Exchange With Reporters on Signing the Denuclearization Agreement With Russia and Ukraine in Moscow
Q. What will be the impact of this agreement on the national security of Russia?
President Boris Yeltsin of Russia. We have never believed and we have never perceived that there is any kind of danger coming our way from Ukraine. Nevertheless, in terms of world politics, today is an historic day where the three Presidents have signed an agreement that would eliminate nuclear arms from the territory of Ukraine and whereby Ukraine will be acceding the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. This will be another important step towards getting rid of nuclear weapons throughout the world.
Q. There is an opinion that if the Ukraine gets rid of its nuclear weapons it will lose its authority, so to speak, among other nations. What is your opinion on this, Mr. President?
President Clinton. Well, of course, in the end this is a question that Ukraine has to answer for itself, but I can only tell you what my opinion is. My opinion is that Ukraine will increase its authority among nations for doing this. After all, Ukraine has enhanced the security of the United States today by agreeing to remove 1,500 nuclear warheads aimed at our Nation. Ukraine has enhanced the security of Ukraine and Russia by agreeing to dismantle these warheads, which means that there is less chance of nuclear accident, nuclear espionage, nuclear terrorism.
And more important, Ukraine has shown an understanding that as we move into the next century, the greatness of nations will be defined by their ability to work with each other and to develop the capacities of their people. And I think you will now see people all over the world more interested in working with Ukraine in partnership because of this very brave and visionary act. So I believe that Ukraine is a stronger nation today for having done this. And I think almost everyone else in the world will believe the same thing.
Q. President Clinton, we've been told by one of your aides that the timetable for this agreement is going to remain secret. Is that in fact the case? Are you going to at least tell us when dismantlement of the first nuclear warhead in Ukraine will take place?
President Clinton. We have reached an agreement on which details will be made public and which will not, and today all the things that can be made public will be made public. We've been working so hard on this, I want to be very careful about it.
Let me tell you that I am completely comfortable with the agreements that we have made and with the understandings between both Russia and Ukraine about how it will be handled. I think it's a very good thing for the world and a very good thing for the United States.
Q. What does Ukraine receive from giving the warheads and missiles deployed in its territory?
President Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine. From the political point of view, we get a greater security for having signed the documents with the Presidents. Both Presidents and the countries confirm this higher change of security. And the second point, the Ukraine confirms its policy which was proclaimed earlier, thus indicating the continual character of its policy. And the third, Ukraine receives compensation for nuclear weapons. And the fourth, Ukraine enters into normal relations with other states, and this is the primary thing for great security. I say it like that: if Ukraine is in friendly relations, further ties with Russia and the United States, it will be secure.
NOTE: The exchange began at 8:55 a.m. in St. Catherine Hall at the Kremlin. President Yeltsin and President Kravchuk spoke in their native languages, and their remarks were translated by an interpreter. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.
William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters on Signing the Denuclearization Agreement With Russia and Ukraine in Moscow Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/219105