Wednesday, June 5, 2001
(Media availability with Secretary Rumsfeld and Ukraine's Minister of Defense Oleksandr Kuzmuk after the signing of a joint protocol agreement in Kiev.)
Kuzmuk: I would like to start with a greeting. Tomorrow is holiday -- a day on which we recognize the work of our national mass media. On this occasion I'd like to wish everyone success, inspiration, happiness and all the best to our mass media.
Now I would like to inform you that yesterday began a working visit to Ukraine of the U.S. secretary of defense, Mr. Donald Rumsfeld. Today, we met with the president of Ukraine, the prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine. Today we signed a protocol on our working meetings, which convinces me that we have a common vision and thoughts on a majority of issues, and we look forward to further work, cooperation and development of our relationship.
Rumsfeld: Thank you very much for your hospitality here in Ukraine. President Bush has asked me to come as the first cabinet officer in the new administration to express our interest and support for the progress being made towards free political institutions and free economic institutions and a free press. We had an excellent meeting with the president about the importance of the reforms that have been undertaken and that are still ahead to be accomplished. So that we have a stable and prosperous Ukraine that is oriented to the West, to Europe, to the Atlantic community. This is important to Ukraine and important to the United States and important to the West. We discussed the fact that we will be meeting with Ukraine as an observer in Greece at the meeting of the southeastern countries, and Ukraine's distinctive partnership with NATO.
We recognize that no book has been written as to exactly how a country moves from communism to free political and free economic institutions. And we understand that it can be a difficult path. It's been a steady path for Ukraine and we leave here impressed with the very solid commitment of the president and the ministers we met with, and with their determination to proceed down that path. And we wish them well and thank them for their hospitality.
Q: Mr. Secretary, Charles Aldinger, Reuters. Did you discuss the political crisis in Ukraine with the president, and did he personally give you assurances that the country will continue on the path of democratic rule.
Rumsfeld: He did personally assure us that and of his firm commitment and intention, and asked me to convey that to the president of the United States.
Q: How about the political crisis? Is the United States concerned that the political crisis here might have ill effects on the country and the region?
Rumsfeld: There is no question about how (Ukraine) manages the difficulties that are met on the path they're on is important. It's important in how the rest of the world views the country. And certainly that was part of our discussion.
Q: Mr. Secretary what is your reaction to the appointment of Anatolii Kinakh as prime minister of Ukraine?
Rumsfeld: The new prime minister was in our meeting with the president and we had a good discussion. The president and the new prime minister both indicated that their plan ahead is to work seriously and aggressively to achieve the kinds of reforms that are important to Ukraine.
Kuzmuk: I'd like to express my opinion as well, although it would not be appropriate to comment on the appointment of Mr. Kinakh as prime minister. It was a decision by the head of state that was supported by a majority in Ukraine's parliament. As a member of the cabinet of ministers I am impressed with Mr. Kinakh's high level of discipline, his efforts to understand the nature of issues and not to leave unturned any issues, as well as his ability to assume responsibility and to make decisions. I am pleased to say that his efforts are aimed at safeguarding Ukraine's national interests.
Q: Question to Minister Kuzmuk. You said that the document signed today shows a shared common vision and similarity of views. What, specifically are the areas where your views coincide and where they do not. And the second question is what kind of charter will be signed in Greece?
Kuzmuk: When a document is signed, whether a protocol on a working visit or some other agreement, that in itself is an indication of common views. If there are disagreements, than signatures are not signed. With regard to our protocol, it represents a complete concurrence of our views on the important directions of our joint cooperation. It goes without saying, this is our common vision on the level and forms of possible threats; the situation in the Balkans and our participation in KFOR; joint work to implement the state program to reform the armed forces; our joint cooperation on military-technical issues, military education. These important issues are reflected in the text of our working document.
With regard to Greece, Ukraine's minister of defense received an official invitation -- there is a document to that effect -- to participate as an observer in the Council of Defense Ministers of the countries of southeastern Europe. This, in fact, coincides with our foreign policy direction to integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions.
Rumsfeld: If I might just add that during the course of our conversations we also thanked and congratulated Ukraine on their cooperation with NATO, including its peacekeeping contribution with the Ukraine-Polish battalion in Kosovo.
Q: Jim Mannion, AFP. Will the new government continue its course of cooperation with NATO? And also, Mr. Secretary, did you, in your meeting with the president, press upon him the importance of a thorough investigation into the murder of this journalist (Georgiy Gongadze) for international confidence in Ukraine?
Kuzmuk: Certainly, the matter of NATO-Ukraine cooperation was discussed in detail during our official talks. This subject was also discussed during the meeting between the president of Ukraine and Mr. Donald Rumsfeld. It was confirmed that Ukraine-NATO cooperation will continue and be implemented on the basis of the principles in the Charter on Distinctive Partnership between Ukraine and NATO and according to the State Program Ukraine-NATO for the period until 2004, which was enacted by the president's decree at the end of last year.
Rumsfeld: Yes, I did discuss with the President the importance of a thorough and transparent investigation.
Q: NHK Japan television company. Question to Mr. Kuzmuk. During today's meeting did Mr. Rumsfeld offer any explanations about the American position on deploying a national missile defense system. It is well known that there is a strong divergence of views between Russia and the U.S. on this issue. What is Ukraine's position? Is it closer to Russia's or to the U.S.?
Kuzmuk: This important topic was raised during Secretary Rumsfeld's meeting with the president of Ukraine. Secretary Rumsfeld presented the position of the United States. Ukraine proceeds from the view that this issue should be discussed primarily between the United States and the Russian Federation. However, Ukraine, as a successor to the former Soviet Union, and in this respect as a country that was the first to renounce its nuclear weapons, should be invited to take part in those discussions. In this regard, the president gave an appropriate directive.
Q: Natalia Kondratyuk, Russian Public Television. I have a clarification question. Mr. Kuzmuk, you said that Ukraine will participate in the negotiation process. Does this mean that Ukraine is going to offer its services in supplying technology for an anti-missile defense system? There were talks about that. That is Ukraine intends to directly participate in deployment.
Kuzmuk: I have said that Ukraine will participate (in the discussions) -- it has a right to do this. And we are formulating our position.
Q: That is to say that currently there is no defined position concerning anti-missile defense deployment?
Q: UNIAN wire service. Question to the U.S. secretary of defense. Does the U.S. consider Ukraine a successor to the ABM treaty and will the New York memorandum of 1997 be ratified?
Rumsfeld: The administration is looking at the subject in the broadest possible way. Needless to say, when one looks at the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the proliferation of the means of delivering those weapons, there is no question in our minds that the threat is real and that the threat is growing, and that it's appropriate for nations that are concerned about that threat to move forward with respect to ballistic missile defense.
As President Bush has said, the Cold War is over, the Soviet Union is gone, and it's time to put the Cold War thinking behind us. The threat today is not from a strategic nuclear missile exchange from the Soviet Union. The threat is the fact that these weapons are coming into the hands of people like Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il, and that they pose a threat to their neighbors and others. The United States intends and is the process of conducting extensive consultations with our friends and our allies and with Russia, as well as other countries, certainly Ukraine, on the subject of missile defense. And we intend to continue those discussions. And I have no doubt in my mind that we will find a new framework that will establish a relationship that's appropriate to the 21st century rather than the Cold War. And as President Bush has indicated, we anticipate that it will involve reductions in U.S. nuclear forces that will arrange us in a way that's more appropriate for the current period.
Q: Hungarian News Agency. Mr. Secretary of Defense, Ukraine renounced its nuclear missiles at the beginning of the 1990s. If the NMD will be implemented, what guarantees can the United States, and perhaps Russia, give Ukraine?
Rumsfeld: Needless to say, I cannot speak for Russia. But I can assure you that the United States fully intends to consult closely with Ukraine as we proceed.
Thank you very much.
(Transcript recorded and prepared by the Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy, Kiev, Ukraine.)