THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (New York, New York) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release October 23, 1995
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS
Hyde Park, New York
Q Okay, the President said that neither side gave up on their most important principles or whatever he said. Does that mean that Yeltsin still insists that Russian troops not be put under command of NATO?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The short answer to your question is, yes. And another, of course, from our standpoint, cardinal principle on the American side is that this is going to be a NATO operation, that all American forces will be under NATO command, and that the arrangement will preserve the unity of command. This is an extremely technical military issue.
As you know, Secretary Perry and Minister Grachev met in Geneva a week ago Sunday. Is that right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And worked through a number of possibilities; did not get anywhere near closure. They will be meeting again. And I think now they will have an impulse from their two bosses, from the two Presidents to move further towards closure. But I cannot --
Q But how can the military solve what appears to be a political impasse? How can military leaders sit down and solve --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's not a political impasse. It is a military question of how you can resolve the difference here. And you can do that through military technical discussions.
And they agree on that. And the bottom line is that they agreed here on the desirability of Russian participation in this implementation and will move from there. And they made a beginning -- as I said, they made a beginning on how to resolve this. And now we have to turn it over to the experts.
Q -- Pentagon and the State Department and --
Q What is the --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: For that -- we're not going to tell you, as they said.
Q Last week, the Pentagon, the State Department and NSC officials all said that this was the kind of thing, because it was so difficult, that could only be solved by the two Presidents working it out themselves. Now we're hearing that they couldn't solve it and it has to go back to military.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Do you want me to -- go ahead --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Speak for the White House. I'm sure the State Department will agree. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, no, go ahead -- (laughter) --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't think anybody speaking authoritatively to you before this meeting ever said that this couldn't be solved. Clearly, the Commanders in Chief of the two military establishments needed to kind of establish a framework for the discussion, which will now take place again at the ministerial level and at the level of military experts. Remember, there's a three-star Russian general at SHAPE talking to General Joulwan about this. This is a highly technical issue. It involves everything from organization charts to the size of the forces, to the functions that will be assigned. But they have now got some political guidance from the Presidents. And that's --
Q Can you give us a hint of what that is?
Q Yes, what's the framework?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No -- sorry.
Q Sir, will Russian combat troops participate with the NATO operation?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I really don't want to get any further into it.
Q I thought you already answered that question. I'm slightly confused. Wasn't that the first question, and you said the short answer is no, they have not changed their mind?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. It is still the Russian position -- there should be no mistake about it -- that President Yeltsin does not feel that Russian troops should be under NATO command.
Q How about a joint command?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There are lots of how-abouts here, and lots of possibilities have been discussed before this meeting today, and some were discussed at this meeting, and some progress was made.
Q Well, may we take it that a big part of the discussion would be the structure of the command and how that could be devised to meet each side's --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, Brit, it depends on what you mean by a big part. It was addressed at a fairly high but useful level of generality today. In other words, there were concepts exchanged. Now, these were obviously concepts that had been discussed before. So the ministers will be going back at it again. They will be continuing a conversation that they had in Geneva, and they will have more guidance than they had before based on a significant degree of understanding between the two Presidents.
Q Secretary Perry suggested over the weekend that perhaps Russian troops could be involved in some kind of support role, not combat.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I really do not want to comment on any of a number of possibilities, some of which are being speculated about on the outside, some on the inside. There's some overlap between the two. But I just don't think that's useful.
Q How about expansion of NATO? Did it come up and are they making progress?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: While the Presidents were talking one on one in here there were some other discussions going on in the other room. Some other people here could tell you about that. Expansion of NATO came up only very obliquely, I would say. You heard pretty much the other topics that got presidential attention here.
Q What is the significance of the agreement on nuclear testing? Are the two sides now going to push the other countries, China and France, for example, to stop --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You mean on CTBT?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's very useful and welcome that the U.S. and Russia have a common position on achieving a pure zero-yield CTBT in '96.
Q Does Yeltsin think that the Soviet -- Russian Parliament can ratify Start II any more so than President Clinton thinks the Senate will?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We think the Senate will.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And President Yeltsin expressed --
MR. MCCURRY: By the way, reminder for everyone who came in late, both of our senior officials are on background.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- (in progress) expressed optimism about his ability to move it through the Duma.
Q Has President Yeltsin mentioned progress on the southern flank? Can you --
Q (inaudible) --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's a lot more than face involved here. This is, among other things, we're talking about the effectiveness of the implementation force operation and the safety of the troops from all countries that are going to be involved. So this is a lot more than about symbolism.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Could I make a general point here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All of this, I know, is a bit delphic, and the reason for that is that we need to get the two governments now discussing the details without working it through first through the press. But I assure you that we are pleased at the progress that was made here and pleased that they have agreed on the desirability of Russian participation, and that they have made a start now on an approach that we think can lead to further real progress here as we get into these very technical details.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're about to run out of time. I'd like to just clarify one thing. There was reference here earlier to CFE --
Q Yes, what were the agreements?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is not a final agreement on CFE, but the Russian side did convey to us -- the Russian side conveyed to us their reply, their response to a NATO proposal for CFE.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You will recall yesterday, I said that we hope that that would happen and it did happen. And now we will --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This was a welcome development, but it did not mean that we have come to closure on CFE.
THE PRESS: Thank you.