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Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With Chancellor-Elect Gerhard Schroeder of Germany

October 09, 1998


Q. Mr. President, the Serbs are threatening to retaliate against aid workers if NATO uses force. Any second thoughts, sir?

President Clinton. I think they would regret that very much if they did it. I think they know better than to do that.

Q. What do you expect from the German side?

President Clinton. Perhaps the Chancellorelect would like to make a statement about that.

Impeachment Inquiry

Q. Mr. President, is there anything you can do to speed up the impeachment inquiry on the Hill by agreeing not to challenge everything in the Starr report?

President Clinton. I don't have anything to add to what I said yesterday.

Q. Mr. President, have you had time——

Q. Are you in agreement on Kosovo?

Q. ——promises continuity. What do you expect——

President Clinton. He has something to say.


[At this point, a question was asked and answered in German, and a translation was not provided.]

President Clinton. Will somebody translate for the American press? I understood it, but I don't—[laughter].

Q. Well, then, you translate, sir.

Q. [Inaudible]—work on Kosovo?

President Clinton. Excuse me?

Q. Did you also agree with Mr. Fischer about Kosovo?

President Clinton. I don't know, I just——

Chancellor-Elect Schroeder. It's enough to agree with me.

President Clinton. That's right. [Laughter] I think—let me say—we had obviously spoken about Kosovo and that—we had agreed about the next steps to be taken, and you started to have them Monday in Germany. Is that right?

Chancellor-Elect Schroeder. Yes.

President Clinton. In other words, we believe the next step is that the NATO Allies must approve the action order, and what Herr Schroeder said was he expected that to happen on Monday. And he has talked with Chancellor Kohl; they talk back and forth together about this.

Germany-U.S. Relations

Q. What would you say about the prospects of German-American relations with the new government?

President Clinton. Oh, I feel very good about it. The United States and Germany have had a unique and profoundly important relationship for decades, and I believe it will continue to be very strong. I am very—personally, very excited about a lot of the ideas that Mr. Schroeder advanced in the campaign, things that he wanted to try in Germany. They bear some similarity to some of the things that I have tried to do here, that Prime Minister Blair has tried to do in Great Britain.

I think we are all trying to adapt our countries to this global economy, a global society, to reap the benefits of it, but to keep a human face on it, to make sure that this world we're living in really works for ordinary citizens more effectively. And no one has all the magic answers, but I'm confident that we need bold experimentation. We need to be trying new things. And I hope we can work together on those things. I'm quite excited about the prospect of doing so.

Q. No worries about the Greens?

President Clinton. I have enough to do to worry about getting America to do what we need to do here. That's Germany's issue.

Chancellor-Elect Schroeder. That's my problem. [Laughter]


Q. Mr. President, what happens if the Germans do not pledge troops for Kosovo?

President Clinton. Excuse me?

Q. What would happen if the Germans would not pledge troops—ground troops or air troops from our contingent for NATO action on Kosovo?

President Clinton. Well, let me say, first of all—and it's important that all of you—there are two separate issues here, as I understand it, and if I make a mistake, Herr Schroeder can correct me. The first issue is whether Germany will support NATO issuing the action order to make sure that the plans are in place and authorized if military action should be needed. That is what he has said yes to today.

We all hope this will not happen. The President of Russia sent three high-ranking officials of his government to Mr. Milosevic, and he made a lot of specific commitments to honor the U.N. resolution. Those commitments are not being kept today. He can still keep the commitments that he made to President Yeltsin and keep the commitments inherent in the U.N. resolution, and none of this will happen. But I am convinced that it's important that we authorize NATO to act. So that's where the agreement is.

Now, as I understand it, the German Constitution requires the Bundestag to approve any out-of-Germany military action, and that is something that will have to await the Chancellor assuming office later this month, and then we will see. I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment on that. It's enough for me right now that we are in agreement on the action order. That's all that matters today.

And I think we—in fairness to him, he's putting together his government. He's working out the understandings of the coalition. He's preparing to assume office. He has to make a wide range of decisions about new domestic policies. I've been exactly where he is, and I don't think we ought to add to his burdens today.

Thank you.

NOTE: The exchange began at 12:30 p.m. in the Colonnade at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany; Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom; President Boris Yeltsin of Russia; and President Slobodan Milosevic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With Chancellor-Elect Gerhard Schroeder of Germany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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