THE WHITE HOUSE
Office Of The Press Secretary Bonn, Germany ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release May 6, 1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SAMUEL R. BERGER Aboard Air Force One
3:00 P.M. (L)
MR. BERGER: I just spoke to Secretary Albright, who is in Bonn. The G-8 foreign ministers, which includes Russia, have adopted a statement specifying the -- what needs to happen for the conflict to be resolved in Kosovo. I think what's significant about the statment is that for the first time the Russians have accepted the proposition that there needs to be a security presence on the ground in Kosovo.
I think the language is, "effective civil and security presences." But this, I think, reflects a position that's been evolving on the part of the Russians over the last several weeks that this won't work unless there is not only a civil presence on the ground -- dealing with administrative aspects of trying to return to some kind of normal life -- but there needs to be a security presence. And I think this is a useful step, to have not only the NATO countries but Russia, now, accepting this fundamental fact.
Q But is this kind of force what you want? Or is this just them sort of moving toward the U.S. position?
MR. BERGER: I think Russia is moving toward the NATO position. I mean, the NATO position is still more specific, and basically, as you know, is a Bosnia-like presence -- an international military and civilian presence, with NATO at its core, to use the --
Q Can you anticipate what the effect of this may be on the Yugoslavs, if any?
MR. BERGER: Well, I think that they have to see that they're increasingly isolated. And I think it reflects, as I said before, a growing recognition that for the Kosovars to return -- which the Russians have long felt was essential -- but for them to return, certain things have to be present in order for that to work. And number one, the Serb forces have to leave; and number two, there has to be a security presence on the ground.
And I think, listening to the folks we just listened to, I think it becomes all the more clear why there would need to be a security presence on the ground.
Q This does not, I take it, specify NATO's role in the force?
MR. BERGER: No. No. Obviously the Russians -- again, as far as we're concerned, as far as NATO's concerned, the security presence would have to have NATO at its core, and I don't know that the Russians have embraced that concept -- certainly not formally.
Q Have they agreed to participate in the situation?
MR. BERGER: I think they have indicated -- under the right circumstances -- that they would entertain participation. And it's certainly something that we would welcome very much, as the President has said many times. He would see this -- Bosnia may not be the -- Bosnia's a useful model, in the sense that NATO has the command and control, but there is -- Russia's there, Ukraine is there. I think at one time there were 40 countries in Bosnia.
Q Does this agreement set an overall size on the force --
MR. BERGER: No --
Q -- and does it talk about them being armed or not armed, or the degree to which --
MR. BERGER: No. "Security presence," I think, clearly means military presence.
Q But does military presence -- meaning just light arms, or does it say? Does it address that in any way?
MR. BERGER: No, we would insist that it would be a robust presence that would be able to not only defend itself, but also to maintain civil order.
Q Well, we know you insist that, but I'm asking, where does the agreement move the ball forward at all, then?
MR. BERGER: Because for the first time the Russians have said that they accept the fact that in order for this to be resolved in a durable way, there has to be a security presence on the ground.
Q Does this agreement bring the U.N. into it?
MR. BERGER: Not agreement, but --
Q Well, okay. The statement.
MR. BERGER: Also it says that it should be endorsed by the U.N., as was the case in Bosnia. And I think we've always felt that that was something we would seek, in the event there was a force going in to try to maintain a peace -- that endorsement by the U.N. would be a useful thing to have, in terms of the broadest possible acceptance.
Q -- go to the U.N., now, with a resolution, based on this G-8 --
MR. BERGER: Well, I don't know when. I mean, I think the sequencing of this is still to be determined, whether you'd go to the U.N. before there was acceptance of these terms by the Yugoslavs -- by the Serbs, or whether you would go to the U.N. as part of the organization and deployment of force. I think that's still an open question.
Q Do you see, in any way, this statement hastening an end to the conflict?
MR. BERGER: Again, I think that it has to demonstrate to the Serb authorities that on this critical issue -- which has been the issue that they have been so intransigent about, that is, a military security presence -- that now most of the world believes that needs to happen.
Q What's Russia's role from now on out, then, in this?
MR. BERGER: I think we'll continue to work with the Russians. I think that the Russians, obviously, have a relationship with Serb authorities, with Mr. Milosevic, historically. And I would hope that they would convey, in the strongest possible terms, what is needed to end this conflict.
Q But in the mere fact that you're willing to go to the U.N., it would suggest that the Russians really are on board.
MR. BERGER: Well, I don't think they're on board for the air campaign.
MR. BERGER: But I think that there's now convergence on what the conditions need to be to resolve the matter.
Q But you're not ready to go to the U.N., as I understand it?
MR. BERGER: Well, we'll go -- I don't know. I don't think I would say "not ready." I don't know that there is a decision on, or consensus on, whether one would go to the U.N. now, while the conflict continues; or whether one would go to the U.N. to endorse a force as part of a resolution.
Q Let me ask the question this way: Are you and the Russians lined up enough, close enough, now, that if you decided this was the appropriate time to go to the U.N., you could do that, and have a meaningful resolution that the Russians would support?
MR. BERGER: Oh, I think there's -- I think we're a lot closer than we were.
Q Will the President reflect on this publicly, in Bonn?
MR. LOCKHART: He'll have the pool spray, so --
Q Has this been announced?
MR. BERGER: I believe it's --
MR. LOCKHART: As we're flying. Simultaneity.
Q So we don't have a scoop?
MR. BERGER: I don't know whether the press conference there has started there or not, so you may have one. (Laughter.)
Q On Ibrahim Rugova, are you concerned that Rugova might start saying things that undermine the NATO operation, now that he's out? I mean, the President seemed to hedge his bets on exactly what he said about him today.
MR. BERGER: Well, I think Mr. Rugova is an admirable man who has spent most of his life defending the rights of the Kosovar people.
I believe that he accepts, now -- I believe he wants his people to come back, and understands what is required for them to come back. So -- and I'm pleased that he's released. He's been a man of nonviolence in a violent part of the world.
Q Has he talked to any U.S. officials yet?
MR. BERGER: I think Secretary Albright spoke to him earlier.
MR. LOCKHART: Okay, thanks.
Q Thank you.
END 3:13 P.M. (L)