THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
1:20 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: I want to start with one statement made by the Yugoslavian Foreign Minister yesterday on one of the talk shows, and try to put his statement in a little bit of perspective. Mr. Jovanovic was on Meet The Press yesterday, and in response to a question he said, "First of all, all citizens in Yugoslavia are safe, free and equal. There is no killing, no raping, no depriving with anybody of human or national, minority or citizens rights. These accusations are mere NATO propaganda aimed at justifying a blatant aggression against Yugoslavia as a sovereign European state." He went on to say, "there are no paramilitary forces in place in Yugoslavia, including in Kosovo."
I think there is a mountain of demonstrable evidence that shows that none of that should be taken seriously or believed. President Milosevic forces continue their brutal attacks on Kosovar people, including the detention and summary execution of military-age men, rapes, looting of homes and businesses, widespread burning of homes.
We have 700,000 Kosovar Albanians who have left the province, and that number is growing daily. We have an additional, very large number of Kosovars who are internally displaced. We also have indisputable evidence from refugees, humanitarian organizations, international observers that thousands of homes and at least 400 cities, towns or villages have been damaged, and thousands upon thousands have been killed. We have continuing reports of mass executions in at least 60 towns, and mass graves in towns throughout Kosovo.
The continued denials of committing these atrocities blatantly fly in the face of the facts on the ground. And I think statements like the ones we saw yesterday from Mr. Jovanovic indicate just how seriously you ought to take many of the statements that they make on a repeated basis.
Q I wonder, Joe, why you felt the need to rebut this. I mean, who do you think's listening that might believe what he said?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think if you turn on any television in this country, or read the paper, you get an enormous amount of reports coming from the Yugoslav authorities and Serb TV. And I think it's important that it's pointed out that these are people who, at the most base level, deny the undeniable about what's going on in Kosovo.
Q In that connection, why is it that we are permitting this one-sided story to prevail in Belgrade and so forth? I mean, why have we not hit the television -- the actual central station, and so forth?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm not going to get into --
Q I know you're not getting into targeting. This is a very important question in terms of communication.
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into what is a valid target, and what isn't, and what is going to be hit and what won't be. But I will say that the statements that are made on a regular basis need to be viewed with some skepticism. The pictures that are portrayed need to be viewed --
Q Do you know of any reason to think that people are taking them seriously here?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think they --
Q What evidence is there that anybody's listening or paying attention?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think again, if you read the paper or turn on the television, you see it constantly. And I think it's --
Q We have to sort things out all the time --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, some people sort out better than others. But I think it's important just to remind people that the statements they hear are just not credible.
Q Well, Joe, are you saying that there are people in the United States who do not believe what you are saying about the level of atrocities going on inside the former Yugoslavia?
MR. LOCKHART: I hope not, because I think what we say is subject to great scrutiny, and we defend as best we can the statements we make based on the reports that we have.
Q Why do you feel it necessary, then, to deliver this to us and to an American audience?
MR. LOCKHART: I believe it's important to put into some perspective the information that's coming out of Belgrade. That's all.
Q Both sides are engaged in propaganda. That is the purpose of, when you fight a modern war, using the tools of communication. Don't you think people understand that?
MR. LOCKHART: I think, Sam, that I would personally take offense at putting in the same category what I do and what some of the other people in the U.S. government and NATO do, in the same category as what's coming out of Belgrade. And that's my point.
Q -- put them in the same category.
Q But you put the best case on things.
MR. LOCKHART: That's my point. There is a difference between putting the best face on things and systematically and blatantly lying about the facts on the ground.
Q And you're saying that's what they're doing.
MR. LOCKHART: That's what they're doing, as my statement has made quite clear.
Q Joe, how important is it to stop oil flow to Yugoslavia?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think it's an important part of the effort. I think if you look at the air campaign, what we're trying to do is choke off his ability to impose his will on Kosovo. As NATO and the Pentagon have reported to you, some of the areas that they've gone after are their ability -- their oil refineries and their ability to provide fuel to the forces in the field. So we think it's important that we work within NATO and the Alliance to make sure that as we choke it off on the ground, we stop supplies from coming in from the outside.
Petroleum, oil, lubricants are part of their ability -- are completely necessary for their ability to wage war. And we think it's important that, again, working through the Alliance that we choke off any efforts of oil being brought in from the outside.
Q And how do you do that?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think there are a variety of ways of doing it. We're working within the Alliance now and it's our hope -- I think everyone in the Alliance believes that this is a common goal and we will work in the coming days to find an acceptable way to do that.
Q -- you have to stop ships --
Q Jamie Rubin just said at the State Department that he does -- the U.S. does not believe it would require any additional United Nations action to shop the oil shipments. I wonder what our basis is for saying that.
MR. LOCKHART: Our basis is there already is an United Nations resolution banning any importing of military supplies. And we believe that this is essential to his ability to keep this -- his operations going in Kosovo. And we believe that the petroleum in an essential element and that this is covered under the U.N. resolution.
Q I wonder what might not be covered. I mean, food might be essential for military personnel, clothing might be essential for military personnel. What's not covered --
MR. LOCKHART: I think you could take this and go to a ridiculous level. But I don't think we have. I think clearly it takes petroleum and fuel to move tanks, to move armored personnel carriers, and we are going to do what we can within the Alliance to make sure that he doesn't have the fuel.
Q Do you think that -- should Montenegro be included in that category?
MR. LOCKHART: In which category?
Q In denying them oil, lubricants, fuel?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of any discussion of Montenegro.
Q Yes, but that's their only port. That's the only place they can bring it in.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we are -- again, we are looking at ways to deny what we think is an essential element of waging the conflict for Milosevic. I don't have any answer for you on how that will be done, beyond that we are working within the Alliance, and that there is common support for the overall goal. We're looking --
Q But the point being, if you try to punish Serbia, you're inevitably going -- presumably -- include Montenegro, which may not deserve, necessarily, to be punished.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, I have no decision to announce on how this might happen, only to say that the conversations are ongoing.
Q Joe, some of the other NATO countries are apparently concerned that this could widen the war, that a blockade could widen the war. How do you address that concern? And are you also worried that this may cause some sort of a split among the Alliance?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think again, my understanding is that all of the NATO countries believe that this is a goal worth pursuing. Again, it doesn't make a lot of sense to be putting some of the pilots at risk that we currently are, to choke off his military abilities, and then let another source resupply. But we are continuing to work within the Alliance. Any particular way of doing this is premature to dissect, because we haven't come to a consensus or a conclusion.
Q Joe, the New York Times reports the Pentagon declaring that that captured Yugoslav lieutenant is "a prisoner of war." But last week, I recall your telling us, it's not a war, it's a conflict. And my question is, is the Pentagon wrong, or is your it's-not-a-war-it's-a-conflict corrective now inoperable, as Ron Ziegler used to put it?
MR. LOCKHART: My understanding of the situation is, the Pentagon is the best place to put these questions. But the Geneva Convention, which was the appropriate authority, applies to all hostilities.
Q Can I ask you about --
Q What numbers can you put on the supplemental request that the President put out? How is it going to break down?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, let me do this. The President announced this morning, obviously, that the supplemental will be going up. I expect that to go up this afternoon. Once it's gone up to the Hill, I expect to bring some of our budget experts in here to go through it in more detail. But the numbers that have been used are in the right ballpark.
We're looking to make sure that we can fund this conflict at the level that it's at, at least through the end of the fiscal year, and to make sure that we do nothing to compromise military readiness.
Q Why didn't the President put a price tag on it this morning?
MR. LOCKHART: Because he's going to leave the final number to go up to the Hill, and we'll be in here later today to talk about it.
Q -- some top Republicans, the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader --
Q -- some members think it's going to cost a lot more than $6 billion. Is there room to work with them?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me say this. In looking to understand what the cost will be and the kind of money that we need to request, we've gotten the best thinking of the Pentagon. And the Pentagon leadership believes that the supplemental that we're sending up will provide them with the kinds of resources they need to continue to execute the campaign in Kosovo, as well as to make sure that readiness stays at its top-rated level.
I think there is a temptation, which should be resisted, to try to do things that don't fit the category of emergency spending, that there isn't an urgent need for, that perhaps will get done in the debate of FY2000 defense spending and beyond. But I'll remind you, the President has proposed a very large increase in defense spending for FY2000 and beyond, which addresses a number of problems and challenges that the military faces.
But this is about paying for the humanitarian and military operations in Kosovo, and we shouldn't let it get bogged down in trying to have another debate, because that inevitably will slow down this process.
Q The $6 billion should be enough?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we'll come to you with a final number, but something in that ballpark, we believe, is what we need to continue on with this campaign.
Q This roughly, if I may, Joe --
Q Can we please finish the supplemental?
Q Well, that's what I was going to talk about, also.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Sam?
Q This roughly $6 billion that you've outlined here, to what extent does this cover the military operation underway, contemplate a further military operation, and to what extent does it cover a time frame?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, it covers continuing to execute the air campaign that's ongoing through the end of the fiscal year. Now, we have no reason to try to put an artificial deadline on when we think the air campaign will meet its objectives. It could be next week; it could be the end of the fiscal year. But as far as budgeting, and getting the funding that the Pentagon and the operations need, we thought it was best to look out to the end of the fiscal year to make sure that there was enough resources available.
Q But no ground troops?
MR. LOCKHART: Correct.
Q Joe, the history of these things is they do tend to grow. I mean, they're the only vehicle around that's not subject to budget caps. Realistically, how much control does the White House have over keeping it to just the $6 billion?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the history of these also includes them getting bogged down in partisan debates, and having extraneous issues put on that have nothing to do with the emergency at hand. I think we are going to work, and have worked, in good faith with the appropriators on the Hill, and it's our hope that the judgment of the Pentagon about what we need will prevail here, and we won't get bogged down.
Q Well, are you saying the President would veto this if certain things are added?
MR. LOCKHART: That's a hypothetical question that I can't answer.
Q Joe, the Speaker of the House has issued a statement saying the Clinton administration has been downsizing our military for the last seven years, and the Kosovo crisis has exposed how our national security is now in real danger. That's why the Republican leadership will be working very closely with the appropriators to review the President's emergency funding request in light of our broader military needs, and we will encourage them to bring to the floor a bill which strengthens our defense structure when and where warranted. All of which suggests that they're going to try to increase significantly the $6 billion request --
MR. LOCKHART: I think we can have an honest debate about military spending. I think if you go back and look, the military spending in this country has leveled off in the last decade, with some fairly sharp declines at the beginning of the decade and in a Republican administration. But you can have that debate, we should have that debate. The President has proposed over $100 billion in increased military spending over the next five years in the budget.
What we're talking about here, though, is how to pay on an emergency basis for an operation that's ongoing. I think that people will understand that the leaders at the Pentagon know what they need. They have worked with our budget people here, and when we send the supplemental up it will reflect what the Pentagon believes they need to execute this campaign from now until the end of the fiscal year.
Q Does the White House agree with the Speaker that our national security is in real danger?
MR. LOCKHART: No, and let me -- I had not seen that, but I've seen some other comments that I think fall -- and again, I don't know the context and all of everything the Speaker said, but there were some comments made last week by some people, including Senator Inhofe, about our military readiness and if people knew the state of it there would be hysteria. Our military readiness is top-notch. The President has worked with the Pentagon over the last few years; we've reprogrammed some money, there has been some additional readiness money appropriated.
I think you'll hear from the Secretary of Defense, you'll hear from General Shelton that we have kept our military readiness on alert and at first-rate levels. And that's what we need to do as we move on. And we can have, and will have, a debate about military spending in the process of the budget this year, and that will be a good debate. I mean, the President has put forth a number of ideas -- an additional $100 billion over five years -- and we should have that debate. But we should try to resist trying to litigate every issue that may exist on military spending, and other issues, in the context of this supplemental.
Q Did Yeltsin talk to the President about the NATO summit?
MR. LOCKHART: No. Let me tell you a little bit about that call, although the NATO summit did not come up --
Q Are they coming?
MR. LOCKHART: We have not had a definitive answer from them.
Q You would think maybe you could get one from the top guy.
MR. LOCKHART: They discussed what they thought was most important. President Clinton and President Yeltsin spoke for about 45 minutes this morning, reviewed the situation in the Balkans. It was a quite constructive call. Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin reaffirmed key areas of agreement between the U.S. and Russia about Kosovo. Those were mapped out by Secretary Albright and Foreign Minister Ivanov last week in Oslo.
They are, we agree on the immediate end to attacks on Kosovar Albanians, withdrawal of FRY forces from Kosovo, safe return of refugees and unhindered access for humanitarian relief organizations. We continue to disagree on the issue of the NATO campaign and NATO-led international security force to implement a peaceful agreement.
The Presidents affirmed the importance of staying in close touch, agreed to continue work on an implementation mechanism and the role of an international security force for implementing a political settlement.
President Yeltsin did mention his decision earlier in the day not to send additional ships to the region and reaffirmed that he will not allow Russia to be drawn into this conflict.
Q Any threats at all from Yeltsin?
Q You just said "NATO-led" and last week people started to say NATO -- there's no difference?
MR. LOCKHART: There is no difference. We believe that an international security force has to embody a NATO command structure in order for it to be workable.
Q Any threats at all from Yeltsin?
Q Did Boris Yeltsin ever tell the President that he doesn't believe that Mr. Milosevic will back down? There were some reports earlier that he would tell him that.
MR. LOCKHART: I saw some of that, but that was not reported to me.
Q There's absolutely no change at all in his assertion that NATO has to stop the bombing and then there might be some way to work out a peaceful --
MR. LOCKHART: He has made his views and the views of the government clear that they do not support the NATO air campaign. We do share, though, a number of areas of agreement of how to bring -- how to have a peaceful solution to this and what Kosovo -- and how we go about that in Kosovo. So I'm not aware of any change.
Q He didn't come any closer to the sequencing that the U.S. and NATO believe is necessary?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not in a position to report any change in his views, but I will tell you that it was a very constructive call and I think the President was satisfied that we -- about this call and the need to continue to remain in close contact.
Q What was constructive about it?
MR. LOCKHART: I think President Yeltsin reaffirmed his public statements that the Russians won't be drawn into this conflict. They also talked about the areas that we agree on, and the President reiterated that we think that Russia can play an important and constructive role in this process.
Q Joe, how did the President reply when President Yeltsin said that he felt that the bombing should be stopped? What did the President say back?
MR. LOCKHART: The President's views are as equally well-known as the Russian President's, that we believe that there should be no let-up in this military campaign until the conditions NATO has laid out have been met.
Q Joe, there was a wire report quoting Senator Pat Roberts, saying that the White House is planning on spending 25 percent of the cost of rebuilding Yugoslavia once the military conflict is over. My question is, why would we already be planning on spending money, rebuilding the bridges and other pieces of infrastructure that we're currently blowing up. Secondly, where would the money come from, and thirdly, how much would it cost?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm going to leave the details of the supplemental to the experts who will be in here later today.
Q That's in the supplemental -- rebuilding Belgrade is in the supplemental?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm sorry, I thought you meant in the supplemental.
Q No, no, I'm talking about --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any details of any particular plans on rebuilding. But clearly, as part of a post-implementation, there is going to have to be some sort of reconstruction.
Q Where did he get the 25 percent figure?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. But just look at Bosnia. I mean, there were extensive efforts to make sure that in addition to the important work that was done to provide Bosnians with the ability to live freely in their country, that there had to be some sort of economic reconstruction. And I expect that there will be some discussion of that here.
Q Did the President ask President Yeltsin for Russia to become more engaged diplomatically, to try to bring a peaceful end to this situation?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President and -- or President Clinton repeated what Secretary Albright and others have said, that we believe they can have a constructive role, particularly if they can deliver the strong and unified message that the NATO countries have laid out as conditions for ending this air campaign.
Q Did they talk about at all the possibility of Russia becoming a part of the post-conflict security force?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know if there was any specific conversation -- okay, I'm sorry -- there was some discussion of that. Again, as you look at the Bosnia model, the peacekeeping force that's there includes not just NATO, but goes well beyond and has invited other countries to participate. And we have said repeatedly that we can look at expanding the peacekeeping force to include other countries in Kosovo after the Yugoslav forces have left.
Q To follow up, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook suggested turning Kosovo into an international protectorate. He did that earlier today. What's the U.S. position on that?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the conditions that we've laid out are pretty clear that there is going to need to be some sort of international security force in there to provide security for the refugees who have returned. How that will all work out is a part of the ongoing discussions. So I'm not going to get into a speculative conversation about how that might work, only to reaffirm that that is clearly a condition NATO has laid out.
Q Can I clarify some things about the appropriations Number one, you said that we're going to do this through the end of the fiscal year either because -- because it could be over in a week or it could be over at the end of the fiscal year. So that -- we envision that this bombing campaign could last into the fall, not just into the summer, but into the fall as well, right?
MR. LOCKHART: No. We envision we will continue to prosecute this campaign until we've met our military objectives. When you get to the issue of how you pay for that, it is our judgment that it's best to go forward and do this once, and not do it on a monthly basis. So you should read nothing into this, other than the way that the fiscal year runs, and it runs out in October.
Q Okay, the second question is: this does not include money for ground troops, be it peacekeepers or fighting their way in, right?
MR. LOCKHART: It does not include anything other than what the Pentagon believes it needs to prosecute the air campaign.
Q So in the sense of doing it once, we're going to have to for sure come back a second time, when this ends, and ask for more money for the American portion of the peacekeepers?
MR. LOCKHART: No. I mean, not necessarily, because if --
Q I thought the President said it includes other than the air campaign?
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, no, I think what David's getting at, here, is if the war ends, or the conflict ends three days from now, will we need to go back, having an agreement from Milosevic, on international peacekeeping? I think obviously, logic would tell you that if you appropriate emergency money for six months, and don't need it for six months, there will be some left.
But there may be -- with a positive conclusion of the military campaign, there may be some need to go back, when you start looking at an international force. But that's something that's down the road.
Q Would the United States spend its own money to reconstruct Yugoslavia if Milosevic was still in power?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that's an issue that I can't fully address. I'm not very conversant, or fluent, in some of the reconstruction details. I think, though, that we will have to look at some sort of reconstruction of Kosovo, for the refugees to return home there and be vital.
Q I had another follow-up, please. Do the Yugoslavian people know that the Russians are not going to intervene militarily? Do you have any feel for what kind of outside news sources they're getting?
MR. LOCKHART: There is a little bit of a trickle, I think, from outside, whether it be the Internet, or whether it be some of the international television and radio broadcasters. I don't know what their awareness is. I don't think that it's been a real theme on Serbian TV every night, that the Russians are not planning to intervene. But I don't know for sure.
Q -- the media coming across and giving them the impression that the Russians are. Are they giving the people hope that the Russians will intervene?
MR. LOCKHART: Say again?
Q Is the Yugoslav media giving their people a hope that the Russians will intervene, in what they're putting out?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I would not put it past them to lead them down the wrong road, because we spent a few minutes at the beginning of this briefing talking about just that.
Q Joe, India is in crisis critically. The Indian Prime Minister has resigned -- and the President has not spoken, or any comments, or it going to affect in any way the future --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think that whether a new government is formed, and how that happens, is an internal matter. We will continue to pursue relations with India, and we will continue to express areas which we can support, areas where we have concerns, which we did last week from here.
Q Joe, the President has just spoken with Boris Yeltsin. If I'm not mistaken, this is the second time since the military thing began. Did they discuss the fact that there's been a lot of conflicting signals coming out of Moscow? For example, a few days ago, weeks ago, the Speaker of the Duma was speaking of nuclear movement --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I don't know if there was any particular discussion of that report. I do know that President Yeltsin reaffirmed the Russian government policy of not becoming involved in this conflict, and that was important to hear.
Q Joe, the President spoke last week with some eloquence to the half a million people or so who are cowering in the woods and, perhaps, starving to death inside Kosovo. The NAC is taking up several options of dealing with those, one of which is the possibility of opening up some sort of a humanitarian corridor to reach those people. Where does the President come down on that option?
MR. LOCKHART: I think, as the President said last week, there are a number of ideas that NATO has been working through. They have yet to settle on one that they believe is workable, but that work continues. So I don't have -- I had not seen that report on a corridor, but we will continue to work within NATO. And it is certainly a high priority for the alliance on the humanitarian front, to figure out what you can do about these internally displaced refugees.
Q There is a report out of Tirana that Serb -- sorry, that the KLA has captured several more Serb soldiers, and that one of them may have been a Russian in Serb uniform. Do you have anything on that, and was that raised with Yeltsin?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't. I have seen the report on the Russian, but I don't have any information to confirm that. I haven't seen any other reports about additional prisoners.
Q Did the President raise that at all in the call?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q -- on the 33,000 reserves?
MR. LOCKHART: We expect sometime in the next few days for a recommendation to come over from the Secretary of Defense. The President will consider it carefully and move quickly to act on the recommendation.
Q That has not arrived?
MR. LOCKHART: It has not arrived.
Q When the President was in San Francisco taking questions from newspaper editors, CBS News, among others, reported that he "bristled" at a question about talk radio. As the President's chief media advisor, can you identify any other part of the media that gives more time and space to public expression than talk radio? And I have one follow up.
MR. LOCKHART: I think the wise answer here is, no, Lester. What's your follow-up? (Laughter.)
Q The President said, the opinion of some of the talk show people is something that's way beyond my control, and happily so. Does this mean that the President is happy in the sense of being joyful or ecstatic that he can't censor us? And do you really think many people believe he is really happy about this, Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: I have no reason to dispute the joy he expressed so openly in front of you. (Laughter.) Next.
Q There was a report that White House officials were angry at NATO for the way it briefed on the convoy, on the accidental bombing of these civilian targets. How would you assess the way the NATO briefers have handled their explanation over these past, this past week?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think particularly today, the NATO briefers, led by the Brigadier General -- did an excellent job of letting everyone know, in a very transparent way, about what we know, what we think we know, and some of the things that we'll never be sure of. And I think there's a remarkable contrast between what you saw today and what we see coming out of Belgrade.
I think that if you go back, there was some confusion, based on people trying to be helpful and provide information as quickly as they could, and information at times takes time to assess and develop. But I think whether there was confusion or whatever it was, I think they did an excellent job this morning of putting all the facts out on the table and letting people make their own judgment.
Q Two questions about the War Powers Act. First, can you restate the White House position on that, on whether you need congressional approval? And also, what then is the position of the White House with respect to Tom Campbell's move to have a vote on that, and the decision by the Republican leadership, apparently, to try to keep that from coming to the floor?
MR. LOCKHART: We, as have Presidents in the past, have some constitutional questions about the War Powers Act. As far as Congressman Campbell's -- I haven't seen his call, but we certainly have had expressions of support from Congress in the past on this issue. If they want to find a way to do some other expression of support, that would be welcome.
Q But what he's proposing is about one, on a full declaration of war, or a vote on a resolution saying, bring -- to cease being involved and bring all the troops home.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, the President met with the top leaders of both Democrats and Republicans last week, and I don't think that's the view they hold.
Q Joe, following up on that, last week we asked you, though, does this situation constitute war and is this a war because some Congress person said it was low-grade war.
MR. LOCKHART: No. And we believe that the United States objectives here are not offensive or aggressive in aim, and contemplate the limited use of force to meet clear objectives. We certainly do not consider ourselves to be at war with Serbia or its people. NATO is acting to deter unlawful violence in Kosovo that endangers the fragile stability of the Balkans, threatens a wider conflict in Europe, and to address a humanitarian crisis unseen in Europe since World War II.
Q So some federal lawmakers that are calling this a low-grade war on the Hill are wrong?
MR. LOCKHART: I would disagree with their assessment.
Q Joe, do we have any greater --
Q I just want to clarify one thing. So the White House, then, does not want to see a vote either on the War Powers, or on bringing the troops home.
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President has spent an enormous amount of time with congressional leadership. He will continue to. And that view has not been expressed to him as far as I know.
Q Joe, you mentioned the possibility of U.S. helping pay for some future reconstruction in Kosovo, when the time comes. Would that also extend to other parts of the Yugoslavia, like Belgrade?
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I think all of that is premature. We are in the middle of a conflict, now. Obviously, to look at Kosovo into the future, as the President said last week, and bringing Yugoslavia into the new Europe, there will be issues. But it's premature to discuss what the particulars of anything will be.
Q Does the White House have any greater willingness to support legislation on the Hill that would aid the KLA?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware that there's been any change in our view. We don't believe that it is the right policy to go about arming --
Q Are we assisting in any way these volunteers, these Albanian volunteers that are --
MR. LOCKHART: There's no assistance that I'm aware of.
Q Joe, on the Yeltsin call, when was the last time the President and Yeltsin talked?
MR. LOCKHART: They exchanged letters last week, and I think it was in the first weekend of this conflict, the Saturday after the Wednesday launching of the air campaign, they spoke on the phone.
Q And did Yeltsin give any indication of the status or the health of the Serb military? And finally, did he indicate that Chernomyrdin might be meeting with Milosevic?
MR. LOCKHART: No, on the first part. I think on Chernomyrdin, he spent some time indicating what the views that he had towards Chernomyrdin as his envoy, but I don't believe he discussed any of the details.
Q Joe, what did Yeltsin say about the possibility of having Russian troops in the security force?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me leave it to him to talk about that.
Q Joe, on the U.N. weapons, our arms embargo, does that prohibit the delivery of any military supplies, or just weapons? And are you in --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, there's a general embargo against military, that allows Milosevic to prosecute his campaign on Kosovo and Kosovar Albanians. We believe that to include petroleum, oil and lubricants, for very obvious reasons.
Q But it's an arms embargo, and you interpret it to include petroleum.
MR. LOCKHART: We interpret the embargo to include petroleum products.
Q Joe, was the call with Chirac mostly on oil as well?
MR. LOCKHART: They certainly -- this subject did come up, but I think it was broader, in context beyond just this issue.
Q Joe, Sandy said on Friday that he would oppose releasing the gun camera video from these aircraft that were involved in the possible collateral damage to civilians. And then we saw it released today by NATO. Did Sandy's objection get overruled, or did he change his mind?
MR. LOCKHART: Some of us do communications; some of us do other things. So, we did it.
Q Joe, forgive me if you once answered this, but if American citizens volunteered to fight in the KLA do they lose their U.S. citizenship?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of, but that is a legal question that we can look into. I don't know of any provision in our laws that would result in that.
Q Did the President happen to watch --
Q Is anything being done on the diplomatic front to end this war?
MR. LOCKHART: I think on the diplomatic front, NATO has made it very clear what needs to be done to end this war. Milosevic needs to get his --
Q I mean, are there any interveners?
MR. LOCKHART: He needs to get his troops out. The message is very clear to him. It's come to him from a variety of sources what NATO needs to see, and this campaign will continue until NATO sees what it needs to see.
Q -- any second thoughts that he is beginning to wobble even the slightest bit?
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, I think the flurry of kind of fake diplomatic initiatives that we saw last week and the week before indicates that he sure doesn't like this bombing and it sure is impinging on his ability to dictate what goes on in Kosovo. But as far as him being willing to accede to the demands laid out by NATO, I think only he can come forward and let the world know.
Q If it is impinging on his ability to work his way in Kosovo, what is the evidence on the ground in Kosovo that that's happened?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I would refer you to the briefings that NATO and the Pentagon have done, but they have hit his ability to supply and resupply his troops. They've hit communications; they've hit transportation.
Q I'm asking what is the evidence in Kosovo that he is somehow not being able to carry out his will? In other words, refugees are still being expelled.
MR. LOCKHART: We are talking about a campaign that is going to systematically hit his military capabilities, and we know his ability to do what he's doing in Kosovo rests on his military capabilities. And that's what we're going to continue to hit.
Q You haven't seen any signs in Kosovo that he is not able to do certain things --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, if you're asking me are his paramilitary forces still able to function and to ethnically cleanse, we have not been able to stop that. But we are going to continue to hit in a systematic way, in a way that the military planners have told you on a regular basis that will either change his calculation on the ground or will change the balance of power on the ground.
Q Because he's been hit so bad, do you expect some more fake diplomatic overtures soon?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into the prediction business.
Q -- that the supplemental would fund the air campaign at peak levels. What does that -- are we at peak level now or will soon be --
MR. LOCKHART: I think the Pentagon certainly knows what they have planned and what they need to do, and what they'll need as far as replenishing supplies. And they've asked for that going forward through October. I'm not going to get into what those plans are because those are obviously something that goes toward military targeting.
Q Well, just as to that -- you said the Pentagon knows what they need to do, and yet in the last few weeks the number of airplanes that they've felt that they needed has consistently been increased by sometimes dramatic levels. How reliable then is this figure that we're putting out now when the same thing could happen again?
MR. LOCKHART: I think they're well aware of what they need to do in order to keep this campaign going, and have made estimates, and in fact, in areas where -- and in decisions that were made, they have erred on the side of asking for more.
Q Congressman Cunningham of California, a member of the National Security Subcommittee, announced on the air, Russian troops are going to Belgrade to fight with Milosevic -- Russian volunteers are going to Belgrade. Can the White House deny this?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any -- I can tell you President Yeltsin said that the Russians and the Russian government will not be involved and will not be drawn into the conflict. I have no information that --
Q -- fits in with the capture of that --
MR. LOCKHART: I have no information on whether there are any volunteers.
Q What about non-military assistance to Yugoslavia from Russia? Is there any indication that the Russian government is providing Yugoslavia --
MR. LOCKHART: I think -- it's not indications, there have been some convoys of a small amount of humanitarian aid that was transported through Hungary, and that has gone forward. But that is, in proportion, a fairly small amount of aid.
Q Did the President consider at any time asking NATO to call off the party this weekend, to call off the party -- the celebration?
MR. LOCKHART: No. I mean, I would quibble a little bit with the question because it's not a party. It's a commemoration of 50 years of what we believe is the most important alliance we have, NATO. We have adjusted the schedule to reflect the fact that there is a military conflict ongoing in Kosovo. They will spend a good bit of the time now in working meetings on that subject. But it is also important to go through with this and commemorate what for 50 years has been a quite important security alliance.
Q Before Friday is the President going to give some kind of a speech to the American people about what this weekend means, or are you going to do any kind of run-up or drum roll?
MR. LOCKHART: We'll do -- we'll have a briefing here tomorrow with Sandy Berger, the Secretary of State and others. I think the President will address this a little bit in an event tomorrow that we're having with former Chancellor Kohl. And we're always looking for opportunities to make the case for what we're doing. But I think primarily tomorrow will be the day where we systematically talk about what we hope to get accomplished this weekend.
Q I'm just wondering if President Clinton laid out -- that's why he wanted it expanded to do precisely what it is trying to do now in Kosovo. Given that every single day that vision is being challenged, if not completely repudiated on the ground there, how much in danger does the President think his vision for a post-Cold War NATO is?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President believes that this is what the NATO Alliance is there for, and clearly, this is a test of NATO and it's a test NATO is determined to meet.
Q -- doesn't meet it what happens?
MR. LOCKHART: NATO is determined to meet this test and NATO is highly confident we'll meet our objectives.
Q Did anybody believe at the start of the air campaign, a month ago, that it would still be going on by the time of the 50th Anniversary of the NATO Summit?
MR. LOCKHART: Sure. I think as we've said and as the President said clearly, the air campaign was designed to either deter Milosevic from his brutal attacks in Kosovo and, failing that, we would prosecute this campaign until we met our military objectives. We've never put a calendar on meeting those objectives; this will take time and we will continue to show determination until we've met them.
Q Joe, you can say that, but you wouldn't be having to reconfigure the meeting and change it from a celebration to a commemoration if that is what we thought was going to happen.
MR. LOCKHART: David, the planning for the NATO summit started 18 months ago. Eighteen months ago, maybe you all knew we were going to be here, but we didn't. So I think that's an unfair statement. We continue to adjust, have been, and we want to make sure that this is the best meeting it can be, but it naturally has to reflect what's going on in Europe.
Q Joe, the Yugoslav government seems to change its policy every day or two on whether refugees will be admitted across the border or not out of Kosovo. But we seem to criticize them either way -- if the refugees are let out, we say it's continuing ethnic cleansing; if they're kept in, we say they're not letting people go where they want. Are we putting them in a Catch 22 situation, or is either situation unacceptable?
MR. LOCKHART: No. I think given what's going on on the ground, the Kosovar Albanians should have the right to get to a safer, more secure and more humanitarian environment. I don't think it's too much to say the people should have the right to not sleep out in the open, that people should have the right to have something to eat.
Now, having said that, there is no justification or right for Milosevic to do what he's done in Kosovo. And what we fundamentally are demanding is that this campaign of atrocities stop and people have the right to return home to live free and secure.
Q Joe, one last one on this. Does the President need to sign off on the new Apaches, or is that, at this point, strictly General Clark's call?
MR. LOCKHART: Say again?
Q Does the President need to sign off on the use of the Apaches, or is that strictly General Clark's call at this point?
MR. LOCKHART: My understanding is that the decision has been made to deploy them, and no final decision on the actual use.
Q -- still have to come through the White House --
Q He has to approve it?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q He's been asked -- I think General Clark asked initially for 24, and then upped it to, say, 48.
MR. LOCKHART: Thank you.
END 2:08 P.M. EDT