Bill Clinton photo

The President's News Conference With President Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine in Kiev

January 12, 1994

President Kravchuk. Ladies and gentlemen, let me open this news conference and give the word to the President of the United States, Mr. Clinton.

President Clinton. Thank you very much. I have just completed my first meeting with President Kravchuk, and I am delighted that we have met under such promising and historic circumstances. I was also delighted to be able to wish the President a happy 60th birthday on this auspicious occasion.

President Kravchuk, President Yeltsin, and I are ready to sign on Friday an agreement committing Ukraine to eliminate 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles and some 1,500 nuclear warheads targeted at the United States. This breakthrough will enhance the security of Ukraine, the United States, Russia, and the entire world.

Ukraine is a nation with a rich heritage, enormous economic potential, and a very important position in European security. The ties between our two nations have deep roots. From America's birth to the present day, Ukrainian immigrants have helped to shape my nation's history.

Our meeting this evening begins a new era in our relations. The agreement President Kravchuk and I will sign with President Yeltsin opens the door to new forms of economic, political, and security cooperation. Our meeting tonight centered on three important issues.

First, we discussed the strategic importance, for this region and the world, of the nuclear agreement. I commend President Kravchuk for his courage and his vision in negotiating this agreement.

Second, I was able to issue a personal invitation to Ukraine to participate fully in the Partnership For Peace launched at this week's NATO summit. By providing for specific and practical cooperation between NATO and Ukrainian states and their forces, this Partnership can foster an integration of a broader Europe and increase the security of all nations.

I'm very pleased by the expression of interest in participating that came from President Kravchuk and his Government today.

Third, President Kravchuk and I agreed today to expand and enhance the economic ties between our nations. This is a difficult time of transition for Ukraine, but Ukraine is blessed with abundant natural resources and human talent. Because so many of its neighbors are moving toward market economies and democracy as well, I believe Ukraine's most promising future lies with reform and with integration with those burgeoning economies.

To assist in the reform effort, I am today announcing the establishment of an enterprise fund for Ukraine, as well as Belarus and Moldova, a fund which will help to capitalize new small businesses and provide assistance to existing firms that seek to privatize.

Over the last year, the United States has also provided $155 million in assistance to Ukraine. We are prepared to increase our support substantially as Ukraine moves toward economic reform. Under such circumstances, I also believe the international community would be able to provide significant support and investment to Ukraine, and I am prepared to work hard to see that that support and investment comes to pass.

To begin this work, we will be pleased to welcome to Washington later this month a senior Ukrainian economic delegation. I believe that Ukraine can play a major role in the future of Europe, a Europe whose security is not based on divisions but on the possibility of integration based on democracy, market economics, and mutual respect for the existing borders of nations.

I'm looking forward to seeing President Kravchuk in Moscow on Friday and to welcoming him to Washington for an official visit in March. I want to thank the people of Ukraine for having me here and treating me so warmly, if only briefly. And I would like to close by asking the President permission to come back and actually see the beautiful city of Kiev at some other time. I have sampled its wonderful food, and I'm now ready for the sights.

Thank you very much.

President Kravchuk. Ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to greet the President of the United States, Mr. Clinton, and his accompanying persons in Ukraine. I'm sorry that this visit is quite short, but I hope and I'm confident that Mr.

President will be able to visit Ukraine once again, so to say, in a full-scale and will be able to show him the Ukraine as it is. And I invite you, Mr. President, to visit Ukraine whenever it is convenient for you.

This is a short visit, a few hours only, but to my mind it is worth several days of negotiations if it's taken into consideration the wide range of issues which have been discussed. And we would be glad to inform the world that those problems were worth its attention.

I think the most urgent problem and the most important problem for the whole world now is the problem of nuclear weapons. And we have approached its solution. And I'm sure that this day and the forthcoming days open the way for the world for disarmament and for the elimination of nuclear weapons. And Ukraine will be committed to its obligations, and Ukraine will be the state which will not stand in the way to disarmament.

A lot of time was devoted to discussing the bilateral relations between the Ukraine and the United States. And I'm glad that the President of the United States and the United States support our country in this time of our hardships. And I'm sure that this sort of cooperation and support is real support of all independent states which have emerged on the basis of the former Soviet Union.

I'm sure that the charter for cooperation and friendship between our states, which is now being finished up by our experts, will be a new stage in the development of our relations. For us, it is very important that there is an understanding from the part of the President of the United States of urgency of the support to Ukraine in carrying out its economic reform and support its reforming processes. I am happy that the President of the United States will support our country in such international financial structures as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, European Bank for the Reconstruction and Development.

We understand that we have to be decisive in carrying out reforms, and we are ready for that. And we are happy with the development of our trade relations and that new prospects are opening up.

We support the initiative of the United States, its program which is called the Partnership For Peace, which we consider to be the universal formula which enables the participation of all countries. We understand that this program does not solve all the problems of security, but anyhow, it gives the possibility of all states to participate.

I'd like to greet once again Mr. President here in the Ukraine, and I would like to point out that in all issues we have discussed we have found joint, common viewpoints. This meeting was short, but it was very important and fruitful and it opened a new stage in the development of Ukrainian-American relations, which I am confident will be long-term and reliable.

Thank you for your attention.

If you don't mind, Mr. President, I'll have the office now of the press secretary. [Laughter] I give the possibility to ask questions of our guests, American journalists.

Denuclearization Agreement

Q. Wolf Blitzer, of CNN. What exactly must your Parliament now do to ratify this agreement? And exactly how long will it take for Ukraine to become a nonnuclear nation?

President Kravchuk. You know, the philosophers say that everything changes in the world, even you cannot step in the same river twice. So I hope that our Parliament becomes cleverer in the course of its life and it sees the reality of the present days, and it will understand the essence of these relations and the wish of the three states. And when they will understand it, they will support the implementation of these agreements.

Q. Ukraine sympathizes with you and your wife, Hillary, but anyhow, there's a question here. There is a decision of the Parliament, the Ukrainian Parliament, on disarmament. According to mass media, you told that there will be a financial technological assistance. But your words were that you will render technical assistance. Is that true?

President Clinton. Well, I will attempt to answer the question as I understand it. First of all, Ukraine is already due some compensation for the tactical nuclear weapons it has already dismantled. And I have discussed with the President the quickest way of reaching an agreement on how much is due and how it can be delivered.

Secondly, under the so-called Nunn-Lugar bill, Ukraine is entitled to a substantial amount of money to help to dismantle the offensive strategic nuclear weapons, which can be used for not only dismantling the weapons but for some of the defense conversion needs of Ukraine as well.

But over and above that, the United States is committed to rendering economic assistance to Ukraine to help start new enterprises, to help fund privatization, and to help make this painful transition to a new economy. And we are further committed to helping convince other nations and the international financial institutions to help as well.

Finally, as part of our agreement, of course, Ukraine will be compensated for the highly enriched uranium that is a part of nuclear weapons. And that is a strictly commercial arrangement because that uranium can be turned into fuel rods for commercial purposes and electric power plants.

Whitewater Development Corp.

Q. Thank you, and happy birthday, President Kravchuk. President Clinton, as President of the United States you do not have the luxury at home to ignore events overseas, and perhaps the reverse is true. Former President Carter was one today who came out and suggested the time had come for an independent counsel to take a look at the Morgan Guaranty savings and loan situation. He and many other Democrats are looking to you for an indication of whether that's appropriate. Is it?

President Clinton. I have nothing to say about that on this trip except that most of them have been denied the facts that are already in the public record before they made their comment, largely as a result of the way this thing has been discussed. But I have nothing else to say about that.

President Kravchuk. Thank you for your greetings, and I'd like to note that there is a gentleman sitting over here who mentioned the wife of Mr. President, Hillary. So once again, I would like to give the words to a woman. And I hope I'll receive another portion of greetings.

Denuclearization Agreement

Q. Sometimes there are financial programs, but they lack implementors. Where's the guarantee that these programs will be implemented?

President Kravchuk. If this is a question to me, I would answer that the guarantees are inside the Ukraine, the way we work, the way they will have the attitude to us. So these are the guarantees.

President Clinton. If I might add just one point. Sometimes in discussions with nations, financial guarantees do not materialize because they are dependent on decisions made by other parties, usually the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund. In this case, every part of our agreement depends only upon the three Presidents and their Governments to keep their word. The first thing I said to President Kravchuk tonight is that I would do everything I could to make sure that all three of us did exactly what was in the agreement. And I am confident that we will.

President Kravchuk. I'm sorry, as a press secretary I would ask for some more questions, but here is a protocol, so the last question, please.

Russia and NATO

Q. Mr. President, Mr. President Clinton, you mentioned the PFP, the Partnership For Peace. And there are some people who say that Russia has been using a type of passive imperialism in order to keep countries of Eastern Europe and Central Europe out of NATO for the time being. Do you—by threatening destabilization. Do you agree with that? And I would be very interested in what President Kravchuk has to say.

President Clinton. No, I don't. The short answer to the question is, I do not agree with that, although President Yeltsin himself has expressed reservations about NATO membership for other countries if Russia is excluded. You know, he has expressed an interest in being a member himself.

The leaders of NATO concluded that they should not offer membership at this time to any country because they weren't sure any country was ready to assume the responsibilities of membership and because they didn't want to exclude anyone else.

The Partnership For Peace offers a genuine concrete military security cooperation, joint planning, joint training, joint operations to all the states of the former Soviet Union and to all of the members of what was the Warsaw Pact. And we are genuinely interested in reaching out to all these nations.

I can assure you that no one has a veto over NATO membership. It is anticipated that the Partnership For Peace will lead to NATO membership for many of those who participate in the Partnership who want to go through and assume the responsibilities of membership, ultimately.

That's how I see it. President Yeltsin only said that he didn't, at this time, want another line drawn across Europe. He wanted to have a chance to be part of an integrated European security network in which every nation would have to respect the territorial boundaries of every other state.

President Kravchuk. Mr. President Clinton, and I'll give one more question to the Ukrainian side.

Denuclearization Agreement

Q. The question to President Clinton: What assurances of security will the United States give and Russia give to Ukraine after it will have the nonnuclear status?

President Clinton. Well, first of all, what goes with the Non-Proliferation Treaty adherence is the absolute security that no one who has nuclear weapons will ever use them against any nation that is part of the NPT. That is the first security.

But let me make two other points, which I think are more important, at least as a practical matter, to Ukraine's security. Number one, the Partnership For Peace gives Ukraine the opportunity to work with the military forces of the United States and all of NATO in planning and working together and in establishing patterns of conduct which clearly will increase the security of this nation.

Second, and perhaps even more important, Ukraine's decision to become a nonnuclear state opens the possibility of receiving significant economic assistance, not just from the United States but from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the G-7 nations, and other nations who understand the greatness of this nation, its strategic importance and its economic potential. And I believe that in the 21st century, it will be difficult for any nation to be secure unless it is economically strong.

So perhaps that is the most important thing of all, the whole range of possibilities that are now open to Ukraine because of this courageous decision by the President.

President Kravchuk. Ladies and gentlemen, we would compensate what we haven't time to do, when we'll be implementing our program. And you will be compensated with an objective description of the role and the processes in Ukraine. And now the best thing for us to do is to wish Mr. President Clinton bon voyage.

President Clinton. Let me say this in closing: If he did not have such a very important job, I would invite President Kravchuk to the United States to run my press conferences. [Laughter]

NOTE: The President's 43d news conference began at 9:50 p.m. at Boryspil Airport. President Kravchuk spoke in Ukrainian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

William J. Clinton, The President's News Conference With President Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine in Kiev Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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