US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #125, Friday, 8/23/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 1:00 PM, Washington, DC Date: Aug 23, 19918/23/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Southeast Asia, East Asia Country: USSR (former), Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Japan, India, Czechoslovakia (former) Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, NATO, Development/Relief Aid, Trade/Economics, State Department, Nuclear Nonproliferation, Arms Control (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm sorry I'm late, but I thought we would do another briefing today to end out the week, and then we'll go back to the August schedule next week. Plan on briefings Tuesday and Thursday, again, as before, barring unforeseen events such as we've had this week. I don't have any statements, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q There are reports there will be a G-7 meeting on aid to the Soviet Union next month. Do you have anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: We've heard this discussed. We've received an invitation from the British. We're considering it. I'd remind you of what the President said yesterday -- that we expect to be talking to our European allies. We, of course, are already about the coup situation. We'll continue to discuss this with our allies. Q Do you know at what level the -- is it a specific invitation to meet at a certain level? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen the invitation itself. I believe the British said it would be "officials," meaning below ministers. Q Not presidents. MR. BOUCHER: Not what I've seen. Sonya. Q Today is the 52nd anniversary of the signing of the Ribbentrop/Molotov Pact. Have you any comment on that and the future of the Baltic states? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any grandiose comment for you on that. I believe we've discussed and the President discussed yesterday the future of the Baltic states and our hope that they could gain their independence peacefully and as soon as possible. You're right, it is the anniversary, and I guess the only thing about it that I would note is that there were large demonstrations in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to mark the 52nd anniversary, and that was the occasion upon which the Baltic states lost their independence and the forcible incorporation into the U.S.S.R. was accomplished, which, of course, we don't recognize. Q They've also issued an appeal today for U.S. recognition of their independence to speed up the process of negotiations with the Soviet Government. MR. BOUCHER: As you know, we had a meeting with them -- with their representatives in Washington yesterday. They asked us for support. We said we would be looking at that and doing whatever we could to help them achieve what they wanted peacefully, and, again, the President spoke out quite clearly yesterday afternoon. Q Did they give any suggestions of what you could do to help them? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have that level of detail for you on the meeting.

[USSR: Resignation of Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh]

Q Could we talk about Bessmertnykh? What we think of his removal? Anything we have on potential replacements? MR. BOUCHER: Let me start off with what I'm going to end with, and that's on potential replacements. The President made very clear that we're not going to be commenting on who they choose. Bessmertnykh called the Secretary at 4:45 a.m. this morning, Wyoming time, to inform the Secretary that he was resigning. The Secretary called President Bush right after talking with Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh. During the Secretary's conversation with the Foreign Minister, the Foreign Minister told the Secretary that he wanted to continue working to improve the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union and to continue working for reform. During Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh's tenure in office, the United States and the Soviet Union cooperated constructively to improve their relationship and toward the resolution of regional conflicts, particularly with respect to improving prospects for peace in the Middle East. But, as the President said this morning, the designation of cabinet officials is really a matter for the Soviets to determine. It's an internal matter, and we don't expect to have any comment on cabinet changes or potential successors. Q Do you assume Bessmertnykh was not aware of the time difference between Washington and Wyoming maybe? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. The Secretary was available to take the call. (Laughter) Q Richard, since lifting the hold on economic aid to the Soviet Union, are there any plans to expedite any immediate shipment of grain or the immediacies of what is necessary for human life; food? MR. BOUCHER: The President said yesterday that he was lifting the freeze. We had things that were scheduled in various ways in the exchange programs that we have. Some of those things happen sooner rather than later, and we'll continue with those programs. I guess that's about the best I can do at this point. Q Anything happening now? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of any specific modifications that have been made at this point to the kind of things we had before. Q I know you said that on the diplomatic front you wanted to leave your comments where they stood, but perhaps I could just try a little bit. The question is not what Mr. Bessmertnykh told Mr. Baker, because he's on his way out; the question is whether we've had any additional conversations, perhaps Mr. Strauss through the Embassy, that suggest what the Soviet position is -- you know, the current Soviet position with regard to its foreign relations with the U.S. and so forth? I mean, does this have any implications for the future of relations? MR. BOUCHER: The President, I think, was asked specifically about the peace conference this morning, and he said he didn't see any implications for that. I think that applies more generally. The policies that we've had with the Soviet Union were based on the processes of reform there, on their new thinking in the foreign policy area, and we've achieved a lot, and we've achieved a lot during the tenure of President Gorbachev as President. Q Do you see developments in the Soviet Union, the way they are today, as helpful right now for further developments in achieving perhaps Middle East peace? Also armaments -- questions about controlling nuclear weapons, and so forth, or is it too early to tell? What's your assessment? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I could analyze it in terms of the specific areas and say that because of this, it provides a boost in this area or in that area. I can say generally what the President has been saying, and that's that we see this as something that has a potential to provide a great boost to the relationship. As Deputy Secretary Eagleburger puts it, "an albatross that was around the power structure of the Soviet Union has been removed, and they are free to accelerate the process of reform and accelerate the progress on the Union Treaty, accelerate progress on a number of areas if they choose to grasp that." Q So is it not time to press ahead with new ideas to build a new relationship, or do you have to wait? MR. BOUCHER: It's time to press ahead, Frank. I don't think I would necessarily demand new ideas or a new relationship. We have a number of programs that have been started in terms of reform that we're continuing. We have a number of important things going on in foreign policy areas. As changes occur in the Soviet Union -- acceleration of the process of reform, I think acceleration of the process of defining the responsibilities of the center and the republics -- we've said clearly that those could have beneficial effects to our relationship. I think the President and the Secretary both cited the case of investment, where investors need to know who the authorities are and what the rules are. Anything that accelerates that process accelerates the relationship. Q Richard, Baltics. You've said in the past that the U.S. usually has a diplomat from the Leningrad Consulate in the Baltics. Do we now, and is there any thought being given to increasing our diplomatic presence in the Baltics? Shouldn't we do that at this point? Things are moving pretty fast. MR. BOUCHER: We have had a presence, as you know, pretty consistently for many months. We had at least one officer in the Baltics during the 3hree days of the coup, and the last I saw was we had somebody in each of the capitals. So it's something that we are continuing to do on a frequent basis. Q So you've increased from one officer to three? MR. BOUCHER: People go in and out, and periodically we have people in three places -- periodically two, one. It's a constant process, and, of course, we're very in touch -- close touch with Baltic representatives in other places as well; for example, the people who are here in Washington. Q Can I follow up on that? One of the ways in which -- one of the ideas that's been under consideration to expand contacts was to establish an information center, I believe, in Vilnius . Has that plan taken -- is there a date for that? Isn't it more concrete? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't heard of that. I don't have anything on that. Q Richard, you've told us what the out-going Soviet Foreign Minister said to the Secretary of State. Can you tell us what the Secretary of State said to the Soviet Foreign Minister? This was a man he had referred -- had called "Sasha," and praised highly as a partner. Did he express any regret? MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary talked yesterday, I think, about his views of what they've done together in time. I have here a statement of our view of what was accomplished with the Soviets during the tenure of Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh. I think that stands to reflect our views and his views. Q What's clearly happening in Moscow today is an enormous and rapid shift of power away from Mr. Gorbachev toward Mr. Yeltsin. Is the Department and is the United States Ambassador doing anything to increase and improve contacts directly with Mr. Yeltsin? MR. BOUCHER: We have had frequent contacts with Mr. Yeltsin in the past. We've had several phone calls with him over the past few days, I believe. Or was it one? Anyway, the President talked to him. Our Ambassador to Moscow has been meeting with a number of people. I believe he's described some of this, or most of this, already. He met yesterday with Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh. He met today with former Foreign Minister Shevardnadze to hear his views about the attempted coup. He's met with Mayor Popov of Moscow, and he is scheduled to meet this afternoon with President Gorbachev and this evening with Boris Yeltsin. Q Is he presenting his credentials? Q To which? To what? (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: He will present his credentials to President Gorbachev later today. That is the plan, and that's what was scheduled. I always have to say, sort of at this moment, that's what I know. I know that Gorbachev and Yeltsin themselves are having various meetings and events in Moscow. I can't promise that their schedules won't change. Q Were those separate meetings -- Gorbachev and Yeltsin? MR. BOUCHER: Separate meetings -- yes. President Gorbachev this afternoon and President Yeltsin this evening. That's what was scheduled. Q Richard, what's the fate of the Soviet Ambassador to Washington? Is he staying? Do you have any idea? MR. BOUCHER: Don't ask me. Ask the Soviets. Q Richard, Prime Minister Shamir of Israel was reported to have said that the Soviet Union should now have full diplomatic relations with Israel. Otherwise, the peace conference for the Middle East may not be able to take place. Do you have any comment on that? MR. BOUCHER: Our position in support of full diplomatic relations with Israel has been long-standing and well known. I don't have any changes. Q How about this linkage between the recognition and the peace conference? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything particular on that. I think the Secretary might have been asked before, but I don't have anything to say. Q Also on the Middle East, one of the Israeli papers is reporting that the Secretary will be going back to the Middle East in mid-September? MR. BOUCHER: There will be frequent reports about the Secretary's projected travel -- Q All accurate. (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure they won't all be accurate, George. At this point, there's nothing scheduled, nothing planned that we have to announce.

[USSR: Possible Aid Increase]

Q Richard, just because it's probably for the record, the Soviet Ambassador, in his news conference yesterday, appealed for assistance in no uncertain terms, saying that there is a very hard winter coming in the Soviet Union; and those who are friends of democracy and reform, and President Gorbachev, should think about coming through with some serious help. What is the American response to that? MR. BOUCHER: I guess I'd point out two things. The first is that later in the press conference he was asked, "What exactly are you looking for?" He really emphasized expertise -- managerial expertise -- and investment. Clearly, the kinds of programs that we have designed with the Soviet Union, the kind of technical assistance in various sectors -- like food and energy and defense conversion, housing, and others -- are designed to provide them with that kind of technical expertise. Overall, things like the special associate status with the IMF are designed to provide them with the kind of assistance they need in developing an economic reform program that taps the resources within the Soviet Union and within the Soviet economy and people. So that's the first thing I'd point out -- the way he handled the follow-ups. The second thing I would point out is that there are international mechanisms for emergency assistance where they're needed; that in the past, when there have been emergency situations in the Soviet Union, the international community has been able to step up to the plate and help them out. Should such a situation arise, I would assume that that could be done in the future. Q But I think the question is not whether you have programs providing the kind of assistance they need or not. It is whether you have programs providing the scale of assistance they need. Do you think -- does the U.S. think that it is providing an adequate amount of assistance, whether it be expertise, money, or whatever it is? MR. BOUCHER: The U.S. thinks, along with what the G-7 thinks, that at the London summit -- along with what both President Gorbachev and President Yeltsin thought at the time of the London summit -- that this was an appropriate way to help the Soviet Union; that these were good programs that they put a great deal of value in; and that these are programs that provide the kind of assistance that the Soviet Union needs. Q Is there any consideration being given to greatly increasing the scale of the programs already in place? MR. BOUCHER: That's similar to the questions I was asked yesterday: "Are you putting together some new package?" No, we're not. We're not putting together a new package. As the President indicated, this is a subject we'll continue to discuss with our allies. There are, after the G-7 meeting, mechanisms set up for us to keep in touch with the Soviets and with each other and we'll continue to do that. We have programs that are starting out that we think can be effective, useful, helpful to the Soviets, and we'll be pursuing those. Q Richard, did you get any further information on the episode about Mr. Gorbachev's folio, including his codes for nuclear weapons and all that? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Do you have anything on the Rodriguez visit to Mr. Eagleburger today -- this morning? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't, I'm afraid. Q He's the Indian Army Chief of Staff? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to look and see if there's anything I can get you on that. Q What is the specific agenda between the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Murata, and Deputy Secretary Eagleburger this afternoon? MR. BOUCHER: It's another meeting I haven't checked on. I'll have to check for you. Q Richard, is Mr. Gorbachev's continued embrace of the Communist Party a cause of concern, particularly as it relates to the pace of reforms that can be expected? MR. BOUCHER: Let me again quote for you, as I've done so often, what people smarter than I have said about this, if I find it. Deputy Secretary Eagleburger -- I guess he's Acting Secretary Eagleburger today -- made clear that the issue of aid to the regime's process of reform depends on a lot of other things other than whether Mr. Gorbachev is still a communist or not. It gets back to the question of whether aid would be of any use, or if it would be wasted without substantial and massive economic reform. Clearly, President Gorbachev is responsible for the changes in the system that made possible the defeat of the coup. There were thousands of people in the streets of Moscow and Leningrad in the last 3 days, and that probably could not have happened without the kinds of changes he has introduced in the Soviet Union. The issue now is, after the coup, whether he's prepared to embrace the moment for more and really substantial reform.

[Czechoslovakia: Joining NATO]

Q To switch to Czechoslovakia for a moment: The Foreign Minister, Mr. Dienstbier, said today that Czechoslovakia might want to join NATO. In view of the fact that he was in Washington earlier this week and met with Mr. Baker and with Dick Cheney, has anything changed in the U.S. policy of discouraging the inclination of the former Warsaw Pact members to join NATO? MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary, when he was at the photo-op with the Czech Foreign Minister, addressed our relationship with the Eastern European countries, and then NATO itself addressed those in the statement that was issued on Wednesday. So I think I better get those for you, and those I think accurately described the relationships where they stand. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 1:20 p.m.)