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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                          (Helsinki, Finland)   
For Immediate Release                                     March 20, 1997     
                         BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY
                    A SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL                         
                          Presidential Palace
                           Helsinki, Finland                                   

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President met for about 45 minutes with President Ahtisaari and the Prime Minister Lipponen. The focus of the discussion was on European security and on the Baltic states. President Ahtisaari stressed Finland's strong support for Partnership for Peace, Atlantic Partnership Council, but explained why in the present circumstances Finland is not seeking NATO membership, but wants to contribute through other means to European security.

The President laid out his vision, said he understood the Finnish position, but said that, of course, when we begin enlargement in Madrid, the door will be open both to countries that are still seeking membership and others who may decide to do so in the future.

Q This is with the Finnish President?


Q And you're on what kind of attribution?

                SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I guess background.
                The President said even with Finland's current attitude

we very much welcome their activism -- they're in Bosnia, they're with us in a kind of joint operation in Macedonia, the U.N. operation there -- and underscored how we never imagined that Partnership for Peace would have achieved as much as it already has.

He talked -- then laid out his agenda for the meetings with Yeltsin and stressed that he's trying to build a 21st century security system, unprecedented since the birth of the nation state; one which we will both expand NATO and build a partnership with Russia. The NATO-Russia charter is the important means to keeping Russia part of the overall European scene. Stressed again that as we enlarge the door will be kept open; we don't accept Russian assertions that the former Soviet states or the Baltic states are excluded from future NATO membership.

Then they talked a bit about the status of the Russian economy. The President is going to be emphasizing that in his meeting with Yeltsin -- about the need to create the conditions in terms of passing --

Q In his coming meeting with Yeltsin?


About creating the conditions, passing the laws, getting rid of the corruption that is deterring foreign investment from flowing in. And Ahtisaari agreed that the Russians' economic problems have hurt Finland as well and they're trying to help in promoting economic development in the border areas.

They talked a bit about the U.N. Ahtisaari used to be an Under Secretary General of the U.N. And the President thanked Ahtisaari for his support for Kofi Annan and will be looking to his efforts to help us when hard decisions on U.N. reform are made. Ahtisaari said he was all for reform and would be helpful. And the President said that reform, of course, is what will enable us to pay our bills.

Let's see -- they then went back and discussed the Baltic states in greater detail. Ahtisaari laid out all the different kinds of cooperation Finland is engaged in in helping support the Baltics, help them develop economically, environment cleanup, the whole range of things.

Q How long was this session?


Q All in English?


The President praised the Finns for their activism in the Baltics, along with the other Scandinavian countries; said we want to continue to cooperate with them bilaterally and regionally. He said Ahtisaari should convey to the Baltic leaders his assurance that as we proceed with our discussions with the Russians, we're keeping fully in mind the security interests of the Baltic states.

They talked a little bit about nuclear safety problems in the former Soviet Union. Ahtisaari brought this up, it's something he had discussed when he had last met with Vice President Gore and I can't tell you exactly when that was. But the President noted all the things we're doing within the G-7, particularly in Ukraine, to help them with nuclear safety and continuing cooperation there.

Then there were a couple of bilateral issues, came up very briefly. Even before we could say it, Ahtisaari said that they're looking very seriously at Boeing as Finn Air chooses between Boeing and AirBus. The President said, of course, we hope they don't automatically go for AirBus, but rather give Boeing a --

Q They're looking very seriously at Boeing?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's right, they're looking at both. Recently, I guess their minister -- Finn Air, senior Finn Air people have been to Seattle recently, and it wasn't just for the Starbucks coffee.

Q Did you get the impression that the President wanted anything in particular be raised with Clinton? I mean, did he have a specific issue?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think Ahtisaari's main concern looking to the meetings with the Russians is that the security of the Baltics not be neglected, and also that Finland's long-term relationship with NATO be taken into account, recognizing that right now they're not seeking membership, but they want through the Atlantic Partnership Council to get the next best thing, a very close cooperative political and military relationship with NATO.

THE PRESS: Thank you.