Bush Pledges to Help Keep Soviet Union Peaceful
President Bush promised Thursday to use U.S. influence to keep the peace and discourage conflict in the Soviet Union as it plunges through the dizzying process of disintegration.
But he acknowledged that “nobody can predict with any degree of accuracy where it’s all going to be the day after tomorrow.”
In a news conference otherwise dominated by domestic politics, Bush also said that the United States is no closer to restoring normal relations with Iran, despite the release of all American hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon.
No move toward normalization is likely until the terrorists return the bodies of Lt. Col. William R. Higgins and William Buckley, hostages who died in captivity, he indicated.
The President brushed aside suggestions that the Soviet Union, once America’s most dangerous foe and more recently its junior partner in an effort to create a new world order, has ceased to exist. But he acknowledged increasing difficulty in determining just who is in charge there.
Bush tacitly acknowledged that Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s central government has lost much of its power to the individual republics. “We are working with (whomever) is there to facilitate the peaceful evolution,” he said.
He said it is vital for Washington to support peaceful change “because you’ve got some big problems of weapons and destruction of nuclear weapons and things that are very, very important.”
Secretary of State James A. Baker III plans to confer in Moscow later this month with Eduard A. Shevardnadze, foreign minister of the embattled central government. On the same trip, he will also visit Kiev and Minsk, capitals of Ukraine and Belarus, two republics that have declared independence and asserted at least shared control over nuclear weapons stationed within their borders.
Bush, addressing the hostage crisis in the Middle East, said he hopes the kidnapers eventually will be “brought to justice.” But he indicated that such action must await the return of the bodies of Higgins and Buckley.
“I think everybody who violates international law should feel that they’ll eventually be brought to justice,” Bush said, “but . . . I want to see this chapter closed before we go further along those lines.”
Bush seemed to rule out an early resumption of normal diplomatic relations with Iran, despite the release of the last living American hostage, journalist Terry A. Anderson.
Administration officials said earlier that Iran, which once was believed to have encouraged the kidnapers, had recently used its considerable influence to win freedom for the hostages.
U.S. officials said that the Islamic clerics who run the Tehran government apparently decided to end the hostage crisis as part of an effort to end their economic and political isolation.