Text Of Clinton-Yeltsin News Conference
Sept. 1, 1998
U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin hold a joint news conference at the Kremlin Wednesday, following the end of the two-day summit in Moscow between the two leaders.
(news conference in progress)
YELTSIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): ... we (OFF-MIKE) exchange. We were also discussing the issues in the spirit of mutual understanding, responsibilities of our states to support and back the world, the peace in the world, is doubtless.
This is why we have paid the due heed and specialists (ph) and into the discussion of the whole range of the issues of safety in the world. This includes the international (OFF-MIKE) in the field of the mass annihilation weapons, as well as the militarily common approaches to the threat of the nuclear weapon dissemination, as well as deliveries of the nuclear weapons.
Unfortunately, this is not the only full-scale task which mankind has been trying to solve. This is why we -- myself and the president of the United States, Clinton -- have discussed the problem of the global threats and challenges. Our stands and positions coincide.
These common approaches have been reflected in our joint agreement on our approach to the challenges of and to safety on the threshold of the 21st century.
I do believe the document is a very major and important step in strengthening of the positions of the United States, as well as that of Russia.
We have also discussed the most burning issues -- international issues. There have been accumulated a lot of international issues. Our approaches to these issues mostly, but not always, do coincide.
Basically, Russia is against any application of force. Today's issues and conflicts should not be resolved in a military way, be that Kosovo, Iraq or Afghanistan, as well as others. We do not believe that NATO-centrism, as we call it, should be accepted in terms of strengthening of the European security.
Nevertheless, our talks did contribute to a higher level of understanding on these issues.
Certainly, we did discuss the economic problems. The present parameters of our economic relationships are to be on a higher qualitative level.
YELTSIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We have to shed a lot of tears, sweat a lot before we actually find the real methods and steps to be taken which would be worthy of our two great powers.
These new steps should not be subject to the changing world circumstances. We do have potentials for that, which have been reflected in our joint agreement on economic issues.
To complete my talk, I'd like to say -- and I hope Bill would agree with me -- the visit has been successful -- the meeting. And this is the 15th meeting we've had. It's the 15th meeting.
It confirms again that when the presidents of Russia and of the United States join their efforts, they are entitled to solve any problem.
Thank you for your attention.
CLINTON: Thank you very much, Mr. President, for your hospitality and for giving Hillary and me and our 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 of this nation to democracy, to a more open economy.
CLINTON: We all know that this meeting comes at a challenging time for the Russian people, but I don't believe anyone could ever have doubted that there would be obstacles on Russia's road to a vibrant economy and a strong democracy.
I don't also believe that anyone can seriously doubt the determination of the Russian people to build a brighter, better, stronger future.
Russia is important to America. Our economies are connected. We share values, interests and friendship. We share security interests and heavy security responsibilities.
In our discussions, President Yeltsin and I spoke about Russia's options for stabilizing its economy and restoring confidence.
I reaffirmed America's strong view that Russia can move beyond today's crisis and create growth and good jobs, but only if it carries forward with its transformation -- with a strong and fair tax system; greater rule of law; dealing forthrightly with financial institutions; having regulations that protect against abuses; and yes, developing an appropriate safety net for people who are hurt during times of change.
President Yeltsin reaffirmed his commitment to reform. And I believe that is the right commitment.
The answer to the present difficulties is to finish the job that has been begun, not to stop it in midstream or to reverse course. This is a view that I will reaffirm when I meet today with leaders of the Duma and the Federation Council.
America and the international community are -- I am convinced -- ready to offer assistance if Russia stays with the path of reform.
CLINTON: We discussed also, at length, common security concerns. We reached an important agreement to increase the safety of all our people, an arrangement under which our countries will give each other continuous information on worldwide launches of ballistic missiles or space-launch vehicle detected by our respective early warning systems.
This will reduce the possibility of nuclear war by mistake or accident, and give us information about missile activity by other countries.
We've also agreed to remove from each of our nuclear weapons programs approximately 50 tons of plutonium, enough to make literally thousands of nuclear devices. Once converted, this plutonium can never again be used to make weapons or become lethal in the wrong hands.
Our experts will begin meeting right away to finalize an implementation plan by the end of this year.
I'd like to say in passing I'm very grateful for the support this initiative has received in our Congress. We have four members of Congress here with us today, and I especially thank Senator Domenici for his interest in this issue.
Next, let me say I look forward to, and hope very much, that the Russian Duma will approve START II so that we can negotiate a START III agreement that would cut our levels of arsenals down to one-fifth of Cold War levels.
I think that would be good for our mutual security and good for the Russian economy.
In recent months, Russia has taken important steps to tighten its export controls on weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them, and to penalize offenders.
CLINTON: This week, Russia barred three companies from transactions with Iran. Today, we agreed to intensify our cooperation by creating seven working groups on export controls to further strengthen Russia's ability to halt the spread of dangerous weapons. Also, we renewed our commitment to persuade India and Pakistan to reverse their arms race, and we pledged to accelerate international negotiation to establish a tough inspection machine for the Biological Weapons Convention.
I don't believe it's possible to overstate the importance of this initiative for the next 20 years.
Russia and the United States share a commitment to combat terrorism. We agree that there is no possible justification for terrorism. It is murder plain and simple.
Today we instructed our foreign ministers to develop a plan to deepen our cooperation against this danger to our own people and to innocent people around the world.
We agreed on the importance of further strengthening the partnership between NATO and Russia through practical cooperation. We plan to accelerate talks on adapting the treaty that limits conventional military forces in Europe, the CFE, to reflect changes in Europe since the treaty was signed in 1990 with an aim to complete and adapt the treaty by the 1999 summit of the OSCE.
Finally, we discussed our common foreign policy agenda -- including first and foremost the need to continue to strengthen the peace in Bosnia, and to look for a peaceful solution in Kosovo, where the humanitarian situation is now quite grave.
We agreed that the Serbian government must stop all repressive actions against civilian populations, allow the relief organizations immediate and full access to those in need, and pursue an interim settlement.
President Yeltsin and I also agree that Iraq must comply fully with all relevant UN Security Council resolutions imposed after the Gulf War, and in particular, must agree to allow the international weapons inspectors to again pursue their mission without obstruction or delay.
CLINTON: Far from advancing the day sanctions are lifted, Iraq's most recent efforts to undermine the inspectors will perpetuate sanctions, prevent Iraq from acquiring the resources it needs to rebuild its military and keep Iraq's economy under tight international control.
On energy and the environment, we reiterated our commitment to the emissions reductions targets and the market-based mechanisms established at Kyoto to slow the dangerous process of global warming.
We agreed that multiple pipeline routes are essential to bring energy from the Caspian to international markets and to advance our common security and commercial interests.
This has been a full agenda, a productive summit.
Again, let me say that I have great confidence that the people of this great nation can move through this present difficult moment to continue and complete the astonishing process of democratization and modernization that I have been privileged to witness at close hand over the last 5 1/2 years.
Again, Mr. President, thank you for your hospitality. And I suppose we should answer a few questions.
(UNKNOWN) (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Let's switch over to questions. The way we'll work is as follows. The U.S. press and the Russian press should ask questions in turn. As we are hosts, let the -- ORT television will ask the first question.
QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): My first question is, before you met, a lot of politicians, a lot of public believed your meeting would not be needed, would be useless.
QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): It would not bring any results due to certain complexities in Russia and in the United States.
As far as I understand, you are trying to convince us in the reverse. The question is, what was the psychological atmosphere during your talks, considering this disbelief in your success, considering the skepticism that was all over?
Are we partners, the United States and Russia? Are we partners, or is Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin friends?
YELTSIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Let me start with the last remark you've made, or your last question you've made. We remain, indeed, friends. We -- the circumstances from the very beginning to the very end, the circumstances and situation -- atmosphere -- during our talks have all been friendly, very, I would say, sort of attentive.
And there have been no differences during the talks. We did not have any differences during the talks.
Resulting from this, one could conclude once we had no differences, that means there won't be any differences between -- in our actions as well -- in our bilateral actions. That's what I mean.
This is, of course, clear -- it's the result of what you said -- I -- to the skeptics that have declared and have been declaring and are declaring now that they do not trust I have been telling them the other way around; we need to repeat that we do trust. We are doing this to relieve the tension, and every time when we meet, we do relieve a certain part of tension. That's what we have been doing.
We do relieve the tension. We take it off. This time, as well, we have relieved part of the tension. We have taken it off.
CLINTON: Well, first of all, I think it's important to answer your question of what happened from the point of view of the Russian people and then from the point of view of the American people.
You ask if we're still friends. The answer to that is yes. You ask if we are -- if Russia and the United States have a partnership. I think the plain answer to that is yes, even though we don't always agree on every issue.
I can tell you from my point of view, this was a successful meeting on the national security issues because I think establishing this early warning information sharing is important and I know that the destruction of this huge volume of plutonium is important.
And it also might be important to the Russian economy.
CLINTON: It can be an economic plus as well as a national security plus.
Now, on the domestic economic issues, from the point of view of America, it was important for me to come here just to say to the president and to his team and to the Duma leaders I will see later and the Federation Council leaders that I know this is a difficult time, but there is no shortcut to developing a system that will have the confidence of world -- investors around the world.
These are not American rules or anybody else's rules. These are -- in a global economy, you have to be able to get money in from outside your country and keep the money in your country invested in your country.
And if the -- the reform process can be completed, then I for one would be strongly supportive of greater assistance to Russia from the United States and the other big economic powers -- and because I think we have a very strong vested interest in seeing this economically successful Russia and that is a full partner across the whole range of issues in the world.
I also think it's good for preserving Russia's democracy and freedom.
So from my point of view, saying that we support reform and saying we will support those who continue it was in itself a reason to come.
From Russia's point of view, I think knowing that the United States and others want to back this process and will do so; and at least having someone else say there is a light at the end of this tunnel, there is an end to this process and it could come quickly if these laws are passed in the Duma and the things that the president has asked for already are done and the decisions are made well, I think that is worth something apart from the specific agreements that we have made.
CLINTON: But my answer to you is that, in foreign policy and security, this meeting produced something. Whether it produces real economic benefits for the people of Russia depends upon what happens now in Russia. But at least everyone knows that we're prepared to do our part and to support this process.
QUESTION: According to our custom, our questions go to...
YELTSIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I would like to add -- just a moment -- two lines only.
We have written down -- we have decided to create, set up on the territory of Russia, the joint center to control the missile launches.
This is for the first time and this is super important.
QUESTION: Our tradition, questions from our wire services. Terrence Hunt of the Associated Press.
QUESTION: President Yeltsin, yesterday President Clinton spoke of the painful steps that Russia will have to take and the need to play by the rules of international economics. What difficult steps are you prepared to take? And are you committed to play by these rules of international economics?
And to President Clinton, the world stock markets seem very fragile right now. How can the United States withstand all these outside pressures?
CLINTON: Want me to go first?
I think the answer to your question about what we can do that's best for our economy is really two-fold.
CLINTON: The first thing we have to do is to do our very best to make the right decisions at home. You know, we have to stay with the path of discipline that has brought us this far in the last 5 1/2 years and we have to make the investments and decisions that we know will produce growth over the long-run for the American economy.
Now, whether it's in education or science and technology, we have to do the things that we -- that send a signal that we understand how the world economy works and we intend to well in it.
But the most important thing is sticking with sound economic policy.
Now, in addition to that, it is important that more and more Americans, without regard to party, understand that we are in a global economy and it's been very good to the United States over the last 5 1/2 years -- about 30 percent of our growth has come from exports -- but that we, at this particular moment in history, because of our relative economic strength, have an extra obligation to try to build a system for the 21st century where every person in every country who is willing to work hard has a chance to get a just reward for it.
And that means that we -- in my opinion -- that means that we have to continue to contribute our fair share to the International Monetary Fund. It means we have to do everything we can to support our friends in Russia who believe that we should continue to reform.
It means that Secretary Rubin's upcoming meeting with the finance minister of Japan, Former Prime Minister Miyazawa, is profoundly important.
CLINTON: Unless Japan begins to grow again, it's going to be difficult for Russia and other countries to do what they need to do. It means, in short, that America must maintain a leadership role of active involvement in trying to build an economic system that rewards people who do the right thing. And that's in our best interest.
So I think this is a terribly important thing. The volatility in the world markets, including in our stock market, I think is to be expected under these circumstances. The right thing to do is to try to restore growth in the economies of the world where there aren't -- where there isn't enough growth now and to continually examine whether the institutions we have for dealing with problems are adequate to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. And we are aggressively involved in both those activities.
YELTSIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Certainly, the issues -- the problems are mostly are our own specific problems. We have not managed to solve a lot of issues during the time we've (ph) had to start the reforms. Still, we have to complete the reforms, to accomplish them to the end. And correspondingly, we should receive from this the kickback.
We are not saying that we only rely on the aid of others -- no. And I'm saying that again, no. And let -- let your media not disseminate that we rely only on the aid of the West and for this.
YELTSIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): So to say we've come together here, no. In no way.
We need from the United States the political support, that the United States are supporting reforms in Russia. That's what we need. And then all the investors that are willing to enter to the Russia that has been reformed, they shall enter and bring their investments there.
We -- this is what's missing. We lack the investments. That's No. 1 certainly. We are to fight with our expenses to our lack of economy controls. This is the second issue which is for us one of the major issues. And the steps -- we are taking certain measures.
Now we've taken the program to stabilize -- and these are stabilizing measures: that is the measures that shall lead or result in the stabilization of reforms, stabilization.
YELTSIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I do believe that these steps and this program shall work. In the near two years, it shall work.
(UNKNOWN): Next question please from the Russian Interfax, please.
QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I would like to ask a question to the United States. Mr. Clinton, it looks -- or we are under the impression that some politicians in the United States now love to sort of intimidate Russia.
At the same time, we do know that you have never been afraid of Russia and you have done everything possible so the United States is not afraid of Russia. So the result -- in terms of the results of these talks, please tell us what is the basis of your trust, of your belief that our country shall rise, that the U.S.-Russian relationship shall have a good future? Thank you.
CLINTON: Well my -- my belief that Russian-U.S. relations have promising prospects has been supported by the agreements we have made in the security and foreign policy areas.
CLINTON: My belief that Russia will get back on its feet is based on my observation that in Russian history, every time outsiders counted the Russian people out they turned out to be wrong.
And this is a very big challenge. But I mean, a country that rebuffed Napoleon and Hitler can surely adjust to the realities of the global marketplace.
And so -- that's -- now, what has to be done? The reason I wanted to come here and -- to be fair, let me back up and say, I don't think there are many people in America who are afraid of Russia anymore. I think there are some people in America who questioned whether I should come at this moment of great economic and political tension for the country.
But I don't think it's because they -- they want something bad to happen to Russia. I think by and large the American people wish Russia well, and want things to go well for Russia, and like the fact that we are partners in Bosnia and that we've -- that we've reduced our nuclear arsenals so much and that we've reduced our defense establishment and that we've found other ways to cooperate -- in space, for example. I think most Americans like this very, very much.
So let me go back to the economic question. I believe whether you succeed and how long it takes you to succeed in restoring real growth to the Russian economy depends upon President Yeltsin's ability to persuade the Duma to support his formation of a government, which will pursue a path of reform with a genuine sensitivity to the personal dislocation of the people who have been hurt.
And here's where I think the World Bank and other institutions can come in and perhaps help deal with the -- some of the fallout, if you will, of the reform process.
CLINTON: But I think if other political forces in Russia try to force the president to abandon reform in mid-stream or even reverse it, what I think will happen is even less money will come into Russia and even more economic hardship will result.
I believe that because that is, it seems to me, the unwavering experience of every other country. That does not mean you should not have a social safety net. It does not mean you have to make the same domestic decisions that the United States or Great Britain or France or Sweden or any other country has made. You have to form your own relationship with th
But I still believe that, unless there is a manifest commitment to reform, the economy will not get better.
So I support President Yeltsin's commitment in that regard. And I think those -- my conviction that it will get better is based on my reading of your history. How long it will take to get better depends a lot more on you and what happens here than anything else we outsiders can do. Although, if there is a clear movement toward reform, I'll do everything I can to accelerate outside support of all kinds.
QUESTION: Sir, you were just speaking of the challenges that we face as a nation. And what has the reaction since your admission of a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky caused you any -- given you any cause for concern that you may not be as effective as you should be in leading the country?
CLINTON: No. I've actually been quite heartened by the reaction of the American people and leaders throughout the world about it.
CLINTON: You know, I have acknowledged that I made a mistake, said that I regretted it, asked to be forgiven, spent a lot of very valuable time with my family in the last couple of weeks, and said I was going back to work. I believe that's what the American people want me to do, and based on my conversations with leaders around the world, I think that's what they want me to 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 the American people in the short run and over the long run. There are large issues that have to be dealt with now in the world and at home.
And so I have been quite encouraged by what I think the message from the American people has been and what I know the message from leaders around the world has been. And I'm going to do my best to continue to go through this personal process in an appropriate way, but to do my job, to do the job I was hired to do, and I think that very much needs to be done right now.
QUESTION: The question to Boris Yeltsin -- Boris Nikolayevich. The question is about the relationships between Russia and NATO.
As I understand, you did manage to discuss the issue with the president of the United States. We know the next summit of NATO will take place in Washington. They probably will try to decide on the new infrastructure of the security system in Europe.
What's your attitude toward the future network or structure of NATO?
YELTSIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Yes, we did discuss that with the President Clinton. We did discuss the issue of relationships of Russia and NATO. We are not going away from the position we have taken.
YELTSIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We are against the fact that NATO has been broadened toward the east. We believe it's a major mistake, a great issue (ph), error, mistake -- which may sometime become a historical mistake.
Therefore, we now certainly are willing at this stage still to adjust the relationship so we don't confront each other.
Therefore, we did sign the agreement, Russia and NATO agreement. And we do want to work on the basis and according with this agreement.
But however, no way can there exist sustep over this agreement, that someone will go around this agreement, that someone generally would discard this agreement.
YELTSIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): No, this shall not take place. And of course, we shall participate at the Warsaw meeting, and there we will very attentively be watching the way NATO is moving, where it's moving and what are their intentions in terms of their developments so to say how will they develop their forces and their power.
We still are of the opinion one must be careful with NATO. We have no intentions to move toward the West. We have no intentions to set up and create additional forces. We have not been creating them and we have no intentions to create them.
That's the major -- the gist of everything.
CLINTON: I'd like to just say one word about that.
Now, we obviously, President Yeltsin and I have a disagreement about whether it was appropriate for NATO to take on new members or not. But I think there is a larger reality here where we are in agreement, and I would like to emphasize it.
Russia has made historic commitments in the last few years to essentially redefine its greatness.
CLINTON: Not in terms of the territorial dominance of its neighbors, but, instead, of constructive leadership in the region and in the world. The expansion of NATO, therefore, should be seen primarily as a nations interested in working together to deal with common security problems, not to be ready to expel inspected invasions.
And if you look at what the NATO members will be discussing next year, they are talking about they can deal with regional security challenges like Bosnia and Kosovo, both of which -- one of which we would never -- we would not have solved the Bosnian war or ended it, had it not been for the leadership of Russia and the partnership between NATO and Russia. It simply would not have happened in the way it did in a way that reinforced harmony in the region.
Similarly, we have got to work together in Kosovo to prevent another Bosnia from occurring. If we have problems with terrorism or with the spread of chemical or biological weapons, they will be problems we all have in common. And that's why you have two dozen nations that are not NATO members of part of our Partnership for Peace. Because they know that nation states in the future are going to have common security problems, and they will be stronger if they work together.
And that's why I was especially proud of the charter that Russia and NATO signed. I intend to honor it, I intend to build on it, and I hope that within a few years, we'll see that this partnership is a good thing and continues to be a good thing and brings us closer together rather than driving us apart.
QUESTION: President Yeltsin, do you see any circumstance in which you could accept someone other than Mr. Chernomyrdin to be your prime minister? And if you can't accept that, does that mean that you're prepared to dissolve the Duma if they refuse to confirm him?
And Mr. President, another Lewinsky question. You know, there have been some who have expressed disappointment that you didn't offer a formal apology the other night when you spoke to the American people.
QUESTION: Are you -- do you feel you need to offer an apology? And in retrospect now, with some distance, do you have any feeling that perhaps the tone of your speech was something that didn't quite convey the feelings that you had, particularly your comments in regard to Mr. Starr?
YELTSIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)?: Well, I must say...
... that there will be a reasonable number of events taking place in order for us to be able to attain these goals. That's it.
CLINTON: That ought to be my answer, too. That was pretty good.
CLINTON: Well, to your second question, let me -- I think I can almost reiterate what I said in response to the first question. I -- I think that the question of the tone of the speech and people's reaction to it is really a function of -- you know, I can't comment on that.
I read it the other day again, and I thought it was clear that I was expressing my profound regret to all who were hurt and to all who were involved, and my desire not to see anymore people hurt by this process and caught up in it.
And I was commenting that it -- it seemed to be something that most reasonable people would think had consumed a disproportionate amount of America's time, money and resources and attention, and was now -- continued to involve more and more people. And that's what I tried to say.
And all I wanted to say was I believe it's time for us to now go back to the work of the country and the people -- give the people their government back, and talk about and think about and work on things that will affect the American people today and in the future. That's all I meant to say, and that's what I believe, and that's what I intend to do.
Is that it? We're done?