Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official
The Briefing Room
2:21 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: So this is -- [Name Deleted].
Q: You didn't give us any dates at all, did you?
MS. MYERS: Just the week --
Q: I'm sorry, [name deleted] last name --
MS. MYERS: [name deleted].
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President's trip to Europe in January is stemming from the decision made in June to have a NATO summit. And the President sees this as an historic opportunity to transform and to begin the process of transformation of NATO to Europe's new post-Cold War landscape. And we see the Partnership for Peace, which has been discussed in Europe by Secretaries Aspin and Christopher over the last several days as a effort to begin to engage the militaries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union in concrete military cooperation plans, planning exercises, training to begin the process of transforming eastern militaries, influencing civil military relations of eastern countries. And we see this as an important step in an evolutionary process of NATO expansion.
And at this point in time, the administration believes that the landscape in Europe is too fluid to go into more detail about when and how NATO's expansion will occur. And we see the best approach at this time to be one of beginning with the Partnership for Peace, engaging eastern militaries through the partnership, which will be an activity of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. It will be open to NACC members, as well as neutral and nonaligned European countries. And this we see as a major step forward in NATO's engagement, in stability in Europe, as a whole, and a way of beginning to pull eastern countries into western institutions, practices and norms.
Q: What is the President's objection, though? Havel has written and made his arguments for joining NATO. Is he simply reluctant to agree to it because of Yeltsin's objections? Does Yeltsin have veto power over this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, this is not an approach that is focused on the specific needs or desires of any individual country. It is an all-inclusive approach to building a new security order in Europe. And what we want to try to avoid is drawing new lines in Europe because we hope that the process of transformation and democratization continues to proceed well across Europe, across all former Warsaw Pact countries, and that it would be premature to begin to
decide, well, NATO's new border is here as opposed to where it is today; and that that could bring about the process that we want to avoid, namely, drawing new lines in Europe as opposed to building a Europe that is united, east and west.
Q: What countries will the President actually be going to, who will he actually be meeting with?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We don't yet have a firm idea of which countries in Western Europe, Central Europe or the former Soviet Union the President is going to visit. We're still working on finalizing those plans. But what we do know is that the January 10th date is firm for the NATO summit. And that will really be kicking off the trip which will proceed from West to Central Europe and then on into Russia.
Q: He has a long-standing request to address the European Parliament in Strasburg. Is that something he wants to do?
THE PRESIDENT: It's something that has not yet been decided. But that specific proposal is one that we're now discussing and we hope that the President, in addition to engaging in the NATO summit, will be able to make a major address in which he articulates a new vision of a transatlantic partnership.
Q: Would that be in Strasburg?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We don't know yet.
Q: Why should NATO be expanded? I mean, if you bring in the Eastern Europeans, you alienate the Russians; if you bring in the Russians, you alienate the Eastern Europeans. You bring them all in and it becomes CSCE. Why do we have an interest in expanding NATO?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we have an interest in preserving NATO as a military alliance and a military security institution because we think it is the best way to preserve stability in Europe.
Q: Right, I agree. So why should we expand it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And the question is that stability in Europe does simply not depend upon drawing a line where it used to exist during the Cold War, and saying, we don't care what happens to the East; we don't care what happens to Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
It is too early to decide exactly what parts of Europe, Eastern Europe, former Soviet Union are going to be trouble spots. But what we're trying to do is to begin to engage that difficult question; to begin to deepen NATO's engagement in the East and, at the same time, pull Eastern countries into western institutions, not just NATO but others as well. EC accession agreements have been signed with various Central and East European countries because we think this is the best way to further the process of democratization and the move towards market economies.
Q: If the war is still on in Bosnia when you get to Brussels, won't that make a mockery of the whole NATO summit?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, that's obviously a question that we're addressing. And we are hopeful that the negotiations will get back on track and that there will be further progress on a cease-fire and on delivering humanitarian aid to the parties in Bosnia. And one of the things that we hope that this process of transformation of NACC and adapting NATO to the post-Cold War architecture is to try to prevent future Yugoslavias from happening -- to try to engage eastern militaries and eastern governments and the types of long-term preventive change in civil military relations and attitudes of militaries and attitudes of elites that will prevent those types of ethnic tensions from turning into conflict.
Q: But you're talking about theoretical crisis; you have a real crisis in Europe that NATO so far has been totally unable to deal with. Won't it be a real reproachful embarrassment to the United States and NATO if the thing is still unsolved by the time you get there? Conversely, are you going to make an extra effort, you and NATO, to get it solved before you get to Brussels?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think that again, what we see here is a process by which we are adapting NATO to try to be able to deal more effectively and more preventively with the types of conflicts that are going on in Yugoslavia -- today in the former Yugoslavia. And it is partly from the lessons that we have learned from Yugoslavia that we want to begin to engage the countries of Eastern Europe in these types of new military cooperation.
Q: Let me just -- one final question. I don't want to be -- can you tell anybody in Sarajevo today that they should have a little bit more hope because you're going to have this NATO summit?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that we hope that the parties in Yugoslavia come to some resolution which would lead to a cease-fire and then would provide hope for the parties there. And we think that what's going on in the NATO summit is really an offer of hope, not to just the people in Sarajevo, but to those people throughout the former Soviet Union of living in a -- of a Europe which is much more stable and in which there is much deeper engagement with western institutions and militaries.
Q: How long is the NATO summit? And then can you --describe what you are offering the Eastern European countries --there's been talk of these military partnerships. Can you outline a little more about their role, if they're not going to be invited to join NATO?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The NATO summit is at this point scheduled for at least one day, and may go into a second day. We're at this point deciding exactly what the President's schedule will be.
The Partnership for Peace is an effort to begin to engage eastern militaries in the following sorts of programs: First, to get staff officers from eastern countries into shape, to get representatives from these countries engaged in political discussions on a regular basis at NATO Headquarters, to begin to move towards the civilianization of defense ministries and military organizations in the East, and, I think critically, to begin the process of internationalizing military forces in the east.
One of the things that I think NATO has done extremely effectively during the Cold War and that is not often recognized is it has led to the socialization of militaries in Western Europe and in this country, to operating with other countries, to seeing military objectives as international military objectives rather than national military objectives. And we want to begin to, hopefully, influence Eastern militaries, to know how to practice with not only western militaries but with each other; to begin to have forces that are multinational in character; to begin to engage in training and operations that resemble what goes on in NATO now and put off to further down the road the more difficult question of, well, exactly where will the Article V security guarantee be extended to.
Q: To follow up on that and Tom's question as well, is it a given that if any of these countries meet these targets, that NATO will be expanded?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we see this as the first step. And precisely because events in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are up in the air, it's impossible to say when is NATO going to expand, how is it going to happen. These are questions that it would be impossible and inappropriate to speculate about. So this is really a bottom-up approach. Instead of just saying these are the new members today, you begin the process of concrete military cooperation. You look down the road towards an expansion of membership, towards a new security architecture. And this is the best way, I think and the administration believes, to begin that process.
Q: Will the new Russian parliament be in session by that time? And does the President have any intention to speak to the parliament, meet with its members? And also, could you give us an idea of how the list of the Eastern European and former Soviet Union republics will be put together -- is that invitations coming from them or is the White House deciding do we want to go here and prove this point or that point?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can't really answer any of your questions about the Russian side of the trip. Those should be directed towards the Russian directorate, the Eurasian directorate. And as far as where in Central and Eastern Europe we would stop, this is still up in the air. We really have not yet decided on specific countries. But we do think that it will be a meeting that is regional in nature as opposed to focus on a specific country.
Q: Back to these joint training missions. What exactly will they be training for? Who will they be training to use the military against?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: At this point they would be engaged in general and generic military training. And that would involve training for everything from joint land-sea rescue to environmental cleanup to actual military operations. And they would not necessarily be predicated upon any specific enemy, because the point here is that we don't see any specific enemy in Europe as there existed during the Cold War. The point is to begin to train these countries in NATO practices with NATO troops to influence their evolution and so that -- to provide a situation in which NATO forces and East European or former Soviet Union forces could operate together should such a contingency arise.
Q: Has NATO ever intervened militarily since it was created anywhere in Europe?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I believe that the fundamental mission that NATO was created to deal with, mainly an attack of the Soviet Union into Western Europe, that obviously never occurred. And NATO never fortunately had to use that.
Q: It's never been operative in the 50 years. And it certainly did not operate in Bosnia.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it depends what you mean operative. NATO did an excellent job of deterring a Soviet invasion and clearly ended up into a situation where we now have the opportunity to move --
Q: Invasion of what?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- to move towards much more cooperative relations with a Russia that is no longer the head of the Soviet Union, but is a country that is moving towards market democracy, towards values that we share. And that that is precisely what NATO was crafted to do. So I think NATO has been a great success.
Q: You mean a further invasion. I mean, what was it going to invade that it didn't invade?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: NATO? NATO was never going to invade anywhere. NATO was there to prevent --
Q: No, no, I mean, you said it deterred an invasion.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, it deterred a potential invasion from the East, from the Soviet Union.
Q: the relationship between the West European union and this kind of enlarged new Atlantic alliance developing?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: One of the other issues that we are looking at in summit preparations and in terms of our consultations with the allies is ways to strengthen the European pillar within the alliance. And we are now engaged in discussions with NATO partners about how to do so. And I think that the summit will also announce initiatives that further the process of European integration and strengthen the European pillar in keeping with the entry and the force of the Maastricht treaty and Europe's efforts to move toward a more integrated political entity.
Q: Wouldn't Article V be a little foolish, say, in Yugoslavia? How would that work there or in some of these other sort of secessionist areas? How would you apply that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, there is no change in NATO, the NATO treaty, the North Atlantic Treaty. There will be no extension of Article V to any new territories. So the question is really moot.
Q: This envisions it, doesn't it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it doesn't envision it at all. This is the beginning of a process of engaging eastern militaries.
Q: So it's only engagement, it's not expansion?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is an evolutionary process. And whether the process ends up in the actual expansion of NATO is something that we can only answer when we see what Europe's strategic landscape looks like down the road.
Q: Then Article V would never be expanded?
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END2:35 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269114