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Remarks Of The President During A Press Conference With President Yeltsin

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Office of the Press Secretary
(Moscow, Russia)

For Immediate Release September 2, 1998


Catherine Hall
The Kremlin
Moscow, Russia

1:17 P.M. (L)

PRESIDENT YELTSIN: Distinguished ladies andgentlemen, the official visit of the President of the UnitedStates Bill Clinton to Russia is coming to an end. We have hadintensive, productive negotiations. We have managed to discuss awide range of topical issues. I would like to emphasize theexchanges were sincere and keen. The dialogue was marked by thespirit of mutual understanding.

Responsibility of our two countries for maintainingand strengthening peace and stability is obvious. That is why wehave paid special attention to the discussion of the entirespectrum of security issues in the world.

The discussion has included the implementation ofinternational and bilateral treaties and agreements concerningthe weapons of mass destruction, as well as the elaboration ofcommon approaches to dealing with the threat of nuclear weaponsproliferation and their delivery means.

Unfortunately, this is not the only major task thehumanity struggles to resolve. That is why President Clinton andI have discussed global threats and challenges. Our positions onthis issue have coincided and this closeness of approaches isreflected in the joint statement on common security changes onthe threshold of the 21st century. I consider this document tobe a significant step towards strengthening strategic partnershipbetween Russia and the United States.

We have also had substantial talks on the mosttopical international issues. And there are quite a few suchissues. I'll put it frankly; here our approaches have not alwayscompletely coincided. Russia rejects the use of power methods asa matter of principle. Conflicts of today have no militarysolutions, be it in Kosovo or around Iraq or Afghanistan orothers. Also we do not accept the NATO centrism idea for the newEuropean security architecture. Nevertheless, our talks havebeen conducive to greater mutual understanding on these issues.

Of course, we could not do without discussingeconomy problems. Current dimensions of our economic relationsshould be brought up to a qualitatively new level. We shall haveto suffer through much blood, sweat, and tears before new formsof business cooperation worthy of our two great powers are found,reforms that would be able to withstand volatile circumstances.There exist quite a few opportunities for this. These arementioned in our joint statement on economic issues.

In conclusion, I would like to say -- and I hopeBill will agree with me -- the summit was a success. Thismeeting, the 15th in a row, confirmed once again when Presidentsof Russia and the United States join their efforts, no issue istwo big for them.

Thank you for your kind attention.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you very much, Mr.President, for your hospitality and for giving Hillary and me andour team the chance to come to Moscow again.

Over the past five years I have been in this great,historic city in times of bright hope and times of uncertainty.But throughout, I have witnessed the remarkable transformation ofthis nation to democracy and to a more open economy. We all knowthat this meeting comes at a challenging time for the Russianpeople. But I don't believe anyone could ever have doubted thatthere would be obstacles on Russia's road to a vibrant economyand a strong democracy. I don't -- also believe that anyone canseriously doubt the determination of the Russianpeople to build a brighter, better, stronger future.

Russia is important to America. Our economies areconnected; we share values, interests and friendship. We sharesecurity interests and heavy security responsibilities. In ourdiscussions, President Yeltsin and I spoke about Russia's optionsfor stabilizing its economy and restoring confidence. Ireaffirmed America's strong view that Russia can move beyondtoday's crisis and create growth and good jobs, but only if itcarries forward with its transformation, with a strong and fairtax system, greater rule of law, dealing forthrightly withfinancial institutions, having regulation that protects againstabuses, and yes, developing an appropriate safety net for peoplewho are hurt during times of change.

President Yeltsin reaffirmed his commitment toreform, and I believe that is the right commitment. The answerto the present difficulties is to finish the job that has beenbegun, not to stop it in mid-stream or to reverse course. Thisis a view I will reaffirm when I meet today with leaders of theDuma and the Federation Council. America and the internationalcommunity are, I am convinced, ready to offer further assistanceif Russia stays with the path of reform.

We discussed also at length common securityconcerns. We've reached an important agreement to increase thesafety of all our people, an arrangement under which ourcountries will give each other continuous information onworldwide launches of ballistic missiles or space-launchedvehicles detected by our respective early warning systems. Thiswill reduce the possibility of nuclear war by mistake oraccident, and give us information about missile activity by othercountries.

We've also agreed to remove from each of our nuclearweapons program approximately 50 tons of plutonium -- enough tomake literally thousands of nuclear devices. Once converted,this plutonium can never again be used to make weapons thatbecome lethal in the wrong hands. Our experts will begin meetingright away to finalize an implementation plan by the end of thisyear.

I'd like to say in passing, I'm very grateful forthe support this initiative received in our Congress. We havefour members of Congress here with us today, and I especiallythank Senator Domenici for his interest in this issue.

Next let me say I look forward to, and hope verymuch that the Russian Duma will approve START II so that we cannegotiate a START III agreement that would cut our levels ofarsenals down to one-fifth of Cold War levels. I think thatwould be good for our mutual security and good for the Russianeconomy.

In recent months Russia has taken important steps totighten its export controls on weapons of mass destruction andthe missiles to deliver them, and to penalize offenders. Thisweek Russia barred three companies from transactions with Iran.Today we agreed to intensify our cooperation by creating sevenworking groups on export controls to further strengthen Russia'sability to halt the spread of dangerous weapons. Also, werenewed our commitment to persuade India and Pakistan to reversetheir arms race. And we pledged to accelerate internationalnegotiations to establish a tough inspection regime of theBiological Weapons Convention. I don't believe it's possible tooverstate the importance of this initiative for the next 20years.

Russia and the United States share a commitment tocombat terrorism. We agree that there is no possiblejustification for terrorism; it is murder, plain and simple.Today, we instructed our Foreign Ministers to develop a plan todeepen our cooperation against this danger to our own people andto innocent people around the world. We agreed on the importanceof further strengthening the partnership between NATO and Russiathrough practical cooperation. We plan to accelerate talks onadapting the treaty that limits conventional military forces inEurope, the CFE, to reflect changes in Europe since the treatywas signed in 1990, with an aim to complete an adapted treaty bythe 1999 summit of the OSCE.

Finally, we discussed our common foreign policyagenda, including, first and foremost, the need to continue tostrengthen the peace in Bosnia and to look for a peacefulsolution in Kosovo, where the humanitarian situation is now quitegrave. We agreed that the Serbian government must stop allrepressive actions against civilian populations, allow relieforganizations immediate and full access to those in need, andpursue an interim settlement.

President Yeltsin and I also agreed that Iraq mustcomply fully with all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutionsimposed after the Gulf War, and in particular, must agree toallow the international weapons inspectors to again pursue theirmission without obstruction or delay. Far from advancing the daysanctions are lifted, Iraq's most recent efforts to undermine theinspectors will perpetuate sanctions, prevent Iraq from acquiringthe resources it needs to rebuild its military, and keep Iraq'seconomy under tight international control.

On energy and the environment, we reiterated ourcommitment to the emissions reductions targets and themarket-based mechanisms established at Kyoto to slow thedangerous process of global warming. We agreed that multiplepipeline routes were essential to bring energy from the Caspianto international markets and to advance our common security andcommercial interests.

This has been a full agenda, a productive summit.Again, let me say that I have great confidence that the people ofthis great nation can move through this present difficult momentto continue and complete the astonishing process ofdemocratization and modernization that I have been privileged towitness at close hand over the last five and a half years.

Again, Mr. President, thank you for yourhospitality. And I suppose we should answer a few questions.

PRESIDENT YELTSIN: Now we will have a Q&A session,so the work will proceed in the way that the U.S. and Russianpress corps could ask questions in turn. Using the privilege ofthe host, I will give the floor to the representatives of ORTtelevision.

Q A question to both Presidents. Prior tomeeting, many experts, politicians, and public at large believedthat your meeting is futile. Nobody needs it. No results willbe produced due to the known difficulties both in Russia andAmerica. I understand now you're trying to make the case it'sthe other way around, the situation is different. So what wasthe psychological atmosphere to your talks, bearing in mind thisdisbelief in the success, this skeptical approach?

And, second, are we, Russia and U.S., partners rightnow, or still contenders? And today, bidding farewell, BorisYeltsin and Bill Clinton, are they still friends? Thank you.

PRESIDENT YELTSIN: I will start with your lastquestion. Yes, we stay friends and the atmosphere since thebeginning of the talks until the end was a friendly one. I wouldsay it was very considerate and there were no discontents duringthe talks that we had.

And this brings my conclusion that since we did nothave any differences, in my opinion, there will be no differencesalso in our activities, in what we do bilaterally. Of course,that goes without saying. This is very logical.

Now, in response to those skeptical observers whoalleged, and continue to do so, that they don't believe, I'vebeen always saying, no, on the contrary -- we need to repeat it-- we do believe we do that in order to remove the tension, andeach time, having those meetings, we've been able to do somethingto alleviate the tension. This is what really matters. We'vebeen doing that, removing that tension. And this time again wehave removed part of the tension one more time.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, first of all, I thinkit's important to answer your question of what happened from thepoint of view of the Russian people and then from the point ofview of the American people.

You ask if we're still friends. The answer to thatis, yes. You ask if Russia and the United States have apartnership. I think the plain answer to that is, yes, eventhough we don't always agree on every issue. I can tell you frommy point of view this was a successful meeting on the nationalsecurity issues, because I think establishing this early warninginformation sharing is important and I know that the destructionof this huge volume of plutonium is important. And it also mightbe important to the Russian economy. It can be an plus as wellas a national security plus.

Now, on the domestic economic issues, from the pointof view of America, it was important to me to come here just tosay to the President and to his team and to the Duma leaders Iwill see later and the Federation Council leaders that I knowthis is a difficult time, but there is no shortcut to developinga system that will have the confidence of investors around theworld. These are not American rules or anybody else's rules.These are -- in a global economy, you have to be able to getmoney in from outside your country and keep the money in yourcountry invested in your country.

And if the reform process can be completed, then Ifor one would be strongly supportive of greater assistance toRussia from the United States and the other big economic powers,because I think we have a very strong vested interest in seeingan economically successful Russia that is a full partner acrossthe whole range of issues in the world. I also think it's goodfor preserving Russia's democracy and freedom.

So, from my point of view, saying that we supportreform and saying we will support those who continue it was initself a reason to come.

From Russia's point of view, I think knowing thatthe United States and others want to back this process and willdo so. And at least having someone else say there is a light atthe end of this tunnel, there is an end to this process and itcould come quickly if these laws are passed in the Duma and thethings that the President has asked for already are done and thedecisions are made well, I think that is worth something apartfrom the specific agreements that we have made.

But my answer to you is that in foreign policy andsecurity, this meeting produced something. Whether it producesreal economic benefits for the people of Russia depends upon whathappens now in Russia. But at least everyone knows that we'reprepared to do our part and to support this process.

PRESIDENT YELTSIN: I would like to add just for onesecond, please, just two words here. We have put it on paper.We have decided to set up on the territory of Russia a jointcenter of control over the missile launches. For the first timethis has been done. This is exceptionally important.

Q President Yeltsin, yesterday President Clintonspoke of the painful steps that Russia will have to take and theneed to play by the rules of international economics. Whatdifficult steps are you prepared to take? And are you committedto play by these rules of international economics?

And to President Clinton, the world stock marketseems very fragile right now. How can the United Stateswithstand all these outside pressures?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Do you want me to go first?

I think the answer to your question about what wecan do that's best for our economy is really twofold. The firstthing we have to do is to do our very best to make the rightdecisions at home. You know, we have to stay with the path ofdiscipline that has brought us this far in the last five and ahalf years, and we have to make the investments and decisionsthat we know will produce growth over the long run for theAmerican economy. Whether it's in education, or science andtechnology, we have to do the things that send the signal that weunderstand how the world economy works and we intend to do wellin it. But the most important thing is sticking with soundeconomic policy.

Now, in addition to that, it is important that moreand more Americans, without regard to party, understand that weare in a global economy and it's been very good to the UnitedStates over the last five and half years -- about 30 percent ofour growth has come from exports -- but that we at thisparticular moment in history, because of our relative economicstrength have an extra obligation to try to build a system forthe 21st century where every person in every country who iswilling to work hard has a chance to get a just reward for it.

And that means that we have to -- in my opinion,that means that we have to continue to contribute our fair shareto the International Monetary Fund. It means that we have to doeverything we can to support our friends in Russia who believethat we should continue to reform. It means that SecretaryRubin's upcoming meeting with the Finance Minister of Japan,former Prime Minister Miyazawa, is profoundly important. UnlessJapan begins to grow again, it's going to be difficult for Russiaand other countries to do what they need to do. It means, inshort, that America must maintain a leadership role of activeinvolvement in trying to build an economic system that rewardspeople who do the right thing. And that's in our best interest.

So I think this is a terribly important thing. Thevolatility in the world markets, including in our stock market, Ithink is to be expected under these circumstances. The rightthing to do is to try to restore growth in the economies of theworld where there isn't enough growth now, and to continuallyexamine whether the institutions we have for dealing withproblems are adequate to meet the challenges of today andtomorrow. And we are aggressively involved in both thoseactivities.

PRESIDENT YELTSIN: Naturally, we face problemsbasically of our own. We have not been able to do many thingsover the past time when we started our reforms. And still weneed to conclude our reforms, to bring them to completion, andconsequently, to get results.

We are not saying that we count solely on thesupport from outside -- no. One more time I will reiterate thisno. So let your mass media not spread the word to the effectthat allegedly we would count solely on the support from theWest. And to this end, we have gathered together here by nomeans. What we need from the United States is political supportto the effect that the United States is in favor of reforms inRussia. This is what we really need, and then all the investorswho would like to come to the Russian reformed market will do so,will come with their investments. And this is what we reallyneed now. This is what is lacking -- investments. This is firstand foremost.

Certainly, we ought to fight our expenditurespattern and mismanagement. This is the second issue which, tous, is one of the most important issues. And we have beenadopting accordingly the measures which need to be taken -- likewe have adopted the program of stabilization measures; in otherwords, those measures which will result in stabilization of ourreforms. Stabilization -- I believe that such measures and sucha program will work, promptly, over the coming two years it willproduce results.

Q I'd like to pose a question to the President ofthe United States, Mr. Clinton. One gets the impression thatsome politicians in the United States right now like to somehowfrighten Russia. On the other hand, we are aware of the factthat you are never afraid of Russia, yourself, and you dideverything possible so that people in the U.S. would not beafraid of Russia. Now, on the results of these talks, tell usplease your belief -- what is the basis of your belief that ourcountry will get back to its feet and that Russian-U.S. relationshave promising prospects? Thank you.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, my belief thatRussian-U.S. relations have promising prospects has beensupported by the agreements we have made in the security andforeign policy areas. My belief that Russia will get back on itsfeet is based on my observation that in Russian history everytime outsiders counted the Russian people out, they turned out tobe wrong. And this is a very big challenge, but, I mean, acountry that rebuffed Napoleon and Hitler can surely adjust tothe realities of the global marketplace.

Now, what has to be done? The reason I wanted tocome here -- and, to be fair, let me back up and say, I don'tthink there are many people in America who are afraid of Russiaanymore. I think there are some people in America who questionwhether I should come at this moment of great economic andpolitical tension for the country. But I don't think it'sbecause they want something bad to happen to Russia. I think, byand large, the American people wish Russia well and want thingsto go well for Russia, and like the fact that we are partners inBosnia and that we've reduced our nuclear arsenals so much andthat we've reduced our deficit establishment and that we've foundother ways to cooperate in space, for example. I think mostAmericans like this very, very much.

So let me go back to the economic question. Ibelieve whether you succeed and how long it takes you to succeedin restoring real growth to the Russian economy depends uponPresident Yeltsin's ability to persuade the Duma to support hisformation of a government which will pursue a path of reform witha genuine sensitivity to the personal dislocation of the peoplewho have been hurt. And here's where I think the World Bank andother institutions can come in and perhaps help deal with some ofthe fallout, if you will, of the reform process.

But I think if other political forces in Russia tryto force the President to abandon reform in midstream or evenreverse it, what I think will happen is even less money will comeinto Russia, and even more economic hardship will result. Ibelieve that because that is, it seems to me, the unwaveringexperience of every other country.

That does not mean you should not have a socialsafety net. It does not mean you have to make the same domesticdecisions that the United States or Great Britain or France orSweden or any other country has made. You have to form your ownrelationship with this new economic reality. But I still believethat unless there is a manifest commitment to reform, the economywill not get better.

So I support President Yeltsin's commitment in thatregard. And I think -- my conviction that it will get better isbased on my reading of your history. How long it will take toget better depends a lot more on you and what happens here thananything else we outsiders can do, although if there is a clearmovement toward reform, I'll do everything I can to accelerateoutside support of all kinds.

Q Sir, you were just speaking of the challengesthat we face as a nation. And one is the reaction since youradmission of a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky -- given you anycause for concern that you may not be as effective as you shouldbe in leading the country?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, I've actually been quiteheartened by the reaction of the American people and leadersthroughout the world about it. I have acknowledged that I made amistake, said that I regretted it, asked to be forgiven, spent alot of very valuable time with my family in the last couple ofweeks and said I was going back to work. I believe that's whatthe American people want me to do, and based on my conversationswith leaders around the world, I think that's what they want meto do, and that is what I intend to do.

As you can see from what we're discussing here,there are very large issues that will affect the future of theAmerican people in the short run and over the long run. Thereare large issues that have to be dealt with now in the world andat home. And so I have been quite encouraged by what I think themessage from the American people has been and what I know of themessage from leaders around the world has been. And I'm going todo my best to continue to go through this personal process in anappropriate way, but to do my job, to do the job I was hired todo. And I think it very much needs to be done right now.

Q The question has to do with the relationshipbetween Russia and NATO. I understand you had time to discussthis issue with the U.S. President. It's known that the nextNATO summit will take place in Washington, where importantdecisions will be taken regarding the European securityarchitecture. How do you think this relation should evolve inthe future?

PRESIDENT YELTSIN: Yes, we have discussed withPresident Clinton the question concerning the relationshipbetween Russia and NATO. We're not running away from theposition which has been that we are against NATO expandingeastward. We believe this is a blunder, a big mistake, and oneday this will be a historic error.

Therefore, at this point in time, what wenecessarily would like to do is to improve relations so thatthere be no confrontation. Therefore, we have signed anagreement between Russia and NATO. And in accordance with thatagreement we want to do our job. However, no way shall we allowanybody to transgress that agreement, bypass that agreement, or,generally speaking, put aside it. No, this will not happen.

And, naturally, we shall participate in the Warsawmeeting and there we shall very closely follow the vector of NATOand what they intend to do in regards to, so to say, deployingtheir forces and their power.

We still are in favor of being cautious with regardsto NATO. We don't have any intentions to move towards the West,ourselves; we don't intend to create additional forces. We'renot doing that, and we're not planning to do that. This is whatreally matters.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I would like to say one wordabout that. We obviously, President Yeltsin and I, have adisagreement about whether it was appropriate for NATO to take onnew members or not. But I think there is a larger reality herewhere we are in agreement, and I would like to emphasize it.

Russia has made historic commitments in the last fewyears to essentially redefine its greatness, not in terms of theterritorial dominance of its neighbors, but instead, ofconstructive leadership in the region and in the world. Theexpansion of NATO, therefore, should be seen primarily as nationsinterested in working together to deal with common securityproblems, not to be ready to repel expected invasions.

And if you look at what the NATO members will bediscussing next year, they're talking about how they can dealwith regional security challenges, like in Bosnia and Kosovo --both of which -- one of which we would never -- we would not havesolved the Bosnia War, or ended it, had it not been for theleadership of Russia and the partnership between NATO and Russia.It simply would not have happened in the way it did, in a waythat reinforced harmony in the region. Similarly, we have got towork together in Kosovo to prevent another Bosnia from occurring.

If we have problems with terrorism or with thespread of chemical or biological weapons, they will be problemswe all have in common. That's why you have two dozen nationsthat are not NATO members a part of our Partnership for Peace,because they know that nation states in the future are going tohave common security problems and they will be stronger if theywork together.

And that's why I was especially proud of the charterthat Russia and NATO signed. I intend to honor it. I intend tobuild on it. And I hope that within a few years we'll see thatthis partnership is a good thing and continues to be a good thingand brings us closer together rather than driving us apart.

Q President Yeltsin, do you see any circumstancein which you could accept someone other than Mr. Chernomyrdin tobe your Prime Minister? And if you can't accept that, does thatmean you're prepared to dissolve the Duma if they refuse toconfirm him?

And, Mr. President, another Lewinsky question. Youknow, there have been some who have expressed disappointment thatyou didn't offer a formal apology the other night when you spoketo the American people. Are you -- do you feel you need to offeran apology? And, in retrospect now, with some distance, do youhave any feeling that perhaps the tone of your speech wassomething that didn't quite convey the feelings that you have--particularly your comments in regard to Mr. Starr?

PRESIDENT YELTSIN: Well, I must say, we willwitness quite a few events for us to be able to achieve all thoseresults. That's all.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: That's my answer, too. That waspretty good. (Laughter.)

Well, to your second question, I think I can almostreiterate what I said in response to the first question. I thinkthe question of the tone of the speech and people's reaction toit is really a function of -- I can't comment on that. I read itthe other day again, and I thought it was clear that I wasexpressing my profound regret to all who were hurt and to all whowere involved, and my desire not to see anymore people hurt bythis process and caught up in it. And I was commenting that itseemed to be something that most reasonable people would thinkhad consumed a disproportionate amount of America's time, money,and resources, and attention, and now continued to involve moreand more people. And that's what I tried to say.

And all I wanted to say was I believe it's time forus to now go back to the work of the country, and give the peopletheir government back, and talk about and think about and work onthings that will affect the American people today and in thefuture. That's all I meant to say, and that's what I believe,and that's what I intend to do.

PRESIDENT YELTSIN: Thank you for your kindattention.

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Speeches on September 2nd

Clinton Speaks to Leaders of the Russian Duma and Regional Leaders

Press Conference With President Yeltsin