THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SAMUEL BERGER AND DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE STROBE TALBOTT
The Briefing Room
2:00 P.M. EDT
MR. JOHNSON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the White House Briefing Room. The briefing today will be about the President's forthcoming trip to Europe. Your briefers will be Samuel Berger, the President's National Security Advisor; and Strobe Talbott, the Deputy Secretary of State.
MR. BERGER: Thank you, David. Let us go on a brief preview of the journey of next week. With the signing of the partnership between NATO and Russia coming exactly 50 years to the week the Marshall Plan was announced, the President's trip next week comes at a unique moment in history. The trip enables the President to pursue his vision for the future of the transatlantic alliance against the backdrop of the legacy of a previous generation of Americans.
There are three distinct and complementary parts of the trip: the historic signing of the NATO-Russia act in Paris, the commemoration of the Marshall Plan in The Hague, and the first meeting the President and the -- the first official meeting the President will have with Tony Blair in London. Together they highlight the importance of America's leadership and give the President the opportunity both to advance and to address the goal that he set back in Brussels in 1994 of a peaceful, undivided, democratic Europe for the first time in history.
The week really begins on Monday here in Washington, or at least in Arlington, with the Memorial Day traditional wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington. The site of the wreath-laying ceremony is steps away from the grave of George Marshall, and this will enable the President to both honor the Americans whose past sacrifice has led to our freedom, but also to build the bridge from the vision that George Marshall laid out 50 years ago to the vision that we seek to pursue over the decades ahead.
We will leave Monday evening, about 5:00 p.m., and arrive bright and fresh at 6:00 a.m. in Paris on Tuesday morning. The President will have a bilateral with President Chirac at the Elysees, and then will be participating in the signing ceremony of the NATO-Russia Founding Act, which I believe is a truly historic event, clearly demonstrating that it is possible to proceed with enlargement of NATO, strengthen our alliance, and build a partnership between NATO and Russia.
Following that event, the President will attend a lunch hosted by President Chirac at the palace, and then will have a bilateral meeting with President Yeltsin.
That evening, he will fly to The Hague, where he will have the evening -- he will meet with the Queen. And then on Wednesday morning, we begin in the Netherlands the semiannual U.S.- EU Summit, with Dutch Prime Minister Kok, EU President Santer and others.
The cooperation that the United States has built with the EU on political, economic and law enforcement issues is an integral part of the transatlantic fabric that the President is seeking to build for the period ahead, and there will be a number of issues that will be discussed at the summit, at the EU-U.S. Summit. We hope and expect that the leaders will sign an agreement that will provide for greater cooperation in stemming the flow of precursor chemicals that can be used in chemical weapons and really -- and used also as part of drug trafficking.
You heard the President this morning talking about, with the mayors, the overall effort on the drug front, and this is a very important part -- that is, the international dimension of that effort.
The President then will attend a lunch that will be hosted by Queen Beatrix that will be attended by approximately 40 heads of state, leaders from nations of Europe, OSCE, nations of Europe, where he will deliver an address commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan. This will be a major opportunity for the President to celebrate the vision of a remarkable generation of Americans who laid the foundation for 50 years of peace, from 1947 until now; and then to lay out his vision of the future of U.S.-European relations and the future of a peaceful, free, prosperous Europe whose stability is very much tied to our own.
Later that day, I believe that evening, the President will travel to Rotterdam, which has designated Wednesday, May 28th, as a day to thank Americans and the American people for the contribution that we made to the recovery of the Netherlands with the Marshall Plan. They call their celebration "Thank You, America." As many of you know, Rotterdam was destroyed almost completely during World War II and was rebuilt almost entirely with Marshall Plan funds. And the President will participate in those events on Wednesday evening.
The triumvirate events that day -- the U.S.-EU Summit, the Marshall Plan commemoration and the Rotterdam speech -- provide the President the opportunity, as I said, to set out a vision for the future of the transatlantic alliance and the future partnership between the United States and Europe for the next 50 years.
On Thursday, the President will travel to London, and he will meet with the new Prime Minister Tony Blair . They have met a few times in the past, but this will be -- and they will presumably be together in Paris, but this will be the first official one-on-one meeting between the two and will provide an opportunity for the President to reaffirm the special relationship that we have, longstanding relationship that we have with Britain, and discuss and deal with a wide range of issues of mutual interest, including Northern Ireland, the Persian Gulf, Hong Kong, Bosnia, NATO and others.
He will return here Friday night, but I think the week really ends on Saturday, from our perspective, and that is with his speech to the West Point commencement where the President will talk directly to the American people about America's leadership responsibilities in Europe and in the world, and explain why engagement in Europe and elsewhere remains vital to America's security and prosperity, and why NATO, including enlargement, is the foundation for that engagement.
We will return on Saturday night and there are no international events that I know of planned for Sunday.
Let me ask Secretary Talbott to speak more specifically about the NATO-Russia element of this.
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Thank you, Sandy, and good afternoon to all of you. I know quite a number of you have had some briefings on the subject of the NATO-Russia Founding Act, including from this podium, so I won't go on at any length on that so that you can get quickly to your questions.
But just to recap very briefly, the NATO-Russia Founding Act is in five parts. The preamble and part one constitute a review of both the rationale for greater cooperation between the Alliance and the Russian Federation, and also the principal guidelines and understandings for international relations. Some of these are reiterations of principles from the United Nations Charter, the OSCE, the Lisbon OSCE document from last December, and those of you who were in Helsinki will also I think recognize some of the principles from that document, as well.
The document also sets forth the concept of and the mechanism of the so-called NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council, which is a new body, a new entity that will institutionalize the cooperative relationship that already exists between NATO and Russia. And the document sets forth a number of areas for consultation, coordination, and, where possible as it emerges over time, joint decision-making and joint action between NATO and Russia.
And then the final section of the document is on the issue of the military dimension of the relationship. A great deal of that will depend on agreements still to be reached in the CFE talks in Vienna, but there is also considerable reliance on positions that NATO has already taken with regard to the deployment of nuclear weapons and of permanent-stationed forces, and there are some guidelines with respect to the CFE negotiations.
And Sandy and I would be happy to take any specific questions you have on that, but let me just say a word or two more about the NATO-Russia dimension and the U.S.-Russian dimension of the President's travel next week.
There will be a meeting, of course, between the two Presidents, President Clinton and President Yeltsin. The agenda will be partly on the subject of NATO-Russia, which has tended to dominate their last couple of meetings, but they will also look ahead to the Denver summit and to areas where the United States hopes to use its influence within the Summit of the 8 and the international financial institutions in order to support Russian economic reform. And I'm sure that the two Presidents will also talk about the remaining issues on the arms control and security agenda, particularly the importance of Duma ratification of START II and the desire that both Presidents have to move ahead with the related issue of ABM-TMD demarcation.
The last thing I would say is that in the weeks and months ahead we hope to see building on the progress that has been achieved both in the Helsinki meeting between the two Presidents and also in the NATO-Russia Joint Document further progress on CFE. The locus of that will be in Vienna, and we also hope to see in coming months the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council get up and running. I think you can expect to see that happen between now and perhaps the beginning of the fall.
So we can go to questions, and Sandy is available as well.
Q Especially at a time when parallels will be drawn to the Marshall Plan era, could you be a little more specific about the type of assistance -- do you mean more money, do you mean multilateral -- insofar as helping Russia promote reform? And could somebody speak a little bit more about the meeting with Blair, particularly the Irish issue?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Yes, I'm sure Sandy will take the latter question.
There are several dimensions, of course, to our willingness to cooperate with Russia on economic reform. There is a bilateral dimension under the aegis of the -- of our assistance program for the New Independent States. We are hoping to have more money in fiscal '98 than was available in fiscal '97. We're hoping to have $240 million for Russia as part of that package.
As for the multilateral dimension, the United States is prepared to support the Russian aspiration for membership in the Paris Club and the World Trade Organization and the OECD, assuming, of course, that Russia is able to meet the conditions for membership in those organizations. And the Denver Summit of the 8 will talk, as it always does, of course, about ways in which the international financial institutions, particularly the World Bank and the IMF, can help.
Q Strobe, continuing on this issue, will the meeting between the President and President Yeltsin clarify this current dispute over the meaning of the Charter, with the Russians saying that it gives them a veto effectively over NATO decisions, and the U.S. saying, well, they have a voice, but not a veto?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Well, I honestly do not think that there is a misunderstanding on that score. The issue here is two different entities, two different bodies. There is an existing body called the North Atlantic Council, which you might see as the governing board of NATO. That is made up exclusively of the 16 members of the Alliance. That is a sovereign body representing the sovereign interests of the allies. That has not been, and will not be, subordinated to any other body.
Now, there is going to be a new body, which is the Joint Council, the Permanent Joint Council. The membership of that is made up of the currently 16 members of the Alliance and the Russian Federation. That body will operate by consensus. If it chooses by consensus to do something, then it can do something jointly. If there is not a consensus, then it won't do something. But the absence of a consensus in the NATO-Russia Joint Council does not in any way affect the freedom of action, the freedom of decision either of NATO and the NAC, or of Russia.
Q Well, how do you keep it from spilling over, though?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Well, I don't think there's any danger or way that it will spill over. The NAC is perfectly capable, and has demonstrated this many times, I might add, particularly in the way that it has overseen and guided the negotiations that have gone on between the Secretary General Mr. Solana, and the Foreign Minister Mr. Primakov -- has guided those negotiations, is capable of acting very much on its own.
You know, one way to look at this is at a institutionalization -- that is, the Permanent Council as an institutionalization of something that already exists. There is already in Brussels a device or an arrangement known as 16 plus 1. This means that any member of the Partnership for Peace can hold consultations at any time with the Alliance and with the NAC. And the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council is an institutionalization or a formalization of that. It's existed before, it hasn't in any way eroded or diluted the Alliance and it will not do so now.
Q So the NAC is not a constituent member of the Joint Council through its representatives?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: That is correct. The NAC stands on its own, will continue to stand on its own. And the Alliance, as such, will take its guidance from the NAC.
Q Strobe, given the fact that President Yeltsin has explained it that way, does the administration look upon this as something that's necessary that Yeltsin had to do in order to sell it; or is there a danger inherent in him selling it that way in that the first time NATO acts against Russia's wishes, the Russian people and some Russian leaders can say, see, they're violating what we told you the deal was -- even though you say that's not what the deal is?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: I understand the question. I think it's extremely -- I take the thrust of the question and I think that we have taken the thrust of that question ever since this issue first arose, which, of course -- and it isn't new. It's very important that everybody understand this agreement in exactly the same way, what it does and it doesn't do.
The document, itself, is absolutely explicit on this point. It makes quite clear that the existence and the operation of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council will not in any way undermine or prejudice or overrule the NAC, any more than it will have those effects on the freedom of action of Russia itself. This document was extremely carefully negotiated. It's quite explicit in its terms. And that is the document that will be signed on Tuesday.
I don't want to get into the inner workings of Russian domestic politics on this, but as the Russian position has been explained back to us, it refers to precisely the workings of the Joint Council and does not have a bearing on the NAC itself.
Q Strobe, as you know, most -- a lot of think-tankers you have been too kind to Russia. One of the things -- you haven't been kind enough to Russia. One of the things you've been too kind --
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Who have you been talking to? (Laughter.)
Q Well, one who you know quite well who thinks you've been too kind to Russia raises the point that if Russia is the cause of the problem -- we don't know what that problem would be at this point -- is the cause of a problem where NATO may try to take -- they consider military action, and you discuss it with Russia in your own council, and obviously, they disagree with the way you in the West are looking at it, it's going to be harder for a consensus to form within the main NATO body. Do you follow me and do you buy that?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: I follow you; I do not buy it. I just don't think --
Q You understand the thinking.
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: I do, indeed, but I don't think there is any reason for that concern. There has been, since the end of the Cold War, since the formation of the Partnership for Peace, an opportunity for Russia and all of the other partner countries to consult with NATO about anything that they consider to be in their interest. We have nothing to fear from the continuation, the deepening, and the broadening of that kind of consultative relationship -- not just with Russia, but Ukraine and a number of other states -- as long as there is no ambiguity, no misunderstanding whatsoever that NATO remains NATO, NAC remains the NAC, and it hasn't been in any way subordinated.
And by the way, the member states of NATO and of the NAC have their own bilateral relationships, quite properly, with the Russian Federation. Those bilateral relationships came in -- played quite an important role in bringing us to the promising point where we now are. I'm thinking particularly about the good and workmanlike relations that exist between Chancellor Kohl and President Yeltsin, between President Chirac and President Yeltsin. So simply institutionalizing a way for Russia to talk about its concerns is nothing to be concerned about.
MR. BERGER: If I can just add one other point, Barry, to Strobe's answer, which I agree with fully. By extension of that logic, we would not be heading to Madrid to begin the process of NATO enlargement. I think NATO has demonstrated, from 1994 to today, that notwithstanding the misgivings that the Russians, misgivings probably is an understatement, that it felt that enlargement of NATO was in the overall security interests of NATO and of Europe, and it's proceeded without being deterred by the disagreement with that policy that Russia may have. And I think that -- in a sense, the proof is in the pudding here in terms of NATO's willingness to act in its interest even where there may be a disagreement.
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: There was a question about Northern Ireland.
MR. BERGER: You asked about the Blair meeting. I think the Blair meeting will be fairly far-ranging ; there's a lot to talk about. I expect that they will talk about Northern Ireland. As you know, Prime Minister Blair has taken some steps in the last week; there are meetings that are taking place, actually, today between representatives of the British government and Sinn Fein. And he has indicated that were there to be an unequivocal cease-fire there would be an early resumption of inclusive talks. That is a view that we support, and I'm sure the President will want to hear from Prime Minister Blair where he believes that stands and how we can continue to be helpful in the process.
We will also -- they will also talk about Bosnia as we enter a very important 16 or 18 months when there is an enormous amount to accomplish on the ground. I think there's been good progress, but there clearly needs to be more progress in terms of particularly on the civil implementation side. There are issues in the Persian Gulf that they will be discussing -- Iraq, Iran. So I think it will be a pretty far-ranging discussion.
Q Mr. Berger, to what extent will the President be using his various speeches in this trip to start selling the American public and the Senate on this idea of NATO expansion, the idea -- potential for American troops being called upon to join a force that might defend Prague or some other capital --
MR. BERGER: Well, I think the whole trip. And I think as I've described it. If you begin it, in a sense, at Arlington Cemetery and end it at West Point, and all of the events in between I think will be very much an exercise in talking about how America's relationship with Europe in the past has been inextricably intertwined in war and in peace; how it continues to be intertwined; and therefore, why America's engagement in Europe through NATO enlargement and other mechanisms will lay the basis for perhaps another 50 years of peace. And I think there are opportunities in Arlington, there are opportunities in The Hague speech, there are opportunities in Rotterdam and then back in West Point, all of which I am sure will address the issue of NATO enlargement.
And I think this is the beginning of a long dialogue that will take place in this country about NATO enlargement. The President has spoken about it frequently -- he spoke about it in Detroit during the campaign, he spoke about it in the State of the Union. But it now begins to take on some real substance as you move from Helsinki, which was, I think, the pivotal event -- Solana, very important meetings -- then to Paris and then to Madrid. These things have a kind of vitality and reality that they don't have when they're simply abstractions.
Q You're a political advisor to the President in addition to being a National Security Advisor. How much -- well, you go to those Wednesday meetings and whatnot.
MR. BERGER: I go to meetings every day. Go ahead.
Q How much of a factor was domestic politics in the original decision to make NATO enlargement one of the principal foreign policy goals?
MR. BERGER: I don't think it was an important factor at all. And I think the notion somehow that NATO enlargement sprung up during the '96 campaign is ahistorical. The President set this course back in 1994, when he first articulated it in Brussels, when he talked about a peaceful, undivided democratic Europe for the first time in history -- a sweeping, broad, historic, strategic objective. And it has been something that he has worked for since.
This is not -- this has a rationale that really goes to how you define the future and how you define America's security. Our view is that by embracing the emerging democracies of Central Europe in an enlarging NATO, we can begin to help build the stability in the East that NATO has in the West and that the Marshall Plan did in the West 50 years ago. And in Paris I think we'll demonstrate that we can do that without undermining the U.S.-Russia relationship.
This has sort of been the Scylla and Charybdis of NATO enlargement. You do this in a way that both enlarges NATO and does not undermine the security or create second-class members on the one hand, and on the other hand, does not undermine Russian democracy. And I think what's been proven over the last year of very painstaking work -- the last two years or three years -- is that that's possible.
Q Let me just follow that, Sandy. Can you address the criticism of people who say that what the Eastern European new democracies need is economic integration into Europe, not military integration? And, while we're talking about Marshall, that was what the Marshall Plan was about, was economic assistance, not military.
MR. BERGER: It's not one or the other; I think it's both. Clearly, EU expansion is important and the integration of these economies into the European economy is important. Through the EU, through the institutions that Strobe discussed, all of that helps to bolster them economically and pull them into an increasingly integrated international economy.
But the EU does not include the United States. NATO is the institution that ties the United States to Europe and ties the United States to a Europe that ought to be expanding to embrace, help stabilize the new democracies of Central Europe. So I don't think it's a choice between the two, I think it's both.
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: Let me just add a word. By the way, on your first point, I go to a lot of meetings on Wednesdays, too, but never been accused of going to the one that you referred to.
Let me just give you a perspective on this issue of domestic politics versus long-term strategy. I think this notion that persists, that this was somehow driven by domestic politics is not only ahistorical but even counter-intuitive. And the earlier question about the coming effort to convince the United States Senate to ratify enlargement by a two-thirds majority really proves the point. This is not a slam dunk. This is not going to be easy. And it shouldn't be easy, precisely because of the stakes involved. And the notion that this idea would be an instant, widespread political winner for a politician I think misses the point of what's involved here and also misses, as Sandy says, the history of the thing.
Let me just say a word about Central Europe and its economy. Central Europe is not going to succeed in making the progress that it wants to and deserves to make unless it can do so in a secure security environment, and that's what a large part of what NATO enlargement is all about. If those countries were to be consigned to a limbo or a gray zone between the old Soviet Union and the old NATO, and the old NATO were to be frozen in amber, a number of things that would be bad economically as well as politically would be likely to happen. Among other things, those countries would be very likely to kind of scramble around in a very ad hoc fashion to develop their own security arrangements in a way that would pit them against each other and also end up with much higher levels of military spending, which would, of course, tie up money that ought to go to the economy.
Q Strobe, I don't know which one of you wants to tackle this question, but one of the issues that seems to be bubbling up on the agenda is that the EU Competitive Commissioner, Competition Commissioner, is publicly criticizing the Boeing-McDonnell Douglas deal. Do you expect that to come up in any way, shape, or form at the summit?
MR. BERGER: I don't know whether it will come up at the summit. It is a matter before the FTC here and before the EU Competition Commission, and therefore, I am told by people with practicing law degrees, as opposed to non-practicing law degrees, that it's inappropriate for me to comment on it.
Q As a follow, it's being criticized as antitrust, so who is going to be talking about it besides the FTC once you get over there?
MR. BERGER: Not me.
Q But who will?
MR. BERGER: I don't know whether this will be on the agenda. We'll have to find out how -- what is the appropriate way, obviously, if the Europeans raise it, for the President to address it in a way that is consistent with U.S. antitrust laws. I don't know the answer. I'm not trying to be cute, but I have been told that this is not something, because it's pending before the FTC, that I really should get into.
Q To return to Russia for a second, the Duma once again is saying that it is not going to ratify START II, so then what is your answer to critics of NATO expansion who say that for U.S. security it is more important to get these limits on nuclear forces than it is to stabilize a situation in Europe that so far is not leading to any problems, and then what we have done is, in fact, once again, created a confrontation with Russia?
MR. BERGER: Well, let me try -- let me answer and then Strobe can comment.
We still expect the Duma to ratify START II. President Yeltsin, as late as Helsinki and again yesterday, reaffirmed that this was his commitment and this was his intention. And so I think it is premature to conclude that START II ratification is not going to take place. START II is not only in our interests, which is why President Bush signed it, it is also in Russia's interest both on its own terms, in terms of the world they live in if it's not ratified -- i.e. START I -- and in terms of the door that it unlocks to get to START III, which has been outlined at Helsinki for cuts to the 2000, 2,500 level. So for all of those reasons it's in Russia's interest, as well as ours. And I continue to expect and hope that the Duma will act on it and that this is not a trade-off here.
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: The only thing that I would add to that is that there is a false premise, not necessarily one that you share, but sometimes when this is put forward, that START II didn't run into difficulties in the Duma until the NATO enlargement, NATO-Russia issue came into sharp focus. That's not true. And, as Sandy says, President Yeltsin is committed himself several times to vigorously pursue a ratification. He has now started to do so when he met with the faction leaders and the committee chairman yesterday. So let's see how it plays out.
Q Strobe, you said that the United States will support Russia's membership in organizations like the WTO, the OECD and the Paris Club, provided Russia meets the routine requirements. Now, if Russia can meet the routine requirements, does it need that U.S. support, or is it token, or are there other forces besides Russia's own performance that would militate against its being admitted to those organizations?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: I think the United States has a very important role to play in all of those institutions. And American support is substantively valuable to Russia. Certainly, the Russians take that position.
MR. BERGER: Also, John, I'd just say, for example, WTO, our support can be quite active -- that is to say, at a technical level. We will work -- we will be working with the Russians, who don't have a lot of experience, obviously, with the international trade rules, with the WTO, to help them deal with and fashion proposals that can help them meet the WTO basic criteria. So it is not just support in a sense of we will stand up at the meeting and give a seconding speech, the support here is also technical assistance.
So that you know what's in store for you, I've been asked to indicate that when we are liberated, Lincoln Gordon and Vernon Walters will be here to talk, who are both original participants in the Marshall Plan, 50 years ago, to talk a bit about the history of the Marshall Plan and give you some of the kind of flavor of what things are like as the Marshall Plan was launched 50 years ago.
Q In that list of organizations that you mentioned and the requirements that Russia needs to meet, could you just refresh my memory -- how many of those conditions is Russia able to meet at this point, for any of those organizations?
DEPUTY SECRETARY TALBOTT: No, I cannot refresh your memory on that. We can perhaps get you a fact sheet on the WTO, what the requirements --
MR. BERGER: I don't think -- any country that comes into WTO has to accept the basic principles and construct of the WTO -- national treatment, most favored nation status. There are whole set of principles that come with that in addition to a set of tariff proposals that are acceptable to other members. I mean, it's a fairly elaborate negotiation. We are having this negotiation with the Chinese; there is this negotiation with the Taiwanese. These are very -- it's not like seven boxes to check. Basically there is a fairly elaborate set of negotiations that take place, like any trade negotiation.
Q But who, to the best of your knowledge -- it sounds as though you're saying that there is none of those that you can recall --
MR. BERGER: No, that's not true. This discussion has been going on with Russia and the WTO. At Helsinki, the two Presidents committed to try to accelerate that discussion. President Clinton said, let's try to get it done by next year. President Yeltsin said, let's try to get it done by next year. Our President said we will try to help you in ways that we can. So it's really --there is now a political impetus or a political will behind something that will be done largely by trade negotiations.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:42 P.M. EDT