THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN MEETING WITH UKRAINIAN AMERICANS The Roosevelt Room
10:11 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, I know that -- I think Julian, you and Orest met with the Vice President in Milwaukee when I was unable to come, and I'm sorry I missed the meeting, but I'm glad to have all of you here now.
I think the relationships between the United States and Ukraine are at their strongest point since 1991. I think all of you know that I had a very good meeting with President Kravchuk and other leaders of Ukraine when I was in Europe. We had a fine meeting and a good dinner at Boris Pol Airport, didn't we, Tony? And I'm looking forward to President Kravchuk's trip here on March the 4th.
We're moving as quickly as we can to establish good relationships. The first and most important step was taken with the trilateral nuclear agreement, which was approved by the Rada just a few days ago. And I'm very pleased about that. It was very interesting because Mr. Kravchuk was confident it would be approved, and yet all the press reports were that it probably wouldn't be, and he turned out to be right; so I'm very encouraged by that.
We have already approved and provided $175 million in assistance to facilitate the dismantling of the nuclear weapons, and we expect to almost double that amount when President Kravchuk is here. We're also going to work very closely to make sure that Ukraine receives fair compensation for the value of the nuclear materials, the highly enriched uranium, that are in the warheads. And we have a good strategy for that, and I'm confident that that will occur.
Once Ukraine accedes to the Nonproliferation Treaty, which is the next big parliamentary fight, we will extend further security assurances to Ukraine, including our commitment to the sovereignty of the nation and its independence within its existing borders. And we have been very clear about that and we hope that that will encourage the Rada and others in Ukraine to accede to the NPT.
We've also had some progress on our economic relations. Of course the biggest problem, obviously, is the high rate of inflation and the problems with industrial productivity. But President Kravchuk has, I think, launched the beginnings at least of an economic reform program. And we had decided to double our bilateral economic assistance to Ukraine this year to more than $300 million, and we hope that will be helpful to them.
We also have encouraged the World Bank and the IMF to take a different look at Ukraine, and there will be delegations in Kiev I think this week -- sometime in the next few days. There will be delegations from the IMF and the World Bank there. And finally, we have agreed to an ambitious effort to increase American private investment with Ukraine. So I think we are moving forward on the economic issue.
I hope that all of you will play a big role in the development of our relations. I hope you will stay in close touch with the White House. I hope you will give us your best ideas about what can be done. But I have to say that I was immensely pleased that I was able to stop in Ukraine when I was in Europe, and I was pleased with the continuing development of the relationship. I know that the nation has many problems, but it's a difficult time for all the former communist economies. And, on balance, I would say we are doing rather well in our relationships with them, and I feel that they're strong, they're growing stronger. And I think the Kravchuk visit here will be a very positive thing.
One of the things that I'm quite sensitive to that I would maybe solicit your advice about is to make sure that when he comes here and when we meet that it's actually a positive for him at home; because when all these countries are going through difficult changes -- not just Ukraine, but others -- their relationships with the United States are almost a mixed blessing, I think, with the people back home, because no one wants to believe that we're -- everybody wants us to help and be supportive but not to dictate unduly to them what the terms of their own development and future should be. So it's a little bit of a delicate thing, but we're trying to be sensitive to that. And I think the presence in the United States of a strong Ukrainian American community can help to deal with that problem, can help to create a sense of identity with us among grass-roots people and various political forces in Ukraine that perhaps will head off some of the tensions that we have experienced in other places.
END10:16 A.M. EST