THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY ROBERT BELL, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF NSC FOR DEFENSE POLICY AND ARMS CONTROL, AND DICK CLARK, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF NSC FOR GLOBAL ISSUES AND MULTILATERAL AFFAIRS
The Briefing Room
1:30 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. With the President scheduled to depart tomorrow for the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, it's a good time to review some of the things he will talk about tomorrow, and most importantly, discuss the very historic signing tomorrow of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which the President of the United States will sign, using the very same pen that President John F. Kennedy used to sign the Limited Test Ban Treaty -- how many years ago? In 1963.
I've asked Bob Bell, who is our Senior Director at the NSC for Defense Policy and Arms Control, and Dick Clark, who is Senior Director for Global Issues and Multilateral Affairs, to talk about some of the subjects the President will highlight tomorrow; certainly to talk more about the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty itself. And then we also have a response to some of your questions this morning, some information about the current status of U.S. payments to the United Nations and our arrearages. There's a nice little info packet that's developed for that.
Mr. Bell, Mr. Clark, welcome to the White House press lobby. It's a pleasure to have you here.
MR. BELL: Thank you, Mike. Let me just very briefly address two aspects of this treaty, one with regard to the past, and one with regard to the future: first, looking backwards, it's important to recognize that, as the President emphasized in his remarks just a few minutes ago, after the defense bill signing, that this is truly an historic achievement.
The CTB really began almost four decades ago under President Eisenhower. In fact, Stephen Ambrose, his biographer, noted that at the end of that administration, one of President Eisenhower's greatest regrets was that the events surrounding the shootdown of the U-2 and that Paris summit that went so wrong after Gary Powers was captured, scuttled his efforts to get the CTB achieved, and that he had hoped that that would be his final and most lasting gift to the country.
After the Eisenhower administration, this was picked up by President Kennedy, who tried in the first two years of his term to achieve the CTB that had eluded President Eisenhower. And that effort fell short when the United States and the Soviet Union could not agree on the number of monitoring stations that would be available for verification.
The CTB was then picked up by President Carter after President Kennedy had achieved an interim step, the Limited Test Ban Treaty, that banned testing in all environments except underground. But this effort to achieve a truly comprehensive test ban, including prohibition on underground testing, was picked up by President Carter, who came close. But that effort fell short as well because of the synchronization of that effort with President Carter's efforts to get the SALT II Treaty. And a decision was made for tactical reasons that it would be best to get SALT II through the Senate and then come in with a CTB. When SALT II failed ratification, that CTB effort failed as well.
But this administration picked it up then starting in 1993, and due to the deep personal involvement and commitment of the President for the last three-plus years, we're now at this point.
Let me also mention sort of the course ahead for this treaty, looking forward. In many ways, this CTB has been a treaty that has refused to die. Obituaries were being written on the CTB this summer when the Conference on Disarmament appeared to have reached an impasse on it, and we were very satisfied that with the help of Australia and a lot of other countries we were able to work around that problem and get us to this point.
Once the treaty is signed tomorrow, and in the days that follow this week, it's important to note that we'll be establishing an international barrier against further testing. The five declared nuclear states will all sign this week. And certainly it will be the presumption of the United States in signing this treaty that that means we will not conduct further testing. You cannot rule out the possibility that in extreme national security situations you could revisit that, but certainly the presumption here is to stop testing while we get this treaty entered into force formally.
Now, in that regard, the treaty itself, by its own terms, allows a two-year period, which is the minimum before the treaty can be entered into force. And during those two years, as you can imagine, we'll be working very closely with all the countries whose ratification is required to enter the treaty into force to achieve their cooperation in that regard. And that will include working closely with India. It is our hope over the next two years to show India, first, that the record of disarmament is genuine and is still going forward and that there is more to come. And second, it is our hope that as India looks at the situation itself it will come to accept that it's in its own national security interest to sign this treaty.
If for any reason after that period of time has elapsed we're still short of the states whose ratification is required, it's important to realize the treaty itself includes a provision that was inserted under U.S. leadership in the very endgame of the negotiation that provides an additional element of flexibility. Specifically, if three years after this week -- three weeks after the treaty was opened for signature -- all of the states whose ratification is required to enter it into force have not been achieved, then the treaty calls for an extraordinary review conference to be called by all the states that have signed and ratified to find a way to enter the treaty into force.
Q Is India the only nation that has balked that is a nuclear power?
MR. BELL: Helen, the treaty requires 44 states to say yes to this treaty. Now, of that list of 44 the only state that we know of that's indicated at this point a disinclination to sign is India. Pakistan has said it will not sign unless India signs. On the other hand, if India signs Pakistan will sign.
Q You mentioned the role of Australia. What role do you see them playing in the future? And is that why President Clinton is going to Australia, to reward them for their support?
MR. BELL: Well, I wouldn't describe his decision to travel to Australia as a reward. I think that was already being looked at before the events of the last two months. But certainly, as the President said when the vote occurred in the United Nations, great tribute is due to Australia for the leadership role it took in this effort to mobilize the United Nations General Assembly and achieve the really extraordinary vote that we got, 158 to 3.
Now, the Australian government itself is in the vanguard of those that are looking at the overall challenge of further steps towards disarmament. They've established a commission, a Canberra commission that is looking at possible new routes towards arms control and further arms reductions. And we will certainly be looking at the results of that effort.
So we look forward to working with Australia over the next two years, just as we did successfully over the last two months, to make sure that the treaty enters into force on time, two years from now.
Q What do you say to the Republicans who say that without the signatories coming from so-called rogue states that this treaty really doesn't have any teeth?
MR. BELL: Well, in the first place, the rogue states of the world voted, with the exception of Libya, when the U.N. vote was taken two weeks ago to approve and adopt the treaty. So it's really only an issue of Libya. But the effect of the treaty for those who sign and ratify it is to make it that much harder for them to acquire sophisticated nuclear weapons or, indeed, any kind of nuclear weapon beyond some crude devise that you might possess if you never tested it. But if you have an interest in being able to weaponize a crude devise, to actually turn it into a weapon that could be delivered by a bomb or a missile, you need to test. Otherwise, you wouldn't have the confidence to spend that much money to try to get that capability.
So we do think that the CTB is going to have an important horizontal nonproliferation effect. You're right that the degree to which that effect is achieved will depend on the universality of coverage under the treaty, but as I said, with the exception of Libya, the other rogue states of the world have participated in the negotiation of this and now voted for the adoption of it.
Q Quite a number of years ago -- I'm sure you remember -- large demonstrations in different parts of the Western world under the headline, "Ban the bomb." That's the big banner they used to carry -- ban the bomb. Does this take a major step in that direction?
MR. BELL: I think it takes an historic step in that direction. We have accepted and embraced as a nation for decades the goal of the ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons, and we have moved in a step-by-step way towards that goal. We're not there yet, and as the President's own national security strategy report has made clear each year, for the immediate future we foresee the need to maintain deterrent, nuclear deterrent force as a hedge against some future hostile nuclear armed adversary that could threaten our national security interest.
But in taking this CTB step, we take an important step because, for the declared nuclear powers, it means that it will be very difficult for them to try to develop and deploy new types of more advanced nuclear weapons. It's our intention under this treaty to maintain confidence in the reliability in performance and safety of the nuclear inventory we have, but it's extremely doubtful that our military services would be interested in buying at the expense of billions of dollars new types of nuclear weapons that had never been tested. And that is why this treaty will have such an effect not only in terms of horizontal proliferation, but in terms of vertical proliferation among the declared nuclear states.
Q You said that at some point the basic assumption now is that there will be no testing; in an extreme situation we could revisit that decision or that assumption. Does that mean there are loopholes in the treaty allowing revisiting? What kind of national extreme situation could you envision?
MR. BELL: I wouldn't describe it as a loophole. But it's important to remember what President Clinton said on August 11th a year ago, when he announced the zero yield decision. Every treaty, not just the CTB, but the START treaties, the ABM treaty, the INF treaty, every treaty in the arms control area has a supreme national interest clause in it that allows a state, if it determines that its supreme national security interests are being jeopardized, to serve notice, wait some period of time, typically six to 12 months, and then it could withdraw from the treaty.
Now, that in history has proven to be an extremely high barrier. The United States, to my knowledge, has not invoked supreme national interest on a major treaty to withdraw. But the President did say, in announcing the zero yield decision, that were we to find ourselves in a situation, which he said he did not expect to occur, he thought was extremely unlikely -- but if you were in a situation where you were still relying on nuclear deterrents and there was a fundamental crisis with regard to the performance or your confidence in the performance of some critical element of the nuclear inventory, that then he would be prepared under the supreme national interest clause to go that route to fix the problem with that type of weapon should that situation come up.
MR. CLARK: Okay, the United Nations part of the trip. This is the fourth year in a row the President has gone to the General Assembly and spoken to the General Assembly. This trip comes at a time when there are, I think, two myths about American participation in the United Nations that the President will try to dispel.
The first myth is that the American people are opposed to the U.N. and that the U.N. is somehow trying to infringe on our sovereignty. The President will defend our contribution to the United Nations and defend the work of the United Nations in general.
The second myth that he will try to dispel is that we are a major league debtor to the United Nations. It is certainly true, as you can see -- Jim, why don't you hand out that info pack? As you can see in this package, it is certainly true that we have a substantial debt to the United Nations. But there are two facts that seem to get lost in this discussion. The first is that the United States is this year, and has been for every one of the 51 years of the United Nations, the largest financial contributor to the United Nations system. We remain today, will be this year as we have been in all 51 years, the largest single financial donor to the United Nations system. The second part that's overlooked is that we have this year paid our assessments.
Through the President's leadership in the CR, in the continuing resolution, that we negotiated in February, we achieved adequate funding in this fiscal year for our dues to the United Nations. And as you can see in the charts there, we will be within 95 percent by the end of the fiscal year, in a week, of totally paying our 1996 assessments both for the regular budget and for peacekeeping.
And as you can see, the number of peacekeepers under the U.N. has come down dramatically. Under the guidance that the President issued in PDD, Presidential Decision Directive 25, we began applying a rigorous management procedure to have oversight on peacekeeping. That system has resulted in a 75-percent decline in the number of U.N. peacekeepers over the course of the last four years.
The President will also, in defending the role of the United Nations, note its important role in such issues as narcotics and terrorism. Last year in his General Assembly speech he called for a declaration on citizen safety that would bind all the member nations to create a no sanctuary pledge -- no sanctuary for terrorists, no sanctuary for narcotics kingpins. That declaration has been drafted. It has worked its way through the various committees of the U.N. It is going before the General Assembly in a matter of weeks, where we expect it will be adopted. It will result in the implementation of our zero tolerance for our narcotics kingpins, zero tolerance for terrorist policy.
As an example of the kind of thing that we have been able to do with that policy, the United States, over the weekend, arrested a Japanese Red Army terrorist who had attacked our embassy in Indonesia five years ago, brought him back to Washington and arraigned him this morning. That's the kind of "you can run but you can't hide" policy -- zero tolerance for terrorism that the President will be talking about.
Q The United States is the largest contributor over all of these years. Where does the United States rank as debtor? Are we the largest debtor as well?
MR. CLARK: Yes, we are both -- because we have the largest assessment of any individual country, we are both the largest debtor and the largest contributor.
Q What's the President going to say tomorrow about that big debt?
MR. CLARK: The President has said in the past and will probably say again tomorrow that we will pay off that arrearage. And in the continuing resolution that's now being negotiated, we have formally requested from the Congress money to start paying off that past year debt.
I think the key thing is not to significantly accumulate additional debt. The fact that we've been able to meet most of our peacekeeping assessment and most of our regular budget assessment this year means that that debt is not growing at a significant rate.
Q Why have we not paid it? Is it because they have not lived up to the reforms --
MR. CLARK: No. We have not paid our past assessments because the Congress hasn't appropriated it.
Q What is the debt now?
MR. CLARK: The debt now, as you'll see in the charts there, is approximately $1 billion.
Q Well, Congress obviously has some complaint about it. What do they say?
MR. CLARK: You'd best ask Congress for its reasons. I think there is a concern that we share with members of the Congress that there has been inadequate reform of the United Nations. There has been some, as you can see in the charts. For the first time, the U.N. budget has gone down and is holding and is straight-lined for the future. That's progress. The number of U.N. employees has gone down and appears to be holding. But we believe there needs to be much greater reduction in programs, expenditures, and personnel.
Q But this administration does not hold that out as a condition for the repayment of the full measure of our arrearage, you'd go ahead and pay it anyway?
MR. CLARK: No, the administration has made a condition of the payment of our current assessment that the U.N. live within its current budget. We said we would only pay our current dues if the U.N. froze the budget at its existing level and kept it there.
Q I understand that. The question was whether we have made that at all -- whether the administration has made that a condition of its willingness to pay the arrearages, or not.
MR. CLARK: We have not made the condition for the arrearages. What we have said, however, is that the progress in the area of reform is key to our support and to the Congress's support for additional funding.
Q When you talk about these myths, is it a myth that the public doesn't like the U.N. and the public doesn't want the U.S. to participate, or are you really saying that it's the Republicans in Congress?
MR. CLARK: It's not even a matter of the Republicans. Support for the United Nations is bipartisan, and there are significant important Republicans, including those in the Congress, who support the United Nations. The polling data -- and we can provide this later -- there are five separate polls taken over the course of the last year by five separate organizations -- depending upon the question asked, the American people support the United Nations and our role in it from something like 68 percent-83 percent of the American people, depending upon the question asked.
So I think there is overwhelming understanding in the United States, despite the fact that there is a small vocal minority who believes in black helicopters coming to take their lawn furniture. I think there is generally support and understanding for what the United Nations does.
Q So where is the myth?
MR. CLARK: The myth I think is when you listen to talk radio, when you listen to some people in the Congress, you could get the impression that the United States does not as a people or as a Congress support the U.N. That I think is a myth.
Q Sir, you know all about the U.N. Will you please tell us a little bit about the history of it? Didn't it really start as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under Senator Tom Connelly?
MR. CLARK: My memory doesn't go back that far, so I wouldn't want to tell you too much about the history.
Q It had to start somewhere and that's where it started, as I recall.
MR. CLARK: I trust, if you say so.
Q What will the President do about the issue of Boutros Boutros-Ghali? They meet and then also will it be reflected in his speech?
MR. CLARK: I don't think we need to talk about it in his speech. Our position is quite clear: We have told, Secretary Christopher has told Boutros-Ghali that we cannot support his reelection. That decision is irrevocable. That decision is not going to change after the presidential election. We will veto Boutros-Ghali's reelection if he should stand for reelection. The U.N. Charter is quite clear. The way in which a new Secretary General is elected is that he must be nominated by the Security Council. We have a veto in the Security Council. We will veto Boutros-Ghali if he chooses to run. That's past history. We've made that decision, we've announced it. The election --
Q What's the biggest gripe against him?
MR. CLARK: Our biggest gripe against the Secretary General is, frankly, his lack of enthusiasm for reform. We don't feel that you should have a Secretary General of the U.N. going into the 21st century who has to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing reform. We'd like a Secretary General who was willing to resize, right-size the U.N. the way corporate leaders around the world have been right-sizing their corporations, the way the United States has been reinventing government. We'd like to see a Secretary General who cooperate and advocate that.
Q What's the worst thing about it? What's wrong with it?
MR. CLARK: We think, as the President said last year, that the United Nations bureaucracy is bloated, the staffing is too large, the expenditures are too large, there are too many individualized agencies that have outlived their usefulness. We'd like to see the United Nations reformed in a major way. We don't think Boutros-Ghali is prepared to do that.
Q How much international support is there for replacing Boutros-Ghali? Are we alone on this?
MR. CLARK: No, we're not alone at all. In fact --
Q How many -- can you talk about some of the other nations that want to get rid of Boutros-Ghali?
MR. CLARK: Well, I think the fact that you have already seen somewhere between 12 and 15 people begin informally to float their names as candidates from as many countries; the fact that most of the United Nations caucuses, regional caucuses, are beginning to meet to discuss who they will support for successors; the fact that behind the scenes in the Security Council and in the General Assembly -- people have accepted the fact that it will not be Boutros-Ghali. I think that's a story that hasn't fully developed in public yet, but it's clear in the corridors of the United Nations that they accept this is a done deal. Boutros will finish out his term in December and in January there will be a new Secretary General.
Q Excuse me, that's different from supporting. I mean, as you said, you have a veto and you can do this. My question, though, is how many nations, which nations actively support this, think that's a good idea.
MR. CLARK: Well, you're not going to find that out. Because we have taken it upon ourselves as the leader of the U.N. to exercise the veto, we have made it easy for other nations who might have opposed him; they no longer have to say it. And there will never be a General Assembly vote on Boutros-Ghali. So you will never know -- we'll never force individual nations to take a vote.
Q Will the President in his speech be making any new proposals for U.N. reform, or will he go over progress in achieving the proposals he has already put to them? What kind of things will we expect to hear?
MR. CLARK: I don't think we'll get into detail on the speech. Our positions, our proposals on U.N. reform are pretty well-known, and, frankly, they're not exciting, they're not the grist of presidential speeches.
Q On the other side of the coin on Boutros-Ghali, he does have friends. There are countries that support him. Are they quietly, privately lobbying the United States?
MR. CLARK: No, not anymore. (Laughter.) As I said, we've made it quite clear that our decision is irrevocable and it doesn't do a lot of good to continue to lobby us.
Q Just because you've heavy footed -- doesn't mean that he hasn't had some support among the British, the French, and so forth.
MR. CLARK: I don't think he has a lot of support among the British, but you would have to ask them.
Q Is the administration's argument with the U.N. based on inadequate fiscal reform only, or are there some policy and program disagreements?
MR. CLARK: I think it's a matter of not only fiscal reform, but also organizational reform. As I said, there are far too many individualized agencies. We would like to see them consolidated, closed out. There is virtually nothing that has ever been created in the United Nations that has ever ended. We would like to see a complete reorganization of the specialized agencies into a few that can be adequately funded.
Q Sir, didn't you just finish saying, though, that the number of U.N. employees in the budget was going in the right direction?
MR. CLARK: It is going in the right direction. The slope of the curve, however, is not significantly down. We would like to down a little faster.
Q Do you consider Boutros to be anti-American?
MR. CLARK: No.
Q The figures here, potential 1997 payment, the Senate mark is like about half of what the assessment is. What does the administration want to pay?
MR. CLARK: The administration request I think is on that chart. The Senate mark would make it quite impossible to meet our assessment and would significantly increase the cumulative debt. We are making it quite clear in the ongoing negotiations with the Congress that we cannot accept that mark in the continuing resolution that is being negotiated now.
Q Sir, maybe I missed it, but who is your favorite candidate for his job? (Laughter.)
MR. CLARK: The United States does not have a favorite candidate. The United States is soliciting names, so if you have one send it in.
END 1:57 P.M. EDT