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Baker Hails Ukraine’s Nuclear-Free Plan

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Secretary of State James A. Baker III declared Wednesday that Ukraine is “in the forefront” of former Soviet republics seeking U.S. diplomatic recognition after President Leonid M. Kravchuk pledged to eliminate all nuclear weapons on Ukrainian soil whether other states followed suit or not.

Baker, standing at Kravchuk’s side in the gilded White Hall of a restored Czarist palace, said Washington will recognize the independence of former Soviet republics that endorse “democracy, free markets and nuclear safety. Ukraine is in the forefront of those republics that are embracing these principles.”

In an opening statement to reporters, Kravchuk endorsed point-by-point a five-point yardstick for U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union that Baker laid out Sept. 4, at a time when President Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s attempt to salvage a loose central government appeared to have at least a small chance for success.

On his current five-republic tour, Baker has converted those five points into criteria for recognition of independence. He has said that the United States will pick and choose among the republics, seeking to reward democracy and concern for human rights.

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Kravchuk, a former Communist leader who won a contested democratic election earlier this year, also sought to take the lead in nuclear disarmament. He said the republic is determined to be free of nuclear weapons by the decade’s end, even if the Russian Federation or any other state retains part of its nuclear arsenal. “Our greatest dream is to have absolutely no missile silos--not a single missile--by the year 2000,” he said.

His statement contrasted sharply to the position expressed Tuesday by President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, who told Baker that the Central Asian republic wants to get rid of nuclear weapons stationed there but would not do so as long as Russia retains any part of the Soviet arsenal, which now totals an estimated 27,000 warheads.

Kravchuk asked for U.S. technical advisers to help plan the destruction of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. A senior State Department official said the experts probably will be dispatched as early as next month to any republic requesting them. He said he anticipated that all four republics with nuclear arms would make that request.

Earlier in the day, President Stanislav Sushkevich of Belarus also declared that he is determined to make his republic “a nuclear-free zone and a neutral state.”

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He said the speed of destruction of nuclear weapons “will depend to an extent on the fact of recognition of Belarus in the international arena,” apparently a demand for U.S. recognition as a precondition. But a senior State Department official who attended the meeting said that Sushkevich made no such linkage in his private talks with Baker.

Russian Federation President Boris N. Yeltsin told Baker on Monday that Russia would remain a nuclear power for a time after all the weapons stationed in the other parts of the dissolving Soviet Union have been destroyed, an assertion that drew Nazarbayev’s declaration that Kazakhstan will keep its arms as long as Russia does.

Both Kravchuk and Sushkevich emphasized that nuclear weapons deployed in their republics would be placed under the command of a single military authority covering all of the members of a newly created Commonwealth of Independent States.

Kravchuk said he had abandoned an earlier “three fingers on the button” approach for nuclear control and agrees now that the joint command will have the responsibility. But he said Kiev will deactivate its weapons promptly, even if the central authority delays.

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All five of the republics Baker visited this week--Russia, Krygyzstan (formerly Kirghizia), Kazakhstan, Belarus (formerly Byelorussia) and Ukraine--have sought diplomatic recognition. And all promised to adhere to Baker’s five points.

“They are certainly all saying that they embrace them as a kind of Bible,” a senior State Department official said, adding, “They are writing laws in their Parliaments that are all embracing the five principles.”

The five points include democracy and rule of law, respect for existing borders, a commitment to peaceful change, safeguarding of human rights and respect for international law, including an agreement to abide by treaties signed by the Soviet government.


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