THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Budapest, Hungary)
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS
December 5, 1994
The Helia Hotel Budapest, Hungary
12:33 P.M. (L)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You should all, by now, have a fact sheet that lays out for you the various documents that were signed today by the Presidents and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Essentially, all the various pieces came together this morning -- the signing of security assurances by the U.S., the U.K. and Russia. Ukraine gave us their instrument of accession to the nonproliferation treaty, and by that step and the previous steps by Kazakhstan and Belarus to become nonnuclear parties to the NPT, that provided the basis to bring START I into effect on the part of the United States and Russia.
And as you heard President Clinton say in his remarks, President Clinton and President Yeltsin, in September, had committed to now move very quickly to ratify in each of their countries the START II treaty and be prepared by the time of their next summit meeting in the spring of 1995, to exchange the instruments of ratification for START II.
So these involved a series multiple negotiations that concluded fairly early this morning. And these sets of negotiations go back to the signing of the START I treaty in 1991 and then putting in place the Lisbon Protocols in the spring of 1992.
But over the last few days, we have been working to ensure that the depositories of Ukraine's instrument of accession -- that is, the United States, the U.K. and Russia -- were comfortable with the ways that Ukraine was now becoming an adherent, a nonnuclear party to the nonproliferation treaty. Because as most of you know, Ukraine's Parliament in agreeing to Ukraine taking this step, had included a number of statements and interpretations. And so it became a legal matter as to the relationship between Ukraine's domestic law and how Ukraine would then adhere to becoming a nonnuclear party to the NPT.
And so we've worked through the interpretations among the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, as the countries which receives these instruments of ratification, and then with Ukraine, so that there was absolutely no doubt that they would be committed to carrying out all the obligations as a nonnuclear party to the nonproliferation treaty.
This required, late last evening, a discussion between Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Kozyrev to ensure that we had the right understandings and the right sets of documents as a basis of moving forward this morning. And on the basis of their discussions, we were able, in the very early hours this morning, to put all the pieces of paper together that you saw variously signed at various times in the signing ceremony.
I think this demonstrates, once again, as has been the case all along since the Lisbon Protocols in the spring of 1992, through the trilateral statement that was made between the U.S., U.K. -- I'm sorry -- the United States, Russia and Ukraine last January, the very important role that the United States plays in both leading and facilitating these very important steps taken today in the ways of moving towards the significant reductions in nuclear weapons and adherence by these three countries to the nonproliferation treaty.
So let me end my opening remarks and let my colleagues follow up with some of the more specific details.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I wanted to give you a little bit of historical perspective. When the Soviet Union fell apart in -- at Christmastime really, in 1991, we didn't know where we were going to be with regard to nuclear weapons, because there were nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus. And the breakup of the Soviet Union might have really stopped, dead in its tracks, the process of strategic arms reduction that had moved so -- with such pain, through so many years, from the very early stages of strategic arms limitation in the late '60s through the 70s, to a natural process of beginning to reduce the nuclear arsenals -- to destroy some of the missiles and their launch systems. So it was with great uncertainty that we looked at what was happening in the former Soviet Union at that time.
Just to give you a sense of the magnitude of the problem, at the point of the Soviet break-up, on Ukrainian territory there were 1,840 strategic nuclear warheads. Of those, 460 were on SS-24 missiles, very modern missiles, and 780 were on SS-19 missiles. There were another just about 600 on airlaunched cruise missiles, so quite a few in Ukraine.
Kazakhstan had 1,410 strategic nuclear warheads, of which about 440 were on the largest intercontinental ballistic missiles, the SS-18s, that were such a tremendous source of worry to the United States and our allies over the years because of their ability to really strike and kill very hardened targets. There were also about 370 bomber weapons in Kazakhstan at that time.
Belarus had about 81 SS-25, single warhead missiles at the time of the Soviet break-up. So it was quite a worrying problem, and one that President Bush took very seriously, and President Clinton, when he came into office, recognizing that we had to move forward from the Lisbon Protocol that was signed in May 1992, and really provided the means to get these countries moving towards nonnuclear status. It set them on the path toward becoming nonnuclear weapons states under the nonproliferation treaty and also made all these countries parties to the strategic arms reduction treaty that was brought into force today -- so that there was a mechanism in place to effect these warheads moving out of these countries.
So it was a very serious problem and one that President Clinton has been devoted very intensely to working over the last couple of years. And through our diplomacy, through the trilateral deal that we signed with Ukraine and Russia on January 14th this year, through working with Belarus and Kazakhstan, through our diplomacy involving the Nunn-Lugar program, which is an assistance program named for Senators Nunn and Lugar, who first thought it up several years ago. That had brought a lot of funds into these countries, not only to help them with the elimination process, to get rid of these nuclear systems, but also to help them with housing and defense conversion, some of the issues that are of really tremendous concern to them.
So the President has worked hard at this, and its been a tremendous success for him. And I think it's been a service to us all because its really brought us to a level of security that many of us feared we'd never see at the time of the Soviet break-up. So it's quite an accomplishment today.
But let me say further, and I'll close on this -- that this set of agreements is really, really about the future. It's really about radical reductions in strategic arms that go beyond START I, that go to START II, and even beyond START II to further radical reductions.
My colleague will want to talk in detail about the structure, both of START I and then how we plan to proceed from here. But it's also about the long-term interest of the United States in these countries -- in their security for the long haul; independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of some of these countries -- of these countries, is of tremendous importance to the United States. And it means working closely with them over many years to develop their health, in terms of their economic development -- also their political relationships. And I think this CSCE Summit is an important forum for those kinds of relationships to develop.
And finally, security ties that go well beyond the nuclear issue, to working closely with the armed forces in these countries on military to military contacts, defense cooperation of all kinds -- really expanding the defense cooperation ties well beyond the nuclear issue. So we really welcome this day as a day when are leaving the nuclear issue behind us with regard to Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. And it gives us a chance now to expand our relationships in many directions with these countries, and we really are looking to a long-term future with them, where, I think that we'll see an expansive U.S. relationship, but also one that is very deep and well developed in many areas, and not focused, as it has been in the last couple years -- very much -- on the whole nuclear question.
So let me turn over to my colleague, who can talk to you in detail about START.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. I'll focus my remarks on the significance of the START I treaty in three areas: the first, the journey it had to travel to get here today; second, its significance in its own right; and third, its significance in terms of the door that's being unlocked to the way ahead.
In terms of the history of this treaty, it's important to remember that it spans four administrations and five presidential terms. START I's story really began in the final year of the Carter administration.
The START II treaty had failed to secure -- excuse me, the SALT II treaty had failed to secure a two-thirds vote in the Senate, and then-Governor Ronald Reagan in his campaign for the presidency was criticizing SALT II for not providing deep enough cuts. That's why when START II began in 1982 -- excuse me, when the START I negotiations began in 1982, the word "R" in START stood for reductions.
With Reagan's election, the United States chose to observe the SALT II agreement informally, while it negotiated these deeper cuts in START I. But the opening U.S. position in this negotiation in 1982 was essentially nonnegotiable and provoked a reaction in two different areas. First, it gave impetus to the nuclear freeze movement, which carried through most of the 1980s. And second, it provoked a reaction in Congress.
And many of you that have covered this story over the years will remember in 1983, when a number of congressmen took the MX missile hostage and traded their votes for the MX for a more negotiable and flexible U.S. negotiating position.
Even with these changes, though, the sheer complexity of the START I treaty meant that it took until 1991 before President Bush was able to conclude the negotiations. These negotiations spanned five separate chief U.S. negotiators: General Rowney, Ambassador Campelman, Senator Tower, Ambassador Burt, and Ambassador Brooks.
By the time START I was signed in 1991, as my colleague emphasized, the Soviet Union was disintegrating. And even as the ink was drying on the treaty, it appeared to be in jeopardy. But through six months of hard work, culminating in the Lisbon Protocol in May of 1992, the START I treaty was transformed from a bilateral U.S.-Soviet agreement into a multi- party, five-nation treaty.
When President Clinton took office in January 1993,his first substantive policy presidential decision directive, or PDD, was on the subject of getting START I and START II into force. It then took, as my colleague emphasized, two years of determined diplomacy to reach the point that we arrived at today.
Second, in terms of the importance of the treaty in its own right, as President Clinton said at the signing ceremony this morning, START I is the first arms control agreement actually to reduce strategic nuclear arsenals.
The treaty requires the elimination of bombers, ICBM silos and launchers, and ballistic missile submarine launch tubes that carried over 9,000 of the 21,000 total warheads the United States and the former Soviet Union declared when they signed the treaty in 1991. And that then is a reduction of over 40 percent of the warheads from the active inventories of the former two superpowers.
In the areas of the most destabilizing weapon systems, such as the SS-18 ICBM, START I requires a 50 percent reduction. START I also requires, through the Lisbon Protocol, the removal of all nuclear weapons and all strategic offensive arms from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
Although the United States and Russia have been deactivating strategic systems and removing ICBM missiles and warheads unilaterally, as a matter of national policy since START I was signed, and although Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine have been removing nuclear weapons from their soil over the last number of months, the entry into force of START I will lock in these reductions by requiring the launchers -- that is, the bombers, the ICBM silos, and the ballistic missile submarines -- to be physically destroyed.
In addition, entry into force of START I will be quickly followed by the implementation of an elaborate notification and verification system, with 12 different types of inspections that will greatly improve transparency and help build mutual confidence.
Finally, START I is a bridge to START II and beyond. At their September Summit, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed that once START I had entered into force, they would promptly press their legislatures for ratification of the pending START II treaty, with a goal of entering this even more far-reaching treaty into force at their next summit, next spring.
Under START II, the two sides will remove an additional 5,000 strategic nuclear warheads, leaving each side with between 3,000 and 3,500, which is a two-thirds reduction from the Cold War peak.
The two Presidents also agreed in September that once START II is ratified, both sides will immediately deactivate, or otherwise remove from combat status, those systems whose elimination will be required by that treaty, rather than waiting for the treaty to run its course through the year 2003.
And finally, START II ratification will open the door to the next round of START, in which we will decide what further reductions in, and limitations on, remaining U.S. and Russian nuclear forces should be carried out.
I would suggest now that you direct your questions to any of the three of us.
Q Has the rise of the Republican right complicated the promise that the President and Yeltsin made on START II? Does this make easy ratification with Jesse Helms now a -- (inaudible) --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well Senator Helms of course, will have to announce his position on this treaty himself. I would simply note that the START II treaty is a treaty signed by a Republican president. There have been hearings on the START II treaty in the three committees of jurisdiction and interest in arms control -- the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee, and the Intelligence Committee. One of those three committees in 1992 issued a report on the START II treaty -- the Armed Services Committee -- in which the Republicans and the Democrats on that committee, by an overwhelming bipartisan vote, recommended ratification of the START II treaty.
Q Signing documents with the Russians has always put a suspenseful. Can you just be clearer about what documents you needed to line up, what understandings you needed to clarify? Did the Russians backtrack a little last week, or were we just putting the final details together?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The only detail left after the Ukrainian Parliament had approved Ukraine becoming a nonnuclear party to the nonproliferation treaty -- and by the way, that's the only way one can become a party to the nonproliferation treaty, as a nonnuclear power -- it was then necessary to draft the instrument of accession to that treaty. And, as I suggested, the Rada had gone on to suggest some interpretations in making their approval. And so it was just necessary to clarify legally, the relationship between what the Rada had done as domestic law in Ukraine and the instrument of accession that was being provided by Ukraine to the depositories. And so the lawyers in each country were making sure that there we no doubts whatsoever that this commitment was to carry out the full obligations as a nonnuclear power to the nonproliferation treaty. And so it was not a document beyond that document, but it was to make sure that those commitments were clear.
Q Was that related to the ownership?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That was related to the one point in what the Rada had said with respect to the ownership of weapons -- the nuclear warheads that existed and are being removed from Ukraine.
Q Just taking the question about the for -- (inaudible) -- of START I -- did it go today? I mean, as of today --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They had all signed each of the documents that came into force at that time.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You might have been interested to see that each President had in front of him a stack of documents, actually. And those were the formal entry into force documents for START. And essentially what they signed today was a protocol so that the Presidents would not have to end up signing so many documents, the whole stack before each of them. They each signed a protocol that essentially covered all of those documents, and then they were able to exchange them very easily. So that was the kind of mechanics of how we did it today to try to make what were already many signatures, several fewer.
Q Last fall the Pentagon released its nuclear cost review, which recommended a number of different alternatives, mostly at numbers that exist in START II. You're saying now that you will open discussions going beyond START II. Do you have some end number in mind? Was this just an initial exploration of the possibilities of the going beyond the numbers that START II contains and the Pentagon has decided is the appropriate number to have?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The mandate that was given the Department of Defense with the Nuclear Posture Review was to determine the United States START II force posture. And that is what the NPR -- the Nuclear Posture Review --produced in terms of a recommendation and that the President approved. So from the NPR you have the U.S. START II posture.
The next question is, what types of further reductions or limitations should the U.S. consider in the next round of START? And as I said, the two Presidents have directed their experts to intensify their discussions between the two countries on those basic concepts. And we are working hard in terms of an inter-agency review to come to the U.S. position that we will take to those discussions.
Q You don't have a date for -- I mean, you don't have a date for -- how should I put it -- I mean, the high level negotiation to begin with real numbers in line for START III, or IIA, or whatever it's going to be called?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We don't have a projected opening date, Barry, but we do have the instruction from the two Presidents to be in a position to hit the ground running once START II is ratified. That's why they directed us at the expert level --
Q START II?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Once START II is ratified. That's why they directed us at the expert level to intensify our discussion. So the start date, if you will, for the next round of START is a function of the speed by which the United States Senate and the Russian Duma can complete their ratification proceedings on the START II treaty. But the two Presidents have set a target date of being able to exchange the instruments of ratification of START II and enter that treaty into force at their next summit, late next spring -- and that's only four months, five months out.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Could I just follow up on that. But in the interim one of the other priorities that we have is to begin discussions with the Russians on what we call transparency and irreversibility with respect to the nuclear materials that now will be coming out of these numbers of weapons that are called for in terms of START I and over time, START II reductions. And indeed, the next priority in arms control will also be now to get transparency -- that means an understanding on both sides as to the amounts of these materials to make sure that they are safely stored and that over time they can be reduced. So arms control is going to take an additional, you know, sort of direct with respect to controls of nuclear materials as the vast numbers come out of these stockpiles.
Q Measures not already in these -- you know, monumental verification --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That right. These are, as you recall, that START itself doesn't deal with the weapons, per se, or the materials in those weapons. But President Clinton and President Yeltsin agreed at the summit as well to begin discussions in early 1995 on ways in which we can bring controls on the nuclear materials that are coming out of these weapons now being reduced.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END12:56 P.M. (L)