The President's News Conference in Brussels
Initiatives in Europe
The President. Good evening. Ladies and gentlemen, I came to Europe to help strengthen European integration, to create a new security for the United States and its Atlantic partners, based on the idea that we had a real chance to integrate rather than to divide Europe, both East and West, an integration based on shared democracies, market economies, and defense cooperation.
Today we have taken two giant steps toward greater security for the United States, for Europe, and the world. First, this afternoon I joined our NATO allies in signing the documents that create the Partnership For Peace. The United States proposed this Partnership to lay the foundation for intensive cooperation among the armed forces of our NATO members, all former Warsaw Pact states, and other non-NATO European states who wish to join the Partnership. By providing for the practical integration and cooperation of these diverse military forces, the Partnership For Peace will lead to the enlargement of NATO membership and will support our efforts to integrate Europe.
I'm also pleased to announce that on Friday the United States will sign with Ukraine and Russia an agreement which commits Ukraine to eliminate nuclear weapons from its territory. These include 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles and some 1,500 warheads targeted at the United States. This is a hopeful and historic breakthrough that enhances the security of all three parties and every other nation as well.
When I came into office, I said that one of my highest priorities was combating the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. The issue of nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union was the most important nonproliferation challenge facing the world. With the Soviet Union dissolved, four countries were left with nuclear weapons: Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. I have sought to ensure that the breakup of the Soviet Union does not result in the birth of new nuclear states which could raise the chances for nuclear accident, nuclear terrorism, or nuclear proliferation.
In just one year, after an intensive diplomatic effort by the United States, both Kazakhstan and Belarus agreed to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to join the ranks of nonnuclear nations. Much credit for these actions goes to President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, whom I will be welcoming to Washington in February, and Chairman Shushkevich of Belarus, whom I will meet in Minsk later this week, as well as to the people and Parliaments of those two countries.
My administration has been working with the Governments of Ukraine and Russia to address Ukraine's security concerns so that it could follow suit. The trilateral accord we will sign will lead to the complete removal of nuclear weapons from Ukraine.
I want to congratulate both President Yeltsin and President Kravchuk of Ukraine for their statesmanship in negotiating this accord with us. I want to commend President Kravchuk and to thank him for his leadership. I look forward to consulting with him personally during the brief stop at Borispol Airport in Kiev on Wednesday evening. President Kravchuk will later join President Yeltsin and me in Moscow on Friday to finalize the agreement in a trilateral meeting.
This agreement opens a new era in our relationship with Ukraine, an important country at the center of Europe, a country, I might add, which was mentioned frequently during our meetings today. We expect to expand our cooperation with Ukraine, especially in the economic area. We look forward to Ukraine's playing an important role in efforts to move toward the integration of a broader Europe.
Today I spent the day at NATO Headquarters, one of the pillars of our security in the post-World War II era. Throughout that era, our security was defined by the stability of Europe's division. But with the two breakthroughs for peace announced today, we can begin to imagine as well as to define a new security for the post-cold-war era founded not on Europe's division but instead on its integration. Throughout the 20th century, now drawing to a close, Europe has seen far too much bloodshed based on these divisions. But with strong democracies, strong market economies, strong bonds of defense cooperation, and this strong step to combat nuclear weapons proliferation, we can make the next century far more secure for all of our people by building a united Europe.
Andrea [Andrea Mitchell, NBC News]?
Q. Mr. President, there are some who have suggested that even this Partnership For Peace is going to be too much of an exacerbation to the nationalist tendencies in Russia. And today Mr. Zhirinovsky said that if NATO troops are ever stationed near the borders of Russia, it's a mistake, it's finished for NATO and/or other forces who have supported this organization, it's the beginning of a third world war if the NATO or other forces are along those borders. How do you respond to that and to the concerns that there are people in Russia who will not even take this step kindly?
The President. My response to that is that his, thank goodness, is not the governing voice in Russia and that we have offered to the Russians, to all the states of the former Soviet Union, and to all the Eastern European countries which were in the Warsaw Pact the opportunity to participate in this Partnership For Peace.
The reason I wanted the Partnership For Peace rather than nothing, which perhaps Mr. Zhirinovsky would have preferred, or immediate membership, which others would have preferred, is that I thought it gave us the best chance, first, to develop substantive military and defense cooperation for these countries; second, to give nations who wish to be members, full members, of NATO the chance to develop the capacity to assume their responsibilities; and third, to give us the chance, most importantly of all, to create a Europe that really is integrated, that is based on unity and not some dividing line that at least is further east than the cold war dividing line was.
So I simply—I disagree with the position that he's taken, but that is not the position that governs Russia, thank goodness.
Q. Do you think, just to follow, that Russia would be joining the Partnership For Peace?
The President. They're certainly welcome to do so. We've issued——
Q. Could that happen in the next few days?
The President. I think that all the nations to whom the welcome mat has been put out may want to take some—some may want to take more time than others to think about it. But we certainly expect to have some sort of continuing defense cooperation with Russia, and they are certainly welcome to be a part of this.
Go ahead, Rita [Rita Braver, CBS News].
Q. On the subject of Bosnia, earlier today you said that NATO would be reasserting its warning against the strangulation of Sarajevo.
You said if we're going to reassert this warning, it cannot be seen as mere rhetoric. Yet, NATO has done nothing in Bosnia really. What changed today after your meeting?
The President. Well, let me point out, NATO has done everything that the United Nations has asked it to do. With our allies, we have conducted the longest airlift in history to bring supplies to the people of Bosnia. We have supported working with our allies' operations in the Adriatic and other operations designed to support the embargo. We have supported the no-fly zone. We have done everything the United Nations has asked us to do.
What we are going to discuss tonight in greater detail—let me say, I don't want to say any— I'll be glad to talk about my comment today, but I do want to tell you we're going to have more discussions about this tonight at dinner.
The point I was trying to make today that Secretary General Woerner also wanted to make was that if we were going to restate, in effect, the warning we adopted in August that if Sarajevo were subject to undue and continued shelling in a way that threatened it significantly— and there was more shelling today—that we would consider having air strikes, that we had to be prepared to do that. And I can tell you that on behalf of the United States that if the facts warrant that, we would certainly ask the North Atlantic Council to take it up. That is, we would ask all of our allies and NATO to consider an appropriate response. Now, there's still the U.N. to deal with and other things, but we believe we should go forward.
The question of what we can do to get a peace in Bosnia, however, I want to caution you, goes far beyond that. That is, it depends upon the willingness of all the parties to agree to a reasonable settlement. And what may be appropriate in dealing with relieving the siege of Sarajevo may or may not actually hasten an end to the war. So we'll be discussing that in greater detail.
Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International]?
Q. You're not ready for the air strikes yet, sir?
The President. Well, let me say, what I want to do at this meeting—this meeting is not about air strikes. This meeting is about whether we're going to reaffirm our position. I can just tell you that the United States would be prepared to ask the North Atlantic Council to consider that if the siege of Sarajevo continues and the facts warrant it.
Partnership For Peace
Q. You made one of the toughest statements you ever have made for an international group. What was the response of the allies? I mean, how did they take it? Did they say they would go along?
The President. Well, we're going to talk about it tonight. Some did; some have not commented yet. But let me say today the most important thing and the thing we talked about today was our agreement on the strategy for reaching out to the East. Over the long run, that will have a greater significance, in my judgment, for the future of Europe than whatever is or is not done with the tragedy in Bosnia at this late date. So we spent most of our time today fleshing out, dealing with, working through this whole concept of the Partnership For Peace. And I was, frankly, very gratified that so many of the leaders of the other countries believe that it is the right way to go and understand it's not just a compromise but it's a vibrant concept that gives us a chance to build the best possible future for Europe. That to me was the best thing we were doing.
Terry [Terence Hunt, Associated Press]?
Q. Mr. President, what assurances do you have from President Kravchuk that he can sell this arms deal to his Parliament this time? There have been difficulties in the past. And what are the costs, sir?
The President. Well, let me say, first of all, that—let me deal with the cost first. As you all know—and then I'll get to the other point— you all know how the Nunn-Lugar funds work. The only cost to the United States taxpayers in this agreement will be the continuation of the Nunn-Lugar program, that is, the funds that we provide to help people dismantle their nuclear weapons. What does Ukraine get out of this? They get security assurances that go with this sort of agreement. That is, once you become a nonnuclear state, the states that have nuclear weapons promise not to use them against you ever, under any circumstances. They get various kinds of technical assistance to carry out this. And they get paid for their highly enriched uranium. They are compensated. That is a commercial transaction involving no cost to the American taxpayer. So there is no cost.
In terms of the assurances, let me say that President Kravchuk has continued to work on— progress on previous agreements he has made. He has shown, I think, great courage in the last few months in working through this very difficult and complex set of negotiations with us that has involved me, the Vice President, the State Department, and everybody else that's appropriate on our side. And we have no reason to doubt the ability of the President to keep the commitment that he is prepared to make.
Middle East Peace Process
Q. Mr. President, now that you have a deal with Ukraine, what can we anticipate Sunday when you meet with Syrian President Asad? Will there be some sort of dramatic announcement there, as well?
The President. I've already got—you know, we've already bunched too many stories in one day, haven't we? [Laughter] I really can't—I can't say any more at this point than you already know about that. We're going to try to keep the Middle East peace process going.
Thank you very much.
NOTE: The President's 39th news conference began at 6:42 p.m. at the Conrad Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in Russia.
William J. Clinton, The President's News Conference in Brussels Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/218867