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1992 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with President Yeltsin

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with President Boris Yeltsin, given in London on Thursday 30th January 1992.


PRIME MINISTER:

Good Afternoon everyone. President Yeltsin and I have had four hours of talks this morning and over lunch, some of it in very restricted session and some of it with other Ministers.

As you may recall, my first contact with President Yeltsin was at the height of the August coup and some of you may remember that at that time I came out into Downing Street to report that conversation.

Britain at that time was the first country to denounce the coup. I wanted on that day in August to draw the world's attention to the courage of President Yeltsin and his followers in the White House. They fought for their lives and for the future of democracy in their country.

It is therefore a particular pleasure to welcome President Yeltsin here today as President of Russia. Today we have made new progress in building a new relationship between our two countries.

We have always had shared interests, now we have shared values as well, the shared values of democracy, a free economy and a commitment to peace and to stability.

I was glad to have the opportunity today to welcome the arms control initiative taken by President Bush and by President Yeltsin. I expressed our very strong support for further moves towards deterrence at lower levels. I also assured the President of our intention to maintain only a minimum nuclear strategic force, threatening no-one.

Today, we have been able to give a practical and important expression to the new relationship between our two countries. I will mention ten points to illustrate that.

We have signed this morning a joint declaration. This commits our two countries to a relationship of friendship as partners in the international community. It commits us to the peaceful settlement of disputes, to the control of weapons of mass destruction and to non-proliferation. We propose to turn this declaration into a formal treaty on the relations between our two countries in the near future. It will be the first such treaty of such substance between Britain and the Soviet Union since the mid-1770s.

Secondly, Britain is determined to help democracy in Russia. It has already done a great deal to provide assistance to Russia and the new Commonwealth and it proposes to do more. Amongst some of the measures taken already was Britain's share of Community aid at 300 million; a Know-How Fund already committed to over 50 projects; the provision of animal feed grain, particularly to St Petersburg; medical assistance; and a financial training assistance programme under which there will be places for 1,000 Russians with British financial insurance and legal firms.

Thirdly, Britain was the first country to propose Russian membership of the International Monetary Fund and to propose an April deadline for that membership. We will continue to press for that, we believe it is urgent and important that that matter is concluded.

Fourthly, we took the lead in negotiating a debt deferral agreement for Russia and the other republics. We have also taken the lead in the Group of Seven to urge further assistance for Russia, possibly in the form of a rouble stabilisation fund.

Fifthly, and in the context of an IMF programme, I can announce today our readiness to make available this year a total of 280 million in medium term export credit cover and investment insurance for Russia and the other republics.

Sixthly, Britain will propose in the European Community an improved trade and cooperation agreement with Russia. We propose to make this one of the priorities of our Presidency in the second half of this year.

Seventh, we have agreed to cooperate on handling surplus Soviet nuclear weapons and safeguarding nuclear materials and we will be sending a technical mission to Moscow to assess the immediate needs at first hand.

Eighthly, we have agreed to cooperate in other defence fields, including the transformation required to ensure the restructuring, control and financing of armed forces in a democratic society. I have offered to second a small number of MOD officials to the Russian Ministry of Defence.

Ninthly, the President and I discussed the problems of expertise in the field of weapons of mass destruction and the President told me of the steps he is taking against the risks of proliferation. We will have further discussion about how best we can help the Russian republic and the other republics to use the talents of their scientists to the cause of peaceful development.

And the tenth point is this. President Yeltsin and I have agreed to establish a secure telephone link between his office and mine. I do not see this as a crisis hotline, I do see it as a line upon which we can reflect the growing number of shared issues and interests that we will wish to discuss.

Let me also mention, I have invited President Yeltsin to pay an official visit to Britain later this year and I am delighted to say he has accepted.

This afternoon we both fly to New York for a meeting of the Security Council which will demonstrate Russia's role as a lynchpin in the Council's role as peace-keeper and peace-maker. The keynote of the meeting that we have had today, the President and I and our colleagues in parallel meetings, has been an aspect of friendship and of partnership. I am confident that that is also going to be a hallmark of tomorrow's meeting of the Security Council.

I very much look forward to my further discussions with President Yeltsin and I will now invite him to say a few words to you.

PRESIDENT YELTSIN:

Mr. Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen:

First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to the Prime Minister for his very good idea which he put across to me over the telephone recently to pay a visit to this country. Indeed, we established our first contact on August 19 1990 and it was really a matter of great pride for me to hear him address me at this most difficult time for Russia. He expressed his political support and he expressed his personal support, which will not be forgotten in our developing and new relationship between Russia and the United Kingdom, between the new Russia and Britain.

I don't really have anything to add to the enumeration of the ten points which were just described by the Prime Minister with regard to our discussions in private and in plenary. I can only add that Russia has shaken off the communist shackles and has finally embarked upon the civilised road of development, the road of democracy, human rights, civilised market economy and various forms of ownership including private ownership and we shall not abandon that road.

The economic reform which has just started in Russia was five years overdue and indeed, we are going through hard times right now. We shall overcome all the difficulties that we are facing though the difficulties we are facing with the liberalisation of prices have fallen mostly on the poorer population. We are sure that by the end of this year we shall achieve some stabilisation of our economy, levelling of prices and improved living conditions for our people.

Despite the seemingly economic cares and the forecasts by the economists that our economy would shrink by 15%, last year it had sunk only by 2.2%. Russia is a great country and it will dampen all small storms and smaller earthquakes. The only thing that can impede our progress would be general unrest and general unrest would happen if our reforms fair. Should the reforms fail, we shall face a new leadership which will reverse the progress that we have so far achieved and Russia will fall into the abyss which had been fixed for 74 years. Therefore, not only Russia and the people of Russia but the entire world community as well as the United Kingdom are interested in the success of our reforms and we are grateful to the Prime Minister for his understanding on that score.

Tomorrow, the Security Council of the United Nations is to meet and for the first time ever the Security Council will meet at the level of Heads of State or Government; that was the initiative and the proposal' by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Major, and he will be chairing that meeting on the last day of the chairmanship of the United Kingdom of the Security Council. I can only promise that we shall always match the support that: will be given to us to promote our economic reform.

I have accepted the invitation which the Prime Minister has kindly extended to me to pay an official visit to this country in the first half of this year and in my turn, I extended that invitation to him to pay an official visit to Russia in the second half of this year and I am delighted to report that he has accepted that invitation.

I would like to thank the mass media for turning out here in such great numbers. Thank you so much for coming. I would like to thank the Prime Minister for the substantive discussions that we have held and for the positive and interesting attitude that he has displayed. We believe - and I think we share this - that our relations will in future be based on frankness and honesty because this will make it possible for us not to conceal from each other either things positive or negative.

I am saying goodbye to the Prime Minister and Mrs. Major. We shall be seeing each tomorrow in New York and I thank you for your attention.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

QUESTION:

Do you believe that the world is as secure a place now with Boris Yeltsin and the Commonwealth of Independent States as it was with Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet Union?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes. I have no doubts about President Yeltsin's commitment to carry on the work that was going on before in terms of disarmament and especially the disarmament between the two super-states. I think the President's conviction is clear. He has reiterated that to me this morning and I accept that.

PRESIDENT YELTSIN:

I would like to add a few words. President Bush on 28 January and myself on 29 January, made statements about global cuts and the destruction of strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. Mr. Major and I have discussed these matters today during our talks and Mr. Major has put forward his position which I respect and we shall not blow up this matter out of proportion in the mass media.

QUESTION:

Regarding the IMF application for the Russian Federation. How feasible is that? How difficult is it? How feasible is rouble stabilisation?

And for Mr. Yeltsin, if possible: he spoke teasingly last night of talking to you about redirecting his missiles. Have you now agreed to point Russian missiles away from the United Kingdom?

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me deal firstly with the question of the IMF and rouble stabilisation:

I believe that it is very important that Russia soon becomes a full member of the IMF. We have stated that as our conviction for some time; we have urged our colleagues in the IMF to move in that direction; and the Chancellor has particularly urged that a conclusion for that be reached speedily and not later than April so it is necessary and we will press it and I am sure that we will be successful.

As far as rouble stabilisation is concerned, again, Norman Lamont pressed that matter particularly at the G7 meeting of Finance Ministers last week. There are many difficulties to overcome but it is our conviction in the United Kingdom that this is both necessary and desirable and that in due course the international community will come to it. We shall certainly continue to press the case for that in the weeks and months ahead.

PRESIDENT YELTSIN:

On the first question, I would like to add a few words as well: with the Prime Minister's active support, I am sure that Russia will become a full member of the International Monetary Fund not later than this April.

On your second question, we must indeed change our military doctrine. In the past, the United States, the United Kingdom and Europe in general were regarded as our potential enemies. That doctrine has to be changed and the missiles retargeted and the missiles that remain after the cuts and destruction will be used only as a deterrent.