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Exchange With Reporters on Soviet-United States Relations

June 01, 1991

The President. Well, good news on CFE. We're very pleased, of course. The agreement was achieved under the original limits, which is good -- [inaudible] -- under the original limits. And so, I think it's a good thing for world peace, and I think it's very good for U.S.-Soviet relations. The agreement, of course, has to be acquiesced to by a lot of other countries besides ours, but I think we feel that the deal is guaranteed. Others will go along because it is fair. And others were very anxious that we take the lead role and try to work out what heretofore were differences.

So, we have that one under control. We're still going to work the START problem. When I asked Moiseyev, General Moiseyev, about it, he held up his fingers like that, and he said, "That's about the amount of difference." Now, Brent can go into detail if he wants to on it, but we're talking about a problem, particular problem, that won't be overly easy to solve. But nevertheless, we're going forward positively. And that, of course, will clear the decks for a Moscow meeting that I want to see very much. So, it's a good day. This is an important step that was taken in Lisbon.

And in a sense, it masks another thing -- [inaudible] -- and that is the peace talks or the meeting resulted after a lot of diplomacy, and some of it on our part -- Chester Crocker and Hank Cohen and Secretary Baker -- in bringing these factions in Angola together. That is an important thing that happened and it may get obscured because the arms control announcement came out of Lisbon also.

When I saw Cavaco Silva of Portugal -- [inaudible] -- we ought not to underestimate the importance of that, peace on the continent of Africa after all this time. So, it's a good day.

Q. Does this affect your thinking on whether or not to invite Mr. Gorbachev to the London economic summit?

The President. It doesn't affect this at all.

Q. Would you have your own superpower summit before the London summit? Is it that close?

The President. Well, I don't know. Brent and John Sununu are trying to sort out the scheduling problems. But as far as I'm concerned, as soon as we get the remaining details out of the way, the sooner, the better. And I think President Gorbachev wants that. Of course, the G - 7 meeting is set, so it would have to be either before or after. I don't think it's that critical whether it's before or after, but my view is that we're getting close on time, getting closer to scheduling problems for me and maybe for him. So, we don't know the answer really.

Q. Are you closer right now so that you want to nail it in its entirety before the summit?

The President. We want to get it down so we can sit down and say, hey, we've got agreement on START. Whether that means sign a paper with everything written on it -- --

Q. Or initial a framework or something -- --

The President. Yes, I think it should be the framework because that means then that we've worked out some gritty details that still plague us.

But the point is, this is good on its own merits, and also, I think it will help. Now we've seen that we both can overcome difficulties, and our experts now can go forward. And I will assure the Soviets that I will instruct our experts to lean forward as far as possible. And as I remember, he told me the same thing. So, I view it as an optimistic happening there and something good for our country.

Q. What did you think about the $250 billion price tag on the Soviet aid package?

The President. I don't -- [inaudible] -- talk to the Soviets. I've talked to Gorbachev and nobody yet has a price tag on anything.

Q. Wasn't that what they asked for -- --

The President. I don't know what they asked. I was talking about what they've talked to me about. And I expect if there's some firm price tag of that nature, why, they'd want the United States -- [inaudible].

Q. Have you talked to Gorbachev in the last couple of days? Do you expect to talk to him now with the breakthrough?

The President. I talked to him a few days ago -- well, I could well do it because we're very pleased, and I'm sure he is. But I have no schedule of a phone call, and we did talk a few days ago.

Q. Are you going to announce MFN this weekend? You have only a couple more days.

The President. On -- --

Q. The Soviets -- on extending the deadline of June 3d.

The President. Well, as I told them, we're looking at the emigration bill. We encouraged them to go forward with the bill; they've done that. But I just want to be sure of the details. We're not holding back. We're trying to just be sure we know what we're doing.

Listen, I've got to get out of here so I get there before you guys do.

Note: The exchange began shortly after noon aboard Air Force One, prior to the President's departure from West Point, NY. The President referred to Gen. Mikhail Moiseyev, Chief of the General Staff of the Soviet Union; Brent Scowcroft, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; Chester A. Crocker, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and Herman J. Cohen, the current Assistant Secretary; Secretary of State James A. Baker III; Prime Minister Anibal Cavaco Silva of Portugal; Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev; and John H. Sununu, Chief of Staff to the President.

George Bush, Exchange With Reporters on Soviet-United States Relations Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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