Press Gaggle by Senior Administration Officials on the President's Trip to Europe and the G8 Summit
Aboard Air Force One
En route Prague, Czech Republic
Steve Hadley, National Security Advisor
David McCormick, Deputy National Security Advisor
Dana Perino, Deputy Press Secretary
10:56 A.M. EDT
MS.PERINO: Good morning. We're on our way to the first leg of the President's and Mrs. Bush's trip to Europe. I brought two guests with me today: the Sherpa for this trip for the President and Deputy National Security Advisor, Dave McCormick, and then National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley. They're going to have brief comments for you and then they'll take questions, and I'll wrap up at the end with anything else.
The President had his normal briefings today. He also spoke by phone for several minutes with Saad Hariri, and Mr. Hadley will give you a readout of that call.
And just one quick scheduling note for Mrs. Bush, tomorrow, Tuesday, at 10:30 a.m., there are three events where there could be press coverage. Her first, at 10:30 a.m., she is going to participate in a tour of the gardens of the Prague Castle. At 11:20 a.m., Mrs. Bush will participate in a tour of the Lobkowicz Palace. That is TBD press, and Sally McDonough, her press secretary, tells me she'll have more on that hopefully before we land, or soon after. And then at 1:45 p.m., she will have a tour of the Strahov Church, and that will be pool coverage, as well.
So I'll turn it over to Dave, and then to Mr. Hadley.
MR. McCORMICK: Just a quick summary on the summit. This is a great opportunity for the President to meet with some of our closest allies, a number of old friends and some new friends in the mix, with the new President of France and Prime Minister Abe and others.
When we sat down with the President a number of months ago and talked about the summit, there were four objectives that we had identified for the United States in the lead up. The first was to really put an emphasis on and solidify the President's performance-based development agenda, the whole foreign assistance portfolio and everything he has done there, and work with our allies in very important and effective ways in that area.
The second was to reinforce the support of this critical group of countries for the global war on terror. The third is to ensure transparency and openness and continued growth in the international economy, the global economy. And the fourth was to make real progress in laying the groundwork for an effective post-2012 energy security and climate change framework.
And the Sherpa group has been meeting over the last five or six months on this agenda, and I think it's fair to say that we're going to make real progress in all of these areas. I think we're set up here to have a very constructive and positive discussion across all these topics. The President's announcements last week on PEPFAR and his call for reauthorization to double the commitment to PEPFAR; his announcement of an education initiative; his development agenda more broadly, that he laid out; as well as the climate change and energy security proposal he laid out -- we think all are within the context of a very productive and constructive set of discussions we've already had, and we expect the President will have in the coming days at Heiligendamm.
So it's something we're looking forward to, and it should be a good set of sessions.
MR. HADLEY: The President talked with Saad Hariri this morning. Saad Hariri wanted to speak to the President; expressed his appreciation for U.S. support and leadership in the U.N. Security Council for the adoption of the Chapter 7 resolution last week that established the international tribunal to look into the Hariri assassination -- expressed his appreciation for that.
He also expressed appreciation for the support the United States is providing to the Lebanese armed forces as they deal with the security challenge associated with the refugee camp, where they're engaged in dealing with extremist forces around that camp.
Those were the two topics that were really covered in that conversation.
Q: When was this phone call?
MR. HADLEY: This morning.
Q: On Air Force One?
MR. HADLEY: Yes, it was at about 7:35 a.m.
Q: You said Mr. Hariri asked for the phone call?
MR. HADLEY: Saad Hariri asked for the phone call in order to express his appreciation to the President on those two points.
Q: Did he ask for any other kind of help from the United States?
MR. HADLEY: There is ongoing cooperation between the United States and the Lebanese armed forces to identify additional requirements that they need. Some of those have already been provided; some will be provided in the future.
Q: What has been provided?
MR. HADLEY: Assistance, in terms of ammunition and things of that sort. There are some military requirements. We can get you some more specifics on that.
Q: And Mr. Hariri asked President Bush for this?
MR. HADLEY: There are some additional items that are already under consideration that we are talking about with the Lebanese forces.
Q: Do you have any details on those additional items?
MR. HADLEY: I do not.
Q: Was this phone call -- was part of the phone call because Lebanon is seeking additional assistance?
MR. HADLEY: He called for two reasons: to express his appreciation to the President for the leadership we gave on the Chapter 7 resolution, and to express appreciation for the assistance we have provided the Lebanese armed forces. There is an ongoing process already to identify requirements that have already been satisfied and to identify additional requirements. That is being handled in DOD-Lebanese armed forces channels.
Q: Did you provide any intelligence to the Lebanese army in the effort?
MR. HADLEY: We can get that to you. The truth is, they don't need much intelligence, since this is an operation on their territory.
What they've needed from us and what we have provided, of course, is this assistance to their military as they deal with this problem.
I was to prefigure a little bit the President's speech tomorrow in Prague --
Q: Can I just ask you one more question on this? What did the President say to him -- what did the President say to him?
MR. HADLEY: We don't readout exactly what the President says. As you know, these are -- we treat this as a head of state call; we don't read out who said what to whom. We try to give you a sense of what transpired in the call, and that's what I've just done.
The speech tomorrow is going to be an effort by the President to take stock of where we are on the freedom agenda and the democracy agenda. He will, of course, recommit and use this as an opportunity to recommit to the freedom agenda, to the democracy agenda.
As you know, he feels that it is very important to have the principles of democracy out there as an alternative vision to the dark vision of the terrorists and extremists. He feels very important about that. But he also feels it's very important, given who the United States is and our founding on a set of principles for freedom and democracy, that the United States be the proponent of freedom and democracy, because a world where freedom and democracy are present is one both that is a more stable world, a more prosperous world, but a world in which America and Americans will be much more comfortable.
So freedom and democracy certainly is an answer to the ideology of the extremists, but also something that America has throughout its history promoted and that this President feels is important to continue to promote.
He has, as you know, met with a number of human rights, democracy and religious freedom advocates in the White House. He will talk about that tomorrow. He will have an opportunity tomorrow to meet with democracy advocates from all over the world. He will try and take a little bit of stock on where we are in the freedom agenda. He will not raise out individual countries; this is not to evaluate individual performances. But he will talk about those countries where freedom has really not yet begun to make any inroads -- places like Cuba and Burma, North Korea, for example.
He will talk about countries where -- particularly in the Middle East, where we have a start on the freedom agenda, but obviously there is more to do. He will recognize that countries need to move at their own pace and that democracy in countries is going to reflect their own cultural and historical background.
He'll talk a little bit about the challenge of promoting democracy in countries -- big countries, in particular, where we have a complex relationship and a number of interests -- countries like China and Russia; so he'll talk a little bit about that.
But it's an effort for him to reprise the theme, the importance of the freedom agenda, recommit to it, have an opportunity to meet with democracy and freedom advocates, and then take a little stock about where we are in the promotion of the freedom agenda, recognizing and reminding people that he said in his second inaugural, set as an objective, ending tyranny in our world. And he continues to believe that is a good business in which the United States should be engaged.
Q: Can I ask you two -- Russia questions? One thing, Russia in with China now -- lumping Russia in with China and talking about a complex relationship. I mean, normally, the President has used that term mostly for China, and now he's talking about Russia in the same terms, as well. Can you comment on that? And then, also, this sort of increasing rhetoric from Putin -- is there a need at some point soon for a different response to all this from the White House?
MR. HADLEY: Well, we'll need to hear what the President says tomorrow, but I can say to you that certainly I and Condi, Secretary of State, have talked about Russia as being a complex relationship, a country with which we have -- so that's not new. We've talked about Russia as a country in which we have some common interests, areas where we can work together: the war on terror, countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cooperation on Iran. We've also talked about areas where we disagree and where we have disagreements, and where we are in efforts to try and narrow those disagreements, manage those disagreements, or, if possible, find common ground. We obviously have disagreements on the way ahead on Kosovo. We spend a lot of time with Russia on that. And we've also talked about how there are no exceptions to the freedom agenda.
So, obviously, when we look for the progress of freedom and democracy, we look for the progress of freedom and democracy in Russia and China, recognizing that those countries obviously make their own decisions. So I don't think there's anything new there.
I think what we've seen, in terms of this discussion now, President Putin's remarks yesterday focused a lot on missile defense. You know, the missile defense issue is something where we have had a lot of conversations with the Russians. We pre-briefed them at several levels about the proposals we had for missile defense cooperation in Europe. This is a subject that the President and President Putin talked about over a month ago. He promptly sent Secretary Gates to meet personally with President Putin, to talk to him about this subject, and to offer wide-ranging cooperation between the United States and Russia on missile defense.
We think this is a natural area of cooperation because we both face potential threats from rogue states armed with ballistic missiles and seeking weapons of mass destruction. So we tried to -- we've had lots of consultations. We will have an opportunity to continue those consultations. The President will meet with President Putin on the margins of the G8. The two of them will meet in Kennebunkport here, early in July.
The point of this is we are a member of a security alliance with NATO. We have a commitment to the common defense of NATO. Remember, an attack on one is an attack on all. If we are defending ourselves against potential ballistic missile threats from rogue states, we feel we have an obligation to help extend that protection to Europe, as part of our alliance relations.
So this missile defense cooperation we're talking about, involving the Czech Republic and Poland, is all about threats to Europe from rogue states and others. It is not about threats -- it is not about and does not pose a threat to Russia. Hopefully, it is also not about threats from Russia. Indeed, this is not about encircling Russia or anything else -- quite the contrary. We have been transparent with Russia on missile defense and our thinking, and we have on many occasions over many years tried to get Russia to cooperate with us on missile defense because we think it is a natural part of our counterproliferation.
Q: He's talking about aiming missiles at Europe. I mean, that's really taking it to a new level, right? What's the response?
MR. HADLEY: We think there has been some escalation in the rhetoric. We think that is not helpful. We would like to have a constructive dialogue with Russia on this issue. We have in the past. We'll have an opportunity to continue it. But this is an effort to help our NATO allies deal with threats not from Russia, but from rogue states. And as I say, as part of an alliance, we feel an obligation to be helping our allies defend themselves against the same threats for which we are defending ourselves.
Q: If the President mentions Russia in his freedom speech tomorrow, though, he's just going to add fuel to the fire, isn't he, essentially? And the rhetoric isn't going to get calmed down.
MR. HADLEY: I think you will find that the President will handle this is in a very responsible way. This is not a new issue. We've talked about the issue of democracy in Russia many times over the last several years; it's been an issue of discussion. I don't think this will be viewed as anything particularly new.
The speech is not about Russia. The speech is about the freedom agenda, an effort to step back, look at progress, recommit to it, that's what the President wants to do. And the President also wants to use the occasion of this conference which he will attend to reach out to and show his support for those individuals who are fighting for democracy and freedom in their countries. That's the purpose of the speech.
Q: Is there a sense -- in this recommitting, is there a sense that the freedom agenda has been overlooked, that there's a need to draw new attention to it?
MR. HADLEY: No, I don't think so. The President has continued to talk about it. We have continued, and the President has continued to meet. And I think you'll see in a fact sheet tomorrow he has met with dissidents, human rights advocates, religious freedom advocates from many countries where freedom is very much at risk and not making the progress we had hoped.
Obviously, you know, if you look at what we're doing in Afghanistan and Iraq, helping these countries establish free and democratic societies, and the commitment we are making there, I don't see how you could consider that any diminution of the effort. And, finally, the President has been talking about freedom and democracy as an antidote to the ideology of the terrorists almost every time he makes a speech on the war on terror.
MS. PERINO: You might mention the venue tomorrow and the conference that Sharansky is hosting, where the President is speaking.
MR. HADLEY: Dana is going to add something here. Go ahead.
MS. PERINO: I just wanted to mention that the venue where the President is speaking tomorrow, it is a conference on democracy that is being held --
MR. HADLEY: Our hosts are Jose Maria Aznar, Vaclav Havel and Natan Sharansky. Thus, in addition to meeting with the officials of the Czech government, that's one of the reasons the President wanted to stop in the Czech Republic. They asked him to speak to this conference and the President accepted and wanted to be able to do so; he thought it was a good venue to remind people of his continuing commitment to the freedom agenda.
Q: If he's going to mention Russia and China, is he going to mention Egypt, which you've not talked about?
MR. HADLEY: He will do a survey of where we are in the freedom agenda, on really a global basis. It's not to hold out any particular country, but he's going to give kind of a tour d'horizon of where we are in the freedom agenda.
Q: What effect would failure in Iraq have in the shorter, medium-term on the freedom agenda?
MR. HADLEY: Well, the President has talked a lot about that. Failure in Iraq would be success for al Qaeda and extremist elements that have an ideology that could not be more different than freedom and democracy. We saw what that ideology looks like in practice when Afghanistan was under control of the Taliban: the oppression of women, the curtailment of education, the harsh rule of which they imposed on the Afghans. It would be a huge setback for freedom.
And, of course, the problem is a base of operations in Iraq would allow al Qaeda and other extremist elements to destabilize regimes in the region, which, of course, would be a huge setback to the freedom agenda. I cannot think of anything more antithetical to the President's vision of freedom and democracy than the ideology of al Qaeda.
Q: What is the likelihood of reaching some kind of an agreement at the G8 on climate change? You and the Europeans seem to be fairly far apart on what the goal is -- at this particular meeting.
MR. HADLEY: I'll take a crack at that, and then let David talk about it, because he's the guy who's actually going to bring the agreement at the meeting.
I think actually what you've seen over the series of meetings, the U.S.-EU summit, the President's meeting with Tony Blair, the work that David McCormick and the other sherpas have been doing for the last several months is an increasing convergence. And I think we're in a position that there's a lot more in common, in a way, than there is in disagreement. Let me just point out a couple things, and I'll turn over to David.
One, there is a commitment now that this is a problem that needs to be addressed. There's no disagreement about that. Secondly, there is an understanding that there needs to be a global goal, and there needs to be a process for developing that global goal. Third, there's an understanding now that the emerging countries, the developing countries -- countries like China and India -- have to be part of the solution, and they need to be in the process of developing overall goals and a process going forward.
Fourth, there is an agreed framework for thinking about this that is not just about climate, but climate is part of an inter-related set of problems, about assured energy supplies, about economic growth, about sustainable development, so that India and China don't have to choose between development and greater prosperity for their people and handling the environment and climate. And, of course, environment and climate being the other two aspects of, really, five inter-related areas that need a common strategy.
There is a notion now that we need a process. The President has identified a process for going forward. There is a commitment that countries need to develop their own national plans that reflect their own particular situations, but need to do that in a transparent way since we all have now a stake in trying to make progress on this problem.
So what we would hope is that the G8 -- this is part of a process, it's not an end of a process. We would hope that the G8 is an opportunity for us to consolidate where we agree, to talk about a path forward, next steps, can talk about how to bring these major emitting countries together and to plug the outcome of this effort into the overall U.N. framework, which we support, and which is a way for the whole international community to plot a way forward.
So we think there is a real opportunity to consolidate and continue to emphasize the consensus, to mark the areas of commonality and set out a framework going forward.
MR. McCORMICK: That's it. That was perfect. (Laughter.)
Q: Aren't you upstaging Angela Merkel? Traditionally she would, you know, be able to sort of bring this issue in and make it kind of --
MR. HADLEY: It's not about upstaging Angela Merkel. Quite the contrary. The President -- and when we called people in advance of the President's speech here last week, one of the things we said to them was this is an effort by the President to be constructive and to make a contribution to the dialogue. It is not an alternative to anybody's plan. But it is an effort to identify a way forward. And, quite frankly, it's an opportunity for Angela Merkel to preside over a very successful G8, which can do just what I said: consolidate the increasing commonality of our approach and chart a way forward.
So this is an effort to try and make the G8 a success, and if the G8 is a success, it will be a success for Angela Merkel and Germany. And that's something the President very strongly supports.
Q: Why do this the week before? Why wait until the last minute and then just bring this on? Why not let her introduce this and then work -- since you said it's an issue of coming together and working together, why say it right before the President leaves for the trip?
MR. HADLEY: A lot of these pieces we had been talking about informally. David has been sort of doing some missionary work on these pieces. Some of the things we've done already, in terms of the work that's going on, for example, in a separate forum, with Australia and China and India.
So I think what you need to look at this is as sort of a culmination of the process. But one of the things that you can do when you give a presidential speech, is everybody suddenly takes notice. And our hope was this would actually catalyze a coming together, which could then be embodied at the G8. And that was our judgment about how the best way to do it.
Do you want to say anything?
MR. McCORMICK: No, I think the only thing I would say is that the discussion and the plan that the President outlined was very consistent with promoting the Chancellor's broader goals, in terms of bringing the major emitters in, in terms of getting a global goal, in terms of moving forward on a post-2012 framework. So what the President laid out there very much helps push forward and hopeful energizes her agenda.
And then second, the speech was really, as Steve said, a culmination of a lot of discussions and a lot of work among G8 members, among countries outside the G8, a lot of internal discussions. And, really, our hope was to be able to be in the position to talk about this publicly before the G8, to really give it life and hopefully allow the summit and her leadership to be that much more successful in pushing this issue forward.
Q: Can I ask just one more question on missile defense? What will the President say to leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic to reassure them, given the fact that Putin has upped the ante and is talking about, you know, aiming missiles at Europe?
MR. HADLEY: Well, he's going to go there and obviously he's going to thank them for their support and for their willingness to make this contribution to not only their own security, but to the security of Europe.
These countries are having their own dialogue and discussion with Russia on this issue. The President of the Czech Republic, President Klaus, was in Russia just two or three weeks ago. So there have been a lot of discussions. This was the subject -- obviously, it's not just a U.S.-Russia issues, of course. The EU-Russia summit here two or three weeks ago was an opportunity for the Europeans to deal with President Putin directly on this and a number of other issues.
So this is an ongoing discussion in many different forums. But it's certainly one of the things that the President will talk to his counterparts in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Q: Thanks a lot.
MS. PERINO: Anything else for me? No? Good. Okay.
END 11:22 A.M. EDT
George W. Bush, Press Gaggle by Senior Administration Officials on the President's Trip to Europe and the G8 Summit Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/275353