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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 25, 1999
                          PRESS BRIEFING BY
                      International Trade Center
                          Washington. D.C.

4:34 P.M. EDT

Q Madam Secretary, my question is, with regard to the President's remarks at the State of the Union where he talked about a 21st century America, 21st century government, in light of this historic meeting and the new priorities which have been mentioned for 21st century NATO, what do you specifically envision?

And, Secretary Cohen, there has been much discussion about the military readiness of America. Colonel Freetaig (phonetic) said this morning that Yugoslavia has 140,000 in their military, whereas America has 100,000. Could you comment on this disparity.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that this particular set of meetings that we've had that are part of the summit have really shown what we see for the 21st century NATO. First of all, a NATO which is now larger by three countries that have been integrated into it. That is really a sign of the great progress that has come as a result of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And then a handout to those that are going to join the membership action plan and a part of the Partnership for Peace and expanding circle of democracies committed to a value system that allows other countries to prosper and permit them to develop democratic governments and market principles.

I think what we also saw this weekend was the last piece of Europe that needs to be dealt with in the same way that Western Europe was brought into the circle through the Marshall Plan, the reintegration of Germany into Europe, Central Europe coming in, and now looking at the Balkan Peninsula where the potential chaos of the 21st century exists, in the terms of ethnic battles and fights over boundaries, as a way of dealing with that.

And we look forward, as the President mentioned, to a number of initiatives in Southeastern Europe in support of the frontline states. And the 21st century, we hope, will allow us to move into -- NATO will allow us to move into that century with greater peace.

SECRETARY COHEN: I'm not sure of the context in which the statement was made about U.S. forces, but let me just say that the United States has the most ready forces in the world. We are the most highly trained, educated and equipped, and best-led force in the world.

What he may have been referring to is that we have roughly 100,000 of our troops who are in Europe, the European theater. And that may have been the comparison he was making. But we have 100,000 troops that are in the European theater, but we have a 1.4 million person force, active duty, and then an additional million, roughly, in the reserves and Guard.

Q Madam Secretary, or Mr. Berger, whoever would want to take it on, does this blockade risk a confrontation with Russia? Do you have assurances that Russia will not challenge the blockade, or is there -- I'm sure we could think of various ways -- a collision can be avoided?

SECRETARY COHEN: Well, first of all, a decision has not been made about what form the interruption of fuel going into Serbia is going to take. That's exactly what the 19 countries have charged the military committee to come up with a plan for -- either interdiction, some sort of either visit-and-search, or some other mechanism whereby this can be brought about. All agree, all 19 countries agree that it is important to cut down the supply of fuel going in to fuel his war machine.

And so we will await the military committee's recommendation. There may be a combination of mechanisms that are devised in order to achieve the goal of inhibiting and stopping the flow of energy to his war machine.

With respect to Russia, the Russians have indicated before they don't intend to be drawn into this conflict that's taking place, and we accept that. We continue to be in contact with the Russians. I know that Secretary Albright continues her dialogue with her counterpart, and there are other conversations that take place.

And so we expect the 19 countries to remain firm, that it will be inconceivable that we would allow our pilots to put their lives at risk, as the President said yesterday, to take out the oil refining facilities in Serbia, only to allow refined products to go to feed that machine.

Q Given the risk in Europe and the responsibilities of the Europeans, the Americans have to do the workload. What do you think about the burden sharing?

SECRETARY COHEN: If you are talking about burden sharing, you will look at the commitment the United States has made to this effort. It is substantial. With respect to aircraft alone, we now have in excess of 500 aircraft in the region. We are carrying out a major effort and we believe that is more than a fair share of the burden that we are currently bearing. All countries combined are bearing a share of the responsibility. But we believe the United States is, in fact, contributing a great deal to this effort.

Q Just to follow up on the question regarding the oil deliveries, what kind of deadline has the military been given to come up with a plan? And also, what kind of deadline has been given to those who are reevaluating ground troops?

SECRETARY COHEN: There has been no deadline given for the plan. We would expect the military committee to come up with a proposal within a very short period of time because we think that it is important to cut down the source of energy going to feed his military machine, to fuel it. And so no time deadline has been set.

With respect to ground forces, an assessment, again, has been called for -- a reassessment, update of that assessment. There is no time limit placed upon that, or deadline. We hope it can be completed with a reasonably short period of time. But there has been no set time frame.

Q Madam Secretary Albright, yesterday when the final communique was being put together there appeared to have been a last-minute glitch on the wording for the European pillar. Could you give us some insight as to how that went and what was it all about?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think that it's very clear from the statements that we have all made, is that we welcome a European pillar within the Alliance and that it's very -- we think that it's very important for the Europeans to be able to share the burden, as we were just talking about.

Part of our goal on it -- we had three Ds, which would be no decoupling; that is, that the United States needs to continue, obviously, to play a major role in NATO -- no duplication; and that's obvious in terms of equipment, and capabilities -- and the third was no discrimination. So I think the issues revolved around basically how non-EU countries would work along with the European pillar. But that was all that it was about.

Q -- (inaudible) --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, there were a number of non-EU countries that this issue revolved around. Turkey was obviously one of them.

Q I have a question for Secretary Cohen. General Clark said today in Toronto that it "won't be long," before the Apaches are ready to be used against Serb targets. Can you say if the President has made the decision to authorize their use?

SECRETARY COHEN: No decision has been made in terms of the actual use of the Apache until such time as they are fully prepared to carry out their mission. And when that is done, General Clark will make a recommendation as far as their employment is concerned.

But let me stress one point. The role of the Apaches should not be overestimated. It is another tool at the disposal of General Clark in carrying out the mission. But as we've said on many occasions, do not look for the Apache to be some sort of a miracle solution or a silver bullet. It's an important tool that General Clark will use as SACEUR, but we shouldn't try to exaggerate or overestimate what it can do in terms of carrying out it's missions. It is a very capable aircraft. It has night operational capability. It has great fire power. But as we've indicated before, that is just one other tool that can and will be used. At the appropriate time when all of the force protection is in place, when all of the accompanying assets that will be part of the Apache mission, then we'll be in a position to make a recommendation to go forward.

We have the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs who could add something to that if necessary -- or he was here. (Laughter.) But I guess that's basically the situation. We would expect that when General Clark feels it's the right time to use it he will make such a request and we will go forward at that point.

Q For Secretary Albright or for Mr. Berger. Did President Clinton tell President Yeltsin that NATO was planning to either visit and search or in some other fashion check on oil shipments into the area? And did President Yeltsin say that the Russian government would resist that?

MR. BERGER: Well, first of all, I believe President Yeltsin is well aware of the decisions that have been taken here, including the decision with respect to stopping resupply. They had a lengthy discussion. President Yeltsin did not raise the question of this issue, gave no indication that they would not comply. And I think it was a very constructive conversation in which he described for President Clinton conversations that had taken place between former Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and Milosevic, which in some respects paralleled prior conversations in some respects -- fell short of the conditions that NATO has laid down.

He indicated Russia was very interested in trying to find a diplomatic solution. The President indicated that we were pleased to see Russia playing that role, but that, of course, any diplomatic solution would have to meet our conditions. He went through those conditions in some detail with President Yeltsin so that there would be no misunderstanding on his part.

Q Are you saying President Clinton is confident that the Russians would not object to visit and search?

SECRETARY BERGER: No, I said it didn't come up in the conversation.

Q The President didn't raise it?

SECRETARY BERGER: Well, I don't -- the Russians know very well what we did here. So, it's certainly not a subject that was on our agenda to raise. Once we have a system in place, we expect the Russians to comply with it as the case with any nation. Any system would apply to all nations equally.

Q For Secretary Albright -- Madam Secretary, do you have any concerns about other ethnic minorities in Yugoslavia, like they would follow suit and fight for freedom and autonomy -- namely, Hungarians? And the whole situation would escalate even further?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it is very important that we understand that minority rights need to be respected everywhere, and that it is obviously important that that be true also in Vojvodina. We would hope that whatever issues there are could be resolved peacefully. And I think the Hungarians have lived in Vojvodina for quite some time, as there are a number of other ethnic minorities. And I think we should see that dealing with these issues in a military way, or by use of force or violence, is not the way to solve anything. It just adds to the problems.

Q Madam Secretary, can you tell us the schedule for Mr. Talbott's plans to follow up directly with Mr. Chernomyrdin? And was there any sense from the President's conversation with President Yeltsin that President Milosevic is willing, or ready, to move forward any further than he has so far?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say on Deputy Secretary Talbott, he had plans to go to Moscow this week. We had talked about that. We thought it was very important before the Yeltsin phone call -- was part of how we were looking at what Secretary Cohen said was kind of the ongoing discussions that we've been having.

He is going to be leaving later today, and will be meeting with a number of people. And it is very important, as we have all said, to continue to maintain contact with the Russians, and very important to have them be a part of things.

What I've found very interesting about the meetings here over the last three days were the number of countries who felt that it would have been useful to have the Russians here, and made that comment in the EAPC meeting.

Sandy, you might want to follow up.

MR. BERGER: Let me say, John, in terms of the conversation, two things. First, there was some vagueness with respect to specifically what positions Milosevic took in the call, which, hopefully, Deputy Secretary Talbott will be able to clarify when he gets to Moscow. But I did not discern anything from that call which suggested movement on the part of Milosevic.

Q Well, is the support then based on keeping a public face that you're pushing for diplomacy, so that those within the Alliance who might be wavering a little bit see that there's a diplomatic effort going along? If you have no reason to --

MR. BERGER: No. I think the fact that the Russians are -- seem deeply committed to finding a solution to this can be constructive, so long as they understand clearly what our conditions are. Now, they're going to have to move Mr. Milosevic on more than one issue, in order for them -- for him -- to get to the point where we are able to say that our conditions have been met.

But I think it's very constructive that they are willing to engage in that process. And as I said, the President was very clear to President Yeltsin about what our conditions were. He was very clear to President Yeltsin about not being drawn into the conflict. And I think President Yeltsin said what he has said in the last few conversations, which is despite a lot of strong feeling in Russia, that he does not wish to see Russia drawn into the conflict.

Q Ms. Albright, when do you hope to get back the refugees, first question. And second, how would you estimate the Bulgarian efforts for the region?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that, obviously, one of our goals here, the objective is to get the refugees back as soon as possible, and that depends obviously on a variety of factors -- most importantly on these five conditions that have been laid out by NATO and the EU and the Secretary General that the fighting and violence has to stop; the Serb forces, paramilitary, military and police have to come out; the refugees have to be able to get back in, and there has to be an international security presence and we have to begin talking about a political settlement.

So we want to get the refugees back in, obviously, as soon as possible, and we are doing what we can in the frontline states and a variety of places to accommodate them as best as possible. As you know, also the United States has now offered to take 20,000 here, and other countries are also making an effort.

Let me say, I think that the Bulgarians have been very helpful. We have been in very close touch with them. I had a very good meeting with Foreign Minister Mihailova and we spoke about the various efforts that Bulgaria is making.

Also, what I have found very important, and we had very good discussions in a number of settings over the last four days, about plans for what the Balkans could look like and the possibilities, as the President mentioned, of economic cooperation in a variety of ways to improve the lives of everybody in the Balkans, ultimately of the Serb people. And here, in addition, Mihailova is making very important suggestions and I look forward to working with him.

Q I have a question for Mr. Berger. I'm wondering two things. First of all, how does Russia's promise of not wanting to get involved with the conflict actually translate to your beliefs that they won't flout the embargo? And my second question is, how much oil are we really talking about from Russia to Yugoslavia?

MR. BERGER: Well, again, let me simply say that they have indicated that they don't seek to be drawn into the conflict. What I have said is that whenever we -- the military committee is done with it's work and a system is put in place, hopefully, sooner rather than later, we would expect all countries to abide by that system. There would be one set of rules for all.

What was the other part of your question? How much oil from Russia?

Q How much oil are we really talking about from Russia to Yugoslavia?

SECRETARY BERGER: I don't know. Do you -- I don't know the answer to that, but it seems to me any -- I'm sure those numbers are available. But as far as I'm concerned, any materials; oil, gasoline, being two in particular, being resupplied to Serbia while this conflict goes one, that we can stop -- we have an obligation to stop.

And I think one thing -- let me say, as we sum up here, that I think fused every hour of this summit, and I think defined it, and in some ways was greater than even I expected -- was the extent to which all 19 of these leaders -- and then today, the seven frontline states -- stand as one in the conviction that we must prevail in this conflict.

They are prepared to intensify this air campaign. They are prepared to intensify the pressure on Milosevic. But there was absolutely uniform, strong, and unwavering commitment to that principle. And I thought, as we had planned for this summit and anticipated that perhaps there might be cracks here or cracks there or fault lines here or fault lines there -- there were no fault lines when it came to whether the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo needed to be reversed. They stood as one.

Q Thank you.

END 4:55 P.M. EDT