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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 16, 1997
                      REMARKS BY PRESIDENT CLINTON
                        DURING PHOTO OPPORTUNITY
                            The Oval Office               

4:34 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Let me say I'm delighted to have President Kuchma back at the White House. He and the Vice President have worked hard today. They've made a lot of progress on economic issues and on security issues, and I'm quite encouraged by the report I have received and quite hopeful about our future partnership with Ukraine and Ukraine's role in a united, democratic Europe.

Q President Kuchma, are you interested in having Ukraine join NATO as a formal member?

PRESIDENT KUCHMA: First of all, I understand the situation nowadays in Europe and I'm well aware of the configuration of political forces. And I understand that Ukrainian application to NATO would not be timely, though Ukraine has proclaimed its aim to integrate with European and transatlantic structures.

Q President Clinton, President Yeltsin seems to have a pretty different interpretation of the Charter, the NATO Charter with Russia than what was described here. Is that the way you read what he's been saying and his advisors have been saying?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I think that the agreement is clear and will be clear from the details as they're published, and I also believe it's a good agreement for NATO and a good agreement for Russia. And let me further say I hope now that the Russian Duma will proceed to ratify START II because it's very much in Russia's interest as well as the United States and in the interest of world peace. It will enable us to go on to START III, which will reduce the nuclear arsenals 80 percent from their Cold War high and relieve Russia of an enormous financial burden while maintaining its strategic interests.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I am delighted to have President Kuchma back in the White House. The United States values its partnership with Ukraine and believes that we cannot have a successful, undivided, democratic Europe without a successful, democratic, progressive Ukraine. And I appreciate the hard work that President Kuchma and Vice President Gore have done in their commission all day and the results they have achieved, which they will announce, I think, at a press conference.

PRESIDENT KUCHMA: It was a pleasure for me to hear the words by the President, Clinton, that European security is impossible without a prosperous Ukraine and an independent Ukraine. In fact, this was the thrust, the direction of the efforts of the Vice President and my efforts. And I should say that we spared no efforts.

Q How do you think -- will Ukraine take part in the discussion of the Chernobyl issue in the Summit of G-7 in Denver in some form -- maybe in a conference, in another form?

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: It will be a subject of discussion among the eight.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I don't know the answer to that, I'm sorry to say, but I know that it will be a subject of our discussions because all of the seven have made clear their commitment for years to helping Ukraine to come to grips with Chernobyl and the aftermath and making sure that consequences can be dealt with and also that the country has the supplies necessary and energy to grow and to prosper.

Q Mr. President, aren't there reasons to fear that Ukraine might fear that a NATO-Russian agreement might divide Europe into spheres of influence?

PRESIDENT CLINTON: No, quite the contrary. The argument that I made to President Yeltsin when we met at Helsinki was that we had to create a united Europe and that we should not view the mission of NATO in the future as we viewed the mission of NATO in the past. We have to create a world in the 21st century where people do not define their greatness by their ability to dominate their neighbors, but instead define their greatness by their ability to maximize the achievements of their own citizens and band together with others to defeat common problems, like terrorism and weapons proliferation.

You can see that in the partnership that NATO has had with both Ukraine and Russia in Bosnia. All people who want to be free and who want their neighbors to be free have an interest in banding together to fight problems like that.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 5:44 P.M. EDT