THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release August 28, 1998
PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR JIM STEINBERG, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF TREASURY LARRY SUMMERS, AMBASSADOR AT LARGE FOR THE NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES STEVE SESTANOVICH
The Briefing Room The White House Washington, D.C.
4:16 P.M. EDT
MR. BERGER: Let me begin quite briefly by answering what I expect might be the first question: Given the crisis in Russia, why should the President still go? I think there are a number of reasons that it's important that he go on this trip despite the situation -- or perhaps even because of the situation in Russia.
First of all, we have an enormous stake in Russia's future, in its continuation on a path of democracy and market reform. Although the key political and economic choices are up to the Russian people themselves, we need to engage actively even, or especially in time of crisis, publicly and privately the President intends to reinforce the fundamental importance to Russia and to the world of holding fast to the basic objectives of democracy and economic reform in the face of new challenges.
Second, the Russian people should know that, particularly in times of difficulty, the United States and the West will not turn away from cooperation. As they do the things necessary to restore stability and progress, we are prepared to support them. I believe that alone will have some stabilizing effect for the Russian people.
Third, there are important foreign policy and security challenges which continue where Russia must play a key role. We hope we can agree to some concrete and specific steps that will reduce further the threats left by post-Cold War military arsenals. We have work to do on nonproliferation, on Kosovo, on Iraq. These issues are simply too important to put on hold.
Fourth, this is an opportunity to talk with President Yeltsin, Acting Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, opposition leaders, regional political leaders, as well as directly to the Russian people about their future.
I've been quite interested over the past few days to hear reports that Russian political leaders across a very broad spectrum very much want the President to come. I don't want to minimize the seriousness of the situation now facing Russia, but neither should we minimize the distance Russia has traveled, in the past decade in particular. It has peacefully relinquished its empire. It's withdrawn its troops from the Baltics. It's downsized its nuclear and military arsenals. It has generally played a more positive and productive role on European security issues. It has opened and privatized its economy and held free and fair elections for parliament and the presidency.
The challenges it faces certainly are no less daunting. But the United States needs to do our best to be helpful. In the final analysis, the choices are theirs, but we must be ready and prepared to be of help if they make the right choices. No one is nostalgic for the Cold War, with the world perched on a nuclear precipice the USSR's neighbors enslaved, dangerous regional conflicts, spiraling defense budgets. And no one wants a weak Russia beset by crisis. America has a strong interest in preventing Russia from backsliding and in promoting its stability and success.
At this point, we can best do that not by backing away, but by trying to help Russians find Russian solutions to their domestic problems that are compatible with the global economy and consistent with their choice of democracy.
Let me ask Gene now to talk a bit about the economic.
MR. SPERLING: I'll be very brief. We spoke with -- the security and economic team spoke with the President this morning, and I think the President fully understands that he is coming at a time of transition for the government and their economic team, and in that environment one does not have the capacity to have a detailed review of a detailed plan, or that type of engagement. But one does -- and this President does have the ability in his conversations with Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin and Duma officials to make -- to speak clearly about the type of economic measures that will signal the markets in a positive way and provide reassurance that there is movement in the right direction on reforms and towards reestablishing market confidence.
Clearly, there are no shortcuts, no silver bullets, no quick fixes. This is a serious path toward restoring market confidence, but it's one that many countries have successfully gone through, and certainly, even this President, though, to obviously in a less severe situation in our country, we have had to, with our debts, et cetera, have had to go through a process that's taken time, but has successfully, over time, been able to create significant confidence.
Let me, so we have time for questions, let me introduce the Deputy Secretary of Treasury, Larry Summers, to add some and then we will all be available for questions.
DEPUTY SECRETARY SUMMERS: Sandy and Gene have said it well. The President and our delegation will be going to Russia at a critical economic juncture, following recent developments. The choices that Russia makes in the next few weeks and the next several months will be crucial in determining its economic future and as the President has said, the way in which the Russian people define their greatness.
Crucial aspects of those choices will include the choices about their budget and the adequacy and sustainability of the way in which they finance their budget, will include the steps they take with respect to their banking and financial system, will include their relations and the way they manage those relations with their foreign creditors, and most importantly will include their steps to establish a framework for a market system based, above all, on the rule of law, on secure property rights, and on the ability to carry out free exchange in an environment that is properly regulated.
It is their success in carrying out these steps that we believe will be crucial in determining their economic prospects in what is not an easy global economic environment, and it is these issues that the President looks forward to discussing with President Yeltsin and that we expect to discuss with Russian authorities during our time in Moscow.
AMBASSADOR SESTANOVICH: Even by Russian standards, this has been a week of swirling rumors and political uncertainty in Moscow, which is one of the world's great rumor mills. The sources of that uncertainty I think are pretty obvious. The economic crisis, compounded by the need to form a new government under a new Prime Minister.
The fact that a new government has to be put into place has spawned intense consultations, bargaining within the Parliament, which has to vote Acting Prime Minister Chernomyrdin into office, and between the Parliament and the Executive about the terms of his appointment. The Parliament, as you may know, has formed with the government a trilateral commission they've called -- posed to the two houses of the Parliament and the Executive Branch to reach an understanding on the direction of the new cabinet.
This commission's report is now being wrapped up and a vote, we understand, is scheduled for Monday so that if it happens, a new government will be in place at the time the President arrives.
I referred to the swirl of rumors about the future of Russian politics. I think at this point I should say only that I think those rumors have been substantially allayed by President Yeltsin's appearance on TV today, interview he gave on national television. President Clinton is eager to learn from President Yeltsin and the other Russian political leaders that he will meet with from across the political spectrum about how this process of making the choices on Russia's future, how that process is proceeding. It's obviously a discussion with great significance not only for Russia, but for our own national interest.
Jim will talk about Ireland.
MR STEINBERG: Well, as I'm sure all of you know, after the two days in Moscow the President will be going to Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. And to paraphrase my boss, Sandy Berger, let me tell you why we're going to Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
I think there are three main purposes for the visit. First, to pay tribute to the courage and determination of both the leaders and the people in Northern Ireland and in the Republic for making the Good Friday peace agreement possible. Second, to provide support for rapid implementation of the agreement including the new political structures, especially the assembly which will be launched this September. And finally, and equally important, to demonstrate that the United States intends to continue to be deeply involved in supporting the peace process and economic development both in Northern and the Irish Republic both through the International Fund for Ireland, through helping to attract investment and job opportunities, and also political support for the forces for peace.
Now, the President will spend a very full day in Northern Ireland. A focus of his efforts will be meeting with the new leadership and the members of the new assembly to indicate his support for their efforts. The United States is helping in training and helping prepare the new assembly members to take on this important bit of self-government in Northern Ireland. He will then give a major address to the people of Northern Ireland at Waterfront Hall in Belfast, to talk about our view about the challenges ahead and the way forward.
He will also travel to Omagh, which is the site of a terrible tragedy just a few weeks ago, the worst bombing in the history of The Troubles, both to show his sympathy for the people there, but also to really pay tribute to the remarkable effort they've done about pulling together and showing that they're not going to be deterred by the enemies of peace. And he will also give an address in the City of Armagh, which is a famed city for reconciliation -- the two cathedrals symbolizing the two communities working together for peace.
He'll then spend a day and a half in the Irish Republic meeting with the Taoiseach Birdie Ahern and his cabinet, with community leaders there, giving a speech at Gateway 2000 to talk about the remarkable economic miracle in the Irish Republic, and then traveling to the west to meet and talk to the people of Limerick, which is another sign of the great economic regeneration of the Irish Republic, and then finally to make good on an old bet and a raincheck for a golf match in Ballybunion.
Q Just yesterday you had a cautionary note saying that it would be disturbing or you would be concerned, the U.S. would be concerned, if Yeltsin veered off the course of market reform and democracy. Today he booted his last two reformers, economic reformers. At least you and whoever followed you seemed to speak as if it was last week -- or is it still up in the air? Hasn't Yeltsin convinced you all yet that he doesn't think he can stick with at least radical reforms, that he's going in another direction? Are you disturbed?
MR. BERGER: Let me take a quick cut at that and ask either Larry or Gene to follow up. First of all, some of those decisions today I think are non-encouraging. But I think what is important here is what policies are adopted by the new government, and whether they are realistic in terms of the situation that Russia faces, whether they are likely to stabilize the situation, whether they are likely to bring investor confidence back -- and I think the policies here are far more important than who may be the individuals that are in the government. There have been a number of different Russian governments. But, by and large, they have stayed on the road of reform and we would hope they would continue to do so.
Q It sounds like you think it's a time to be realistic.
MR. BERGER: I think we always believe it's the time to be realistic.
Q Well, you know, being realistic evidently means not moving too fast toward those principles that you all have held so high. He's got to save his skin. He's got to save his skin by cutting a deal with the Duma and getting rid of the reformers. Do you disapprove of that?
MR. BERGER: As far as I know, there is yet to be formed a government. As far as I know, there is yet to be put in place a set of policies of which you speak. We've been very clear about what we think the path that we would encourage the Russians to follow in terms of market reform. And one of the reasons why the President believes it is important to go to Moscow, despite the situation there, is so that he can be with President Yeltsin and with others, speak candidly about what we believe will be necessary to stabilize the situation economically and to continue on the path of political reform.
Q What can two politically weakened leaders expect to achieve from this summit? What do you expect? What will be assigned? And isn't the President really going empty-handed? And how will this be viewed in the world, because he's --
MR. BERGER: Any more questions? (Laughter.)
Q How can they deal?
MR. BERGER: Do I get to choose any one of those questions?
Q You can do them all.
MR. BERGER: Okay. Well, first of all, without accepting the premise of your question --
Q Can you rebut it?
MR. BERGER: I believe that the relationship between the United States and Russia is a critically important relationship. The direction that Russia takes as it continues, hopefully, on this historic path of transition and transformation, is extraordinarily important to the United States. On the economic side, the President and his economic advisors who will be with him, can speak to President Yeltsin and members of -- those who would be involved in the Russian government about the policies that we believe are most likely to stabilize the economic situation and put Russia back on a track towards market confidence.
In terms of foreign policy and security policy, there are a range of issues that are enormously important. I spoke earlier of, in the security field, I believe that -- I hope that we can reach some agreements during this trip that will have an impact on lessening and reducing the risk of military arsenals left over from the Cold War.
I expect that the President will raise with President Yeltsin and others issues ranging from Bosnia to Kosovo to Iraq, to Iran and nonproliferation, terrorism. There are a range of issues where what Russia does is important to the capacity of the international community to make progress. All of those things will be on the table.
Q Sandy, to follow on your comment about policy, the most important thing, yesterday the head of Mr. Chernomyrdin's parliamentary party, Aleksandr Shokhin, was talking about a program of reimposing currency control, reimposing price control and renationalizing some industries. Today, tonight in Russia, the Russian news media are reporting that Mr. Chernomyrdin and the Parliament have reached a deal. What do we know about the terms of that deal and is there any reason to believe that the program outlined by Mr. Shokhin is not part of that?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SUMMERS: We do not know of any definite set of policies to which the new Russian government has been committed. It is our belief that a move back towards centralized planning, based on price controls and administrative allocation of goods and systematic controls would be a serious policy error, and very unfortunate with respect to Russia's economic prospects going forward.
Q After all the money that's been lent by the International Monetary Fund and after all the help has given Russia, is there anything left to give? Is there anything the international lending institutions can do or the U.S., Germany and Japan? Is there anything left, or is it just all in the hands of whatever the Russians do?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SUMMERS: Russia's economic future will be shaped in Russia by Russian policy choices going forward. The international financial institutions, with our support, are certainly prepared to provide support to Russia; as to other countries, that is measured with the pace of reform on the basis of strong policy measures. That, from what I understand, was the message that Managing Director Camdessus conveyed to Prime Minister Chernomyrdin during their recent meeting. But the key at this point going forward is the policy choices that Russia makes.
Q Can you tell us anything Secretary Talbott told you about Mr. Yeltsin's state of health, his demeanor, his energy level?
MR. BERGER: Secretary Talbott met -- I guess it's still today -- in Moscow with President Yeltsin. The meeting lasted I guess 15 to 20 minutes. He said President Yeltsin was energetic and animated and engaged.
Q And can you tell us to what degree you've had to sort of throw out the planning you had done for the summit and redo?
MR. BERGER: Well, I think that, obviously, one needs to make adjustments as the situation changes, but I think the fundamental elements which are -- we have been concerned about even two weeks ago or four weeks ago, which is the economic policy choices that Russia makes, as Mr. Sperling and Secretary Summers have indicated, and the range of arms control security and foreign policy issues remain the same.
The President will also give a speech to the Russian people and also on September 1st, which is quite a celebratory day in Russia as children go back to school and parents come to the school with them, the President will also go to a school in Moscow on September 1st.
So the basic building blocks were there. Obviously, the nature of the dialogue shifts as circumstances shift.
Q This is a question for Larry Summers. Have you discussed the possibility of a currency board with the Russians, and is that an option or one of the things that the two Presidents will be discussing?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SUMMERS: I don't expect that level of detail and specificity to figure in the discussions between the two Presidents. As you're very much aware, currency boards are a monetary arrangement that have been put in place in some places, but that require a whole set of surrounding policy commitments with respect to the budget, with respect to the banking system, with respect to the way in which economic policy is organized. And I think at this point it would be very much premature to look at those kinds of questions until we have a sense of what the plans and intentions of the new Russian government will be.
Q For either Sandy or Larry or both, you say that you're looking for policy, not personality. Can you point to one significant policy decision since Prime Minister Kiriyenko was sacked and replaced with Prime Minister-designate Chernomyrdin that would lead you to believe, that gives you any encouragement that the new government will continue on a path that you believe goes towards the reform necessary? Have they done any one thing encouraging, or has it all been discouraging?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SUMMERS: I don't think it's for us to handicap each statement or indication, or to try to judge what is obviously an uncertain situation, where judgments are being made and measures are being selected. I think it certainly would be fair to say that we view the economic situation in Russia with great concern and view, as I said earlier, the choices that will be made as enormously consequential, with the right choices in our judgment offering the prospect of, over time, rebuilding confidence and providing a foundation for tapping what is enormous underlying economic energy in Russia, with natural resources, with a very educated population, substantial capacity of technology -- and with the wrong choices running the risk of creating very substantial instability and uncertainty, with very substantial costs for the Russian economy.
Q You've been pretty specific about some things you think are the wrong choices, like currency and price controls. What would be some specific right choices?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SUMMERS: I think I emphasized earlier the importance of sound budget measures, of addressing in a strong way the problems in the banking system, of taking the legal and administrative steps necessary to provide a framework in which a market can satisfactorily operate -- taxes based on law, not discretion, and so forth.
The underlying steps that are important to build a sound economy have not changed, and in light of the setbacks that have taken place, it becomes, in our judgment -- I think it's not a political judgment, it's a judgment I think of the vast majority of economic people who look at this kind of situation -- it becomes ever more important that a framework in which there isn't pressure to create excessive currency and in which markets and property rights and entrepreneurs can function be put in place. Those continue to be critical steps.
MR. BERGER: I think what the international community does and says about circumstances as they evolve in Russia are important. I think there are on any particular issue areas where we have common interests that we have to build upon. I talk now on the non-economic side.
For example, in the area of arms control. And we have, for example, huge stockpiles of fissile material that come from nuclear warheads that can once again be used for nuclear weapons either in Russia or in some third country. We are talking with the Russians about things that we could do to reduce stockpiles of fissile material. We are talking with the Russians about things we can do with respect to sharing information on missile launches.
I mean, there continue to be across a very broad range of issues important areas where the United States and Russia, working bilaterally, can reduce tensions in the world.
Q Is economic the one area where you have no leverage?
MR. BERGER: Well, in the economic area -- and again I'll defer to Gene and Larry -- is an area where we have worked in concert with and through the international institutions -- through the IMF and through other international institutions.
Q -- the administration feel that we're facing a global crisis here? I mean, at the same time that Russia has defaulted on its bonds and suspended currency trading, today the Japanese market hit a 12-year low. What's going on here? Is the administration concerned that we're facing the possibility of global recession?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SUMMERS: I think it's very important that we distinguish between situations in different countries -- and distinguish clearly between them -- that we, in making policy, that investors in looking at what happens in different countries recognize that situations differ in very important ways and not generalize inappropriately.
Clearly, there have been important economic problems that we have been discussing in Russia. More generally, there has been a reduced appetite for risk-taking on the part of investors in emerging markets globally. That situation has its roots in the global economic environment, in events that took place last year in Asia, in altered investor psychology, in policy problems in some countries, in concerns about the economic situation in Japan.
And we and Secretary Rubin, Chairman Greenspan, U.S. authorities continue to be in touch with our counterparts in other countries and in the international financial institutions and are prepared to support strong measures, working through the international financial institutions where appropriate to encourage appropriate policy steps in particular countries. But while these events certainly have had a consequence for the American economy and have in particular had an important impact on some of our exporters, agricultural exporters, some of our other exporters to emerging markets, I am convinced that if we continue to manage our economy prudently with sound budget policies to which the President is committed, with appropriate monetary policies, there is no reason why the difficulties in international markets, while significant, should interfere with or prevent the basic momentum of economic expansion in the United States.
I do think it is very important, in light of the uncertainties that the international situation creates, that the United States, as soon as possible, ratify its contributions to the IMF, in order that it can be securely in a position to meet whatever challenges may arise.
Q Would the U.S. be open to a renegotiation of the Russia loan package from the IMF?
MR. SPERLING: I just want to follow on for a second because I think several of the questions have referred to leverage or whatever specifically you're bringing in, and I think you need to come back to the kind of stage of engagement that one has. First of all, it is absolutely the case for any country's economic policy the ball is first and ultimately in their court and that country has to have an economic team and a plan that makes sense.
With the context where you have seen the United States being able to engage is a context where you're at the stage where there is a team, has a specific plan, that they're engaged with the IMF. In that context, there's obviously a limit to what any one country can do, but in that context there is a serious role that the United States, this President, our Treasury Department, plays in working with the G-7, with the international community and the IFFYs as what to be done.
Here we just happen to be, because of the fortune of timing, coming at a stage where the government is in a period of transition, the economic team is in a period of transition, and so the question is in that situation what makes sense. Obviously, there isn't the kind of specific plan or engagement at this point. That does mean, however, that this President, with his experience and his knowledge that he's learned firsthand of how markets react, cannot speak candidly in private and in public about what are the type of things that encourage confidence.
Clearly, a measure, for example, is lowering your -- having a path that gradually lowers your deficit as a percentage of GDP. That is something that is looked at -- and providing reassurance in a timely fashion, that they're on a path to get their fiscal house in order, and do those things will be important. But we have to just remember the stage that we're at. We're just not at a stage where answers to a lot of the questions being asked are appropriate. It doesn't have anything to do with our particular role being different, but just the stage of our visit. And I think that's important as we're looking at the different questions and issues being raised.
Q Who is the President meeting with on Wednesday? And specifically --
MR. BERGER: The meeting on Wednesday will consist of a fairly broad range of leaders from the Duma, regional leaders and other political figures. I believe Mr. Zuganov has been invited to that, but certainly a broad range of folks.
Q Are any of the agreements going to be signed?
Q Sandy, do you think you've contributed to the crisis in Russia by over the years being too optimistic about events in Russia and cutting Yeltsin too much slack -- particularly, economically?
MR. BERGER: No, I don't think there's any basis for that. We have supported policies that we thought made sense. President Yeltsin, after all, is the elected President of Russia, twice elected by the people of Russia; in democracy, they get to make the decisions about the directions that they take. But I don't think by any stretch of the imagination one can argue that the current financial situation in Russia is a result of U.S. actions.
Q Would the U.S. be open to a potential renegotiation of the terms of the rescue package from the International Monetary Fund? I mean, is that a possibility? Secretary Summers?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SUMMERS: Clearly, following the breaking of the ruble peg and the restructuring of the GATT and the very profound problems that have arisen in the banking system in the last several -- or surfaced in the banking system in the last several weeks, but that were a long time in coming, you're in a very different economic situation than contemplated in the IMF Agreement that was reached.
So, clearly for Russia to go forward with the IMF would require a new set of understandings appropriate to current circumstances about Russian policy actions. With such policy actions and commitments on the Russian part and an appropriate framework, as I said earlier, we would continue to be prepared to support IMF and other international financial institution engagement in Russia. But at this point, the emphasis and the priority has to be attached to the policy choices that Russia makes.
Ultimately, what I think we've seen in each of the many situations that we have confronted is that countries' prospects depend upon their own policy choices. Financial support can make a difference in contributing to confidence, in reinforcing the momentum and the incentive for reform, but it is ultimately a country's own policy choices that are of greatest importance.
The question of leverage came up. Leverage is important when you want to push somebody or encourage somebody to do something that they don't think of as being in their interest. In this case, the primary beneficiaries of successful economic reform will be the Russian people and the Russian economy.
Q -- no longer believe that the Russians can meet the requirements of the next tranche?
Q -- that there could be more IMF money, new IMF money? Or were you talking about the basic $23-billion package that was negotiated in July? Are you talking about a restructuring of that package? Do you envision more money if Russia takes the reform steps that you are asking them to?
DEPUTY SECRETARY SUMMERS: I think at this point it is premature to talk about IMF support or to talk about the parameters of the IMF support in detail because that has to be put in the context of Russian economic policy which is what we're waiting to see. And at this point, we don't have a Russian economic team, we don't have a Russian economic plan. So I think all I would want to say is that the policy has been consistent, being prepared to support through the IMF strong policy from Russia, but that has to be based on what the actions, the particular actions, the framework that Russia establishes to ensure that resources will be well used.
Q Do you believe it is no longer possible for Russia to meet the requirements of the next tranche of the IMF loan? Do you believe it's no longer possible for them to meet the conditions that --
DEPUTY SECRETARY SUMMERS: I think that Russia, as I said, Russia is in a very different economic situation because of the devaluation, because of the restructuring, because of the problems of the banking system that was contemplated in the program. And so I think that there would need to be a new set of understandings between Russia and the IMF before the provision of support could go forward. In a context of such a new set of understandings, certainly it is possible that the support that had been previously committed could again be committed to support reform in Russia.
Q Mr. Berger, could you give us your assessment of how firmly President Yeltsin controls the Russian military right now, and also tell us why it was that Ambassador Collins met with communist leaders today?
MR. BERGER: On the first question, absolutely no reason to believe that he is not in firm control of the military and other elements of government. I specifically don't know why Ambassador Collins met with the communists today, although it's the job of an ambassador to meet not only with the government but with a range of opposition figures. And since the communists are the largest part in the Duma, that doesn't surprise me.
Q Mr. Berger, you mentioned in your opening statement specific and concrete steps on the security agenda, and then you later mentioned reduction in stockpiles of fissile materials in the early warning agreement. Can you spell those out in a little more detail?
MR. BERGER: Well, they're still -- I don't want to be too much more specific until we see whether we can reach final agreement on these. But these would involve plutonium stocks on the one hand and on the other hand, information sharing on missile launches. Both countries have quite sophisticated national systems for early detection since the most likely threats in the future -- at least in the foreseeable future -- come from third countries. To the extent to which we can make arrangements to share that data on a real-time basis would obviously be enormously stabilizing.
Q And in a plutonium proposal, are we offering to reduce our stockpiles of fissile material as well?
MR. BERGER: Let me just leave it at that at this point, and, hopefully, we'll have more to say or I'll just eat my words.
Q In the prospect of a cutoff of assistance from the international financial institutions, are there potentially other avenues of support that the U.S. or its allies could offer, particularly regarding your concern over nuclear stockpiles? We have big arrears in the Russian military wages. Are there other things that the U.S. can do to stabilize the situation through assistance?
MR. BERGER: Well, there certainly have been, through programs like Nunn-Lugar, assistance that has been provided to Russia that have aided it in the process of demilitarization, destruction of weapons. Those have all served security needs and have been perceived by the Congress and respective administrations as serving security needs of both the United States and Russia. I think there continue to be areas where that can be of benefit, but I think it would have to be measured largely in security terms.
Q Is there an initiative planned to get a first meeting between David Trimble and Gerry Adams either before or during the President's visit?
MR. STEINBERG: I think the President has said, and he's certainly said to the parties, that he thinks it's very important that all of the parties related to the process begin to work together effectively to get the assembly up and running. That means that all of the parties who are going to be participating in the assembly ought to work together. And we would certainly hope that Mr. Trimble and Mr. Adams and all of the others do have a chance to meet. We would certainly welcome that and if it happened in connection with the visit or at any other time, it would be something we would welcome.
Let me just say while I'm up here on a completely unrelated matter, the President today is announcing his intention to nominate former Governor Michael Sullivan as Ambassador to Ireland. As you know, the Governor has an enormously successful record as governor and he is somebody who the President has enormous respect for. He's very active in the community and will once again reaffirm the very strong ties between the United States and the Irish Republic.
He will not go on the trip because we will wait obviously until -- this is just an intent to nominate him and have a confirmation. But this is somebody who has the personal confidence about the President and the Secretary of State and will continue a long tradition of having somebody who can really express the personal as well as the political commitment between the United States and the Irish Republic.
Q Do you have a list of congressional members who are going on these trips? How big is the delegation?
MR. BERGER: There are, I believe, three members of Congress going on the whole trip, and I believe 17 joining us in Ireland. Don't hold me exactly to those numbers, because they change from day to day.
Q Is that the smallest number you've ever had with the three members to Russia?
MR. BERGER: What we ordinarily do on presidential trips is ask each of the four leaders either to come with us or to designate. So the basic package is four. Since the Senate is in session next week, I think a number of senators were reluctant to be gone; so that's why we're short one senator.
COLONEL CROWLEY: We think there are four now.
MR. BERGER: But not any more. (Laughter.) Because Mr. Crowley has just found another senator. So there will be three or four people going to Russia. Do you have the list? We will release the list.
Q How much consideration did you give to delaying this trip to Moscow?
MR. BERGER: I think over the past several days we've obviously all looked at the issue in view of the crisis that is going on in Moscow, and I think we owed it to the President to not simply be on automatic pilot, but to ask ourselves whether under these circumstances the trip should go forward. And I think in the call this morning, which included the President, the Vice President and most of the President's both national security and national economic teams, there was unanimous recommendation to the President, there was no dissent.
Each of the participants agreed that it was extremely important for the President to go forward with the trip and that even in this and perhaps because of, to some degree, of the economic crisis, it is important both to be engaged, to be seen by the Russian people as being engaged, to try to influence the choices that Larry and Gene have discussed to the extent that the President can, and to try to do as much business as we can on the security and foreign policy areas.
Q Just a quick follow-up on the arms control issue. Can you say whether, specifically, START II and the modifications that the administration would like to make to the ABM Treaty will be addressed?
MR. BERGER: Well, I'm sure they will be addressed, but it is -- we originally had wanted to go to Russia after START II was ratified so that we could begin intense negotiations on START III. You will recall the Presidents at Helsinki reached a kind of a framework for START III that would bring our nuclear arsenals down to 80 percent of their Cold War levels.
It was clear as we headed into the spring and early summer that the Duma was not going to act quickly on START II and that in fact, the fact the President's trip was in some way linked to that had become counterproductive in terms of action on START II. And that is when, in June, the President decided we needed to go forward and begin to plan the trip in any case.
So I would expect the two leaders to talk about it. I would not expect any progress on this area. The next step, obviously, is for the Duma to ratify START II, and I think what we will try to do, both with the members of the Duma and with the government, is to make the case, which was quite overwhelming, that START II is not only in Russia's strategic interest, but START II and then START III ultimately is in Russia's economic interest, as you look at the kinds of investments that they would otherwise need to make in strategic arms.
Q How about the ABM Treaty? Obviously, the Republicans on the Hill want to scrap that completely and build missile defenses. You guys want to modify it.
MR. BERGER: Again, I would imagine this would be discussed. I would not anticipate any new agreements in that area.
Q Is there any more progress on negotiations about Iran, over Iran?
MR. BERGER: Well, this is a very important subject. Let me take this last -- I'm glad you bring it up.
We have spent a great deal of time and effort in working with the Russians to assist them in both articulating a clear policy opposing cooperation with Iran on missile technology, number one -- which President Yeltsin did -- number two, adopting the legal infrastructure that would enable them to enforce that policy, which they have done through regulations that they have adopted; and then, three, to enforce those regulations against a vast network of Russian firms that now no longer have the same degree of control, obviously, that it did under the Soviet Union.
The Russians have made progress in this area. They have not only done the things I've mentioned, but they've actually launched investigations against nine companies. But it is an area where I think more work is necessary and where we will emphasize with the Russians that this is an area that needs constant attention. And even during a period when there are a lot of diversions, this is something that they need to focus on.
COLONEL CROWLEY: Just one thing before we go. I wish to thank our colleagues from the White House Communications Agency both here and up in Martha's Vineyard for working the tin cans and the strings right so we could put this interactive together. Thanks very much. We'll see you in Moscow.
END 5:15 P.M. EDT