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Remarks on Signing the Urgent Assistance for Democracy in Panama Act of 1990 and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters

February 14, 1990

The President. Well, let me first give this statement. And I want to congratulate Secretary Baker for his superb job at Ottawa and also for following through on his meetings in Moscow on the agenda that President Gorbachev and I set out at Malta. And I'm delighted that the 23 members of the Vienna negotiations on conventional forces in Europe accepted the NATO initiative, which I proposed in my State of the Union Address on January 31st, to resolve the issue of manpower.

The United States and the Soviet Union each will station no more than 195,000 troops in the central zone in Europe. And this will be the overall ceiling for Soviet troops stationed on foreign territory in Europe. The U.S. will be permitted to station the additional 30,000 troops in Europe, outside the central zone. Now, this is an important breakthrough which removes a major obstacle to the early conclusion of a CFE treaty. And it also establishes the principle that U.S. forces in Europe are not to be treated as equivalent to Soviet forces in Eastern Europe.

The other major breakthrough was on German unification. And I called [West German] Chancellor Kohl yesterday to discuss the final details of the agreement that Secretary Baker reached at Ottawa. We and our German allies are in full accord. Things moved quite fast there. And the agreement we've reached calls for the Foreign Ministers of the two German States to meet with the Foreign Ministers of the Four Powers -- the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union -- to discuss the external aspects of the establishment of German unity. This brings us a step closer to realizing the longstanding goal of German unity. And as I said in Mainz last May, it's a goal we and our allies have shared with the German people for more than 40 years.

These steps, along with the inspiring march of democracy in Eastern Europe, bring within sight the objective that I have stressed throughout the first year of my Presidency: a Europe that is whole and free.

Another subject that's related to the march of democracy in our own hemisphere -- I think it's appropriate that the Secretary of State is here with me today as I sign into law the Urgent Assistance for Democracy in Panama Act of 1990. And I want to thank Congress for acting rapidly on this legislation. And I'm pleased to see such strong bipartisan support for the task of helping Panama rebuild and strengthen its economy and its democracy. With the signing of this legislation, we'll move forward with the broad range of activities to assist Panama, including AID and OPIC, Ex-Im Bank and other assistance in restoring Caribbean Basin Initiative and GSP trade benefits.

I look forward to working with Congress on these particular initiatives and on implementing the second phase of our economic recovery program for Panama. This legislation is an important step in our continuing effort to cooperate with the Panamanian Government and the people there, as they work to build a new and better life for themselves in freedom and democracy.

And thank you, and now I'm pleased to sign this statement. Maybe you want to give a couple of these to the congressional leaders.

[At this point, the President signed the bill.]

All right. Thank you all.

Conventional Force Reductions in Europe

Q. Mr. President, why do you think Chairman Gorbachev acceded to your proposal on the troop levels?

The President. I think he saw that it made very good sense. I have Jim's [Secretary of State Baker] comment; he discussed it with [Soviet Foreign Minister] Mr. Shevardnadze. But we've stayed firm on this proposal. We think it's a very sound proposal; it has the strong support of our allies. Events are moving awfully fast there, and I think they see this as good for them, and I hope they see it as a stabilizing agreement for Europe.

Q. Mr. President, on Monday -- --


Q. Mr. President, Mr. Shevardnadze has said up in Ottawa that he could foresee a united Germany with a role for both NATO and the Warsaw Pact. You've always said that NATO has to have its role. I assume that's still your position, but could you see the Warsaw Pact having a role as well?

The President. Well, the way it looks to me is that the allies want the stability of U.S. forces and a united NATO -- U.S. forces in Europe and a strong NATO. The Eastern European countries that make up the Warsaw Pact want the Soviet troops to leave. You have a different equation now. And we are talking about Germany remaining in NATO -- flexibility on where the troops in Germany are, but a strong NATO. And as I said the other day, I think it stabilizing, certainly as far as Western Europe looks at it, and also I think you're going to find a lot of countries in Eastern Europe see us as a stabilizing factor there.

Q. So, no Warsaw Pact?

The President. Well, these things are being discussed. I think changes are going on so fast there that it's hard to keep up with them all. But, again, I salute Secretary Baker and our people who went with him on this trip because a lot of things happened that happened more quickly than certainly I would have thought. This troop agreement is one of them.

Q. You said on Monday -- --

The President. -- -- think we set out some -- --

Q. On Monday you said that the time was not right for a Four Power conference on Germany. Did something change between Monday and the agreement on Tuesday?

The President. Well, I'd let Jim address himself to that, but, yes, I think there was a lot of change -- not about change but certainly there was a feeling on the part of Chancellor Kohl, who told me this on the phone yesterday that the agreement that Secretary Baker had been discussing and details of which he worked out with Shevardnadze and the allied leaders was a very sound step. And we're not trying to dictate to anybody over there how it would work; I left that question open. But, yes, it moved very, very fast.

Do you want to add something to that?

Secretary Baker. No, sir, I think that's it.

Q. Were you not aware on Monday that things were moving in that direction that -- on Tuesday?

The President. Not aware on Monday that we were going to have a deal on Tuesday, absolutely not.

Secretary Baker. Nor were we in Ottawa, I might add.

The President. And nor were we on the troop deal. I mean, you've got to realize, Norm [Norman Sandler, United Press International], we're dealing with historic change; and we need to be very elated about this. [Laughter] Seriously. And it's very, very fast. And the fact that the Secretary was able to close this deal in such a short period of time -- I say short from the time we last talked about it -- I think is evidence of this. But he can't do that alone; he has to have the change from the Germanys. But you've got to remember, [East German Prime Minister] Modrow has talking to Kohl, and Jim's been talking to Shevardnadze. The NATO people were meeting. We had this conversation over the weekend with Woerner [Secretary General of NATO]. And so, there's a lot of diplomacy going on.

But, no, this surprised me that they were willing to make an agreement on that, as it did troops. But I thought it was right to stay firm on it.

Conventional Force Reductions in Europe

Q. In light of that, what about some of the -- I guess it is criticism -- that by agreeing to a CFE agreement with 195,000 that you're legitimizing their keeping that number of troops in Eastern Europe? And is it time to lower that -- --

The President. We're dealing with a period of dynamic change. We are trying to project, as I think I conveyed the other day, and Jim has been conveying, a sense of stability to the question. Our allies view this certainly as a good, sound number.

Now, what hasn't been taken into consideration -- and it takes time to work its way through the system, and it will happen after elections are held in various countries -- is how those countries feel about the presence of Soviet troops. So, what the Secretary was able to do here through the acceptance of our proposal is delink the weapons. And that's good because the Western Europeans -- and again, I repeat, I think some of the Eastern Europeans -- want us there, seeing us not as a threat but as a stabilizing influence. The Eastern Europeans appear not to want the Soviets there, and I have a feeling that Mr. Gorbachev will not want to stay against the general feeling there in Eastern Europe. And also, he has enormous problems on his own economic front.

So, the thing to do is, we got a good deal, a steady, stabilizing deal, and then see what events come along if we go. But now let's close the deal; that's what I want to do. Conclude this CFE agreement and get it done and signed. And there's still some technical problems in it.

Secretary Baker. -- -- a major disproportion in reductions, too.

The President. Yes. The original proposal had the Soviets taking down an awful lot more than we did. Now we've got what I think of as a delinked -- again, I think that is stabilizing. Somebody at the press conference the other day -- I had a question that at least implied to me they thought it may be destabilizing, that you want it linked to equal numbers. I don't agree with that. I think it's just the opposite.

Q. How soon does that get wrapped up now -- CFE?

The President. Jim?

Secretary Baker. The President has stated he wants it this year, so that's what we're shooting for.

Q. How about START? Are you preparing to propose any new initiatives at the START talks? There's been talk about a ban on mobile MIRV's.

The President. Well, I haven't had a chance to talk to General Scowcroft [Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs] in detail since the Secretary has been back, and I haven't had a chance to talk to him about it. But now guess what we're going to do? We're going to go in and talk about this.

Q. He wants it -- --

Q. Will we have trouble finding countries accepting 195,000?

The President. Oh, no. No, no, that's -- all right. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 1:45 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. Parts of these remarks could not be verified because the tape was incomplete. H.R. 3952, approved February 14, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 243.

George Bush, Remarks on Signing the Urgent Assistance for Democracy in Panama Act of 1990 and a Question-and-Answer Session With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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