on timing?
Q: ten years, two years?
Q: question, please, on deactivation?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, sure.
Q: No, we were just discussing --
Q: Can we stay on timing until we the answer?
Q: Yes, we want an answer on the timing.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You have an answer.
Q: Are you going to accelerate the deactivation now that you have this new agreement? And is there some way in which you're going to change deactivation mechanically so that you could speed it up?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you know that the deactivation and the flow of funds from the United States has just began because we've signed all the implementing agreements. So we are prepared to move the assistance into Ukraine as quickly as possible. The funds have been appropriated, obligated, they're ready to go. So we will move consistent with how long it takes to actually carry out those particular activities.
Q: Wait a minute -- timetable?
Q: So there's no timetable.
Q: There is no timetable.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is a sequencing plan that begins with, or would begin with the signing of this agreement by the three presidents and that's what this agreement's about.
Q: Over what period of time? Over what period of time, please? There apparently is no timetable.
Q: Could you answer the question?
Q: Is there a timetable? Is there an outside limit within which or before which this must be done?
Q: And you just can't tell us, or what?
Q: What is the problem here?
Q: I mean, it appears as if you signed -- to get an agreement, you've signed something in which there is no assurance they will ever be a nonnuclear country because there's no date that they --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's a commitment for all the nuclear weapons to be removed from Ukraine consistent with their obligations under the Lisbon Protocol.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Which is seven years from the time of ratification.
Q: Can I ask you about the warhead total, please? The President spoke of 1500 warheads. You know, I know this is 175, 176 missiles, but that doesn't get 1240 up to 1500. Was he speaking roughly, and it's really about 1240 warheads? Can you settle that, please? You don't have to -- -- so that's going to --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The sum, 1500 --the total overall is 1800, and that includes both ICBM warheads and bomber warheads and --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Air-launched cruise missiles --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- air-launched cruise missile warheads.
Q: And they've agreed to take care of all of them?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They're all coming out.
Q: What precisely is the security guarantee that the United States will give to -- if Ukraine is invaded, do we go to war for Ukraine?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: First of all, we see these as security assurances within the framework of the CSCE commitments to the sovereignty of borders, and to a commitment on the part of the members of the CSCE to undertake no economic coercion with respect to the other members. And so we will restate those two particularly critical assurances for Ukraine, and in addition, make the commitments as nuclear powers with respect to obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty. So these are security assurances, and these are assurances consistent with our obligations within those two treaties. There are no new guarantees or obligations as part of this agreement.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can see as soon as I answered the question before, I seemed to have no other interest in questions --
Q: Just to be sure that I understand this -- I'm sorry if I'm having trouble following you, but as they take away the missile capability, they get the aid, or do they get the aid irrespective of whether they take away the missile capability once this -- and you've now said it kicks in after ratification over seven years, and we don't know exactly how fast it's going?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, actually the assistance for dismantling kicks in now, because they have signed all the agreements necessary, all the so-called Nunn-Lugar implementing agreements as well as the umbrella agreement. And so we are now at a point where we can begin to move forward with them.
That means that quite a bit of technical work has gone on to define exactly how we will be working with the Ukrainians in terms of destroying the missiles, in terms of dealing with the propellant in those missiles, in terms of all the other technical steps that need to be taken to make this happen.
And don't forget, they have had a very active program of deactivation. I really have to say that President Kravchuk has shown a great deal of leadership here, because since the summer they have had a very active program of early deactivation. We essentially went to them and said, look, the United States and Russia are both beginning to implement the START I Treaty. Is it not time that Ukraine also begin a process of early deactivation.
And, indeed, President Kravchuk stepped up to that and he began to deactivate SS-19 missiles. We are now moving into a period where SS-19s, SS-24 missiles, in fact, the commitment is, as we've said tonight, to all of the nuclear weapons in Ukraine. And we really expect an intense, even in the first year we expect to see an intense movement of warheads from Ukraine to Russia. And I think that that is very important because we have, as Dr. Davis said, been essentially at an impasse, a stalemate. There's been no movement. The Rada and the Executive Branch have been at an impasse, and we've been trying to move the process forward and do so in a positive way that makes sure Ukraine benefits, that makes sure Ukraine gets the compensation she deserves. And we are very satisfied that we have been able to do that and we give a lot of credit to the Ukrainian government and to President Kravchuk.
Q: Back on timetables, is it seven years from next week's signing, seven years from ratification by the Rada, or seven years from the end of some open-ended process that we don't know how long it will take?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's from the time that they make a commitment to the START I Treaty.
Q: Did the President sign if the Rada ratifies, or the Ukrainian government, or what instrument?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's at this point important to understand that the Rada has dealt with the START I Treaty and looked at the kinds of requirements that would be necessary for it to be carried out in detail. And among those conditions that they've called them -- we've not actually called them conditions, but those conditions included the kinds of steps that you see in this framework agreement.
So in the context of the ratification, the government of Ukraine now is prepared to commit to carry out not only its commitments under the Lisbon Protocol, but to begin that process immediately and to get beyond their own deactivation to the removal of those warheads back into Russia. And that's what's so critically important about the agreement that we've signed.
Q: What do you consider the date of ratification?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On November 18th, the Ukrainian Parliament voted to ratify the START I Treaty. As you're aware, they imposed a number of conditions on that ratification. We were very concerned about it afterwards. We went back to President Kravchuk. The President, in fact, called him within a few days of that vote and expressed our very strong concern about it.
But I have to say, President Kravchuk already had a strategy in place for addressing this situation. He said, look, we have to address the concerns of the Parliament. And he said, I'm willing to do that. Working together with the United States, working together with Russia, we'll deal with -- some of their main concerns had to do with compensation, for example. He said, "Then I will be resubmitting the package, the Lisbon Protocol package, which includes START I as well as the NPT part of it, to the Rada.
Now, as you're aware, they're in an election period now -- between now and March, they're going to be voting -- getting ready to vote for a new Rada. He said he expects to resubmit the package in March or shortly thereafter for another vote. I expect, based on what I have been hearing from some Ukrainian parliamentarians, that they will be satisfied with what they have seen emerge from this deal.
Q: Secretary Christopher said this could be done by executive action. It sounds otherwise from your description.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We believe that the framework provided by this agreement permits the government of Ukraine to sign an agreement between his government, the United States and Russia to carry out those commitments under the Lisbon Protocol. So when he signs this agreement he is signing it for the government of Ukraine.
Q: So the meter doesn't begin running on time until it goes back to the Rada and it is ratified again, is that correct?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: From the time of the signing of this document, we would assume that those commitments would be in place.
Q: Assuming doesn't mean that that will be so just because they were signed, does it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Governments signing these agreements make the commitment on behalf -- sorry -- Presidents signing these agreements make commitments on behalf of their governments.
Q: But it doesn't start the timetable running, does it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I certainly think the time -- the commitments under this agreement began from the time of signature on Friday.
Q: A sequencing question rather than a timetable question. You said this would take the most dangerous weapons out first. Does that mean it explicitly says the 24s come out before the 19s?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That means it says the most dangerous weapons are coming out as this process gets underway.
Q: One follow-up to that please? Are there any provisions in the security guarantees that would provide for NATO to sell conventional weapons to Ukraine or to give Ukraine any of the leftover conventional weapons that NATO has from the CFE Treaty?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It is not part of this agreement.
END 8:13 P.M. (L)
William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269382