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Bush, Yeltsin sign START II treaty

By
JEFF BERLINER

MOSCOW -- President Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed the START II treaty to radically reduce nuclear arsenals during a final summit for the outgoing U.S. administration Sunday.

Yeltsin called the strategic arms reduction treaty 'a treaty of hope' and Bush said 'it means a future far more free from fear.'

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'In its scale and importance, this treaty goes farther than all other treaties ever signed in the field of disarmament,' Yeltsin said. 'It is also an achievement for all mankind and benefits all peoples of the Earth.'

Following the half-day Kremlin summit, Bush flew to France for meetings with President Francois Mitterand, and Yeltsin girded himself for an uphill fight in winning confirmation from his conservative Parliament for the far-reaching arms reduction treaty.

The two leaders smiled broadly, shook hands, toasted one another and the delegation leaders with champagne after signing the historic pact in the Kremlin, then took turns touting the significance of the arms reduction agreement during a one-hour ceremony and news conference.

Yeltsin praised 'my collegue and friend George' and Bush's foreign policy team at their last summit before Bill Clinton takes over in Washington. Yeltsin credited Bush for contributing to 'a successful transition from the Cold War to a new world order.'

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Bush declared, 'Today the Cold War is over and for the first time in history an American president has set foot in a democratic Russia.' He told Yeltsin, 'I salute you for your unwavering commitment to democratic reform and for the history you have written since the heroic day in August 1991 when you climbed atop that tank to defend Russia's democratic destiny.'

Although Yeltsin and Bush praised each other for quickly forging this agreement, Bush said, 'Let me tell you what this treaty means, not for presidents and premiers, not for historians or heads of state, but for parents and for their children: it means a future far more free from fear.'

Yeltsin said, 'The high moral value of the treaty is that we will be able to hand over to our children, the children of the 21st century, a more secure world. I would call this a treaty of hope.'

'The world looks to us to consign the Cold War to history, to ratify our new relationship by reducing the weapons that concentrate the most destructive power known to man,' Bush said, noting that START 'will reduce by more than two-thirds the strategic arsenals we possess today.'

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Yeltsin said the treaty 'gives all mankind a hope for a nuclear weapons-free world.'

But Yeltsin, facing criticism from hard-liners that Russia has given away too much, also declared, 'At the same time, as president and supreme commander in chief, I can say with absolute certainty, the signed treaty strengthens the security of Russia rather than weakens it and I think President Bush can make a similar statement concerning the security of the United States.'

Bush, too, addressed Yeltsin administration critics, saying, 'We seek no special advantage from Russia's transformation. Yes, deep arms reductions, broader and deeper economic ties, expanded trade with Russia -- all are in the interests of my country. But they are equally in the interests of the Russian people. Our future is one of mutual advantage.'

Stressing further that the treaty was not one-sided -- and showing that both powers still possess substantial destructive power in weaponry they retain -- Yeltsin said, 'As of Jan. 1 we have 9,950 strategic nuclear warheads. According to the START II treaty there will be 3,000 to 3,500 warheads left... This number is not possessed by any other single state, only by the United States and Russia -- I stress not a single other state, including nuclear powers like China, Great Britain and France. This is a powerful shield which is capable of defending Russia in case of an unexpected aggression by any side.'

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Yeltsin addressed another concern -- that a Russian Parliament dominated by conservatives may throw up roadblocks to ratification.

'I'm not going to conceal from you that a certain part (of the Supreme Soviet or Parliament) is against the treaty,' Yeltsin said. 'Still, I am certain that the Supreme Soviet will ratify it.'

Bush, for his part, predicted prompt ratification by the U.S. Congress and said Clinton, who moves into the White House in little more than two weeks, is committed to these arms reductions.

Yeltsin said the treaty was 'concluded by partners who not only trust each other but assist each other. It testifies to our joint and determined movement to a new world order.'

Yeltsin said, 'Today we have every right to say relations between Russia and the United States have undergone a genuine revolution.'

Russia itself has undergone a revolution, throwing off Soviet rule and rejecting communism in favor of a capitalist market economy. Bush pledged continued support for Russia and said, 'I also want to salute the heroism of the Russian people themselves for it is they who will determine that Russia's democratic course in reversible.'

Bush told Yeltsin, 'We are with you in your struggle to strengthen and secure democratic rights, to reform your economy, to bring every Russia city and village a new sense of hope and the prospect of a future forever free.'

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Bush and Yeltsin began their final brief summit, hastily called just last week when the treaty was finalized by Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, with a walk around the Kremlin grounds accompanied by their wives and two dozen aides.

They were greeted by Grandfather Frost, the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus, to watch children in costumes singing and dancing for the leaders in front of a decorated New Year's tree.

Bush arrived in Moscow in sub-zero weather Saturday after a flight from the heat of Somalia, where he was visiting U.S. troops participating in famine relief efforts.

The 24-hour stop in Moscow came in a final Bush trip to showcase foreign policy advances of his presidency. The two leaders spent only two hours in official talks before the signing Sunday.

Bush landed in Paris before a scheduled return to Washington Sunday night.

In toasting each other on the eve of the signing ceremony, Bush called the treaty 'the most significant arms reduction treaty ever' while Yeltsin said the strategic weapons reduction pact 'can better insure a happier and more peaceful future for the peoples.'

Yeltsin characterized START II as a Christmas and New Year's gift to the world.

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Ukraine's hesitance to turn over former Soviet nuclear weapons on its territory also poses problems. Until Kiev ratifies the START I treaty and eliminates its weapons, START II cannot be implemented. Kazakhstan has ratified START I, but Belarus has not. The Soviet Union signed the first START accord, but when the Soviet Union broke up one year ago, its nuclear weapons were left on the territory of four republics, obligating them to sign the accord.

The two leaders shook hands and toasted one another with champagne after signing the historic pact in the Kremlin, with Yeltsin praising 'my friend George' Bush and his foreign policy team at their last summit before Bill Clinton takes over in Washington.

Yeltsin called START II, which will eliminate roughly two-thirds of Russian and U.S. strategic missiles, 'a triumph for Russia and the United States...(that) benefits all the peoples of the Earth.'NEWLN: more

The Russian president praised Bush, Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger and James Baker, the former secretary of state and currently White House chief of staff, for their work in establishing new relations between Moscow and Washington at the end of the Cold War.

He said the treaty was 'concluded by partners who not only trust each other but assist each other as we move toward a new world order.'

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'Today we have every right to say relations between Russia and the United States have undergone a genuine revolution,' Yeltsin said.

Bush echoed the comments, saying the START II treaty was more proof that the two former adversaries were now able to cooperate to make the world safer.

'For half a century the United States and Russia have been in a standoff...the constant threat of war seemed inevitable, a time to meet as friends seemed a dream,' Bush said. 'Now the Cold War is over... (and we) turned an adversarial relationship into one of partnership and friendship.'NEWLN: more

Bush and Yeltsin began their final brief summit, hastily called just last week when the treaty was finalized by Eagleburger and Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, with a walk around the Kremlin grounds accompanied by their wives.

They were joined by Grandfather Frost, the Russian equivalent of Santa Claus, to watch children in costumes singing and dancing for the leaders in front of a decorated New Year's tree.

Bush arrived in Moscow in sub-zero weather Saturday after a flight from the heat of Somalia, where he was visiting U.S. troops participating in relief efforts.

The 24-hour stop in Moscow came in a final Bush trip to showcase foreign policy advances of his presidency. The meeting with Yeltsin was more symbolic than substantive, with the two leaders spending only about two hours in official talks before the signing Sunday.

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In toasting each other on the eve of the signing ceremony, Bush called the treaty 'the most significant arms reduction treaty ever' while Yeltsin said the strategic weapons reduction pact 'can better insure a happier and more peaceful future for the peoples.'

Yeltsin characterized START II as a Christmas and New Year's gift to the world.

But Yeltsin may have trouble getting the new treaty through his conservative Parliament, where some have complained that the Russian leadership is giving away too much to the West.

Ukraine's hesitance to turn over former Soviet nuclear weapons on its territory is also leading to problems. Until Kiev ratifies the START I treaty and eliminates its weapons the START II pact cannot be implemented.

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