THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY NSC SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR NONPROLIFERATION DAN PONEMAN, NSC DIRECTOR FOR NONPROLIFERATION KEN FAIRFAX, NSC SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR RUSSIAN AND EURASIAN AFFAIRS COIT BLACKER, AND SPECIAL ADVISOR FOR THE NEW INDEPENDENT STATES, DEPARTMENT OF STATE, JAMES COLLINS
The Briefing Room
3:40 P.M. EDT
MR. JOHNSON: The next in our series of bite-sized briefings concerns the P-8 Summit to be held in Moscow.
Q What is P-8.
MR. JOHNSON: Political. Dan Poneman, the NSC Senior Director for Nonproliferation is going to make some opening remarks for you and after that he and his colleague, Ken Fairfax, will be glad to take your questions.
MR. PONEMAN: Thank you, David.
I know you've been here a while, so I will be mercifully brief. The events in very brief compass will be as follows. The President will arrive from St. Petersburg in the evening -- that's Friday evening -- for a dinner with his fellow leaders. The next morning the P-8, as David said, the political eight, which is essentially the G-7 plus Russia will meet in the morning until lunch time. They will break for lunch. At lunch they will be joined by President Kuchma of Ukraine who will join at the lunch and in an afternoon concluding session. That will conclude the official activities of the P-8 and then the meeting with Kuchma, as well.
The hosts of the summit, Boris Yeltsin and Jacques Chirac, will co-host a press conference, and the President will also have a press conference later in the day.
On substance, I think you can look at this meeting as really a critical milestone on the path, as Secretary Christopher suggested earlier today, from confrontation and the traditional Cold War dealings that we had with one another to an era of cooperation. It is really a reflection of a confluence of different streams of activities.
From the United States side, if you go back, you will see in the President's U.N. General Assembly address of 1993 his proposal for a fissile material cutoff convention and a broad array of activities under the general rubric of fissile material controls that themselves spawned a number of other activities unilaterally on our part by, for example, declaring excess fissile materials no longer required for defense needs.
Bilaterally with Russia we've had an extremely fruitful agenda which has been advanced not only by the President but also with great vigor by the Vice President through the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, as well as a number of multilateral efforts that have developed over the years, and this would include activities including the International Atomic Energy Agency, activities that you would have seen at earlier summits, Naples and Halifax, when this was raised.
And going out of these meetings, we really have two fundamental issues that will be focused on in the meetings next week. One is nuclear safety, and two is nuclear material security. In both, I think that the critical watchword that we will be advancing and the President will be advancing is safety first. This is equally true in the area of nuclear safety. We're all aware of the efforts that have gone on since Chernobyl to improve reactor safety and related safety issues, as well as nuclear material security, and we've all been focusing very deeply on the questions of nuclear smuggling.
To just, in bite-size chunks, discuss the specific issues that the leaders will discuss, they really fall in three areas: Nuclear safety itself in which they'll be discussing the convention on nuclear safety, energy reform. When President Kuchma joins, they'll be discussing the question of the G-7 MOU which addresses the closing of Chernobyl by the year 2000.
They will be talking about, in the second area, waste management, which would include issues such as ocean dumping and a convention under draft that is now going to address waste management.
And, finally, the whole area of nuclear smuggling at all levels, ranging from national accounting and control to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, interdiction, law enforcement, information-sharing, etc.
In each of these cases, I think what you'll be looking for are not so much a series of documents that you might have been familiar with in more of a Cold War setting, but really an effort to work together, roll up our sleeves and seek concrete actions.
In short, the message, I think, is going to be one that the problem that we're facing is a serious one, a lot has been done already, a lot will be required in the years ahead. And this is one of a number of important steps to advance that agenda.
Q On your point number one, can you tell us what is the status of the talks with Ukraine about Chernobyl? And particularly, do you expect that talks with the Ukrainians on the financing of the closure of Chernobyl to be successful and when?
MR. PONEMAN: With respect to Chernobyl, last December, the G-7 concluded an MOU with Ukraine on the closing of Chernobyl by the year 2000. This was put in a broad context. It involved commitments from the G-7 which, at that time, were on the order of $2.3 billion and since that time have grown to $3 billion for financing. There will also be grant components as well to that assistance.
But equally important to the systems related to Chernobyl itself is the broader cooperation and effort with Ukraine to rationalize their energy sector and impose market disciplines so that you find a more attractive investment environment that will help Ukraine deal with the whole array of its energy problems into the future, not just Chernobyl, but the whole issue of the rationalization of their energy sector.
Q Sir, if I follow up, the figure you mentioned, $2.3 billion, it's just -- it's a target, in fact.
MR. PONEMAN: Commitment.
Q Yes. Pledges. But do you have reason to believe that this money will be put forward and that Chernobyl will be closed by the date 2000, as planned?
MR. PONEMAN: That is the plan. I hasten to add, this is not intended to be a pledging conference that the leaders are joining at. That part of the work is done. I think the important thing now is to join up the commitments that are already in hand with the kind of steps that Ukraine will need to take in terms of rationalizing its own energy sector more toward a market orientation that will attract foreign investment and make those kinds of loans more feasible.
Q Are you expecting any business deals to be announced during the President's trip?
MR. PONEMAN: No.
Q But does the $3 billion include the money that Kuchma may ask for this second skin, or not?
MR. PONEMAN: Our view on the second skin or what is sometimes called the sarcophagus issue -- (laughter) -- I didn't make it up. (Laughter.) And the hieroglyphics are extra -- (laughter) -- is that what this meeting is not supposed to be about is unpacking different pieces of various proposals and costing them out. It's part of a much broader issue. The specific sarcophagus issue is being looked at by experts; we expect interim reports by June or July and more final reports later in the year I think around November, and at that time we'll be able to make some judgments about the sarcophagus.
Q Is it fair to say that Kuchma will be told don't expect any more than $3 million?
MR. PONEMAN: Well, I think it's fair to say that we don't want to put the cart before the horse; the $3 billion addresses the Chernobyl shutdown generically. If there are specific pieces of the overall energy plan, obviously you've got to look at the technical specifics first.
Q Also on Ukraine -- will the discussion include their progress toward completing the return of the warheads to Russia that's been underway for a couple of years?
MR. PONEMAN: I cannot exclude that coming up. Of course, it is our hope that process remains on track, that all the warheads come back timely, as is planned, and at this point, that is what we're looking toward. I don't know if -- Jim Collins may wish to add on that.
MR. COLLINS: That program is on track, and while it may come up, there is no real issue to be resolved, except to affirm that we hope that all deadlines will be met and that we will have this finished by the middle of the year.
Q Will the P-8 in any way discuss the sale of reactor parts to Iran or NATO expansion?
MR. PONEMAN: NATO expansion is in the not-my-department, so I will defer that to my colleagues, Ambassador Collins and Chip Blacker.
On Iran, you will recall at Halifax that President Chretien issued a chairman's statement at the end of that P-8 session, describing our opposition to dangerous nuclear cooperation with Iran; as far as the P-8 are concerned, I think that is the last word on the subject, and therefore there is nothing new to add at this point.
Q So it won't come up?
MR. PONEMAN: I'm talking about the P-8 session. If you want to hear about the bilateral, I will defer to my colleagues.
Q How will the participation of the Ukraine be reflected during the meeting? Will there be a separate communique or agreement or something?
MR. PONEMAN: I'd rather not get into, since the leaders will be discussing the communique, I'd rather not get into exactly what form of paper will come out of that.
Q This Nuclear smuggling -- how pervasive a problem is it, and what do you think the leaders will do to control it?
MR. PONEMAN: It is an extremely serious problem, it's something that we have been very intensively focused on for a number of years. It is true that up until a couple of years ago we had been unable to find an instance of a significant quantity of nuclear weapons-usable material in any of the hundreds, and probably by now thousands of reports.
It is true that the vast majority of these reports are scams. That being said, even when they were only scams, we took it extremely seriously -- indeed, every report is treated seriously, and since 1994 we have had a number of incidents where larger quantities, into the kilogram range, of weapons-usable materials have been found.
So to answer your first question, we consider it a very serious problem; indeed, as important reason for this summit as any that there is, is the need to work cooperatively. I do anticipate that the leaders will spend a lot of time discussing this, discussing not only how to proceed diplomatically, but how to ensure that law enforcement efforts are more closely coordinated, that information-sharing continues, and this is going to be a problem that will not yield to an instantaneous solution, but simply will require closer and closer coordination, and we will need to settle in for the long haul to try to address it.
Q Now, Russia specifically is a problem in this area, right? Because isn't there a 31-country agreement that Russia doesn't want to agree to for this trafficking?
MR. PONEMAN: Vosinar (phonetic) is a different issue. Let me make two points. On the question of nuclear smuggling, the Russians, as the other participants in the summit, are our partners. This is a problem that all of the leaders -- President Yeltsin, President Clinton -- all of them recognize the importance of it, and I think that we've had tremendous cooperation so far, so I do not think that's a problem.
The problem you're referring to, I think, the Vosinar (phonetic) arrangements has to do with a new regime that, in fact, goes back to one of President Clinton's initiatives out of the Vancouver summit of April, 1993, to replace the old COCOM East-West export control regime with a new follow-on regime to deal with conventional arms and dual-use transfers.
Now, to get that regime running, there was an agreement that we needed to include Russia. It took us a long time to get Russia into those negotiations, and I don't think it's surprising that the first time that they were involved in negotiations in which others have been talking a long time, there were some differences.
We remain very committed to working with Russia and the other Vosinar (phonetic) participants to get that regime up and running as well.
Q Will that be a subject of discussion during --
MR. PONEMAN: No, because this summit will not deal with conventional issues that way.
Q Does the U.S. delegation include Department of Justice or FBI officials -- law enforcement --
MR. PONEMAN: I think it's fair to say that the whole question of nuclear smuggling, which has been dealt with by working groups leading up to the summit has intimately involved all of these agencies in terms of who actually is present in the meetings. The meeting itself will be essentially leaders plus sherpas.
Q Is the discussion limited to nuclear, or is biological and chemical weapons part of the discussion?
MR. PONEMAN: Nuclear -- nuclear only.
Q Can you quantify the danger of nuclear material in the kilogram range?
MR. PONEMAN: Anytime -- if I understand your question correctly, anytime you're in the kilogram range, I'm quite concerned, because you can't say exactly how many, but you get into several kilograms and you get an amount of fissile material that could, depending on the specific material, go critical. And so I would say anytime you're talking about whether it's highly enriched uranium or plutonium, if you're talking about kilograms it's a pretty serious issue.
Q Do you expect the CTBT be concluded this year, by the end of this year. And if so, what are your estimates as to how much the implementation of the CTBT will cost?
MR. PONEMAN: I admire the optimism implicit in the premise of your question. The United States is deeply committed, as the U.N. General Assembly called for last December, to the signing and conclusion of the CTBT by September. We are working very hard to that end.
In terms of the follow-on cost, I -- it's beyond my pale.
MR. JOHNSON: Thank you.
MR. PONEMAN: Thanks.
MR. JOHNSON: Okay. Our final installment in the award winning series is about our Russian bilateral meetings and the Russian bilateral summit which will take place on Sunday. Your briefers are Coit Blacker, the NSC Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs; and Jim Collins, the Special Advisor for the New Independent States at the Department of State.
MR. BLACKER: Thank you very much, David. I will keep this brief because I'm sure that you must be approaching the point of exhaustion in terms of prepared statements.
As David has indicated, I'm going to spend a few moments on the thematics, if you will, of this bilateral meeting between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin. As Secretary Christopher said, this is their 10th meeting since 1993. The most recent encounter was at Sharm el-Sheikk on March 13th, and then the most recent extended meeting was at Hyde Park last October, October 23rd.
We anticipate that the agenda will cover the range of bilateral and multilateral issues, keyed in ways -- or two ways in which the U.S.-Russian dialogue can help to enhance the security and well-being of the American people, the Russian people, and in fact the people of the world, as in pressing for the early conclusion and signing of a comprehensive nuclear test ban.
Part of what we're about here, we think, is working now and working hard on issues which are likely to dominate the global agenda for the next century. We anticipate that the two sides will not be in complete harmony on each and every issue, but we think that the steady development of the U.S.-Russian relationship since 1993 demonstrates or underscores the capacity to make progress on a broad range of problems and issues while containing their differences on other questions.
There is a key premise which informs these meetings, and that is that the United States has now and we believe will continue to have a vital stake in engaging the post-Communist Russian Federation. It matters to us that Russia is becoming a democracy and that it is developing free markets. Why? Because, in our view, such a Russia is more likely to pursue foreign policies and security policies that are compatible with our own.
With respect to the bilateral program, let me take just a moment to kind of draw your attention to the progress which we think has been made since the last extended encounter between President Clinton and President Yeltsin, as I said, at Hyde Park in October of 1995.
Let me offer up some examples. The two states are in sync, really, on pushing hard for the completion of a Comprehensive Test Ban this fall which, once in effect, will ban all nuclear explosions. We have seen close cooperation within the Contact Group concerning Bosnia and U.S., NATO, and Russian forces are working side by side on the ground in that part of the world. We continue to see close coordination to keep the Middle East peace process on track and to strengthen the struggle, our common struggle, against terrorism.
The President will explore with Yeltsin how to build on these achievements. We still have important work to do in the area of arms control, such as pressing for Russian ratification of START II. We do anticipate that Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin will also spend some time talking about issues on which they are not in complete agreement, partly because it is inevitable, partly because it is also useful as we build out to a more normal and predictable relationship.
We don't anticipate major breakthroughs, if you will. It's not really the purpose of this visit, wasn't the purpose of the Hyde Park meeting, wasn't the purpose of the President's meeting last May in Moscow. Instead, this is an iterative process that is characteristic again, I think, of a normal relationship between normal states that share a number of common concerns.
I think I will stop at that point in terms of the formalisms and invite Ambassador Collins to join me, and we will take your questions.
Q Do you expect Clinton to meet -- or to have any contact with Zyuganov during this trip?
MR. BLACKER: I can't say in response to that in particular whether or not that will take place. I do anticipate that the President will avail himself of the opportunity of his being in Moscow in order to meet, as he has in the past, with a spectrum of Russian political and elite leaders.
Q Who would that be, do you know, at this point?
MR. BLACKER: No, no.
AMBASSADOR COLLINS: That will become available when it is known.
Q Isn't that something you would be working on now?
MR. BLACKER: Yes.
Q Who are you calling?
MR. BLACKER: Well, I prefer not to unveil or unfurl a list here, for obvious reasons. It has been the President's practice when he has been in Moscow, as I said, to make himself available to meet with a range of opinion leaders for two reasons. One, because it enables him, I think, to extend his command, or to deepen his command of events in Russia, but it also provides him an opportunity, I think, to explain the basis and the conduct of U.S. policies.
Q Would you expect Yeltsin at this meeting, because of the timing just before the election, to emphasize some of the differences with Clinton for home consumption -- for instance on NATO?
AMBASSADOR COLLINS: I think what we anticipate is that this will be a discussion very much of the kind that they have been having, at Hyde Park, Sharm el-Sheikh, this will continue it. It's going to, as I think Chip said, probably cover both things, those areas where we agree and where things are going pretty well, and I think there is every reason that the President of the Russian Federation right now sees it in his interest to show that he is able to cooperate well with the West.
At the same time, I think he will make no bones that he is defending Russia's interests, and where there are differences those probably will emerge.
Q To get back to Zyuganov, has there been any attempt by Yeltsin or the Kremlin to discourage the President from meeting with him, with Zyuganov?
MR. BLACKER: No, there has not.
AMBASSADOR COLLINS: No.
Q Not any hint, or the slightest hint?
MR. BLACKER: No.
AMBASSADOR COLLINS: No.
Q On the subject of business and investment, will there be any discussion about a tax treaty with Russia or more help for their financial markets coming from this discussion? coming from these discussions?
MR. BLACKER: Well, let me take the front half of that, and then maybe Ambassador Collins could take the second half.
The issue of trade and investment, or trade and economic relations between the United States and the Russian Federation will feature -- I assume, I anticipate -- any exchanges between President Clinton and President Yeltsin. We have seen a significant expansion in bilateral trade over the last three years which, of course, both sides welcome and I think are eager to build upon.
It is unlikely that they will use their time to focus on this or that specific issue, but what they will do, I suspect, is to charge their foreign ministers, if you will, to follow-up on particular issues that either side may pose in the area of trade and investment.
AMBASSADOR COLLINS: I think I'd only add on that in many respects both presidents have been very supportive of the work that the Vice President and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin have been doing. And to a very great extent, the kind of issue you're raising has been dealt with in a detailed way in that forum. And I expect that they will continue to look to that forum, really, to address such things as tax treaty or a specific investment or trade cases.
Q On the political question, more generally, how does President Clinton show up two months before an election, conduct this very close relationship with Boris Yeltsin that Secretary Christopher just described a little while ago, and not appear to be interfering in Russian electoral politics?
MR. BLACKER: Well, let me take a hand at that. Part of the reason why I stressed that this is the 10th time that they've met since 1993, and part of the reason why I talked about this encounter, as in the previous encounter, as in the one before that as a working meeting, is to get us over the hump of thinking about this relationship as exceptional.
What the collapse of the Soviet Union meant at the end of 1991 was the re-emergence of a singularized Russian state, a normal state. We have normal relations with that state, as we have normal relations with the Germans, the French, the Brits -- fill in the blank.
That means that it is not unusual, if you will, to have this kind of an intense relationship, because it is in the interests of both. The fact that this particular meeting happens to be falling in the spring of 1996, some period of time before the Russian election, is an interesting artifact, I think, but in no sense is the President traveling to Moscow in order to send a political signal. He is traveling to Moscow because of the importance that the G-7 and the Russians attach to movement on the terribly important set of issues which Dan Poneman outlined earlier.
That's the reason why he's going.
Jim, do you want to add anything?
AMBASSADOR COLLINS: No, I don't think so.
Q We don't take sides -- the United States doesn't take sides in the Russian elections, but you said we support the trend toward democracy and the trend toward free markets.
MR. BLACKER: That's right.
Q Is there anything the President can do to arrest the trend away from those that some of the candidates advocate, or does he see the United States as impotent to influence those general trends in Russia?
MR. BLACKER: What the President cares about is the way in which the processes of reform in Russia play out, because the more reformist Russia is, the farther down the road it goes, the more in the national interests it is for us. That means across a range of issues, it is important to the President to see how far we can get to keep them in as partners.
That does not mean that you make the calculation, you know, what is it I can do in a kind of near-term process. This is a long-term game. There's a short game and there's a long game. And the long game has to do with what Russia becomes over time, and that's the game we're playing.
Q But you don't see the candidates as being equally reformist or equally committed to these laudable goals?
MR. BLACKER: No, no, no. That's right.
Q Are you saying, in effect, that the President has no preference as to whether Yeltsin or Zyuganov were to win the election?
MR. BLACKER: I'm saying that it is inappropriate for the United States to identify in advance of an election in another state what our preference is.
Q Do we have one, whether or not we say it publicly?
AMBASSADOR COLLINS: We'll just stick with exactly what he said.
MR. BLACKER: I think I'll just stick with my formula, thanks.
Q Is the President going to be addressing the Russian people at all in some forum?
MR. BLACKER: David, do you know the answer to that?
AMBASSADOR COLLINS: He's not giving a formal address, no.
MR. BLACKER: I don't think there's a speech, no.
Q A televised appearance?
MR. BLACKER: I'm sure there will be televised appearances, but to the best of my knowledge -- and I think David's, as well -- there is no time set aside for a speech as such.
Q President Yeltsin will be going, I believe, later in the month to China, and Russia has been developing a closer relationship to the Chinese. Will there be an exchange of notes or impressions between President Clinton and President Yeltsin with regard to China?
AMBASSADOR COLLINS: I expect that they will talk about Asia and China. We have every interest in Russia and China having good relations. It is a factor of importance to the stability, broadly, of Asia. And I would think that, given the fact that President Yeltsin is going, he may well raise it himself.
We have a regular discussion with the Russians about developments in China and Asia. And we have, I think, tried to make clear over the last several years that in our view have a common interest in the development of a stable transition in China and the changes in China such that the relationship between Russia and China, and the United States, and all of us and Asia really contributes to stability.
And so this is an area where I think they may well compare notes. And Secretary Christopher certainly discussed this with Mr. Primakov both in his last meetings in Moscow and in Helsinki during times when I think we both shared the interest in seeing the tensions that were occurring in Asia moderated.
Q Will this trip, in your view, have any effect at all on the Russian election and the appearance with Yeltsin by the members of the G-7?
MR. BLACKER: Let me say again, this meeting is not about influencing one way or the other the Russian election.
Q The question was, will it have any effect?
MR. BLACKER: I can't answer that. I'm not a seer. But I mean, the embedded logic of that is that somehow this has to do with the Russian election. This has to do with a very important set of problems that have been identified, and the G-7 leaders are traveling to Moscow because they decided with Boris Yeltsin almost a year ago that was the best venue -- or it was a venue and it was the one that prevailed.
AMBASSADOR COLLINS: And it was an important agenda
MR. BLACKER: And it's a terribly important agenda.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 4:10 P.M. EDT