THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Bonn, Germany)
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
July 10, 1994
Aboard Press Charter En Route Bonn, Germany
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: (In progress) -- an active role in the Middle East peace process, which we welcome. There will be some further discussion, I would expect, of Russia and Ukraine, although a great deal of that has been covered in Naples. The same applies, of course, on the economic front.
I think that, obviously, there's a domestic political aspect of this for Chancellor Kohl as he goes into the elections. We will be doing our best to avoid becoming a partisan factor here. As I said, we'll be seeing all the opposition leaders. And that's sort of basically the outlines, as I see it, of the priorities. So why don't I open it up to questions.
Q Are there any points of difference between the Chancellor and the President as they look at the world today?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Should I be repeating the question? The question is, are there any major points of difference in how the Chancellor and the President see the world today?
Q Major or minor.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's hard to say. I think the Germans and we, perhaps more than is the case with some of the other European leaders, I think, see the world the same way. The Germans have a very long-term sense of what are the strategic priorities for Europe today, the importance of reaching out to the East. I think that notwithstanding the internal problems facing a lot of the Western European countries, their economic problems, the Germans themselves are facing a major problem of absorbing Eastern Germany.
They nevertheless recognize that this is a period of historic opportunity that will not be repeated, and that some sacrifices have to be made. I wouldn't say that that's something I could say for every European state.
So, we also are hoping to see the Germans play a broader role in international affairs. I think it's an interesting coincidence that on Tuesday, we expect to get the decision from the German constitutional court on Germany's participation in international peacekeeping operations. We certainly hope that that's a favorable decision that will enable Germany to play a role in the world commensurate with its status.
But Kohl certainly wants to move in that direction. So they're two -- we see eye-to-eye. So I can't come up with any major differences.
Q On the expansion of NATO, the rift is wide, no?
Q Does the President plan to say anything about the ultra-right forces that have been at work in Germany? He's mentioned it in some of the other countries.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The question is whether the President intends to say anything about the ultraright, right-wing forces that are present in Germany.
I think that one will hear, in some of his public remarks, the theme, the need to combat ethnic hatred and exclusivism. This certainly is something that is of concern to him. And I wouldn't say it's going to be the major theme. I think the emphasis is going to be on -- particularly in the Berlin speech -- freedom, the unification of Europe, integration of East and West. But I think concerns about right-wing extremism will figure into it.
Q What about expansion of NATO? There is a wide rift between Clinton and Kohl on that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The question is, what about the extension of NATO; isn't there a wide rift between Clinton and Kohl?
I would disagree that there's a wide rift between us and the Germans. We both are committed to the goal of expanding NATO. We have been collaborating closely in adapting NATO right from the very beginning, going back even to the last administration, in terms of NATO's outreach to the East, establishment of North Atlantic Cooperation Council. And the Germans were one of the biggest backers of Partnership For Peace.
I think that the two leaders are likely to discuss where we go with the Partnership, and how it will evolve and lead to the eventual expansion of the Alliance. But I think we both also recognize that this has to be a step-by-step process. The goal is to create an integrated security system in Europe, concentrated in blocks. And therefore, an evolutionary approach, I think, is what both sides see as necessary.
Q Do you see the German approach towards Iran as a disturbing factor?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The question, do we see the German's approach to Iran as a disturbing factor?
We do have some concerns about the German relationship with Iran. We have a disagreement on what's the best way to deal with Iranian misbehavior and destabilizing activities in the world. The Germans don't differ in their analysis of Iran's behavior, but they feel that reaching out, maintaining even high-level dialogue is the way to moderate Iranian behavior.
We are skeptical that that's a particularly fruitful approach, and there could be some discussion of that between the two Presidents.
Q Is there any special reason that the President meets with leaders of all parties, except the Greens?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The question is, is there any significance that the President is meeting with leaders of all parties, except the Greens?
I think I'll let you draw your own conclusions on that. His aim was to meet with the leaders of the major political parties.
Q They are a major political party -- more than the liberals. (Laughter.)
Q Is he meeting with Gregor Gysi? From the what do you call it, the Democratic Party of Socialism?
Q Gysi was the interim head of the GDR just after --
Q the succession party of the SED.
Q Is he meeting with anyone from that party?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, he's not meeting with anybody from the PDS or the Greens.
Q Does the President believe that Germany is responsible for most of the war in the ex-Yugoslavia by recognizing Croatia too soon?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The question is, does the administration consider Germany responsible for the war in ex-Yugoslavia by pressing to recognize Croatia too soon?
I would say that we think the blame for the conflict in Yugoslavia can be spread much more broadly than that. The problem was not in timing of recognition of the independence of Croatia, but in the failure of all the European countries who made that decision to fix that, to back up its independence, and to discourage the Serbs from launching the war that has left the tragedy in the Baltics.
So I don't think we see the Germans as the culprit in that drama, any more than anyone else.
Q Do you think they are part of the blame, at least part of it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Were the Germans -- are they part of the blame?
Certainly, I think the Europeans and the European Union, or the European Community at the time, clearly failed in its efforts to contain the conflict, if one goes back two years ago; and consistently missed opportunities, I think, to have averted the escalation of the conflict.
But that's the past. We're trying to focus now on how we can bring it to an end. We have very good cooperation with the Europeans, and the with Germans in particular, who are a member of the Contact Group. The Germans have been very supportive of our approach, which is not only to try to come up with a reasonable deal that would provide a decent, viable territorial solution for the Bosnians and for the Croats within Bosnia, but also underpin that effort with some military muscle in order to induce the Serbs to agree.
So we are working very closely with the Germans, and I think that will be recognized during this visit.
Q Can you talk about the symbolism of the dismantling of the Berlin Brigade?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The question is, can I comment on the symbolism of the dismantling of the Berlin Brigade? That's a good question, since I forgot to mention that at the beginning. The President will preside in a ceremony that honors the Berlin Brigade as it is dismantled.
The symbolism obviously is that we're turning a page in the post-Cold War period. This will coincide with the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Central and Eastern Europe, and we hope from the Baltic States by this fall.
And it symbolizes Europe's taking on new responsibilities, with the American role still important, but with a more equal burden sharing, we hope, becoming the order of the day and the -- security relationship.
THE PRESS: Thank you.