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Public Papers - 1991

Statement on the Attempted Coup in the Soviet Union

1991-08-19

We are deeply disturbed by the events of the last hours in the Soviet Union and condemn the unconstitutional resort to force. While the situation continues to evolve and information remains incomplete, the apparent unconstitutional removal of President Gorbachev, the declaration of a state of emergency, and the deployment of Soviet military forces in Moscow and other cities raise the most serious questions about the future course of the Soviet Union. This misguided and illegitimate effort by-passes both Soviet law and the will of the Soviet peoples.

Accordingly, we support President Yeltsin's call for ``restoration of the legally elected organs of power and the reaffirmation of the post of USSR President M.S. Gorbachev.''

Greater democracy and openness in Soviet society, including steps toward implementation of Soviet obligations under the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris, have made a crucial contribution to the welcome improvement in East-West relations during the past few years.

In these circumstances, U.S. policy will be based on the following guidelines:

-- We believe the policies of reform in the Soviet Union must continue, including democratization, the process of peaceful reconciliation between the center and the republics, and economic transformation;

-- We support all constitutionally elected leaders and oppose the use of force or intimidation to suppress them or restrict their right to free speech;

-- We oppose the use of force in the Baltic States or against any Republics to suppress or replace democratically elected governments;

-- We call upon the Soviet Union to abide by its international treaties and commitments, including its commitments to respect basic human rights and democratic practices under the Helsinki Accords, and the Charter of Paris;

-- We will avoid in every possible way actions that would lend legitimacy or support to this coup effort;

-- We have no interest in a new cold war or in the exacerbation of East-West tensions;

-- At the same time, we will not support economic aid programs if adherence to extra-constitutional means continues.

Note: The statement referred to President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union and President Boris Yeltsin of the Republic of Russia.

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