Bill Clinton photo

The President's News Conference With President Boris Yeltsin of Russia

September 28, 1994

President Clinton. We will begin the press conference now with opening statements, after which we will have, obviously, questions from the press. And we will do our best to alternate between the Russian and American press corps.

Hillary and I and our entire delegation have very much enjoyed having President and Mrs. Yeltsin with us, along with all the Russians who came with them. When President Yeltsin arrived yesterday, I spoke of the new partnership between our two nations. After our talks, one thing is clear: Relations between our nations are moving forward at full speed.

Both our countries, as President Yeltsin said yesterday, are sometimes not so easy to deal with, but we're succeeding in tackling some hard challenges. Over the past 2 days we've made good progress on security, economic, and diplomatic issues.

I'm pleased to announce today that President Yeltsin and I have agreed that as soon as the START I treaty takes effect and the START II treaty is ratified by both of our countries, we will immediately begin removing the nuclear warheads that are due to be scrapped under START II, instead of taking the 9 years allowed. There will be no adverse impact on the United States or the Soviet Union. Indeed, by shaving several years off the timetable, we will make the world safer for all of us.

We also plan to work together to encourage Ukraine to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty this year. As the world's two largest nuclear powers, we recognize our special responsibilities to ensure the security of nuclear weapons and materials, even as we keep dismantling them. This is one of the most urgent security challenges all the nations of the globe face as we enter the next century.

President Yeltsin and I spent a lot of time on this issue. We understand we won't solve the problem overnight, but the steps we've taken in areas such as inspecting each other's storage facilities and information sharing are an important start. We are personally committed to seeing this issue through.

Today President Yeltsin and I have signed an agreement that will gradually normalize our economic relations by removing major barriers to trade and investment. American support for Russian economic reform has been constant, and over the last 2 days American and Russian businesses have signed deals worth nearly $1 billion, ranging from agriculture to telecommunications. We met several American and Russian business leaders this morning, and we're determined to advance America's investment in and trade with Russia. We will transfer $100 million in aid funds to directly support trade and investment through OPIC and the Commerce Department. And we will also devote $30 million to help in the fight against crime in Russia through cooperation between the FBI and the Justice Department and appropriate Russian authorities.

On the diplomatic front, we've made progress on the difficult issue of Russian arms sales to Iran. We agreed to continue to work on this problem in the near future. We also agreed to work more closely together to help resolve the tragic conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. On Bosnia, we repeated our commitment to work within the Contact Group to compel the parties to accept the settlement that has been worked out. Once again, I congratulated President Yeltsin on his historic decision to withdraw Russian troops from the Baltic nations.

No area better captures the potential for our emerging partnership than Russian-American cooperation in space. President Yeltsin and I first discussed this idea in Vancouver last year and decided we needed to go forward. Today I have signed into law a bill that will help to fund the international space station. This bill is the result in no small measure of the extraordinary cooperation between Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, as well as the strong bipartisan support we received in the United States Congress. Like so much that we've accomplished in the past 2 days, this space station symbolizes the potential for progress when we work together.

This is the fifth time President Yeltsin and I have met since I came into office. I think I've spent more time with him than with any other world leader. We've made real progress over the last few days, in no small measure because we've worked together, we've learned to be open and candid with each other about our differences, we've built an atmosphere of mutual trust. And I'm confident that our partnership is working and will continue to work, not only between our two governments but increasingly between the people of Russia and the United States.

Mr. President.

President Yeltsin. Thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I would like to express the feeling of great thanks and appreciation to President Bill Clinton, to his wife, Hillary, and also to the American people and you, the journalists, for a very warm welcome and for very fine conditions which were created to make our very tough and difficult visit, to make it very productive.

We always start these meetings by saying that we've really done a tremendous amount of work. We always say this at these press conferences. But we can't say that this meeting, as well, doesn't deserve this kind of characterization. In fact, we have accomplished a lot of work. And if we planned at one time that we were going to have one 30-minute one-on-one session, it turns out it lasted for 3 hours. So you can judge for yourselves how many issues we touched upon and discussed and what a wide scope we really worked on.

Although I have a trip to Seattle coming up where I want to familiarize myself with the West—I had never been out West, out on the West Coast of the United States. I want to familiarize myself and get to know the Boeing Company, the city of Seattle, and just to see what kind of Americans live out there on the West Coast and how they work and how they are.

We, of course, with Bill now, it's—we are interlocutors who know each other and partners in our discussions and negotiations. We know each other very well, and more than that, we this time don't have to come and start warming up. We've had phone conversations; we talked ahead of time. So we started from the word go, right from the very beginning. We say that our partnership has to be pragmatic and not declaratory. And right away from the very beginning, we agreed to that.

I'm sure that neither Russia nor the United States needs all kinds of sharp deviations from having good, normal communications and ties. We don't need a situation where the whole world is in trepidation. We don't need to waste a lot of words and chew a lot of fat, but we have to get down to basics and start working in a very pragmatic style.

Of course, I say these words—now I think Bill has confirmed that the United States is a very complex partner, and Russia also is, too. But look, what family doesn't have some kind of squabbles occasionally which, eventually, they kind of work out. It's not always that simple, right? I mean, here are two great humongous, almost half billion member family who, too, has sometimes its own little approaches, if you will. But the most important thing is the ability to listen, to have patience, to have humanity, respect to each other. And then, absolutely, we will be able to find solutions.

I just want to tell you, to be short about it, these little introductory words—I just want to give you literally that very list that those issues that we discussed. Here we go, and then later on, you'll be able to ask questions. It will be a lot easier to ask questions. [Laughter]

The most important talks and subjects of these talks are the strategic partnerships between Russia and the United States; international issues; external political coordination of our efforts so that we two great powers, two countries, constantly coordinated everything that we do so that nothing happens in the world that might ruin peace on our planet—we have to support peace; the Big-8; peacekeeping; CIS; the role of Russia in the CIS; NATO and Russia; coordination in the United Nations Security Council; reforming United Nations; cooperating in the United Nations and the CIS; the situation all around the world, Bosnia, Middle East, Caribbean Basin, North Korea, Rwanda, Islamic extremism, Iran, Libya, Iraq, Trans-Dniester, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, Tajikistan, the Baltics; military issues; START III—START I, START II, now III, START III now—we're talking about three—[laughter]—nonproliferation; harmonizing our—you're not catching up? You can't think fast enough? [Laughter] You can't think fast enough? Well, okay, then I'll go a little slower. All right? [Laughter] Apparently we're not on the same wavelength here, you and I, in terms of the pace here, okay.

Non-pro-lif-er-a-tion of weapons—[laughter]—harmonizing military doctrines, harmonizing, since today doctrine in the United States, the military doctrine, is one; Russia has a different one. How are we going to be able to have a partnership, friendly partnership, and work together if we have such disparate military doctrines?

New initiatives of the great five powers on strategic stability; ABM systems, strategic and tactical ABM systems; biological weapons; chemical weapons; destruction and elimination of nuclear weapons, the safe elimination of nuclear weapons; exchange of information on nuclear arms and fissile materials for the first time; banning nuclear testing; participation of Russia in the regime of rocket technology—and we attach ourselves to this, we are joining where the United States is the initiator; banning the export of mines, antipersonnel mines—I fully support the proposal of the United States of America in the U.N., when he spoke about getting rid of these antipersonnel mines; incidents with submarines.

Economic issues; investments; getting rid of discriminatory limitations on Russia and opening up the American market to Russian goods; the status for Russia of an economy in transition; post-COCOM economic and trade projects; free trade status; GATT; finally, we got together and agreed on the so-called Jackson-Vanik amendment. I've already said that every single kid in Russia knows who these people are, Jackson and this guy Vanik. [Laughter] The President, by my decree—I mean, by his decree—well, maybe it's temporary, but he has stopped it, all right, the actions of this amendment. And I am grateful that this was a huge window, a bright window that appeared here between us. I'm very grateful.

Questions of crime; cooperating in the field of education, culture, ecology, environment, national minorities, the north; cooperation on tariffs, duties.

And the President has already said that, of course, for all mankind, this is very important, so that in place of the year 2003, after the ratification of START II by Russia and the United States we simultaneously remove all those weapons from alert status that were mentioned in the treaty, immediately. In other words, we save at least 7, maybe more, years by doing it right away. And we give mankind hope that our generation will be, for sure, living in peace.

At the center of our negotiation was the strategy of partnership between Russia and the United States. And I've already said that we've agreed on the fact that it should be more pragmatic.

Discussions of partnership for economic progress as well—we agreed here, also. In the United States now we have a large group of Russian businessmen. In New York I met with the captains of industry, big industry in the United States and with Russia. And today, as a matter of fact, with President Bill Clinton, we met also with representatives of big business here. And we came to terms and decided, well, what, after all, is standing in the way of investments and attracting investments and capital to Russia, on the part of private capital. And I have to say that we, in general, came to terms with this.

Looking into the future, we, at the same time, tried not to sort of float above this sinful Earth. Specifically, we agreed on fighting crime. And there are other specific things, protecting the environment in the north of Russia, protecting the environment; communications systems, developing communication.

After all, I mean, I just have to say that even though many people predicted that this is going to be not just tough negotiations but they're going to fall through in the ultimate analysis, I have to really be very sorry and express my condolences to these people. We agreed to almost practically on every single one of these issues. Sometimes the United States stepped forward and compromised a little; sometimes Russia compromised. But the most important thing is for peace, for humanity, for mankind, for our whole planet, we have agreed.

Thank you. Now, please, questions. He is the host, so he calls the shots. [Laughter]

President Clinton. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International]. Let me say, one of the things I would do—I've always wanted to be on the other side of this microphone, and if I were on the other side of the microphone today, my question would be, "And what were your agreements on issues 15, 27, and 43?" [Laughter]

Go ahead, Helen.

Q. Well, I have a question for each of the Presidents, and I've narrowed it a bit. You covered the waterfront, and I'm sure you have all the answers. I would like to ask President Clinton, are you going to call a special session on GATT?

President Yeltsin, I think the American people are very happy to find out that Russia will never attack the United States, as you said today, that you would never fight. But we are a little bit concerned——

President Clinton. Excuse me, Helen. Apparently the Russian interpreter is not coming through the microphone. No, no, no—he can hear you. It's the Russian—we need the Russian. We need someone to say this in Russian.

Q. Oh, okay, I'm sure the United States is very happy to hear you say that Russia will never attack the U.S. You said that today, and that's very good. But there is some concern that Russia may still have some feeling that it has a sphere of influence over former Soviet republics, and that when you intervene, you don't feel it necessary to go through international institutions. Is that true?

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

President Clinton. So we have two separate questions. I'll answer mine first.

I think it is the responsibility of the United States and the United States Congress to pass the GATT this year. And I hope that the Congress will do it before they leave. Our information is that there are more than enough votes to pass it in the House and that we have a majority in the Senate if we can get the bill to the floor. That's so often the question in the Senate. So we'll keep trying to pass it. If for some reason the Senate does not pass it, then I will urge that they stay in session and simply go on recess for the election break and then come back after the recess and pass GATT.

This is the biggest trade agreement in history. It's the biggest worldwide tax cut in history by reductions of tariffs, $36 billion in this country alone. It will give us 300,000 to 500,000 new high-wage jobs in the next few years alone. I think it is important to pass it.

Our country has established, even in what has been a reasonably or very partisan atmosphere in the last couple of years, a real commitment during our administration to work in a bipartisan way toward expanded trade. So I urge the Congress to pass the GATT before they go home. If it passes the House and doesn't pass the Senate I will urge that the Senate stay in session, take a recess for the election, come back afterward, and pass this. It's very important.

We have the APEC meeting coming up; we have the Summit of the Americas coming up. We're trying to break down our barriers with Russia and many other countries. The United States has to lead on this, and I intend to do everything I can to see that we do lead.

President Yeltsin.

Russian Foreign Policy

President Yeltsin. Well, of course, we're not planning to avoid and go walk around the decisions of the United Nations. Moreover, as you know, I'm appearing at the General Assembly session and I came out and talked for strengthening it, for widening this organization, so this organization would be strengthened in the future. Maybe they need it now more than ever, more than 20 years ago.

So, now, as far as the CIS countries, how do you feel, I mean, are you close to the neighbor that you live next to, or not? Of course— are you? [Laughter]

Well, these are our neighbors. Yesterday, we all were in the same—we lived in the same house in the Soviet Union. There is no Soviet Union, but these republics stay. They're our blood, right? Come on, let's be honest. We've helped them financially just as you help other countries, you financially help other countries, Latin America, Africa, et cetera, et cetera. It's only natural that we would have contacts and ties. They should be good. As a matter of fact, now we're planning some kind of centripetal forces pulling them inward, those tendencies. Everybody wants to be close to Russia, and we will be friendly with them, and we will support them, but in no way—not to contravene any international norms of behavior which are established or which shall be established. No.

President Clinton. Call on a Russian, Mr. President.

COCOM and Russia-U.S. Trade

Q. Now, COCOM and antidumping campaign, are there any specific decisions, any specific time lines and schedules and solutions?

President Yeltsin. Well, probably, it's the first time now that we have—for a long time we marched along this path. It took us a long time to get here. There were many problems along the way, but we've come to terms. The conditions—I think Bill will probably agree with me—I can tell you very frankly that for us the one condition that was set was that—we supply weapons to Iran, and so we were not allowed to this so-called kitchen in the creation of the post-COCOM regime where they were cooking up whatever this regime was going to look like.

Now, how have we come to an agreement? Now, there was a contract signed by the former Soviet Union with Iran. We are solid citizens, great power; we cannot but satisfy the terms of that contract. So the old contract, which had been signed years ago, back in '88, will be honored. But no other new contracts, no other new supplies, no other new shipments of weapons and weapons goods will be shipped. Those are the grounds upon which Bill Clinton agreed that we are going to participate in the post-COCOM era.

President Clinton. You asked another question. Let me say that is generally accurate where there are some—we reached a conceptual agreement in principle about how we would proceed, and then we agreed to let our experts on this matter work through it. And so we are working through it now, and we hope to resolve it soon. But we cannot say that it is resolved because in this matter, as you might understand, for both of us the details are quite important. So that while we reached a conceptual agreement, we have to work through the details.

Now, with regard to the antidumping, I think what you're referring to is my attempts to get the Congress to pass legislation which would declare Russia an economy in transition, which would facilitate more two-way trade. I have proposed such legislation to the Congress; it has not yet passed. We are working on a package of initiatives which would include the reduction of trade barriers in Russia and some more initiatives on our part so that we could get that kind of economy-in-transition status, which I think responds to the question that you asked.

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

Q. Mr. President, as you know, it's within your authority to call Congress back into session should it leave without passing GATT. Are you prepared to take that step if necessary, sir?

President Clinton. Well, I thought I made that clear. Yes, my preference would be, and what I believe we can do, based on our soundings today, is, if Congress leaves without passing GATT, I will ask that the Senate not adjourn but simply to go in recess and then return afterward. I will do whatever I can within the law to do everything I can to pass the GATT this year. I think it is important that it pass. It's important that it pass this year. It's important for the United States and our leadership, our efforts to get others to drop their trade barriers, to open their markets, to move forward. We have to set an example here.

I might say that a lot of the people who were opposed to NAFTA—let me just point out, our trade with Mexico has increased by about 19 percent in the last year. Our sales of autos and trucks have increased by 600 percent. And that's one of the reasons that a lot of those folks are working overtime for the first time in a decade. So this is plainly in our interest. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs. And I'm going to do whatever I can, Brit [Brit Hume, ABC News], within the law to get this done this year.

Security and Stability Initiative

Q. Appearing at the United Nations, you proposed to immediately work out a treaty on stability and security. Apparently, you discussed this, too, with the President. How much do you feel that the approaches of Russia and the United States are similar in terms of coming up with a treaty? How would they coincide?

President Yeltsin. Well, in principle, the President of the United States agreed with the formulation that I made. Although he did say that the President of Russia has put forth too many initiatives there at the Assembly, and we're going to have to have some time to study all of these new initiatives that I've put forward.


Q. President Yeltsin, sir, you said again today that you oppose lifting the arms embargo on Bosnia. Would Russia veto a resolution to lift that arms embargo if the Serbs don't agree to a settlement within a certain amount of months?

And to President Clinton, what's your understanding of—is there any agreement between the two of you on this contentious issue?

President Yeltsin. Well, first of all, it's made easier for us by the decision, in solving this issue, the fact that the Bosnians themselves have asked a delay for, say, 4 to 6 months altogether, even to take it off of the agenda for discussion. But in 6 months we'll take a look and see.

President Clinton. What we did agree to do was to take some new initiatives to try to get the thing worked out as quickly as possible. And we still have a potential difference over that issue; there's no question about it. But we have—let me say, the remarkable thing here is how closely we have worked together on Bosnia for many months now. And I think a lot of the good things that have happened in that whole sad case have come about because we have worked together with Russia and with our NATO allies as well as with the United Nations.

Russia-U.S. Investment and Trade

Q. What are you planning to do in improving the investment climate for American companies after your discussions here that you had all day? And an additional question to President Bill Clinton regarding the antidumping legislation. Does it mean giving Russians the transition economy status, the Section 4.06 on trade?

President Yeltsin. I answer by saying that in meeting with businessmen, every one of them when he speaks said one and the same thing, taxes, taxes. We, ourselves, understand that in '91 a reborn Russia rather quickly prepared legislation on taxation, and it was full of mistakes, both for our own businessmen and for outside businessmen. And so now, what we're preparing—and among this is also, very kindly Bill proposed the use of our American 200-year history and experience in tax legislation, that we send a group of tax specialists here to take a look at how all these things are formed in the United States. But we're preparing a tax code which will, I feel, be adopted in the first 6 months, the first half of 1995. And it, of course, is substantially going to be different from the situation today and, of course, will make life a lot more easy for the foreign investors as well.

President Clinton. Let me respond very briefly to the question you asked. If Russia were granted under Federal law an economy-in-transition status, then the rules for judging whether products are being dumped or not would be somewhat different. The United States has made a great effort to trade more with Russia. Since I've been President, we've tripled our trade in 1993 over 1992; we doubled our purchases in 1994 over 1993. So we are working ahead. But we also have to have some tariff relief on things that we can sell in Russia in certain critical areas, including aerospace, automobiles, confectionery, a lot of other things we've talked about. So we're going to try to work through that and get a resolution.

Go ahead, Andrea [Andrea Mitchell, NBC News].

Russian Foreign Policy

Q. I'd like to ask both President Yeltsin and President Clinton: The United States has been concerned about what Russia will do in the former CIS countries, particularly Nagorno-Karabakh. You've spoken to that, but can I ask you, how is that any different from the sphere of influence that the United States claims to have over Haiti? And I'd like your comment as well.

President Clinton. Fair question.

President Yeltsin. Well, you know, in general, the President of the United States and we personally never really got into the details of this issue and only now we dedicated a lot of time at this session. As a matter of fact, we haven't even finished in one day; we carried it over until today. Today we discussed it again, on Nagorno-Karabakh. And finally, in principle, the principle approach, we sort of brought them together. But in order to implement these, we're going to need some time to prepare documents, to look at the U.N. documentation. In short, the most important thing is that we have come to an understanding on this.

Q. President Yeltsin, I'm interested in whether you feel that the U.S. objections to Russian intervention with your neighbors is any different than what the United States has done in intervening in Haiti, which we claim is part of our sphere of influence. Do you think there is some hypocrisy here on the part of the United States?

President Yeltsin. No, I cannot say that, because Russia voted for the Resolution 940 in the United Nations and thereby we supported the actions of the United States of America.

Now, as Nagorno-Karabakh, this is our neighbor. They asked us that we help them, that we participate in the resolution of this conflict, just like we resolved it in Moldova, just like we set up peacekeeping forces between Abkhazia and Georgia, and there bloodshed stopped. Now we have to get the refugees back, et cetera. We're helping our neighbors.

President Clinton. Let me answer that question. First of all, the United States does not object to Russia taking an active role in the resolution of the problem in Nagorno-Karabakh. What we have discussed with the Russians, and what Boris and I finally had a chance to discuss personally together at some considerable length, is how that could be made more like Haiti, that is, how whatever Russia does should be done in a manner that is consistent with and within the framework of a United Nations resolution.

I think that Russia plainly does have an interest, a significant interest, in what happens on its borders and what happens in countries on its borders. In all of our discussions, President Yeltsin has acknowledged that he respected the sovereignty, the independence, and the territorial integrity of all those countries, but that what happened there affected what happened within his country and that there were things that he might be able to do there in pursuit of stability, without being inconsistent with sovereignty and territorial integrity and independence, that were appropriate.

What we did in Haiti, as you know, was not to act on our own, although the United States has in the 20th century acted on its own many times in this hemisphere. We went to the United Nations. We amassed an international coalition that has 28 nations for the first phase of this operation and then even more for the second phase. And I think that's the way we ought to proceed.

It may be necessary for other nations with military or other capacity to handle other problems or to at least take the lead on other problems in their areas. But when it is done, it should be done within the framework of the United Nations wherever possible and with respect for territorial integrity. And I think we are moving forward in that direction.

Press Secretary Myers. Last question.

ABM Treaty

Q. Based on the reports of the U.S. press sources, the United States aimed at making additions to the ABM Treaty which substantially changes its content. Was this discussed at the negotiations and talks? And what is your impression?

President Yeltsin. Well, apparently you didn't catch—I was reading so fast this list of mine, you didn't—I mentioned there the ABM. In other words, we did discuss the ABM issue, but there, taking into the account the professional difficulties, we handed that over to a joint commission which is now working so that it can make its recommendations. Right?

President Clinton. Thank you.

NOTE: The President's 71st news conference began at 3:45 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. President Yeltsin spoke in Russian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. In his remarks, President Clinton referred to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin of Russia. H.R. 4624, the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 1995, approved September 28, was assigned Public Law No. 103-327.

William J. Clinton, The President's News Conference With President Boris Yeltsin of Russia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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