[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[September 2, 1998]
[Pages 1494-1501]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's News Conference With President Boris Yeltsin of Russia 
in Moscow
September 2, 1998

    President Yeltsin. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the official 
visit of the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, to Russia is 
coming to an end. We have had intensive, productive negotiations. We 
have managed to discuss a wide range of topical issues. I would like to 
emphasize the exchanges were sincere and keen. The dialog was marked by 
the spirit of mutual understanding.
    Responsibility of our two countries for maintaining and 
strengthening peace and stability is obvious. That is why we have paid 
special attention to the discussion of the entire spectrum of security 
issues in the world.
    The discussion has included the implementation of international and 
bilateral treaties and agreements concerning the weapons of mass 
destruction, as well as the elaboration of common approaches to dealing 
with the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation and their delivery 
    Unfortunately, this is not the only major task the humanity 
struggles to resolve. That is why President Clinton and I have discussed 
global threats and challenges. Our positions on this

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issue have coincided, and this closeness of approaches is reflected in 
the joint statement on common security changes on the threshold of the 
21st century. I consider this document to be a significant step towards 
strengthening strategic partnership between Russia and the United 
    We have also had substantial talks on the most topical international 
issues. And there are quite a few such issues. I'll put it frankly: Here 
our approaches have not always completely coincided. Russia rejects the 
use of power methods as a matter of principle. Conflicts of today have 
no military solutions, be it in Kosovo or around Iraq or Afghanistan or 
others. Also we do not accept the NATO centrism idea for the new 
European security architecture. Nevertheless, our talks have been 
conducive to greater mutual understanding on these issues.
    Of course, we could not do without discussing economy problems. 
Current dimensions of our economic relations should be brought up to a 
qualitatively new level. We shall have to suffer through much blood, 
sweat, and tears before new forms of business cooperation, worthy of our 
two great powers, are found, the forms that would be able to withstand 
volatile circumstances. There exist quite a few opportunities for this. 
These are mentioned in our joint statement on economic issues.
    In conclusion, I would like to say--and I hope Bill will agree with 
me--the summit was a success. This meeting, the 15th in a row, confirmed 
once again, when Presidents of Russia and the United States join their 
efforts, no issue is too big for them.
    Thank you for your kind attention.
    President Clinton. Thank you very much, Mr. President, for your 
hospitality and for giving Hillary and me and our team the chance to 
come to Moscow again.
    Over the past 5 years, I have been in this great, historic city in 
times of bright hope and times of uncertainty. But throughout, I have 
witnessed the remarkable transformation of this nation to democracy and 
to a more open economy. We all know that this meeting comes at a 
challenging time for the Russian people. But I don't believe anyone 
could ever have doubted that there would be obstacles on Russia's road 
to a vibrant economy and a strong democracy. I don't also believe that 
anyone can seriously doubt the determination of the Russian people to 
build a brighter, better, stronger future.
    Russia is important to America. Our economies are connected. We 
share values, interests, and friendship. We share security interests and 
heavy security responsibilities. In our discussions, President Yeltsin 
and I spoke about Russia's options for stabilizing its economy and 
restoring confidence. I reaffirmed America's strong view that Russia can 
move beyond today's crisis and create growth and good jobs but only if 
it carries forward with its transformation, with a strong and fair tax 
system, greater rule of law, dealing forthrightly with financial 
institutions, having regulation that protects against abuses, and yes, 
developing an appropriate safety net for people who are hurt during 
times of change.
    President Yeltsin reaffirmed his commitment to reform, and I believe 
that is the right commitment. The answer to the present difficulties is 
to finish the job that has been begun, not to stop it in midstream or to 
reverse course. This is a view I will reaffirm when I meet today with 
leaders of the Duma and the Federation Council. America and the 
international community are, I am convinced, ready to offer further 
assistance if Russia stays with the path of reform.
    We discussed also at length common security concerns. We've reached 
an important agreement to increase the safety of all our people, an 
arrangement under which our countries will give each other continuous 
information on worldwide launches of ballistic missiles or space-launch 
vehicles detected by our respective early warning systems. This will 
reduce the possibility of nuclear war by mistake or accident and give us 
information about missile activity by other countries.
    We've also agreed to remove from each of our nuclear weapons 
programs approximately 50 tons of plutonium, enough to make literally 
thousands of nuclear devices. Once converted, this plutonium can never 
again be used to make weapons that become lethal in the wrong hands. Our 
experts will begin meeting right away to finalize an implementation plan 
by the end of this year.
    I'd like to say in passing, I'm very grateful for the support this 
initiative received in our Congress. We have four Members of Congress 
here with us today, and I especially thank Senator Domenici for his 
interest in this issue.
    Next let me say I look forward to and hope very much that the 
Russian Duma will approve

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START II, so that we can negotiate a START III agreement that would cut 
our levels of arsenals down to one-fifth of cold war levels. I think 
that would be good for our mutual security and good for the Russian 
    In recent months Russia has taken important steps to tighten its 
export controls on weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to 
deliver them, and to penalize offenders. This week Russia barred three 
companies from transactions with Iran. Today we agreed to intensify our 
cooperation by creating seven working groups on export controls to 
further strengthen Russia's ability to halt the spread of dangerous 
weapons. Also, we renewed our commitment to persuade India and Pakistan 
to reverse their arms race. And we pledged to accelerate international 
negotiations to establish a tough inspection regime for the Biological 
Weapons Convention. I don't believe it's possible to overstate the 
importance of this initiative for the next 20 years.
    Russia and the United States share a commitment to combat terrorism. 
We agree that there is no possible justification for terrorism. It is 
murder, plain and simple. Today we instructed our Foreign Ministers to 
develop a plan to deepen our cooperation against this danger to our own 
people and to innocent people around the world.
    We agree on the importance of further strengthening the partnership 
between NATO and Russia through practical cooperation. We plan to 
accelerate talks on adapting the treaty that limits conventional 
military forces in Europe, the CFE, to reflect changes in Europe since 
the treaty was signed in 1990, with an aim to complete an adapted treaty 
by the 1999 summit of the OSCE.
    Finally, we discussed our common foreign policy agenda, including, 
first and foremost, the need to continue to strengthen the peace in 
Bosnia and to look for a peaceful solution in Kosovo, where the 
humanitarian situation is now quite grave. We agreed that the Serbian 
Government must stop all repressive actions against civilian 
populations, allow relief organizations immediate and full access to 
those in need, and pursue an interim settlement.
    President Yeltsin and I also agree that Iraq must comply fully with 
all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions imposed after the gulf 
war and, in particular, must agree to allow the international weapons 
inspectors to again pursue their mission without obstruction or delay. 
Far from advancing the day sanctions are lifted, Iraq's most recent 
efforts to undermine the inspectors will perpetuate sanctions, prevent 
Iraq from acquiring the resources it needs to rebuild its military, and 
keep Iraq's economy under tight international control.
    On energy and the environment, we reiterated our commitment to the 
emissions reductions targets and the market-based mechanisms established 
at Kyoto to slow the dangerous process of global warming. We agreed that 
multiple pipeline routes were essential to bring energy from the Caspian 
to international markets and to advance our common security and 
commercial interests.
    This has been a full agenda, a productive summit. Again, let me say 
that I have great confidence that the people of this great nation can 
move through this present difficult moment to continue and complete the 
astonishing process of democratization and modernization that I have 
been privileged to witness at close hand over the last 5\1/2\ years.
    Again, Mr. President, thank you for your hospitality. And I suppose 
we should answer a few questions.
    Russian official. Now we will have a Q-and-A session, so the work 
will proceed in the way that the U.S. and Russian press corps could ask 
questions in turn. Using the privilege of the host, I will give the 
floor to the representatives of ORT television.

Summit Goals/Russia-U.S. Relations

    Q. A question to both Presidents. Prior to meeting, many experts, 
politicians, and public at large believed that your meeting is futile, 
nobody needs it, no results will be produced due to the known 
difficulties both in Russia and America. I understand now you're trying 
to make the case it's the other way around, the situation is different. 
So what was the psychological atmosphere to your talks, bearing in mind 
this disbelief in the success, this skeptical approach?
    And second, are we, Russia and U.S., partners right now or still 
contenders? And today, bidding farewell, Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton, 
are they still friends?
    Thank you.
    President Yeltsin. I will start with your last question. Yes, we 
stay friends and the atmosphere, since the beginning of the talks until 
the end, was a friendly one. I would say it

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was very considerate, and there were no discontents during the talks 
that we had.
    And this brings my conclusion that since we did not have any 
differences, in my opinion, there will be no differences also in our 
activities, in what we do bilaterally. Of course, that goes without 
saying. This is very logical.
    Now, in response to those skeptical observers who alleged, and 
continue to do so, that they don't believe, I've been always saying no, 
on the contrary, we need to repeat it: we do believe we do that in order 
to remove the tension. And each time, having those meetings, we've been 
able to do something to alleviate the tension. This is what really 
matters. We've been doing that, removing that tension. And this time, 
again, we have removed part of the tension one more time.
    President Clinton. Well, first of all, I think it's important to 
answer your question of what happened from the point of view of the 
Russian people and then from the point of view of the American people.
    You ask if we're still friends. The answer to that is yes. You ask 
if Russia and the United States have a partnership. I think the plain 
answer to that is yes, even though we don't always agree on every issue. 
I can tell you from my point of view this was a successful meeting on 
the national security issues, because I think establishing this early 
warning information sharing is important, and I know that the 
destruction of this huge volume of plutonium is important. And it also 
might be important to the Russian economy. It can be an economic plus as 
well as a national security plus.
    Now, on the domestic economic issues, from the point of view of 
America, it was important to me to come here just to say to the 
President and to his team and to the Duma leaders I will see later and 
the Federation Council leaders that I know this is a difficult time, but 
there is no shortcut to developing a system that will have the 
confidence of investors around the world. These are not American rules 
or anybody else's rules. These are--in a global economy, you have to be 
able to get money in from outside your country and keep the money in 
your country invested in your country.
    And if the reform process can be completed, then I for one would be 
strongly supportive of greater assistance to Russia from the United 
States and the other big economic powers, because I think we have a very 
strong vested interest in seeing an economically successful Russia that 
is a full partner across the whole range of issues in the world. I also 
think it's good for preserving Russia's democracy and freedom.
    So, from my point of view, saying that we support reform and saying 
we will support those who continue it was in itself a reason to come.
    From Russia's point of view, I think knowing that the United States 
and others want to back this process and will do so and at least having 
someone else say, ``There is a light at the end of this tunnel; there is 
an end to this process; and it could come quickly if these laws are 
passed in the Duma and the things that the President has asked for 
already are done and the decisions are made well,'' I think that is 
worth something apart from the specific agreements that we have made.
    But my answer to you is that, in foreign policy and security, this 
meeting produced something. Whether it produces real economic benefits 
for the people of Russia depends upon what happens now in Russia. But at 
least everyone knows that we're prepared to do our part and to support 
this process.
    President Yeltsin. I would like to add just for one second, please, 
just two words here. We have put it on paper. We have decided to set up, 
on the territory of Russia, a joint center of control over the missile 
launches. For the first time, this has been done. This is exceptionally 
    President Clinton. I agree with that.
    Press Secretary Mike McCurry. Our tradition--questions from our wire 
services. Terence Hunt of the Associated Press.

Russian and American Economies

    Q. President Yeltsin, yesterday President Clinton spoke of the 
painful steps that Russia will have to take and the need to play by the 
rules of international economics. What difficult steps are you prepared 
to take? And are you committed to play by these rules of international 
    And to President Clinton, the world stock market seems very fragile 
right now. How can the United States withstand all these outside 
    President Clinton. Do you want me to go first?
    I think the answer to your question about what we can do that's best 
for our economy is really twofold. The first thing we have to

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do is to do our very best to make the right decisions at home. You know, 
we have to stay with the path of discipline that has brought us this far 
in the last 5\1/2\ years, and we have to make the investments and 
decisions that we know will produce growth, over the long run, for the 
American economy. Whether it's in education or science and technology, 
we have to do the things that send the signal that we understand how the 
world economy works and we intend to do well in it. But the most 
important thing is sticking with sound economic policy.
    Now, in addition to that, it is important that more and more 
Americans, without regard to party, understand that we are in a global 
economy, and it's been very good to the United States over the last 5\1/
2\ years--about 30 percent of our growth has come from exports--but that 
we, at this particular moment in history, because of our relative 
economic strength, have an extra obligation to try to build a system for 
the 21st century where every person in every country who is willing to 
work hard has a chance to get a just reward for it.
    And that means that we have to--in my opinion, that means that we 
have to continue to contribute our fair share to the International 
Monetary Fund. It means that we have to do everything we can to support 
our friends in Russia who believe that we should continue to reform. It 
means that Secretary Rubin's upcoming meeting with the Finance Minister 
of Japan, former Prime Minister Miyazawa, is profoundly important. 
Unless Japan begins to grow again, it's going to be difficult for Russia 
and other countries to do what they need to do. It means, in short, that 
America must maintain a leadership role of active involvement in trying 
to build an economic system that rewards people who do the right thing. 
And that's in our best interest.
    So I think this is a terribly important thing. The volatility in the 
world markets, including in our stock market, I think is to be expected 
under these circumstances. The right thing to do is to try to restore 
growth in the economies of the world where there isn't enough growth now 
and to continually examine whether the institutions we have for dealing 
with problems are adequate to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. 
And we are aggressively involved in both those activities.
    President Yeltsin. Naturally, we face problems basically of our own. 
We have not been able to do many things over the past time when we 
started our reforms. And still we need to conclude our reforms, to bring 
them to completion, and consequently to get results.
    We are not saying that we count solely on the support from outside. 
No. One more time, I will reiterate this: No. So let your mass media not 
spread the word to the effect that allegedly we would count solely on 
the support from the West, and to this end we have gathered together 
here--by no means. What we need from the United States is political 
support to the effect that the United States is in favor of reforms in 
Russia. This is what we really need, and then all the investors who 
would like to come to the Russian reformed market will do so, will come 
with their investments. And this is what we really need now. This is 
what is lacking, investments. This is first and foremost.
    Certainly, we ought to fight our expenditures pattern and 
mismanagement. This is the second issue which, to us, is one of the most 
important issues. And we have been adopting, accordingly, the measures 
which need to be taken, like we have adopted the program of 
stabilization measures; in other words, those measures which will result 
in stabilization of our reforms. Stabilization--I believe that such 
measures and such a program will work, promptly; over the coming 2 
years, it will produce results.

Russia-U.S. Relations

    Q. I'd like to pose a question to the President of the United 
States, Mr. Clinton. One gets the impression that some politicians in 
the United States right now like to somehow frighten the people with 
Russia. On the other hand, we are aware of the fact that you are never 
afraid of Russia, yourself, and you did everything possible so that 
people in the U.S. would not be afraid of Russia. Now, on the results of 
these talks, tell us please your belief--what is the basis of your 
belief that our country will get back to its feet and that Russian-U.S. 
relations have promising prospects?
    Thank you.
    President Clinton. Well, my belief that Russian-U.S. relations have 
promising prospects has been supported by the agreements we have made in 
the security and foreign policy areas. My belief that Russia will get 
back on its feet is based on my observation that, in Russian history, 
every time outsiders counted the Russian people out, they turned out to 
be wrong. And

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this is a very big challenge, but, I mean, a country that rebuffed 
Napoleon and Hitler can surely adjust to the realities of the global 
    Now, what has to be done? The reason I wanted to come here--and, to 
be fair, let me back up and say, I don't think there are many people in 
America who are afraid of Russia anymore. I think there are some people 
in America who question whether I should come at this moment of great 
economic and political tension for the country, but I don't think it's 
because they want something bad to happen to Russia. I think, by and 
large, the American people wish Russia well and want things to go well 
for Russia and like the fact that we are partners in Bosnia and that 
we've reduced our nuclear arsenals so much and that we've reduced our 
defense establishment and that we've found other ways to cooperate, in 
space for example. I think most Americans like this very, very much.
    So let me go back to the economic question. I believe whether you 
succeed and how long it takes you to succeed in restoring real growth to 
the Russian economy depends upon President Yeltsin's ability to persuade 
the Duma to support his formation of a Government which will pursue a 
path of reform with a genuine sensitivity to the personal dislocation of 
the people who have been hurt. And here's where I think the World Bank 
and other institutions can come in and perhaps help deal with some of 
the fallout, if you will, of the reform process.
    But I think, if other political forces in Russia try to force the 
President to abandon reform in midstream or even reverse it, what I 
think will happen is even less money will come into Russia and even more 
economic hardship will result. I believe that because that is, it seems 
to me, the unwavering experience of every other country.
    That does not mean you should not have a social safety net. It does 
not mean you have to make the same domestic decisions that the United 
States or Great Britain or France or Sweden or any other country has 
made. You have to form your own relationship with this new economic 
reality. But I still believe that unless there is a manifest commitment 
to reform, the economy will not get better.
    So I support President Yeltsin's commitment in that regard. And I 
think--my conviction that it will get better is based on my reading of 
your history. How long it will take to get better depends a lot more on 
you and what happens here than anything else we outsiders can do, 
although if there is a clear movement toward reform, I'll do everything 
I can to accelerate outside support of all kinds.
    Press Secretary McCurry. Lori Santos, United Press International.

President's Effectiveness

    Q. Sir, you were just speaking of the challenges that we face as a 
nation. And what has the reaction since your admission of a relationship 
with Ms. Lewinsky caused you any--given you any cause for concern that 
you may not be as effective as you should be in leading the country?
    President Clinton. No, I've actually been quite heartened by the 
reaction of the American people and leaders throughout the world about 
it. I have acknowledged that I made a mistake, said that I regretted it, 
asked to be forgiven, spent a lot of very valuable time with my family 
in the last couple of weeks, and said I was going back to work. I 
believe that's what the American people want me to do. And based on my 
conversations with leaders around the world, I think that's what they 
want me to do, and that is what I intend to do.
    As you can see from what we're discussing here, there are very large 
issues that will affect the future of the American people in the short 
run and over the long run. There are large issues that have to be dealt 
with now in the world and at home. And so I have been quite encouraged 
by what I think the message from the American people has been and what I 
know the message from leaders around the world has been. And I'm going 
to do my best to continue to go through this personal process in an 
appropriate way but to do my job, to do the job I was hired to do. And I 
think it very much needs to be done right now.

Russia and NATO Expansion

    Q. Boris Nikolayevich, this question has to do with the relationship 
between Russia and NATO. I understand you had time to discuss this issue 
with the U.S. President. It's known that the next NATO summit will take 
place in Washington, where important decisions will be taken regarding 
the European security architecture. How do you think this relation 
should evolve in the future?

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    President Yeltsin. Yes, we have discussed with President Clinton the 
question concerning the relationship between Russia and NATO. We're not 
running away from the position which has been that we are against NATO 
expanding eastward. We believe this is a blunder, a big mistake, and one 
day, this will be a historic error.
    Therefore, at this point in time, what we necessarily would like to 
do is to improve relations so that there be no confrontation. Therefore, 
we have signed an agreement between Russia and NATO. And in accordance 
with that agreement we want to do our job. However, no way shall we 
allow anybody to transgress that agreement, bypass that agreement, or 
generally speaking, put it aside. No, this will not happen.
    And naturally, we shall participate in the Warsaw meeting, and there 
we shall very closely follow the vector of NATO and what they intend to 
do in regards to, so to say, deploying their forces and their power.
    We still are in favor of being cautious with regards to NATO. We 
don't have any intentions to move towards the west, ourselves. We don't 
intend to create additional forces. We're not doing that, and we're not 
planning to do that. This is what really matters.
    President Clinton. I would like to say one word about that. We 
obviously, President Yeltsin and I, have a disagreement about whether it 
was appropriate for NATO to take on new members or not. But I think 
there is a larger reality here where we are in agreement, and I would 
like to emphasize it.
    Russia has made historic commitments in the last few years to 
essentially redefine its greatness, not in terms of the territorial 
dominance of its neighbors but, instead, of constructive leadership in 
the region and in the world. The expansion of NATO, therefore, should be 
seen primarily as nations interested in working together to deal with 
common security problems, not to be ready to repel expected invasions.
    And if you look at what the NATO members will be discussing next 
year, they're talking about how they can deal with regional security 
challenges, like in Bosnia and Kosovo, both of which--one of which we 
would never--we would not have solved the Bosnia war, or ended it, had 
it not been for the leadership of Russia and the partnership between 
NATO and Russia. It simply would not have happened in the way it did, in 
a way that reinforced harmony in the region. Similarly, we have got to 
work together in Kosovo to prevent another Bosnia from occurring.
    If we have problems with terrorism or with the spread of chemical or 
biological weapons, they will be problems we all have in common. That's 
why you have two dozen nations, that are not NATO members, a part of our 
Partnership For Peace, because they know that nation-states in the 
future are going to have common security problems and they will be 
stronger if they work together.
    And that's why I was especially proud of the charter that Russia and 
NATO signed. I intend to honor it. I intend to build on it. And I hope 
that within a few years we'll see that this partnership is a good thing 
and continues to be a good thing and brings us closer together rather 
than driving us apart.
    Press Secretary McCurry. Larry McQuillan, Reuters.

Russia's Political Situation/President's August 17 Address

    Q. President Yeltsin, do you see any circumstance in which you could 
accept someone other than Mr. Chernomyrdin to be your Prime Minister? 
And if you can't accept that, does that mean you're prepared to dissolve 
the Duma if they refuse to confirm him?
    And Mr. President, another Lewinsky question. You know, there have 
been some who have expressed disappointment that you didn't offer a 
formal apology the other night when you spoke to the American people. 
Are you--do you feel you need to offer an apology? And in retrospect 
now, with some distance, do you have any feeling that perhaps the tone 
of your speech was something that didn't quite convey the feelings that 
you had, particularly your comments in regard to Mr. Starr?
    President Yeltsin. Well, I must say, we will witness quite a few 
events for us to be able to achieve all those results. That's all. 
    President Clinton. That ought to be my answer, too. That was pretty 
good. [Laughter]
    Well, to your second question, I think I can almost reiterate what I 
said in response to the first question. I think the question of the tone 
of the speech and people's reaction to it is really a function of--I 
can't comment on that. I read it the other day again, and I thought it 
was clear that I was expressing my profound regret

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to all who were hurt and to all who were involved, and my desire not to 
see any more people hurt by this process and caught up in it. And I was 
commenting that it seemed to be something that most reasonable people 
would think had consumed a disproportionate amount of America's time, 
money, and resources and attention, and was now--continued to involve 
more and more people. And that's what I tried to say.
    And all I wanted to say was I believe it's time for us to now go 
back to the work of the country and give the people their Government 
back and talk about and think about and work on things that will affect 
the American people today and in the future. That's all I meant to say, 
and that's what I believe, and that's what I intend to do.

Note: The President's 163d news conference began at 1:17 p.m. in the 
Catherine Hall at the Kremlin. President Yeltsin spoke in Russian, and 
his remarks were translated by an interpreter. In their remarks, the two 
Presidents referred to Finance Minister Kiichi Miyazawa of Japan; Prime 
Minister-designate Viktor Chernomyrdin of Russia; the Conventional Armed 
Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty; and the Organization for Security and 
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Reporters referred to former White House 
intern Monica S. Lewinsky and Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. The 
tape did not include a complete translation of President Yeltsin's