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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 20, 1999

The Briefing Room

11:20 A.M. EDT

MR. LOCKHART: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the White House Briefing Room. As promised, this morning we have Secretary Albright, Secretary Cohen, and National Security Advisor Berger to talk about the NATO Summit, the 50th Anniversary commemoration that will take place this weekend. I think we'll get a sense of what we hope to get accomplished both on the ongoing conflict, the discussions that will go on this weekend, and also some of the strategic issues facing NATO. So I'm going to turn it over right away to Secretary Albright.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Joe. Good morning. And we are here to give you an overview of this week's NATO Summit. As you know, the summit was planned to celebrate NATO's 50 years of unity and look forward to the new century, and we will mark that success and confirm our readiness to face the future with new members and new capabilities prepared for new missions.

But we've revised the NATO Summit schedule to enable us to deal appropriately with the present-day challenge we face in the serious conflict over Kosovo. Our Alliance consensus is rock solid, and NATO operations will continue until this crisis ends on just and durable terms.

Milosevic must stop military operations and withdraw his military, paramilitary and police forces from Kosovo. He must allow all refugees and displaced persons to return with full access for humanitarian assistance. And he must permit the deployment of an international security presence.

In summit and ministerial meetings, allies will look to strengthen our role in responding to the humanitarian emergency Milosevic's depredations have created. We will do all that we can to share information with the War Crimes Tribunal and to see that those who commit atrocities are held accountable. And working with Serbia's neighbors, we will consider new economic measures designed to deny Belgrade the ability to wage war on its own people, such as an embargo on oil products.

Even as we respond to this crisis in Kosovo, we must concern ourselves more broadly with the future of the region. Our explicit goal should be to transform the Balkans from Europe's primary source of instability into an important part of its mainstream, and we must work to ensure that NATO forces will not again be called on to fight terror and destruction in this corner of the continent. And in our discussions at the summit, we will begin to do just that.

In Kosovo, we are responding to a post-Cold War threat to Alliance interests and values. The crisis has demonstrated the need for precisely the kind of adaptations the Alliance has initiated and will take to the summit level this weekend.

NATO partners, especially those in Southeast Europe, are playing critical roles in this crisis. The summit schedule includes consultations with the leaders of those nations through the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. And NATO will welcome new members and affirm that the door to the Alliance remains open -- and we will announce a practical plan to help potential new members meet NATO's high standards.

Our NATO leaders will unveil a revised strategic concept for the Alliance and will take into account the new missions it may need to undertake, or, as in Kosovo and Bosnia, is already performing. And we will present an Alliance response to the grave threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, or WMD, and their means of delivery.

The summit will also commit NATO to developing military forces that can perform the full spectrum of Alliance missions, and we will support the strengthening of the European pillar of our Alliance to help build a Europe more able to act effectively while maintaining its strong links to NATO.

In this century we have learned at great cost that American security requires a partnership in which the United States can count on Europe and Europe can count on us. This summit is a testament to those who, for 50 years, have made NATO that partnership. It is an essential tool to those who rely on us today; and it is, we hope, an inspiration to those who will lead NATO tomorrow.

Secretary Cohen.

SECRETARY COHEN: Good morning. Secretary Albright has just touched upon a number of the key items that we'll be discussing and acting upon during the course of the next several days at the NATO Summit. Terrorism in all of its manifestly evil forms -- cyberterrorism, chemical, biological, indeed nuclear -- is destined to present as serious a challenge to the West as anything we faced during the Cold War. And it's equally clear that we'll also have to face the challenge of dealing with ethnic instability that threatens the prosperity of the NATO countries.

So terrorism will be very much on the discussion list and with the NATO allies, and as the Secretary has indicated, weapons of mass destruction will be a primary subject for acting upon. We will be creating a weapons of mass destruction center; we will be sharing intelligence with all of our NATO allies so that we can, indeed, come to grips with the challenge and develop policies and tactics that will protect our population against weapons of mass destruction being used against them.

We'll also have what we call the defense capabilities initiative. It had become clear for some time that NATO must prepare for the future by developing systems that affect the mobility, the flexibility and the survivability and sustainability of our forces, having to operate many times in very austere circumstances.

So these are the key items that we will face and deal with. Terrorism, defense capabilities initiative, as well as the subject matter of Kosovo, certainly will be coming up for discussion and deliberation during the course of the summit.


MR. BERGER: Good morning. Let me say a few words about the summit schedule and the President's goals for the summit as they relate to one another. We will not forget that this is the 50th anniversary summit. But in recent days, we have obviously refocused the summit on the issues at hand, i.e., the situation in Kosovo and Southeast Europe, both military and humanitarian.

In so doing, that is quite consistent with the work on the adaptation of NATO that has been going on for many months. The summit will open on Friday morning with a leaders' meeting, three-hour leaders' meeting focused on Kosovo. We expect this meeting to produce at least three things: a clear affirmation of NATO's objectives, the removal of Serb forces from Kosovo, an international force that will be able to assure that the refugees can come back with security; second, a signal that the military, economic and political pressure on Belgrade will intensify until those goals are met; and, third, as the President foreshadowed in his speech in San Francisco last Thursday, a commitment to both immediate and long-term effort, as the Secretary of State mentioned, to the assistance of, and rebuilding of, Southeastern Europe.

As the Secretary of State mentioned, that's a goal that she and her fellow foreign ministers will follow up at a meeting that they will have on Friday, later in the afternoon, with the foreign ministers from the so-called frontline states.

After the leaders' meeting on Friday morning, there will be a public ceremony to commemorate NATO's 50th anniversary and welcome the three new allies. This will take place in the Mellon Auditorium, where the North Atlantic Treaty was signed in 1949, 50 years ago.

The President and the other allied leaders will speak briefly there, and sign the Washington Declaration, a statement of NATO's purpose and vision for the coming century. Friday night, the President and the First Lady will host a small dinner for the NATO leaders and their spouses.

On Saturday morning, the working sessions will resume with a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, that is, the 19 leaders, NATO's governing body. That meeting will deal, perhaps, with any leftover work on Kosovo, but also with the fundamental summit agenda items of the strategic concept and the European Security Defense Initiative, and the other matters that Secretary Cohen and Secretary Albright have mentioned.

On Saturday afternoon, the NATO-Ukraine Commission will meet for the first time at a head-of-state level, with President Kuchma. And then on Saturday evening, the President will welcome the leaders of NATO's 44 partner countries to a dinner on the South Lawn. This will mark the beginning of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership phase of the summit, Saturday night. This will be the largest gathering of world leaders in our capital in its history.

The APC will then meet for a working session on Sunday, and the summit will conclude on Sunday afternoon.

Now, I have noted that this summit will be different in some ways from the one envisioned a few months ago. We had planned a summit that focused a bit on the past and a great deal on the future. That will still be very central to the summit's agenda, but now it's necessary to have it focus intensely on the present as well. This is going to be a working meeting of a military alliance in the middle of a conflict.

But if the context of this summit has changed, the goals have not. And if anything, the original goals of the summit are more relevant today than they were before the conflict in Kosovo. Kosovo is, yet, another reminder that the greatest challenge in Europe, to Europe's stability, emanate from beyond NATO's territory, and NATO has demonstrated in Kosovo, as it did in Bosnia, that it will act to meet those challenges.

At the summit, we expect to agree to a new strategic concept that reaffirms NATO's core mission of collective defense while recognizing the need to deal with new threats, including regional conflicts, proliferation and terrorism. Kosovo is yet another reminder that NATO needs modern military forces that can respond quickly to crises, and demonstrates yet again why it is in America's interest to encourage our European allies to strengthen their capabilities and responsibilities within the Alliance. And all of these are the initiatives that we have been working on for over a year.

Kosovo reminds us as well that NATO must play the same stabilizing role in Central and Southeastern Europe that it played in Western Europe, and more recently in Central Europe by integrating new democracies, giving them incentive to resolve their tensions peacefully and encouraging them to pool their strength instead of pitting it against their neighbors or their own people.

Of course, Kosovo also reminds us that NATO must continue to work with Russia where our interests coincide, even when we disagree on an issue that matters to both of us. We have done that in the last weeks with the conclusion of a major new agreement on conventional forces in Europe. Just to name one example, on Kosovo, Russia has been a -- was a constructive partner at Rambouillet, and even now we agree that Belgrade must halt the violence against civilians, withdraw its forces from Kosovo, and allow the refugees to return.

Violence in the Balkans has been both the source of tension and an opportunity for cooperation between us for almost a decade. That is why we need to not let the violence continue, but to end it, and to make clear that Russia can be part of this solution as peace is restored, just as it was in Bosnia.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, from the very beginning we have wanted the summit to make a clear statement of NATO's values and vision for Europe. I cannot imagine a more powerful statement of what our Alliance stands for than the actions it is taking in Kosovo today, or a more powerful demonstration of its unity and resolve in the face of new challenges. That does not make the situation in Kosovo less tragic or difficult, but it does offer hope that this Alliance will continue to do what it has done so well for the last 50 years -- to uphold our interests and our values by making clear that America and Europe will do what it takes to defend them.

Let me invite my colleagues up here.

Q Well, Sandy, is there word yet -- Madam Secretary -- from Russia on whether it will attend the summit? And if not, what do you make of this? Are they looking to snub the summit?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I have been in constant contact with Foreign Minister Ivanov. We talk all the time about the whole Kosovo issues. They have not yet made clear whether they will come to the EAPC part of the summit. But whether they do or don't, they have been very much a part of discussions as we move forward to try to find a solution for Kosovo.

Q Do you see Russia as an essential element to a solution to Kosovo?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I believe that the Russians can play a very important part, and it is very important that they -- as you know from when I met with Foreign Minister Ivanov in Oslo, we agreed on the principles, all of the principles except one, that NATO accepted on the previous day in Brussels. We have a disagreement about the character of the international presence that has to be there if we work out an agreement.

Q Madam Secretary, can I ask Defense Secretary Cohen a question, please? Mr. Defense Secretary, a lot of members of the Senate and House said that they were briefed originally that the game plan would be for 20 or 30 days, maximum, of bombing, and that this would long be over by the time of this NATO 50th anniversary celebration. What went wrong?

SECRETARY COHEN: I don't know who you've talked to who has received --

Q Senator Biden has --

SECRETARY COHEN: -- that briefing. I never received that briefing from any of the military personnel in the Pentagon or elsewhere. We had planned for a phased air campaign for however long was necessary. There was never any time limit put on it. There was never any limitation saying it will be over by the summit. We intended to carry it out as long as necessary, and that's the only briefing I've ever received or given.

Q Well, as we speak, Senator McCain, Senator Biden and others are on the Senate floor introducing a resolution that would authorize the President to use all necessary force in Kosovo. Some senators, some congressmen and congresswomen have complained that if we ultimately need to use ground troops, we ought to be pre-positioning them now, so that we don't say, weeks from now, well it will be a month or two before we can get them in. Why aren't we pre-positioning ground troops now, in the event they're needed for hostilities?

SECRETARY COHEN: As we've indicated on a number of occasions, the Alliance is dedicated to carrying forward an air campaign. An assessment was done last August and September for a full-scale type of invasive force, we went on to -- and that was not accepted by the Alliance as the course to pursue. Instead, an air campaign was unanimously endorsed, and that's the campaign that we're carrying forward. That assessment was done last fall, can be updated should the military authorities and the political leaders decide that they want to update it.

Q Madam Secretary, do you think that President Milosevic has to be removed from power? And if so, how would that be achieved?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, we have said that President Milosevic is responsible for the ethnic cleansing and all the depredations that are taking place. We have questioned how he is going to continue in terms of -- as the War Crimes Tribunal keeps working. But that is not the goal of what -- our goal for this conflict is, as we have all said, to try to get the Serb forces out of Kosovo, the refugees back into Kosovo and have the protection of an international security force. Those are the goals of what we are trying to achieve.

Q So it would be all right at the end of this if he is still in power?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that the point here is that we are not going to negotiate with him. We believe that the Serb people would be better served by having a democratically-elected government that represents their values.

Q Madam Secretary, what kind of commitments would the U.S. make in any signed documents or signed communiques, particularly in terms of rebuilding after the conflict's over?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, obviously, we are going to all have to be involved in the reconstruction of Kosovo and the Europeans in their EU meetings have already made some statements about that. One of the forward-looking discussions that we're going to be having, also on the Hill as we begin to look at how this moves forward, yes, the United States would in some way participate in the reconstruction of Kosovo.

Q Will there be signed communiques from the NATO Summit?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: On the reconstruction?

Q On anything.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, there will be on how we move forward on a Southeast Europe initiative, generally. We're going to be looking at how to achieve that.

Q Are the Serbs, in fact, increasing their forces in Kosovo right now? Have they been able to introduce new troops throughout the air campaign, as The New York Times says on the front page today?

SECRETARY COHEN: They may be able to put additional forces in, but that seems to me to be a sign of some weakness on their part. They intended to eliminate the UCK and had planned on a very short campaign, according to all the information that we had, and what we're seeing is that they have not been successful in that effort. The UCK has not been eliminated, they are regrouping; they will come back stronger. And I think the fact that the Serb forces think they have to put more personnel in now shows that our campaign in fact is starting to have an impact on them. And we will intensify that campaign and it will have a much more serious impact in the coming days and weeks.

Q -- to stop their ability to resupply their troops -- I thought the campaign was supposed to cut off supply routes and prevent their ability from beefing up their forces in Kosovo. Does that also show that you haven't been able to do that?

SECRETARY COHEN: Not at all. As a matter of fact, they are running short of refined petroleum. We have eliminated their refining capacity. We have cut in half their ammunition production capability. So we are systematically taking down those instruments of war that keep -- allow him to engage in this kind of repression.

No one should expect in a period of roughly 10 days of clear weather that we could accomplish our mission in that time frame. But we are dedicated to pursuing it to the conclusion and we believe it will be successful.

Q Mr. Secretary, a question for you and a question for Secretary Albright. Sir, on the naval blockade, there have been a lot of stories, some NATO countries are not in favor of a blockade. They don't think it's the proper thing, course to follow. And to Madam Secretary, I would like to ask, is Guantanamo still an option for bringing refugees?

SECRETARY COHEN: With respect the a NATO blockade, we think it's important that all sources of resupply of fuel and energy be eliminated. How that is to be achieved is a matter of discussion, but it clearly will be inconsistent with taking out his refining capacity, cutting down his fuel supplies, and then allowing a resupply through other avenues. So we are looking at discussing with our allies to make sure that -- and we are, I believe, satisfied that we will achieve that goal. We're looking for the most appropriate and the most expeditious way of doing that.

Q -- some countries seem to be opposed to the idea.

SECRETARY COHEN: I think all understand that his resupply of fuel has to be stopped, and we will take measures to achieve that. Acting collectively, we will do that.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me just also add to that. In my daily contacts with my fellow foreign ministers, they all see the problem of oil coming into the area and are looking at ways to achieve what we need to do.

On Guantanamo, first of all we do believe that it is important to keep the refugees in the region. That has been kind of a policy aspect of trying to keep them in the region so that they can, in fact, go home. However, as the pressure increases on some of the camps and the flows continue, as we have said we are prepared to have the Guantanamo option, but what we all prefer, all the countries involved in this, is to try to keep the refugees as close as possible to the region.

Q Will the President be talking to Helmut Kohl tonight about the situation in Kosovo, and what do you understand his position to be in terms of contributing ground troops to Germany or a ground war at all?

MR. BERGER: I am sure the President will talk to the Chancellor about this. I know the Chancellor has been in contact with a lot of the other leaders of Europe over the past several weeks, notwithstanding the fact that he's no longer the chancellor, has maintained an active interest in this, and I'm sure that this will come up. I can't speak for German governments past or present with respect to the second question you asked.

Q Regarding that question, one of the original aims of all of this was to avoid destabilization in the Baltics. As the war drags on, now heading into a second month, and as the refugees flood the region, are you confident that your policies are not threatening to create a destabilizing effect?

MR. BERGER: What will destabilize the region is Milosevic's ethnic cleansing. That would have taken place had we stood by and watched it or had we responded. What is destabilizing the region is the fact that he is driving hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and hundreds of thousands of people into neighboring countries.

Now, we have two choices in that situation. We can either do nothing -- I think that would have been destabilizing in one sense. But we could respond forcefully, as we have, which obviously adds to the strain on some of these countries in another sense. But I think that's all the more reason why we have to prevail, and then get about the business of helping these nations, who have been extremely courageous and extremely stalwart in the face of enormous obstacles, in getting back on their feet.

Q Sandy, when this conflict began, the President suggested it would end one of two ways -- either Milosevic would sue for peace, or his military would be sufficiently degraded that he couldn't continue to prosecute the war. You maintain his military's being degraded. Have we seen any sign whatsoever that he's starting to pull back, thinking about pulling back, any feelers that he's putting out that he wants this to end?

MR. BERGER: Well, I don't know that "pulling back" is the only indication of the state of affairs in Belgrade. I think there are signs, both physical and otherwise, that this is having an impact on both the Yugoslavian military and the Yugoslavian leadership.

Q Madam Secretary, reconstruction has been put on the table. Would it not be best, now -- people are talking in Europe about a Marshall Plan -- to try to work out a program and present it, all ready, now, so that in addition to the stick, which has been obvious, there would also be a carrot to indicate what the alternatives would be to the present policies of Milosevic?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, among the various issues being discussed, both in European circles and will be being discussed here on Sunday, will be the future of the Balkans, and what it will look like. Whether Mr. Milosevic and Yugoslavia is a part of that depends on how this ends, and whether we see a democratically elected government in Yugoslavia.

But one of the things that we are talking about, generally, is how we move into the future. The President has indicated this in his remarks in San Francisco. He is very interested in seeing how this Southeast Europe initiative can work; that is being built already on some previous actions that we have taken to get the countries to cooperate with each other, and the Europeans are clearly very interested in this also.

Q Thank you. Madam Secretary, this morning Prime Minister Blair said, "I see the solution as very simple. We carry on until he does step down." But you just said that his stepping down is not necessarily a goal of our policy. Can you please clear this up?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, believe me, even though we have a common language, I gather that there was some garble in that, and it's not "step down" but "back down." And that is commensurate with the conversations that we've been having with all of you about the necessity. He has a choice -- he can agree to where we are, or his military capabilities will be so degraded that he will not be able to control Kosovo the way he --

Q Is it conceivable that you would begin the economic reconstruction of this region if Milosevic were still in power?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that there are I think something like 100 million people in the Balkan region --you have to check the numbers a little bit -- that have been trying to cooperate with each other, that have already been working hard -- one, first, to deal with the refugee issue; second, to deal with their economic problems. I think that we cannot hold the whole region hostage to Milosevic's policies. We have to be able to help them. And we are taking steps, obviously, to help the front line states run right now.

We have, I think, committed $150 million to assisting them. When Deputy Secretary Talbott went there, he looked at a variety of problems. A longer-term reconstruction program, however, is one that we're all going to have to work on, because we see the possibility of the region as contributing to the stability of Europe instead of destabilizing it and very much part of the trend that began 10 years ago with the fall of the Berlin Wall where Germany was unified, Central and Eastern Europe became a part of a democratic value system, and the Baltic states and the Northeast Europe initiative.

We now have a Southeast Europe initiative in order to do what President Clinton has been determined to do and has had the vision to do is to have a Europe that is united, democratic and prosperous.

Q Secretary Cohen, could I follow up with just a quick question? It seems to be taking so long to get the Apaches in place so they can operate, to get those 300 additional war planes that the Supreme Allied Commander has asked for, and to get the request to the President through reserves to be activated. The President yesterday asked for the emergency supplemental on an urgent basis. Why is it taking so long to meet those kinds of requests?

SECRETARY COHEN: Wolf, I know that you're familiar with what's taking place in Albania as far as the weather is concerned an you no doubt have seen the photographs of the high levels of mud that forces have to contend with. They are contending with it, the Apaches are coming in. We will have them available soon.

As far as the supplemental is concerned, we are going to be testifying today, tomorrow, to urge the House and the Senate to move quickly on it.

With respect to the call-up, there will be a call-up. What we are now waiting for is the services, to make sure that they have the forces -- those elements and units will be called upon to supplement the forces in the region. So that's all moving according to schedule. There's no hangup, there's no delay on that. We're simply making sure that we have the right units, the right forces to fit into the plan of SACEUR, and that's moving along.

Q Secretary Cohen, to follow up on when you were talking about in the fall there was discussion of other alternative plans, including ground troops, you said that can be reassessed at any time. Is it being reassessed?

SECRETARY COHEN: At the current time, we are pursuing the air campaign. We've indicated before if the military leadership, political leadership believes it should be updated, it can be done so rather quickly.

Q But is NATO, while you are going on with the air campaign, is anyone in NATO right now reassessing?

SECRETARY COHEN: Not at this time. Not at this time. That can be done, we've indicated publicly, whenever the military commanders believe it's necessary to consider that. It could be done very quickly.

Q Madam Secretary, if you say you're not going to negotiate with Slobodan Milosevic, who do you negotiate with? How do you bring this to an end?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, it is not necessarily an end that will come as a result of negotiation, but acceptance, of the objectives that NATO has laid out. And it's perfectly possible for a discredited leader to agree to the objectives and saying that we're not negotiating over terms.

Q Can you imagine, if this $6-billion request goes to the Hill, can you really imagine this kind of intensified military campaign lasting through May, June, all the way into September?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm not going to speak to the length of it. I think Secretary Cohen and Mr. Berger have made very clear that we are going to continue this, that we will prevail here. We are not putting a time limit on it. And from the perspective of the diplomats and in my conversation with all my fellow diplomats, there is a sense of determination and unity and I think an increasing sense that the fact that we are unified is what makes this work, and the necessity of sustained action. There's no question about that among my colleagues.

Q May I ask a follow-up, please -- Secretary Albright, on the question of goals, why not change goals and have a goal to oust Milosevic? Is this an admission that the allies simply cannot get to him?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, I think that we have very firm goals that are achievable, that, as I've said, as we would all

prefer, as certainly the people of Serbia would, a democratically-elected leader of Yugoslavia that would fit in with the democratic leaders in other parts of that Balkan peninsula.

Q At the NATO Summit, will the leaders discuss whether it's time to revisit the issue of whether ground troops are necessary?

MR. BERGER: I am sure the full range of issues involving Kosovo will be discussed. But I believe that the consensus in NATO very clearly is to stay the course.

Q Just to follow up if I could, are you confident, given what's happened on the ground, given the situation today, that NATO can regain the initiative by intensifying more of, in effect, what is on the table now, doing that more?

MR. BERGER: I am confident that NATO can, must and will achieve its objectives.

Q Madam Secretary, would you say something about how or whether the summit will deal with the so-called mandate issue of taking up actions like this without a specific Security Council --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, this is one of the issues that we have been working on in the lead-up to the summit. We will continue to do so, and presumably we will get it resolved, either before the summit or at it. I think it is one of the questions that has been part of the preparations for the summit.

Q Can I ask Secretary Cohen a follow-up, David?

MR. LEAVY: All right, last one and then we've got to go.

Q There is one theory that this entire war, sir, is a campaign by America's enemies to deplete America's strategic power. Do you give any credence to that theory?

SECRETARY COHEN: I'm sorry? (Laughter.)

Q There's a theory, there's a new theory in the intelligence community that the entire war is a campaign by America's enemies to deplete America's strategic resources and power --

SECRETARY COHEN: So, as I understand the question, you think that, without naming individual countries, that somehow there's a vast right- or left-wing conspiracy -- (laughter) --that is trying to deplete our resources. I wouldn't give much credence to that.

Q Is the United States being weakened by this campaign?

SECRETARY COHEN: No. As a matter of fact, we're going to be strengthened. We're going up to the Hill to request additional funding, which will rebuild our forces to the point where they will be stronger than ever.

MR. LEAVY: Thank you very much.

END 11:55 A.N. EDT