Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials
The Conrad Hotel
8:40 P.M. (L)
MR. GEARAN: The President arrived, having slept on Air Force One for five hours, to begin his day here. He arrived in Brussels, having spent time, as you know, in Arkansas, and has been then discussing with all of us informally the services that were held for his mother. Many of his friends from around the country, his college roommates, friends and colleagues from around the country came into Hot Springs for the services. And he greatly appreciates certainly the outpouring of sympathy that has been extended to him from across the country and, indeed, across the world.
His return here to Brussels -- as he mentioned, he was here initially as a Governor, and returned several times in the interim. In our stop before we arrived here, the impromptu stop -- he had been here in 1989 for the National Governors Association, leading a delegation of 10 governors -- had stayed in the area of the cafe that he went to and wanted to stop by for an impromptu cup of coffee.
Upon arrival, he met alone at Laeken Castle for nearly 30 minutes with King Albert II. According to Belgian protocol, all meetings with the King are held in strictest confidence and discussions are never divulged in public -- something we may want to continue when we return back to the States.
The bilateral meeting that he had was attended by Secretary Christopher; the Chief of Staff Mack McLarty; and Tony Lake, the National Security Advisor. They discussed the Partnership For Peace, the combined joint task force, the European economic integration in Zaire. The President and the Prime Minister then met separately for 15 minutes or so, although the topics they discussed were generally the same.
The President was able to rest for a couple of hours this afternoon before reviewing his speech that he reviewed with Tony Lake and others. And I think he would believe that after another good night's sleep this evening he is anxious to join the NATO meetings with our other 16 allies tomorrow.
We will now get right into both tomorrow and an overview of today's events with my colleague.
Q: Is this on the record?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, this is, once again, your friendly Senior Administration Official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Because that's the only name I know to answer to after all these months.
If you -- maybe another -- Helen, for you another ground rule also, which is that if you agree with what I say and think it makes sense, that's what the President believes; and if you don't agree with what I say, it's sleep deficit and you can throw it away.
Let me say something first very -- I'll be very brief -- about the speech. It was laying out not only a preview of the NATO Summit, but the general theme for the trip as a whole. And that is a vision of a new security in Europe. This is a moment of extraordinary strategic challenge and opportunity. And as the President said, he believes we need to move towards a new security in Europe.
As he said, the old security was based on a defense of our bloc against their bloc. The new security seeks the military and economic and democratic integration of all Europe. And the speech laid out in those three areas practical ways to work towards that integration.
Let me pick up a bit of an argument I was having with a friend afterwards. It is much easier to achieve a consensus about the old security than it is about the new security. It's much easier to summon people to the ramparts against a clear central danger, as during the Cold War, than it is to lead them down the avenues of integration, as must be done in the post-Cold War era. But the President will try, and he has laid out a vision for doing so.
It's really wrong, also, it seems to me, to speak only of this as a time of opportunities, because if we fail to pursue that vision of integration, then we will face very real new dangers in Europe over the coming years. A Europe that is redivided and insecure, a Europe that has failed to seize the economic opportunities before it, and a Europe in which the democratic tide to the East has started to ebb rather than flow. So you will hear repeatedly the President call on the Europeans and on Americans and on our friends to the East to pursue this vision of integration.
As in the Partnership For Peace, we will be preparing for dangers while we try to seize opportunities. Or, to paraphrase the President, we must prepare for the worst to try to build for the best.
Let me say something very quickly about the schedule for tomorrow and the issues that will be discussed, and then my colleague will talk about the economic side and the prospects for economic growth and integration.
Tomorrow's events will begin with a meeting between the President and NATO Secretary General Woerner. He will then meet with our military commanders in Europe. And then the formal proceedings of the NATO summit will begin. There will be three working sessions at NATO headquarters Monday morning, Monday afternoon and again on Tuesday morning. And there will be two more informal discussions that will take place during lunch and again over dinner. And at the end of the summit on Tuesday morning, then the President will hold a press conference at NATO Headquarters.
During the course of the discussions -- and I've talked to many of you about the substance of this at length, and I won't repeat it here -- but the general issues that will be raised all as a part of trying to adapt NATO to the new strategic landscape in post-Cold War Europe will be, first of all, to launch the Partnership For Peace -- and we can talk about that a little bit more later if you wish -- secondly, to take steps within NATO to support the development of a European security and defense identity in a way that reaffirms NATO as the linchpin of current and future European security; third, through the creation of combined joint task forces to create more flexible military structures for potential post-Cold War missions and to create, then finally, a new framework within NATO to help counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
My colleague is here -- and again, since you've heard me, many of you so often, on the Partnership now -- who could talk more about that as we get into your questions. But first, my colleague on economic opportunities before us.
SECOND SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. I think I'm older than you -- I get to be more senior than he does because I'm older. (Laughter.)
The President, of course --
Q: Is this on background or on the record?
SECOND SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, this is background. I think the same rules apply. It's just I was referring to my age. (Laughter.)
The President, on Tuesday, of course, meets with the leaders of the European Union. Much of that discussion -- certainly not all, but much of it will be on the economic issues we face, including trade. As you know, we worked together with the European Union to reach a market access agreement in Tokyo, and then, of course the successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round. But we had the implementation process coming, which is critical. It involves everything from market access in goods to market access in services.
Now I have an hour and a half on services. I know Bob Novak wanted me to do that tonight, and so I'm going to do that. You'll have to sit here and listen to every word I have to say about that. (Laughter.)
But that is part of the three -- the triad the President talked about tonight. It's political and it's military and it's economic. And they are mutually interdependent, and it's the way in which the President has talked about since his American University speech on February 26th of last year, how we're going to meet the third great challenge this century, which is in the post-Cold War world. It's not just economic or not just military or not just political, it's all three. And you heard that theme again tonight, which I think is not only visionary but also critically important.
It's not just the -- as my colleague said quite eloquently, not just the opportunities we have, it's all the responsibilities each of us have -- the United States taking the leadership, but also the European Community or Union, and the Japanese coming along with us to take their share of the responsibilities we meet this challenge of the post-Cold War world.
And so trade and economics obviously plays a vital part of this. The follow-up to the Uruguay Round is a critical part of that situation. And so his meetings on Tuesday with President Delors and others will help to push that forward.
Q: How close is the U.S. to an agreement with Ukraine on the withdrawal of their nuclear weapons?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have made, over the recent weeks, a great deal of progress -- and, indeed, over the last few days. We are not quite there yet. This is a tremendously important issue for obvious reasons. And we want to be very careful that we do not allow ourselves to be driven by any artificial deadline into achieving less than the most complete and best agreement possible. And we will not do so.
So as I said, I think we are almost there. There remains time to get it done, and we will have to see what happens.
Q: And is it still a possibility it could be done to allow the initialing of some kind of agreement either in Moscow or in Kiev if the President stops --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's possible, but we will have to see how we go over the next day or so.
Q: Are you waiting to hear back from them? Are you now in the position of waiting to hear back?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's, as you know, a three-way negotiation and messages are passing on all parts of the triangle.
Q: Is a London report of a deal of we give $12 billion and in return we get enriched uranium -- is that the way it's going?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Without my blackboard here, it's very hard to describe it, because there are -- when you look at the finances involved, there are different aspects to it -- some private money being paid for uranium; some government underwriting of the deal; some financial transactions between Russia and Ukraine. It's very complicated. And what I'd rather do is wait and see when and if we get a deal to talk you through it then.
Q: How close is NATO to ordering air strikes in Bosnia?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is a very serious situation. The NATO warning against the strangulation of Sarajevo remains very real. We have been in touch with the Serbian government and other parties to encourage them to understand the seriousness of the situation. I don't anticipate that there would be any action within the next few days. But we have reminded the parties of the seriousness of the moment.
Q: Is this a warning that you've given them in the past 24 hours?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's been an existing warning all along. And we are reminding them that that warning remains alive.
Q: Has the U.S. made a judgment whether the Serbs have transgressed, have gone past the limits set forth by NATO in August? Has the U.S. come to a conclusion?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If you look at the pattern of fighting around Sarajevo and of the artillery action against Sarajevo, it's tended to come in spikes -- increases and then diminishing again and then a lower period and then another spike. We have clearly, in the recent days, seen a number of those spikes. I would note that the situation there now is still not as grave as it was at the time of the warning. But we are watching to see if this is simply another spike or something worse.
Q: Isn't that gamesmanship? I mean, how long does it go on? Every time you give a warning, they lower --deescalate for a while.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the other part of that is to proceed with efforts to encourage a settlement that can put an end to that pattern, and that the European Union is working on with our support. And I think you will see in the communique a strong, serious statement about Bosnia.
Q: With all due respect, why should they listen or respect any of these warnings? Why should a new warning from us or NATO have any relevance to the Serbian government, given the track record of the past few months?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, if you look at, again, as I just said, the pattern of behavior in the past, there has been a response when we have reminded them of the seriousness of the situation. I should also note that I believe, based on reports I just got, that the airfield in Sarajevo has now reopened.
Q: As I understand it, as you well know, what happens is you issue a warning and then they stop and then the warning abates and they do it again. That's been going on, as your office has been telling us, for sometime. I understand that the French have specifically asked for air strikes, and that the Dutch Foreign Minister suggested air strikes, and that others in the Community -- in NATO -- have suggested air strikes and that the United States has been opposed. Is that true?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not aware of a formal request by another government at the summit.
Q: How about an informal one?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Informal also. I'm not aware of a request at the summit tomorrow to take such an action.
Q: not have the summit and not in Brussels -- such requests were made?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Not that I'm aware of.
Q: Under the U.N. agreement, could fuel rods supplied by the United States be used in Chernobyl? Under the Ukrainian -- any sort of Ukrainian deal?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me reserve that until we have any deal, if we do, to talk about.
Q: Is this now a matter of President Kravchuk getting an agreement from his Parliament or parliamentary leaders -- is that all that's left that's left to do?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I think this is issue among -- discussion among all three still. That would not be accurate.
Q: When you say you expect no action over the next couple of days, does that mean you expect no decision by NATO on air strikes? Is that what you mean?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't want to rule out a decision, although I'm not aware of one that is about to be made because let's see what happens. A fair question.
Q: Back to the Ukraine for just a moment. If you reach an agreement, does it have to go back to Parliament again? In other words, are you back in the same situation where you seem to have reached an agreement and Parliament can spike it again? What would an agreement need?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, let me save that for when and if we have an agreement. As you know, there are elections in late March, in fact, for a new Parliament in Ukraine. And we can talk about when it becomes, and if it becomes relevant.
Okay? Good. Thanks very much.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 9:00 P.M. (L)
William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269380