Clinton Says Ukraine Arms Accord Ready For Signing
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) _ Paying the briefest of visits to a former Soviet republic, President Clinton today nailed down an accord to dismantle 1,800 nuclear warheads on Ukraine’s soil. He said the agreement would enhance the security of ″the entire world.″
At a news conference also attended by Ukraine President Leonid Kravchuk, Clinton outlined several steps the United States would take to provide economic assistance and security assurances to Ukraine as part of the agreement.
The president said he, Kravchuk and Russian President Boris Yeltsin would sign the pact on Friday in Moscow.
Kravchuk also hailed the agreement. ″I am sure that this day and the forthcoming days open the way for the world for disarmament and for the elimination of nuclear weapons,″ he said.
Persuading Ukraine to give up its nuclear arsenal has been one of the United States’ principal foreign policy goals in the years since the Soviet Union broke up. Clinton’s hastily arranged airport meeting with Kravchuk amounted to an international courtesy call for a pact negotiated painstakingly over many months.
Clinton also said he was offering Ukraine the same type of limited security partnership that other Eastern European nations were voted this week by the NATO alliance.
In a further sign of friendship, Clinton said he had invited Kravchuk to visit the United States in March.
″This breakthrough will enhance the security of Ukraine, the United States, Russia and the entire world,″ Clinton said at the news conference near the end of a stopover that lasted scarcely three hours. He was departing later for Moscow and two days of talks with Yeltsin.
″The deal is done,″ said a senior Clinton administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Kravchuk personally greeted Clinton as Air Force One touched down in cold, damp weather on a hastily arranged stop. The two men held their talks at the airport to save time, and there were smiles all around as they announced plans for a signing ceremony.
Clinton said the accord would cover 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles and more than 1,500 warheads.
The president briefly outlined the steps the United States would take to bolster Ukraine. He said that over the past year the United States had provided $150 million in assistance to the former Soviet republic.
″We are prepared to increase our support substantially as Ukraine moves toward reform,″ Clinton said.
The agreement would offer Ukraine $177 million from a congressional fund to help former Soviet republics dismantle their missiles, $155 million in direct U.S. aid and up to $1 billion over 20 years from commercial sale of uranium extracted from the warheads.
Also, Russia, which provides Ukraine with about 96 percent of its energy, has promised to sell oil and gas at bargain rates, to join with the United States in promising not to launch a nuclear attack and to respect Ukraine’s territory.
The agreement would require Ukraine to dismantle its 1,800 nuclear warheads - left behind with the breakup of the Soviet Union - over the next seven years. Ukraine has the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal. Kravchuk’s vows to surrender the weapons have met resistance in the Ukrainian parliament.
Asked about that opposition, Kravchuk said he hoped the parliament would act speedily to ″support the implementation of these agreements.″
Clinton announced earlier in the week that an agreement was likely, and called Kravchuk from Air Force One on Tuesday and told him, ″I appreciate the courage you have shown.″
Even in the final hours before Clinton’s arrival, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yuri Sergeev on Tuesday raised the possibility that the measure might not be ready to be signed on Friday.
″If the text is not agreed on before Jan. 14, then the meeting in Moscow could have only a consultative character,″ he told reporters.
Asked about the Sergeev’s comment, Clinton said, ″Let’s see what happens in Kiev.″ The president said he was confident Kravchuk could persuade a reluctant parliament to approve the pact.
″We have to let President Kravchuk make his own judgments about what he can and cannot do with his government. I expect that we will have an agreement and I expect it will be honored,″ Clinton told reporters after visiting with Eastern European leaders in Prague. ″I think, frankly, the more the people and the Ukrainian parliament know about it, the better they will feel about it.″
Parliamentary leaders held up previous agreements to surrender the weapons and said they reserved the right to block this one.
″Kravchuk’s desire to relinquish all nuclear weapons is in opposition to parliament’s position,″ said lawmaker Les Tanyuk. ″As president he can take such a step, but then it’s up to parliament to decide whether to ratify it.″
Many lawmakers in the Ukrainian capital worry that their former Soviet republic’s security and prestige could be compromised if it surrenders the arms.
″Yeltsin and Clinton are pushing Kravchuk into a huge conflict with parliament,″ said Bogdan Goryn, a member of the parliament’s foreign affairs committee.
Clinton brushed aside talk of dissent in the parliament.
″Well, I believe that President Kravchuk will honor the deal. They’ve already started to dismantle the missiles,″ Clinton said Tuesday in Brussels, Belgium. He said he knew Kravchuk had a hard sales job, but predicted its ultimate ratification.
Promises of U.S. aid and Russian fuel subsidies also helped win Kravchuk’s agreement. Russia’s Interfax news agency reported Tuesday that Russia would hold the price of the oil it sells to Ukraine to $80 a ton, instead of raising it to $100 a ton as previously planned.
Clinton also is visiting the former Soviet republic of Belarus to show appreciation for its willingness to give up its nuclear weapons.
When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, its nuclear arsenal was inherited by four former republics: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The latter three agreed to send the weapons to Russia for dismantling, but Ukraine has since balked at giving up its 1,800 nuclear warheads and 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Clinton has called nuclear arms in the former Soviet Union ″the most important proliferation challenge facing the world.″