Bill Clinton photo

Press Briefing by Mike McCurry

May 10, 1995

The Radisson Slavjanskaya

Moscow, Russia

4:40 P.M. (L)

MR. MCCURRY: And a cheerful good afternoon to you all.

By a request from several of you who have got to file things electronically, I'm going to start by doing a little bit on the record. But what I really want to do as quickly as possible is to move into a background session where I can provide some people that were very instrumental to both some of the joint statements that were reached today and then also directly the meeting between the two presidents. So if you'll not mind indulging me for only a short while, we can get on with the serious people.

I just want to start by telling you a few things that you'll see in the next several minutes. There will be a series of five joint statements that are going to be appearing shortly. They cover the following subjects: European security; nuclear nonproliferation; the ABM Treaty and theater missile defenses and principles associated with that treaty. There is a statement on transparency and irreversibility in nuclear materials, a subject that only one of the background briefers will be able to tell you more about. And then the fifth statement is one on the economic relationship between the Russian Federation and the United States on trade and investment issues. Those -- you'll be on the lookout for those.

I'd like to talk a little bit about the results of this meeting and the importance of the content of these statements, because they point to a safer and more secure world, as President Clinton has just said. And the American people, I think, can take some satisfaction that today's meeting will solidly advance the common security interests that we have with the people of Russia in a stable and integrated and undivided Europe. That was certainly a centerpiece of the discussion of the two presidents today.

President Yeltsin, as you have just heard, has committed to implement Russia's two NATO partnership documents. President Clinton, in turn, has said that at their upcoming meeting, the ministers of the North Atlantic Council should place a new emphasis on Partnership for Peace in light of Russia's decision now to implement its program.

NATO ministers should also agree to begin talks on a new NATO-Russia relationship. And President Clinton believes that at their meeting, NATO ministers will reaffirm what he told President Yeltsin today, that the admission of new members to NATO will be gradual, deliberate and fully transparent.

On Iran, President Clinton explained to President Yeltsin the strong opposition of the United States to nuclear cooperation with Iran and shared with him, as he told you, information about the true nature of Iran's nuclear ambitions.

President Yeltsin assured him that -- assured President Clinton that Russia will not provide Iran with nuclear fuel enrichment technology or the training goes with it. That's the so-called gas centrifuge and training that accompanies that. And, of course, President Clinton welcomed that assurance.

On the question of the sale of light water reactors, as you heard from the two presidents, they agreed that Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin will examine this issue and report back to the two presidents. As you know, we will continue to oppose all nuclear cooperation with Iran.

The two Presidents have resolved some outstanding issues associated with arms sales to Iran, and as soon as those are recorded and in agreement, it will be possible to welcome Russia's participation as a founding member of the new post-COCOM regime.

President Clinton and Yeltsin agreed to renew their efforts and to gain ratification of the START II Treaty. They talked a little bit about that this afternoon. They will then take up the subject of further reductions in nuclear weapons in one of the statements that they issue regarding theatre missile defense systems and their relationship to the ABM Treaty, as well as a statement on mutual nonproliferation efforts and the transparency and irreversibility of the process of reducing nuclear weapons further underscore some of our nonproliferation concerns.

They did agree to begin visits, as you'll see in one of the statements, to military biological factories on August 1st, 1995, and they agreed to a work plan to complete the necessary procedures for those visits.

They committed themselves in the wake of the terrorist attack in Oklahoma City, and in light of our growing concern about the strength of organized crime here in Russia, to do all that the two countries can together to combat terrorism and criminal activity around the world. Although the two Presidents did not spend time on it themselves in the context of some of the plenary sessions between the two delegations that occurred today, they discussed specific European issues, as well as the situation in former Yugoslavia. Obviously, they agreed that we need to continue cooperation in the Contact Group and at the United Nations.

During the course of their discussions, President Clinton expressed to President Yeltsin his deep concern over the situation in Chechnya. He renewed our call to the parties to put an end to the bloodshed. The temporary cease-fire in place should be made permanent in the view of the United States, and genuine political reconciliation should begin.

President Clinton urged President Yeltsin to cooperate fully with the OSCE, the monitoring mission now in place in Chechnya, and to work to operate in Chechnya to open up an avenue for the delivery of humanitarian relief in the region. There were discussions both between the presidents, but then in the broader plenary session between the two delegations, on the subject of economic security.

I think as you heard President Clinton say, that the remarkable progress of Russian economic reform in the past two years has made possible the recent agreement by the International Monetary Fund to grant Russia $6.8 billion standby loan facility, and that President Clinton considers that a well-deserved vote of confidence in Russia's economic future.

President Clinton did assure President Yeltsin in the course of their conversations that the United States will continue to support his program of market reforms. We believe that U.S. economic assistance has had a very positive impact on Russia's extensive privatization efforts and on the development of a small business sector here in Russia.

Lastly, the two presidents obviously attach great importance to scientific and technological collaboration. There will be -- one of the statements today will indicate that a civilian research and development foundation will be established to be funded initially by the United States and by a generous gift from George Soros. This foundation will support joint research projects among scientists from the United States, Russia and other Newly Independent States.

In sort of summarizing just where we are, the United States clearly has a vital interest in staying engaged and supporting Russian reform during this period of transition. President Clinton has made that a singular goal of his foreign policy efforts since the onset of his administration.

The President, in talking to some of us at the conclusion of his meetings today, said that this has been a summit very much about security -- the security of the Russian people, but, more importantly, in his view, the security of the people of the United States. He came to Russia to commemorate our work together to defeat fascism in World War II, but he came here as well because it was an important opportunity to advance the national security interests of the American people, and he believes in the work that was done today. We have made progress to create a more secure world and to create a world in which the people of the United States can be more confident of their freedom and their own security.

I'll take a few questions, and then we'll move into background as quickly as we can.

Q: How much total time did the two presidents spend together?

MR. MCCURRY: They began at 10:10 a.m. in the St. Catherine's Room of the Kremlin after a brief encounter with a pool from the Russian media. The two -- (laughter) -- President Yeltsin -- one that you did not witness, as I recall. They started -- President Yeltsin started by welcoming President Clinton to the Kremlin and to say that they had had a splendid day yesterday and that he very much looked forward to the conversations on this day.

The two presidents were expected to meet for approximately 45 minutes to an hour tete-a-tete. Instead, they went well over that length. They took a break at -- they took a break, I guess, when the U.S. pool came in, and about 10 minutes later resumed their conversation and went back into a session that lasted until about 1:19 p.m. So with the exception of that short 15-minute break, they spent over three hours together , the two of them. Because of that, the two delegations, there had been plans to have expanded plenary sessions on security subjects and economic subjects. Because of that, the two presidents instructed their delegations to go ahead and to meet and to cover a range of regional and economic issues and political issues that might not otherwise be covered by the two presidents. And, indeed, you'll hear from some of your briefers later, that on subjects like the Middle East peace process, North Korea, the other issues of urgent international importance that you would expect them to address, many of those issues got covered in the plenary sessions that occurred between the delegations.

Q: how long did it last?

MR. MCCURRY: It was three hours, minus the 15- minute break they took.

Q: Mike, can you tell us when the Russians are going to accede fully to PFP? And also, can you clarify what the President meant on the CFE flanking issue? I thought you were going to insist on full compliance?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I'm going to -- I'm going to kick that over to -- there were will be a couple people who can tell you specifically about that. Come back to that question and we'll take note of that for the people who are doing it.

Q: Why did they keep talking and what -- the President looked kind of disappointed and looked sort of somber. Maybe I shouldn't -- that shouldn't -- body language was not a factor, but why did they decide to stay together rather than --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, this has been a pattern in some of their prior encounters. The two of them have a very good working relationship, at this point having met more than several times now, I think they understand each other's body language and vernacular quite well. They were making a lot of progress. In fact, the President, when he came out for the break and met with the pool representing all of you, said, you know, we're just getting going, almost as if he was really looking forward to more conversation with President Yeltsin. I think that it's safe to say that in the way that the two of them work together now, and in -- because of the unique way in which decision-making must occur, in the context of some of the things that were being discussed at this summit, there was an opportunity to maximize the progress that could be achieved by having the two presidents continue to meet face to face. And certainly everyone on our side, in our delegation, thought it was wise that they continue in that format.

As to his disposition at the press conference, I think that he was looking for his statement. He had intended to kind of meet and run through one or two points with President Yeltsin and suddenly found himself launched into the press conference before he knew he was -- that was going to happen. And he was -- I think that was probably what you're referring to. But I think he was very satisfied and seemed very satisfied with the outcome afterwards.


Q: Is it fair to say the European security issue, we've sort of backed a status-quo, anti-Budapest, and we don't know what the bottom-line -- their bottom line on NATO is?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I think it is significant in their decision to implement their program today. They have in some ways moved beyond the point that they would have been at the December Brussels meeting -- at the Budapest meeting. Where we were at the Budapest in December -- (inaudible) -- the decision of the Russian federation not to accede to the two partnership documents that were available for signature in Brussels at the end of 1994.

Q: The whole peace thing was just bluster or what?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll be able to refer that question to several people who can help you out as we go on background.

Q: Mike, on the Gore-Chernomyrdin thing, pushing it off to the commission to study, whose idea was it, and does the President have any inkling from President Yeltsin that after studying this technically, they might actually get the Russians to see it --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, you'll hear -- you'll hear from some people that are very knowledgeable and tell you a lot about the Gore-Chernomyrdin channel shortly. But as the President indicated, that has proved to be a very valuable diplomatic avenue for us to advance a lot of serious technical issues that are at discussion within the bilateral relationship. So in a way, from our point of view, it is the perfect place to examine questions related to our nonproliferation concerns. And I think the President is very satisfied that the Russian Federation is going to accept the suggestion that they look more closely at the information that we have provided within the context of that channel.

Q: Is there a deadline for -- action, or recommendation --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the two presidents have asked the Commission to report back to them. I don't want to speculate on any timetable, but because the two presidents will again meet in the middle of next month, there will be an opportunity at that point to review whatever progress has been made.

Let's just do two more, and then I want to kick it over.

Q: I'm still not clear about sale of conventional Russian arms to Iran. You remember at the last summit, let them complete ongoing contracts. Does that remain --

MR. MCCURRY: -- questions then about what was in the pipeline, and my understanding -- and you will hear more in a moment about this -- but my understanding is that those questions have now been resolved, but they must be codified in agreement form so we can move on with initiating the post-COCOM regime and the Russian participation.

Q: able to deliver whatever they have contracts for?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll defer that to someone who can help out on that.

Q: the President mentions conversation with Mr. Yeltsin about Fred Cuny. Is he planning to meet with members of the Cuny family tomorrow or is that --

MR. MCCURRY: I'll check on that as we go on to background and get back and see if I can get you an answer at the end. I know that the subject was raised as the President indicated, but I didn't hear any -- anything that's really burning and that ranks with the nonsubstantive? (Laughter.)

Q: so gentle on Chechnya.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe he was gentle at all. I think he was very firm in expressing our views.

Q: The White House gave us fairly low expectations for this summit beforehand. Were the met?

MR. MCCURRY: I think we did modestly better than the expectations that we had arriving here, as you will hear as we walk through all of the documents. There was a great deal of concern as we came here that it was not going to be possible to make any progress on some of the issues that are under discussion today, but I believe that we've made significant progress on several of them. That is also to say that there is work to do on all of them. This is a relationship in which these issues are going to be with us. But we have, as the President indicated today, a format in our bilateral relationship that allows us to continue to work on these, because we have regularized the pattern of meetings between the two presidents so that that is an opportunity, as we saw today, for us to make significant progress when there are issues that represent differences between the two.

I think it is fair to say, coming into Moscow, that there were several issues of great importance to the United States that were stuck and which we have not found it possible to make progress through standard diplomatic channels, and as a result of the meeting today, many of them now are unstuck.

Q: Yeltsin gave a rather creative view of what the Russians are doing in Chechnya. Why did President Clinton not challenge him on that view --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think in a very careful and deliberate way in the President's answer, he made it clear that we take issue with that, and that he certainly -- and I have just now restated our very grave concern about the loss of civilian life there.

Q: Are you able to say, Mike, whether you feel that Yeltsin came to the meeting ready to give ground on Iran and NATO, or whether he succumbed to argument by the President?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have been telling you for the days leading up to this that a great deal of work had been done to attempt to -- framework or a foundation for progress. But it was very clear that President Yeltsin had not accepted some of our premises going into the meeting and indicated that he wanted to hear directly from President Clinton and understand more directly the President's concern.

The fact that we've made progress on some of these issues today indicates, I believe it's fair to say, that President Clinton was convincing in some of the arguments as he laid them out.

All right, let me, with your indulgence, take a break, and then I'll call upon the folks who are going to go on background.

Q: (inaudible)

MR. MCCURRY: I can say -- I'll say on U.S.-Japan sanctions for the next two hours, roughly, that -- only that the President has authorized Ambassador Kantor to take some steps or to initiate some steps that Ambassador Kantor will be announcing in just over two hours in Washington at the White House. He will be joined by the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors Laura Tyson. That announcement will reflect in very careful consideration that the President has given to the -- recommendations that were made by his economic advisors on Sunday night.

Okay? One last one that you needed on the record?

Q: Mike, is it accurate, as President Yeltsin indicated, that the bulk of the discussion was about NATO? And can you say on the record whether he agreed to any time frame for signing the implementation documents?

MR. MCCURRY: I will say on the record only what I've said about timing, but there was a certain sense that that would proceed without interruption, that the Russian participation in Partnership for Peace was now at a position that would be able to proceed promptly. And we'll be able to elaborate on that when we go on background.

Thank you, everybody.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END5:00 P.M. (L)

William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Mike McCurry Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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