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Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Following Discussions With Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany

June 08, 1990

The President. Well, let me just say in the beginning here that we were delighted to have Chancellor Kohl back at the White House for a small dinner -- one more step in the very close consultations that the United States has with the Federal Republic. We are in general and, I'd say, firm agreement on how we both look at Europe now. And once again, Chancellor Kohl, it was a pleasure having you here, sir. And thank you very much for your courtesy in coming to us this soon again. I'm very grateful to you.

The Chancellor. Mr. President, thank you very much for these warm words of welcome. This was a very good opportunity to meet with you only a few days after your meetings with President Gorbachev, on the occasion of my short visit to New York and to Boston -- the University of Harvard. And I should like to make use of this opportunity to thank you, Mr. President, for the friendly and very effective support which you have shown to us once again -- to us Germans -- during this visit. After all, we're seeing an historic hour here in world politics, in European politics, in the whole process of German politics, and it is of particular importance at this particular point in time that the relationship between the United States and the Europeans, also between the Germans and the United States, and particularly between the two of us personally, should be so excellent at this very point in time.

And let me say how pleased I am that, again today, we were able to work together, to work also in the whole field of preparation for the NATO summit meeting, to prepare also for our meeting during the world economic summit meeting in Houston, Texas.

I think we can now expect you to ask questions. I should like to ask you for your understanding; I have only limited time because I fly back to Germany. And you know what a pleasant experience it is to fly by night.

German Membership in NATO

Q. Mr. President, during your talks, were you able to come up with any options between the two of you that would allow Germany to remain in NATO, as you've insisted, and, at the same time, some kind of options that would calm the Soviets' worries, give them assurances about the things they're concerned about?

The President. Well, I think Chancellor Kohl and I agree -- clearly we agree on Germany, a united Germany, remaining as a full participating partner in NATO. There's no difference of even nuance between the Federal Republic and the United States on that point. We also agree that the Soviets have understandable interest in all of this.

But we did not try to fashion, Rita [Rita Beamish, Associated Press], some compromise at this juncture; but we will be talking about an expanded role for NATO. I will be consulting with Chancellor Kohl before the NATO meeting, and then at the NATO meeting, we will be talking to the other leaders in NATO about how we lay to rest any concerns that the Soviets might have by having an expanded role that certainly will be seen to be as unthreatening to the Soviet Union. But we had no formula that we agreed on. Now, maybe the Chancellor would like to add to that.

The Chancellor. First of all, I should like to underline that our position, the position of the President and my own position, are completely identical as regards the question of membership in NATO for a united Germany. To me it is totally clear that membership in NATO for a united Germany is of existential importance. Any singling out, any neutralization, always means isolation. And out of the isolation of Germany, which happened during the twenties, a lot of bad things came about. We want that the unified Germany is part of NATO, part of the community of free nations, and part of the European Community so that in both cases we are bound in and that we are under no circumstances in any way isolated.

Secondly, I actually think that we're on a good way now, in spite of all the discussions. I've never expected that this important question could be solved overnight. I have always said the internal aspects, the intra-German aspects, must be settled until unification and the external aspects. That, after all, is the purpose behind the two-plus-four negotiations -- the negotiations, the talks, which united the two German States, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. And we have always said we will need two to three rounds of talks. And we have just now completed the first round. But our objective will remain, and we stand a good chance that this will be possible to complete this by fall.

And of course, we as Germans, as a matter of course, are in this whole process also going to bear in mind the Soviet security. And it's going to be important that NATO and the Warsaw Pact meet in a good atmosphere. The President has already made proposals, and we're going to talk about this. I'm optimistic that a good message is going to come out also in this sense from the London NATO summit meeting.

The President. Is there a question from the German press?

Visit of Prime Minister Lothar de Maiziere of the Democratic Republic of Germany

Q. Chancellor Kohl, did you talk about the first coming visit of the East German head of government, de Maiziere? Did the President ask you about your opinion? You do know de Maiziere quite well.

The Chancellor. Yes, of course, we did talk about this -- a matter of course.

The President. Let me simply add that he will be cordially received here in the White House. We're looking forward to that visit, and I think it's just one more step that demonstrates the magnificent changes that have taken place over the past year and a half. So, he will be well-received here in the White House -- he and those with him.

German Membership in NATO

Q. Mr. President, in the wake of the Baker-Shevardnadze talks recently this week, and as the Secretary has just returned, do you hear anything new from the Soviets in terms of their willingness to swallow Germany's staying in NATO?

The President. I don't think anything to report on that. But I think as these talks go forward -- the talks we had with Mr. Gorbachev here, the talks that Jim Baker had with [Soviet Foreign Minister] Shevardnadze over there -- I'd like to think we can be very helpful in narrowing the differences that we all know exist. I felt, without being able to document it, that we narrowed the differences at Camp David.

But it is my intention to continue to try to convince Mr. Gorbachev that there is no threat, indeed, to the Soviet Union from a united Germany in NATO and, indeed, in a NATO that has an expanded political role. And I think Jim would like to feel -- I don't want to put words in his mouth -- that perhaps he made some progress in this regard. But for the U.S. side, we're going to just keep on pushing to that end because it is the right answer and it is not threatening to the Soviet Union.

NATO's Purpose and Strategies

Q. Mr. President, Chancellor Kohl -- to both of you -- you both have made reference to the upcoming NATO summit meeting in July. Do you anticipate that out of that summit meeting there will be a clear statement of new purpose for NATO, perhaps fundamental changes in the alliance's military strategy, on the subjects of no first use, forward deployment, that sort of thing?

The Chancellor. We're working on that. And of course, this summit meeting is being met with great expectations; and we're trying to fulfill them because the world, after all, has changed very much, if you think of the fact that we saw the Warsaw Pact summit meeting just recently happening and that within the normal rotation procedure which is applicable there Lothar de Maiziere was in the chair of that meeting.

The President. To that I would simply add we are determined to more clearly define what we're talking about. I wouldn't look for the final and only answer to come out of that summit meeting. We've got a lot of consultation between now and then. But I think what we'll see emerging after the NATO summit is a common direction for this expanded concept. But I don't think, Frank [Frank Sesno, Cable News Network], that it's going to be every "t" crossed and every "i" dotted.

Upcoming German Elections

Q. Can I ask the Chancellor if he has reached an agreement with the East German Prime Minister about the date of the election for January, as has been reported?

The Chancellor. There is no agreement to this effect at the moment because we are in the habit of doing our work stage by stage, taking it as it comes. And our most important job of the next 2 weeks is going to be to see in the People's Chamber in the GDR the state treaty ratified and to see to it that it is also ratified in the German Bundestag and the Bundesrat. And I'm convinced that both Parliaments are going to ratify that treaty. And then, as of the 1st of July, we're going to see the deutsche mark introduced in the German Democratic Republic and also a market economy. And that, of course, obviously, is going to have enormous consequences. And very soon, out of that, discussion is going to evolve. And I'm waiting for that one, and I'm very calm about it. And it's only fair and reasonable that here the German Democratic Republic should have the first say. But the election is going to be soon. That's what I think.

German Troop Levels

Q. Chancellor Kohl, would you be willing, as a way out of the impasse over the size of the German army, to offer voluntarily some limits, some ceiling on the size of the German army, to the Soviets as an assurance?

The Chancellor. The strength of the future German army is not a private matter to be decided only by Germans; it's a question which is of enormous importance for the overall security configuration of Europe. And I'm strictly against any going it alone by the Germans -- assuming a single or separate course. What we need now is more and more confidence and trust, and trust and confidence can only grow out of friendly consultations.

And of course, hidden behind your question is also a question directed against the Warsaw Pact and NATO. And that is to say it is a question which is connected with the Vienna negotiations. And we, the Germans, are ready to participate in a reasonable solution for the future.

German Membership in NATO

Q. Mr. President, you and Secretary Baker and Chancellor Kohl have all expressed some optimism that you could somehow reduce the Soviets' fears of a unified Germany. Can you be specific, sir, on why you have reason to be optimistic that your differences are narrowing?

The President. Because the facts are on our side. I mean, I don't think anyone inside the Soviet Union would fear -- with the changes going on in the Soviet Union, I think it's much more likely we can find common ground. Secondly, I think that Mr. Gorbachev himself accepts the concept that U.S. forces in Europe are stabilizing and not threatening. So, you have these two points to build on.

And I can't be too specific on it, Ellen [Ellen Warren, Knight-Ridder], but I just have the feeling from some of the things that were said not just at Camp David but in that Cabinet Room over there -- that they understand that. They also paid some lip service, gave some credibility to the idea that a country could decide what alliance it wanted to be in. So, these points make me feel that we can, indeed, make progress and convince Mr. Gorbachev and his associates that the solution that we strongly favor is not threatening to them, indeed, will be the most compelling in terms of adding to the stability of Europe.

And you're seeing other countries in Eastern Europe begin to accept that concept -- some enthusiastically. So, I think we're making progress, but I can't make a prediction as to how totally successful we're going to be. But we're going to keep on trying because the facts are on our side: A united Germany in NATO will not be threatening to the Soviet Union. A U.S. presence will not be threatening to the Soviet Union. So, we've just got to keep on making our case. Do you want to add to that, Helmut?

The Chancellor. No.

The President. Well, thank you all very much. The Chancellor must fly on to Germany, and I must fly on elsewhere. [Laughter]

Note: The President spoke at 9:05 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. The Chancellor spoke in German, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

George Bush, Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Following Discussions With Chancellor Helmut Kohl of the Federal Republic of Germany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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