President Clinton on Monday announced agreement with Ukraine and Russia to dismantle Ukraine’s entire nuclear arsenal, hailing the long-sought accord as “a hopeful and historic breakthrough that enhances the security of all three participants.”
The agreement, disclosed at the NATO summit here and scheduled to be signed in Moscow on Friday, must survive potentially serious opposition by nationalist factions that oppose elimination of the weapons and control the Ukrainian Parliament. But if it survives attack, the accord will represent a substantial step forward for the U.S. policy of curbing nuclear proliferation.
Ukraine, politically and economically unstable since it became an independent state after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, has 176 intercontinental missiles armed with some 1,240 nuclear warheads--all aimed at the United States. It also has 592 nuclear warheads aboard bombers, which would be covered by the agreement.
The chaos in Ukraine, while possibly threatening the ability of Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk to carry out the agreement, also underscores the pact’s potential importance. It would allay Russia’s fear of a hostile nuclear neighbor and answer concerns that Ukraine’s nuclear weapons could wind up in the hands of other countries.
Under the agreement, the United States, Russia and Britain will provide security assurances for Ukraine when it gives up its weapons and becomes an adherent of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Ukraine also will get financial assistance in dismantling the weapons as well as compensation for surrendering the highly enriched uranium in the warheads, which can be converted into fuel for civilian nuclear reactors.
The United States has offered at least $175 million to help pay the actual cost of dismantling the nuclear weapons. The White House said the pact could also lead to a doubling of U.S. economic aid to Ukraine, from $155 million this year to $310 million.
Clinton Administration officials said the payments for uranium would be substantial. And the agreement provides that, in effect, Ukraine will receive fuel rods it needs for its power reactors from Russia now and Russia will be repaid out of the proceeds from the sale of warhead uranium later--another strong incentive for the economically desperate government in Kiev to go forward with the deal.
Meanwhile, as expected, the NATO summit, initiated by Clinton to revitalize the 45-year-old military alliance and redefine its mission in the aftermath of the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, endorsed the President’s “Partnership for Peace” plan Monday.
The plan provides for enhanced North Atlantic Treaty Organization cooperation with former adversaries of the old Soviet Bloc and for gradually extending NATO membership to them.
The NATO leaders, in a draft of a declaration to be released today, propose that “peacekeeping field exercises” be held beginning later this year with those countries that join the plan. To coordinate joint military activities within the partnership, NATO will invite participating states to send permanent liaison officers to the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels.
The plan does not guarantee expanded NATO membership. Nor does it set a timetable for admitting new members. As a result, it falls far short of realizing the hopes of Poland, Hungary and some other East European countries for immediate membership.
But Secretary of State Warren Christopher said the compromise blueprint was endorsed enthusiastically by all NATO members. Based on signals from countries in East and Central Europe, he said, he expects “a very high degree of acceptance” by the former Communist countries as well.
Pointing out that NATO also had endorsed another Clinton initiative placing non-proliferation at the core of the alliance’s effort, Christopher said that sitting in the room with other summit participants “one could see and feel the re-emergence of U.S. leadership in this post-Cold War era. This was President Clinton’s summit. He called the summit. He developed the three initiatives, which were enthusiastically and unanimously endorsed.”
While the Ukrainian Parliament has balked on nuclear arms control issues in the past, Christopher and Clinton said there are strong reasons for Ukraine to endorse the trilateral agreement. And the secretary said the United States believes Kravchuk can implement it through executive order.
Clinton said, “We have no reason to doubt the ability of the president (Kravchuk) to keep the commitment that he is prepared to make.”
Kravchuk’s press service announced Monday night that an agreement had been reached to hold a “consultative meeting” between Kravchuk and Clinton in Kiev on Wednesday and a trilateral summit with Clinton, Kravchuk and Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin in Moscow on Friday.
The statement said nothing about a substantive nuclear agreement, noting only that the Moscow session would focus on “the completion of recent trilateral negotiations.”
Senior officials in Ukraine suggested the final terms of the accord had yet to be determined. “From a legal standpoint, a final agreement and the end of talks are two completely different things,” said Anton Buteiko, Kravchuk’s top foreign policy adviser.
Valentyn Lemysh, head of Parliament’s military affairs commission, said Kravchuk is empowered to conduct negotiations on Parliament’s behalf. “The president is entitled to sign accords, but if there are any contradictions with the conditions imposed earlier, then the pact must be put to ratification,” he said.
The prospect of Kravchuk signing a nuclear accord with Russia and the United States immediately came under fire from Ukraine’s nationalist opposition.
“President Kravchuk has no authority to sign an international document on nuclear weapons,” opposition leader Vyacheslav Chornovil told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency. “Nuclear policy is to be worked out by Parliament.”
Alexander A. Shalnev, a columnist for the Russian newspaper Izvestia, expressed doubt about Kravchuk’s ability to win parliamentary support. “It is very unlikely that Kravchuk will succeed in lobbying for the agreement in the Ukrainian Parliament,” he said. “In his efforts to reach an understanding with the United States, he is always having to make concessions to the opposition. I am not sure this attempt will be much more successful than the previous ones.”
On another issue, Clinton reaffirmed that Washington remains ready to help NATO implement a peace settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina if one is reached by the warring parties. He expressed confidence the U.S. Congress would support such a move if the operation were clearly under NATO command, the means of carrying out the mission were equivalent to its purposes and the purposes were clear in scope and timetable.
He said he welcomed inclusion in the final declaration at the end of this summit a reaffirmation that NATO is prepared to carry out air strikes if necessary to prevent the strangulation of Sarajevo, the safe areas and other threatened areas in Bosnia. Clinton said NATO had better not be engaging in rhetoric but be prepared to take military action.
“Those of us gathered here must understand, therefore, if the situation does not improve, the alliance must be prepared to act,” he declared. “What is at stake is not just the safety of the people in Sarajevo and any possibility of bringing this terrible conflict to an end, but the credibility of the alliance itself. And that, make no mistake about it, will have great ramifications in the future in other contexts.”
In announcing both the Partnership for Peace plan and the trilateral agreement with the Ukraine and Russia, Clinton said, “we have taken two giant steps toward greater security for the United States.”
Calling nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union the most crucial non-proliferation challenge facing the world, he pointed out that when the Soviet Union dissolved, four of its countries were left with nuclear weapons--Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus.
He said that by working to eliminate Ukraine’s arsenal--the world’s third largest after the United States and Russia--he was seeking to assure that the breakup of the Soviet Union does not result in the birth of new nuclear states, which could raise the chances for nuclear accident, nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation.
Earlier, after a year of U.S. diplomacy, both Kazakhstan and Belarus agreed to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Clinton is scheduled to leave here today when the summit ends and go to the Czech capital of Prague to meet with leaders of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to discuss the Partnership for Peace plan and other issues.
Addressing the opening session of NATO, Clinton said: “The size of the reactionary vote in Russia’s recent elections reminds again of the strength of democracy’s opponents. The ongoing slaughter in Bosnia tallies the price when those opponents prevail. If we don’t meet our new challenge, then most assuredly we will, once again, someday down the road, face our old challenges again.”
Skeptics have viewed Clinton’s Partnership for Peace as an empty halfway step between East European leaders’ demands for full NATO membership now and the reluctance of Moscow and some European capitals to see any expansion of the old Cold War alliance.
But Clinton declared, “This must not be a gesture.”
Staff writer Richard Boudreaux in Moscow and special correspondent Mary Mycio in Kiev contributed to this report.
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An Atomic Arsenal Aimed at U.S.
President Clinton said Monday that Ukraine had agreed to a deal with Russia and the United States to give up its nuclear arsenal, including 176 missiles targeted on the United States. A look at Ukraine’s current arsenal:
STRIKING DISTANCE OF SS-24 AND SS-19
Distance from Kiev to Washington is about 4,500 miles, Kiev to Los Angeles just under 6,000 miles, which puts them within striking distance of both missiles.
Warheads: 10 each
Flying range: 6,214 miles
Based: At Pervomaysk
Length: about 72 feet
History: Rail version in 1987; silo version later
Warheads: 6 each
Flying range: 6,214 miles
Based: 40 at Pervomaysk; 90 are at Derazhna
Length: About 88 feet
History: Deployed 1974-82
NATIONS WITH NUCLEAR STRIKE CAPABILITIES
1. United States
(capabilities confirmed and recognized by Pentagon)