Bill Clinton photo

Press Briefing by Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, and National Security Advisor Anthony Lake

May 11, 1995

The Ukraine House

Kiev, Ukraine

6:24 P.M. (L)

MR. MCCURRY: Good evening, everybody. The President has just concluded a very productive meeting with President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine, and the U.S. delegation visiting Ukraine for the meetings today have had with their counterparts very successful meetings as well.

I would like National Security Adviser Tony Lake to brief you on the President's one-on-one meeting with President Kuchma. But I've also asked Secretary of State Christopher to talk about our overall relationship with the Ukraine, talk about his meeting today with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Udovenko. Secretary Rubin is here. He's had good meetings with the First Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of the Economy, and I'll start with Secretary Christopher, then Secretary Rubin and then Tony.

Secretary Christopher.

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thanks, Mike. This was President Clinton's first state visit to Ukraine. It gave him an opportunity to accept the invitation that President Kuchma gave him when he visited the United States last fall. More broadly, it gave President Clinton an opportunity to emphasize the importance the United States attaches to its relationship with Ukraine, which is a relationship of independent and unique significance.

The President pointed out that Ukraine has a very important strategic place, and its future will have a lot to do with the future of this entire region. Ukraine is a very important European power and we respect it as such.

Nineteen ninety-four was a milestone year in the relationship between the United States and Ukraine. That year enabled us to put the nuclear issue behind us as Ukraine acceded to the Nonproliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapon state. It makes, I think, the United States and the whole world safer and more secure that this has been done. And isn't it significant that we're here in Ukraine at the very time at the United Nations when they're voting on the indefinite extension of the Nonproliferation Treaty. For what Ukraine did in 1994 has been one of the key building blocks to our persuading the nations around the world, as we hope they'll be persuaded when the votes come in, to agree to an indefinite extension of the Nonproliferation Treaty.

The United States has been working very closely with Ukraine on economic issues. We've committed substantial resources here. I won't carry on about that, but the $700 million in resources committed to Ukraine makes Ukraine the fourth largest of all the aid recipients of the United States.

As a result of these many things that have happened in 1994 and the first months of 1995, I can say with confidence that the United States-Ukrainian relationship is now stronger than ever before. We came here with three key objectives: to strengthen the durable friendship that we have, to demonstrate that friendship; we came to offer support for the economic reforms that are happening here, to urge Ukraine, despite the dislocation and difficulty to stay the course; and then to discuss the new security agenda between the United States and Ukraine -- it relates to the terrorism issue, it relates to the problem of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and it relates to international crime.

These were the subjects that I discussed, among others, with Foreign Minister Udovenko today. As a result of our discussions and the work that's gone on before we arrived here today, a joint statement has been issued, which cover a number of matters. I would say, in conclusion, that our coming here today strengthened our commitment to the territorial integrity and great significance of Ukraine as an important European power not in somebody else's orbit, but as independently important to the United States and the world.

Thank you very much.

SECRETARY RUBIN: Thank you. The economic team that traveled with President Clinton had two days of meetings in Russia with public and private sector figures, discussed a number of very important issues within the context of a very good, strong, ongoing working relationship.

Today, we had the pleasure of meeting with Ukraine's economic team. And as I reported to President Clinton after the meeting, it was an extraordinarily impressive meeting. It was a group of people; the economic team had a very good sense of the issues, had a very good sense of what they needed to do, and had a real sense of strategy and vision.

I had worked with a lot of companies when I was in the private sector and obviously have worked quite a number of more since I've been in the administration, and this was truly a very, very impressive economic team with a very good sense of what they need to do and where they needed to go.

In the years following Ukraine's independence, the United States was very concerned -- with good reason --with respect to economic performance and the possibility of economic reform. But following President Kuchma's election last summer, Ukraine has embraced bold reform and is clearly moving forward with vigor. Prices have been freed, the exchange rate has been floated. The budget deficit, which had been projected at 20 percent of the total economy of GDP, is now expected to be pared back under the existing plan to 8.5 percent of GDP, and the goal is to bring it down to 3.5 percent of GDP this year. There's also a strong program of privatization that is now underway.

In the discussions we had today with Ukraine's economic leaders, we talked about the remarkable amount that's been accomplished in a very short period of time, but our primary focus was on the enormous amount that remains to be done in the long road ahead. We assured Ukraine's economic leaders about our strong continuing support. At the Naples Summit, the G-7 pledged to support $4 billion worth of aid from the international financial institutions -- that is to say, the IMF, the World Bank and the sister banks -- $2.7 billion has already been committed. There's no question the $4-billion goal will be achieved, in fact, I think exceeded. And there's been $1 billion of bilateral aid committed, including $350 million from the United States.

The administration has a strong, ongoing working relationship in the economic area with the appropriate counterparts in the Ukraine. And as I said a moment ago, we have been very involved in helping with the IMF, with the World Bank and the sister institutions. We've provided bilateral aid, and we've provided technical assistance in a broad range of issues.

Today we discussed expanding that technical aid. Some of the issues we discussed were: tax structure, capital markets, privatization, social safety net, government bond market, various trade and investment areas.

Just today, the Export-Import Bank has agreed to extend loans and guarantees on a medium-term basis to Ukraine as recognition of the extraordinary accomplishment under President Kuchma.

There is a great deal to be done in the years ahead, but it is also very important to note that a great deal has been accomplished in a very short period of time.

Thank you.

MR. LAKE: Let me give you a summary, at least, of the President's meeting with President Kuchma which lasted for about an hour and a half, as these things happen, running somewhat over what had been scheduled, and then there was an expanded meeting which the Secretaries on each side reported on their respective meetings. And then there was a general discussion, and I would have said that went, what -- another hour or so.

Compared to the President's last visit to Ukraine at the airport when he was involved in negotiating the trilateral nuclear deal, and compared to the last two days, or day and a half, of substantive discussions in Moscow, this was not a visit for heavy lifting on substantive issues. It was an occasion to both be very supportive, as Secretary Christopher and Secretary Rubin said, of Ukraine, and to celebrate what has been an extraordinarily good year in working with Ukraine and making progress on various issues.

Rather than go back and forth on what happened at the meeting, let me simply summarize what each of the Presidents said. President Kuchma thanked President Clinton for his own efforts in gaining assistance with the G-7 and in our own bilateral assistance to Ukrainian economic reform. President Kuchma discussed their economic reform efforts, as well as their democratic progress, and I'd say that this was the main issue that President Kuchma addressed.

He also addressed the issue of relations with Russia. He said that their model out ahead of them is the U.S.-Canada relationship. And he said, interestingly, that Ukraine has an interest in a -- good U.S.-Russian relationships, and therefore he welcomed the results of the summit, which the President had filled him in on, that I'll come back to.

With regard to European security and NATO, President Kuchma said that he thought that NATO is "a factor of stability in Europe," and that Ukraine favors the evolutionary expansion of NATO. He said, also, that he appreciated and all Ukrainians appreciated the President's participation in the 50th anniversary celebration of V-E Day, and that this was a celebration, of course, not only for Russians, but for all the members of the former Soviet Union.

The President began by expressing, again, our support for a sovereign, strong, stable Ukraine, and noted that he had said this, also, to President Yeltsin. And Secretary Christopher said that the President expressed his view of the strategic importance of Ukraine in Central Europe and beyond.

The President again expressed his support for economic reform in Ukraine, along the lines that Secretary Rubin just stated. He thanked President Kuchma for what he had said about NATO and confirmed that the process of NATO enlargement will be gradual and open.

The President emphasized that we do not want to see a new division of Europe because that could leave, potentially, Ukraine in a kind of a grey area in the new Europe, and we did not want to and will not see that happen.

He said that he thought that Ukraine is handling its relations with Russia and its opening to the West in -- he said it was "just right." The President welcomed the Ukrainian role in the Partnership For Peace. And let me, if I may, just add here that we believe that Ukraine's participation in the Partnership is really a model of what such participation ought to be.

There will be 10 Partnership exercises this year with Ukraine, four exercises sort of in the spirit of the Partnership in addition with the United States. We have a very active bilateral military relationship with Ukraine. The Ukrainians have done very well over the last year in placing their military under greater civilian control, et cetera.

The President has asked the Congress for FY '96 for $100 million, the so-called "Warsaw Initiative" to help partners in their participation in the PFP, and of that, $10 million would go to Ukraine, which is the largest chunk out of that.

In addition, the President again expressed his very strong satisfaction in what he called "the courageous decision" that Ukraine made to give up its nuclear weapons. Secretary Christopher said that at this moment, in fact, in New York, they are now or will soon be voting on the indefinite extension of the NPT. We anxiously await that word. The President has put in a very great deal of work into getting a positive vote there, and we are quite hopeful.

In my view, if Ukraine had not taken the decisions that it did, it is extremely unlikely that, in fact, we would be in a position now to gain that unconditional extension.

The President reviewed with President Kuchma also his meetings with President Yeltsin. President Kuchma welcomed the Russian decision with regard to the Partnership For Peace documents; and finally, the President, in reporting on the Russian government's decisions about cooperation with Iran, the President ran through, again, the dangers posed by Iran, especially to nations in this region.

Thank you.

MR. MCCURRY: I just also wanted to introduce the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Ambassador William Miller, and he's here as well if you have any specific questions for him.

Q: I want to ask Secretary Christopher, what do you think of Senator Dole's criticism of the summit and calling it a failure and reassessing the whole question of aid to Russia.

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: You know, in my generation there was an old-fashioned custom that Americans did not criticize the President when he was abroad. The thought was in those halcyon days that there would be time enough when the President returned home to assess his performance.

Putting that old-fashioned custom to one side, let me also say that it seems to me to be a relic of the Cold War to think that every time the American president and the Russian president get together their meeting has to be scored like a night baseball game with wins and losses and a box score. But if there is to be a box score, it seems to me very hard to put this in the loss column or the failure column.

How can you put it in the loss column when we -- the President achieved the agreement of the Russians to join the Partnership For Peace by embracing the two documents that had not yet been signed and will be signed before the end of the month, or will be approved before the end of the month?

How can it be a loss when the Russians have agreed abandon the most dangerous part of their nuclear cooperation with Iran and also agreed to consider the entire program in the Gore-Chernomyrdin channel? How can it be a loss when there's been an agreement on the principles with respect to the ABM Treaty and theatre nuclear weapons? Or how can it be a loss when you achieve what was achieved with respect to conventional weapons and so-called COCOM arrangement?

Now, there were many important, significant achievements in that meeting. So I think if you are going to add them all up, you'd have to say that it was a very significant meeting with very significant progress.

In the business of diplomacy, you frequently score runs by hitting singles, and I think the President and President Yeltsin hit a series of good, solid singles that will add up to scoring a great many runs. I'm going to be testifying next week before one of those who was a severe critic, and I look forward when I get back to talking with Senator Dole and others. I've got great respect for Senator Dole because I think if we can sit down together and go over the record of this particular meeting between the Russian President and the United States President, it will be seen to advance American interests, and that's what it's all about.

Q: Mr. Secretary, what about that long -- you talk about halcyon days. Well, ever since Vandenberg, there was a long string of bipartisanship in foreign policy. Are we seeing the end of that era?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, I certainly hope not, and I'm dedicated to work in the direction of maintaining that bipartisanship in foreign policy. The reason we'll do so is because it's in United States interest to achieve the things that we achieved here. It's in the United States interest to have a bipartisan foreign policy; so I'm dedicated and determined to work for that.

Q: Mr. Christopher, what about the threat to cut off aid?

Q: Mr. Secretary, Senator Dole has been around for a long time, has seen a lot of summits. Why do you think he's got such a bleak assessment? How does he come by that?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: You'll have to ask him about that. I look forward to talking with him when he gets back -- when I get back, sorry. I'm not sure at what point he made the statement or whether the reporting was full at the time he did.

Q: You didn't respond to Helen's original question, which was the threat to cut off aid and I wondered if Mr. Lake might give some of us who weren't on Air Force One his comments on that as well.

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: With respect to United States aid to Russia, the test always must be whether or not that aid is in United States interest. And I'd be very surprised if either of the senators who commented would not agree with that test. I'd be quite willing to discuss every aspect of our aid and measure it by that test.

I don't think anybody would want to cut off aid to Russia if it's in the United States interest, as, for instance, is Nunn-Lugar aid. Nor should we want to cut off United States aid if it's an aid of privatization in Russia. So we need to ask the American people the questions as to whether or not they want to cut off aid that serves underlying American strategic security interests and, measured by that test, I don't think the Congress will want to cut off the aid. But I'm quite prepared, and my colleagues are, too, to stand up to that test.

MR. LAKE: As I said on the plane, we have a fundamental national security interest in supporting economic reform and democracy in Russia. We do that not through words, but by what we bring to the table. And if we severely reduce, or even cut off aid to Russia, we will do terrible damage to ourselves as well as to the Russians.

Let me say that you should define American national interest in the terms of the interests of American citizens in their everyday lives. Ask yourself what would have happened if we had not had the kind of relationship with Russia and the kind of -- provided the kind of support for Russia that we have over the last couple of years.

Perhaps the most obvious point here is that without that relationship, the Presidents, Clinton and Yeltsin, would not have been able to negotiate the agreement which now results in there not being American and Russian missiles targeted at each other. If we had not had aid to Russia, as well as Ukraine and Kazakhstan and Belarus, we would not have had the trilateral nuclear deal that is now so important to gaining the indefinite extension of the NPT.

Ask yourself, also, what the everyday lives of American citizens will be like five years from now if American assistance does not help democracy and economic reform in Russia survive. The impact on our budget and our defense budget alone suggests that, while you could save perhaps some money now by cutting back aid, American taxpayers would have to spend a lot more down the road.

So, again, I think that this is, at this very important strategic moment, and this important moment in the future of Russia, with elections coming up at the end of this year and the middle of next year, for us to cut back this aid or to allow this issue to become embroiled in our own domestic politics could have potentially have even tragic results for the United States and for our citizens.

Q: What do you expect to happen in Chechnya when the cease-fire expires? Is there going to be explosion or is it just going to be what it is now?

MR. LAKE: I think, regrettably, that in fact, as you know, during the cease-fire that the Russian government announced, the fighting has, over recent days, been increasing. And I think that you would see the same pattern continuing. In our view, and as the President said very firmly in his televised address to the Russian people, we consider this a tragedy, and we hope that there can be an indefinite extension of the cease-fire that begins to work better, as well as a political conclusion to what is a tragedy, not only for the people of Chechnya, but a factor that is damaging reform within Russia and damaging Russia's relations with other nations.

Q: Mr. Lake, did President Clinton and President Kuchma discuss the clean-up at Chernobyl? And is there any agreement on how much the Western nations, the G-7 nations will provide for that clean-up?

MR. LAKE: Yes, President Kuchma did describe briefly their hopes for shutting down Chernobyl in the coming years and for looking for alternative sources of energy. This is an expensive proposition. This is an expensive proposition. It is not something, of course, that the United States alone can underwrite and, therefore, the President will be discussing this issue at Halifax and with our G-7 partners.

Bob, did you want to add anything to that? Secretary Rubin agrees with that, to my great relief.

Q: The difference has been very wide between what Ukraine says in what we need to provide in what we apparently are willing to do. Has that been narrowed at all, or --

MR. LAKE: You'll have to discuss that at the G-7.

Q: Mr. Lake, Ukraine wanted to be part of the G- 7 to appear and to discuss in Halifax. Are you in agreement with that? Did you accept their demand?

MR. LAKE: The President said that he would look into that. That is, of course, a decision that would have to be made by the whole G-7, not by us.

Q: I have a question for Secretary Christopher.

MR. LAKE: Good. (Laughter.)

Q: The United States and Japan appear to be embarked on a course of confrontation over trade. What does that portend for the G-7 meeting? Does it introduce friction and uncertainty into that meeting, and what does it say about the broader U.S.-Japan relationship?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, we have a very broad relationship with Japan, which has political aspects, security aspects. We strongly support a common agenda with them in which Japan is one of the largest contributors to important environmental matters around the world. So we certainly shouldn't see this relationship in a single focus.

I think that one of the things at Halifax will give the leaders an opportunity -- that is, the two leaders of Japan and the United States -- an opportunity to discuss these trade frictions. I hope it may give them an opportunity to resolve the trade frictions between the two countries.

From the standpoint of the United States, this tremendous trade surplus that Japan is running is simply not a sustainable matter of our relationships between the two countries. And since autos and auto parts -- they're such a very large part of that unacceptable trade surplus, I think it's natural the United States should have taken these steps, or it was important the United States have taken these steps. But Halifax will provide an opportunity for the Prime Minister of Japan and the President of the United States to discuss these matters, and I hope it might be the occasion for resolving them.

But the United States, I think, finds this problem sufficiently urgent so that we wanted to begin moving on it at the present time and start the clock running for the imposition of the sanctions and, as you know, Secretary Kantor -- Mickey Kantor, the Trade Representative, took two important actions. First he asked the WTO to look into the conduct of Japan in connection with this sector of the trade, as well as announcing the sanctions that would take place -- that would take effect within a given period of time after the announcement. But there'll be an opportunity at Halifax before the sanctions go into effect, for there to be a discussion at highest levels.

Q: Secretary Rubin, do you want to add anything to that?

SECRETARY RUBIN: No. (Laughter.)

Q: But you will? (Laughter.)

No, I think Secretary Christopher said it very well. The President, from the very beginning of the Administration, has been a strong advocate of free trade and open markets. When the second largest economy in the world has substantially less access than any of the other major trading countries, then that is an issue that is in the mutual interest of both Japan and the United States to resolve. And that was the genesis of the Framework Agreement. And it is pursuant to the Framework Agreement that these actions are being taken with respect to the automotive sector, which, as Secretary Christopher said, is the largest sector in our trade deficit.

But I think that we -- certainly at the G-7 finance ministers' meeting, which occurred two weeks ago, we had a successful series of conversations on many other subjects without this interfering with the dialogue. And I would trust the same would be true in Halifax.

Q: Secretary Rubin, a security question. Would you recommend shutting down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House?

SECRETARY RUBIN: Well, I have not made a report yet to the President, and I really think I ought not to comment on it before I do that.

Q: Well, did he at one point say he did not want it closed? And would that factor into your thinking?

SECRETARY RUBIN: He and I have not discussed this subject at all, and I have not yet made a report to him. And I am certainly not going to comment on it until I do report to him.

Q: Mr. Lake, did President Kuchma offer an opinion on leaving his peacekeepers in Bosnia?

MR. LAKE: The question is whether President Kuchma had discussed the peacekeepers in Bosnia and the answer is -- his peacekeepers there -- and the answer is no. The subject didn't come up.

Let me add, though, that Ukraine, in addition to being a model of a partner in the Partnership for Peace, also has played a very positive role in peacekeeping abroad, which we appreciate.

Q: This is also for Tony. Did the subject of the Crimea and the Black Sea Fleet come up at all? And was there any request for the U.S. to play any type of role between Russia and Ukraine?

MR. LAKE: Yes, it did come up -- not at great length -- in the context of the President's applauding the way Ukraine has handled its relationships with Russia. This is of course -- Crimea is an internal Ukrainian issue. The Black Sea Fleet negotiations continue.

President Kuchma did not ask President Clinton or the United States to play a particular role in this. We have said that we are prepared to be helpful if both sides ask us to become involved. And that is not the case.

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: In the interest of completeness, I think I should say that the Ukrainian Foreign Minister raised the question about Ukrainian troops, he said, in Croatia, and he said that the Secretary General indicated that there is no longer need for those troops in Croatia. He indicated that they'd be willing to have them stay in that general region and I simply noted that and said that I would raise that at the United Nations if it seemed appropriate to do so.

The question with respect to the Crimea also came up in the meeting that I had with the Foreign Minister and we discussed at some length the handling of matters of that kind, between countries who are adjacent to each other. We discussed the relationships between Ukraine and Russia. And I must say the Ukrainians have the highest ideals to establish very friendly and warm relationships with Russia. And I think they're going about it in a way that deserves approbation.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you had said in Geneva that the Russians asked for an expanded role in G-7 and that you turned them down at that time because of what they were doing in Chechnya. Yeltsin, yesterday, apparently said -- indicated that in fact the Americans have agreed to an expanded role for Russia on the economic side of G-7, and I was wondering whether the U.S. had caved on this?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: My understanding is that Russia will have precisely the same role that it had last year with the one exception that I noted at the time of Geneva, and that is that the dinner on the night between the G-7 economic summit and the political summit will this time be a working dinner rather than a social dinner.

The distinction between those two has never been very rigid in my mind, sometimes we work at social dinners and sometimes we're quite social at working dinners. (Laughter.) In any event, that distinction is made and, certainly, President Yeltsin will have an opportunity at that dinner to raise any issue that he wants to raise.

But the economic communique will have been issued before that dinner, and from my standpoint, there's not been an expansion of the role of Russia at this year's summit with the one exception that I've mentioned to you with respect to that dinner.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END6:59 P.M. (L)

William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, and National Security Advisor Anthony Lake Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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