THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Helsinki, Finland) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release March 21, 1997
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY A SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
9:25 P.M. (L)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I will tell you guys, there's not a whole lot. It was very much a social kind of -- what should I say -- winding down session. So this is the big news -- caviar, legume -- I not only don't have great stuff for you, I don't even know what a lot of this stuff is. Vester glace (phonetic.) And I'll tell you, the really good thing was this one here -- let's see, it's Russian -- it was chicken liver in a sort of -- you know that medallion stuff they do with mushrooms, only with chicken liver instead.
Can we keep this going for a long time? Salmon in champagne. Oh, I'm sorry, here's the -- there's the hen liver in a jar. Salmon in champagne.
Q Was that good?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I didn't have any. I didn't do a whole lot of eating.
Q We've got the caviar, the legume and the salmon in champagne.
Q -- good wine or did -- or Bill's theory, any wine is better than no wine at all. (Laughter.)
Q That is Bill's first law of wine. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not doing you much help, am I? The conversation was relaxed, general. There was not very much reference to the hard stuff of the day.
Q Did they talk about their news conference?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, just a kind of congratulating each other on the day. This is no attribution, right? Since it's so invaluable I know you're going to want to put it into your lead. There was a little bit -- there was a kind of what I would call a tour of the horizons on sort of other foreign policy issues.
Q At least, considering today's events.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They had talked about the Middle East earlier on a couple of occasions, because they were sort of getting updates from Israel as the thing unfolded.
Q What did they say?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There wasn't any Middle East -- sorry, wrong, there was a little bit of Middle East. Arafat had been to Moscow recently, so there was some kind of further discussion about the importance of the Palestinian Authority quickly making it clear that it had no use for this.
Q There was no green line.
Q That what -- it had no use for violence?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That it had no use for terrorists. In total agreement on that. And then they almost literally kind of went around the horizon and talked a little bit about visitors to and visits that each was going to be making. I'm not going to go into the particular countries. But virtually, no going back over the ground of today.
Q Were they tired?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They were, I think, glad that a good day's work was behind them and -- but not exhausted by any means. In fact, at the end, I had the feeling that the Russian side was kind of eager to bring it to a close because they were very aware of the President's departure schedule. And he kind of had to be reminded.
Q As usual, right?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Exchange of gifts. Yeltsin gave Clinton a set of very ornate folk art -- what do you call it -- place settings, you know -- knives, forks, spoons -- what do you call that?
Q Place settings.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. Silverware, cutlery. And also --
Q Was it in his pattern? (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm sure the answer is yes. It became his pattern instantly. Also a beautiful, quite ornate wooden cane. Get it? Cane?
Q A hand-me-down?
Q To use while he's recuperating?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right, exactly.
Q Isn't that nice?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was -- I thought it was a billiard cue when they opened it up.
Q John Bruton gave Clinton a cane the other day. He's getting quite a collection.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was in three pieces, and the top unscrews -- a sword did not come out.
Q A flask?
Q A vodka flask?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Absolutely not. I'm not even going to dignify that question. (Laughter.) It was a telescope. A little spy glass for looking over the bridge into the 21st century.
Q You don't think he got this out of some quarter of the Lubiyanka, do you? (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President gave President Yeltsin a Remington -- Frederick Remington, is that right -- a little statue of a --
Q His favorite sculptor.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it's also one of Clinton's. He talked about -- as you all know, there's quite a bit of Remington stuff around.
Q It was moved downstairs when Johnson left.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. Well, this is an Indian chief on a horse and it's a very unusual setting or posture for the horse. The horse is clearly coming down a rough terrain --
Q Steep hill?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right. And the President in his toast said something about how this seemed like a metaphor for President Yeltsin's own ability to -- this is a paraphrase -- stay in the saddle, not lose his footing even in rough terrain.
Q Did they have a drink? Because they didn't have a drink last night.
Q Did you say it was a small sculpture -- did I hear that or did I mishear that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm going to say six inches, quite small.
Q Did they have a drink this time? Were they permitted to drink?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was a toast.
Q A sip of something.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: A sip of something.
Q So maybe the President will sleep tonight on the plane?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He commented that he had every intention of doing that.
Q He hasn't slept for the last two nights.
Q Was there any agreement on the next meeting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Between the two of them? No.
Q It never came up?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's not that big a deal. You know, it's sort of the assumption is every six months.
Q But it's been 11 since the last.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Somebody has been counting and that's what we're told.
Q Could you clear up one thing, which is, in the press conference, President Yeltsin said, actually, in his opening statement that there had been an agreement on the non-use of military infrastructure that remained in place in the countries of the former Warsaw Pact. Is that true, that they agreed that there would be no upgrading of military facilities for reception for possible reenforcements?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it is not. Let me give you my take on that -- and I was listening very carefully and I'm very familiar with everything that has been agreed, everything that remains under discussion. I can only assume that what President Yeltsin was doing or expressing when he said that was echoing what has been a fairly longstanding Russian concern with this thing that they call infrastructure. Infrastructure is not addressed in the joint U.S.-Russian statement on European security and it is not an issue on which NATO has been or, I suspect, will be willing to negotiate, per se.
Part of the problem, just to give you a sentence or two more of background here, is that infrastructure is a very imprecise word. What is going to be under discussion or is already under discussion in CFE is treaty limited equipment. TLE -- it means everything from armored personnel carriers to artillery, tanks, obviously -- that kind of thing. There is a certain amount of infrastructure associated with treaty limited equipment, and if the Russians persist in their concern with infrastructure, that will be the way for them to address the question, through the TLE issue in Vienna. But that's down the road.
So I think what you've got there was the President just recalling an issue that has been very much in the air going back for many, many months now. But it is, emphatically, not something that was agreed to in these statements today. In fact, I hope all of you will make clear in your stories that the actual limitations, restrictions, constraints, whatever you want to call them, are going to come out of the CFE negotiations in Vienna. And there will also be what we're calling transparency measures, stabilization measures, confidence-building measures referred to in the charter between NATO and Russia.
Q Can I follow up on that? In the enlargement study, the cost study, it's based on the premise that there would have to be the possibility for reenforcement in a time of crisis, which would require a significant upgrading of military infrastructure, including former Warsaw Pact bases on the territory of the three or four new members.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's absolutely correct.
Q Is President Yeltsin laying down the gauntlet, putting down the marker for the charter discussions that is going to take place between Primakov and Solana in the coming weeks, saying that we have not given up on our demand that the charter say there will be no upgrading of military infrastructure in the new members?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I really don't think so. I was quite impressed by the extent of President Yeltsin's familiarity with a lot of technical issues. But it would be unreasonable to expect him to be absolutely up to date on everything that's going on. The infrastructure issue overall has receded a bit, and that's partly because -- and we're on the same no attribution basis here -- frankly, that there's a tradeoff between infrastructure and station forces. I mean, it's really kind of see-saw type deal.
The less permanently stationed foreign forces you have in the country, the more infrastructure you need in order to assure that that country has what's called reenforcement capability. The Russians for quite a long time were harping on Norway as a model that they wanted to see if they could transpose to the Central European countries. They now have understood that, in fact, while it's true Norway doesn't have any foreign station forces, doesn't have any nuclear weapons deployed there, it's got a heck of a lot of infrastructure. And there's a connection between the two, so they can't have it both ways, basically.
Q Did you say that on background what you just said?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On Norway, I'd really rather --
Q The infrastructure.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I will say on -- if you really need it in quotes -- I'll try to if it's -- isn't it just as easy for -- just as useful for you to be able --
Q Given what President Yeltsin said in the press conference that there was an agreement --
Q -- U.S. official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, but not with quotes. What I will give you is that U.S. officials familiar with everything that went on here in Helsinki today and also the state of discussions between NATO and Russia assume that President Yeltsin was referring to a longstanding Russian concern with what the Russians call infrastructure. In fact, there has been no agreement to limit infrastructure, and NATO feels that that is an issue which should be addressed in connection with the issue of treaty limited equipment in Vienna once the talks get serious. Which the talks will once the Russians make a proposal of their own.
I think you all know, NATO has made a proposal and is waiting for a Russian reply.
Q But no one raised it with them after the news conference to say --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, yes. Well, we didn't raise it with President Yeltsin. This is well below his pay grade. But we have taken the matter up with the appropriate Russian officials just to say -- and one of the things we said, frankly -- they know perfectly well that people who have been working the technical issues I think have the same analysis we do. But I don't want you quoting me quoting them. That's just -- but, yes, this is not a problem.
Infrastructure has been a word that has continually come up on the Russian side of the table, going back many months. And President Yeltsin, who gets regularly briefed on it, has heard a lot of reference to it.
Q Can you do English for us? What is infrastructure, for the average Joe?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's part of the problem. I mean, infrastructure is basically stuff that you can't move. It's stuff that's actually built that's sunk in the ground. Air fields, depots, command and control, air defense systems -- stuff like that.
And just for your background, only the one messy sentence is on real background.
On DEEP BACKGROUND I will just tell you that one of the Russians' concerns is that these were their allies for a long time. All this stuff that they call infrastructure and are worried about they built. And so they know exactly what's there. They know how much of it there is, and they know what its capability is.
Q -- compatible to NATO?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Of course not. I mean, well --
Q So what's to worry? Except pride?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, let's take an air field. There's not much to worry about. An air field, you can take off, depending on which way the wind is blowing, heading east or heading west. But communications, what's called C3I -- command control communications and intelligence, that kind of stuff is not compatible with NATO and would require upgrading. And there's going to be a lot of upgrading that's going to go on.
Just general statement, it has been our impression that the greater Russian concern is the issue of permanently stationed forces, and that's increasingly been where their negotiators, their officials have concentrated.
Q -- I gather your assessment of Yeltsin -- others have told us that he was much more engaged on the details of issues. Obviously he had prepared carefully, was less flamboyant. Do you agree with that and how he --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I had seen him a couple of weeks ago when Secretary Albright was there, and I went with her. He very rarely today referred to notes, for example. And we did some -- a lot of very technical stuff -- ABM-TMD demarkation, START II, what weapons systems are and aren't going to be covered in START II, START III, as well as the European security stuff. So he is very much on top of --
Q Did you notice that his left hand seems slightly impaired? It appeared that way. He doesn't seem to move --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Which is the hand that's missing the thumb?
Q Yes, could that be -- he sort of hides it.
Q I do know that.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm trying to remember. I think it is his left hand. That's slightly impaired, all right. I think he -- weren't they playing with a grenade and blew off his thumb and a couple of fingers.
Q Did the -- footnote, but did the Baltics get any special anguish out of him?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, there's -- again, same basis -- there was some discussion about the Baltics.
Q I meant overall, I meant through the two days.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There was no discussion of the Baltics, in fact, there was virtually no discussion of NATO enlargement or NATO-Russia -- right -- but it did get some discussion during the day, and it's pretty easy to explain on both sides. The Russians don't like NATO enlargement at all. And they like it even less when the subject comes up in the context of what they call former Soviet republics. And I think you all know that we, the United States, along with most of our allies, put the Baltics in a rather special category -- we don't accept 50 years of Soviet domination.
But the principle that we adhere to doesn't have anything to do with that. It applies to all of the new independent states, and that is that NATO enlargement is an open process, it's inclusive. This is about breaking down lines, not creating new lines. If we were to accept the proposition that there are some categories of countries that can never be eligible for NATO, that would do exactly what we don't want to do. It would be to draw a new line, it would to be reawaken old fears.
Q -- told this to him during the course --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Absolutely. Yeltsin made his views clear and President Clinton was just as clear in reply. And I would call your attention -- I think there are a number of things that are very positive about this joint statement today, and I do not say this as kind of score-keeping, this is one for our team against theirs, because I think it was good for both -- that you will see in the joint statement a reference to the right -- inherent right of any country to choose its own security arrangements -- what's the language?
Q We didn't see all the papers.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, as you're going through it and -- you'll get it on the plane or it will be back in the press center. But in any event, this was important because the Russians, going back to Lisbon and, in fact, on probably half a dozen occasions over the years, right -- have reaffirmed the OSCE guaranteed right of any country to choose its own security arrangements. And it was important I think that they were -- I think it was a credit to them that despite their obvious strong feelings about enlargement, they were willing to reaffirm that principle.
Q Did you get the impression he was less flamboyant? I mean, he seemed much more statesmanlike to me.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What are we comparing him to?
Q To his previous -- where he'd jump up and down --
Q Like Budapest.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He was certainly less flamboyant than Budapest. Ladies and gentlemen, we much prefer Helsinki to Budapest. And that's not a comment on the city, or the hospitality, or the people. I'm glad I stayed home for that one.
Q Do you think that he is less flamboyant, more statesmanlike?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, flamboyant is kind of a pejorative word. He was very --
Q Kind of a showman, doing something --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That was sort of vintage -- he was most theatrical in the press conference. I thought that was vintage Boris Yeltsin. No? Okay, all right.
Q You didn't see anything new about how he --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Somebody will total up for you how many hours we had today.
Q -- that face -- real serious face.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This was serious stuff. Guys, this is really hard -- this is really hard for them. And so we fully expected -- and we were not playing expectations games with you coming into this.
Q -- didn't lower them on purpose --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What can I say?
Q "We'll see what happens."
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I, for one, didn't know until about noon on the European security thing. I absolutely did not. It was clear that -- obviously, a lot of work went into the joint statement. It goes back several weeks, a number of trips, Secretary Albright's trip, Primakov's trip over the weekend. But we didn't know we had it until the middle of the day. And on the START ABM-TMD stuff, we didn't know that we were together, that we had a joint statement until quarter of 4:00 p.m.
Q You didn't know you had all six until the end, all six projects?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There are six --
Q We were told five out of six -- and it turns out all six were. Berger says all six. Six ABM projects.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: European security --
Q TMD projects -- expecting five out of six would meet Russian approval --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I see, okay. Good, fine. I'm not going to contradict them. There are different ways to talk about that issue. But the point is we did not know that we had a joint position on ABM-TMD until quarter of 4:00 p.m., because something was happening at 4:00 p.m. -- oh, I know. We were beginning an afternoon session, and the experts, with at least two interventions by the Presidents, worked before and right after the lunch.
So all I'm saying there was a lot of tough -- and you know, of course, that the Duma, which was represented there today -- you all saw our old friend -- former Ambassador to -- okay. The Duma has established a linkage both between START ratification and ABM-TMD, and between START ratification and NATO-Russia.
Q Which Yeltsin said makes it possible to make this promise.
Q Do you think he's right when he said that as directly as he did -- that on my advice, on my recommendation, the Duma will pass --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not going to second-guess his estimate.
Q What's your feeling? Do you think he can get it through?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I have no reason to question his assurances.
Q What did the Russians get that would please them on the ABM-TMD? It seems like we got everything we wanted.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I know why you put the question that way. We are really trying, including in the way we would deal with them, to get away from the sort of zero sum -- either they give, we get --
Q -- arms control any other way?
Q We can't understand what he had to intervene about this, it was going your way. You just referred to Clinton intervening twice.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Presidents. Plural. The Presidents got back involved in this at least twice after they did it fairly intensively this morning.
Q I don't know what to do with the tactical question --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The answer to your question, by the way, is that they got a demarcation agreement. And if we hadn't been able to come to an agreement, there wouldn't be a demarkation agreement and it's in the interests of both of us that there be one.
Q The tactical weapons -- that got thrown in that tactical weapons will be included in the START III negotiations. Could you give us some sense of the dimensions of this, what this means, is it a big deal? I didn't expect it and all of a sudden there it was.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This has to do, I think, with --
Q And it's what Russia wants, isn't it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is a classic SALT-START issue. It goes back to Vladivostok and before. And I think you'll have a fact sheet when you get back to the press center. This has to do with Cruise missiles, which because they are on platforms that can move close to Russia and are, as the Russians say, effectively strategic. Because you have their range plus the range of the airplane or the ship that can bring them in.
Q But it's basically the Cruises.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. But take a close look at the fact sheet and see what it says on the subject.
Q Any other Clinton moments?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He, by the way -- Yeltsin was very interested in hearing about his experience --
Q Tell me again how you tripped?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, they didn't get into that, but he was interested in the operation, because Yeltsin still quite vividly remembers his own adventure. So they were just two men who know each other very well who had been through an extremely long and hard, but ultimately satisfying day, who were kind of glad it was coming to an end.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 9:55 P.M. (L)_