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December 8, 1999

2:36 P.M. EST

2:36 P.M. EST

                              THE WHITE HOUSE
                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
December 8, 1999
                          Dean Acheson Auditorium
                           The State Department
2:36 P.M. EST
          Q    On Chechnya, you used sanctions to punish Yugoslavia and
Indonesia for oppression; why aren't sanctions being considered against
          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, there are two categories of aid here in
question -- or, at least -- let's talk about the aid.  A sanctions regime
has to be imposed by the United Nations, and Russia has a veto there.  But
I'm not sure that would be in our interest or in the interest of the
ultimate resolution of the crisis.
          Let me just say, with regard to the aid, because I've been asked
about that -- I think it's important to point out to the American people
that two-thirds of the aid that we spend in Russia is involved in
denuclearization and safeguarding nuclear materials.  And I think it is
plain that we have an interest in continuing that.
          The other third goes to fund democracy, the things that we
Americans believe would lead to better decisions.  It goes to an
independent media; it goes to student exchanges; it goes to NGOs, helping
people set up small businesses.  I don't think our interests would be
furthered by terminating that.  And as of now, there is no pending IMF
transfer because of the general opinion by the IMF that not all the
economic conditions have been met.  So that's a bridge we'll have to cross
when we get there.
          Q   ..........
          Second question, regarding Chechnya -- given the fact that
two-thirds of the aid goes to denuclearization, a third to democracy
efforts, do you envision no circumstances, sir, under which the United
States would cut off that aid?  And how does that square with your
statement that Russia will pay a heavy price for its war against Chechnya?
          THE PRESIDENT: 
          Now, on Russia -- I have stated what my present view is, and that
is all I have done.  I think Russia is already paying a heavy price.  I
think they'll pay a heavy price in two ways.  First of all, I don't think
the strategy will work.  As I said, I have no sympathy for the Chechen
rebels; I have no sympathy for the invasion of Dagestan; and I have no
sympathy for terrorist acts in Moscow, and none of us should have.  But the
people of Chechnya should not be punished for what the rebels did.  They
don't represent the established government of Chechnya.  They don't
represent a majority of the people there.  And the strategy, it seems to
me, is more likely to hurt ordinary citizens than the legitimate targets of
the wrath of the Russian government.
          So I think that -- first of all, I think the policy will not
work, and, therefore, it will be very costly, just like it was before when
it didn't work.  Secondly, the continuation of it and the amassing of
hundreds of thousands of refugees, which will have to be cared for by the
international community -- we've already set aside, I think, at least $10
million to try to make our contributions for it -- will further alienate
the global community from Russia.  And that's a bad thing, because they
need support not just from the IMF and the World Bank, they need investors.
They need people to have confidence in what they're doing.
          They're about to have elections.  And so there will be a heavy
price there.  And I don't think there's any question about that.
          I think it's already -- yes, go ahead.
          Q    Mr. President, on Chechnya, it seems as though the Russians
don't feel they will pay a heavy price, and perhaps they don't care.  I'm
wondering if between now and Saturday's deadline you plan to try to
directly contact President Yeltsin to once again convey your feelings on
this matter.
          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I haven't decided what else I can do.  I do
think -- first of all, they may believe that because of their position in
the United Nations, and because no one wants them to fail and have more
problems than they've got, that they can do this.  But most of life's
greatest wounds for individuals and for countries are self-inflicted.
They're not inflicted by other people.
          And I will say again, the greatest problems that the Russians
will have over Chechnya are, one is, I don't think the strategy will work.
I have never said they weren't right to want to do something with the
Chechen rebels.  But I don't think the strategy will work and, therefore,
it will be expensive, costly and politically damaging, internally, to them.
          Secondly, it will affect the attitude of the international
community over a period of time in ways that are somewhat predictable and
in some ways unpredictable, and that is a very heavy price to pay, because
it works better when everybody's pulling for Russia.  It's a great country
and they have all these resources and talented, educated people, and they
need to -- and yet, they've got a declining life expectancy as well as all
these economic problems.  And I think it's a bad thing for this to be the
number one issue both inside the country and in our relationships with
them.  So I do think it's going to be a very costly thing.
          Q    Mr. President, in future years, what do you see taking
greater precedence, sir, national sovereignty or international
institutions?  And how does the world prevent such slaughters as you've had
recently in the Balkans, in Africa, or East Timor, without violating
national sovereignty or interfering in international affairs?
          THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, at least from the
International Declaration of Human rights 50 years ago, the world community
recognized that sovereignty was not the only value in human society.  The
Russians, even though they've criticized our intervention in Kosovo --
although now I might say the Russian soldiers are doing a very good job
there, working with all the other allies -- recently acknowledged in their
signing off of the new charter of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe, that the internal affairs of a country can become
the legitimate concern of others, whether it's in East Timor -- now, wait a
          So what I think will happen is, national sovereignty is going to
be very, very important for a very, very long time.  But countries are
becoming more interdependent, and they will still have to make decisions
about the kinds of internal systems they will have for how their people
live together and work together; they will still be able to make decisions
about when they will or won't cooperate worldwide in many areas.  But if
you want the benefits of interdependence, you have to assume the
responsibilities of it.
          And we've all recognized that from the beginning of the United
Nations.  Nobody, no country in the United Nations, has given up its
sovereignty, even though some people still allege that's true.  But the
more interdependent the world grows, the more likely we are, in my
judgment, to have more broadly-shared prosperity, fewer wars, and a better
life for everyone.  That does not require us to give up our national
sovereignty, but it does require us to act in our real national interests.
          Thank you very much.
                          END       3:40 P.M. EST

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