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Remarks Announcing the Upcoming Meeting With President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union and an Exchange With Reporters in Kennebunkport, Maine

September 01, 1990

The President. I have a brief announcement that I'd like to make, and that is that President Gorbachev and I will meet on Sunday, September 9th, in Helsinki, to discuss international and bilateral matters.

I spoke with President Koivisto of Finland this morning, and I believe the Soviets made a similar approach to President Koivisto to secure the final arrangements. Secretary Baker and [Soviet] Foreign Minister Shevardnadze have been working out the details of this meeting over the last few days. And we got word this morning that an announcement at this time would be agreeable to the Soviets, so I wanted to get that out.

And I'm looking forward very much to seeing Mr. Gorbachev again. We have many matters to discuss. There is no special agenda relating to the Middle East. Nobody is doing any negotiating or anything of that nature. When President Gorbachev was here, he and I agreed that it would be useful to have periodic meetings without casting them in the vein of a summit, and that's exactly what this meeting is about. And I will be delighted to see him again, and we have many subjects to discuss.

Q. Mr. President, this is a little bit sudden. Can you tell us what you hope to accomplish? I mean, it seems sudden, on such short notice. What do you hope to accomplish? And also, was this your initiative or his?

The President. It's not overly sudden. We just haven't been discussing it. I believe, in this case, I made the suggestion that we have this meeting at this time and at this place.

Q. What do you hope to accomplish?

The President. Being sure we're together. As you know, I've been very pleased with the cooperation we've been getting from the Soviet Union on a wide array of questions and subjects, and I think it is important at this juncture that we discuss issues not just as they relate to Europe -- and try to update where we can on these arms negotiations -- but also to discuss the Middle East.

Q. Is this at all motivated by concern that the Soviets either don't understand or don't agree with U.S. actions in the Gulf region, specifically, the military deployment that they've expressed some doubt about?

The President. No, I'm very pleased, as I think I've said before publicly, that we seem to be in general agreement on a lot of issues, a lot of questions that relate to the Middle East. But it is my view that it is just important that we have good, free-flowing discussions about this. So, it wasn't driven by any worry that we might be apart, rather that there's a wide array of questions that could use consultation at this time.

Q. Can you tell us why you haven't talked to President Gorbachev until now, since this crisis erupted a month ago?

The President. Because I had anticipated seeing him.

Q. Have you talked to him about the summit meeting?

The President. No, but I've been in direct contact with him about the summit meeting personally.

Q. Mr. President, will you be asking Mr. Gorbachev to pull his military advisers out of Iraq?

The President. We have no agenda, no issues of that nature that have been agreed on to discuss.

Q. Is it a concern here, though -- doesn't that help the Iraqi military?

The President. I'm not sure of the status of those military advisers right now, Sandy [Sandy Gilmour, NBC News].

Q. Can you say what you will be talking about other than the Middle East? Will you be discussing, for example, START talks, CSCE, or any other possible meetings later in the year?

The President. Other meetings?

Q. With Mr. Gorbachev.

The President. Well, I hadn't -- I mean, we've just set these meetings up, and the way I've described it from our side to him was that we'd have no agenda and that it would be free-flowing discussions. But I know that we'll have discussions of, as I mentioned, CFE; and a CFE agreement would lead to the CSCE meeting. So, I think we'll be talking about all these things, Sandy.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Mr. President, what role would you like to see the Soviets play in the burden-sharing campaign that the administration has started for the Persian Gulf?

The President. I don't know that they have a role to play in burden-sharing at all.

Q. Why?

The President. The Soviet Union has a lot of responsibilities around the world. If they want to help in the burden-sharing, that's fine. But I don't go there with a specific burden-sharing role in mind. It should be disconnected from the mission that Secretary Baker and Secretary Brady are undertaking. It has just -- put it this way -- this meeting, in my view, is not about burden-sharing. We may get a better idea of all of this because I think Jim Baker will be in Moscow very soon.

Q. Mr. President, given the Soviet relationship with Iraq, do you see Moscow playing a mediating role in the crisis in the Gulf?

The President. I don't see a mediating role at all, and I don't think the Soviets see themselves having a mediating role. There are a lot of mediators out there trying hard, [United Nations] Secretary-General de Cuellar being in the forefront of this. I talked today to the President of Yemen from up here, who thinks there's some chance for some mediation. And so, it's fine for them to go forward, but I don't think the Soviets see themselves in a mediating role, and I don't intend to ask them to see themselves in a mediating role, nor do I expect him to ask the United States to be in a mediating role.

Q. You said last week when you didn't foresee at that point a diplomatic settlement of this problem. Has your view of that changed?

The President. Well, I haven't seen any flexibility on the key point, which is the operating within the United Nations mandate. I've listened carefully and follow up as carefully as we can on various conversations that Saddam Hussein has, and what the world community has said is to get out of Kuwait and to restore the rulers. And now you see the Arab League acting and calling for reparations, for Saddam Hussein to make good on reparations. But I don't see any willingness on his part to undertake what the world community is looking for.

So, I'd like to be optimistic, and I think it's fine to have these talks going on. I encouraged Javier Perez de Cuellar and told him I wished him great success. But I don't want to mislead the American people by saying I think that there's some breakthrough at hand or some flexibility that is clearly going to be required on his part to live within the mandate of the United Nations.

Q. Sir, what do you make of the piecemeal approach that Saddam has been taking in releasing a few women and children at a time?

The President. I don't like that. Yes, I don't like it. I don't like it. I don't think the world likes it. I'm glad when any American comes out of there, but there's a certain brutality, a certain tawdry performance in all of this.

Q. What do you think his motive is in handling it that way?

The President. I can't anticipate his motive. But it's just turning off world opinion. It is so base and so outrageous that I think most people in the Arab world are very embarrassed by this, and I think that's certainly true of others around the world. I've talked to so many leaders, and they all agree that this is just a despicable performance.

Q. How long can you let it go on, sir?

The President. Well, I don't -- I'm not one on deadline -- I don't deal in deadlines.

Upcoming Meeting With President Gorbachev

Q. Mr. President, can you tell us when you first broached this idea of a meeting with Mr. Gorbachev?

The President. Over a week ago, maybe, or something like that.

Q. And why have you opted for what seems to be a fairly -- just kind of a hit-and-run brief encounter in Helsinki as opposed to talks over a couple of days?

The President. I think we can get done what we need to do in one day, and that's what he feels also.

Egyptian Debt

Q. Mr. President, there were reports that you're going to recommend forgiving $7 billion in Egyptian debt. Can you comment on those reports? Are you going to -- --

The President. No, I have no comment on it. But Egypt, in my view, has been stalwart in this Middle East situation, and they do have grave financial problems, and I want very much to work with President Mubarak to alleviate these problems. But the steps that I'd have to take is to make any recommendations along that line to the United States Congress. And my gut instinct is to do that, but I'm just not prepared to say where we stand on it.

Upcoming Meeting With President Gorbachev

Q. Mr. President, just to clarify, you said there is no special agenda relating to the Middle East, and you seem to be telling us that, well, you were going to have this meeting on other topics. But yet, you brought it up just a week ago. Is it that the timing of it was spurred by the Middle East crisis?

The President. It's a subject that certainly will be discussed. But what I'm trying not to do is say this meeting is about the Middle East. I've already gotten a question here, is there some negotiating role or is there some agenda about the Middle East? And there isn't; but, yes, it will be a subject that we discuss. But we have a wide array of other issues, is all I'm trying to say. I mention CFE because I do want to see that lead to a CSCE summit, but I can't say that the Middle East has nothing to do with this meeting at all. I just don't want to mislead you. But it is not the whole thing. But I'm very anxious to discuss that subject, but please add a wide array of other subjects.

And so, I've had in mind, as I think I've mentioned to you all, more frequent meetings. I think I said that, and I think he agreed with this when he left, that we would have more frequent meetings. We both agreed up at Camp David that this kind of informal, unstructured format might be very good in a world where there are so many changes, so it's a good chance to test that now. And it's reported to me that he is very enthusiastic about this, Jim Baker having been handling the modalities of it all and making the overtures, although the original one was a proposal by me direct to Mr. Gorbachev. But Jim's been working the details of this out, and I expect he'll have something to say about that.

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Mr. President, there was a report on the wires this morning that U.S. marines have moved to positions -- at least a unit of them has moved to a position within 25 miles of the Kuwaiti border, whereas before they were well over 100 miles behind the scenes. Anything going on -- --

The President. I have no comment on it, Sandy, because I'm not aware of that. It's a tactical matter. It gives me a great opportunity to repeat the enormous confidence I have in our CINC, General Schwarzkopf, and also in our Chairman and others involved in this enormous movement of troops, the logistical support for them, and the deployment of them. I just have full confidence in our military that they will take the proper action to achieve our objectives.

Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 1:03 p.m. at his home. In his remarks, he referred to United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar de la Guerra; President `Ali `Abdallah Salih of Yemen; President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, USA, commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command and commander of the U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf; and Gen. Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

George Bush, Remarks Announcing the Upcoming Meeting With President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union and an Exchange With Reporters in Kennebunkport, Maine Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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