Bill Clinton photo

Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official

September 26, 1993

Astor Room

Intercontinental Hotel

New York, New York

6:40 P.M. EDT

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're just here to do a BACKGROUND BRIEFING, because several of you wanted to have some sense of where we are for tomorrow and we wanted to give you some heads up on the speech.

Let me just tell you, the President has basically completed most of the draft. He wants to polish it up sometime tonight or tomorrow morning, a few touches.

Q: Is this on the record?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, this is on background. This is a very broad brush preview of the speech that some of you asked for. We will do a briefing tomorrow probably after the speech that will walk through the policy in more detail. Because several of you are going to have questions -- I think you will find some news in the speech and you'll want to talk through it a little bit. And we really want to do that after the speech is --

Q: There will be no early morning briefing?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I do not anticipate it. It's conceivable it will change, but the anticipation right now is we'll do two briefings tomorrow; one is probably going to be right after the speech and the other will be later in the day to walk through the bilaterals.

Now, the President has just gone into the Latin American reception a little while ago. [Name deleted], whom you know, is here to give you a little sense of the bilats and the schedule for tomorrow, and then I'll talk a few minutes about the speech.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi. As [name deleted] just said, the President is meeting with the Latin American delegations right now. He is actually hosting a small reception for the heads of those delegations. He hopes to have the opportunity to spend a little bit of time during this session with the Nicaraguan President Violetta Chamorro, with the Salvadoran President Cristiani, and with the Bolivian President Sanchez de Lozada.

He's going to use this reception as an opportunity to stress the importance that we attach to the Western Hemisphere, the community of democracies here. He's going to reiterate his commitment to NAFTA and to spreading the free trade areas throughout the hemisphere. He is making some welcoming comments.

Tomorrow morning he meets with Boutros-Ghali and then he will meet with the U.N. General Assembly President Insanally from Guyana. At 11:00 a.m., as you're aware, he will give his speech, from probably 11:00 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. After that, he will meet with the U.S. Mission staff here at the United Nations.

Tomorrow, for lunch --

Q: Will there be an advance text of the speech?

MS. MYERS: Don't hold your breath.

Q: The State of the Union speech? (Laughter.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The people working the teleprompter, will they have an advance copy? (Laughter.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You'll probably get an advance copy of the health care speech for tomorrow. (Applause.)

Q: Gee, [name deleted] made a funny. (Laughter.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There are no pressing deadlines, at least there are not very many pressing deadlines tomorrow morning. I would imagine you probably won't get an advance copy of the speech. It's possible.

Q: Well, there are 700 P.M. newspapers in America.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, they're very important papers, and we'll -- (laughter).

Q: But they're dying, [name deleted]. (Laughter.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Tomorrow in terms of the bilaterals, he will be having a bilateral with the Japanese Prime Minister Hosokawa. As you're aware, he met with Hosokawa during his trip to the G-7. And they will obviously be talking about a number of trade issues, about issues related to strengthening the relationship on a security front in the Far East. And they will be working to some extent on the JapaneseAmerican framework agreement on trade. As you're aware, there were meetings in Hawaii this last week in that regard.

He will then meet with the leaders of the three Baltic states. He'll be talking to some extent about the question of Russia troop withdrawals. And he'll be discussing expansion of relations, especially from the standpoint of encouraging further movement toward free markets there and democratization.

He'll be talking with President Gaviria from Colombia after that. He'll be meeting with Prime Minister Hariri from Lebanon. And then following that, he will be meeting with President Chissano from Mozambique.

We will have a briefing after the speech, which will address not only the speech, but some of the key elements that are being addressed there. And we're also looking, as you're aware, at a press conference with the President and with Prime Minister Hosokawa from 4:15 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. tomorrow.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Tomorrow's speech -- I think most of you know this, but some of you haven't been following it, tomorrow's speech really ought to be seen in the context of the three addresses that have been made this past week by Secretary Christopher, Ambassador Albright, and the National Security Adviser Tony Lake.

As you know, Tony Lake, in his address last week, laid out a broad philosophical framework for American foreign policy in the post-Cold War period; made a very emphatic case that this was not a time for withdrawal, but it was a time for the United States to remain engaged and to move toward a new concept in foreign policy, as the old concept of containment and has faded because of the end of the Cold War. He argued the time had come for a policy of enlargement, to enlarge the circle of democracies and market economies around the world.

And I would urge you if you have not done so already, if you have a chance at least, I think you might want to take a look at that speech as well as the other two.

Secretary Christopher -- as you know, particularly those of you at the State Department, most of his speech was devoted to the Middle East and what the role of American foreign policy and the kind of engagement we would have there. But he also talked about the principles of engagement, of when we would engage and when we would not. He made it clear that multilateral institutions were an important part of American foreign policy. It would continue to be an important part of foreign policy, but he emphasized as well that the United States would always act in its national interest; there would be times when we would turn to multilateral organizations; there would be a time when we would turn to regional organizations; and most emphatically, there would be times when we would act unilaterally.

If you look at Madeleine Albright's speech, it discusses in some detail the conditions under which the United States would be active partners in peacekeeping efforts at the United Nations in particular, and it discussed some of the American interests.

There has been a push here, as you know, by the American side to say, look, we need to bring our payments up to speed, we want to end the arrearages, but at the same time we think it's important that the United Nations undertake some internal reforms, and that we see that as -- that is, it becomes important in our politics and it is and important part of what the American government believes. Just as there's been an effort to American government, the reinvention project that the Vice President has undertaken, that it's time for the United Nations to undertake some reforms of its own reinvention, if you will.

Now, the President's address tomorrow is intended to be a capstone to this series of speeches. It draws heavily upon many of the ideas there. And I think that together the speeches are intended to represent a very emphatic commitment to American engagement, to continued American leadership, to active American leadership in the world, and also to -- these speeches together start to lay out an agenda for the new era, for this post-Cold War era. And that's why I think it's important to see all of them in context.

There are passages in the President's address tomorrow which, in effect, are shorthand and draw you back in, if you've had an opportunity to read these other addresses. And that's why I've seen -- in one address tomorrow the President can't deal in detail with all the many issues that are raised. Therefore, I think if you see some phrases that are echoes of these other speeches. That's intentional and is intended to draw folks back into those other speeches and have a chance to look at them.

Now, where the President starts tomorrow -- he is the first President who has been born since the United Nations was founded. And so he does represent a new generation of leadership coming here. He indicates that, look, there are voices calling for -- now that the Cold War is over, there are many voices in the United States as in industrial nations calling for the great nations to pull it back in, to concentrate on the problems at home, and to engage in a neoisolationism. And he rejects that for the United States, says this is -- we cannot do that, we will not do that. He sees there's -- as you know, he has argued for some time that the line between foreign and domestic policy has evaporated. He sees this as part of a seamless approach to the world, and the United States, even as it engages in renewal at home, will remain actively engaged overseas. That's a major thrust of the early part of the speech.

He then goes on to talk about what the overriding purpose of American foreign policy will be in this new era. And the overriding purpose is going to be to enlarge the democratic forces and the forces of free markets around the world; that this is going to be the central goal of what America's trying to do. It will be an active effort. And he hopes that others will -- others have already, obviously, participated in that. He urges the other industrialized nations to join; that this is a critical part of what the future ought to be.

The speech after that then moves into a discussion of three major issues which he thinks could threaten that march toward freedom, if one might call it that. He think that there are three major overriding questions that the international community must face. The first is nonproliferation. And there will be some news, I think; I would anticipate on that front. And if that's what you'll especially want to get a briefing on. We'll have a fact sheet tomorrow to work through that. But he identifies a number of practical measures to deal with three things: the problems of plutonium and highly enriched uranium; secondly, ways to strengthen technology control -- missile technology control regime; and thirdly, a comprehensive test and what he would like to see done on that.

So that's the first issue that he sees possibly blocking the way, or blocking the way toward a more democratic and freer world.

The second issue is that of --

Q: Comprehensive test -- what did you say there?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't want to go into detail on these.

Q: Just repeat what you said.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, I'll just repeat what I said. I said first of all, the issue of plutonium and highly enriched uranium -- the problems arising from that. I have for the first time learned they call it fissile materials -- is that correct? You have are the experts and know more about that. I don't think the word fissile is in the speech.

Second was to strengthen the technology controls with regard to the missile technology control regime. And thirdly -- let me just see -- I have the latest draft and I will -- let me just pull this out for a second.

Q: pass it around. (Laughter.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I thought I might do that, but since it may well change, I know you would not want an incomplete draft. Let me just see where we are here. Hold on a second.

Q: We'll take what we can get.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I know that, too. The comprehensive ban on nuclear testing -- as you know, negotiations have already begun on that under the United Nations auspices. And essentially, the President is renewing his call on other nations not to test. I think the news really is going to be more in the earlier part of what I suggested.

Okay, so that's the second issue -- the first issue. The second issue is conflict resolution. There's a discussion in the address about the role of the United Nations in that. It has -- many people, I think, are probably not interested as well as they might just how expansive a role the United Nations now has in peacekeeping operations. In 1987, there were some 20,000 blue helmets around the world. There are now over 80,000 in some 17 different areas. And the President expressed his support for that. He thinks in many instances they have done a superb job. He cites their humanitarian efforts in Bosnia, and says even though the conflict rages on, the U.N. forces there are feeling a great deal of courage.

And he also reaffirms -- this is not a major portion of the speech and I want you to understand that going in. Bosnia does not occupy a large section of this speech. I think that, as you well know, we're likely to be discussing that in more detail in weeks ahead, or at least that issue now is -- Tony Lake had an interview today, you might have seen it in Reuters -- talked with a Reuters reporter on the tarmac coming in. You saw the piece in The Washington Post on the lead story today, which was largely correct.

The President reaffirms that the international community, including the United States, must be ready to help with effective implementation of a peace accord in Bosnia if it meets certain conditions. He does not, in this speech, address those specific condition. Understand that going in.

He also talks to a degree about Somalia. You know what the American views are on that, the latest views -- they've been expressed in the last couple of days. And it does not take into account -- this is not the kind of speech where one wants to discuss, for example, the shooting down of the helicopter or that sort of thing. This is a broad visionary speech about what the postwar agenda should be.

Now, the last point I just want to mention -- I said there were three issues that he discussed in this speech after making this commitment to American engagement, to the enlargement of democracies and free markets. The third has to do with the humanitarian efforts and especially this new agenda in the world that this President has devoted a good deal of his time to, along with the Vice President, and that is to addressing the questions of sustainable development.

There is a -- he points out that he and the Vice President in their campaign promised the American people that, if elected, they would push for a new policy in this area, both on the environment and on population. And he discusses with the folks there what he is doing there.

One other last point. I believe that -- whether they will be there or not, I'm not sure, but there has been a suggestion that some of the families of the victims in the Pan Am 103 may be in the hall tomorrow. The President does make a reference to that, as well as to the terrorists in the Pan Am building. As I think some of you know, a deadline is rapidly approaching October 1 with regard to the sanctions. And if those identified in the Pan Am 103 have not been turned over, the United States will push for sanctions later this week. And the President makes reference to that. So I wanted to draw that to your attention.

Let me stop there and take any questions. I'm not going to have a lot of specifics because we will be doing that tomorrow. We're not going to do the whole speech tonight.

Q: China and does he mention China by name?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It does not mention China by name and we'll go into that. In fact, I'll have probably almost nothing to say up here. We'll go into that with greater detail tomorrow.

Q: Not to ask you what's in the speech, but is what he says on the whole issue of proliferation a result of finally having finished the review on the proliferation policy and completed a presidential directive on that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: My colleague, I'm sure, will have a more precise answer than I would -- and he shook his said to say yes. That's very precise, right?

Q: Not directly on the speech, but why is he choosing at this event where he's sort of center stage himself, to do this joint appearance with the Prime Minister of Japan? What's the reason for doing that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He's only had one opportunity, as you know, when he went to Japan to meet with the Prime Minister -- he was not Prime Minister at that time. This is a very useful opportunity to have a chance to talk to him. And we'll have something -- there's a joint appearance that they have tomorrow, I believe, when that is competed.

By the way, I misspoke on one thing -- on the Pan Am 103. After -- if they have not been turned over, we're going to be pressing for additional sanctions. I left out the word additional.

Q: I know there's a follow-on of the three speeches, but also I wonder if it's also in any part a follow-on on the speech that was made a year ago by President Bush when on behalf of the United States, he responded to Boutros-Ghali's agenda for peace and made certain obligations, or agreed to certain -- to do certain things for peacekeeping and American participation in peacekeeping in a future peacekeeping regime, which, as you know, is the subject of some controversy. Will this, in any way, follow on, or enhance, or go back on Bush's words to the United Nations at this time last year?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In answer to your question, all I can report to you is that -- and I have been present in a number of the speech discussions here in the last few days, and in none of those discussions has that issue arisen. There's been no -- now, in the minds of some of those who have been working from the National Security Council side, I can't tell you whether that's there or not.

I think there's really been an evolution, as you know, in the peacekeeping since President Bush was here. I think this is more a response to the current environment and where we may be going or not going in Bosnia, as the case may be. And we obviously have this operation under way in Somalia. Some of these operations have done extremely well, and the United States has been trying to address more fully just where does the United Nations peacekeeping fit in? You know, when do we do it, when do we not do it? Under what conditions do we do it? Should there not be -- and this is one of the things that has been said this past week, and one of the things the President wants to talk about tomorrow -- should we not ask some tougher questions before a mission is undertaken, rather than after it is already underway. You know, before the United States commits troops in a unilateral action or, say, in a NATO action, there are a lot of tough questions, as you well know -- military and political types of questions, which one runs through. And the desire of the United States is to ask more of those questions.

If you are going to run this extensive of a peacekeeping operation as we've seen, as the United Nations has gotten more fully involved at, can't this be organized in such a way as you have a more rapid -- can't you have a center somewhere which can deal with overnight questions, in effect, more command and control. This speech will deal with this -- not in this detail, but this speech will talk about that some tomorrow.

Q: So the visionary really is the issue, because one peacekeeping operation throughout President Bush's speech that it's a couple of months later he put troops in Somalia, and now we're wrestling with that. I'm trying to find out whether we are looking for a way out of Somalia or a way to satisfy the obligation that President Bush began there.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We've always wanted a way -- we always wanted --

Q: certain other Somalias.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I understand what you are saying.

Q: not ask tough enough questions now?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are asking, let's ask tougher questions before we go in about what it is -- this is not with particular reference to Somalia. This is a reference in general to peacekeeping. In this discussion in here, there is no particular reference to Somalia.

Let me just say, there is more than one sheet of paper passing around about the number of blue helmets, or peacekeepers that the United Nations has out now and today. I've seen one piece of paper earlier today that said 20,000 as in 1987. I've been given a correction by Don saying there were 9,800. Is the correction -- the correction is the correct number. I stand corrected.

Q: Around the world?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In 1987, around the world. And could you give us --

Q: there now?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, no, today there are 88,000 -- the number has changed according to some of the operations as people come in or go out.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Drawing down in Cambodia, for example, now. So it's between 80,000 and 90,000.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right, but it is more than --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's about 10 times more --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: But it is about 10 times what it was before. And only six years ago.

Q: Is that issue not going to be linked directly to Bosnia either? I mean, it sounds like that's --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would just say -- some have asked whether this was going to be, quote, a Bosnia speech tomorrow. I am just trying to guide you off that.

Q: No, I mean this particular issue of introducing more peacekeepers and asking a lot more questions about when they're going to withdraw.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The United States has already indicated the question of whether NATO -- and it might be the force, if there is a peacekeeping force in Bosnia.

Q: Will the President mention that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It is not discussed in the speech at this moment. I would also caution that the speech may well change before tomorrow morning. I am just trying to give you the broad brush.

Q: Ambassador Albright said in her speech that some of the aspects of American participation and assistance to peacekeeping were still being reviewed. Have those reviews been completed?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can't answer that question. Do you want to answer that question? Did you hear the question?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I didn't think -- no, I didn't think that -- that's right. I will tell you that as discussed with regard to Bosnia, that those discussions are still underway within the administration. But the conditions -- I think that they're -- I would suggest you take a look at that Washington Post piece for a pretty good sense the kind of conditions that are being discussed with regard to Bosnia. The piece that was in today.

Q: That official in The Washington Post says that the U.S. went into Somalia without an exit strategy. Are you disputing that assertion?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that was -- yes, that was the last administration -- is that what you're asking, whether the last administration -- I can't blame anything on the --

Q: Did the U.S. commit troops to Somalia without an exit strategy?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I have no response. Why don't you ask somebody else that tomorrow. I have no response to that.

A couple more questions and let's move on.

Q: How blunt is he in his criticism of the U.N. in his -- I mean, how forward, direct is he in talking about let's ask these tough questions?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's not intended to be a blunt speech. But it is intended to be a speech that asks -- starts asking -- well, that asks important questions, as well as trying to -- as I said, if you look at the group of speeches, they start to lay out an agenda for the post-Cold War period as the most complete statement, I think, that this administration has made about trying to present not only a coherent sense of what the American foreign policy is in the Clinton administration, but the kind of agenda that the President wants to set for the years ahead. So I think it is important to see all these speeches in context of that. They do link together. There was a fair amount of thought given prior to the first speech of how they might link together. And -- somebody's disagreeing with that? But they are intended to be read in that way.

Now, I don't know whether we're going to have Sandy or Tony here tomorrow, but one will be here, I hope, shortly after -- probably Sandy, because Tony will probably be in the bilats. And we'll try to do whatever -- the best kind of readouts we can or do a briefing.

Do you anticipate, Dee Dee, a briefing here, a full briefing, or are you going to do briefings to the pool?

MS. MYERS: On the bilats? Depending on how timing works out, we'll do a briefing here sometime around 1:00 p.m. and then we'll either brief the pool on bilats and we'll get a pool report, or we'll do one here.

Q: When the President talks about these free market forces, does he intend specifically to refer to NAFTA?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, and there's specific reference in here to NAFTA and to the GATT negotiations that are underway right now.

Q: Will there be a reference to Russia at all?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, and in terms of the -- within the democratic -- the effort to shore up democratic forces and help enlarge the democratic circle, there is a specific -- a short discussion. I mean, this speech is, after all -- you can't say everything in one speech. But there is definitely that. And as you know, that aid package is -- I think we're expecting to get that signed here in the next few days.

Okay, thank you very much.

Q: Not before we leave here?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, not before we leave here.

END7:05 P.M. EDT

William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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