US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #123, Monday, 8/19/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 1:18 PM, Washington, DC Date: Aug 19, 19918/19/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Caribbean, East Asia Country: USSR (former) Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Trade/Economics, Military Affairs, NATO, Travel (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER:Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me start off by apologizing to those whose phone calls I haven't returned this morning. You're not alone. And then, if I can, let me run through a lot of what's going on with the Secretary, and what's going on around here, and then I'd be glad to take your questions.

[USSR: Overthrow of Gorbachev]

[Secretary's Activities]
The Secretary has been kept fully informed since we first heard the news last night, and he is returning to Washington this evening. Shortly after the announcement in Moscow, the Operations Center briefed the Secretary on their conversations with Embassy Moscow and on the other reports that were coming in. During the night, the Secretary checked in several times with the Operations Center for an update on events. The Operations Center also, of course, kept the Acting Secretary -- Acting Secretary Lawrence Eagleburger -- fully informed of developments as well. The Secretary himself, as you know, has talked to the President actually several times. He has been in touch with General Scowcroft several times, and he's spoken with the Acting Secretary several times. He has also talked to Ambassador-designate Robert Strauss. The Secretary is planning to leave Wyoming this afternoon and return to Washington. He will arrive here this evening. At this point I don't have an exact schedule for you. Ambassador-designate Strauss will be returning with him on the same airplane. This morning, in addition, the Secretary has spoken by phone with a number of Foreign Ministers. Around here we have been following the situation closely. As many of you know from his appearance at C Street, the Soviet Ambassador, Ambassador Komplektov, was in for a meeting with Acting Secretary Eagleburger. At that meeting, he conveyed a copy to the Acting Secretary of remarks -- a message by Mr. Yanayev. This was a public statement or something very similar, if not identical, to the public statement that you've seen on CNN and elsewhere. Acting Secretary Eagleburger expressed our concerns about the situation developing in the Soviet Union, along the same lines as the President did this morning. The meeting lasted about 15-20 minutes and took place shortly after noon.
Travel Advisories
And the one other thing -- let me tell you about the status of the travel advisories. We are, of course, reviewing our travel advisory for the Soviet Union in light of these events. In the meantime, we're advising American citizens to avoid public demonstrations and to exercise caution. There have been no reported incidents of violence against American citizens. All airports at this point are open, and their operations are normal. We're asking that Americans who are presently in the Soviet Union to contact the American Embassy in Moscow or the Consulate General in Leningrad. American citizens seeking information regarding their family members in the Soviet Union should call the State Department's Task Force. The number is Area Code 202-647-0900. And with that, I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Is there any way you can describe more specifically how relations with the Soviet Union might be affected by this, with specific reference to the proposed Middle East peace conference? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can do that. I think it's too early to try to say that at this point. The President ran through, this morning, his general approach; his support for reforms. Questions about some of the treaties and other things were answered by him this morning. At this point, though, the President is coming back to Washington. The Secretary is coming back. We have been having meetings in anticipation of the possibility -- or the prospect that they will meet and, of course, further decisions on specific things will be handled by them. Q Was there anything said by the Ambassador -- by the Soviet Ambassador regarding the Middle East peace conference in his talk with Eagleburger? MR. BOUCHER: Nothing specific that I'm aware of. You're aware of the statements coming out of Moscow that say they intend to pursue a similar course and abide by their international obligations and things like that. But I'm not aware that he said anything specific. Q Richard, the Ambassador told us very briefly that he assured the Administration that the Soviet Union intends to pursue its policies of reforms -- both political and economic reforms -- and also to maintain and even further good relations with the West, especially the United States. Can you elaborate on this at all? MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't, except to say that those are the elements that are contained as well in the statements that Mr. Yanayev has made in Moscow, and I think you're familiar with those; that the message that he passed to us was either the identical text or a very similar text to those statements. Q What was the U.S. reaction to that? MR. BOUCHER: Our reaction is, as I said, the Acting Secretary expressed our concerns along the lines the President did this morning. The President this morning expressed our strong support for the process of reform; said that we were disturbed by the extra-constitutional developments in the Soviet Union; said that we will follow events carefully and determine an appropriate response. He made very clear that the West was not going to retreat from its principles of reform, openness, and democracy in the Soviet Union. Q What is your sense of the support that this committee has in terms of military support or public support? MR. BOUCHER: I can run through with you the people who have been identified as being part of it, but I'm not able to assess their support at this point. Q They expressed a concern that they would not be "generals without an army." Do you have a sense that they are generals without an army right now? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen that, and I'm not, at this point, able to comment on what sort of public support they may have. Q Do you want to go through that list now? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. It's an eight-person "State Committee for the State of Emergency in the USSR." That's what they call it. They say they've taken control of the central government and declared that their decisions are binding for all levels of government. The new Kremlin leadership represents leading Soviet hardliners. Its key members are the U.S.S.R. Vice President Gennadiy Yanayev, Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov, KGB Chief Vladimir Kryuchkov, and Defense Minister Dmitriy Yazov. The other four members of the State Committee are Oleg Baklanov, Deputy Chairman of the President's Defense Counsel; Boris Pugo, Minister of Internal Affairs; Vasiliy Starodubtsev, Chairman of the U.S.S.R. Peasants Union; and Aleksandr Tizyakov, President of the Association of State Enterprises and Industrial Facilities. Q May we have a copy of that list? MR. BOUCHER: Sure. We'll put that up. Q The President did say this morning that he thought that economic aid or cooperation should be put on hold. What economic aid or cooperation is there, and has it been put on hold? MR. BOUCHER: I will have to get you a list of that. We were working on one. I'm not sure I had the whole thing when I came down here. So if you'll excuse me, we'll put a whole list of that together for you. Q Have steps been taken today to put certain things that are in the pipeline on hold? MR. BOUCHER: Effective with the President's statement, they are on hold, and I'm sure we will make sure that they're not further implemented. Q I mean, was there anything practical that had to happen today that isn't going to as a result of this? MR. BOUCHER: I can't give you, at this point, a specific list of hits that programs have taken. Q Were there any official visits to the Soviet Union planned that are now being put on hold or cancelled? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have planned. There are two visits underway. But, as I said, at this point, I don't have a specific list of hits that programs have taken. Q Can you tell us which official visits are underway now? Q And will they continue? MR. BOUCHER: That's what I can't -- I can't give you a specific list of changes that have been made in specific programs. Two U.S. official visitors in the U.S.S.R. at present: General Jaquish, U.S. Air Force Acquisitions. He's in the Soviet Union as part of the military-to-military exchange program. An FAA official is currently in Leningrad. Q Richard, your list of the committee did not include Mr. Bessmertnykh, and I wondered what the U.S. assessment is about whether he is still the Foreign Minister, and whether the Secretary has made any effort unilaterally to contact him? MR. BOUCHER: At this point we haven't had any contact with him, and I don't think we can tell you where he is. Q Do we think he's in power? MR. BOUCHER: I just don't have anything. We've not heard from Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh, and I don't know where he is. That's about all I know about it. Q Richard, just for the record, do you regard this as a coup? MR. BOUCHER: The President called it a coup this morning. Q And does the question of continued relations -- diplomatic relations arise? MR. BOUCHER: That gets into complex legal issues. The question, I think, is one of recognition and working with the new government. At this point, the President expressed our concerns and said that these events could have serious consequences for our relationship. But I can't go any farther beyond that at this point. Q Richard, does the United States still want and feel that the Soviet Union should be a co-sponsor to the peace conference? MR. BOUCHER: Carol, that sort of specific about how we will handle different aspects of this, particularly the peace conference, I think, is one that we will have to address, and that the President and Secretary will have to address as they proceed. We still want, as I think the President made clear this morning, the Soviet Union to continue on the path of reform and for the Soviet Union to respect all its international obligations. Q But is it fair to conclude that this co-sponsorship may be under question? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't want to single out specific aspects of the relationship to take a hit on this any more than the President did this morning. So I have to decline to be that specific.
Situation Update
Q Richard, has this coup succeeded? And, if not, how would you describe the situation right now in the Soviet Union? MR. BOUCHER: There are a lot of statements in Moscow. There's quite a bit of commotion there. You are seeing various people making statements pro and con about the events there. I'll give you sort of a basic sitrep on what we see going on in the streets at this point, but I don't think we're in a position to sort of characterize the success or failure at this point. Troops and tanks are on the streets of Moscow. Communications with the outside have been interrupted but not completely cut off. The Soviet press apparently is being kept under very close control. All U.S. official personnel are accounted for and safe, and, as I said earlier, we have no reports of other Americans in the Soviet Union being involved in incidents or being in danger. Q Are you concerned about Boris Yeltsin's call for a general strike which might emanate violence in the country and possibly create chaos? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specific comment on that. Q Richard, there's a report that the NATO ministers have already scheduled an emergency session in Brussels. Any word on that? Any word on whether the Secretary would go? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I'm not sure anything precise has been scheduled. There was a meeting at NATO this morning, NATO time, of political advisers. We expect there will be further meetings in NATO. I don't have any precise foreign ministers' meetings scheduled at this point. Q Richard, regarding the economic situation, is MFN now on hold? MR. BOUCHER: Again, that's the kind of specific aspect of the relationship which I think it's really too early for me to try to address. Q Richard, (inaudible) Yanayev said at an on-the-record press conference in Moscow that Gorbachev is undergoing treatment in the south, and, if he becomes better, he will come back to his power again, and he says, "We hope he will take office again." That's what he said on the record. How does the State Department judge this phrase, or is it simply making up (inaudible) or just making a new policy statement? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have any way of judging that. I think he was asked but declined to provide any specific information on what sickness Gorbachev might have. So at this point, I don't think we have any way of judging it independently. Q I was going to ask, do you have any independent information about Gorbachev? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Richard, in light of what you listed as having taken place overnight, rather extraordinary actions, in this coup, why is the language being used by the President and by Mr. Eagleburger not expressing more outrage, more fury, more condemnation? MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't accept your characterization of their language. I think the President made quite clear that these events could have very serious consequences for the Soviet Union's relations with its own people and with the world. It's something we're following very closely, that we are seriously concerned about, and the President made that clear this morning. Q What are possible options? What are things that the U.S. could do besides this expression of concern? MR. BOUCHER: As the President indicated this morning, that he's not intending -- he wouldn't intend to go forward with aid or assistance when you have this kind of extra-constitutional action in the Soviet Union. So that's very clearly the kind of things that we are looking at. Q Any other examples? MR. BOUCHER: I don't, again, have a list of the full things in the U.S.-Soviet relationship, nor am I able at this point to address specific aspects and give you a list. Q Richard, what are the plans for Ambassador Strauss' swearing in and dispatching to Moscow? MR. BOUCHER: I think the White House has already announced that he'll be sworn in tomorrow morning. Dispatching to Moscow -- I don't have anything for you on that at this point. Q Richard, is there a significant chance here of civil war in the Soviet Union? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'd want to go beyond what the President said this morning. Q Did Strauss have a date for departure this week or next week, which is now being put on hold? MR. BOUCHER: Let me check on that. Q Richard, do you have any comments specifically on events in the Baltic where apparently a fairly vicious crackdown is underway and a lot of the leaders -- elected leaders there sort of fear for their future? MR. BOUCHER: Let me try to get you something on that too. I don't think I have enough information here with me now to try to address that. Q Richard, you said earlier that you noted that Yanayev said that he was going to continue economic reforms. How does the U.S. view that? Is this likely true, or do you accept this at face value? MR. BOUCHER: I think we'll have to see what happens basically. We have made very, very clear -- the President made very clear this morning that the West is not going to retreat from our principles; that is, reform, openness, and a commitment to democracy. Those are the principles which have led to the rapid improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations, and that process is very important to us in the context of our overall relationship. Q What happened on our intelligence on this that we were caught so totally by surprise? MR. BOUCHER: I can't really agree with your characterization of that. The President did say this morning that no one had predicted a precise event like this at a particular time, but I think people were well aware of the activities of hardliners within the Soviet Union and well aware that this was a possibility. Q Given the way they have seized power, is there any way -- even if they continue with the reforms -- that this Administration would recognize them? MR. BOUCHER: I can't answer that question at this point. Q Richard, this Committee of Eight said it would like to rule by consensus, but is there anyone on that committee that has real power? Is it Mr. Yanayev or might it be somebody else? MR. BOUCHER: That's a question you'll have to ask them. I don't know. Q Richard, was there any -- MR. BOUCHER: Let's go over here. They've been waiting. Q You mentioned -- could you tell us which foreign ministers the Secretary spoke to, and also was the Soviet Ambassador called in at our initiation, or did he ask to come in? MR. BOUCHER: The Soviet Ambassador asked to come in this morning. The Secretary, I know, has spoken to Foreign Minister Van den Broek of The Netherlands, Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher of Germany, and I believe they were trying to put him together with Douglas Hurd of the United Kingdom. And I expect that he will, of course, be talking with other allies and other countries as time goes on. Q Has there been any evaluation of possible miscalculation on the part of U.S. policy with regard to the situation in the Soviet Union? I know that in Lithuania, I believe it was, President Landsbergis today said that President Bush possibly sent the wrong signals in his visit to Kiev where he stressed the need for the unity of the Soviet Union, possibly saying to the Soviet hardliners that they could go ahead without having any serious repercussions in terms of international relations. Has there been any evaluation of this? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to engage in that kind of hindsight with you at this point. The thing that I would make clear is that these principles that the President stressed this morning -- the fact that our relationship and the improvement that's taken place in our relationship is founded on the pursuit of further openness and further reform in the Soviet Union. Those have been the principles which have resulted over time in the improvement in U.S.-Soviet relations. Those are the principles that we have been supporting in our relationships with Soviet leaders and with the Soviet Union, and those are the principles which still apply to our relationship, and the principles that -- I think, if you look back carefully at the speeches and statements the President made during Moscow -- he very consistently supported in all his public statements. Q Richard, in the meeting today between the Ambassador and Mr. Eagleburger, did the U.S. ask for or did the Soviet Ambassador offer any assurances on who has control of nuclear weapons or on Soviet troop deployments in Eastern Europe or the continued commitment to withdrawal of Soviet troops in Eastern Europe? Any of those sorts of subjects? MR. BOUCHER: David, it was a short meeting. As I said, it only lasted 15-20 minutes. It was a business-like meeting. The Soviets gave us the text of what Yanayev has said in Moscow, which does include sort of the general assertion that they will abide by their international obligations. I'm not aware that they've provided us any more specifics than that. Q Is the U.S. aware of any unusual troop movements besides the tanks in the streets of Moscow? MR. BOUCHER: We have not seen a kind of large-scale movement of military forces that we've seen in Moscow outside of Moscow. But at this point, it's just the reports that we have at this point, so I can't tell you for sure. Q What about Leningrad? Are there troops there too? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we haven't seen that kind of large-scale movement outside of Moscow. Q Richard, is there any indication of any change in the aircraft flying from Soviet airports abroad, and was there any indication of any change in the emigration movement? MR. BOUCHER: None that I'm aware of. As I said, my understanding is that the airports are still open. Q Airports are still open. MR. BOUCHER: Let's go back there. Q You were very careful when you were saying that the President was very disturbed by the extra-constitutional action. Is the U.S. actually going to say it condemns this coup? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I want to stick with what the President said. I think he made our views very, very clear. Q Richard, it's not clear whether you are, in fact, seeking a return to the status quo ante, or whether you're just demanding the continuation of the policies of the previous Administration. Which is it? MR. BOUCHER: Again, that's a point that I think I'll just have to stick with the President. The President and the Secretary are both on their way back. They will examine many of these questions in more detail. The President emphasized over and over this morning the importance of the continuation along the path of reform, and I'll just have to stick with that for the moment. Q Do you know of any changes in recent announcements of American business ventures in that country? Any status change? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen anything announced. That would be for the companies and the business ventures themselves to try to announce. Q Did Eagleburger raise the question of Soviet emigration in his meeting with the Soviet Ambassador? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure they got into that level of detail, but I'll double-check for you. Q Richard, at the time Robert Strauss was appointed Ambassador, it was emphasized the skills that he had in dealing with economic reform and with the organization that was running the Soviet Union at the time. Is there any reconsideration of that appointment? MR. BOUCHER: You ask me that question on the day the White House has announced that he's going to be sworn in tomorrow morning? No, there is not. Q Richard, in hindsight, looking back to the London economic summit, was the G-7 position well-advised -- that of the United States and its allies -- to turn down Gorbachev's request for financial aid for cash instead of just advisory assistance? MR. BOUCHER: The G-7 position at the London summit, as our position has been, was to provide appropriate assistance and support for the process of reform in the Soviet Union in the most expeditious and the best way we thought possible. Q Can I take you back to the question, or rather the statement where you said that the United States -- or rather the Soviet Union will pledge to continue its international obligations, or something like that -- similar to this? Do you expect that if this will be so, the case with the new leadership, that they will persist and they will pick up on the peace process in the Middle East or they will have other negotiations and contacts to generate momentum for the peace process or the conference that will be supposedly held in October? MR. BOUCHER: I can't answer that kind of question at this point. You could try asking them, but I don't have that -- I'm not able to answer for specific Soviet policies and what they're going to do about them. Q Richard, you said there was some problem with communication. Has the Embassy experienced any problem in its normal communications with Washington? And have any U.S. Government personnel in the Soviet Union had any problems in the last 24 hours? Anything out of the ordinary in terms of their regular movement? MR. BOUCHER: I think I said before that all our Embassy people are safe and that we haven't had any reports of other Americans in danger in any way. We've been in close touch with Embassy in Moscow. Q What about communication? Has that been interrupted at all? MR. BOUCHER: We have been in very close touch with our Embassy in Moscow throughout. Q Richard, when you said that all official Americans were accounted for and safe, does that include the fairly significant number of arms control monitors scattered around the Soviet Union, often at military bases and factories and so on? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure precisely. I suppose -- yes, if they are official Americans, I would assume that they are, but I don't have a precise list of who they've been in touch with at this point. Q Have you been able to communicate with them? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know for sure, Chris, on any given person. I'm just told that overall, the official Americans are accounted for and safe, and we have no information that any other Americans have encountered danger. Q Richard, did your receive any request for asylum from Soviet officials, or Soviet figures, living in the United States or visiting the United States? MR. BOUCHER: I guess after saying that we probably won't comment on asylum matters, just to establish the principle, I'm not aware of anything. Q Richard, you speak of these people -- the members of the committee -- as "hardliners." Just how hard are they on certain subjects like the -- from my point of view, are they anti-Semitic in any way? MR. BOUCHER: I really can't characterize them further. I think that's something that you all could examine. They are public figures, in most cases, who have made statements before and whose history is fairly well known. Q I was wondering, you said that you asked about Gorbachev's sickness and you haven't received any answer. Do you believe that Gorbachev is -- MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't say that. I said I thought Mr. Yanayev, who was asked about it this morning at his press conference, and that he did not provide any answers to it. Q The U.S. Government hasn't asked? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of, no. Q Do we believe that he's really sick? And are we concerned for his personal safety? MR. BOUCHER: I was asked before if we had any information on his sickness, and I said, no, we didn't have any information on it. Q Aren't we worried about him? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I could really try to characterize it. Q Does he have a cold, the flu, or pneumonia? MR. BOUCHER: You can ask him and ask the people in Moscow. Q The treaty of union was about to be signed in the Soviet Union. Was that apparently the event that triggered this action? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can describe the motives of these people. They'll have to explain it for themselves. Q Has the Secretary communicated with any Soviet official or former official, such as Mr. Shevardnadze? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of at this point. Q You've said that you didn't want to get into specifics. Is it possible, in just general terms, you might be able to spell out what serious consequences this would have for our relationship? Just general terms along the lines of -- is it possible? MR. BOUCHER: I could, but I would essentially pull out my page of quotes from the President this morning and repeat them to you, which I think I've done already once or twice. Q In your own words, is it possible to just overall -- MR. BOUCHER: In my own words, I will say that the relationship would be affected exactly as the way the President described it this morning. I'll leave it to him and the Secretary to provide any further detail on that. I'm sorry. Q Does this situation represent a danger to the United States in any sense? MR. BOUCHER: That's a pretty broad term. I wouldn't want to try to characterize it one way or the other. Q But in terms of the nuclear question, is that one that we're reassured about, that there's no cause for alarm? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specific cause for alarm. I think the President was asked about this this morning. I forget exactly what his answer was, but he didn't indicate anything special. Q Was the Ambassador accepted this morning as a representative of a new government? Is consideration being given to not recognizing this government in power? MR. BOUCHER: That gets back to these whole questions of recognition and working with governments that take over in various places. These are complicated legal questions. He was accepted this morning as the -- he is the Ambassador of the Soviet Union. But exactly how that relates to any specific government, I don't want to try to characterize it at this point. Q Wait a second. On that point, you usually say in such circumstance that the question of recognition does not arise, and you are refraining from saying that on this particular occasion. Is there any reason for that? MR. BOUCHER: The word "recognition" is used in two ways. The question of recognition of a state is the one that frequently arises. And when there's a change in government, as you say, that does not arise. The question then proceeds to, "Well, how will you work with governments?" And that depends on things that work themselves out over time. When I'm asked questions that seem to characterize how we are working with these people who have made the statements in Moscow, I'm going to decline to try to characterize in any specific terms. Q The United States has described this committee as attempting a coup. Did the Ambassador who came in represent himself as the Ambassador representing these coup-plotters? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that was what he said upstairs nor was that what he said at C Street when you all asked him what he was doing here. Q Wait. Who does the United States think it met with this morning -- the representative of what group? MR. BOUCHER: We met with the Ambassador of the Soviet Union, who came to convey to us the statements which have been made in Moscow by the leader of the committee which has taken over in the Soviet Union as the result of a coup. Q He said he's representing them? MR. BOUCHER: He conveyed the message that Mr. Yanayev has for other governments and heads of state. Q Did he express any reservations, though, about having to do that? MR. BOUCHER: If he has any, you'll have to ask him. Q The U.S. is not, by seeing him -- by accepting an Ambassador who brings a message from this new group -- you don't think the U.S. has recognized this new group in any way or offered them any, even indirect, diplomatic recognition? MR. BOUCHER: David, I don't want to try to characterize this meeting as bestowing some sort of favor on the new government or recognition on the government there. He came to deliver a message from the people who have taken over in Moscow. We accepted the message on that basis. We conveyed our views back to those people by Acting Secretary Eagleburger's statement to him. The United States has, I think, made its views clear this morning in the press conference that the President gave, and I don't really have anything further on the questions of recognition or governments beyond that. Q Did the United States ask for its representative to meet with Mr. Gorbachev in the Soviet Union? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. Q Richard, you said you only observed large-scale movements of Soviet troops in Moscow and not in other places. Have you detected any heightened state of alert of the Soviet Armed Forces? MR. BOUCHER: Nothing specific that I'm aware of. I'll go back more precisely to what I was saying before, that our information is still very limited for outlying areas. But at this point, we have no reports of the large-scale use of troops and tanks outside of Moscow. Q Richard, was the request by the Ambassador who came to deliver the message to Mr. Eagleburger made before the President made his remarks or after he made his remarks on the issue -- on this coup, on this situation? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Q Can you check on that? MR. BOUCHER: I just don't know. I'll try to check.
Task Force Formed
Q Have you formed a Task Force upstairs? MR. BOUCHER: We have a Task Force upstairs that was formed very early this morning. Obviously, we've had people in all night. I have a little more information about, if I remember how I organized this. The Department has established a Task Force to monitor developments in the Soviet Union. Among other things, this group is handling the inquiries regarding U.S. citizens who are presently traveling or resident in the Soviet Union. The phone number up there is the one I gave you before -- consular questions, questions of U.S. citizens' welfare and whereabouts, (202) 647-0900. For the moment, we're asking that press inquiries be directed to our Press Office downstairs: 647-2492. That's about it. Q Filing break? MR. BOUCHER: Filing break if anybody wants it. Q I arrived a little late here. Have you received appeals from leaders of the various Soviet republics? And can you tell us anything about your contacts with them? MR. BOUCHER: There is quite a bit of commotion in Moscow. Our Embassy, of course, is in touch with political leaders in the Soviet Union, including those of the republics, to the extent that they can. At this point, I have neither a list nor a desire to focus on any specific individuals. Q Richard, in that regard, are there any official U.S. Embassy people in the Baltic states, as there have routinely been over recent months? MR. BOUCHER: Let me check on that for you. Q Richard, could you just explain to me -- I'm not sure -- why it is you have not asked after Gorbachev's welfare? He's a friend of the West. It sounds like he's very sick, according to these guys in Moscow. They have said he can come back as President when he feels better. So why has the U.S. not inquired after the health of this man? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, the events are unfolding. We're following the developments closely. There have been a number of things said about Mr. Gorbachev and his health in Moscow, in the Soviet Union. We have had an initial meeting here with the Soviet Ambassador. It was a short meeting. It was business-like. It was devoted to the exchange of statements on our policy views of the situation and their explanation of what was going on. Conversations, as far as I know, have not gone to that level of detail at this point. Q Do you intend to inquire about his whereabouts and welfare at some point? And, if so, at what point? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. We'll have to see. Q Richard, did the State Department receive any indications in the past several days that something like this was about to happen? MR. BOUCHER: I'd go back to what the President said this morning, that nobody predicted that something like this would happen at a specific time in a specific way. Q Do you know if the Task Force is still reviewing advisories and policies and what not? Have there been any preliminary decisions made? For instance, if Americans who had already been planning to travel to the Soviet Union -- they were planning to leave today, tomorrow, the next day -- they're not being prevented from going? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I think I've read you our advice for Americans. I said in the meanwhile -- that paragraph there, I'll stick with that for the moment. As I said, we are reviewing the travel advisory. I think anyone who watches developments in Moscow would have some serious concerns about it. Q Richard, I would follow up with a question with regard to a warning. Mr. Yakovlev, when he made the resignation speech, he warned of the national -- political coup d'etat. Could you characterize for us how serious that information was circulated around the world -- in the U.S. Government? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can precisely characterize that specific statement. I would say that this possibility is one that people have been aware of. You will remember that when Foreign Minister Shevardnadze resigned, he made similar statements about this, and the Secretary said that he thought those were very important and needed to be taken very seriously. Since then, there have been indications, one way or the other, that have gone back and forth. We've expressed our concern about some of the developments in the Soviet Union. I think it's -- these kinds of developments are something that people recognize as a possibility, but I wouldn't claim, nor did the President claim this morning, that anyone predicted it would precisely happen at a particular time or in a particular fashion. Q Do you have concern for Mr. Yeltsin's future and whether he may be placed under house arrest? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can predict events in advance. Q I didn't really ask you to predict. Are you concerned that somehow he is going to be taken as well? MR. BOUCHER: I think I have to stay where the President was this morning and just to express our concern about any extra-constitutional means of taking over power. Q Richard, just as a matter of policy, though, Yeltsin was elected by the Russian Republic. Gorbachev was never elected by anybody. Would we view it differently if something should happen to Yeltsin as opposed to Gorbachev? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can distinguish between it. I would go back to the President's concerns about the extra-constitutional exercise of power. Q One more follow up. It sounds funny because you seem to be saying that people are unable to predict only the timing but people are aware of the dangers of this kind of political coup d'etat in the Soviet Union. Has there been any kind of discussion with President Gorbachev before the Moscow summit with regard to this kind of possibility? MR. BOUCHER: That's a question that the White House should answer, but I believe the President did already this morning. Q Richard, a question was asked over here earlier about had you noticed any heightened alertness or whatever by the Soviet military or its extensions across the country. In your answer, you said that you have seen no vast troop movements or anything like that. Troops movements are one thing; heightened readiness is another. Although you haven't seen any troops moving and that sort of thing, has the U.S. intelligence detected any kind of, again, heightened awareness, nervousness? Any sort of, in fact, confusion between military -- parts of the military that are far-flung from Moscow? You know, confusion or people not breaking away from what the central command is saying, and that sort of thing? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we have a fluid situation. As I said, I gave you the best summary I could of the reports that we had seen so far, stating very clearly that our information on outlying areas was very sketchy. The President was asked this morning about a heightened state of alert. He said he was not aware of any, and I don't have anything that would change that at this point. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 1:55 p.m.)