THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL DIRECTOR ROBERT BELL
The Briefing Room
12:50 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: This just in, breaking news from Vienna.
Q Vienna, Virginia or Austria? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: The one across the sea. No, the President's National Security Adviser Sandy Berger has just informed the President and the Vice President that we've made significant progress today in the negotiations in Vienna on conventional forces in Europe, the modifications of a very important treaty. This decision is going to lock in some of the significant progress that we've made up until now in the negotiations and really set out a pathway for negotiations that follow. And because it is an important development in something that really is part of the administration's ongoing effort to build the architecture of a post-Cold War Europe, I've asked Mr. Robert Bell, the President's Senior Director at the National Security Council for Defense Policy and Arms Control, to briefly brief you.
MR. BELL: Thank you, Mike. Since January of this year, the 30 states that are party to the CFE Treaty have been engaged in negotiations in Vienna to update or adapt, if you will, that treaty to Europe's dramatically changed security environment. As I'm sure you all recall, the CFE Treaty was signed in 1990 and since it entered into force in 1992, over 50,000 pieces of combat equipment have been eliminated under the treaty. And just this May, we concluded and won Senate ratification on a 100 to zero vote of a new agreement that changed the flank provisions, the provisions in that CFE treaty that apply to the flank and Norway and Turkey and related areas in Russia and the Caucuses.
Today's decision on basic elements for treaty adaptation marks the significant progress that's been made thus far in the negotiations, while identifying the issues where further discussion will be required. This document, agreed to by all 30 states today in Vienna, is indicative of a European security order whose defining characteristic is cooperation, not confrontation. And it's really a remarkable example of the kind of cooperative effort called for by President Clinton just two weeks ago in Madrid.
Close consultations between the United States, our NATO allies, Russia and other CFE states, including personal involvement by Secretary Albright, Foreign Minister Primakov and very skillful negotiation by our lead negotiators, General Govan and Craig Dunkerley, helped to make this decision possible.
Basically, what this basic elements agreement does is lock in the structure of this new treaty that we will hope to conclude within a year or so to replace the original CFE Treaty. And the essential elements that have been agreed to today among all 30 states include the following: First, to take the old structure of the CFE Treaty, which allowed one amount of equipment for NATO and a separate, equal amount for the Warsaw Pact, and replace that with a new system that's based on national ceilings. In other words, each country will be given its own individual ceiling for how much equipment it can have in the area of application in Europe.
And then, second, each country, and in some cases territories within Europe, will get a ceiling that will control the total amount of equipment from whatever country that can be on that soil.
Third, we've agreed to carry over into this new CFE Treaty, this adapted CFE Treaty, the substance of the flank agreement that we reached and had ratified in May.
And finally, we've agreed among all 30 states that at the end of the day, when this new agreement is finished and all the national ceilings have been set, the total amount of combat equipment that will be in Europe will be significantly lower than the total amount that had been allowed by the original 1990 treaty. So, in effect, we've taken a treaty that was the product of the Cold War negotiated with the Soviet Union and taken a huge step today in adapting it to the new Europe.
Q If I remember correctly, these negotiations -- and please correct me if I'm wrong -- were seen as a way to allay some of Russia's concerns about the whole NATO expansion deal, the concerns that might not be addressed vis-a-vis NATO expansion directly were going to be addressed through these negotiations. Is that right, and have you accomplished that?
MR. BELL: I think that's part of it, David. That's certainly part of the story. We had taken the first step in this direction with the NATO-Russia Founding Act signed in Paris, where NATO and Russia, which are, after all, only 17 of the 30 states in the CFE Treaty, reached agreement on some basic principles for the security situation in Europe. What we've done now is broaden that and this agreement reached today is modeled, indeed, on a NATO proposal from February. We've broadened it to include all 30 states in Europe, including the Central European states and the states of the Caucuses. But it would be wrong to suggest that this pushed to adapt the CFE Treaty simply came from the Russian side.
For our part, as we look to the future of NATO expansions, with three states coming in by '99 and others to follow, we felt it would be politically unsustainable -- though, technically, I guess you could have done it -- but political unsustainable in the CFE Treaty to have some NATO states in one group subject to one ceiling, and other, the new NATO states now off in another group subject to another ceiling. So we had an interest as well in adapting this treaty to reflect the new Europe.
Q You say that there will be even lower combat equipment levels. Can you give us any sense of proportion or ratio or anything like that?
MR. BELL: No. We need to be clear. There's important negotiations to follow. This is an agreement in principle on the basic elements of this new treaty. But the devil is always in the detail and there's going to be hard work to follow. But the 30 states, collectively, have agreed that at the end of the day there will be significantly less equipment permitted in the area of application in Europe, which goes, after all, from the Atlantic to the Urals, than there was under the original treaty. Individual states, indeed, most of the NATO states have already put forward some numbers that give a sense of what reductions might look like. But there are others that have yet to declare. This is an agreement in principle to set the course we're on.
Q Are the ceilings in the new NATO states as a group in any way proportionately lower or different from ceilings in the longer-term NATO nations of the group? In other words, I'm really asking, are you trying to -- same question that Dave was asking earlier -- trying to address Russian concerns? I understand you're saying they're not worked out, but do you foresee that they will be significantly different?
MR. BELL: Well, I think it's important to understand in the original treaty you had a flank agreement. You had sort of special treatment, if you will, for the geography of the flanks, where the Turks, the Norwegians had particular concerns that in reducing the amount of equipment in Europe there not be a migration of a huge build-up of then-Soviet striking power onto the flanks. So in the original treaty, you had certain pieces of geography, the Northern and Southern flanks of Europe, where there were lower ceilings, much lower ceilings than elsewhere.
What NATO proposed in February was that we adopt something similar, at least in concept, for Central Europe. And I don't just mean the Visograd states, I mean Central Europe including parts of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, that we set some lower territorial limits in the heart of Europe, recognizing that is sensitive geography as well.
So we're seeking sort of a rough parallelism, if you will, here between how the treaty handled the flanks before and how we need to handle Central Europe now. But the exact numbers, the exact ceilings, the exact nature of that relationship is one of the important details still to be finished.
Q Where does Germany fit into that? Is Germany central or western?
MR. BELL: No, Germany would be west of that zone, in the heart of Europe that NATO has proposed get special treatment in terms of a separate set of constraints.
Q So the Central European countries will, in fact, have relatively lower levels of hardware permitted than others, is that correct?
MR. BELL: Well, we're going to have to set the ceilings for each territory in the negotiations to follow. Obviously, you would expect to have more, a total amount of equipment in Germany than you would in the Czech Republic. But, as I said, the numbers are yet to be agreed.
Q Can I ask one more question along these lines? NATO has said that it doesn't want to, or has no current intention of permanently stationing large amounts of troops and equipments in the new NATO countries -- Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic. If NATO was at some point to decide to do so, that they wanted to move equipment, move manpower into those countries, would this agreement constrain their ability to do so?
MR. BELL: The CFE Treaty, once it's adapted and ratified, will be a binding international treaty, as was the case with the CFE Treaty, the original treaty. But under the CFE Treaty that's in place now, there are provisions for temporary deployments in the flanks. In other words, since we had an interest in protecting our ability to reinforce Norway in a crisis, we had built into the original CFE Treaty provisions where you could bring extra equipment in.
And we've proposed, NATO has proposed a similar concept for this regime that will cover Central Europe -- that there be a combination of one set of limits that will apply to the total amount of equipment that could be in any one country, whether it's Poland or let's say, Belarus, because there's a reciprocal interest here in terms of how much Russian equipment can be moved westward, out of Russia.
There would be a ceiling that each of those countries -- in this case Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary -- would declare for their own national limit the total amount of equipment each of those countries could have that's their own. And then there would be provisions that would govern how much equipment could be brought in to those regions or those countries on a temporary basis if the situation warranted.
So we're working very closely within NATO and within the Supreme Military Command in SHAPE to make sure that that combination of a national limit in these countries, the territorial limit that would govern total equipment in the temporary deployment options meet NATO's military requirements.
Q Mr. Bell, how does a verification work on this?
MR. BELL: The CFE Treaty has a very rigorous verification regime. It's been one of the great success stories in arms control and it's been under operation -- it's proven itself over the last five years that the treaty has been in force. The verification regime, in large measure, will be carried forward and maintained in this new adapted treaty.
Q Mr. Bell, does this actually require the destruction of any equipment, or can it be sold and just redistributed?
MR. BELL: Well, the CFE Treaty required the destruction, physical elimination, as I said, of over 50,000 pieces of equipment. We're now pledging to lower significantly the ceilings that are permitted under this treaty. Whether extra equipment has to be actually cut up or not will depend on how much equipment different states keep as they continue to downsize and you move away from the Cold War. In some cases, states could have more equipment in Europe than they have deployed there now. Their entitlement, if you will, is higher than their actual holdings.
So until we know the final numbers, and everyone sorts out their downsizing plans over the next couple of years, I can't give you an answer as to how many pieces of equipment would have to be physically destroyed.
Q Is it clear that this will further reduce American military force in these countries, not in terms of troops but in terms of equipment?
MR. BELL: Not necessarily. We have the right to have a lot more equipment in Europe today than we have deployed there.
Q Will the Senate have to ratify this revised treaty?
MR. BELL: The Senate will have to ratify the adapted CFE Treaty once the negotiations are concluded. This agreement today is politically -- it's a political agreement that sets the road ahead and it's not binding in a legal sense, so it doesn't require action by the Congress.
Q When do you expect the treaty to be totally revised?
MR. BELL: We would hope, certainly, to finish it within another year. But I can't predict that that's possible because the devil is always in the details in many cases, and there is going to be some hard negotiations to follow.
Q Is there any Bosnia configuration in this?
MR. BELL: There is not today because Yugoslavia was not a participant in the CFE Treaty and none of the states that emerged from the former Yugoslav Republic have joined it. But one feature of this basic elements agreement reached today is that all 30 states have declared their willingness to allow European countries in the future, on a case-by-case basis, to accede to this treaty. So it leaves the door open to accession to the CFE Treaty by states beyond the 30 that are now participating, including, at least in theory, some of the former Yugoslav states.
Q Will there be a time limit placed on temporary deployment of non-national assets into a country, say NATO assets into Hungary responding to a Balkan crisis? Will there be a time limit? You had mentioned that there could be temporary presence of non-national military assets in a certain country.
MR. BELL: I think we'll have to see how precisely the treaty deals with that. In the case of the original CFE Treaty, the term "temporary deployment" was not defined in the treaty. In the course of Senate ratification, a number of senators pursued that with then-Ambassador Jim Woolsey, and Jim sort of created a legislative history about what our understanding -- what our interpretation was that put some finite limits on it.
But as we look at our requirements in Central Europe and negotiate with all the parties to this treaty, we're going to have to see what the consensus is when it comes to defining that for Central Europe.
Q In the original CFE agreement, I believe there was something called cascading, where you could give your excess equipment to another country and they would get rid of worse, older equipment. Is there a cascading provision where we could give Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary excess relatively new equipment and thereby upgrade their forces?
MR. BELL: There is nothing here that would preclude it. Again, once you set -- if Poland sets a national ceiling and it says it will have 1,500 tanks, and we wanted to give Poland some older M-60 tanks, they would have to give up a tank to get a tank, because there is a ceiling.
Q Did any of the NATO members fall under the case where there entitlement is larger than their actual holdings?
MR. BELL: Yes.
Q Which ones?
MR. BELL: I don't think I can give you a rundown right now, but there are some that are at their limits and there are somewhat substantially below their limits.
Q Of those three --
MR. BELL: Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you asked if any current NATO members --
Q No, the newly invited NATO members.
MR. BELL: The three states that we've extended the offer to are very close to their current ceiling in terms of their actual holdings -- almost match their entitlements. The difference is not really appreciable.
MR. MCCURRY: Thanks, Bob.
MR. BELL: Sure.
MR. MCCURRY: All right. Other subjects.
Q Mike, can you answer a question on semantics? It says here, the President today announced his intent to nominate --
MR. MCCURRY: That's the phrasing that we use when we are just sending the paperwork up. I believe the paperwork has been formally submitted to the Senate as of today, so this is actually the formal nomination, as well.
Q How does he expect to get it through?
MR. MCCURRY: By hard work; by the persuasive arguments that the President, the Secretary of State and others will make on behalf of Governor Weld; and by the overall superior record and qualifications of the nominee -- save his summa cum laude degree from Harvard. (Laughter.)
Q Has he talked to Helms personally?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has not, no. But the Secretary of State has, others from the White House have been in contact with the Chairman and we'll continue to attempt to address his concerns.
Q Has he spoken to Weld today?
MR. MCCURRY: Has the President? Not that I've heard, no. But we've had ongoing contact with the Governor. Of course, the Vice President was in Boston yesterday and spent considerable time with the Governor, although they were focused on other issues and apparently did not spend any time on the question of the nomination.
Q Is there any weakening of the Helms stand in any way, any lessening of the opposition?
MR. MCCURRY: It's really a question you should pose to the Chairman rather than to me.
Q No, I don't think so. I think that you have to have some sort of --
MR. MCCURRY: Our assessment is the same one that I've given you, that it is going to be a difficult confirmation fight and we recognize that. But it's one that's well worth making, given the superior quality of the nominee.
Q But does the White House have reason to believe that Chairman Helms will allow a hearing, a confirmation hearing and allow a vote?
MR. MCCURRY: As to how the Senate will conduct its advice and consent process, I really believe the Chairman should address that, not the White House.
Q Does Governor Weld speak Spanish?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. I think fluently -- completely fluently, I believe. They were joking in Boston yesterday, he was beginning to answer his questions up there in Spanish, as a matter of fact.
Q Anything new on the budget?
MR. MCCURRY: No. We are determined to achieve a balanced budget agreement that would do those things that the President, and we believe the Congress wants to see done, to keep our economy strong and growing into that 21st century. And there seems to be a will on both sides to achieve that type of agreement. But there will clearly be a great deal of hard work ahead in the hours, days that we will be working with the Congress to achieve an agreement.
Q Can you say where you have differences?
MR. MCCURRY: We have differences, a number of differences. They extend -- extensive on the spending side, extensive on the taxation side, and we're going to have to work through the issues. And I think, initially, a lot of our discussions will be about how do we identify those areas of difference and begin to test the ability to bridge the differences that exist.
Q The fact that they seemed to have moved closer to the House bill on taxes, doesn't that make it more difficult?
MR. MCCURRY: I addressed that yesterday and wouldn't change what I said. It's better when they move towards the White House, rather than away from the White House, because at the end of the day the White House and the Congress have to agree on a bill for a bill to become law.
Q Now that they have formally agreed to put indexation of capital gains, is that indeed still veto bait?
MR. MCCURRY: I will not negotiate the agreement for you here and now.
Q Well, you have said before that that is veto bait. Are you changing your answer now?
MR. MCCURRY: Our views on indexation or capital gains are well known.
Q They have not changed?
MR. MCCURRY: They have not changed.
Q I was going to ask you about the prospects for a leadership meeting -- Lott, Gingrich and the President.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have ongoing contact with the leadership, from the President on down. And we're at the stage now where we hope to be engaged with the leadership, and I suspect that will begin happening today.
Q I'm sorry, with the President? What are the prospects for the President meeting with Lott and Gingrich?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll see how things go at the -- the President has designated his senior negotiators, led by Mr. Bowles and others, and they will be fully engaged today and we'll see how the process unwinds. I certainly don't rule it out.
Q What time will that meeting be? What time will that meeting that Mr. Bowles and others --
MR. MCCURRY: There is already meeting that's scheduled for 2:00 p.m. and I don't rule out other meetings having had occurred or will occur during the course of the day.
Q Mike, you say that there is a will on both sides to get this done, but it seems more like a test of wills. I mean, if --
MR. MCCURRY: Like a good negotiation.
Q If you say that there is -- why would they be moving in the opposite direction if they want to get this done?
MR. MCCURRY: Because they probably want to increase their bargaining leverage at the table, would be my off-the-top-of-the-head guess.
Q What kind of marching orders did the President give his own negotiators?
MR. MCCURRY: Be tough; to stand firm on the principles the President cares about; to make sure that we balance the budget and make the investments we need to make in education and the American people so we can have a strong, growing economy in the 21st century; and to do so consistent with the leadership role we have in the world and the things we need to do here at home to remain strong -- in short, the principles the President has publicly articulated over and over again throughout 1995, '96, '97.
Q Mike, yesterday you seemed to be quite willing to allow -- direction of the House and Senate negotiations was in the opposite direction from the President's plan. You seem to be reluctant to characterize the compromise they've reached as such today.
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, you want me to do it again? I'll be happy to do it again. I mean, they took a step -- they split the difference between their two bills, but in doing so, they, of necessity, moved away from the President because the Senate bill, which was not entirely satisfactory, was at least better than the House bill. So by moving closer to the House bill from the Senate position, they obviously took a step in the wrong direction. And that's the issue that we will now have to address and resolve as the negotiations with the White House begin.
I'm not at all reluctant to get back into that subject.
Q I wonder if there is some feeling that they took that because of a desire to satisfy folks on the conservative side who have perhaps been giving Mr. Gingrich a little trouble recently.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, whatever the reason -- and they should address their reasons for making the decisions they made in the Republican Caucus that they had -- the fact is that we need to move back in the direction the President had asked for -- fairness in the tax relief proposal. We need to have tax relief that's focused on those who need tax relief the most. And we suggest that that includes people who are the lowest of the middle income, the hardest-working folks at the low end of the scale who need some of that relief, and we need to see that done.
We need to see -- certainly in addition to equity, we need to see things that assure that there is no explosion in the out-year costs of the tax relief plan so that we don't get right back into the era of double-digit, triple-digit deficits. And the President has been quite firm about that.
And then all the other issues the President has addressed on the spending side need to be addressed. We've got to preserve our ability to protect the environment. We've got to preserve the investments the President wants to see made in education. We have to have tax relief that focuses on education, such as the President's HOPE Scholarship plan. I mean, all the -- we've been, I think, abundantly public in signaling to the Congress those things the President will need to see in a bill to have an acceptable bill -- because he will not sign an unacceptable bill.
Q Mike, how do you respond to the argument that indexation would encourage more savings and investment by more people?
MR. MCCURRY: That there are plenty of reasons to save and invest now and you can see them daily in the markets and you can see them as you ponder -- I think, increasingly, baby boomers in particular look at what their own retirement income needs are going to be and see that investment for the long-term is something that is in their own personal interests. And I think those are the most, in our view, the most compelling reasons the indexation of future capital gains or the indexation of a gain for taxation purposes in the future is less likely to be a strong inducement for investment. And the simple need that people have both to save and to protect their own financial security for the future, which are abundantly more compelling reasons for investing and saving.
Q I think a lot of people would feel that it is quite an attractive incentive to get in.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it is at the margin in the view of the Treasury Department and the Treasury Secretary I think has walked through some of the economic evidence that suggests that that's a correct analysis.
Q How anxious is the President, or is he at all anxious to get a bill before Congress recesses? Is there any sense that the clock is ticking or --
MR. MCCURRY: The clock is ticking, but it keeps going around and around every 24 hours. Obviously, we got a break when the recess comes up. There's a moment right now where we think we could make some progress. There seems to be some sentiment within the Congress to reach an agreement to lock in the elements of the agreement the President reached with the leadership earlier this year.
The longer that you allow things to lie out there and organized opposition develops, this sometimes becomes harder. But we're going to be at this. The President is deeply committed to balancing this budget and we, for practical purposes, are not treating failure of these discussions as an option.
Q After being very conciliatory with Republicans earlier in the day yesterday, what kind of message was the President trying to send last night with this sort of boasting about the veto pen and that kind of thing?
MR. MCCURRY: He was speaking to a partisan audience and encouraging them to be supportive of Democratic candidates, not unlike the way in which Republican leaders speak at similar functions on behalf of their own party.
Q Does he mean what he said?
Q Has the President gotten any response from the Senate on the proposal he made yesterday on means testing Medicare?
MR. MCCURRY: A number of senators have responded publicly and we're encouraged by those who are supportive and not discouraged by those who are not. (Laughter.)
Q Mike, how does the President --
Q Makes sense.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, he did believe what he said. He went out and told the truth about the performance of the economy, 1993 --
Q You acted like he was only directing his remarks for the --
MR. MCCURRY: He was talking to the Democrats in that audience who remember not a single Republican voted for the 1993 deficient reduction plan that has been the premise of this extraordinary period of economic growth -- one of the central elements of this period of economic growth and the performance we've seen in the economy generally -- low rates of inflation, low unemployment, steady growth that's not triggered any kind of pressure on inflation in the view of a number of people, including Chairman Greenspan yesterday.
That's an extraordinary testament to those Democrats who had the courage to vote for that plan in 1993, when plenty of Republicans -- in fact, many Republicans -- predicted it would be disastrous. And so the President, reminding this Democratic audience that they stood on behalf of an economic program that is working exceedingly well for this country, is perfectly within fair game as the President articulates his case.
Q The Treasury says that --
MR. MCCURRY: Want a little bit more of that? (Laughter.)
Q No, that's enough. (Laughter.)
Q Maybe later.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think they're going to ask that question again.
Q Read that back to him.
Q The first nine months, the Treasury says, of this fiscal year shows that the deficit is only $10 billion; and the economy is doing so well it might disappear on its own. Why not just leave well enough alone and let it disappear on its own?
MR. MCCURRY: The economy is growing robustly, revenues are up. But you lose so much if you don't lock in this balanced budget agreement. You lose, first of all, those savings that we have to generate in Medicare to extend the solvency of the Medicare trust fund into the future. You lose almost $900 billion worth of mandated reductions in federal spending over 10 years. You lose a lot of things that we were just talking about a minute ago -- the incentives for people to go and get educations that will raise their capacity to earn more money in the future. You lose the provisions that will protect legal immigrants from some of the consequences of the welfare reform bill.
There's a lot in this agreement and it's a little bit silly for people to argue, well, gee, it doesn't matter whether you pass this agreement, because it implies that they have not read the bill and looked to see what's in this agreement. And, in any event, why not take out an insurance policy for the future in case this robust performance of the economy does not continue the way people are predicting.
Q The flip side, of course, is that the tax cuts that are going to be included could, in your own estimate, if they go along with what's happening in the Senate and the House, explode the deficit after the five years of this budget deal.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's why they are unacceptable to the President. I mean, that's clearly a reason why. But at the same time you can afford tax relief, especially for middle income families, especially when the effect of that tax relief is to encourage people to go get additional higher education so that they will become higher wage-earning, more skilled participants in the work force in the future. That makes a lot of good sense when you've got that opportunity.
Q On the help for legal immigrants is where the Republicans are backing away from the commitment that Democrats at least feel they made in the initial budget agreement. Is it the sense at the White House that they're trying to change the initial balanced budget agreement that the President, Lott, and Gingrich signed?
MR. MCCURRY: I think that the President is concerned in general, maybe not specific -- I don't want to address specifically -- but in general concerned about some drifting from the terms of the agreement he reached with the leadership reflected in the compromise bill between the House and the Senate that appears to be emerging. That's one of the reasons why we will go back to the table and insist on some of those things that the White House fought hard for during the course of the negotiations that led to the agreement. That will be of no surprise to the leaders in Congress that we'll be working with.
Q Mike, how concerned is the President about the charges Senator Thompson has leveled against the Justice Department, questioning its impartiality?
MR. MCCURRY: Not having been a party to the discussions that occurred, I don't think we can really comment on that. That's between the Chairman, between the Justice Department, and the two of them will have to comment on their deliberations.
Q Just logistics on that Enrico Fermi Award tomorrow -- what's the time on that? Is it 1:50 p.m. or -- it says something about lunch also.
MR. MCCURRY: You can check with folks afterwards.
Q Mike, now that the Boeing and EU deal has been reached, can you tell us if the President's personal involvement was right up until the end, or was it just limited to the couple of phone calls that he made last week?
MR. MCCURRY: I think we reflected publicly on the work that he did. He followed this very carefully. He talked to those who were in contact with the U.S. representatives that were in Brussels, but also folks who are in contact with the companies. At least twice -- I think twice he intervened personally in the closing hours with some phone calls that we hope were helpful.
But I think he is satisfied with the outcome. He now hopes that the Commission goes ahead and formalizes the conditional approval that they've given to the merger. We believe this merger will in the long run make economic sense for the people of the United States, but more importantly, as a question of competition within the air manufacturing sector globally, it makes sense as well. And that what was the criterion, and the only criterion, the President felt was relevant to the consideration, just as it was when our own independent Federal Trade Commission reviewed the transaction.
Q Mike, Senator Thomas yesterday criticized the administration for leaving the ambassadorial post in Tokyo open for over seven months. I wonder, how long does it take to find out if Mr. Foley paid Social Security for nannies?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, if that were the only question, it wouldn't take long at all, but obviously that's not the only question and the process of evaluating a nominee -- and we've all seen nomination fights here and we just talked about one we're going to have, which is going to require a great deal of meticulous care to exactly the kind of details that need to be reviewed before a nomination can be formally submitted.
Congressman Foley had a long, extensive public career, and that has to be evaluated in the context of what he will likely go through during a confirmation consideration. And that's hard work and has to be done.
Q Is the President satisfied that these long vacancies have not affected our diplomacy at all?
MR. MCCURRY: The President is satisfied they have not affected our diplomacy because in that same period, whether you're speaking of the government of Japan or in other cases -- for example the Federal Republic of Germany, where we have had vacancies as well -- we've continued very extensive, high-level diplomacy during that period. The President during this period has met, I would guess, at least several times -- maybe four or five times -- with Prime Minister Hashimoto, and that's allowed for a very full exchange of views at the highest level, and then on down through the diplomatic chain of being we've had a number of diplomatic contacts, and I think that allows for a fruitful, bilateral exchange.
Q So why are ambassadors necessary?
MR. MCCURRY: Because they are the day-to-day -- look, they are the day-to-day functioning representatives of the democratic people of the United States of America, and they reflect on all of us because they are ambassadors on behalf of all American people. And they take care of people who lose pieces when they're traveling. They are advocates of American culture, they are representatives of American private sector economic interests, representing working families here in the United States. They do the day-to-day work of diplomacy and they are very important. But you can still do business with a country, absent having an ambassador -- and let me put in a good word for the career foreign service, because in all of these posts we have very highly-qualified deputy chiefs of mission who perform extraordinarily well as the acting ambassador.
Q Back to Boeing-McDonnell Douglas, the Europeans throughout all this have made an awful lot of noise about what they were prepared to do and the administration was low-key. Why that particular approach, and specifically, what were the concerns here about --
MR. MCCURRY: Why that approach?
MR. MCCURRY: Because it worked, among other things.
Q But there was also a specific demand at one point that they divest the Douglas aircraft. What were the concerns here as far as the impact on jobs in this country and the defense concerns?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we had the obvious concern, about 14,000 workers in Long Beach who would have faced dire circumstances if there had been some kind of divestment. In fact, the fact that was not an element in the final consideration by the European Commission is significant, and it was obviously one of our key concerns.
Q What can you tell us about tomorrow, about what's going on?
MR. MCCURRY: About -- say again?
Q Tomorrow. What can you tell us about tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: What day is tomorrow? Thursday. We'll be talking about the changes that occur in the global environment due to the phenomenon of global warming. The President will have ideas to share on that with a panel of distinguished experts on the subject.
Q What's the opposition to Foley? Who's opposing him?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that there is significant opposition. I think it was just --
Q -- how come he's -- for so many months?
MR. MCCURRY: For the reasons that I expounded on at some great length a moment ago.
Q -- on the record, his life in on the record.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you sound like a good advocate for us. You go right up to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and say, no problem, just confirm him right now. You don't have to look at this.
Q It's many months, the Speaker -- the man who's been the Speaker, you can't even get a breakthrough on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Get it right, not necessarily get it fast.
Q Do you expect it soon since we have just gotten Lader and we have gotten Weld?
MR. MCCURRY: Say it again.
Q Is this coming out of the pipeline pretty quickly, though, since we just got Lader and --
MR. MCCURRY: I have not checked on it. You can see now that we have begun moving some of these appointments. And I suspect this one will move rather quickly too.
Q Mike, just getting back to tomorrow, could you kind of delve into what's so important about the climate change --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it is among -- it, among other things, was a principal preoccupation of the leaders of the eight major nations that gathered in Denver recently, indicating the international importance of this issues. Changes even if -- when they are fractional changes in the average temperatures on Earth can have substantial impact on the American people, not only those who live in low-lying coastal areas, but those who depend on weather for a livelihood -- farmers come to mind. We are worried about climate change sometimes when it relates to the air transport of infectious diseases. There is some correlation between rising temperatures and the spread of infectious diseases that has again been a focus of the international community.
And the President now believes these climate effects have been well-studied and well-documented to be related to a human factor, which is the emission of carbon -- carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Q Is this a run-up to the Tahoe event?
MR. MCCURRY: No, this is a run-up to our negotiating in Japan, in Kyoto at the end of the year in which there will be a formal commitment by the international community to address this problem and helping the American people understand the contours of the problem, the changes both small and dramatic that might occur in their lives is well worth an investment of the President's time.
Q Why are the new immunization proposals not an unfunded mandate?
MR. MCCURRY: Because the states voluntarily participate, if they do, in -- do you know --
MR. TOIV: The states already have their own immunization plan.
MR. MCCURRY: The states have their own immunization requirements, by and large, and this becomes a condition upon receipt of federal assistance within the programs that are run, or if they're serving a population that receives federal subsidy for the immunization, this is a requirement that is legitimately placed on that. They can opt out of doing it, it's not a requirement. Opt out of federal -- I mean, any of these states have got their own state-mandated immunization standards.
Q -- effect on the negotiations going on, any relationship?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think so, although we have a proposed level for the childhood immunization initiative in the proposed FY'98 budget that presumably is working its way through the Labor/HHS appropriations process.
Q What's he going to discuss with the German President tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: They will review the status of bilateral relations. He's got a distinguished traveling with him including, among others, Stefi Graf. And one of the things that they will talk about, in fact, are the exchanges that deepen the bond between the people of Germany and the people of the United States -- cultural exchanges, the exchange of students back and forth, the things that we rely upon to deepen our understanding of and appreciation of a long-standing ally and good partner in so much of the work that we've been talking about in this briefing -- the transformation of Europe in the aftermath of both World War II and the Cold War.
Q What does Stefi Graf have to do with anything?
MR. MCCURRY: It's demonstrating the popular bonds that exist between our peoples. Hit that one to me and I'll swat it back to you.
Q One more global warming question. Does the President still believe that the Europeans and the others should not dictate American produce standards?
MR. MCCURRY: The President believes that we arrived at a good discussion of that issue in the communique issued in Denver, which is that we need to have measurable but achievable results in Kyoto, in terms of reducing carbon emissions.
Q Is the President going to Kyoto, or is that at the ministers level?
MR. MCCURRY: It is currently suggested to be at the level of Under Secretary of State, who is our principal negotiator, but we make decisions on matters like that closer to the time of the event.
END 1:33 P.M. EDT