Bill Clinton photo

Background Briefing by Senior Administration Officials

September 27, 1993

The Intercontinental Hotel

New York, New York

1:12 P.M. EDT

MS. MYERS: The following is a BACKGROUND BRIEFING. [name deleted], whom you all know, will lead off. [Names deleted]

So here is [name deleted].


I thought we'd just take literally two minutes and -- a few minutes to underscore what -- the three or four key objectives that the President was seeking to convey today at his UNGA speech.

First, the speech was had the objective of affirming clearly for both a domestic audience here in the United States and a worldwide audience that despite the end of the Cold War, despite the attentions that we are paying to our domestic renewal, the United States will, must, remain actively engaged in the world; that American leadership is essential for ourselves and for others. I think that is a message that is, he felt, important to state again to the American people and to state clearly as President to the international community.

The President pointed out that, in fact, our own focus on our own self-renewal is important to the world, at the same time that our engagement in the world is important to our own domestic well-being, whether it is the growth of democracy in Russia or the GATT or NAFTA.

The President was, I think in this part of the speech, saying very, very clearly to the voices of the right and the left who seek to have the United States at this point retreat behind our borders, behind walls, that we simply cannot afford to do that. So I would describe that as point number one.

Point number two the President was seeking to emphasize was that in this hazy post-Cold War period, when the defining purpose for American foreign policy over the last 50 years -- that is containment -- has been achieved, the President described the animating vision of American foreign policy in this new era to be the enlarging of the circle of market democracies in the world. We do that, he said, by revitalizing our own economies and expanding world trade, by providing support to nation democracies, by isolating nations that engage in lawlessness, terrorism, et cetera, and pursuing our humanitarian instinct in the world.

The third point the President emphasized was the instruments that we choose to pursue those goals, whether they are multilateral or unilateral; proceed not from some preconception or ideology, but from a pragmatic judgment of what will work best, what will advance our interests. The President made clear that we reserve our right to act unilaterally when that is necessary, but I think in this speech he also reaffirmed the value he places in a U.N. that is seeking to realize its founding purpose in a very different world.

Finally, the President laid out what, in his view at this pivotal point in history, are three of the great challenges that can cast shadows over achieving the vision of expanding freedom. First, the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and announced today a new initiative for controlling materials that are used to produce nuclear weapons; reaffirmed our commitment to negotiate a comprehensive test ban; accelerate implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, biological weapons convention; new steps with respect to controlling missile transfers -- missile technology transfers, and reform of export control law.

The second challenge, the President said, was to strengthen the ability of the international community to address the conflicts that have surged as the heavy hand of communism has been lifted. The President endorsed several initiatives to make the U.N. more capable as an institution to deal with peacekeeping. He committed the United States to be current and pay the roughly $400 million that we now owe in arrearages to the U.N., but also said that he will seek to continue to push for a reduction in the assessed contribution of the U.N.; didn't use the numbers, but the current contribution is roughly 30.4 percent -- not roughly, it is 30.4 percent. We have argued that it should be 25 percent.

And third, a renewed American leadership to deal with the problems of -- the threat of these storm clouds that obscure the achievement of the world of greater freedom is what is happening to our environment. The President very strongly affirmed America's commitment to lead in this area of a global environment, a position we have not always had in the past several years.

So I would say in general, I would describe the speech as a broad assertion, and the broadest assertion since becoming President, of America's commitment to international engagement, even at a time of domestic focus; of our larger purposes in the world; of an extraordinary moment of opportunity that we enjoy and the continuing threats that we face.

Q: Would the U.N. mission to Somalia have met the test that the President seemed to be setting, the criteria of an exit strategy and cost evaluation, if those decisions were being made today?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think you have to look at the Somalia mission in at least two other points of time. Number one, when President Bush initially made the decision to go into Somalia, it was a situation of extraordinary need. The government had collapsed. I think a judgment was made that the benefit, the cost ratio, so to speak, was extraordinarily high, and that this mission could be accomplished in a relatively confined period of time.

The second point of time was in May when the United States passed off the obligation, basic responsibility for the mission from the United States to UNOSOM. That was also a time in which there was an agreement among the parties to a political reconciliation process, to a cease-fire, and I think the view at that time was that the U.N. could complete its mission in a reasonably short period of time.

As events began to unfold in June, as it became clear that at least one party to that Addis agreement sought to subvert it, the question now remains as to how we continue to bring our forces down -- and they have come down from 28,000 to less than 5,000 -- in a way that does not leave behind the likely prospect of the very anarchy that brought us into Somalia in the first place.

So we are looking back on Somalia, we are not looking at Somalia --

Q: There was a point when you decided to go along with the continuing mission, though, wasn't there? Isn't that what you asked him about?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, let me make clear that we're in Somalia in two capacities, as you know. We're in Somalia as part of UNOSOM in which there are a few thousand American soldiers basically providing a logistical capability. Those forces continue to be drawn down as we subcontract -- as the U.N. subcontracts a lot of those logistical services to civilian contractors. And we would hope that that process would continue to go down.

We also have in Somalia -- we continue to have in Somalia a quick reaction force of several few thousand, which we had hoped to have out of Somalia earlier than this point. And as we can restore stability and order to Mogadishu, or bring other forces into that city that can accomplish that mission, as we get a political process going, we would hope to continue to be able to draw those forces down.

Q: Are you going to say that this process was to some extent -- the four questions that he enunciated today were born to some extent of the Somalia experience?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that you learn from every experience.

Q: Is that a yes?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think we are in a period of the last two or three years in which the old rules of the game don't mean much. The old way of defining things don't mean much. And I think that the United States and the U.N. have to continue to evolve, has to continue to be smarter and better and more effective in terms of the way it operates. And one of the things the President was saying today at the U.N. was institutionally, let's build a headquarters U.N. operation here that can be more effective in these missions, whether we participate in them, or not.

Q: Can I take you to Bosnia?

Q: What about the exist strategy for Bosnia? How do you make sure that the failure of the Bush administration, which some of your colleagues are suggesting existed that there was no adequate exit strategy for Somalia, that that doesn't repeat itself in Bosnia?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that's something that we are very, very conscious of. If there is a peace agreement that the parties reach and endorse, if it is a real peace agreement and not just a peace of paper -- let me finish --

Q: Is there a peace agreement that they could endorse that wouldn't be real?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me finish this and then I'll come back to that. I think the President today said that, as he has in the past, that we would participate in implementing it, but we would have to answer, I think, those questions. I think we would have to answer those questions to the American people. We would have to answer those questions to ourselves, and we would have to answer those questions to the Congress.

And among those questions are, what is the mission? How does it end? What is the exit strategy? There's no question that those are questions that would have to be satisfactorily addressed in any such undertaking if the President decided to go forward.

Q: Well, I just want to -- just to clarify. You made a distinction between an agreement that all the parties would freely agree to and I forgot the next caveat, but one that we thought was real --

Q: real and not a piece of paper.

Q: Yes. I mean, what is the -- can you imagine --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's not a dramatic new idea to -- that is, we've said all along that we want to see an agreement that -- the parties seriously entered into. Peace presumably looks different than war.

Q: I realize that. But can you imagine -- are you saying that there is a conceivable situation that these parties would all agree to a peace agreement, and you would look at it and you'd say, this doesn't look real or serious to me?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There will be a -- if the President were to decide to go forward in implementation of an agreement, there would be a period in which such an implementation would unfold, during which there would be events on the ground that would, I think, tend to provide evidence as to whether or not this was a serious agreement.

Q: It would be a testing period, is what you're saying?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't want to get into any more discussion of circumstances surrounding Bosnia. I think the President has made clear that we are not here seeking to erect unrealistic conditions, but we certainly want to answer the questions, the touch questions that Congress -- that we ourselves and that the American people will expect us to answer. And one is whether it appears that the parties are serious about this.

Q: Is there someone that could answer a nuclear question, or do you want to take it on? The business about --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's somebody that can answer, yes.

Q: Well, can I just try the business of -- how are you going to discern what's weapons material from civilian material? How do you propose -- the U.S. doesn't produce this stuff anymore. What, follow our example --have the U.S. and Russia working together and then say to the rest follow our example; have everybody come in? If you wait for everybody to come in, of course, you'll never get there. What is it you have in mind? It, frankly, looks like a throw-away line, unless you can develop it and tell us more about what you have in mind.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What we have in mind is a comprehensive approach to the whole problem of fissile materials -- not just plutonium but also highly enriched uranium. There are lots of elements that can go into this. The first element, as enunciated by the President today, is a multilateral convention that would ban the production of all these materials for weapons purposes or outside of international safeguards.

That's new. As you noted, last year the United States said as a matter of policy, we would never do that again. Now, we're calling on all nations to do that. That's important because it eliminates one of the discriminatory aspects of the whole international nuclear materials scene.

Q: Which countries would be affected by that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This would be a multilateral convention open to all countries.

Q: But, obviously, you have certain countries in mind. Who is continuing to produce these --

Q: A score of countries, right?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It would include all the nuclear weapons states in the first instance; and of course, we're interested in other countries that are continuing their own activities. And we are particularly worried at the moment about South Asia where we have two countries that have embarked on unsafeguarded programs.

Q: How would this be enforced?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This would be an international convention that would have transparency measures. We have to talk to our allies about the specific form of those transparency measures. Obviously, we have the International Atomic Energy Agency at the ready if we want to call on them to do that kind of verification. That's a possibility. But we need to discuss that with our partners. We are just now laying it out.

But if I could just finish, there are other pieces of this that are important. A second element is that the United States will now for the first time declare some of its own material that have been part of our nuclear weapons stockpile as excess to our national security needs -- not needed for our deterrent. This is a critical point because we will now expose these materials to international safeguards. That's very important in establishing the credibility and the nondiscriminatory aspects of this proposal.

Furthermore, in addressing the problems of these large existing stockpiles of both highly enriched uranium and plutonium, in the case of highly enriched uranium, you know that we're trying right now to purchase large quantities of that from Russia. And we will not only do that for Russia, but we will try to mop that up wherever we could find it, because with highly enriched uranium, there is an economic answer, which is you can blend it down and convert it to reactor fuel.

Plutonium is much harder. We don't know definitely the best way to deal with this very dangerous substance. We are now, as part of the President's proposal, talking about a serious comprehensive review of long-term disposition options for plutonium. There are host of elements, but the important thing is we are highlighting this now as a critical area that needs to be addressed in our nonproliferation policy.

Q: One more thing -- I don't want to monopolize, but can you do a couple of sentences on the missile technology, the four countries that he spoke of successfully working out deals with. Is this all space launch or are there distinctions? What did you do with them?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: With those four countries?

Q: Yes.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: With those four countries, we have gotten all of those countries to adhere to the MTCR guidelines. And we are now working toward -- you are very familiar with the Russian-Indian missile deal. Argentina and Hungary are also coming into the MTCR, hopefully in the next month or so.

Q: Are we going to allow IAEA inspection of our materials as an incentive?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I wouldn't say it as an incentive. It's to set an example that shows that United States materials are not exempt from this kind of international inspection. We would hope that other nations would follow suit.

Q: What I'm asking is, are we going to allow all of our materials to be inspected, and why not?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are not at this point proposing that all of our material be inspected. There are a couple of reasons why. One is that as long as this country maintains a nuclear deterrent, we have to keep some of those materials in the national defense stockpile. Another thing is we have to be very careful that much of our nuclear materials are in the form of nuclear weapons components. We cannot allow international inspection that would have the effect of transmitting nuclear weapons design information to others. So we've got to work through, again, some of the details on that.

Q: Could you elaborate a little bit on what the President meant by talking about reforming our own system of export?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have -- he was referring to a comprehensive approach to export controls as well, which has a number of elements. You all recall his April 23rd statement where he talked about reforming COCOM, transforming it from a regime that was oriented in an East-West direction to one in which we can enlist the support of our former adversaries to fight new problems in proliferation. That's one element.

A second element is a general streamlining of export controls that have not kept pace with technology. For example, in some of the very high-tech areas where we find technology generations much shorter than policy generations, we have to catch up. And we're in the process of doing that. That's the second element.

The third element is putting our own house in order and being responsive to the needs of exporters who put in a licence application; they're entitled to some kind of fast and efficient response to their request. And we have got to look to our own house and make sure that we are responsive in that regard.

Q: Speaking about our own house in order, can you tell me why the President did not include conventional arms, since most people getting killed these days, in the Third World especially, are getting killed with conventional arms and the United States is now the biggest exporter by far of conventional arms to the Third World?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We will be taking a serious look in the coming months --

Q: I understand you've been taking a serious look in a review for sometime

We will be taking a serious look in the coming months at --

Q: I understand you've been taking a serious look in a review for some time and that the President might have said something about the results of that review today. Could you tell us something what's going on?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me say two things in terms of the results of the review that you're hearing about today. One, we are going to continue to promote within regions confidence-building measures. We're going to promote widespread acceptance of the October 1991 London guidelines on conventional arms transfers. And that's one element. We're going to keep pursuing those kinds of measures.

But secondly, we're going to launch a broad-scale review that takes a look at the new situation we now find ourselves in -- shrinking defense budgets, shrinking export markets -- difficult problem, dangerous weapons that can fall into other hands. But this is an issue that you'll appreciate that has many cross-cutting interests. And we are going to take a thorough look at it.

Q: Is this a new review or is this just another part of the older review that's been going on?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This would be essentially a follow-on.

Q: now sell --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't have liberty to tell you that. I should go over to the --

Q: Who are you and what's your job?


Q: Do we put senior in front of you?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Dan is the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the NSC office of Nonproliferation.

Q: How much of what the U.S. owes the U.N. is the President saying that he's going to pay up shortly? Is it just the peacekeeping bill, is it back dues?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President was talking in the speech today about the peacekeeping bill. We have roughly -- well, roughly $400 million, something less than $400 million in arrears. We are hopeful -- in peacekeeping. We are hopeful that when the state appropriations bill is completed I believe this week, which provides roughly $400-plus million -- that exact figure has not yet been determined -- we will be able to be current with our peacekeeping obligations to the U.N.

But, I should point out, that this is a continuing problem and a case that's going to have to be made very strongly with the Congress because there will be additional obligations that are incurred from this point forward. And we have been looking very seriously internally about how we organize ourselves to do that and we'll be working very strongly with the Congress.

Q: What about the rest of your obligations?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Do you want to speak to the other nonpeacekeeping obligations?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There are two other kinds of payments -- one is voluntary contributions where there are --

Q: Can you identify yourself?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not a summer intern. I'm Douglass Bennet, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, which has an acronym. What was the question? (Laughter.)

Q: What is not being -- tell us what you're not paying now?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The voluntary contributions don't produce arrears by definition. Then there is the basic assessment for the organization where the United States fell into arrears on purpose in the early '80s and where the Bush administration made a determination that we would pay up gradually, ending in 1995. Those base budget arrear payments are just about on schedule at this point. We'd hoped to get a full appropriation this year --

Q: How much is that on? How much money?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll have to give you a number --

Q: It was a billion, though, wasn't it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll have to get you the figure. It's not as high as $400 million now. But just by chance.

Q: The U.N. today said $500 --

Q: You're talking about two categories, right? You're talking about the assessments and the dues, basically, aren't you?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The assessments for peacekeeping and the assessments for basic dues.

Q: Are the percentages the same on those two categories?


Q: I'm sorry, I still don't know how much is in back dues the U.S. is paying back by '95.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can't give you an exact figure, but we will be able to by the end of this meeting.

Q: It's not a billion dollars.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's not a billion dollars. If you project the peacekeeping obligations we expect to incur through this next year, that total could reach a billion dollars less than what we will now pay. So it is about $600 million projected for '94.

Q: made off the difference of the U.S. share?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're proposing to make up -- I mean to pay the U.S. share. What is, in fact, happening is that troop-contributing countries are not being paid now.

Q: The President said in his speech we don't have enough money anymore and other countries have more. Who is he talking about?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There are countries whose per capita incomes have gone up substantially since 1974, when the present formula was adopted.

If you expand the Security Council to include Japan and Germany, and if you redistribute the burden according to per capita income, you will come out at about 25 percent. We think that is fair.

Q: So Japan and Germany are the countries he had in mind?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Japan and Germany and the other countries I mentioned.

Q: Who makes the decision? When you say you want to have it lowered to 25 percent?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: A group of countries whose per capita incomes have gone up substantially since 1974.

Q: Such as?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: A lot of new industrializing countries.

Q: Can you name a few of them?

Q: Who makes the decision? How is that decision made? Does a vote have to be taken?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It would have to be a decision by the General Assembly.

Q: Is the administration prepared to narrow the --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I have been asked by a senior press official to remind you all that this a background briefing of senior administration officials.

Q: Is the administration prepared to narrow the mission in Somalia, as Senator Nunn suggested yesterday ought to be done?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the President has said many times that we seek to complete the mission in a way that does not result in the anarchy returning to Mogadishu that started the horrible situation in the first place.

Q: The answer is no?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The answer is the answer I gave.

Q: Did the President speak to Boutros-Ghali at all, giving him any sort of limits or definitions on our participation in the peacekeeping mission in Somalia?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President met with Boutros-Ghali briefly before his speech. THey talked about a range of issues from the financial situation of the U.N., Bosnia, Somalia, Middle East. And I think Boutros Ghali is aware that all the nations of UNOSOM would like to get on with the business of political -- of the political process and resolve the disorder in Mogadishu as soon as possible.

Q: There's a story out of Washington today that the administration is considering sending 600 peacekeeping troops to Haiti relatively soon. What can you tell us about that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, as you know, the U.N. has passed a resolution last week indicating that -- authorizing a small U.N. mission in Haiti. That would include some police monitors, maybe as many as 500, which would not be Americans, as well as some military construction units who would be there largely to help with some military trainers in professionalizing the military and building a separate military and police. I think we said all along that we would be prepared to participate in that portion of the mission. It is not a large number of people.

Q: How many people?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Four hundred, 500, I don't know exactly.

Q: From what unit would they be --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They would be military trainers and construction units.

Q: In discussing the strengthening of nonproliferation, the President today seemed to put a stronger or higher role on using trade and technology as sort of a carrot and stick way. If you help us with nonproliferation we will open trade and the offer is being applied. Is this new linkage, stronger linkage, is this something that we ought to construe as a warning to China that next year we're not going to be as easy on them on Most Favored Nation status? What did he mean when he said, you know, that trade and technology are going to come into play?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think there is an inextricable link between nonproliferation and trade. One of the ways in which we promote a nonproliferation regime is by restraint from suppliers with the technology that enables countries to build weapons of mass destruction. I think what the President is saying is we want to get rid a lot of excessive unilateral controls which the United States places on our business alone, which have very little effect, therefore, in denying -- in promoting nonproliferation, but are outdated and simply hurt American business; concentrate on those technologies where we can gain an international consensus; that these are the technologies that are most dangerous and try to deny those technologies to the nations which are engaged in nuclear or other programs.

So I think that's what -- there is a very close link here, I think the President was emphasizing. I think with respect to China, I would go back to the President's May executive order in connection with MFN in which he said that we are going to deal with China on trade and nonproliferation issues through the normal statutes and instruments of American law that already exist. And we've already, as you know, in connection with the M-11 transfer, imposed sanctions on China under nonproliferation law, not under MFN. What the President said in May is that as he looks at the MFN decision in June, he will look at it in the context of overall significant progress on human rights.

Q: If China does explode a test, what would be -- would that change the President's view about the test ban treaty and our own testing?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President today was in a not so veiled way expressing his hope that China will not explode a nuclear test. If it does so, we would have to look at it in terms of its implications for both the effort to promote work on a comprehensive test ban treaty and our own internal requirements for the reliability of our stockpile. So we would examine the situation at that point.

MS. MYERS: There will be a fact sheet on nonproliferation which we will distribute here very shortly.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END1:47 P.M. EDT

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

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