Tape 1 Касета 1
(00:00:23) We are in Washington, DC with Ambassador Roman Popadiuk. Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador.
Sara, it is very nice to be here with you and to discuss these issues.
Starting off with a question about your personal involvement covering Ukraine, can you describe when you first became involved in the process, or observed the process that led to Ukrainian independence?
It’s kind of difficult to put a specific date on it, Sara. As you know, I was the Deputy Press Secretary for Foreign Affairs at the White House during the Bush Administration, and that Administration started in January of ’89. So basically, I would say that (00:01:00) from the beginning of that Administration I was involved in the knowledge of what was going on in Ukraine, plus some of the Administration’s decisions regarding the situation in Ukraine. So, I would say, during the course of that whole 4-year period before – I should say, 3-year period before I went to Ukraine as Ambassador.
When did Ukraine as an issue first emerge in the National Security Council? When did it pop up on the radar screen?
Well, then again, it is very difficult to put a specific timeframe on it. As I mentioned, during the whole Administration, there was interest in Ukraine in terms of what was going on in the Soviet Union. Mind you we go back in time when we look at that period, in hindsight we realize that the Soviet Union was going to change; it was a question of how it was going to change and what was going to emerge. So, it’s difficult to put a specific date. One period that sticks to my mind in terms of Ukraine really becoming a major issue, I would say sometime in the early part of 1991, where (00:02:00) there were a number of discussions about Ukraine and at the same time I remember talking to some NSC members about the issues specifically.
Did visitors come from Ukraine, to Washington, to visit with members of the Administration? How was that handled? At what levels were they met?
There were a number of people that came during those years to Washington. Two stand out in my mind: Mr. Yaroslav Yavorivsky who is currently a member of Parliament in Ukraine. I met with him at the NSC and at the same time I remember Mr. Yuriy Shcherbak who came through in 1991 still in pre-independence times. So there were people of their calibre that were coming through. There was an attempt to meet with them at various levels. I think that most of the meetings were at lower levels, not very high levels. I met with them at the White House because I had an interest in the issues, being of Ukrainian-American descent, I made an effort to (00:03:00) meet with them at get an idea of what their thoughts were, what the situation in Ukraine was and how was it evolving.
How did our policy towards Ukraine evolve through this time? What were the major concerns in the minds of different branches of the Bush Administration and the foreign policy community?
Well, permit me to ramble here a little and then you can get me back on course a little bit, Sara. I think there was an overall view of the situation in the sense that we knew that the Soviet Union was changing; it was a question how it would change and how quickly it would change. No one at that time had envisioned that the Soviet Union would be collapsing and no longer exist as such. Although that possibility stayed in the back of a lot of peoples’ minds, I think the policy was driven by a number of things. Number one, obviously, nobody wanted bloodshed. If this situation was going to change in a drastic form in the Soviet Union, no one wanted a collapse in the sense that it would involve ethnic or political, social conflict among the peoples or between the Soviet Union (00:04:00) and any other countries, obviously.
A second major concern, of course, was the notion of nuclear weapons. We had nuclear weapons all throughout the Soviet space and there was much concern particularly about any tactical weapons, how this would impact on not only the safety of those weapons but also if there was social disintegration, how this may impact on terrorist attempts to get weapons, buy weapons or nuclear equipment, etc.
Besides these two factors I would add some others. You have to realize at this time, not only was the Soviet Union changing, but as a result of its changes it was having repercussions throughout the world. The United States was trying to have a very strong pro-democracy policy for Eastern Europe as well as Latin America. For example, in the late 80’s we still had the situation in Central America in particular, Nicaragua. The United States obviously wanted to have Eastern Europe become free, (00:05:00) and the United States, back in 1991 had the Gulf issue with Iraq. So we needed the co-operation of the Soviet Union in a lot of these areas. And so, the policy towards the Soviet Union, on one hand while we realized it was changing, at the same time no one wanted to do anything that would unbalance it too much, in other words, that would lead to into such a situation that it felt that it was being pressured by the United States. Of course, we felt that it was being pressured; we thought there might be a backlash where the Soviet Union might actually then not undertake some of the changes that were ongoing. So, that was one thing.
Also, we needed the Soviet co-operation interms of gettig elections and the Cuba policy. If we were able to engage them in a positive dialogue they would help us in the Gulf War, which they did, in terms of not vetoing resolutions. So that was a very important consideration in that scenario, also.
(00:06:00) So, you have to see this all in context. More specifically, then, as we saw this situation evolving and we saw the Soviet Union changing, and yet we were engaged with the Soviet Union, we realized that we had to have a different type of policy. What we evolved was, I can’t put a specific date on it -was it in late 90’s, early ’91, there was a two-fold policy that we engaged with regards to the Soviet Union, which indirectly impacted on Ukraine obviously. The one policy was that you have to stay engaged with the center because the center was what controlled the weapons, the center was what was being very positive in terms of its foreign policy toward our interests around the world and also the center was working out some kind of relationship with the republics. So we had a two-fold policy: dealing with the center and yet at the same time increasing our contacts with the republics. I think that two-fold policy evolved in 90-91 and was very important because it showed that (00:07:00) we were changing along with the Soviet Union. It was not for us to push the change because we didn’t know how was that going to evolve.
So, basically the two-fold policy was aimed at keeping our interests alive, to see how things evolved but at the same time we were not going to favor one side over another. These things have to evolve on their own. This is very important, I think, because a lot of people get very sceptical of the United State’s position during this time, and criticized the United States, that the United States was not supportive of Ukrainian desires for independence. I think maybe this background, these considerations about Soviet backlash, the nuclear weapons, ethnic conflict, give a flavor of what was in the back of our minds. But this two-fold policy of republic and center, I think, indicates that we were being a little bit broader in our perspective. But more specifically, there were a number of signals that were kind of confusing that were coming out of Ukraine. I think, just to rattle them off at this stage, so that you get an idea, you have (00:08:00) to realize that even though we had this two-fold policy, Ukraine, as early as April, 1991, had a referendum on whether or not it would stay part of the new Union Treaty that Gorbachev had been proposing. And, as far as I recollect – I don’t have the exact numbers- there was a fairly overwhelming vote in support of a new Union Treaty. That’s a very telling signal for the world and for the United States specifically.
Secondly, it’s very interesting, because I visited Kyiv in August of 1991, when President Bush went over there and that’s the famous address that he gave to Parliament which has been dubbed the “Chicken Kiev” speech. And he was criticized for not coming out in favor of Ukrainian independence and that he spoke against rampant nationalism. I’ll leave it for others to define what the rational -we can talk about what the rational of the speech was later. But I’d like to, (00:09:00) not explain the speech, but I just want to give you a context of other parts of that meeting, those meetings we had in Kyiv in August. It was very interesting because in both public and private, then Chairman of the Rada, Leonid Kravchuk, was not speaking of independence as such. He was speaking about the notion of greater sovereignty, greater economic and political rights within an overall Union. And he stated that publicly and he stated that privately. As a matter of fact, in our private discussions with him that the President had, President Kravchuk spoke about the notion, for example, of establishing consular relations with the United States. He wasn’t talking about diplomatic state-to-state relations but to have some kind of consular access to the United States.
If I recollect correctly at that time, now, it is not for Gorbachev to speak for Ukraine, but before we came down to Kyiv from Moscow, where we had signed the START Treaty, Gorbachev reassured the President that his assurances (00:10:00) from the Ukrainians were that the Ukrainians would stay in the Union because he had spoken with the Ukrainian leadership, I guess. So, his assurances were that Ukraine was going to be within the Union. And when we arrived in Kyiv, everything that we saw in terms of the pronouncements from government officials was not in the sense of independence and out. So, I just want to give a context so that people realize what was going on. And then, of course, even after the August coup, the failed coup in Moscow, Ukraine waited about five days or so to actually declare its independence but we can leave that for another time. Even that declaration of independence was contingent on a December 1 referendum. I think it was the only republic that made that contingency.
So, there was a whole process that people have to look at that was not as coherent from our side, nor from the Ukrainian side in terms of the signals that were being sent. But I think that within that process, I think that the United States was conducting itself very appropriately. (00:11:00) It was pushing for greater relations with the republics. It was pushing with the center for greater relations with the republics as well with the center. Just to give you an idea, informally, I remember back in the early part of ’91, when we were talking about this informally at the NSC, I spoke with some officials, their feeling was that by the spring of ’92 Ukraine was going to become eventually an independent country. But that was something that Ukrainians had to take the initiative for themselves. So we basically felt this well ahead of time, before the August 1st “Chicken Kiev” speech, before the Moscow coup, etc. There was a feeling that Ukraine was going to be moving in these directions.
When you talk about the two-prong policy: When the decision was taken, to increase relationships with the republics, how did that evidence itself, in terms of our diplomacy? Did we send increased delegations, did we ever increase communications? (00:12:00) Once we’d taken that decision, what’s the sort of evidence, or how did we show, communicate that to the republics?
Well, I think basically we relied upon our Embassy in Moscow to have greater contacts with the various republics. And at the same time, Kyiv was important because we were opening a consulate there, and we did establish the consulate. So that indicated our true desire to have greater contacts with the republics. I think the fact that President Bush travelled to Kyiv after he visited Moscow with a large delegation, indicated that we wanted to have greater contacts with the Republics. So, I think, all those taken in context and a number of individuals from Ukraine that started travelling to the United States, and I personally met with a few of them, like Shcherbak and Yavorivsky, when they came to Washington. We took time to meet with them and get a sense from them of what was developing in Ukraine and also pass on what our concerns were and what our aspirations and beliefs were.
(00:13:00) Did you get any feedback from the republics on how they felt about this issue? Did the Ukrainians speak in some way directly with us via our representatives in Kyiv?
I think the main line of communication was to a great extent through the Consulate in Kyiv and the Embassy in Moscow and through the delegations that came through Washington. I think there was also a great deal of information that was passed through members of the Ukrainian-American community that had contacts with various leaders in Ukraine and a lot of that information was passed on to the Administration via those circles.
When we talked about the two-pronged approach, was Ukraine given particular attention by the Bush Administration or were all the republics viewed as potentially independent?
I think Ukraine, I mean, all the republics were looked (00:14:00) upon, but Ukraine was looked upon a little more specifically in the sense that Ukraine, I think, people viewed as not only a big republic but also a republic that held the future of the region in terms of the relationship with Russia. And, I know that people felt that if Ukraine became an independent country, that would be a major historical development that would change the whole balance in that part of the world. And General Scowcroft, for example, who was then the National Security advisor for President Bush, while he intellectually favored a Ukraine to become independent because he knew the historical impact that would have not only upon the general region but on Russia itself, I don’t think that he believed that it could actually happen. You had this concept of 70 years of totalitarian communism in Moscow, and no one could believe that this thing would just collapse overnight. And not only just collapse overnight but so peacefully! (00:15:00)
So there were a lot of people – you asked me earlier in terms of people or individuals or groups that supported or had different views, I would say there basically three views regarding Ukraine: probably the most positive view of Ukraine came from the Defence Department. I think Secretary Cheney was very forwardly on Ukraine, in the sense that he saw the significance of an independent Ukraine and was very much supportive of Ukraine in the meetings that were held as well as in his pronouncements, etc. So, I think that was very important from the perspective of the Defence Department.
On the other hand, I think the State Department was a little bit more circumspect in its approach and was a bit more hesitant in its support of the republics. I think there was more of an emphasis in the State Department on maintaining some kind of relationship with the center. I think there was a greater sense of fear if the center started falling apart (00:16:00) there would be political and economic dislocations, including bloodshed and things of that nature. Mind you, I am not here critizicing. This is very easy to look back in hindsight and see these things. I think in the middle, I would like to return to General Scowcroft who believed it would be great to have the Soviet Union fall apart and for Ukraine to become an independent country, but on the other hand, looking at the history of events he didn’t think it would happen that quickly and that peacefully. But it was very important that you had at least Scowcroft at least in a neutral position because when the ball starting moving in that direction, I think we were able to gear ourselves much more quickly in support of that type of independence and the whole government was able to move a lot quicker, especially when we had someone like that at the White House.
We interviewed about a month ago, the last, as it turns out, we hope, head of the KGB, Mr. Kriuchkov, who threw many wild accusations among them that the United States had a plot to do in the Soviet Union, to cause (00:17:00) the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Well, it’s difficult to believe that we had an overt plot, … did we have more subtle goals? Was there something we wanted to see for the Soviet Union, or were we more reacting, trying to contain events that were proceeding at a very rapid pace?
I think, basically, that the handwriting was on the wall and I think that as I mentioned earlier, we had this two-fold approach to policy in terms of the republics and the center. I wouldn’t say that we had a grand machiavelian plan to undermine the Soviet Union. I think they were doing a good enough job on their own with Yeltsin and Gorbachev at loggerheads. They didn’t need any assistance from us and I think history will endorse that view that I’ve just have given. But, I think if you look back at it, Sara, … from what I recall, I would say that (00:18:00) as late as September of ’91, there were probably some people in our Administration who didn’t think that Ukraine would really move toward independence, that there would be separate republics, that the Soviet Union would really fall apart. And I think this view was predominantly held at the State Department. This is a month after Ukraine’s declaration of independence, contingent on the referendum of December 1. I think there was a dramatic shift in October of that year. If you remember, at the end of October or so, the Middle East Peace Conference was held in Madrid which was sponsored by the United States and the Soviet Union, and Gorbachev obviously attended that conference. It became obvious from Gorbachev’s behavior at that conference that power had slipped from his hands. There were dramatic changes taking place in the Soviet Union, so dramatic that there was a power vacuum developing. If not a power vacuum, at least, (00:19:00) it was becoming obvious that Gorbachev was not in control as much as he should be. And it was obvious that the whole thing was falling apart.
The question was how do you let it fall apart. Do you push it? And here I am talking in hindsight because I don’t think that anybody was talking about it in that way; I am giving my own analysis of it. I don’t think that anyone wanted to push the Soviet Union off the brink because, remember, there were two superpowers at that time: the United States and the Soviet Union. You don’t want to do anything that looks like one superpower is trying to kill the other one, because there could always be a backlash as I mentioned earlier in my comments, and actually create problems and we wanted to work with the Soviet Union. So, I think at that October timeframe there was a dramatic shift and there was kind of a movement toward support of Ukrainian independence, but support of independence with Ukrainians pacing themselves and we are following the Ukrainian lead. Remember, I think still in October of ‘91 the Ukrainians (00:20:00) announced they would no longer participate in the Union discussions until the referendum was held. So, the Ukrainians were still bobbing and weaving back and forth on this issue.
I think basically, at that time, the decision was made that Ukraine was going to be an independent country, and it was very interesting, because a day or so before Thanksgiving, President Bush met with a group of Ukrainian-Americans at the White House in the Roosevelt Room. Basically, I remember I met with them outside the Oval Office. He was out there and Scowcroft and I went to get him to come into the Roosevelt Room to come to meet with Ukrainian-Americans and the President kind of turns to me and says “Gee, I wonder what do they want”, “Mr. President, I think they want an independent Ukraine” and he kind of shook his head in agreement, you know, “Yeah”, kind of like “Oh, OK, I understand what this is about, I sympathyze.” Then he went in. He was very supportive of Ukraine (00:21:00) in terms of what were our goals for Ukraine, and in terms that we would be able to work with the Ukrainian government. It was interesting because a day later there were news reports all over – I think The New York Times carried a front page news-story that the United States had made the decision to support Ukrainian independence! I remember talking to some – let me just jump ahead and then come back- we got a lot of phone calls “Oh, gee, the United States has made the decision to support Ukrainian independence!” – and I remember talking to one individual in particular in Kyiv when I arrived in Kyiv as ambassador and he said that that news spread like wildfire throughout Ukraine and helped spark a lot of interest in supporting the Referendum because the United States was now in our court. And I say this because it was interesting because a day or so after that story appeared, (00:22:00) I think it was a Saturday – that weekend, Thanksgiving Day weekend, the President had the opportunity to speak with both Gorbachev and Yeltsin and Gorbachev was very, very upset that such a story would appear, claiming that the United States had already accepted Ukrainian independence, announced Ukrainian independence before the Ukrainian Referendum! And “This was not fair! How could you do this to me!”, of course, I am paraphrasing in this sense. It was quite interesting because in his conversation with Yeltsin, Yeltsin did not say anything. Yeltsin read that this was the end not only the end of the Soviet Union but of Gorbachev. Whatever their political conflicts were, this was politically helpful to his point of view. So it was very interesting to see how each of the two leaders there in Moscow interpreted this newsstory.
But that’s an aside. I think that a lot of people don’t realize what happened in the back-ground in terms of (00:23:00) this newsstory and in terms of the decisions that already had been made beforehand to support Ukrainian independence.
In retrospect, how good was the information that the Bush Administration was getting on Ukraine and maybe on events in the Soviet Union in general? What was the quality of intelligence reports from Embassies, what material were we working with and how accurate did it turn out to be?
I think the information was extremely accurate. I’ll point to two things. Earlier I think that I mentioned that some individuals at the NSC had mentioned Ukraine definitely would become independent, so obviously we had good information and a good reading of the pulse, and it was a question of how things would work out. In terms of actual factual information, I think it was very good. I’m not going to talk about intelligence because it matters, you know, at this stage and I can’t recall any … specifically at this stage … if I wanted to. Irrespective of intelligence, I think the information was overt. We had Ukrainian dissidents, if you consider that term still, (00:24:00) Ukrainian political leaders, others coming to the United States and the Ukrainian-American community was very active going back and forth. Information was really flowing freely back and forth. I don’t think we were at a lack of information as to what was going on in Ukraine.
The thing that was driving this was an overall pitch – and let me just emphasize that. As a great power, the United States had interests not only in the Soviet Union, but in Eastern Europe, Germany, the reunification of Germany, the Gulf War, peaceful devolution of power. And if everything played out well, then Ukraine and Azerbaidjan and Poland, everyone would benefit. As you look back at history, while we received a lot of criticism that maybe we were going too slow, or we weren’t pursuing a more forceful track on one hand over another, if you look back in history, everyone got what they needed: the Soviet Union fell apart very peacefully, Ukraine became independent, Eastern Union became independent, Nicaragua had the free elections, (00:25:00) the Gulf War went through without any glitch in terms of obstructions from the Soviet Union, and Germany got reunited and stayed within NATO. Not a bad track record.
So, in retrospect, pretty good policy.
Well, I’ll leave to historians to say that (laughs).
Sure. You mentioned President Bush’s trip to Kyiv, and that really was perceived in Ukraine as a very important event. Could you talk a little bit about the decision to go …
Sure. I can’t recollect specifically the decisions but I think there were a number of things that played into this: First of all, Ukraine was the second largest republic in the former Soviet Union, in terms of importance – outside of Russia. I’m not talking about size or anything. But also, you have to realize that President Nixon had visited Kyiv when he had come to the Soviet Union back in the early 70’s, I believe it was, and the fact that we were talking about a two-fold policy of support of republics and (00:26:00) support of the center, at the same time, I think warranted that taking all these factors into consideration, that a visit to Ukraine was probably proper and I think that was probably what motivated the visit.
And the tone of the visit…
I thought that the tone of the visit was very good. Well, there were two tones to the visit. I think I know what you are trying to … let’s take the Chicken Kiev speech (smiles) and handle that situation first.
President Bush did address the Ukrainian Parliament and I remember sitting in the Parliament and listening to his speech and I remember that at one point during the speech there were two Ukrainian deputies that got up and held up flags, Ukrainian flags, the blue and gold flag, one very large and one very small.
It was very unfortunate that the President gave the type of speech that he gave because when I looked around the room, I noticed two very emotional scenes, (00:27:00) not very overt, but you could kind read people’s faces and the way they sighed, and in the one sense, the Ukrainians that were very strongly in support of indepdendence for Ukraine, gave a very palpable sigh of disbelief and frustration while at the same time, the majority, which was communist and dominated Parliament at the time, gave a smug side of satisfaction. I personally was upset to see that that kind of message was being interpreted by both sides because I think it was an erroneous message to both sides and that’s unfortunate.
I remember talking with General Scowcroft about the speech later on and I told him, “You know, it was a mistake doing a speech like this.” And his explanation was – I heard you say that you’d be interviewing him so he can fill you in on this (00:28:00) – but just to paraphrase his response, basically was that in hindsight it was a mistake to have given that speech for that kind of audience but the purpose of the speech was not to say that Ukraine shouldn’t move toward democracy or political reform or its own future, controlling its own future. At this same time we had the issue of Bosnia very much in our minds. Remember this was 1991, and at the same time we had the issue of Nagorno Karabakh. So there was a lot of concern about that kind of ethnic conflict. I think that after Kyiv we went to London, so Kyiv was the last stop in that part of the world that we were going to have. It was still proper to give that kind of message so that everyone around can understand that message. Unfortunately it became too localized as a message aimed at Ukraine. In hindsight, I think the General has admitted that it was a mistake. But, you know mistakes … you can’t bring it back. (00:29:00)
And it was unfortunate, because I know when I arrived in Kyiv as the Ambassador, it was one of the questions that the Ukrainian press always hit me on in terms of Chicken Kiev, the Kiev August 1 speech. Call it whatever you want. Why did the President say is that this a negative review of his policy? No, this is not US policy. I would not be here if this was US policy. And so, that was unfortunate.
In terms of the reception we received, I think we received very good reception in Kyiv. The crowds were extremely enthusiastic. Almost straight from the Airport, particularly after we came over the bridge over the Dnipro into the right bank, the streets were lined with people, two, three deep, waving American flags and Ukrainian flags. Young, old, middle-aged people all over. At one time there was an a downpour of rain. People just put up umbrellas and just it rained, no one (00:30:00) was going to be frustrated or made to go away by the bad weather and so, it was a very good reception.
We had a number of visits, as I mentioned, we had the bilateral meeting with the then Chairman of the Rada, Kravchuk, which I already described somewhat. If I remember correctly, Prime Minister Fokin was there. We had the fellow from … it escapes my memory … at that time, the Vice President, Yanaev, I think it was. He was the Vice-President and he had come down as a protocol person from Moscow, as the Vice-President of the Soviet Union, and he sat in. All the discussions were in Ukrainian, even though he couldn’t really speak Ukrainian. The Ukrainians were going to make very sure that their language was being used, which is fine, and that was great. It was good to see them doing these kind of things. (00:31:00)
But anyway, in the meanwhile, the address to the Parliament that I spoke to you about already, we had a wonderful reception. I remember, just an aside, if you want, to do the culinary thing, a lot of the White House staff travelled around the world with President Bush many times and it was probably the best meal served anywhere around the world. It was a lunch President Kravchuk served, and it really made an impression on a lot of people in terms of the food and the quality of the food and the tastiness, which I think it was something Ukrainians should be very proud of.
We made a visit to Baby Yar where the President gave a speech, a very emotional speech. It was very well received there. The President also made an impromtu movement out of his limousine and greeted the crowd outside of Baby Yar. The crowd was very receptive. We also visited St. Sophia’s with President Kravchuk as our host and guide. It was very, very good. (00:32:00) You could tell in the crowds, that the crowds were very enthusiastic. And the the visions of the crowds was for independence. We realized that to a certain extent, I think, although, maybe some people didn’t realize it. Maybe I was a little bit more tuned as a Ukrainian-american seeing the type of reception that we were getting that this place was on the move. What was even more telling in hindsight was what appeared to be the separation of the leadership from the people. I spoke to you earlier about the view of Kravchuk and Fokin in terms of sovereignty and being maintained in the Union. Whereas the crowd definitely on the street didn’t have Union on its mind. So, that was kind of interesting to see that play of horses between the populus and the leadership at that time.
Tape 2 Касета 2
(00:33:00) The rise of public opinion in the Soviet Union as a relevant political force, as something that was in the minds of policy makers when they were taking decisions, and as something that impacted the West’s interpretation of events in the region. Could you describe what Washington’s perception of the role of public opinion and the mass media was and how it changed from ‘88 onwards?
That’s hard to delve because I’d have to delve into my subconsciousness to try to get a lot of things back here, Sara, but I don’t think there was a concept of the mass media that we were aware of in the West, in terms of CNN, things of that nature. I don’t think that was really existent in terms of the Ukrainian situation. (00:34:00) I think the mass media part or the lack thereof was illustrative about what I just mentioned to you, in the sense that I saw this very active support for independence in the streets of Kyiv which did not seem to be readily shared by the leadership at that time. So, there was a disconnect there, I think. I also think there was a disconnect within our own administration in the sense that while we saw it, I don’t think we understood it in the sense we should have. When I say that we maybe didn’t understand it I want to be fair. A lot of things were coloured for us in that part of the world by the things I mentioned earlier … the nuclear weapons, things of that nature, so we wouldn’t look so much at public opinion. Public opinion wasn’t as massive as it is now, where it is (00:35:00) reported so easily. It was still in its developing stages at that point of the game.
What do you think the fallout was, if any, of the Chicken Kiev speech?
It continued to keep Ukraine in the forefront of the Administration’s mind. It had no impact on the Soviet Union as such or Gorbachev. I mentioned earlier that the President and Gorbachev had spoken about Kiev before they had to come down.
The impact was that we appreciated Ukraine. I think the big turning point was the coup, and when Ukraine declared independence on August 24, 1991, those were the turning points. The following month in September, (00:36:00) then still Chairman of the Rada Kravchuk visited Washington and was received by the President. The President had a meeting with him. I think it was like September 25th, that time frame, he visited. Later that same day Mr. Kravchuk came back to have additional meetings with the NSC. Two meetings in one day at the White House, which shows the importance. Basically from that stage on after the coup, I think we started bending over backwards to show Ukraine that it was important in the scheme of things, and as things were evolving. Mind you it was still limited by the notion that we didn’t know which way Ukraine was going to go still, because there was a referendum that was coming up, etc. A lot of this changed in October after that Madrid conference I mentioned to you earlier.
(00:37:00) The All-Union Treaty: Gorbachev compiled a series of documents that Ukraine refused to sign onto. How closely were we monitoring the all Union Treaty? Were we paying attention to the Ukrainian decision to sign?
Yes. With the two-track policy of republic and center that we were following we believed that there would be a new Union Treaty, so we were supportive of the concept of an all Union Treaty. It was a way to get the best of both worlds. The Administration (00:38:00) saw it a s a way to prevent social, political, economic dislocations and bloodshed, and at the same time to give a lot of new independence to these republics. So in that sense the new Union Treaty seemed to fit the mold. It was something that was supported but in a sense, we didn’t choose one course over another. It was something for the center and the republics to work out, and I think that General Scowcroft made this quite clear.
In terms of monitoring the Ukrainian situation, yes. We monitored Ukraine in the NSC on a daily basis, as information came to our attention. There’s no doubt about that.
In terms of the coup, I think anybody’s guess is correct at this stage of the game. The common assumption is that people who plotted the coup undertook it in order to prevent the Union Treaty from coming through because they felt it would take too much power from the center and give too much power to the republics, and this was a process (00:39:00) they weren’t willing to follow-through.
News of the coup was as much news to us as it was to most of the other people in the Soviet Union when it took place. We were in Kennenbunkenport at the time. The President was on his working vacation up in Kennebunkenport in his summer home there. It was before 11, a little past 11, I forget the exact timing, that I first got word of it. I went to General Scowdroft…we were staying at the Nonanum Hotel there…and I said to him, “Hey Brent, I think we got a coup here. The press is clamoring, What’s going on?” Scowcroft said that there was not much information we had at that stage of the game. I consulted with him and we decided that the best thing to do was to say we were monitoring the situation (00:40:00) and we don’t have all the information, which was the accurate thing. We didn’t have the information about what was going on.
He and I decided we had to do something in the morning, this thing was going to be pretty hot stuff. The President was scheduled to play golf that morning. I said “Gee Brent, I don’t’ think the President of the United States should be talking about the Soviet Union on a golf course; I think we need something a little more formal here.”
He says: “Draft a statement, Roman.”
I said: “I’ll draft a statement.” And at the same time I said “You’d better talk to the President and tell him there shouldn’t be any golf in the morning.”
He looked at me wistfully and said “Gee, maybe it will rain in the morning.”
Anyway, I went and spoke to the press and said we have no information at this stage of the game. I went back and drafted a statement for the President I slipped it under Scowcroft’s door. I didn’t want to wake him up at 3:30 in the morning. I went to bed for an hour or two. (00:41:00) I got up, then we met in his office at around 6-ish or so and we drove out to the President’s compound. It was starting to drizzle a little bit so I was saved. He wouldn’t go golfing, I figured. We decided to hold the press conference in one of the Secret Service houses they had on the compound there. We set up a last minute system.
Just before we went down there the President was on the phone with Embassy Moscow to make sure everything was OK. As we were walking down Chancellor Kohl called, because we had tried to reach the Chancellor but hadn’t been able to get through, so we stopped on the way and went to his office – he has a little building there – and he took the call. Then we went into the news conference.
At that stage of the game we really didn’t have much information, Sara, in terms of whether it would be successful or not. Although I have to tell you, and here I’m just recalling off the top of my head, (00:42:00) I think it was probably around 4:30ish in the morning, before the President’s press conference, we started getting indications that this was not a traditional coup. That the movements and takeovers that were traditionally associated with coups were not there. So we started hedging our bets on this a little bit.
After the news conference, we got on the plane to go back to Washington for a meeting. The President left for Washington. By that time, we started even holding back our punches a little bit more in terms of the view of the coup. It was obvious that this thing may not be flying. It may collapse.
The general assumption was that it would work, when it first started to happen?
Well, in the Soviet Union, if someone takes over, you kind of assume “gee, this is going to be it.” By 4:30 in the morning people started having doubts. By 10 am or so when we were en route to Washington, we really were having strong doubts and we were hinting that not all coups succeed, you see. (00:43:00) As it started evolving, the coup plotters lost their nerve, whatever, and the whole thing collapsed. I think we played it just right by not overreacting too much. Based on the intelligence we were getting, this did not seem to fit the pattern of a traditional coup.
What were the signs that it wasn’t a traditional coup?
Tanks were not moving in the right directions; radio towers were not being taken over. Things of that nature. Things you could have noticed from CNN, probably. Things that make people who deal with these issues say “wait a minute. If this is a coup why aren’t these things happening?”
Why do you think it wasn’t happening?
I think there was probably a misreading on the part of the coup plotters on what had happend in the Soviet Union over the past 3-4 years. I think that’s what it was.
Yelstin’s election in June of that year as President of the Russian Federation (0044:00) went over a lot of people’s heads; there was a big change taking place. Just as a lot of people in the West misinterpreted what was going on, a lot of the people in the former Soviet Union misinterpreted it. You can be in a place and still not understand what is going on, and I think these guys were classic cases of this. They just figured that in the old Soviet system if you declared something it was done.
But now you said something and people said “wait a minute.” And then this guy Yeltsin jumps up on a tank and says: “I’m not going along with it.” I think that kind of shocked them. As a result of that, since they didn’t make the traditional preparations because they didn’t expect any kind of opposition once that initial opposition comes, you don’t have a logistical tail of support, and the whole thing just fell apart.
(00:45:00) Do you think that the coup plotters, who were, frankly, most of the Politburo, and certainly controlled the armed forces, the military, the people with guns. Do you think that they were as nervous of bloodshed as the rest of them?
Oh, I think so. I think the last thing you wanted to do was to have a coup and then have the responsibility of bloodshed and war. I think that probably played in the back of their minds. Irrespective of that, I think the main things … I don’t think they thought they needed force. (0046:00) They thought that by stating something … it’s the old Soviet System … that it would be done. People would act out of fear, and it wasn’t so. Then when it went that far, and they saw there was an opposition, it was too late for anything. At that stage, rather than fight for a losing cause, I think they just gave up on themselves.
When we had reaction to the coup in the period that followed, when it became clear that the Soviet Union was probably not going to last, did we coordinate policy with our allies?
Absolutely. There were lots of consultations. The president was very prone to “phone diplomacy,” as the term used to be used at the White House. There were a lot of consultations. But I think that a lot of people looked to the United States as the driving force on this issue. Two superpowers. (00:47:00) I think I relayed to you that we tried to approach it in a very systematic, step-by-step process. If you look to the conclusion of this story, take it to December 25th. On Dec 1, Ukraine declared independence. We welcomed Ukraine’s independence, and we let it be known that pretty soon we would be recognizing Ukraine’s independence. We get a lot of criticism, why didn’t we recognize Ukraine immediately? First of all we waited for the December 1 referendum. Why didn’t we recognize it after? For the simple reason that there as still a Soviet Union. Ukraine declared independence and the referendum hadn’t been made. You still had Gorbachev in the center. Then you had the situation where on Decmeber 8 there was the signing of the CIS. We didn’t know what that meant. What’s this CIS stuff? (00:48:00)
We wanted a formal closure to the Soviet Union on its own volition before we moved forward. What happened was a natural progression. On December 25th, Gorbachev announced he was going to resign. He called the President at Camp David, spoke to him. Gave him the announcement about what was going to happen. The president came back from Camp David that evening. I went into the White House to set up some of the logistics for his address to the nation.
That evening, I met with General Scowcroft, we were in his office. This was Christmas Day, December 25th. We were talking about it, when a letter came from Gorbachev, delivered; it wished luck to the President, to Barbara Bush, (00:49:00) and help with the former Soviet Union, its relations, things of that nature.
I remember Scowcroft sitting there. You have to remember the context. For 70 years, the United States, since WWII specifically, the United States had been gearing itself in defense from the Soviet Union, and to overcome the SU and to bring an end to the SU. And here it was! Without a shot being fired!
The two of us were sitting there. It was dark outside. I said “Gee Brent. Pretty nice events.”
He was siting there, and said one word, I remember, in deep contemplation, “historic.” It was just mindboggling. We had been aiming at this for so long, and here it was, and had been done so peacefully. He then went to see the President, and the President (00:50:00) delivered his address, recognizing Ukraine plus five other republics, and then you know the story about the other six, eventually he recognized those.
There was a natural progression that seemed to go once the decisions were made. The Administration got a lot of criticism that we didn’t go fast enough, but you look at December 25th, you had an independent Ukraine. Gorbachev left in dignity. I think the President had some respect for Gorbachev as an individual. Here was a guy that did bring the changes about. Changes that we were able to take advantage of, and that the people of the Soviet Union were able to take advantage of. If there was one thing that the President wanted, it was to let Gorbachev go in dignity. The President was very dignified himself about that.
Gorbachev resigned. The President made the announcement. Everything went like clockwork. And that was it.
(00:51:00) What do you think views were in the Ukrainian-American community, starting probably earlier, in ‘86, ‘87, ‘88 when some of the seedling independence movements started forming? What were attitudes toward Ukraine, towards the possibilities for independence and towards what the Ukrainian-American community could do to achieve those goals?
The Ukrainian-American community (00:52:00) has always been very pro-Ukrainian in terms of independence in 1991, and prior to 1991. The Ukrainian-American community had always placed an emphasis on maintaining its own cultural base, language and history, just like any other ethnic group in the United States. And this was compounded by the fact that Ukraine was not an independent country, so you had a political motivation to be involved.
The Ukrainian-American community always put that very high on its agenda, both within the community and outside the community. There was a lot of lobbying, particularly of the Hill members, for support of Ukrainian independence. If you go back to the Ukrainian Congress Committee in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s when they had the “Captive Nations” resolution passed. Ambassador Lev Dobriansky was head of the UCCA at the time and helped to co-author the Captive Nations Resolution, which basically condemned all the countries that were under communist control, and celebrated, in the third week of each July “Captive Nations” week. The Ukrainians were very much involved in those kinds of things.
Ukrainians were also involved in celebrating Ukrainian independence on January 22, which marked the republic from the First World War. Those celebrations were held at state capitals, Congress, and so forth. Through resolutions, celebrations, Captive Nations, the Ukrainian-Amercian community was very involved. (00:53:00) The Ukrainian-American community was very much involved in terms of passing information from Ukraine to various administration officials, and that was very helpful. So, I think the symbiotic relationship between Ukraine and the Ukrainian-American community was very, very close. The Ukrainian-American community played a very important role in terms of information that it was able to pass on to the administrations and in terms of the information it was able to share with the general public.
Why were pro-independence groups in Ukraine, in your opinion, allowed to exist, allowed to go about their activities when these same people were put in jail earlier? (00:54:00) Suddenly in 1988, the lid was off. Why wasn’t there a clampdown?
Not only that, but in 1989, there was a ban lifted on the Ukrainian Catholic church; religion was being revived. I think it all goes back to Gorbachev, quite frankly, and his two policies, perestroika and glanost.
Perestroika in the sense that you had to reorganize society, that the communist-command economy, the way things were operating, was not working. You had to get a new mechanism in place. Glanost in the sense that in order to have a new mechanism, you had to have new thought processes to get ideas going. So when he lifted the lid on those two things, that gave freedom to people to start questioning and doing things.
Fortunately for Ukraine and the other republics, he wasn’t able to put a parallel structure in place. He was able to destroy, but not to build. I think that destruction process held very much so for Ukraine, (00:55:00) for the Baltics and for other republics to start questioning, to start talking about issues, and to start forming organizations.
The fear was still there because it was still a communist society. But the degree of fear had been removed by the glasnost and perestroika policies.
Do you think that Gorbachev ever thought it possible that lifting fear of repercussion would lead to the kind of results we are seeing?
To delve into Gorbachev’s mind…let’s put it this way. What we have right now I don’t think is what he had in mind (laughs). I don’t think he had that in mind.
He was basically a product of his own past and his own ideology, as we all are in certain respect. (00:56:00) He was forward-leaning, but yet he was tied to the past. If you’ll let me do an on the spur assessment of this, I think he felt that by lifting these bands, there was still enough commonality among the republics, as Soviet people, that they would take advantage of it, but not to abuse it.
I don’t think he realized the strong pull of ethnic and economic forces that were in existence, and that’s a product of his own shortcomings. That’s basically what it was.
You are in a unique position to describe what you saw as the first American Ambassador to Ukraine, the preparations for opening diplomatic relations, (00:57:00) the policies, the missions of the United States.
I was very delighted to be the first US ambassador, not only because of my own Ukrainian-American background, but also because this was a great opportunity to establish bilateral relationship with what I saw would be an increasingly important country of 52 million people, with great human and natural resources…so I was very thrilled to take that challenge. The challenge was immense, Sara, because it was wrapped in a set of assumptions that dominated policy in the Bush administration and in the early parts of the Clinton Administration. That was basically the Russian perspective.
I remember the evening that the President was going to announce (00:58:00) recognition of Ukrainian independence. There had been penciled into his text comments about Ukraine and Kravchuk specifically, a sentence or two. That was taken out by the State Department. The State Department was against it, because they feared it would give too much weight to the Ukrainians, and upset Yeltsin and Russia.
I was aghast. Aghast. But it showed me the kind of problems we would be having. The State Department was very centered on Moscow, on nuclear weapons, things of that nature. The White House had become more flexible. Scowcroft understood the issues better. Cheney, I mentioned earlier, and the Defense Department were very much geared towards Ukraine. I don’t think there was any question about which way I leaned on this issue. But the State Department came down very strongly on that, and it was removed from the President’s comments. (00:59:00) I don’t think anybody knows this. That part of the speech was never given.
Unfortunately a lot of this followed into my stay in Kiev also. The assumptions were that Russia had to succeed first in order for the other republics to succeed. That Russia was playing a very positive role in international politics, and we should try to further that role. We shouldn’t do anything to try to antagonize this, so there was this concentration on Russia.
Plus, even though we understood the politics of Ukrainian independence, I don’t think anyone understood the culture of Ukraine, and what Ukraine meant. We didn’t have that historical affinity, as Germans would or French would have towards that part of the world. Washington was lacking.
I found myself in Kiev, doing a number of things. Trying to educate Washington about the importance of Ukraine and at the same time trying to change Washington’s perspective from a policy that was geared (01:00:00) toward Russia, and trying to concentrate more on Ukraine. That was one of the biggest challenges I had. And I wasn’t always successful. In some parts I was successful, because that was a policy that continued even to the Clinton administration, quite frankly.
Opening up Kiev, an Embassy, was quite a challenge. When I was faced with those dilemmas of grand policy, I wasn’t going to lie down, and I found myself doing a subterranean policy.
I remember when I got my nomination, it called for an Ambassador plus 15 people. That was it! This is a country of 52 million people. So I extended my tentacles into various bureaus and agencies in the U.S. government, and tried to get as many people stationed into Kiev as possible, knowing the adage that once you get a foothold, a bureaucracy grows like an ameoba, of its own volition. Once it starts growing, policy changes.
(01:01:00) So I concentrated very heavily on that. By the time I left, I had 54 Americans, full-time and TDY, and more than 100 Ukrainian nationals on staff which was a considerable size embassy, My successor, Bill Miller, has even doubled those numbers on both scores. He understood the importance of that.
I played policy on a grand scale with Washington in terms of trying to change its perspectives, but I also played my policy games with the bureaucracy in terms of expanding in Kiev. I think that was very beneficial to Ukraine. To show the U.S. presence there.
What were some of the issues that dominated the early policy agenda of the US Embassy?
I think the Ukrainians were concerned with Russia, in the sense that they saw our policy was geared towards Russia. I tried to tell them, no, that Washington for some (01:02:00) strange reason was preoccupied with Russia in the short term, but that eventually, things will change and you’ll be equally as important.
This is not in any sequential order.
Ukrainians were concerned that the view was always through Moscow on Ukraine. I tried to break that to a great extent. I was happy we were able to do that towards the end of my tour. We had Senator Mitch McConnell from Kentucky come through. We had a long conversation about the notion of pulling Ukraine out separately from the Foreign Assistance Act. Instead of saying “Russia and the other republics,” Ukraine should have a separate aid package. I said “this is very important. It doesn’t change the numbers game at all, but it puts Ukraine separately, and it makes Ukraine feel better that it is being treated as a separate country.”
He was very enthusiastic about that, because he had heard some of that from the Ukrainian-American community in the States. And when he came, lo and behold, he did pass an Act which said something like “Ukraine should not receive less than $300 million,” (01:03:00) which singled out Ukraine. And that was a victory. It was a small victory, but it was a victory back in 1993.
In trying to push the importance of Ukraine to this administration, I remember in July of 1993 the Russian parliament voted that Sevastopol was part of Russia. That wasn’t going to wash, so I put out a statement. I notified the Department on Friday night and didn’t wait to hear back from them. I put out a statement the following day, on Saturday morning, saying that the United States recognizes, and I am paraphrasing Sevastopol as an integral part of Ukraine, Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine. That statement was huge! I had the defense ministry, the foreign ministry calling me. “Are you sure Mr. Ambassador? Is this what you said, is this what the United States has said?” (*01:04:00)
I said “yes. This is what the United States has said.” Not the Embassy, I said the United States of America. It went like wildfire, and the Ukrainians were really pleased. I think that helped a lot.
There were a few things that happened before that. One of the things was when Strobe Talbott visited in May. He was then the President’s special representative for the Newly Independent States, carrying the title of Ambassador. If you recall back in April, 1993, we had a low point in our relationship with Ukraine. A new Administration was in, and was placing a lot of emphasis on nuclear weapons, as the Bush Administration had done. The new Administration was pushing the Ukrainians to ratify the Treaty.
(01:05:00) In April, then-Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma had wanted to visit the United States, and had received an invitation from the House Agricultural Committee, Representative Kiki de la Garca, I believe it was. He was all set to come to the U.S., but he had wanted to have an audience with the President and with the Secretary of State. Well, the answer came back from the (State) Department that the Secretary would be legitimately travelling and would not be available, and there would be no audience with the President.
The kicker on that letter was that at the end it said it would be a lot better for Kuchma to visit after START and NPT ratification. The message was very clear. Once you ratify START, then we can have a normal relationship. I remember I went back to the Department and said that this was ridiculous. You can’t do this. Kuchma is one of the few guys in this government who probably has some political future and at the same time has the willpower and smarts to move forward. And he was doing some economic reform. Small, but some. First privatization took place in February of 1993 under him in L’viv. (01:06:00)
This is a guy we want to cultivate. You don’t turn your back on him. You invite him even if you tell him your standard policy on nuclear weapons. I got overruled on that, which is fine. Ambassadors usually get overruled on things. And the visit did not take place. Kuchma did not visit. I think this hit a low point in our relationship, and Washington realized this.
There was a lot of congressional push. Congressman Dick from Washington, for example, was writing. And the late Secretary Aspen saying we have to have a pro-Ukraine policy, not just a Russia policy. So I think a combination of factors, our own blundering, through this Kuchma fiasco, pressure from the Hill, led us to reassess the situation. Ambassador Talbott came out in early May and basically said “time out. Let’s start all over.” He didn’t bring anything new. He didn’t bring any economic assistance, but he said “let’s start over. We’ll talk about everything, including nuclear weapons, but let’s start over.”
(01:07:00) The Ukrainians were so exhausted after the first year of independence, that they saw this as a welcome respite. They said “that’s great.” I remember talking with Zlenko about this. He basically said “that’s nice, but we’ll see what the actions are.” There was still caution.
The McConnell thing followed in July. Our statement from the Embassy about Crimea and Sevastopol showed a little credence that showed maybe yes, there is a change in policy. Those things helped a lot. There was a whole process of steps that took place to change the policies.
The nuclear weapons issue itself, I’ve touched upon it a little bit just now, was very important to the Ukrainians. I think this one of the issues that Washington did not understand. Nuclear weapons were important to Ukraine for a number of factors. There was a financial side of it in terms of compensation and the cost of dismantling the weapons, for example. (01:08:00) There as also the security aspect. The Ukrianians wanted security assurances. Their old historical enemy, as they perceived it, Russia, and they feared what Russia might have planned for them in the future. They wanted some kind of security assurances on that issue.
So I don’t think Washington understood that a lot of this was Russia-related. We eventually came around to seeing that and we were able to solve a lot of those things.
Tape 3 Касета 3
I’ll try to recollect as best as I can the sequential events regarding the nuclear weapons issue. In May of 1992, President Kravchuck made his first official visit to the United States and nuclear weapons were a major topic of discussion, this was a month before I arrived at post. (01:09:00) We received assurances from Ukrainians that they would be ratifying both START and NPT. Later that month in May they signed the Lisbon Protocol, which made them a party to the START Treaty in their own right. I arrived in June. Ukraine that month ratified CFE. Everything seemed to be on track; they were going to be abiding by the weapons agreements, both conventional and nuclear.
Then things seemed to unravel on the nuclear weapons issue. There were a number of factors that were predominant in Ukraine’s mind. One was security issues, another was compensation for the HEU, and the third was financial assistance for dismantlement. In that May visit to the White House, the Ukrainians were very keen to obtain U.S. security guarantees or assurances if they should give up their nuclear weapons. At that stage of the game, the Administration, particularly the State Department, (01:10:00) was not overly eager to give security assurances to Ukraine … mostly out of concern that if Ukraine were to receive some kind of security assurances, where would the process stop? Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, would want assurances. So there was a hesitancy, and the Ukrainians left without the assurances.
The President did write to Kravchuk, I believe, in June of that year, after I arrived at post, and did offer in a letter, a negative type of assurance. In the event of a nuclear attack, we would go to the UN to support Ukraine. We also made the offer to help Ukraine build up its conventional forces. The best way for Ukraine to get its security going is through (01:11:00) economic and political reform, which is a constant message we gave. If you’re weak internally, you’re not going to be able to withstand any external pressure.
That didn’t seem to persuade the Ukrainians too much. We still ran into the problems of security assurances. I think in the early fall we changed our perspective and said “gee, maybe we can give them security assurances …” Scowcroft had never been against the concept of security assurances; his concern was always what the Ukrainians would want, exactly, and what we would be willing to offer. How do you meet those two demands.
In October of 92, undersecretary of State Wizner came out to Kiev and started talking about early deactivation programs, things of that nature. (01:12:00) Ukrainians spoke about security assurances. In November of that year I sat down with Boris Tarasiuk, who was then deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine. He and I started informal negotiation…I remember presenting him with a number of options…this kind of security assurances and this kind of format, or that kind of format. I, of course, had talking points from the State Department in terms of what would be the security assurances, and I informally ran them past him.
We spoke about whether these would be on a presidential level, obviously it would be better on a presidential level. We spoke about the fact that Russia would also get the same kind of assurances. So we had a three-way discussion starting, with Ukraine, the United States and Russia, about security assurances.
This proceeded step-by-step. And we ran into a few bumps along the process. (01:13:00) One of the things the Ukrainians demanded was security against economic coersion. Our argument was “how do you define it, how do you guarantee against it?” They were very adamant about that. We said we would look into it, but it wasn’t until the spring of 93 that we were willing to accept the concept of economic assurances incorporated into security guarantees.
Another hurdle we had to pass was Russia. The Russians agreed with us that they would be willing to provide security assurances. The problem…the first draft the Russians provided gave assurances in terms of the CIS, the borders of the CIS. Ukrainians don’t want to be a member of the CIS, politically, as you know, so they didn’t want that. So we had to go back to the Russians to talk to them about this. (01:14:00) Moscow eventually changed its mind and gave the same set of assurances that we have.
By January of 94, we had the trilateral agreement, which basically takes us back to November of 92. It just took a long time. I can’t recall anything new that was put into those agreements except for the economic assurances. Basically the assurances that were given in January of 94 were the same as we started discussing in November of 92, except for the economic, which we held off on. There might be a point or two of change here, I can’t recall.
The other issue was the HEU, the highly enriched uranium, that had been stored in. The Ukrainians had given up their tactical weapons ahead of schedule, and they hadn’t received any reimbursement. Now we were asking them to give up their strategic weapons and the Ukrainians were balking, saying “wait a minute. There’s a resource here that we should have access to. Those weapons were on “our territory” (01:15:00) and we should have some access to those resources of those warheads.
We singed an agreement late August of 92 with Russia where we would pay Russia for the HEU. The Ukrainians said “what about us?”
I said that’s pretty good. Washington, you really know how to do great policy here. I remember I had a meeting with Kravchuk in early September. He said “gee I just read this thing about HEU in Russia. What about me?” And I said, “OK. Let me find out about you.”
Washington came back and said, “gee, we miscalculated. They have a legitimate cause.” So they went back to Russia and said “no money for HEU unless you work out a profit-sharing arrangement with Ukraine.” So we took Ukraine’s side on this one, to a great extent. That was finally announced in the trilateral agreement also. There was a lot of hard negotiation on all these tracks, mind you, between Ukraine and Russia on these tracks, but I’m trying to make a long story short.
(01:16:00) On dismantlement funds, we had Nunn-Lugar funding, and were willing to help Ukraine to help in the dismantlement of those weapons. In December of 92, I presented President Kravchuk a letter from President Bush offering $175 million in Nunn-Luggar funds for dismantlement; that would only be a start. As the process went forward, we would give more.
We met Ukraine’s concerns on all three counts, but the Ukrainians kept hedging. It looked like they were playing a game with us. I remember I once wrote a tongue-in-cheek cable to the department saying “I think the Ukrainians have moved the goal posts on us one more time. We’re out of field goal range on the START Treaty.” You’re sitting up in the com(munications) center at 11:00 at night trying to deal with these issues.
There were a number of reasons (01:17:00) why they kept changing these things. I hate to impugn motives that they were trying to get the best deal, but that was one of the things also. There was a great fear of Russia in the Ukrainian relationship. They did was security assurances, they did want US support on HEU and other issues so they’d feel reassured.
There was a very telling comment by one Ukrainian parliamentarian who spoke about the need for a 14 year period with START. The first 7 years you give up the strategic missiles, the second 7 years you eventually sign the NPT treaty. It is a total process of 14 years. I’m paraphrasing here. The whole rationale behind this was that in that 14 year period, Russia will come to accept us as an individual and equal state. That time is needed for both countries. That was uppermost in the Ukrainians’ minds. I don’t think a lot of people in Washington realized (01:18:00) that until the process kept going on.
Is there anything you can think of that you’d like to add? I know we’ve covered a lot of territory.
There are a lot of things that come to mind, but tidbits here and there.
Focusing on the START treaty it was very frustrating at times dealing with Ukraine. There were a number of times I got personal assurances from President Kravchuk in phone conversations that yes, that it would be ratified at such and such a date, such and such a time, don’t worry about it. The dates would come and go, and nothing would happen. He would offer another date just as calmly as he did in the past.
At the end of the end of the Bush Administration, I think there was a lot of frustration. Secretary Eagleburger at the (Naxi?), I think it was in Brussels, spoke about the need for Ukraine to move forward on these treaties, otherwise there would be repercussions in our bilateral relationship. We always felt that they were changing the ground rules on us. There was that kind of frustration that played a role also.
(01:19:00) With the end of the Administration, there was a desire to culminate President Bush’s term with arms treaties. Remember about two weeks before President Clinton’s innauguration, President Bush traveled to Moscow to sign START II. We wanted Ukraine to get START 1 done, to culminate the presidency.
Also at that stage, we wanted President Clinton to have a clean slate, not to have to worry about that issue. So the administration tried to get that pushed through so President Clinton wouldn’t have this hanging over his head. Unfortunately that wasn’t able to be done. There were a lot of motivating forces that just didn’t seem to come into play fully.
I think Ill leave it at that. I’ve spoken about two hours.