THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ABOUT THE ELECTION IN RUSSIA The East Room
3:20 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Not very long ago, perhaps about, oh, an hour ago now, I had a conversation with President Yeltsin. I called to congratulate him on his outstanding victory in the election and to reassure him that the United States continues to support him as the elected leader of Russia and continues to look forward to our partnership and working to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons, to increase trade and commerce, and to promote democracy. This is a very, very good day, not only for the people of Russia, but for the people of the United States and all the people of the world.
I will say again, I know that there have been times in the last three months when many Americans, troubled with their own economic difficulties, have asked why their President would be so involved in trying to support the process of democracy in Russia. And I want to say again why that is so. They are a huge country with vast natural resources, with enormous opportunities for Americans to create jobs and to earn income and to reap the benefits of trade. They still have thousands of nuclear weapons which we must proceed to reduce and to dismantle so that the world will be a safer place and so that we will no longer have to spend our investment dollars that we need so desperately to rebuild our own economy on maintaining a state of extreme readiness and large numbers of warheads positioned against Russia.
And they are a great country that can be a symbol of democracy in a very troubled part of the world if democracy can stay alive there. They can prove that you can make three dramatic changes at once as they try to move from a communist system to a democracy, from a controlled economy to a market economy, and to a nation state away from being an imperial power with occupying armies.
This is a victory that belongs to the Russian people and to the courage of Boris Yeltsin, but I am very glad that the United States supported steadfastly the process of democracy in Russia. And I was glad to have a chance to talk to President Yeltsin. Needless to say, he was in a very good humor when I talked to him and he had a good sense of humor. And he offered the United States a great Russian bear hug for their support for democracy in Russia and, actually, in the other republics of the former Soviet Union as well.
So, it was a very good conversation, but I do want to say that this is a good day not just for the people of Russia but for the people of the United States as well.
Q Mr. President, will this election result help you sell your aid package to Congress?
THE PRESIDENT: I would hope so. I think it will validate the policy of the United States, which I might say has been by and large a completely bipartisan one. I want to say a special word of appreciation to all the living former presidents who supported the position I took here. President Carter and President Reagan and President Ford, President Nixon and President Bush, all of them. They made it easier for all of us to maintain a united American front. And I want to say a special word of thanks to all the leaders in Congress on both sides of the aisle who supported this policy.
I do believe that we have to think of this as a longterm effort. We have to be in this for the long run. But I think it will be immensely beneficial to the United States.
Q Mr. President, were you surprised by the results on all four questions?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I sort of thought he would win on all four. I thought there might be some difference -- and, as you know, there was a difference in the vote between the referendum on Yeltsin himself and his policies. But you would expect that in tough times. We've had a lot of western leaders reelected in the last three or four years in the midst of economic difficulties where the people got reelected and there was still debate about their policy, because people are having a tough time, and people in Russia are having a very tough time. I think the reaffirmation of his policies really is a tribute to the farsightedness of the Russian people. I think in the end what happened was they decided that as difficult as it is, that that is the only path they could take. And I think, again, it's a real tribute to his courage and to their common sense and ability to see the future. And it's very tough to do when you're going through what they're going through -- terrible inflation, unemployment, all those dislocating problems. It is a real tribute to their maturity and to their courage and foresight.
Q Mr. President, will you now break down your jobs stimulus bill and offer them one at a time on the meritorious projects?
THE PRESIDENT: Sarah, I thought they were all meritorious. I have not made a decision about what to do. I want to consult with the members of Congress. I think it is imperative that we make some decisions along that line. Certainly the Russian issue, I think if it's going to be seriously addressed by Congress, has to be done in the context of what our commitments -- our first obligations are to the American people and their interests. And so we'll be talking about that. And I expect to make a decision in the fairly near future on that.
Q Mr. President, do you now have a course of action that you're free to take by virtue of this result in Russia that you might have been inhibited in taking before, perhaps on Bosnia or perhaps on some other issue, perhaps on Russia itself?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, what you say may be true in the sense that had there been a reversal there, the position of the Russian government might have become much more intransigent. It is now, I think, clear that the United States and our allies need to move forward with a stronger policy in Bosnia and I will be announcing the course that I hope we can take in the next several days. I want to do some serious consultations with the Congress and others, and I will be doing that in the next few days.
But now I think the time had come to focus on that problem and what it means for the United States and the rest of the world, as well as for the people that are suffering there.
Thank you very much.
END3:25 P.M. EDT