Volume 37, No.4 - Winter 1991
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas, University of Rochester
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright 1990 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


While vacationing in Kennebunkport, ME, President Bush held a news conference at about 10 a.m. on Monday Labor Day September 2, 1991. We shall print here the full text of his opening statement and excerpts from the following questions and answers, as they have been carried by various wire services.

Well, nearly two weeks ago, the world watched with fascination the courage of the Soviet people in foiling a cynical coup, a coup that, thank God, failed. We've marveled since in their efforts to build a new and democratic future. Major changes are now taking place in the Soviet Union, not the least of which is the establishment of new arrangements between the republics and the central government.

While we await the final outcome, I welcome President Gorbachev's support for the concept that the republics will be free to determine their own future. This new 10-plus-l agreement speaks eloquently to that.

This is a watershed in Soviet political thinking, equal to the dramatic movements toward democracy and market economies that we are witnessing in the republics themselves. The United States strongly supports these efforts.

The Baltic peoples of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and their democratically elected governments, have declared their independence and are moving now to control their own national territories and their own destinies.

The United States has always supported the independence of the Baltic states, and is now prepared immediately to establish diplomatic relations with their governments.

The United States is also prepared to do whatever it can to assist in the completion of the current process of making Baltic independence a factual reality. To facilitate this, I'll be sending the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Kamman, to the Baltics.

We also understand the enormous challenges that lie ahead for the Soviet people in meeting their own food and energy needs particularly, and beginning true economic reform.

And therefore I'm sending Undersecretary of Agriculture Crowder with an experts' mission to survey with Soviet and republic officials their critical food requirements for the coming winter, particularly in those republics that are likely to be in the great need. And, in a month, a presidential mission led by Secretary of Agriculture Madigan Ed Madigan will bring a delegation of senior private sector and government officials to the U.S.S.R. to seek solutions to a winter food problem, if we determine that one exists, and to continue our long term efforts to help the Soviet Union and the Soviet people resolve problems in food distribution.

I've also asked Secretary of State Jim Baker, and our AID administrator, Mr. Roskins, to work with Project Hope to augment and extend my Presidential initiative on medical assistance to the U.S.S.R. through the end of 1992.

We intend to work closely with Soviet and republic officials in both of these efforts. This morning I talked with the president of Estonia and of Latvia, as I did to Mr. Landsbergis of Lithuania a couple of days ago, to tell him of this official position now being taken by the United States of America.

Now, I'll be glad to take just a few questions.

Questions and Answers

Q. What does today's action signify to the independence movements of the other republics? Does it offer the guarantee that when they declare their independence that the United States will also recognize them?

A. Well, what we'll do is look at each case on a case-by-case basis, but I think more important thanwhat we might do down the road is what apparently is happening there is agreement between the center and the republics, and that is that each shall determine its own future. The Baltics, of course, are quite different. We never, as you know, recognized their incorporation in the first place. So there are some technical difficulties as we go along.

But I think this is very good news that they're willing to sort it out, and we'll look at it obviously on a case-by-case basis. We got to know first what kind of relationship these republics want to have with the center, before we can jump way ahead and say what we're going to do in each case.

Q. Mr. President, you delayed recognizing the Baltic countries, we are given to understand, because of the role of the United States as a superpower and because of your desire not to undercut Mikhail Gorbachev. What are the criteria now that you have decided this is the time to do this? Have you talked with someone in the Soviet Union? Are you satisfied with what the Russian Parliament is doing?

A. Well, I think it's all moving in the right direction. I thought that Gorbachev's statement yesterday, for example, which was heralded around the world as recognizing the right of the Baltics to be free, whether that's a proper interpretation or not that was a good statement. And we have been quietly asserting him for a long time that the best thing he could do in terms of relationships with the United States is to free the Baltic states. And we've been working hard on that.

And so it's taking a final decision three or four more days than somebody else. But in the sweep of history I think we will be proved correct in taking just a few days to see if we can't effect change within the Soviet Union. And I'm very pleased at the two developments I talked to you today about.

Q. Have you had any contact with senior Soviet officials about this? Has this been coordinated with them at all?

A. I've been in touch with Mr. Gorbachev two or three times since my telephone conversation with him.

Q, Mr. President, I wonder if you'd amplify a bit on your reactions to this 10-plus-l deal that Mr. Gorbachev seems to be working out, especially in light of some of your comments last week and those of your advisers, and the interest that the United States has in there being a Soviet Union, in there being a central government?

A. Well, I can't help you at all on it until I know a little more about it, until I know what will work out between them. You may also remember that last week I talked about the need for them to work these problems out without dictation or decree every day from the United States...

Q. Well, I wonder if at some point, sir, you saw events spinning out of control, that at some point it appeared Mr. Gorbachev may have been out of it, that the Soviet Union was going away.

A. Well, I don't feel that. I think things are moving. It's very difficult for them, but you when you see their Congress meeting, as it is, I think that's an extraordinarily good sign. When you see declarations at the center and the head of the president of the biggest republic want to work together, that's a good sign.

When you see an orderly process being worked out for determining just exactly that, the relations between the republics and the center, that's a good sign. So these things are moving. Again, I don't want to underestimate the problems the leaders face over there, but I really think it's too early for us to definitively comment on each republic, what the relations with the United States are going to be.

It is very clear that the Baltics are different. Ifs been clear all along that we were for their independence, and I think that this step that I've taken today will have wide support around the world. Clearly, in the United States, it'll have very strong support. And ifs the right thing to do.

And I'm pleased that at least there seems to be some recognition coming out of the center now that this is a proper move.

Q. Will it not be simpler for the United States, sir, to be conducting foreign policy still with the central Government? Are you not hoping that there's some sort of central government for foreign policy and arms control?

A. Well, I think there's got to be some Government with which the United States works on many questions. I mentioned the other day contractual questions. You've raised the question here of further arms control agreements. We've got to work with the Soviet Union in terms of their very important role in the peace process in the Middle East.

And so we will continue to deal with the Foreign Ministry, for example, in Moscow. But as these other republics get on to come front and center, we then must determine what their role will be and how they can help with peace, or what they're going to do about distancing themselves from the last remaining Communist dictator in this hemisphere I'm talking about Fidel Castro.

And we've heard Boris N. Yeltsin, I think, properly say, look, there's not going to be any aid from Russia, from the Russian republic to Castro. That's good. We're for that position. We'd like to hear the center say the same time.

Q. Do you see, Mr. President, Gorbachev as the best person positioned to weld the republics together into some form of economic union?

A. Well, I see him as the President of the Soviet Union, and therefore he will be dealt with with respect. People know how I feel about him and he is in an extraordinarily difficult position, and he has had our support, he will continue to have our support. This isn't policy isn't based on personality. It's based on who you're dealing with.

The fact that I happen to think that he's done an awful lot for the world is out there for all to see. I think everybody in G-7 and E.C. and all these groupings share my respect for what has been done. Take a look at Eastern Europe as a good place to start. And take a look at this hemisphere, where we've had cooperation, or Angola, or many other things. That's there. That's on the record.

Now, how we move forward? I'll deal with him and with respect and with a certain degree of recognition that we look at some of these problems, foreign policy problems, eye to eye.

How it evolves inside the Soviet Union, I once again say: that's their business.

Q. Has he sent any communications at all to you requesting that you delay your announcement on the Baltic states?

A. I think put it this way, without going into the confidentiality of any communications I think the fact that we have waited till now is not only understood but very much appreciated by him and hopefully by others in the Soviet Union.

I like to think that some of these positive statements might, perhaps indirectly, but might be a result of a policy of taking a day or two more, not being stampeded into something the whole world knew we were going to do in the first place. And I've made sure that President Landsbergis and the others understand this, because I wouldn't want to send a signal to them that we were weakening in our desire to have them free.

But when history is written, nobody is going to remember that we took 48 hours more than Iceland or whoever else it is. But what's going to be remembered is what happens, how does it work out. And that's what we're interested in, is seeing the Baltic states quickly get their independence and the freedom that they've long aspired to...

Q. You called for the Baltics to become independent as soon as possible. Gorbachev in his public statements seemed very vague about how cumbersome this constitutional process will be, how long it will take. Has he given you any assurances in private about some of the practical and legal dynamics and complications at work here?

A. Not in the last couple of weeks. But I've been into that with him in great detail in terms of what he says as the constitutional constraints, if you will. In spite of all that, my urging is to anybody with authority in the Soviet Union, is turn the Baltics loose now, free, clear and, yes, there's going to have to be some negotiation between the center and between the states, because there's an overlapping of resource responsibility, where does the energy come from, how do the steel imports go from one of the Baltics into the center. There's a lot of and there's, you know, control of one's own territory.

One of the things that we have felt was necessary before full recognition has been control of the territory. And yet, as you see these Soviet troops leaving and you hear statements out of the Soviet Union that give you encouragements, then we feel that they are in a much better position to control their own territory totally. There are still, as you point out, some details to be worked out, however.