George Bush photo

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

January 03, 1993

Mr. Kostikov. Ladies and gentlemen, let us consider that the press conference is open.

First, we'll give the floor to the Presidents of Russia and the United States for brief statements, and then we'll hold our press conference. The first floor is to President Yeltsin.


President Yeltsin. President George Bush, Mrs. Bush, members of the delegations, representatives of mass media, ladies and gentlemen:

It is not every century that history gives us an opportunity to witness and participate in the event that is so significant in scale and consequences. Today, the Presidents of the two great powers, the United States and Russia, have signed the treaty on further radical cuts in strategic offensive arms of Russia and the United States, START II.

In its scale and importance, the treaty goes further than all other treaties ever signed in the field of disarmament. This treaty is the triumph for politicians and diplomats of Russia and the United States. It is also an achievement for all mankind and benefits all peoples of the Earth. The START II treaty becomes the core of the system of global security guarantees.

The scale of this treaty is determined by a number of factors. Its historical factor is that in the course of all its previous history, mankind was arming itself and just dreamed of beating the swords into plowshares. The treaty signed today represents a major step towards fulfilling mankind's centuries-old dream of disarmament.

Its political factor is that the treaty we have signed today belongs to a new epoch. This treaty was concluded by two friendly states, by partners who not only trust each other but also assist each other. It testifies to our joint and determined movement towards a new world order.

From the very outset the new democratic Russian state has been pursuing a policy of building equal partnership with the United States. Today, we have every right to say that relations between the two major powers have undergone a genuine revolution. Its political factor lies also in the fact that during the last decade of the 20th century and at the turn of the 21st century, the START II treaty will affect policies not only of the United States and Russia but of other countries of the world as well. The START II treaty established parameters of possible political agreements in other spheres of interaction among states.

Thus, the military factor is determined by the scale of mutual reductions in nuclear arms. By comparison with the START I Treaty, every state will have to reduce and destroy the number of strategic offensive warheads by approximately a threefold magnitude. The deepest cuts will affect those categories of arms which are of greatest concern to the parties and the world. For the United States these are submarine-launched ballistic missiles and heavy bombers, and for Russia, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, ICBM's. This reduces drastically the level of danger, military mistrust, and suspicion.

We opened up real prospects for cooperation based on trust between people in military uniform, between people with military discipline and military thinking. Thus, the START II treaty will change and gradually replace the very psychology of confrontation.

At the same time, as President and supreme commander in chief, I can say with absolute certainty the signed treaty strengthens the security of Russia rather than weakens it. I think that President Bush can make a similar statement concerning the security of the United States.

The implementation of the new treaty will not be economically destructive for Russia. We have made most of our calculations, and they show that the proposed reductions would cost us much less than the mere maintenance of nuclear weapon systems in a safe condition. We save seriously on verification and inspections, two of the most expensive, to put it mildly, items of expenditures. The new character of Russian-U.S. relations makes it possible for us to substantially simplify verification procedures while ensuring their reliability.

We expect to cut and to cut considerably the cost of the physical destruction of armaments. We have agreed with the United States to cooperate in developing and applying appropriate technologies. Thus, the expenditures under this then will in fact be shared equally. This will enable us to eliminate our nuclear weapons not with a delay of several years but in parallel with the United States in accordance with the schedule provided for in the treaty. In the context of the present economic crisis, it would be difficult for us to keep the pace without outside assistance. The U.S. Congress has made a decision to support Russia in the destruction of these nuclear warheads.

Its moral factor will manifest itself in the fact that the treaty gives all mankind the hope for a nuclear-weapons-free world. The high moral value of the treaty is that we will be able to hand over to our children, the children of the 21st century, a more secure world. I would call this treaty a treaty of hope.

As to the purely diplomatic aspect of this START II treaty that has just been signed, it will undoubtedly go down into the history of diplomacy as an example of using the potential of the partners who are waiting to overcome the heritage of animosity and confrontation. As you may recall, it took 15 years to prepare the first START Treaty. The elaboration of START II, which is of considerably great magnitude, took several months. But there was absolutely no rush in the process. Naturally this reflects, above all, the high level of confidence and mutual understanding achieved between the United States and Russia, between the Presidents of the two countries. It gives great impetus to the world diplomacy as well.

Today, I would like to express the hope that the diplomatic services of the United States and Russia, diplomats of European countries, will double or even triple their efforts in order to settle conflicts that are of concern to the world.

I would like to focus on another important aspect, the personal stand of President George Bush, who is our guest, being on a working visit with us. I would like to pay tribute to my colleague and friend, George. His remarkable personal and political qualities and competence have contributed to a successful transition from the cold war to a new world order. I am grateful to him for all he has done to establish new relations between Russia and the United States, for his solidarity and support during the push for the FREEDOM Support Act, for the START II treaty. Thank you, George.

I consider it of fundamental importance that the future President of the United States, Mr. Clinton, fully supported the conclusion of the START II treaty. We can without delay proceed to the direct implementation of this instrument and consider further steps to strengthen global stability, the system of global protection, and international security.

President Bush and I have maintained regular contacts with President-elect Clinton. Today's signing ceremony would not have taken place had there been the slightest reason to doubt his solidarity with our endeavors.

I would like to personally thank the most active participants in this process and above all the President of the United States, who personally took part in the elaboration and polishing of the text of the treaty. And I would say we spoke often. And it was a rare week that we did not speak on the phone in the last few weeks.

I am also grateful personally to Mr. Scowcroft, who took an active participation in the consideration of this subject, and to Jimmy Baker, of course, who treated globally the entire subject of the treaty and was mainly responsible for this breakthrough. And finally, I am grateful to Mr. Eagleburger, who on the finishing line darted with boldness and practically initialed the draft treaty there.

I'm thankful also to the experts, to analysts and consultants, and also to the leaders of our delegation, to Mr. Kozyrev and Grachev and the other 48 experts who work very hard for us to come today to the signing of this treaty, the SALT II1 (FOOTNOTE) treaty.

(FOOTNOTE) 1START II (White House correction).

I'm also grateful to all the journalists, press people, who kept their hand constantly on the pulse of this subject and who did not manage to criticize the treaty before it was signed.

I do believe that there is no reasonable alternative to the policy of friendly partnership between Russia and the United States. Strategic partnership relations serve the fundamental national interests of the two countries and of the international community as a whole. I am deeply confident that the signing of the START II treaty opens new, promising prospects for the peoples of our countries. I'm certain that this day will be a milestone in this process.

Thank you.

Mr. Kostikov. I thank you. And now I pass the floor to the President of the United States, George Bush.

President Bush. Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, Mr. Prime Minister, Minister of Justice, Minister of Defense, Minister of Foreign Affairs, representatives of the Russian and American delegations, and distinguished guests:

We meet at the beginning of a new year, at a moment that is also a new era for our two nations and for the world. For half of this century, the Soviet Union and the United States stood locked in a nuclear standoff. For our two nations and for the world, cold war, hot words, and the constant threat of war seemed imminent, indeed, at times inevitable. The time that we might meet as friends and the time that we might meet in freedom seemed distant, indeed a dream.

Today, the cold war is over, and for the first time in history an American President has set foot in a democratic Russia. And together we're now embarked on what must be the noblest mission of all: to turn an adversarial relationship into one of friendship and partnership.

We stand together today in this great city at the threshold of a new world of hope, a widening circle of freedom for us and for our children. This historic opportunity would simply not have been possible without our combined common effort.

Mr. President, I salute you for your unwavering commitment to democratic reform and for the history you've written since the heroic day in August '91 when you climbed atop that tank to defend Russia's democratic destiny. And I also want to salute the heroism of the Russian people themselves, for it is they who will determine that Russia's democratic course is irreversible.

Today, as we meet on Russian soil, home to 1,000 years of heritage and history, to a people rich in scientific and creative talent, I want to assure the Russian people on behalf of all Americans, we understand that Russia faces a difficult passage. We are with you in your struggle to strengthen and secure democratic rights, to reform your economy, to bring to every Russian city and village a new sense of hope and the prospect of a future forever free.

Let me say clearly, we seek no special advantage from Russia's transformation. Yes, deep arms reductions, broader and deeper economic ties, expanded trade with Russia, all are in the interest of my country. But they're equally in the interest of the Russian people. Our future is one of mutual advantage.

We seek a new relationship of trust between our military forces. They once confronted each other across Europe's great divide, and let them now come together in the cause of peace. We seek full cooperation to employ our collective capabilities to help resolve crises around the world. We seek a new cooperation between the U.S. and Russia and among all states to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

The world looks to us to consign the cold war to history, to ratify our new relationship by reducing the weapons that concentrate the most destructive power known to man. The treaty we signed today builds on the strong beginning we made with START I, and, together, these treaties will reduce by more than two-thirds the strategic arsenals in place today. And just as important, START II will bring much better stability to remaining forces.

This agreement represents a common effort to overcome the contentious differences and complexities that surround nuclear weapons. In the face of many who doubted Russia and America's intentions and our energy, it vindicates our insistence that arms control must do more than simply freeze the arms race in place.

The START Treaty, START I, reduced a quarter century of growth in our nuclear arsenals and reversed the course that caused many to fear that nuclear conflagration was inevitable. The treaty that we signed today goes much further in a way that few believed possible just one year ago.

May I congratulate Messrs. Kozyrev and Grachev and Eagleburger for their outstanding work to bring this treaty to fruition. And I also want to congratulate former Secretary of State Jim Baker for his important work on the treaty during the spring and summer.

In closing, let me tell you what this treaty means, not for Presidents or Premiers, not for historians or heads of state but for parents and for their children: It means a future far more free from fear.

So, as we sign today this treaty, let us pledge also to move forward together throughout this decade and into the next century toward common aims: for Russia, a democratic peace; for our two nations, a strong partnership between our people and the lasting friendship that springs from a common love of freedom.

And Mr. President, may I wish you and the Russian people at this critical moment in history a new year rich with hope and peace.


Q. Mr. President, both of you, each of you spoke about moving on to other areas of concern as a result of having achieved this kind of a treaty. Can you give us in some detail what your discussions were with regard to the situation in Bosnia, what you see achievable there and what differences separate you?

President Bush. Well, we discussed that question in some detail. Our prime common objective is to see the suffering stop and see the fighting stop. I can't go into -- I certainly wouldn't want to quantify what differences we may have, but I came away with the feeling that we were very close together, these two countries, in wanting to see peace restored to that area.

President Yeltsin. I would like to continue the answer of President Bush, because the question was raised to both Presidents. We discussed a very wide range of issues, and I would say we have cleaned up all of the problems remaining after the conclusion of this important agreement, and the conclusion of this important period which is crowned with an historic event and the visit by President Bush to our country.

We also considered the course of the reforms in Russia and the problems related to the new government, whether it will continue along the road of reforms. And I assured the President that this is not a new government, and it is the old composition government. And the chairman of the government himself will go on the same road of reforms.

We have also considered the problems of bilateral relations and the foreign debt of the former Soviet Union, the grain supplies, international conflicts, including the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and our positions are close. We previously supported the United States in adopting the U.N. resolution on the subject, and we shall continue this line and try at the same time to continue the line for establishing peace among all parties and to be more active in this area than we have been heretofore.

We have also discussed military issues, including the issue of whether the SALT II Treaty is harmful to anyone or at anyone's disadvantage. Then we came to the conclusion that it does not harm either side and does not harm any third party. It is only to the advantage of everyone. Thus, our negotiations were businesslike, respectful, and open, as always.

START II Ratification

Q. Boris Nikolayevich, you have just signed the START II treaty, and you will have to ratify it into Parliament. If in the past there were difficulties mainly in the U.S. Congress, now you may face certain difficulties on the part of certain delegates or a number of Russian deputies. So, what are in your view the prospects for the ratification of the treaty?

President Yeltsin. I am not going to conceal from you that a certain part of the deputies is against the treaty. And they are against anything positive that should take place in Russia. So, complete negation is their position. You could consider what they are, because they support Iraq and its aggression. So you understand who they represent. And finally, I would say that fortunately they do not represent the majority of the Supreme Soviet, as most of the Supreme Soviet deputies believe in reason, and of course, they believe in the significance of this treaty.

Many delegates, deputies, were in Geneva themselves. They took part in the negotiations. And the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee has always been here with us. So if there are any difficulties with the ratification of this START II treaty, still I am certain that the Supreme Soviet will ratify it.

President-Elect Clinton

Q. Mr. President, how confident are you that the treaty that you're now going to be turning over to a new administration will be -- that it will be ratified by the Senate? And Mr. Yeltsin, I'd like to know your thoughts on how awkward is it for you to find yourself suddenly having to deal with a new President in Washington?

President Bush. Clearly, I'm not in a position to commit President-elect Clinton, but I can confidently predict that this treaty will be quickly ratified by the Congress.

Butting in on the second part of your question, I've talked to President-elect Clinton enough to know that he is most interested in keeping this U.S.-Russia relationship on the high plane at which it stands right now. And I've told President Yeltsin that I think he will enjoy working with Governor Clinton and that I know that Governor Clinton is committed to the general theory of these arms reductions that START II takes on.

President Yeltsin. I met with President-elect Clinton when I was on my official state visit to the United States and when Mr. Clinton at that time was a Presidential candidate. We discussed in our meetings different things. The discussions were normal, interesting, and he voiced his support for Russia, for the democratic reforms in Russia, and for our movement along the democratic road.

Two days ago I sent him a letter where I proposed that there should be no lull in our relations with the new administration, because any lull in bilateral relations between the superpowers would give cause for concern.

I suggested on the phone to President Bush that after the 20th of January, we -- that is, myself and President-elect Clinton -- should meet somewhere in a neutral place for a working meeting to consider different international problems and bilateral relations. And I hope that he will take over the baton that was given to him with such grace by President Bush.

Russian Nuclear Shield

Q. This is the question to, mainly, the Russian President. I ask you, Boris Nikolayevich, to expand a little bit on that part of your statement where you say that the signing of the treaty will not be harmful to the strategic and military balance existing between the United States and Russia, as certain of our conservatives assert, and that the nuclear shield of Russia will not be weakened. This is a question to you not only to the President of the country but also as to the commander in chief.

President Yeltsin. Shall I give you the numbers? As of January 1st, we have 9,915 strategic nuclear warheads. According to the new START II treaty, there will be 3,000, 3,500 warheads left, 3,000 to 3,500 warheads. This number is not possessed by any other single state, only by the United States and Russia. I express -- not a single other state, including nuclear powers like China, Great Britain, and France. This is a powerful shield which is capable of defending Russia in case of an unexpected aggression from any site.

President Bush. May I simply add that we do not view this as a one-sided treaty at all. We view it as balanced, and I think that history will record it as such.

Mr. Fitzwater. Let's have a final question from Ann Compton [ABC News].

U.S. Assistance to Russia

Q. President Bush, do you think that the START II -- START I and II can be ratified and implemented if the United States doesn't come forward with or even increase the amount of aid that some of the other countries need to actually dismantle the weapons they've got?

President Bush. I think the ratification will stand on its own two feet. The Congress will look at it, and in my view they'll have hearings, and they'll ratify it. And clearly, we all have a stake at helping and being sure that the materials are properly disposed of, and the United States will be ready to assist to the best of our ability. But I don't see a resolution to that second question being required before this treaty is ratified.

I'm sorry, what was the second question?

Q. Can it be implemented? Doesn't the United States have to come up with more money to actually have the missiles at the silos?

President Bush. The treaty and the protocols speak for themselves. But clearly, I think the new administration will be as interested as we have been in helping Russia in every way we possibly can. I expect that it'll get to that subject as well as it will to ag credits and a lot of other things. So I think that the treaty will be ratified, and I think it will be implemented. And to the degree the United States can be of assistance when times are tough for Russia, that will demonstrate our interest in this partnership when we help.

Note: The President's 141st news conference began at 12:15 p.m. in Vladimir's Hall at the Kremlin. President Yeltsin spoke in Russian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. Vyacheslav Kostikov, Presidential Press Spokesman for President Yeltsin, served as moderator. During the news conference, the following persons were referred to: Andrey Kozyrev, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Pavel Grachev, Russian Minister of Defense. The question-and-answer portion of this news conference could not be verified because the tape was incomplete.

George Bush, The President's News Conference With President Boris Yeltsin of Russia in Moscow Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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