Bill Clinton photo

The President's News Conference With Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany

March 26, 1993

U. S. S. "Theodore Roosevelt"

The President. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Before we begin the press conference, I have a sad announcement to make. I have just been informed that five United States servicemen on a routine training flight with the United States ship Theodore Roosevelt have crashed at sea within a mile of the carrier. I want to express my deep concern over the accident. Just 2 weeks ago, I visited the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt and met the fine sailors and marines serving their Nation at sea there. I was profoundly impressed by their commitment, their dedication, and their professionalism. They made America proud. And I want to say that my thoughts and prayers are with the relatives and the shipmates of those five servicemen who are missing at sea.

Discussions With Chancellor Kohl

I want to begin by extending a warm welcome to Chancellor Kohl. We have had a wonderful visit. The personal chemistry between us, I think, was quite good. Helmut Kohl, over more than a decade of service in his present position, has proved himself time and again to be a true friend and staunch ally of the United States. Our peoples are closely linked with long-standing ties and common values. Our common bonds ensure that our two federal systems can learn much from each other. And indeed, I told the Chancellor that notwithstanding the persistent problems of cost in the German health care system, my wife had found a lot to learn from Germany.

We are working, our two countries, on the establishment of a project conceived by Chancellor Kohl and very close to his heart, the German American Academic Council, which will promote exchanges of people in the areas of science and technology and about which he might want to speak more in a moment.

During the cold war our two nations stood shoulder to shoulder in the common effort to contain communism in Europe. Today we must be leaders in the great crusade of the post-cold-war era to foster liberty, democracy, human fights, and free market economies throughout the world. If the world is to progress and prosper, the United States and Germany must work closely together. Our bilateral relationship is invaluable. Our relations are at the same time important in the context of the North Atlantic Alliance, the European Community, and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. In these three institutions, Germany serves as both an anchor of stability and a source of fresh initiatives to meet the challenges of our changing world.

A paramount challenge for the West in our generation is helping to ensure the survival of democracy and economic reform in Russia and the other republics of the former Soviet Union. Germany, as the largest single donor of assistance to Russia, has demonstrated its firm commitment to this historic cause. The United States and Germany must now strengthen our partnership on this effort and work both bilaterally and multilaterally to support Russian reform. The Chancellor and I discussed this issue at great length today.

I discussed with him the approach that I plan to take in the meeting with President Yeltsin at Vancouver. And I believe we are in agreement on the general approach. I know that we are committed to doing everything we possibly can to keep alive democracy and reform in Russia, and we believe it is in the immediate interests and the long-term interest of all of our people.

We also believe that the rest of the G-7 countries must cooperate with us and with each other to vigorously produce a program of support for Russia. We discussed in depth the troubling situations in Bosnia and elsewhere, and we conferred on trade and economics. We agreed that we must work hard to conclude the Uruguay GATT round this year, and we committed to work closely together in this endeavor.

As two of the world's leading exporting nations, the United States and Germany have a powerful interest in expanding global trade. I assured the Chancellor that the United States intends to remain politically and strategically engaged in Europe and to maintain a significant military presence on the Continent. The budget that I am fighting for in the Congress now would permit us to maintain a troop contingent on the order of 100,000 troops in Europe. We believe that American and European securities remain indivisible, and that the common threads of the post-cold-war era require common action. At the same time, we also recognize that each of us are reducing our defense budgets and must be increasingly responsible for our own defense needs.

Thirty years ago during his famous trip to Germany, President Kennedy toasted another great leader of the Christian Democratic Union and the German people, Konrad Adenauer, saying, "These are critical days." The President's pronouncement reflected his concern then for the survival of freedom and even humankind at the height of the cold war.

Today, thankfully the nuclear shadow is receding from both our lands. And the wall that divided the German people is gone. But I would say again, these are critical days, for the actions we take together now will help to determine the fate of democracy, the prosperity of our people, and the peace of the world. In that work I could not ask for a better partner than Chancellor Kohl or the German people. And I want to say to him, I am delighted with this first visit, and I look forward to working with you in the days ahead.

Chancellor Kohl. Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen. First, Mr. President, allow me to express my heartfelt sympathy on the loss and the fear, because we don't have any detailed information about the loss of life of five American officers. I hope very much that these soldiers may be able to return to their families safe and sound, because they serve the freedom and the security of their country, the United States of America. And without that service, there would be no freedom and peace and no reunification for Germany. And this is why I am very sad about the things that you have just had to present to us. And I should like to ask you to convey to the families of the people concerned my feelings of sympathy.

Ladies and gentlemen, today I had my first meeting with the President of the United States of America. It was a friendly exchange of views. It is something that can be easily said in English; the chemistry is right. You said so, and I am pleased to take it up, indeed, the chemistry is right. We touched. upon many issues, issues, many of which are very close to our hearts, at an important point in time of international politics, of European politics. And I was also able to present many things that are important to German politics.

American-German relations, to put it in a nutshell, are for us, Germans and for me personally, today equally important if not more important than 30 years ago. More than 30 years ago, when I was for the first time elected to the German Parliament, the alliance between the Americans and Germans, the European-American alliance, was much more matter of fact, because we lived under the threat and in the fear of the war. Remember the Berlin blockade, the Berlin Wall, many challenges that we had to master together, down to the things that happened under John F. Kennedy in Cuba.

Today, many of these people have been released. They're free again. But in Europe and in Germany, too, there are quite a few who believe that there were no dangers existent anymore now that the times are changed. For these reasons, American-German relations have become ever more important. The psychological environment has changed.

I said to you, Mr. President, and I should like to repeat this here and now, in this house of Europe that we are in the process of building right now—and I should like to go into greater detail on that later on—it is of existential importance for me, a German, that the Americans have a flat in this house; that the American soldiers and troops, the presence in Europe and in Germany, documents that they're not there for decorative purposes but to defend freedom and security of people. The fact that we eau further develop the relations in the economic field, and that includes that despite the problems that we have, we bring about a speedy and successful conclusion of the GATT round. This is something that we touched upon, too. We agreed on that we want to work on this.

You were so kind, Mr. President, to mention that in the cultural and scientific field, we have the intention to intensify relations between both our countries. You mentioned the German American Academic Council which is to be founded this year. I am very happy that you have agreed that once the necessary decisions have been taken in the next few weeks, we will found this economic council. This is important for the public in both our countries. It is for me very important that young Americans, that young Germans visit the other country, vice versa, that they get to know the people and their culture. To put it differently, Mr. President, that we plant many young trees so that we have a forest later on of things that we share, that we have in common.

I should also like to add for those who might have heard different reports on this here in the United States, there is no alternative for the Germans to a policy that makes progress with European unification—and we are the engine of this development—and at the same time, places great care and value on American-German relations. This is never an either-or; it has to be a this-as-well-as-the-other. Both include each other and do not exclude one another.

And I should like to say this. Because we are now confronted with a common challenge and major task, that is: We have to see to it that the spirit of reform, the willingness to establish democratic structures and a pluralist society, market economic structures in Russia and the CIS, is continuing.

I'm very grateful to you personally, Mr. President, for the determination and the courage that you have documented in the last few weeks in standing by Boris Yeltsin. I underline and subscribe to every single word that you said on this one, that reforms are successful in Russia. And both of us are aware of the fact that any type of setback will in the end turn out to be much more expensive than any type of assistance we have the intention of granting right now.

We have discussed many issues and items on our plate. The members of our staff will continue prior to the meeting with President Yeltsin and the American President to continue to discuss these matters. Then we have the G-7 finance and foreign minister's meeting in Tokyo, the 14th and 15th of April. We want to send a message to the people of Russia that the West, tinder the leadership of the Americans and the American President, will do everything in its power to see to it that Russia and other successor states to the Soviet Union stand a chance to walk on their own path towards freedom.

We, the Germans, and I outlined this earlier on to you Mr. President, as far as this question is concerned, are very committed, not only because we are neighbors of the former Soviet Union and the threat, if there was a relapse to form a dictator structures, would effect us first and foremost, but we do so because we have made our own experiences.

We were standing in the Oval Office looking at the sculpture of Harry S. Truman, and I was reminded of the importance that the activities of George Marshall and Harry S. Truman had for Germany when the zero hour when we were outlawed in the world. These two stood up, stood by us, and assisted us. These were the fathers of the Marshall Plan, of a moral gesture of coexistence and cooperation. And this, to my mind, is fair to say: A flourishing industry and country has developed, the former Federal Republic of Germany.

And if the Americans at that point in time had stood back and said, "Well what do we care? The Germans shall see what will become of it. And if something good comes out of it, we'll be proud to say we assisted, and if not, we will say, we've always told you so didn't we, and therefore we stood back."

This kind of policy, a policy pursued by Harry S. Truman and George Marshall rules a successful recipe for the whole of Europe, West Europe. And this is why I should like to tell my American listeners here that you can learn lessons from history. And with a view to what is happening right now in Moscow, I think the message is what counts. The message indicating in what way the big countries of the western democracies and market economic systems feel committed to assist.

Allow me also to say that we discussed in extenso, Mr. President, the developments in the former Yugoslavia. The Bosnian President happened to be here this morning, and we met briefly in the White House. We would wish to see that use is being made of all opportunities to see to it that a cease-fire occurs, that then peace can be reached. What is happening to the people there, day-in, day-out, belongs in numbers amongst the most terrible experiences of this very century. And here again, I'm happy and grateful, Mr. President, that you and your administration have taken a clear position on this.

Once again, thank you very much for this friendly reception, for the friendly and open talks that we had.

May I perhaps just briefly announce, Mr. President, that I repeat my invitation to you and to your wife to come and to visit in Germany, and that you were so kind, Mr. President, to follow that invitation.


Q. Do you think that President Yeltsin emerges from the constitutional crisis that seems to be easing there, weakened or strengthened? And how would that affect the aid that you would propose to send to him?

The President. First of all, I think it's important that we not place too much importance on the momentary event, the day-to-day events, not because they're not heartening today, they are, but because it's difficult to know what's going to happen from day to day now. I have said always that I am proceeding to the summit with President Yeltsin with the firm intention of working with him and toting to propose some things that the United States can join with Germany and the other G-7 countries. And doing that will be helpful in the short run and in the long run in promoting democracy and market economics and an improvement in the difficult economic situation they face. So I feel pretty good about where we are with it now.

Bosnian Peace Agreement

Q. Mr. President, how long would you give the Serbs to respond to the peace overtures, to the peace pact that's been signed by the two other parties? Would you favor imposing a deadline prior to lifting an arms embargo? And given the carnage in this place and the amount of arms that are there already, why would you even consider that to be a good alternative?

The President. First, let me say that you heard the Chancellor say President Izethegovic was here with us today. He met with the Vice President; then I went back to visit with him briefly. The Chancellor wanted to see him, too, so we just had an impromptu brief meeting.

This signing by the Bosnians has just occurred. We're going to do everything we can now to put on a full-court press, first diplomatically, to secure the agreement of the Serbs. We will do what we can if there is any delay whatever in trying to strengthen the embargo. The embargo has already been quite effective in causing some economic difficulty. We expect the United Nations to take up the enforcement of the no-fly zone within the next few days. We will discuss a number of other measures, including the arms embargo, with our allies. As you know, it's not simply a decision for the United States. But I think that the main thing is that we now have two of the three blocs having agreed that we ought to have this. The Croats have signed; the Bosnian Government has now signed. We need to keep the pressure on, and we will do what we can. I don't want to rule in or rule out a specific timetable or a specific action, because the developments are recent and the decision has not been made on the specific timetable.

Q. Mr. President, do you have any more reason to believe today than you might have earlier that our allies, particularly those who have troops on the ground there, would be more willing than they've been to see the arms embargo lifted?

The President. I'll say this. Our allies are now more eager to see the no-fly zone enforced. And I think that the international impatience is going to grow rather rapidly with the Serbs if they want to continue the carnage in Bosnia, when not very long ago they acted as if they thought this was a pretty good deal.

Aid to Russia

Q. Mr. Chancellor, you've seen or you've heard—the President presented his—or gave you a good idea what's going to be included in his Russian aid package. Do you see it as being adequate, sir, or do you think it will make a difference over there?

Chancellor Kohl. I think that indeed we have a possibility to cooperate. You may know that the Federal Republic of Germany has provided, by far, more than 50 percent of financial assistance to the states of the former Soviet Union. And I am very happy that the President has again taken a new initiative in the framework of the G-7, but going beyond that to wrap up a package of assistance to Boris Yeltsin and the reformist forces in the country.

And I believe that this package should contain three to four elements to put it in a general matter: bilateral assistance, multilateral assistance, then questions to provide relief goods to the country, but also specific types of assistance by way of providing help towards self-help. Let us think of the safety of civilian nuclear power plants in the former Soviet Union. In Munich, at the G-7 summit, we discussed that issue, too. And I'm very happy that the American President is taking up that idea to the question of the safety, you know, based on the experiences of Chernobyl, has turned out to be a central question touching each and every one of us; not a question that is restricted to Russia and the Ukraine but is addressed to all of us.

And if we take all these issues together and wrap them up in a package, I think we stand a good chance to be successful. And I would like to express my support to the President on this.

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

Chancellor Kohl. Well, the only thing that we did was that we exchanged the information on that—the Federal Government in case a decision of the Security Council will be taking-what the Federal Government will do.

German Constitutional Conflicts

Q. [Inaudible]—satisfied with that report to solve the German constitutional conflicts that way?

The President. I think he's been remarkably deft in his dealing with the issue so far.

Aid to Russia

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Will you go further than President Bush did in your aid package to Russia, such as including long-term concessional financing or government guarantees? And can we expect the size of the package to be larger or less than the $24 billion that was attempted last year but not completed?

The President. Well, of course, the package was not quite a $24 billion package. It was in theory that, over a long period of years. But if you go back and look at what was actually released, the Congress specifically appropriated $650 million in aid and an $800 million appropriation under the Nunn-Lugar bill to help to denuclearize Russia and the other nuclear Republics. Most of that money has not been spent yet. And I say that not as a criticism.

Let me back up and say one of the places where we started this discussion, in-house here, is to ask ourselves, what happened to the policy that was announced last year? What money has been appropriated and spent? What has been approved, but not spent? What are the problems? Are there any problems where the United States has not followed through? Are there problems where there are bottlenecks or failures in Russia? Are there problems because we said in theory we would support a few billion dollars in aid through international institutions, but Russia can't comply right now with the eligibility requirements for the IMF, for example? We analyzed all that.

And so, when we finally put together this package, which has not been done yet—I'm in the middle of congressional consultations and talking with people outside as well as inside the Government—we will have made an honest effort to assess what happened to the last proposal, what the problems were, how to get around them. And I can't yet tell you—we've not yet made a final decision on the dollar value, but I expect it will be broadbased and comprehensive.

Bosnian Peace Agreement

Q. The sanctions so far have just about wrecked the Serbian economy, yet there doesn't seem to be any deterrent effect on the military aggression. With the developments in Srebrenica and related communities, what makes the administration think that further sanctions will have any impact on Serbian behavior?

The President. I think the real issue is whether the cumulative impact of the events of the last few days will bring the Serbs to the signing table. That is, whether or not they really want so desperately to cleanse the Bosnian Muslims out of all their living space that they will defy now what is now for the first time, for the first time, the virtually unanimous opinion of all the governments that they will be in the wrong if they do not sign this agreement, which they had previously complimented. I don't know what's going to happen, Andrea [Andrea Mitchell, NBC News]. If I did, I would tell you.

But let me say I think we have a chance to get a good-faith signing. I think we have to try. We have to give that a few days before we up the ante again.

Q. Mr. President, well, what if the Serbs do sign this agreement? Are we still committed to sending U.S. ground forces in to enforce the agreement within 72 hours? And what happens if there are some Serbs who don't honor the agreement and U.S. troops and other troops, peacekeeping forces, get in the way? That sounds like it's a prescription for some potentially bloody fighting to continue.

The President. Well, all those decisions obviously would have to be made. We have not made those decisions yet. All I have said is that the United States would be prepared to participate in a multinational effort to help keep the peace. We believe that we'll be able to tell whether there is or is not a good-faith signing and whether there is or is not a peace. Of course, the whole reason you have peacekeeping forces is that from time to time the peace may be broken, but you hope it will be a general commitment to the peace. I still feel that that is an appropriate approach.

Multilateral Trade Negotiations

Q. Mr. President, both you gentlemen mentioned the GATT agreement and voiced optimism that a solution could be reached fairly shortly. As I recall, a little over a year ago, Chancellor Kohl was here and had been optimistic that perhaps it would be resolved before the Munich economic summit. Obviously that didn't happen. Currently there seems to be more tension between the U.S. and its trading partners than there was a year ago. What is it that makes you both optimistic that a breakthrough can be reached?

Chancellor Kohl. Well, for me, there's no doubt about the fact that it was a mistake not to conclude it prior to Munich. And then we had many reasons after the summit had taken place. But I said to the President today that there is a convincing argument when we meet in Tokyo and read to the public the final document of the G-7 meeting, and Prime Minister Miyazawa stands up in front of 1,800 journalists and reads to them that the C, -7 participants' countries are convinced that the successful conclusion of the GATT Uruguay round is an important precondition for fighting the recession, there would be an uproar of laughter greeting him. And some of you will take up the document from London and the document from Munich and hold it up in the air and wave it at the gentlemen. And in describing this to you, I think, and I said luckily so, luckily you know in what position we find ourselves in.

But as I said, I have a serious argument in favor of a successful conclusion which people tend not to mention in the discussion. We all believe in a free international trade, and we need it if we want to get out of the recession. The Americans luckily are, as is clearly visible, on a good path out of it. But hardly ever do we talk about the third world countries. The economic situation in the third world countries is miserable. It is devastating, and the present recession affects the third world country far more than it affects the industrialized countries.

And in the talks that I had with the President and Vice President Gore, we talked about the work that has to follow the conference of Rio, the UNCED. One cannot expect from us that in the question of the damage done to the tropical rain forest that we make progress on these issues if countries who undergo recessionist development are not being assisted by opening up the GATT Uruguay round and bringing it to a successful conclusion.

I, however, do not believe that things have improved in the course of the last 2 years, and they will be even worsened if we wait another year for a conclusion. Therefore, I think that the Tokyo meeting and the threat of having about 2,000 journalists standing there laughing at us is quite a positive tiring.

The President. Let me make one other point. It is true that there have been a couple of points of contention since I became President. Both of them arose out of cases which developed well before I took office. But I also think you have to look at the upside in terms of the last 10 years. Just take our relationship with Europe: We have an agreement now on agriculture, if it can be held. We have an agreement on airline manufacturing and to what extent subsidies can be permitted and what is it not, if it can be held. We have experience now of the last 2 years of what happened without a GATT agreement when we've had very low economic growth in Europe and a very persistent and lagging recession in the United States. And now with the United States making an effort to come out of this recession but the projected growth rates in Europe low, I think that there is an understanding that it is very difficult for one country to grow without more general growth throughout the world; and that Europe, the United States, and Japan, all in different ways, have a big stake in getting a GATT agreement that will set a framework that will permit us to promote global growth. That's why I think we've got a good chance to make it, and I hope we do.

Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President's eighth news conference began at 2:31 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Chancellor Kohl spoke in German, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter.

William J. Clinton, The President's News Conference With Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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