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Remarks at the Denuclearization Agreements Signing Ceremony in Budapest

December 05, 1994

President Yeltsin, President Kuchma, President Lukashenko, President Nazarbayev, Prime Minister Major. Today we herald the arrival of a new and safer era. We have witnessed many signatures. Together they amount to one great stride to reduce the nuclear threat to ourselves and to our children. The path to this moment has been long and hard. More than a decade has passed since the first negotiations on the START I treaty. But perseverance, courage, and common sense have triumphed.

Skeptics once claimed that the nuclear threat would actually grow after the Soviet Union dissolved. But because of the wisdom and statesmanship of the leaders who join me here, the skeptics have been proven wrong.

Ukraine's accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty completes a bold move away from the nuclear precipice. Ukraine has joined Belarus and Kazakhstan in ridding itself of the terrible weapons each inherited when the Soviet Union dissolved. Presidents Lukashenko, Nazarbayev, and Kuchma have done a very great service for their own people, their neighbors, and indeed all the peoples of the world.

And there is no greater service that the rest of us could do for our nations, our neighbors, and the peoples of the world than to follow the advice already advanced here by President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Major and agree to the indefinite extension of NPT in 1995.

Creating security in the post-cold-war era requires that we unite, not divide. The pledges on security assurances that Prime Minister Major, President Yeltsin, and I have given these three nations move us further in that direction. They underscore our independence, our commitment to the independence, the sovereignty, and the territorial integrity of these states.

And today we have also reached a milestone in fulfilling the promise of this new era by putting the START I treaty into force, the first treaty that requires nuclear powers to actually reduce their strategic arsenals. It creates the most far-reaching verification system ever agreed upon and will eliminate over 9,000 warheads from our arsenals. It lays the foundations for even deeper arms reductions.

President Yeltsin and I have vowed already to work to put the START treaty into force at our next summit in 1995. That will cut our arsenals by another 5,000 warheads. Together these treaties will leave the United States and the former Soviet Union with only a third of the warheads they possessed at the height of the cold war. They will help us to lead the future to a direction we have all dreamed of, one in which the nuclear threat that has hung over heads for almost a half century now is dramatically reduced.

On this historic afternoon, we have shown that today's community of free nations can and will create a safer globe than did the divided world of yesterday. Together we have helped to beat back the threat of nuclear war and lighted the way to a more peaceful day when the shadow of that destruction is finally vanquished from the Earth.

I thank you all. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:41 a.m. in Patria Hall at the Budapest Convention Center, at a signing ceremony in which the parties to the START I treaty exchanged documents of ratification formally bringing START I into force. In his remarks, he referred to President Boris Yeltsin of Russia, President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, and Prime Aleksandr Lukashenko of Belarus, President Minister John Major of the United Kingdom.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Denuclearization Agreements Signing Ceremony in Budapest Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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