95/05/05 Interview of Secretary of State Warren christopher  Return to: Index of 1995 Secretary of State's Speeches/Testimonies || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

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                         U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 
                         Office of the Spokesman 
For Immediate Release                                   May 5, 1995 
                             INTERVIEW OF 
                      HOWARD MOSS - MUTUAL RADIO 
                     CYNTHIA INGLE - MONITOR RADIO 
                            RON PEMSTEIN, VOA 
                        PAM COULTER - CBS RADIO 
                         BILL CLOUGH - UPI RADIO 
                           CHRIS MORRIS - BBC 
                            TOM GELTON - NPR 
                          Friday, May 5, 1995 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  On Monday, the President will go to Arlington to 
make a speech and participate in ceremonies commemorating VE-Day with 
American veterans, and then on Monday afternoon the President will be 
leaving for Moscow.  I will join him. 
On Tuesday he'll be participating in commemoration ceremonies there in 
Moscow of the victory in World War II, along with other world leaders.  
Chancellor Kohl, Prime Minister Major, and others will be there at the 
same time. 
Then on Wednesday and Thursday morning, the President will be in Moscow 
for bilateral meetings with President Yeltsin as well as a number of 
public events, such as a speech in Moscow State University. 
On Thursday morning, he will fly to Kiev where he will be involved in 
meetings with President Kuchma and other ceremonies during the course of 
Thursday afternoon and Friday, and return home on Friday. 
One question, of course, that's come up is:  "Why is the President 
making this trip?"  I would say there are two categories of reasons. 
The first reason, and the reason that really fixed the timing of the 
trip, was to join the commemoration of the end of World War II in 
Europe.  The President was advised, and he himself concluded, that this 
is a day of enormous importance to the Russian people.  The Russians 
lost in excess of 20 million people during that war, the war against 
Fascism.  The President felt it would be not received well among the 
Russian people if he didn't make the trip -- if he didn't respond 
favorably to the invitation. 
I think the President has an overriding sense that in order to have a 
good relationship with the Russian Government, he needs to have a good 
relationship with the Russian people. He thought that this trip would be 
conducive to such a good relationship with the Russian people.  As part 
of that he's going to be making a speech at Moscow State University, 
which is really a speech to the people of Russia. 
At the same time, the President felt he should be making the trip in 
order to continue the pragmatic engagement with the Russian leaders.  At 
the present time, the question really is not whether to engage with the 
Russian leaders but how to engage.  I think the President and President 
Yeltsin have found it possible to have very businesslike, very 
constructive meetings as they work through a long series of important 
issues.  Certainly, this is no exception. 
There are many important issues:  European security, the arms control 
issues, the non-proliferation issues, the issues relating to Chechnya, 
the issues relating to Iran.  It's a very rich agenda but it is one that 
the two leaders, I think, will show their capacity to work through as 
they have their bilateral meetings on Wednesday. 
Then, the President will go to Ukraine.  I just want to emphasize the 
importance of the Ukrainian stop.  It has not gotten very much attention 
in the press -- perhaps, naturally enough -- because the commemorative 
ceremonies are in Russia, but there have been great strides made in 
Ukraine in the last six months under President Kuchma.  The President is 
going there in order to try to help the momentum go forward in Ukraine 
and in the U.S.-Ukrainian relationship and to set a new agenda with the 
With that brief introduction, I'll be glad to take your questions.  Why 
don't we start around on this side. 
QUESTION:  Some Russian analysts think that President Clinton has very 
little leverage to use on President Yeltsin, except for IMF loans and 
influencing more bank loans.  Will President Clinton pressure Mr. 
Yeltsin with Western insistence on these in Russia? 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  The President has a good working relationship 
with President Yeltsin, and I think they recognize that they represent 
two great and powerful countries.  I think their dialogue is in that 
Each of the issues they discuss, of course, has to be discussed in terms 
of what is the best interests of each of the countries.  President 
Clinton will not be asking Yeltsin to do things except as he can try to 
identify their being in the best interests of Russia.  Of course, the 
President's guiding star on this will be in terms of what is in the best 
interests of the United States. 
So the leverage is sometimes, I think, overstated or misunderstood.  
Certainly, we have assisted Russia in its joining and its involvement in 
Western European institutions.  The degree of that involvement will be 
closely related to Russian conduct.  For example, Russian conduct in 
Chechnya has, I think, slowed the pace of Russian involvement in Western 
institutions, such as the European Union and the Council of Europe, and, 
to some extent, in the G-7. 
That may be a form of leverage, but I think it will be useful for the 
President to point out the costs that the Russians are paying in world 
opinion and world reputation growing out of the venture -- really, the 
misadventure -- in Chechnya. 
QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, you've said that you don't expect any major 
breakthroughs on this trip.  Does that mean that the major importance of 
the trip is more ceremonial rather than any concrete advances on the 
issues that you mentioned -- Chechnya and nuclear proliferation?  And, 
if so, does that give more credence to the critics who say that that 
this is just a trip supporting Boris Yeltsin? 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  The trip will certainly have very important 
ceremonial overtones.  The President will be going to commemorate the 
end of World War II in Europe and basically adding his expression of 
appreciation for the enormous sacrifice that the Russian people made in 
the victory over Fascism.  But you should not underestimate in any way 
the importance of the bilateral discussions. 
The Presidents of these two countries have agreed to meet every six 
months.  It is time for another meeting.  The agenda is one that really 
requires the two of them to meet.  There are a number of important 
issues that can only be decided at the highest level. 
President Yeltsin has identified, for example, the decision with respect 
to involvement in European integration as being one that he desires to 
take himself. 
So it is time for a meeting.  The Presidents will make progress.  I 
wouldn't want to foreshadow any enormous breakthroughs, but that doesn't 
mean that the meetings are not valuable, even essential.  They'll be 
businesslike and constructive.  I think after the sessions are over, 
you'll find that it was well worth the President's trip to Moscow in 
order for him to have these discussions. 
QUESTION:  Is there a danger of President Clinton's going to the summit, 
that it acts as an endorsement to Yeltsin's adventures in Chechnya? 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  The position that we've taken with respect to 
Chechnya from the very beginning makes it clear that we have not 
endorsed it.  That venture began in early or mid-December and even 
before Christmas, our Administration was emphasizing that we thought 
that that was an undesirable step for the Russians to take.  As time has 
passed I think it's grown to a genuine tragedy with a tremendous loss of 
So what the President has said over time and what he'll be saying in 
Moscow, I think, leaves no possibility that we'll be endorsing Chechnya 
-- quite the opposite. 
I would make this point, however.  I do not think the relationship 
should be held hostage to any one issue or any one event.  The 
relationship is too important for both countries and for the world to 
hold it hostage or make it dependent upon any particular issue or any 
particular relationship.  Indeed, the very existence of such issues 
makes it all the more important that the two leaders talk. 
QUESTION:  Can you point to any example, any particular example in the 
past few months, where the policy of pragmatic engagement has 
identifiably led to any change in Russian policy?  In other words, where 
we've actually been able to influence Russian policy as a result of this 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  We've worked together on a number of matters 
where, on a day-to-day basis, it's clear that the pragmatic engagement 
is useful.  For example, we've worked closely together on the Middle 
East peace process.  I keep Foreign Minister Kozyrev informed on what 
we're doing there.  He recently made a trip to the region and brought 
back important information to me about developments as he saw them 
We've been working closely together on the Non-Proliferation Treaty 
Conference in New York.  There appears to be good news on that front 
this morning.  We have now exceeded 90 co-signers or co-sponsors of the 
resolution, which I think assures in the long run that the conference 
will be a success.  This is a place where we've worked very closely 
We've been working closely on matters in the Balkans.  I talked with the 
Foreign Minister about the very concerning developments that are taking 
place in Croatia, and we agreed that we should do everything we can to 
influence the parties to prevent that conflict from breaking out. 
One of the countries we're going to -- Ukraine -- on this trip is an 
example of our constructive engagement with Russia being highly 
valuable.  So you look across the board on one issue after another -- 
the fact that we can discuss them with Russia, work through them in a 
businesslike way, shows that there is real value to the constructive 
QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, you agreed with the Russians that the United 
Nations should be re-established in areas of central and west Croatia 
where the U.N. was thrown out, and the Serb Krajina forces were thrown 
out.  Does that mean that the United States supports not only the 
restoration of U.N. control over that area but also the re-establishment 
of Serbian -- Croatian Serbian control? 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  I think the aim should be to re-establish United 
Nations' control in the area, to try to settle the situation down, to 
try to ensure that the fighting ceases, and that there's no reason for 
further retaliation.  This is an action/reaction situation, where the 
action by the Croatians in taking Sector West has caused some highly 
inflammatory shelling of Zagreb with many deaths in Zagreb.  What we 
need to do is to try to bring this matter back into a more peaceful 
I would not want to try to specify precisely how the parties ought to 
adjust the future, but it's clear that the Croatian offensive has caused 
difficulty and has provoked a reaction on the part of the Serbs.  What 
we need to avoid is an action/reaction -- and further escalation. 
The parties there need to get into discussions.  I've noticed that Mr. 
Akashi of the United Nations has tried to have those discussions.  His 
efforts to promote a cease-fire have not been successful up to this 
point, but we need to find some way to get the parties into discussions 
with each other to reinstate the relatively peaceful relationships  
that they had in that sector before the recent offensive by the 
As I say, I don't want from this distance to try to prescribe the 
precise outlines of how the status quo might be re-established, but 
clearly United Nations' control in the area would be a very important 
QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, while the President is in Moscow, will Russia 
be taking those formal steps to associate with NATO that were expected 
in December? 
QUESTION:  Barry, President Yeltsin has reserved that decision for 
himself to make.  President Clinton will be talking to President Yeltsin 
about a broad-based program for European integration which will include 
Russia's active participation in the Partnership for Peace; a further 
activation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe; a 
dialogue between NATO and Russia, and a steady, deliberate course of 
NATO expansion, not accelerating and not slowing. 
I hope that when President Clinton is able to have that discussion with 
President Yeltsin, President Yeltsin will feel reassured and be prepared 
to sign the documents or authorize the signing of the documents.  But 
that will have to await that meeting. 
I think the circumstances are such that the Russian Government ought to 
want to go ahead with those documents, because the signing of those 
documents enables Russia to participate in the Partnership for Peace and 
enables the dialogue to take place. 
But it's not a foregone conclusion from my standpoint.  I'm hoping that 
that will be one of the outcomes in Russia, but I would not say it's 
been assured. 
QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, how much discussion will there be in Moscow on 
Bosnia, and I'm sure the final communique will express concern and the 
reaffirmation of the Contact Group.  Do you expect any more details than 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  It's certainly one of the items on this long 
agenda that they have, and it has new urgency because of the Croatia 
situation.  But I can't foresee from this distance exactly what the 
outcome will be.  Indeed, it depends a good deal on the meeting of the 
Contact Group which is taking place in London today and the meeting of 
the political directors over the weekend. 
It's a very rapidly evolving situation, both in Bosnia and in Croatia.  
I think it will depend upon those developments as to how it's treated in 
the final communique or in the announcement of the leaders. 
QUESTION:  You made a pretty strong case a few days ago in detailing the 
economic steps against Iran, but since then the Iranians officially have 
only expressed joy at the move, and our friends and allies have not 
indicated at all that they're going to follow the U.S. lead.  Do you 
have any reaction to the way this is playing up? 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  It's been no surprise to us at all.  We did not 
expect the allies to suddenly join in the "no trade with Iran" position 
that the President announced on Sunday.  But I think that our 
announcement has been received in the way that we expected it to be 
The key value in what the United States has done is to improve our 
ability to persuade other nations not to grant concessionary credits, 
not to engage in nuclear cooperation and not to supply arms to Iran. 
Before we took this step, we were always subject to the argument that 
after all, "You, the United States, are the largest trading partner with 
Iran.  Why are you trying to persuade us not to trade?"  I think we now 
are in a much stronger position to try to persuade our allies not to go 
forward with such trade. 
We have had some favorable reactions.  For example, the reaction in 
Japan with respect to the concessionary credit that they are continuing 
to withhold for the Karun Dam in Iran is an indication of the importance 
of the steps we took. 
It's one of those decisions that will have a long-term effect.  We 
didn't expect any immediate reaction, but I think it will improve our 
capacity to isolate Iran over the long run.  We think that's very much 
in the interests of the United States -- and, indeed, is in the 
interests of the whole world community -- to pull back Iran from their 
campaign of terrorism, from their undermining the peace process, and 
from their efforts to try to acquire a nuclear capability. 
QUESTION:  In view of the recent Russian actions and the political 
climate there, how concerned are you that Russia does not have the 
momentum to go forward with democratic reform? 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  We are positively affected by the recent 
developments in Russia on that front.  President Yeltsin has committed 
himself once again to the Parliamentary elections at the end of this 
year and to Presidential elections next year.  The Duma has been 
discussing a number of issues.  The press continues to be not only free 
but very vigorous. 
We are looking forward when the President is there for him to meet with 
the opposition leaders in Russia and the other leaders of the Duma.  So 
there seems to be a vigorous democracy taking hold in Russia now.  
They've been a democratic nation for only about three years.  Obviously, 
there's a distance to go, but it does seem to be a vigorous democracy.  
We'll be encouraging that trend when we're there. 
QUESTION:  Do you expect any lingering discontent by either the allies 
or veterans over the Presidential choice to celebrate the end of World 
War II in Europe and Moscow rather than London or Paris? 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  I think the President's decision is being well 
received and respected.  He is staying here on Monday for the 
commemorative ceremonies at Arlington and then flying overnight so that 
he can be in Moscow. 
The allies seem to be very pleased by Vice President Gore's willingness 
to attend their ceremonies in London, Paris, and Berlin.  Given the 
complexities of the schedule and the choices he had to make, I think the 
President made a very sound decision that seems to be respected. 
One thing was perfectly clear.  The President couldn't be both at 
Arlington and in Europe next Monday.  He chose on Monday to be here with 
the American veterans to celebrate that event.  Our Europeans friends 
and colleagues, I think, will receive Vice President Gore very warmly. 
QUESTION:  The Iranian Government has said that it does not have any 
intention or need for the spent fuel from any reactor that's built with 
Russian help.  Meanwhile, the Russian Government has emphasized that 
there's no agreement yet to provide centrifuge technology. 
Do you regard these as meaningful and significant concessions to the 
U.S. concern about the transfer of nuclear technology to Iran? 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  They're helpful steps in that sense.  But at the 
same time that they're talking about a gas centrifuge, whether or not 
they've entered into the agreement, I think shows that Iran is very 
interested in developing a nuclear weapons capacity, because there is no 
point in gas centrifuge technology which does create plutonium unless 
they have that intention. 
So although some of the statements are slightly reassuring, they also 
add to the concern because of what they foreshadow as far as the 
Iranians real interest. 
I would want to emphasize again, the United States believes that all 
nuclear cooperation should stop between Russia and Iran.  It is not just 
the issues around the edges or these marginal improvements that might be 
made that the United States will be looking for.  We'll be looking for 
the end of the cooperation completely, not just because of the reactor 
but because also of the technology and the scientists that would be 
accompanying the reactor and the big leg up that that might give Iran on 
a nuclear weapons program. 
QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, you've made pretty clear what the agenda is in 
Moscow.  But what's the important agenda in Ukraine later in the week?  
He's going to be there 22 hours.  It's not just ceremonial, is it? 
QUESTION:  Not at all.  One of the things that we're very anxious to do 
is to make sure that the dismantlement of their nuclear weapons program 
is on track. 
The other day Kazakhstan gave up its last nuclear weapon, which was a 
tremendously important step.  Although great progress has been made on 
this front, we want to make certain that Ukraine continues to destroy 
and dismantle the nuclear weapons. 
Second, we want to establish a new agenda between our two countries on 
economic matters.  President Kuchma has taken some very important steps 
with respect to the economy in Ukraine.  They deserve great 
encouragement there, and we'll be talking about how we can be of greater 
assistance to their economy. 
We're very concerned about the Chernobyl plant and plants like that 
there.  We'll want to talk about plans for the dismantlement of those. 
In the broadest sense, this is a growing relationship between United 
States and Ukraine.  We'll be talking with Ukraine about its 
participation in the Partnership for Peace because we must never forget 
the importance of Ukraine, a country of more than 60 million people with 
great resources in the middle of Europe.  It would be a terrible mistake 
for the United States to ignore Ukraine or to have it overshadowed by 
our relationship with Russia. 
So we'll really be planning a new agenda with Ukraine in circumstances 
where they do seem to be on the course, on the path of market reform and 
democratic reform. 
QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, it may be a sort of drill for any TV you may 
be doing this week. 
(Inaudible) of TV, let me ask you, what is in this for Mr. Clinton?  And 
is Yeltsin still a reliable, dependable partner?  It's the kind of thing 
you might be asked on TV.  (Laughter) 
QUESTION:  That sounds like two questions to me.  For President Clinton, 
there's an opportunity to speak to the Russian people and to honor them 
for the sacrifice that they made in World War II.  It's also an 
opportunity for him to continue the pragmatic engagement with Russia and 
the Russian leaders.  We regard Russia as a pluralistic society.  We 
want to approach them in a pluralistic way. 
So the President will not only be seeing President Yeltsin but a wide 
range of other reformers in Russia.  He will be having an advantage on 
this trip, also, to be able to meet with President Kuchma, who has made 
great strides in the direction of market reform and democratization in 
It is in those areas that I think it would be of particular advantage 
for the President -- speaking to the Russian people, engaging with the 
Russian leaders, engaging with the leaders of Ukraine, trying to make 
certain that there is a positive trend in all the countries of the New 
Independent States, all the countries of the former Soviet Union that 
they stay on course. 
The United States has an enormous stake in the continuation of reform 
and reformers all throughout the former Soviet Union.  If there is a 
reversal policy there, if they were to retreat into totalitarianism, 
dictatorship, so many things would change in this country.  We need to 
remember the tremendous advantage it is that no longer are Russian or 
Soviet missiles targeted on the United States.  That's something that's 
a great blessing for us, and we need to make certain that blessing 
QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, you've said again today that you think issues 
such Chechnya and the Iran deal need to be worked on over the longer 
term; you're not necessarily expecting dramatic breakthroughs. 
Many Republicans in Congress don't seem to necessarily share your 
patience.  Are you satisfied that you can persuade Congress to go along 
with the type of policy you want to proceed. 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  There is a strong bipartisan coalition with 
respect to our policy on Russia.  Out at the edges, of course, of any 
policy there are differences of opinion.  Take for example the Nunn-
Lugar bill --  significant for a Republican Senator and a leading 
Democratic Senator. I think there is very strong support for the Nunn-
Lugar bill which provides funds for the dismantlement of the Soviet 
nuclear arsenal.  There is, I think, strong bipartisan support for 
privatization in Russia which has now reached more than 50 percent of 
Russian industry. 
Although, as I say, there may be differences out at the edges, the 
central core of our Russian policy does have and will continue to have 
bipartisan support. 
I'll be talking with some Republican leaders before I leave with the 
President on Monday and briefing them on the trip as part of our 
commitment to approach issues of this kind in a bipartisan way. 
QUESTION:  Senator Helms, yesterday, ran a pretty convincing hearing, 
basically on the evidence that the Chinese, indeed, is engaging in the 
trade of organs from executed prisoners.  I know you expressed horror at 
that possibility a couple of months ago, and we have raised it with 
Has the State Department been able to verify these claims?  And how have 
the Chinese reacted to our approaches on that? 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Let me say, if those stories are accurate, it 
would be a gross violation of human rights.  It's an abhorrent practice.  
We do not have any documentation of that.  But I think growing out the 
hearings, it's an issue that we will need to raise in our human rights 
dialogue with China. 
No one can countenance conduct of the kind that is described in those 
stories that takes place at the hearing. 
Thanks very much. 
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