THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS
The Briefing Room
3:00 P.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me try to put today's relevance in a slightly broader context and then ask my distinguished colleague to go through the elements of the Founding Act that was agreed to today in Moscow between Foreign Minister Primakov and Secretary General Solana.
As the President has said, this document is strongly in the national interest of the United States and the American people. By bolstering Europe's stability, it will enhance our own security and prosperity in the 21st century. The document moves an historic step toward a partnership between Russia and NATO while preserving NATO's integrity, flexibility and core identity as a defensive, collective alliance. In other words, this is a win-win-win -- it's good for America, it's good for Europe, and it's good for Russia.
The document realizes an important element of President Clinton's vision of Europe, which he first articulated in Brussels in 1994 -- that is building a peaceful, democratic, undivided continent for the first time in history. And when the President talks about building a peaceful, democratic, undivided continent, let me try to describe what he means, what's the strategy behind those words.
It involves a set of complementary security, political and economic arrangements which bring Europe together; enlarging the NATO Alliance; building a new security cooperation between NATO and Russia, which we've acted on today; building partnerships with Ukraine, the Baltics and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe through the Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council that will be created; moving the transatlantic agenda of trade and economic relationships forward. All of these are elements of a tapestry of a more integrated, more united, more peaceful Europe the President is referring to.
Now, today's actions is a very important step, in a sense a midpoint, on the road from Helsinki to Madrid in eight weeks, where NATO will act definitively to invite new members to join the NATO Alliance. But in a larger sense, this really is a process that began in January of 1994, when the President traveled through Europe and Western Europe and Central Europe and Eastern Europe and in Moscow, and outlined this vision really for the first time of an integrated Europe, and sent the message to all three that a new NATO would work with a new Russia to build a new Europe.
In Warsaw in 1994, the President called on NATO to begin concrete steps towards the process of bringing in new members. In May of 1995, in the summit between President Yeltsin and President Clinton, there was a detailed exchange on NATO enlargement and NATO-Russia relations. As a result of that, in May of that year, Russia joined the Partnership for Peace and a process was begun parallel to that in which the NATO enlargement study was undertaken and completed in September of '95.
In October of '96, the President called specifically for a NATO summit in 1997 to name the first new NATO members, and called for a NATO-Russia partnership, including mechanisms for consultation and, where possible, joint action; then in Helsinki, where President Yeltsin and President Clinton really laid the basis for the work that has been done so effectively by Secretary Solana, and in parallel with efforts that Chancellor Kohl and President Chirac and others have been engaged in, to result in this step.
Before I turn to my colleague to walk through the specific elements of this Founding Act, let me simply conclude by saying that for 50 years America's overriding security concern flowed from a hostile relationship with Moscow. With this Founding Act we reinforce the basis for a constructive, stable and peaceful relationship with Russia that is working with a stronger NATO that preserves its flexibility and integrity.
Now, let me turn this over to my colleague to talk more specifically about the elements of this founding act.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you, and good afternoon to all of you. For openers here, I will basically address two subjects: one, the content and the structure of this document, and then give you a little bit on the background of it and the process whereby it came about.
As you know, this is a document that went without a formal name for quite some time, and that really was one of the issues that was finally decided in the discussions between Secretary General Solana and Minister Primakov just in the last day or so, and the name of it is a Founding Act -- the full name is Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security and NATO and the Russian Federation.
Now, this document has five sections or parts. The first is a preamble that essentially sets the context of the relationship and makes the case for broader, more intense cooperation between NATO and Russia. Section two sets out the basic principles that will guide the NATO-Russia relationship and these are in a very positive sense quite familiar, because they are essentially reiterations or reaffirmations of international documents that have set the rules of the road for international relations over the last half century, particularly over the last couple of decades. That is, the United Nations Charter and the Helsinki Final Act. It's not entirely coincidental that that word, "act," would have come back into play in the context of these discussions.
These principles include commitments on the part of all countries involved to respect the sovereignty and the independence and the territorial integrity of all states, peaceful settlements of disputes and also -- this is, as I'm sure you will understand, very important -- the inherent right of every country to choose its own means for ensuring its own security. And, again, you will hear echoes of the document that emerged from the Helsinki meeting between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin.
Section three establishes a new forum, a new entity, to be called the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. This is a consultative mechanism that builds upon a feature that has existed in Brussels for the last number of years -- namely, the so-called 16 plus 1 mechanism or structure. I can come back to that, but it institutionalizes 16 plus 1 with respect to NATO's relations with Russia.
Now, initially, this will be a body that will engage purely in consultations or discussion. However, the Founding Act allows for the possibility that over time, out of the consultations among the member states of NATO and Russia will come agreement on certain areas or tasks where there can be joint decision-making and joint action. Example, of course, being what NATO and Russia, NATO and Ukraine, NATO and many of the Central European and former republics of the Soviet Union are doing today in Bosnia.
The Founding Act allows each side to raise any issues that it might have and to pursue those in the NATO-Russia Joint Council. But it also quite explicitly provides for freedom of action of both sides. What that means is that if there's a consensus among the member states of NATO and Russia to do something under the auspices of the NATO-Russia Joint Council then they can pursue that. If there's not a consensus then NATO is free to act as NATO and Russia is free to act as the Russian Federation.
Section four of the Founding Act sets out possible areas for consultation. Both the President and my colleague have touched on a couple of those: the prevention and settlement of conflicts; peacekeeping operations; preventing and curbing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and transparency, which is jargon meaning increasingly open exchange of information on what in the Cold War were areas, of course, of mutual secrecy, such as force posture and doctrine and that kind of thing.
Section five, which has been the focus of the most intense discussion in the last couple of months, covers the military dimension of the NATO-Russia relationship. And here I would like to call your attention to a key feature of this document, and that is, it builds upon two unilateral positions that NATO has already taken. One of those is a December 10th NATO statement with regard to nuclear weapons deployments, the so-called "three nos." And the second is a reiteration of a March 14th North Atlantic Council-NATO statement with regard to conventional forces.
Now, much as the Helsinki document did, the Founding Act takes those existing NATO positions, reiterates them and clarifies them in ways that the Russians, in being prepared to proceed with the signing of this document, clearly acknowledge as addressing some of their legitimate security concerns.
Q Could you just summarize those two?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. The three nos, Rita, says that -- and this is a key phrase -- under current, foreseeable circumstances, or in the current and foreseeable security environment, NATO has no reason, no plan and no intention to change current deployments of nuclear weapons; that is, it doesn't need to put nuclear weapons somewhere where they are not now in place.
The March 14th statement says that in current and foreseeable circumstances, or the environment, NATO will pursue its tasks and missions relying upon integration, inter-operability -- which means making sure that the new member states are able to integrate or operate as part of the unified command and -- this is very important -- reenforcement.
Now, in the case of both the December 10th and the March 14th statement, NATO reserves to itself the right to assess the security environment, and if it were ever, in and of itself, to conclude that the security environment had changed, then it would obviously want to look again at the question of deployments.
Q That is what the President was referring to out there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. Yes. This has been a theme in the discussions between Secretary General Solana and Minister Primakov, going back sometime now, and indeed, it's been the subject -- I'll come to this in a minute -- of the discussions that have been going on through various country-to-country or bilateral channels as well.
Now, section five -- and I can come back to any of this in more detail if you want -- section five also provides for mechanisms that will, we hope, foster closer military-to-military cooperation including liaison missions in the headquarters of NATO and Russia.
I might say I think it's a telling coincidence that the Russian Defense Minister has been here over the last day and a half. He had meetings, of course, with Secretary Cohen; he met with Sandy and with Secretary Albright this morning. And one of the things, one of the many things on the agenda was opportunities for greater military-to-military cooperation.
Let me, if I could -- and we can come back to any parts of the document that you want to talk about -- let me just give you a little bit of the flavor of how this came about. It was a very complicated, but I would say also quite orderly and disciplined process. And it was complicated, in part, because there were so many countries involved.
My colleague went through a number of key parts about the chronology here; let me mention one other important item on the calendar of the last year, and that was a speech that Secretary Christopher gave in Strasbourg last fall at which he broached publicly the idea of there being a NATO-Russia document of the kind that now seems to be at hand.
We also I think look back on the OSCE -- Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe -- meeting in Lisbon in early December as an important point as well. The Vice President met with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and gave a new political impetus, I would say, because each of them was under instructions from his President to try to move these negotiations forward. And I might add that during the last round of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission here in Washington in early February there was also quite a bit of work done on all this.
But this was by no means just a U.S.-Russia discussion. There have been intense bilateral contacts, including at the highest level involving all of our key allies -- Chancellor Kohl, President Chirac have been intensively engaged, as well. And, of course, Secretary Albright has had a number of meetings with Mr. Primakov.
But throughout this the nexus, the key channel was the Solana-Primakov channel, and that was exactly as it should be, because this is, after all, a document that brings NATO, as such, into a set of understandings and undertakings with the Russian Federation.
I might just add one other, as it were, relevant but somewhat complicating factor to which we had to make sure we did justice, and that is that NATO is 16 countries now, Russia is one, that's 17 countries, but there are in all 30 countries that are signatories to the CFE process. In fact, there are a couple of countries that are not part of the CFE, but have an intense interest in the CFE, whose interests and rights were also involved here. So yet another part of the dialogue has been to urge the Russians to address as many of their military concerns as possible in Vienna through the CFE process so that all countries whose interests are involved will be respected there. And that is very much part of this document.
I guess the last thing I would say just on the status of it, Secretary General Solana flew out of Moscow after concluding his talks successfully with Minister Primakov. He went almost literally right into a meeting of the North Atlantic Council. It's our understanding that that meeting went quite well and that the Permanent representatives, the 16 Perm reps to the NAC are now forwarding the text back to their governments, but we have every reason to expect approval.
Why don't I go to your questions.
Q A technical question. The agreement -- this is not legally binding, correct?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That is correct.
Q Why did you get away from the word "charter"? Did it sound too legalistic? Will it be submitted anyhow because there are gray area documents where a President may want the support or get the endorsement of Congress? You don't send this to Congress, but you send the CFE changes and the additions of new NATO members to Congress because they change treaties. Is that all correct?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's all correct. Let me add just a little bit to it, though.
It's very important to understand why it isn't and shouldn't be seen as legally binding. And I think I've already touched on the main points in the way I've addressed a couple of issues so far.
With respect to nuclear weapons and station forces -- infrastructure, that kind of thing -- this is not a document which says that NATO and Russia agree that X, Y, and Z will be the case forever or that A, B and C will never happen. That would be a treaty, a legally binding treaty that, of course, would go to the Senate. And, incidentally, that's the kind of document that the CFE treaty or START II is, and that's why they are subject to ratification. This document says that NATO takes the position that, explains its position, clarifies its position as meaning thus and such, but NATO reserves the rights that I've mentioned.
Barry, as to why the charter didn't fly at the end of the day, all I can tell you is that to Russian ears, it sounded like a word or a genre of document that was a little undervalued -- too many charters I think was it in part.
We, of course, are going to want to consult very closely with the Congress on the substance and the background and every other aspect of this, and we've already been doing so. I think that Secretary Albright is within 15 minutes going to be meeting with the Senate observer group and I will be going up to meet with that same group tomorrow. Several of us, not just from the State Department, but from DOD as well, have been up to brief Senator Gordon Smith and his colleagues on the European Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So we're going to be working very closely with them, but it doesn't require ratification.
Q What does the President and the 16 others including Yeltsin sign? If they don't sign the agreed document, they don't sign a contract -- I mean, they say words, reassuring words like we just heard on the lawn -- what is the signature besides theater? What's the point?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's a political -- an enduring commitment at the highest political levels. Have you got the text of Helsinki there? And there is quite a bit of precedent for this. The Helsinki Final Act of 1974 -- and don't make too much of the -- '75 -- there are a lot of differences, obviously, but the Shanghai Communique is another example.
Q Once this is signed, can the Russians be pretty confident, even though they don't have a veto, that any future applicants that they have pretty strong objections to, like the Baltics, are not going to get in?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, they cannot be that confident of that. Throughout this process, we have had certain core principles which guided us at every step of the way, and those principles have emerged intact in the final document here. One of those was that no country was going to have a veto; there was going to be no slowdown or delay in the process of enlargement; there was going to be no second-class membership in the Alliance, including, notably, as it takes in new allies. NATO was not in any way going to be subordinated to any other organization.
And then, another key principle is that there was going to be no exclusion. This is a process that is going to go on, it's going to be open to all eligible democratic states.
Q The Baltics and all these other countries have the expectation that they can get in?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That is correct.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They're not excluded. And if I could just add one thing to what my colleague has said. The President was very explicit on this point with President Yeltsin when they met in Helsinki, so there can be no misunderstanding about what the intention is here -- that is, no nation is excluded and no non-member has any kind of veto right over.
Q -- raising countries' expectations for something that will in all likelihood never happen?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, this is an ongoing process, as the President said, and this is -- in Madrid, NATO will take in its first new members since the end of the Cold War, but we have been very clear from the beginning that this would be an ongoing process and the first will not be the last. And I would simply go back over the last two or three years, at each stage there has been a question about whether, in fact, certain things would happen: Would we actually come out for enlargement? Yes, we did. Would there actually be enlargement? Yes, it looks like there will be -- most certainly will be. So each step of the way the skeptics have been proven here to be overly cautious.
Q When I asked President Clinton about congressional objection he responded by saying these countries feel that they're ready. But the issue in Congress, as you know, is not whether these countries feel that they're ready, but whether the U.S. is going to be willing to take on a common defense of that. And I guess the question is -- and as Barry says, the expense of it -- the question is, tell us, if you can tell us a little bit about what you're going to try to do to explain to Congress that this is in the interest of the U.S. and it's not going to be too expensive.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, first of all, there has been very broad support in both Houses of Congress over the past several years, past few years, for NATO enlargement. It has been bipartisan. It has been expressed in congressional resolutions and other forms of congressional action on several occasions overwhelmingly. So I think we begin here with a general presumption that enlargement of NATO is good for the United States.
But understand that what happens in Madrid in eight weeks, essentially, is the invitation to certain countries to begin accession talks. Those talks will then go on for undoubtedly several months, with a view towards ultimately their coming into NATO in 1999. So this period between now and that will be a time of, I think, very vigorous discussion on the Hill, debate in the country, and I think we have every intention of making our case very strongly to the Congress and to the American people that a NATO which is modernizing, a NATO which is adapting, a NATO which is enlarging to embrace new democracies is in America's national interests. And I believe that that will be supported on a bipartisan basis at the end of the day.
We certainly don't take that for granted. I think there will be a very vigorous effort on our part over this period, and I'm quite pleased that Majority Leader Lott has established the group that my colleague referred to, where Secretary Albright is speaking to at this moment. It's a bipartisan group in the Senate that will be actively engaged in this process.
Q Could you put a dollar figure on how much it will cost?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think there have been some preliminary estimates from the Defense Department in the neighborhood of about $200 million a year, but I think that Secretary Cohen would be the first to say that those need to be refined, obviously, as we know, obviously, who, for starters.
Q Could you clear up one particular area? Tonight, apparently President Yeltsin went on the air and indicated that in fact he did have some kind of veto power or some way of blocking an admittance that he objected to. You guys says he doesn't. Can you explain --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me take the first whack, and then you take the second. There are no secret understandings. There is nothing here that does not appear in this document. And it is very clear and explicit that there is no veto that any country has. How he chooses to characterize this in Moscow, obviously, is --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'd like to add just one thing. No, it is very, very important that there be no misunderstanding about what this says and what it doesn't say, what it commits us to and what it leaves us free to do.
One of the principles that President Clinton established, going back to 1994 -- and my colleague mentioned kind of the genesis of being the trip that he made to Brussels, Prague, Kiev and Moscow -- was to say the same thing to every audience. We have been totally transparent and open about this and tried to be as clear as possible.
Now, on the issue at hand here, there are two bodies at issue here. One is called the North Atlantic Council, and that's kind of the board of directors of NATO. And that is sovereign. It doesn't take orders from anybody but itself; it doesn't report to anybody but the member governments. There's a new body called the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. That will operate by consensus. If Russia doesn't want something to happen under the auspices of the NATO-Russia Joint Council, it won't happen. But that does not mean that NATO can't do what it feels is in the interests of its members.
Q Two questions. Number one, doesn't the fact that Yeltsin feels compelled to say that, even if you say it's not the case, isn't that very telling? And number two, a more technical question, when you said that this document reiterates and clarifies existing NATO positions, what's clarified?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can answer -- the second part of that I can answer more easily than the first, and I'm at a little bit of a disadvantage. I have nothing but a ticker on what President Yeltsin is quoted as having said. And we have been in the most intense, specific negotiations with President Yeltsin himself and his Foreign Minister for months and months and months, and I assure you that there is no misunderstanding between NATO and Russia or the United States and Russia over what this document does and doesn't say.
It is a fact, and all of you know it, that President Yeltsin, Minister Primakov, Minister Rodionov and the rest of their team have an extremely tough job ahead of them on a whole variety of fronts, and Secretary Albright got a pretty vivid taste of that a week ago last Friday when she met with some otherwise reformist, very -- what should I say -- some of our favorite Russian politicians who were adamant in their opposition to NATO enlargement. But I don't want to enter into the Russian domestic debate.
But let me answer your question about where the clarification is. With respect to the December 10th statement on nuclear weapons deployment, the final version of this act will make explicit something that was implicit in the original December 10th statement, and that is that if we don't have any plan, intention or reason to deploy nuclear weapons, we don't have any plan, intention or reason to have storage sites for nuclear weapons where there are not storage sites now.
With respect to the March 14th statement on conventional forces, the final version asserts affirmatively that NATO will have infrastructure adequate to meet the tasks and missions identified and the parameters identified in the March 14th statement, and those missions, of course, include reenforcement.
Q Can I follow up just for a second on the second part of that question, which was the notion of why Yeltsin feels compelled to do this? I mean, in a sense, the only reason why an agreement like this -- forgive me for hyperbole -- matters is if it further cements the relationship between Russia and the West. I mean, that's why you're heralding this, because it's a good thing. But if, in Russia, it's seen largely as a bad thing, NATO expansion -- not this agreement but NATO expansion -- then for all the good talk, don't you risk undermining what you say you're holding up?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I sense my colleague may want a crack at this one, too. It's a very good question. I don't think you are hyperbolizing, by the way. I think you've put it pretty well.
Many, many Russians, including a lot of reformers, democrats, people who believe in Russia's integration with the outside world, don't like NATO, and they don't like NATO enlargement. They associate NATO with the bad old days of the Cold War, and they need to be persuaded by their own leaders, in the first instance, that this is indeed a new NATO, just as we're prepared to look at them as a new Russia.
Now, this is not an abstract question, it's also a military question. And you'll remember what was said publicly between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin in Helsinki. They chose their words very carefully. They said that the purpose of what we're talking to you about today is to limit or diminish -- or minimize, I guess -- the negative consequences of Russia's opposition to NATO enlargement. And we think that the principal way to do that is to make clear to the Russians what NATO does and doesn't plan to do. And that's why the December 10th statement matters with regards to nukes -- matters in military terms, not just cosmetic or symbolic or political terms -- and March 14th with respect to conventional weapons.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just try -- come at that in a related way. I think that President Yeltsin has made a clear judgment about where Russia's future lies, and it does not lie in isolation from the United States, and it does not lie in isolation from Europe -- so that, notwithstanding the fact that they disagree with NATO enlargement, I think he made the judgment in and around the time of Helsinki that NATO enlargement was going forward, and that Russia's future lies by integrating itself with Europe, with the West, with the United States both through a NATO-Russia relationship and through the bilateral relationships that are very important to him, including the U.S.-Russian relationship, so that in Helsinki we not only made a breakthrough in terms of moving this ball down the court, but we also made important strides in terms of arms control, looking towards START III, and in terms of integrating Russia into other institutions.
The summit in Denver will be the Summit of the Eight. That, I think, is an important step. So I think here one should not substitute your judgment -- or one's judgment for President Yeltsin's in terms of what is in the best interest of Russia. I think he has the capacity to see a different future, and I think that the future that he sees is a Russia whose prosperity and peace and security lie in greater integration.
Q Does the Duma have to ratify this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know whether the Duma has to ratify it. I think at some points President Yeltsin has said that he will --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They have different constitutional procedures and their government has made clear they are going, in some sense, to submit it to the Duma for approval, but it's not clear whether that constitutes formal ratification.
Q Now that the vision of this relationship between NATO and Russia is developing -- because it seems to me, as the President said today, we're looking at a new NATO for the 21st century, whereas many of the countries, including Russia and many of those who want to join are looking at in terms of what it has been in the 20th century. And if we resolve the problem in terms of the Russian acceptance of the expansion of NATO, when the next step comes and the same presuppositions lie at the basis of decisions and the Baltic states or Ukraine or the Central Asian states want to join NATO and there is no change in those presuppositions of views of various parties, they're going to have another problem somewhere down the road --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think this moves us down a course towards a greater degree on integration. If you looked in 1985, you could not have predicted what happened in 1989. If you looked in 1990, you could not predict where you might have been in 1994. Three years ago, I doubt seriously whether one could have predicted where we have been -- where we are today -- on the verge of both having a NATO-Russia agreement and enlarging NATO simultaneously.
So I think what we've done here is move an important step forward towards a more peaceful, constructive relationship with Russia and a more integrated Europe. And we'll have to see how that unfolds as the years unfold. But it will -- in our judgment, it will unfold in the direction of additional expansion of NATO.
Q What's the current state of play on troop levels in the new member countries? Is that addressed in this document? And what has changed since the Secretary's visit two weeks ago?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Nothing has changed, and nothing will change with regard to NATO's intentions and the flexibility that it insists on having. The March 14th statement -- which I imperfectly quoted earlier, but I think I got it more or less right -- basically says that NATO will concentrate on certain kinds of activities and deployments. And those will not include -- those that it concentrate -- will not include the need for the permanent stationing of large combat forces under current foreseeable circumstances. But it will certainly want to do a lot of exercises. It will want to move sometimes fairly large units in and out, in support of peacekeeping operations such as the fairly significant facility that NATO now has in Hungary. But it reserves the right to change that at any time.
Yes, my colleague says that there's another piece to this very complicated mosaic, which is CFE. CFE -- which was, as you all know, singed in 1991 in kind of the last days of the Cold War --at least the existence of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact -- was based on a block-to-block structure. There were ceilings for NATO and there were ceilings for the Warsaw Pact.
NATO has made a proposal in Vienna for a whole new structure that would include ceilings on individual countries -- no more blocks -- but also that would include what are called stabilizing measures, still to be worked out, that would cap deployments in that part of Europe which has been the source of so much trouble throughout the last century. And that would affect Central European countries, Eastern European countries and former parts of the Soviet Union.
And an awful lot of what this document does is provide a, kind of a guideline or an impetus to CFE where many of the specifics that will come to all of your minds as you study it in weeks to come, but can't properly be answered by NATO because NATO doesn't represent all the countries that are affected by CFE.
Q In order to study it, we ought to really have it in front of us. So I wonder if you could make it available then?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We can make it available, I would think, very soon. As I mentioned earlier, the perm reps in Brussels only got it within the last couple of hours and they are sending it back to governments for approval. I think that -- I would have hoped by the end of the week -- but very soon, it would be publicly available.
Q -- statement.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's correct.
Q Are there any issues that you identified in the text, or that you can come up with, would not go to the new forum and which would be dealt with exclusively by NATO under the new arrangement?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q Can you sort of give us an example?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, my colleague's answer is in the negative -- anything that Russia doesn't want to do, but NATO does do is by definition. But --
Q But where you wouldn't go to Russia first and say, can we reach consensus on this; or is that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, assuming it wasn't a truly secret development that the Russians didn't know about -- if it was a hot issue -- the Russians would have every right, as would all the members of NATO -- and that could be 16, 19, 20, 21 as times goes on -- can bring it up in the consultative, in the joint council.
But NATO reserves the right indefinitely, as part of what my colleague called the preservation of its core identity as a collective defense pact, to decide that some development constitutes a threat to any one member or to the collective membership and to take action accordingly.
And if Russia agrees that that is a threat to Russia's interest as well, then you could have an operation of some kind under the aegis of the NATO-Russia joint council. But if Russia had a different view of it, NATO's free to act alone -- absolutely essential point.
Q You keep referring to the March 14th statement. By doing that, are you trying to say that there were no additional assurances given by Secretary General Solana on the issue of positioning of troops in former Warsaw Pact countries during this most recent round of talks, or were there some additional assurances given?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Very close to that, is what I want to say. But let me put it in my own words. The Secretary General, who I think we're, from the President on down, are indebted to in the way that he has carried out this negotiation, always operated within the parameters of decisions taken by the North Atlantic Council. And one of the guiding principles was that we were not going to negotiate with Russia over what NATO is, who can belong to it, or what NATO can do. What we were prepared to do is to clarify, to explain and clarify, what NATO policy means.
And that principle guided the Secretary General right up until he shook hands with Primakov earlier today, and the Russians did understand that. That doesn't mean that that's the way they would have preferred it, but this was, after all, a negotiation that had to bring the two together.
Q So your answer is that you're not aware of any additional specific assurances that were given, above and beyond March 14th?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm aware of, I think, absolutely everything that transpired here, as is my colleague and the rest of us. And as I said earlier, with respect to nuclear weapons, there was a clarification with regard to the implications of the three nos on the subject of nuclear storage sites. And with respect to the March 14th unilateral statement, there was an additional clarification of what this means on the subject of infrastructure.
But when Roy gets his copy, and shares it with all of you, of this thing, and you look at the actual language, you will see that the statement about infrastructure, which has been kind of a word the Russians have particularly cared about, that it's an affirmative statement. It says basically, there will be the infrastructure necessary or adequate to carry out these tasks as defined in the March 14 statement.
Q There has been some criticism on the Hill that there was almost too much consultation built into this with the Russians. How do you answer that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I look forward to hearing exactly what our colleagues and partners in Congress mean by that. I'll be up there tomorrow. I think the important thing, which they will, I hope, understand, as this is laid out and explained to them, is that no aspect of the consultative mechanism infringes on, dilutes, undermines in any way what Sandy stressed to you in his first statement; and that is the integrity, the flexibility, and the identity of NATO as a collective defense pact.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just add one thing, and that is, today we have a number of different mechanisms that surround NATO. The governing institution of NATO, in a sense, is the NAC. There is also something called the NAC-C, as you know, which includes Eastern European countries, which now will transmogrify into a Euro-Atlantic partnership council. There is the 16 plus 1 today. There is a mechanism whereby NATO and Russia meet today, at 16 plus 1. In a sense, this is a codification or an institutionalization of that which exists.
So I think the core institution that makes the decisions for NATO remains the North Atlantic Council. It was yesterday, it will be today, it will be tomorrow.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think when my colleague starts using words like "transmogrification," we're coming to the end.
Q On another subject, the meeting between Mobutu and Kabila that was to take place today or tomorrow has been cancelled. Do you have any comment on that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, we actually have spent the last few hours on this, and I don't have any further information as to why it was cancelled. As of earlier this morning, I think, there was an expectation that the meeting would take place. But when I got back to my office --
Q It was cancelled just before your briefing -- I mean, when the briefing started. So you don't have to worry. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you very much. (Laughter.) Just call me any time with information.
END 3:50 P.M. EDT