THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Detroit, Michigan) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release October 22, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY, DAVID JOHNSON, AND SANDY VERSHBOW
Fisher Theatre Detroit, Michigan
10:27 A.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good morning. In a short while, as you know, the President is going to deliver a significant foreign policy address. Let me give two strong reasons why the President felt it was important to give this speech this day here in Detroit. One, the President wanted in the closing weeks of the 1996 campaign to review the record this administration has compiled over the last four years on foreign policy, to point out to Americans the importance of America's leadership role in the world, to describe America as he will today as the indispensable nation when it comes to charting a path to the 21st century.
There's not been a lot of discussion of foreign policy during the course of this campaign. I would suggest that that is in part because Bob Dole himself runs as an internationalist, someone who is committed to a U.S. leadership role in the world, and on many significant foreign policy areas the candidates themselves are in agreement. So there's been less differentiation between the candidates on that subject, although there have been some exchanges in which, obviously, the Senator has been critical of the President's conduct of foreign policy. We have responded from time to time to that. There have been some exchanges related to foreign policy in the debates.
But the President felt it is important for the American people to hear him describe both the successes and the challenges that America faces as we look ahead to the 21st century.
Obviously, key among the foreign policy issues that the next President will face is the question of Europe, the security of Europe, European integration and the role Russia will play in an undivided, democratic European continent. Those are subject the President will address today in a speech that we'll have available for you shortly in advanced text form. At least one stunning thing today.
Q Before he speaks?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we're making copies of it now. Second, there is a foreign policy element to the President's address today. In December, early in December the ministerial meetings of the North Atlantic Council will occur in Brussels and it is important in the view of the United States government for the President to send a very clear signal to other members of the Alliance about our intentions with respect to the issue of timing, related specifically to NATO expansion.
The President, in his address today, will state America's goal: By 1999, NATO's 50th anniversary and 10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first group of countries we invite to join should be full-fledged members of NATO. That, clearly, is a significant pronouncement by the United States government. There has been speculation in the past about the issue of timing related to NATO expansion, but this is from the President the first specific reference to timing as to the admission of new members to the Alliance.
David Johnson, the Director of Press Affairs -- what's your title? Press -- the press guy from the NSC -- (laughter) -- and the very able Deputy White House Press Secretary, and Sandy Vershbow, the Senior Director at the National Security Council for European Affairs are here. I want both of them, as they see fit, to talk a little bit more about the speech and put it in context.
Q Mike, before you go, just a sort of political question about the setting of this speech. How much does the selection of Detroit and this particular region have to do with the fact that so many people of Eastern European dissent come from this area?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that is an element. There are -- a lot of ethnic Americans with family ties to Central Europe, to the Baltics, to some former states of the Former Soviet Union do follow these matters carefully and we did want to select a venue in which the audience for that type of discussion might be maximized.
But at the same time, let's not kid anyone, a speech of this nature is not going to move voters as much as issues related to economics, family values, education, those things the President talks about over and over on the campaign trail which are central concerns of all Americans, regardless of ethnic heritage.
But, again, the President's goal here is, one, to raise up America's leadership role in the world in the closing weeks of the campaign, to define America's vision of global leadership for the 21st century; and, two, to send a very important signal to other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the North Atlantic Alliance with respect to our own intentions on timing. That's why today, why here, and why now.
Q Mike, if it's still true that there will be no Bosnia in this speech, can you explain how the President can give a major speech on Europe and NATO and then not address what's one of the most pressing, immediate questions for NATO and for the American public --
MR. MCCURRY: Very good question. The President will address Bosnia during the course of this speech, pointing out the success NATO has had using NATO air power to change the equation on the ground both in terms of diplomacy and in bringing the Bosnian war to an end; and secondly, the value that has attached to the Implementation Force, the international force, working together in the multinational format, drawing many members of the Partnership For Peace and Russia itself into the Implementation Force.
Sandy will talk more about that.
Q What about the future of it?
MR. MCCURRY: The future -- he will not address specifically that question. Sandy can tell you more about that, but we have a well-rehearsed view of how the planning -- (laughter) -- should go on that.
Q Mike, why the emphasis on Europe and why not Asia? Is he going to make a speech on Asia at some point, before the campaign is over?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he will be going and there will be a very keen focus on Asia as the President prepares in November for the visit to the Philippines, the meeting of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. He will touch on -- he'll touch on Asia today briefly in the speech, but the President sees as one of the central challenges on the foreign policy agenda for the next President the question of Europe.
We face immediately, in December, the NATO ministerial meetings that will chart out the work plan for 1997 and thus, it was significant that the President wanted to focus on Europe today.
Q Mike, Dole has already said 1999 is not soon enough, the time for expansion is now.
MR. MCCURRY: Excellent, because we can have a debate on that topic today and we wanted -- we had hoped very much that Senator Dole would express his views on the subject today so there could be an engagement on this issue and that you could all have something to write about today because it is a very important question.
MR. VERSHBOW: Thanks, Mike. You didn't leave too much to say, as always.
But the President will touch on some of his other goals for the next four years in laying out his overall vision and laying out the case why American leadership is still absolutely essential, that we are the indispensable nation, as Mike said; and highlight some of the areas of unfinished business that he wants to tackle over the next four years -- expanding free trade, dealing with terrorism, drugs, continuing to work on the Middle East peace process, et cetera.
But the core of the speech is European security, and this is because, as the President says in the speech, this is the area where our vital interests are no more directly engaged than anywhere else in the world. And he will recall the broad strategy for European security that he laid out at his first NATO summit in January of 1994.
As you'll recall, that strategy had three broad elements. The first was to adapt NATO itself to new roles and missions, in so doing to give our European allies a greater role and responsibility within the Alliance. And we've made considerable progress with the combined joint task force initiative and with the decisions of the NATO ministerial in June on giving the Europeans a greater role, but within the framework of NATO rather than a separate defense structure.
The second element is the broad area of reaching out to the new democracies of Europe's East and extending stability through both the Partnership For Peace and NATO enlargement.
MR. JOHNSON: Excuse me. Just a minor point, for those of you who are wondering; the speech we're handing out, we're embargoing that until it's delivered, please.
MR. VERSHBOW: And the third element, after PFP and enlargement, is seeking a long-term partnership with Russia because, for us, Russia is also a European power and needs to be a full and direct participant in building a new European security system for the next century.
The philosophy behind the President's strategy, which he reiterates in the speech and which was the philosophy he laid out back in 1994, is that through a new NATO we hope to do for Europe's East what NATO, together with the Marshall Plan and other postwar initiatives, did for Europe's West -- not just deterring outside aggression, which is thankfully distant threat right now, but also serving as a force for integration, for democratization, and for stability within NATO's own family.
The President will note how far we've come so far, since the initiatives were launched in 1994. He'll note how effective the prospect of NATO membership has been in encouraging the new democracies to push forward with their domestic reforms towards military reforms, civilian control of the military and towards resolving disputes with their neighbors.
And he will then say that the time has come for NATO to take the next historic step. He repeats the call he made last month, for a summit in the spring or early summer of 1997, at which the first group of countries would be invited to begin formal accession negotiations, and then, as Mike said, state specifically the U.S. goal to have the first new members fully on board as members of the Alliance by NATO's 50th anniversary in 1999.
The President will also pledge that the door will not close behind the first new members. The process will remain open, NATO will remain open and no country will be automatically excluded from the process. No third country can exercise a veto over another country's application for NATO membership. And we're not going to countenance the development of any new gray zones of instability in Europe. To this end, he will emphasize we also intend to continue to strengthen the Partnership For Peace as the most inclusive framework for security cooperation.
The President will state quite directly that NATO enlargement is not free of cost, that we are talking about extending real security guarantees and this is a serious business -- although, I think the costs at the end of the day will be quite manageable. But he stresses that missing the strategic opportunity, allowing the Iron Curtain to be replaced by a veil of indifference would mean paying a higher price down the road.
The final section of the speech focuses on the NATO-Russia relationship. He urges Moscow to take another look at NATO, to look at NATO not through the Cold War prism, but to look at what NATO has evolved into since the end of the Cold War. And he calls for a formal NATO-Russia agreement as a basis for long-term partnership, and hopefully, joint action in as many areas as possible with NATO and Russia acting together, as we are doing in Bosnia.
So in sum, this is not just about NATO enlargement, but it's exposition of our broader strategy for building a united, secure, and integrated Europe for the 21st century built on an expanding NATO, a NATO adapting to new challenges, continuing Partnership For Peace and a strong NATO-Russia relationship. And we hope all these strands will come together next year at the summit with important decisions in all of these areas.
Q Sandy, to repeat the question to Mike, so why isn't he addressing what probably is the most pressing issue on Americans' minds about NATO and Bosnia, what comes next, what kind of follow-on force?
MR. VERSHBOW: Well, because that issue is under active study now within NATO, and different options are being examined, building on the guidance that the Defense Ministers gave to the NATO planners at their meeting in Bergen last month. And it's really too soon to predict what will be the results of that study. As we've said, we're prepared to consider our participating in a follow-on mission if NATO decides such a mission is necessary and our participation is desirable. But it's a little early to go beyond that.
He does, as Mike said, stress that Bosnia has been a demonstration of NATO's continued importance, its continued value. It was only when NATO took charge of the Bosnian's situation that we were able to press the Bosnian Serbs to accept the peace settlement. And NATO's success over the past year in implementing the settlement is mentioned, as well.
Q Are you saying that there's a possibility there will not be a follow-on mission in Bosnia?
MR. VERSHBOW: That's one of the four options that NATO is looking at, that they're supposed to report back sometime in mid-November on an option including no follow-on force in Bosnia, a very small deterrent force largely dealing with enforcement of the cease-fire, a larger stabilization force, and at the upper end of the spectrum, continuation of IFOR in its current proportions, which we think that last option is well beyond the scope of what could be necessary.
Q Is there a date set for the NATO summit yet next year?
MR. VERSHBOW: No, I think that the December NAC ministerial will set the date, so at this point we're only talking about spring or early summer sometime.
MR. VERSHBOW: Location not set either. That will probably be set -- I expect it will be in Europe, but where to be determined.
Q Sandy, this is an invited audience; who was invited?
MR. VERSHBOW: I'm not sure I can give you a good clear answer on that.
Q Is he addressing France and the French desire to take over the command post back in Southern Europe?
MR. VERSHBOW: I think you'll see a reference to that issue in the speech. Our position is quite clear, that given our broader regional interests in the Mediterranean and the Middle East and the preponderance of the capabilities in that region provided by the United States, that the command of the Southern region should remain in American hands.
Q Sandy, has there been any softening of the Russian position towards expansion of NATO? Have you determined or discerned that they are now resigned to an expansion of NATO?
MR. VERSHBOW: I think it's too soon to say that they're resigned to it. The Russians are continuing to pursue two tracks; on the one hand, continuing to assert their opposition in principle to NATO enlargement and making a lot of public statements to that effect; while at the same time we are engaged in exploratory discussions with them on the scope of a NATO-Russia agreement or charter that could form the basis for a long-term partnership in tandem or in parallel with enlargement. So they're keeping their options open, but we are making some progress.
Q On that same subject --
Q -- talk about NATO doing now for Eastern Europe what NATO and the Marshall Plan did for Western Europe. Does that include some sort of economic revitalization, and if so, what --
MR. VERSHBOW: Well, NATO isn't the only instrument for bringing stability and security to the Eastern half of Europe. We see the European Union as playing a key role in the economic area through its own process of enlargement which we hope will proceed swiftly following the intergovernmental conference that's now in progress.
We, of course, have been heavily engaged since the fall of the wall with economic assistance in coordination with our European partners in Central Europe and in the NIS. So there's a lot of different elements that are designed to do for Europe's East what we've done for the West. But NATO is a key to building the security foundation.
Q Sandy, on the Russian question, no third country should have a veto -- I presume that's a message to the Russians. Are there any direct or indirect messages to the Russians?
MR. VERSHBOW: Well, the main message to the Russians is please look at NATO again and don't look at it through the Cold War prism, and underscoring once again our deep commitment to making Russia a full participant in European security; and, to that end, having a formal NATO-Russia partnership whereby we can cooperate and consult on all issues of common concern and wherever possible act jointly, as we are with our troops shoulder to shoulder in Bosnia. That's the model that we like to extend to a lot of other security problems.
Q Did U.S. officials before the speech, or as the speech was being put together, talk to the Russians and prepare them for what was coming and how --
MR. VERSHBOW: We've given the Russians as well as our allies in the countries in Central Europe advance word about the main strands of the speech. But they will be getting the details in the course of the day.
Q Sandy, why not name the first three countries that we want in and that Dole has mentioned? I mean, everybody knows it's Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland. Why not mention them?
MR. VERSHBOW: Well, first of all, the decision hasn't been made. We haven't arrived at our own position and this is a consensus decision by the full Alliance. So in the months leading up to the summit, that's when final choices will be made.
But it's also because for us this is meant to be an inclusive process. We want the countries that may not make it in the first group to continue to pursue the reforms, the military cooperation that are needed to ultimately qualify for membership. So we want to keep the process moving in as broad and inclusive a way as possible.
Q Why wait until 1999? Why not 1998 or 1997?
MR. VERSHBOW: Well, from the beginning we viewed this process as a serious one, not one that you can just do with the stroke of a pen because it does involve extending security guarantees, a defense guarantee to the new members. And you want to make sure that you have countries that are ready to shoulder responsibilities and that the American people and other allied publics will be prepared to defend. So we wanted to go through a steady process of developing cooperation and enabling them to demonstrate their readiness in practice.
From the invitation next year to 1999 there will need to be formal negotiations on the terms of their membership, their participation in the integrated military structure. NATO will have to work out, once it has the specific countries in hand, how it's going to extend this defense guarantee.
So this is not a simple task. It will require a lot of planning and then you need to allow time for parliaments to ratify the amendments to the Washington treaty. So we think that a year and a half to two years is probably the most realistic timetable from here forward.
Q Why make this announcement two weeks before the election?
MR. VERSHBOW: As Mike said, the President has wanted to give a speech on European security. He made a statement last month; Christopher gave an address in Stuttgart, and this is a key foreign policy priority and it goes well beyond the campaign. We need to prepare the ground for the decisions we wanted to be made by NATO in December, and traditionally the way forward within the Alliance is for the U.S. to show leadership, and that's what the President is doing today.
Q Is this speech intended to outline the President's foreign policy agenda for a second term?
MR. VERSHBOW: It only develops in detail the European security agenda. You need a much longer speech to cover in the same detail all the other areas. But as we've said, he does go through in brief fashion the key priorities for the next four years -- the areas of unfinished business that he wants to tackle.
Q Did Lebed's dismissal change somehow your approach to Russia?
MR. VERSHBOW: Lebed's dismissal? No. He expressed many different views on the NATO issue during his brief span of time in the Russian government. But we're dealing with the Russian leadership, with President Yeltsin first and foremost, and we'll continue to move ahead in the hopes that we can reach an agreement with them on a NATO-Russia partnership. It's in their interest to see a stable Europe and to be a part of the emerging European security system. And I think they have bigger problems to their east and to their south and it should not ultimately, in our view, be a bone of contention.
Q Looking at what Bob Dole has said about this issue, do you see any substantive differences between what you are proposing and what Bob Dole is proposing, other than a year?
MR. VERSHBOW: I don't think there are fundamental differences, no. I think that the goal in both cases is the same; to bring in new democracies who meet NATO's standards, extend the zone of stability.
Q On Northern Ireland, has the President any new proposals to make now that the situation is kind of rather difficult with no cease-fire?
MR. VERSHBOW: Not in this speech. He refers to Northern Ireland as an area where he wants to continue to help thank governments in London and Dublin, as well as the parties in Northern Ireland to find a way back to a peace process. The talks that have begun in Belfast are the best hope in our view, and we support that process fully. We hope Sinn Fein will reestablish a lasting cease-fire so that the talks can be as inclusive as they were meant to be.
Q The IRA you mean?
MR. VERSHBOW: The IRA -- excuse me.
Q If one of the goals is to hand over more responsibilities to European partners, why is it not sort of -- want to have France or other European colleagues more in command -- and what would be their -- to WEU? Would that be accepted as a form of European pillar in NATO?
MR. VERSHBOW: Well, we do see the WEU as the European pillar within NATO. That was the breakthrough in Berlin in June, which would permit the WEU to take the lead in some operations in which American troops were not needed or our participation was not politically essential. But we would then use the NATO planning structure and military structure to support that operation. So that's very much something we favor.
As far as commands, we have seen and we have agreed to a major Europeanization of the NATO command structure over the last five years. Far fewer Americans now in the senior jobs across the board than during the Cold War. And we're prepared to see the process of Europeanization go even further. Some positions other than the one you mentioned earlier, the SINC-South position, which are now de facto reserved for Americans, could become rotational among all allies.
But we think that our interests in the Southern region are especially strong and that it isn't time to shift that one.
MR. MCCURRY: The program has started upstairs, so we should probably knock off. Any other subjects? This will be our last shot before Florida.
Q Can you tell us who is in the audience?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. The audience is an invited group that we put together. It consists of a lot of academics from the region. We contacted several of the academic institutions in the area, invited people who are in international relations generally; some of the local colleges that teach international relations. There are some business leaders, students; there a some elementary school students there, as you'll probably see in the audience. We obviously included some of our political supporters.
This is officially a campaign event, so the Clinton-Gore campaign did invite some of our local political supporters as well. We tried to put together a representative audience that might have at least some interest in what is obviously a foreign policy speech as opposed to a campaign stump speech.
Q There are groups, ethnic groups --
MR. MCCURRY: There will be some leaders from various ethnic organizations there as well.
Okay, one last thing -- also, on the -- the President has, of course, addressed the question of America's 21st century foreign policy goals on other occasions, too. I'll remind you that at the U.N. recently, he identified some of those areas in the post-Cold War era that we see special concentration -- the global problems of terrorism, drug trafficking, international crime, nonproliferation. These are all areas which will be a key focus of foreign policy. But again, today he wanted the specific question on what is geopolitically one of the key questions the next President will deal with, which is the future of Europe.
Q He's not going to do another speech on foreign policy before the election, this is it? Another big speech?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. If you guys get interested in this one and write about it and put a lot in the paper and Wolf gets on the air, maybe we'll do some more.
Q So it will be driven by CNN's coverage? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: No, USA Today's coverage. (Laughter.) Even Fox News.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 10:40 A.M. EDT