THE WHITE HOUSE
the Press Secretary
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
Crowne Plaza Hotel
9:38 P.M. (L)
MR. LOCKHART: Good evening, everyone.
Mr. Hunt. The President's National Security Advisor, Samuel Berger, will brief
you on the meeting that the President just held with Chancellor Schroeder and
give you a sense of the important events of tomorrow, highlighted by the
President receiving the Charlemagne Prize. He will take some questions, and if
there are any other areas you want to discuss, I'll be glad to take further
MR. BERGER: Good evening. The meeting between President
Clinton and Chancellor Schroeder lasted I think about 90 minutes, scheduled for
about 45. There were three basic issues they talked about, after the initial
greetings. The first was Russia, our impending to there and Putin is coming
here I think sometime later this month. They talked about the opportunities
that a Putin administration offered, as well as some of the concerns that they
I think they both see Putin as likely to be the President of
Russia for the next four years, and therefore, an extraordinarily important
figure in terms of not only the history of Russia, but the evolution of
East-West relations, or relations between Russia and Europe, Russia and the
Their view is that he clearly seems committed to
modernizing the Russian economy, which is the fundamental task before him -- or
a fundamental task before him -- and that in so doing, if he's successful,
notwithstanding the rather formidable obstacles he faces, that he can bring the
very dramatic changes that have taken place in Russia over the last decade more
directly to the Russian people and, therefore, put democracy on an even more
stable footing going forward.
Obviously, there are concerns. They
talked about Chechnya and the continuing imperative of bringing this to a
political end, rather than a continued military engagement; and the challenge
of Putin -- the issue of whether modernization that I talked about will
reinforce democratization or whether it will come at the expense of
democratization. Those are all questions that obviously will be answered by
President Putin and the Russian people over the months ahead.
a good discussion on NMD. The President talked about, first, about the choices
before him as we proceed. They talked about the nature of the threat -- that
is, the development of the capability of a third country, some hostile, perhaps
ultimately subnational units having long-range missile capabilities that can
reach the United States, how we best deal with that threat. They talked about
the challenges of the technology, other technological ideas that have been
floated; about the broad security consequences of both proceeding and not
proceeding, including the impact of arms control.
Clearly, as we said
before, it is our strong preference to proceed, if the President so decides, in
the context of the arms control regime, and the President made that clear to
Chancellor Schroeder. Schroeder acknowledged that this is a sovereign decision
for the United States government and the United States people to make. He
expressed his concern that we proceed with due consideration for the impact on
others, including Europe, assuming, of course, that we intend to do.
think it was a good discussion, it was a very substantive discussion, and I
think that -- I would hope that there is a better understanding, having
listened to that discussion, on the part of the German government that we are
proceeding with care and with deliberation through all of the dimensions of
The President then raised the child custody issue and his concern
about this problem, which has gained attention in the United States. The
Chancellor said that he had been looking at these cases, that he was, of course
concerned from his perspective about not interfering with the judicial process,
particularly given the historical precedence here, but that he recognized that
some cases did raise problems.
He proposed a group of experts from both
countries that would sift through each of the individual cases that are at
issue, and also look to, prospectively, what kind of institutional changes
perhaps are necessary to make the system work better. This, I think, represents
a good step. The terms of reference of this group of experts remains to be
determined, and will be worked out between our justice ministers. The
President's concern here is that the Hague Convention, which provides certain
rights in these cases be adhered to to the greatest extent possible. Not only
here, but in other countries, and also in the United States, where in some
cases it has not been adhered to, I think, although it is a much smaller number
Let me just foreshadow tomorrow a little bit, and then take
your questions. The Charlemagne Prize, which the President is receiving
tomorrow for his contribution to peace and integration of Europe, and the
partnership between Europe and the United States, is something we value highly,
the President values highly. I think you heard EU President Prodi yesterday
talk about the importance of this prize and what it represents in Europe,
indicating this made the President an honorary European. Chancellor Schroeder
today again in the meeting expressed his pleasure that this was happening and
how important this was in a European context. I think for Europeans and for us
I think it's a big deal.
The prize -- this is the 50th anniversary of
the Charlemagne Prize, although it's only been given 40 times in 50 years. Some
years, I guess, there was no worthy recipient. I think you've been told before
some of the previous recipients -- Jean Monet; Adenauer; Churchill; Mitterrand;
Kohl; Havel, who I believe will be there tomorrow; King Juan Carlos, who I
think also will be there; and Tony Blair. The President is only the third
American to receive the prize -- George Marshall and Henry Kissinger being the
Aachen, itself, is a very interesting location. I'm sure you
know, it's the ancient capital of Charlemagne and has been, in a sense, the
heart of the European identity for about 12 centuries. The city was severely
damaged during World War II, although the cathedral remained intact. In 1944,
Aachen was the first German city liberated by the U.S. armies. There was
enormous, deep and long historical resonance to not only the location of the
price, but, obviously, the prize itself.
And the President will give an
address and talk about where we've come in realizing the vision that he's
spoken of quite frequently over the last eight years of a peaceful, undivided,
democratic Europe, for the first time in history -- where we are on that,
toward that end, and the remaining tasks ahead; in particular, Southeastern
Europe and integrating it into Europe as the way of anchoring it into the
democratic world and the peaceful world; second, Russia and how it evolves over
the next decade and more; and then, third, the durability and continued
importance of the transatlantic alliance.
The President will talk a bit
about some perceptions and misperceptions on both sides of the Atlantic, but
the abiding and strong continuing interest that we have in maintaining the
strength of that alliance is essentially the bedrock of American foreign
policy, and I think European foreign policy.
Q In diplospeak, your
description of --
MR. BERGER: Diplo-speak? That was Joe you were
Q Your discussion of the national missile defense sounded
like a pretty sharp disagreement. Could you elaborate on what they discussed?
And did they in the end just agree to disagree, or where does this --
MR. BERGER: Was that in reporto-speak? (Laughter.) No, I don't think it
was a sharp disagreement. I think it was a very intelligent discussion of a
very complicated issue by two very smart men, and a result of which I think
both learned something. That's how I would describe it. That's not diplo-speak.
I think it was not at all sharp. It was the President saying, let me
tell you how I'm thinking about this, what are the issues that I've got to deal
with. We can't run away from this threat, it's there. How quickly it will
evolve, what is the right way to answer it and deal with it, those are all very
legitimate questions. But we can't bury it, we can't put our head in the sand.
Here are the choices and here are the factors that I'm going to take into
account, and I'm concerned about how we proceed with Europe and their sense of
comfort level with this. But, ultimately, I've got to make a decision in terms
of American national security.
I think on Schroeder's part, I think
that he said that -- as I said before, they're concerned that this not be done
at the expense of the arms control regime or without regard to its impact on
others. And, of course, those are all factors the President has said that he
will take into consideration.
Q What's your perception of the threat
that and MND would provoke any kind of an arms race?
MR. BERGER: Well,
I think that the system that we have developed -- although I would say again,
not yet decided whether to go forward with -- is a very limited system. It is a
system that does not, from any reasonable perspective, threaten the Russian
deterrent. It's not designed against China and we do not believe it will negate
China's nuclear deterrent going forward.
So we don't think that a
limited system, particularly if we proceed here in the context of a modified
ABM treaty, as we proceed forward with a START III process, would ignite an
arms race. I think there are other regimes that might be more -- run more of a
But this is a system that is not directed at Russia; this is a
system that is directed at Saddam Hussein or North Korea or others who may
acquire, or who are acquiring, long-range missiles. And we have an obligation
to the American people to think through very carefully how best we respond to
Q Will the President modify his approach to Putin on this subject
based on what he heard today and learned today in the meeting with Schroeder?
MR. BERGER: I think you learn something from every encounter. But I
don't think fundamentally it will change the dialogue. I think that this, as I
said before, is the first opportunity and Putin will have to talk to each other
about this. I think it's important that President Putin hear from President
Clinton how we see the threat, how we see the system, why we don't see it as a
threat to Russia.
I expect that President Putin will express his
concerns about it and I don't expect they'll resolve all differences, but I
hope that there will be a better appreciation of this as a result of the
meeting which, of course, has a number of other areas of concentration as well.
Q Did they talk about the Holocaust slave labor?
President Clinton offer to share American missile defense technology with
Russia when he speaks with Putin?
MR. BERGER: I think that for some
time we have said that we're prepared to cooperate in some respects with Russia
in ways that would be stabilizing. For example, just to give you one example,
early warning information which, if Russia has a greater capability to
understand what may be being launched into the air, it will make decisions that
will be safer and more secure for us. So there are plenty of areas of
cooperation. Conceivably, we have not decided to go forward. Conceivably, there
are areas where, as the President suggested yesterday, we can share some
technology, presumably other technology we would not be able to share.
Q On the ABM Treaty, you said that Schroeder expressed concern that any
missile defense not be done at the expense of the arms control regime. Is he
asking for upholding the ABM Treaty as is; does he still believe this is a
MR. BERGER: No, I don't think -- it was not expressed at
that level of detail. I think that the ABM Treaty envisioned by its own terms
that it would be amended and, in fact, it has been amended. It was amended in
1974. So it's not like the Ten Commandments written in stone; it is a document
that, by its own terms, provides for amendments and changes to deal with the
evolution of circumstance.
What we're simply saying to the Russians is
that there have been an evolution of circumstance, and we ought to think about
this in a way that both enables us to deal with this threat, but also in a way
that preserves both an ABM Treaty, although with some modifications, and as we
proceed down the START road.
Q So what did he mean when he said that it
shouldn't be done at the expense of the arms control regime, what was he
MR. BERGER: I think the Europeans would not be excited if
the United States unilaterally abrogated the ABM Treaty. But that is certainly
a right that we retain, and it is something the President ultimately may have
to decide. But it is our strong preference, if we proceed -- and no decision to
go forward has been made -- to do so in the context of arms control.
When you said that you might share some technology, but not other technology --
yesterday, the President suggested a pretty strong moral imperative saying it
would be unethical, it would be a moral obligation to share it --
BERGER: I think you have to -- it depends on what. If we had a system and we
determined that the missile had been launched -- not at us, but at somebody
else -- I presume if it was launched at Europe, we would have a moral
obligation to tell Europe, to inform them what we knew.
To the extent
that we could share information and share technology, not only in that
circumstances -- which, obviously, is an extreme circumstance -- but that gives
them greater capacity of benefit from this system, that's something that we
will look at. But, again, I think it's premature to be too specific about this,
since we haven't yet made those judgments.
Q But did Schroeder express
any interest in Germany or other European nations obtaining the technology as a
part of a system providing defense for itself, for all of Europe?
BERGER: You know, Europeans are not -- to take it out of the Schroeder context
-- are not impervious to the threat that we're talking about. Many of the
Europeans I've talked to recognize that this is a problem. I don't think
they're far along in their thinking to determine what the right solution for
them is. And, obviously, a lot depends upon how we proceed.
Eizenstat had suggested two days ago that he was hopeful that an agreement on
Holocaust slave labor fund would be -- a German fund -- would be perhaps signed
by the two men during this visit to Germany. Did they discuss that subject and
how close are they to an agreement? And is there any thought about having
American firms that benefited from slave labor also start a fund of their own?
MR. BERGER: I would rather that we find Stu, Joe --
Q Did the
issue come up?
MR. BERGER: The issue did not come up, and I have not
had a chance to talk to Stu in the last 24, 36 hours, so I'm not exactly sure
where this stands, and I'm reluctant to suggest there will or there won't be an
agreement. When I last spoke to Stu it was not -- there were still issues to be
resolved. It did come up in the context of, I think, a commitment on the part
-- it came up particularly in the meeting with President Rau in the context of
a desire of both countries to resolve this, recognizing there were still some
legal issues that had to be resolved.
Q What about with Schroeder?
MR. BERGER: I don't think it came up with Schroeder, no.
the custody issue, did they discuss how they might expedite contacts between
American parents who have not been able to see their children in Germany? And,
also, who would be these experts that they're talking about?
BERGER: Well, again, this is a new idea that Chancellor Schroeder put on the
table today, after the President raised this issue. And I think we're going to
have to now have serious discussions on what the nature of this group would be
and what their mandate would be, what their authority would be.
talk about visitation rights, specifically, and the suffering of parents who
can't even see their children. I think, clearly, that is something that this
group could look at in individual cases. But exactly how -- what their mandate
will be, what their authority will be, other than the very general one at this
point of -- or generic one -- of looking through all the cases, presumably
determine where there are problems; and, second, recommending changes that can
be made in the system to expedite resolution of these cases on a fair basis
consistent with the Hague Convention. Beyond that, that really now has to go
to, I think, the justice ministers to work out.
Q Can you say something
more about these transatlantic misconceptions that the President is going to
tell the world about tomorrow?
MR. BERGER: Well, I don't want to -- I
mean, two I'll just mention -- perceptions or misperceptions I think is what I
said. One, on the European side, I think there is often some resistance to what
they perceive as overwhelming American power and American unilateralism in some
cases. I think many Americans are concerned about burden-sharing issues in
situations like the Balkans. The facts in many cases are different than the
perceptions, and I think the President wants to address those.
Q In the
conversation on Chechnya, will there be anything new or different that
Schroeder or the President will have to say about the situation there to
achieve the result which you said they both favor, which is moving this toward
a political and away from a military solution?
MR. BERGER: Well, that's
the headline version. I'm sure that it will be more specific than that.
Clearly, number one, we would like to see an end to this. There are still lives
being lost in Chechnya and our view -- and it's been our view since the
President met with Putin in Auckland -- has been that this can only come to a
resolution through some kind of political settlement.
Second of all,
there are questions of human rights issues that have been raised, questions of
accountability and process and access by the international community. I think
those will be questions that will be raised in Moscow.
Q You said that
the two learned something from each other in the discussion. What did the
President learn from Schroeder -- technological aspects -- and did it change
his perception at all about this thing going forth?
MR. BERGER: Well, I
think we certainly have had enough conversations with the Europeans over the
past months to know the issues that they raised. I thought Chancellor Schroeder
raised those issues. And, as I say, we also would like to do this, if we do it
at all, in the context of arms control in ways that are sensitive to the
impacts on our allies.
Q On Sierra Leone, you guys released from the
White House today a memorandum from the Secretary of State showing that
President Clinton has made an official presidential determination that
furnishing support for the peacekeeping efforts there is important to the
security interests of the United States. Is that prelude simply to furnishing
logistical support, or do you envision some larger role for the United States
that this would give us a legal basis to implement?
MR. BERGER: I think
that is in connection -- I'm not specifically familiar with the piece of paper
that you have in front of you, but I think that is in connection with our
readiness, as we've said before, to work with regional countries -- Nigeria, in
particular; Ghana and others -- in helping them to deploy to Sierra Leone, to
enhance the peacekeeping mission there, to do so with as good equipment and
training as is possible. So I think our role would be logistical, as well as,
perhaps in the area of training and assistance, but not in any kind of a combat
Q Sandy, is there a risk that Putin might view the
President's decision as something of an ultimatum, either accept a
renegotiation or the ABM treaty or we could exercise our right to withdraw from
MR. BERGER: No, I don't think we've ever presented anything as an
ultimatum. The fact is that we have a threat. We have developed a system. We
have to make a judgment whether the technology is sufficiently far along to
have confidence in it. We would like to do that in the context of arms control.
It is clearly in the interest of Russia that if a limited NMD system goes
forward -- let alone a Star Wars kind of system -- that it be done in the
context of arms control.
And so I think this will not be presented as
an ultimatum. It will be presented as a set of issues that the Russians have to
make their own judgment about, in terms of what their -- how they see their
interests. Would they like to see this -- is it better for them for this to
proceed in the context of a modified ABM treaty, or run the risk that this
President or a subsequent President might build this system or a larger system
outside the context of the ABM Treaty?
Q Sandy, any response to the --
by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il to China?
MR. BERGER: Well, like our
South Korean allies, we welcome this development. It reflects -- I believe it's
the first visit by a North Korean leader to China in well over a decade. And
anything that brings North Korea out of isolation and into contact with other
nations is a good development.
Obviously, we look forward very much to
the North-South summit, which will take place June 12th to 14th. I think that
is a truly historic meeting, and I think as part of that, you're seeing some of
this other diplomatic activity take place.
LOCKHART: Do you guys have anything else you want to cover?
Q Joe, will
the President today or sometime tomorrow send a notification to Congress about
the drug kingpin situation --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we have a statutory
deadline of June 1, and I expect that we will meet that deadline.
it will be something tonight?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't think we'll
be doing anything as far as keeping you up until the middle of the night, so I
expect if we have something, it may be for tomorrow. If we have something to
send to Congress, it will be done today or tomorrow, I expect.
you give us any kind of tick-tock on how the President was notified about the
Elian decision? Did he read it in its entirety or --
MR. LOCKHART: No,
I don't think he's had a chance to read it in its entirety. We were notified of
the decision as we were landing in Berlin. We had just finished briefing the
President on the trip here, and Deputy Counsel Bruce Lindsey and myself went to
the front, told him of the decision, what we knew about it. We have
subsequently gotten the opinion over here. Bruce has read it; he gave the
President a little fuller briefing later in the day. But he hasn't had a chance
in between all these meetings to sit down and read it.
Q And the
President mentioned it in his -- when he came out of the meeting with
Schroeder. Did you happen to know if he mentioned it in the meeting with --
MR. LOCKHART: Not really in the meeting. He mentioned as they were
walking out of the meeting to Chancellor Schroeder that because this was such a
big domestic story in the States, he would be saying something about it. There
was no discussion of it, but as a matter of courtesy, he mentioned to
Chancellor Schroeder that he would be making a few brief comments on this at
the end of his statement.
Q Joe, when is the President meeting with
former Chancellor Kohl?
MR. LOCKHART: Do we have a time on that? Let me
get a time for you. Tomorrow, but I'll have to get a time for you for that.
Q Are they going to have lunch? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: I'm
not sure we have that much time in the schedule. (Laughter.)
END 10:10 P.M. (L)