Press Briefing by Secretary Warren Christopher
7:35 P.M. (L)
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Good evening. The President has made a rather full statement. I'm here mainly to take your questions about the President's day. It was really an unusual day in which he achieved two very important diplomatic breakthroughs that, in my judgment, will increase the security of the United States and the security of the world as a whole.
Before taking your questions I want to make just a few remarks. They will be very brief because I want to be very careful not to put any of you to sleep. (Laughter.)
By adopting the Partnership For Peace NATO took an historic step; I think, clearly, one of the most NATO meetings perhaps in all the history of NATO. By its action today, NATO almost instantaneously became relevant in the post-Cold War world.
This was a United States' initiative which we have been working on all year, and it was endorsed unanimously and enthusiastically by all the members of NATO.
The second breakthrough today was the announcement by the President which you've just heard, the trilateral agreement between Russia, Ukraine and the United States. The significance of this agreement, I think, is you really have to let it sink in on you. This agreement means that it will eliminate over time 175 intercontinental ballistic missiles with about 1,500 warheads that have been pointed, targeted at the United States up to this time. Clearly, one of the most important nonproliferation steps that have been taken in years.
I'd point to the symbolic significance of these two steps. They're, in a way, two sides of a coin. The Ukraine step is reflective of the end of the Cold War. It's clearing up some the remnants of the Cold War and the nuclear danger that we confronted for such a long time.
On the other hand, the step taken in NATO today is the beginning of a new era with NATO looking to incorporate over time in a process the emerging democracies to the East. There are two other major initiatives today, both U.S. initiatives -- the Combined Joint Task Forces, which will allow NATO to adapt to the new world by permitting NATO forces to be used in other structures with European countries' forces.
The other initiative is an initiative to place nonproliferation at the core of the NATO effort, a very important new initiative to make NATO relevant in this post-Cold War period.
I just say in conclusion that sitting there in the room today, one could see and feel the reemergence of U.S. leadership in this post-Cold War period. This was President Clinton's summit. He called the summit. He developed the three initiatives, which were enthusiastically and unanimously endorsed. And I believe, in the judgment of those in the room, he made the strongest most powerful statement today. So it was a good day for President Clinton.
And I'd be glad to respond to any questions that you might have.
Q: Mr. Secretary, the President essentially said Mr. Kravchuk -- worrying about the Ukrainian Parliament -- is a man of his word. But you and your predecessor both had some unhappy experiences with the Parliament not following through. Why should we assume that this time the Parliament, which is so divided and has so many parties, will indeed ratify the agreement?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, I don't want to pose as an expert on Ukrainian politics. We have -- we will have the solemn undertaking of the government of Ukraine. But I say that they are very strong incentives for Ukraine to proceed with this. First, they'll receive security guarantees. Second, they'll receive a very substantial amount of Nunn-Lugar funds for the dismantlement of these nuclear weapons. And third, they stand to receive a very substantial amount of compensation for the highly enriched uranium.
In the present stringent conditions in Ukraine, I would think that would be a major incentive, but we'll have to let that work its way out. We have the commitment from President Kravchuk, and we're going to take that and we're going to also recognize, as I say, these three strong reasons why this agreement is in the interest of Ukraine as well as in the interest of the United States and Russia.
Q: Sir, is it your understanding that he actually has to get it through the Parliament or will he be able to take his own executive action?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: The latter. My understanding is he can do this by executive action.
Q: Mr. Secretary, could you please tell us a little bit more about what went on in the meeting? You say that the President reasserted U.S. leadership. Most of what we saw here, at least what we got from the remarks of the President, had to do with Bosnia, and yet the President came out here and said, well, there still seems to be a lot of disagreement, we have to meet more on that. What is going on in Bosnia right now, and where do you think this is going to go?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, the President's statement today was by no means devoted to Bosnia. Most of it was devoted to the Partnership For Peace and the Combined Joint Task Forces and the new look of NATO to the East. He added the provisions, or the paragraphs, on Bosnia. But he delivered the entire statement with a good deal of power and force, and I think all of his NATO colleagues were struck by how much force he brought to his statement today. I think it was that that left the strong impression on the room.
With respect to Bosnia, it was a reaffirmation of the August 9th statement, but under circumstances where you could just feel the President's force behind it. I think it impressed those in the room. It was a serious statement by a serious Alliance. They're going to be discussing it further tonight, but I think that's the main significance, that the President made a special point of reaffirming the events of the decision taken on August 9th. And as you've no doubt seen from the transcript, he was very pointed in saying members of NATO should not endorse this declaration, should not approve the declaration unless they mean what it says; unless they intend to carry out the August 9th resolution. And the significance of the statement to that end was certainly not lost on the members of NATO.
Q: And some didn't. And some didn't. So how forceful could he have been?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, I just have some question about your facts. The discussions are ongoing. They're going to be discussing it tonight. It was discussed around the room, but they all -- they've all unanimously endorsed the declaration which contains the paragraph that the President called attention to.
Let me clarify that. The President called attention to the sentences in the declaration that are a reaffirmation of the August 2nd and August 9th action of NATO. And he told the members of NATO they shouldn't reaffirm that unless they were serious. So the most I can say about the Bosnia situation tonight is it was a serious statement by a very serious Alliance.
Q: Can you tell us about his conversation with President Mitterrand and whether they are now in agreement on Bosnia?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: President Mitterrand made a statement before President Clinton made his statement. I was not in the bilateral between President Mitterrand and President Clinton today. I had something else that I needed to do at that moment, so I can't tell you the sense of that bilateral. But my understanding is that it's an ongoing discussion which will be continued tonight.
Secretary General Woerner very explicitly said he was reserving tonight for a discussion of key topics they didn't have time to get to today, particularly Russia and Bosnia.
Q: Mr. Secretary, on the Ukraine agreement, what is the timetable for dismantling there? Is there a deadline, specific, precise deadline in that agreement? And secondly, what are the security guarantees? Do they go beyond what simply is implicit in the Nonproliferation Treaty?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: With respect to the timing, I can't give you any more on that now. There may be something more by the time we get to Moscow, but I don't have anything more for that tonight.
And the security guarantees are fairly technical stuff, but they are those contained in the CSCE Charter, and they basically indicate that -- and also the Nonproliferation Treaty -- that nuclear states such as the United States and Russia will not use their nuclear arsenals against countries that give up their nuclear weapons.
Q: Mr. Secretary, is the United States now a guarantor of the borders of Ukraine?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: The security guarantees do relate to that subject and provide assurance in that connection.
Q: Mr. Secretary, isn't this agreement meaningless without a time frame? It could take the Ukraine 10 years, 15 years, 40 years unless you tell us a set period of time about over which they --
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I didn't say there as no time frame. I simply said that I was not able to give you anything on that tonight. And I might --
Q: determines its strength, does it not? If it's a small period of time as compared to --
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I would agree with you the time frame is important, but that doesn't mean that I can give you the specifics on it tonight.
Q: Mr. Secretary, can you be more specific about the assurances in connection with guaranteeing Ukraine's borders? You said that there were assurances in the language. Can you specify?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: There will be a backgrounder after I finish here, and you get more detailed information on that subject at that time.
Q: Mr. Secretary, do you have an understanding from President Kravchuk that he has assurances from his parliamentary leadership that he won't be overridden on this agreement?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: No, we only have the assurances of the government of Ukraine at the present time. And it's an action that we're told can be taken by the executive branch of the Ukrainian government. As I say, I do not want to pose as an expert on Ukrainian government structure.
Q: Mr. Secretary, at any point will the United States provide nuclear fuel for reactors in the Ukraine? And if so, would any of that -- could any of that be used at Chernobyl?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, the United States will not be providing them nuclear fuel. It will come from the work that's going to be done in Russia. With respect to Chernobyl, the United States is working with Ukraine to try to upgrade the quality of their nuclear reactors, to get rid of or improve the dangerous old reactors, let me just say, I hope it won't be used in such reactors, but that really depends upon our capacity to be effective with them in working with them to improve the effectiveness and quality of their reactors.
Q: So there will be no interim supplies from the United States?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: No, the United States' role in this -- and you'll hear more about this from some of the people that follow me -- the United States is basically providing facilitation in the form of financing.
Q: On the Partnership For Peace, one more question. Since this agreement was signed today, have you been in touch personally with the leaders of any of the Visegrad republics, and what was their response, and are they all now on board on this?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Rita, I've had a busy day, and I haven't been in touch with anybody before coming over here. My present understanding is that Slovakia and Hungary are committed to joint the Partnership For Peace. And I believe there is a statement issued by Poland today along the same lines.
I've got confidence that by the time we leave Prague all the members of the Visegrad countries will have signed up. And I think a great many other countries will promptly sign up. But it will depend upon their own governmental processes. But the expressions of interest coming from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the new independent states, indicate a very high degree of acceptance.
Thank you very much.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 7:47 P.M. (L)
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Secretary Warren Christopher Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269764