THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release
|April 23, 1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER
The International Trade Center
4:40 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: -- Sandy Berger, who will give you asense of the President's day and what we've gotten done today. Andwe'll take your questions. If there are other questions from theWhite House press corps on domestic questions, I'll be glad to takethem afterwards. Thanks.
MR. BERGER: Thank you, Joey. Thank you very much.
Let me try to give you a sense of today's meeting onKosovo, on particulars, seeing how the meeting was, I believe,televised and available to you. It was quite an extraordinarysession, let me say. If there was one refrain that was heard againand again and again, it was this: This Alliance stands solidlybehind the air campaign. It will intensify that campaign and it willprevail. And virtually every leader said that in one form oranother.
I would note that we have seen evidence of theintensification this week as NATO planes attacked a number ofhigh-value national targets that go to the heart of Milosevic'scommand and control. As you heard earlier from General Clark, theeffort was designed to strike at his ruling party headquarters,electrical sites, Serb propaganda elements, command and controllocations, and more troops in the field. And what the leaders weresaying today was, more, not less; stronger, not weaker.
Those attacks are and will be designed to underscore thedetermination to continue to extract a higher and higher price fromMilosevic, from his intransigence, until he reaches the point wherehe decides to cut his losses.
Today's session also accomplished a number of otherimportant goals, at least from our perspective, including totalallied unity on reaffirming NATO's unconditional demands to Milosevicin order to end the air campaign. Several leaders indicated that wecould not, should not, reduce those conditions, even as there werediplomatic efforts to try to get him to accept them.
Second, intensifying economic sanctions to continue totighten the pressure on Milosevic and on his ability -- on his warmachine. As you know, the EU has already placed an embargo on oil.At least several other states not members of EU spoke aboutindividual steps that they intended to take, and the leaders directedthe defense ministers to develop a program for-- get the exact language here -- the defense ministers to determinehow NATO can halt the delivery of war material, including launchingmaritime operations.
And a number of leaders spoke about the importance ofinterdicting the oil that is going to Serbia, the resupply.
Several spoke about the unacceptability of our pilots flying in andtaking out oil refineries, flying in and taking out storagefacilities, if that oil can be resupplied, and that we had to bring astop to that -- through embargo, but also through interdictionefforts.
The defense ministers have been charged tooperationalize that -- a word I hate -- to develop an operationalplan for that, taking into account the consequences on Montenegro.Obviously, no one seeks to destabilize the situation in Montenegroany more than it is already in danger.
There is a very strong statement in the communique, Ithink the strongest we've made at this point, on NATO's response toany attempt by Mr. Milosevic to widen the war by threatening thefrontline states. Specifically, NATO will respond to such challengesby Belgrade to its neighbors, resulting from the presence of NATOforces or their activities on their territories during the crisis --a strong statement of willingness to respond if Milosevic actsagainst the frontline states.
A commitment to continued cooperation with the WarCrimes Tribunal. A number of leaders spoke of the need andimportance of continuing to work with Russia in its effort to find adiplomatic resolution of this which is consistent with the conditionsthat they have set forth. The effort of Prime Minister Chernomyrdindoes not appear to meet that test, at least as of now. But we'reencouraged that he is making that effort and that Russia apparentlyhas indicated that it would participate in some kind of animplementation force. These are steps forward, but obviously, theultimate criteria here is whether the objectives -- that is, gettingthe Serb troops out, getting the Kosovar people back, having aninternational security presence that can protect the Kosovars --whether those criteria are met.
The day obviously was also noteworthy because of theinclusion into the Alliance of three former adversaries --Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. I'll try not to, obviously,quote other leaders, but I thought President Havel was particularlymoving when he said -- I think maybe 10 years ago he had been theperson who had declared the end of the Warsaw Pact on behalf of allof the nations in the Warsaw Pact. And for him personally to beparticipating now in this critical NATO meeting was a very moving andimportant experience for him.
We have much to do tomorrow in terms of continuing thework of adaptation of NATO that we've been working on for about fiveyears. I suspect there will be more conversations about Kosovo atdinner, as well. But I was very pleased with and heartened by thetone of the meeting today. It was extraordinarily determined. As Isay, the almost universal chorus was, we're going to continue the aircampaign, we're going to intensify the air campaign, and we're goingto win. And there was no dissenting opinion from that that wasexpressed.
Q -- the NATO diplomatic initiative. When will NATOtake this planned resolution to the Security Council, and what do youthink the chances are that Russia will not veto it?
MR. BERGER: Well, notice what -- I think the key phrasehere is, this could follow the passage of a United Nations SecurityCouncil resolution. So this outlines one scenario, where onceBelgrade has accepted the conditions, a force would be constituted --NATO at its core, but perhaps, hopefully, including Russia, includingother partnership countries; and as was the case in Bosnia, that thatforce would be then endorsed bythe United Nations Security Council. But it was important to us inthis paragraph that that not be a requirement.
Obviously, no one would have a veto on that, but itwould be -- I think it would be the ideal scenario. And as I said,that is what happened in Bosnia -- where once Dayton took place, wetook it to the U.N., endorsed the agreement and endorsed the forcethat would give it, obviously, its greatest strength.
Q Why was the naval blockade rejected to enforce anoil embargo? And do you believe that an oil embargo can be enforcedwithout a naval blockage?
MR. BERGER: Well, first of all, the premise of yourquestion is wrong. What this says is that defense ministers -- wehave directed our defense ministers to determine ways that NATO cancontribute to halting the delivery of war material, including bylaunching maritime operations, taking into account possibleconsequences on Montenegro. So the defense ministers basically havea mandate now to develop an interdiction system -- call it what youwant -- that will stop oil. And what is the particular legal andmilitary and architectural design of that is not something theleaders are going to try to entertain.
But there was -- your question is upside-down -- therewas a specific endorsement of stopping the oil not only through anembargo, which means I'm not going to sell, myself, or the EEU is notgoing to sell, in stopping the oil on the seas -- again, there are alot of legal and technical and military issues involved in puttingtogether a regime, which the defense ministers have been asked to do.
Q The Russians, the Russian diplomatic initiative,have both included the fact that the NATO attacks must stop, and thenother things. You are continuing to have your government contactwith the Russian government. How come the Russian government keepsputting that option up, knowing it's going to be shot down by NATO?
MR. BERGER: Well, it's obviously not acceptable to us.We would expect there to be a verifiable beginning of implementationbefore we would engage in any kind of pause or any kind ofsuspension. That is an area where we, at this point, may not see eyeto eye with the Russians.
There are others. We believe that there has to be aninternational security presence, for all the reasons that you're allfamiliar with and I've talked to you about before.
Now, I think, again, we haven't seen much from -- Mr.Chernomyrdin has indicated that he's got activities in Moscow overthe weekend and we may know more about this on Monday. But there'ssome indication that the Russians have said they are prepared toparticipate. Well, that would be a step forward -- even that wouldbe a step forward. It would not be sufficient, obviously, but itwould be, I think, useful. It would be an acknowledgement on theirpart that there needed to be an international military presence. Buton the question of our stopping bombing, it could not be on the basissimply of a promise.
Q What kind of contact have the allies had withChernomyrdin? Is there any chance he'll be coming here to thesummit? And have you been able to clear up discrepancies over how hedescribes President Milosevic's willingness to accept internationalpresence and what the Serbs are saying about that?
MR. BERGER: He's definitely not coming here, as far asI understand it from our embassy in Moscow. He has -- I thinkboth -- Foreign Minister Ivanov is not back to Moscow. I think hewants to -- he's indicated he wants to -- Ivanov -- he wants toconsult with him, and there are some party activities that he'sengaged in in his own party over the weekend. So he indicated, orhis people indicated to us that he had no intention of coming here.
I suspect that over the next few days, that we'll havemore contact and we'll get more detail. I think that -- I'm not surethat the Russians are asserting that this is a sufficient basis onwhich this can end. It certainly doesn't look like that from ourperspective, but we encourage them to continue.
Q Yesterday, the President was asked if he couldenvision sending an international security force into Kosovo withoutMilosevic's approval. And he said, of course, there are scenariosunder which that could occur. Does that mean that the U.S. wouldconsider sending ground troops into a semi-permissive environment?
MR. BERGER: No, it illustrates what happens when youanswer hypothetical questions. The President also said that ourpolicy hasn't changed, and he also said that there's a permissiveenvironment and there's a non-permissive environment. There's a lotof other terminology that is being used; I've looked all those wordsup in the dictionary, I don't find them. And I think any two of youwould define them differently.
Our position remains the same. Number one, we arecommitted to this air war. Number two, we believe it can and willsucceed. Number three, I'm more convinced of this today, now, than Iwas four hours ago by virtue of the meeting that I just sat through,because I've seen 19 leaders who have made it very clear that theywill succeed.
We will participate in a multinational force with NATOat its core if that is part of an agreement or if there is acceptanceby Milosevic of such a force. But we do not favor participationunder other circumstances.
Q You say if there's acceptance, then you aredefinitely saying that he has to agree, he has to come to some kindof agreement. You say if he accepts it.
MR. BERGER: Yes, accepts or acquiesces.
Q And does that have to be in writing? What formwould that --
MR. BERGER: Oh, come on. We're not -- nor am I goingto answer how he has to spell his name. These are hypotheticalquestions. Right now, what we've got to do is keep focused on theair war and on prosecuting it vigorously, and on intensifying it in aserious way over the coming days and weeks, as you have seen over thepast week.
I think we've made quite clear what our position is interms of ground forces. We don't favor them in a non-permissivesituation. And that's as far as I'm going to go.
Q Sandy, on paragraph six you stressed the word"could," but the paragraph also says, "we will seek a U.N.resolution." Is NATO going to seek a U.N. resolution? Will theUnited States support that? If so, why, after months of refusing togo that course, would you do it? And why shouldn't Milosevic takeheart that this is the beginning of UNPROFOR II?
MR. BERGER: Where do you see --
Q Mine says, "this could follow the passage of aUnited Nations Security Council resolution" --
MR. BERGER: Which we will seek.
Q -- which we will seek.
MR. BERGER: Yes. That doesn't mean that if we don'tget it, we won't go ahead.
MR. BERGER: Let me try to be clear about this. We'renow talking about a situation in which we have vindicated what we'refighting for; that is, essentially, the right of a people to returnto their homeland from which they've been driven by force, and theright of them to live there with security and protection. He'saccepted perhaps not my formulation, but he's accepted that.
We would then -- NATO has said and we have said -- we'vebeen prepared to participate in an implementation force. We wouldseek the U.N.'s approval and I think we would have a reasonably goodchance of getting it under those circumstances.I mean, you can envision a situation in which Russia has been part ofbringing this about, or Russia participating in this force,therefore, the prospect of a veto being eliminated.
But we're not going to be subordinated to a U.N. veto,or let the U.N. block us going forward because one country on theSecurity Council doesn't want to go forward -- one country with aveto. So, there was another part of your question.
Q Is this the beginning of UNPROFOR II -- a U.N.protection force?
MR. BERGER: No. I mean, we've had UNPROFOR I, and weweren't part of it, but it's quite enough. We would not -- thereason why we have said that if we were to participate in a force webelieve NATO ought to be at its core, although there could be otherelements of it, is because we believe, or the United States, thatthere has to be an effective force, and we have to have confidenceif we're going to put American soldiers in that force, that there isa command and control competence and integrity that we have in NATO,and that we believe we could trust.
We would not go into a situation which, even permissive,would be not without risks unless our own people -- this is somethingwe owe to our own people and to the American people -- our own forceswere in a coherent, workable, effective force. And that is not myrecollection of UNPROFOR.
Q If I could ask you a question about another matter.Two days ago, CIA Director Tenet briefed congressional leaders aboutalleged Chinese spying, and yesterday a couple of those congressionalleaders talked with the President about their own investigation. Iwonder if the administration is now prepared to concede that thereare indications of Chinese spying during the Clinton administrationand that there may be indications that it occurred at some of thenational labs, and if you're willing to talk to us about what theadministration is doing about it or has done about it.
MR. BERGER: Well, I'm not going to be able to answeryour questions fully because of ongoing investigations and ongoingsecurity matters. We do believe that there has been a problem at thenational lab -- a security problem at the national labs. That is whyin 1998 the President signed a presidential directive ordering a setof reforms in the way counterintelligence and security was handled atthe labs.
Moreover, the President has asked his ForeignIntelligence Advisory Board, chaired by Senator Roy Rudman to look atthis matter generally with respect to the labs and to see whether ornot everything is being done, everything was done in an appropriateway, and whether more could be done.
Two days ago, the President, when we were briefed fromthe agency, based upon their damage assessment coming out of the CoxCommission, the President asked his National Counter-IntelligenceAdvisory Board to look more broadly at vulnerabilities that may existbeyond the labs in the way in which nuclear weapons information ishandled in the government, and to report back to him on any furthersteps they are taking.
And so this is something that we take very seriously. Ithink we've acted very responsibly, and we'll take further actions.We've adopted almost all of the recommendations, for example, of theCox Commission.
Q -- define a permissive environment. And hespecifically left out the idea that Milosevic would have to permitthe forces in. What he said was that Serb forces would not bepresenting any resistance, and that the implementation force would beable to do its job with the least hindrance. And he later said --specifically left out the idea of permission. I know you're sayingthat this is a hypothetical situation --
MR. BERGER: I can only speak for American policy. AndI don't believe that NATO has spoken formally on this, but in anycase, we have indicated that we would participate in a force in apermissive environment. A permissive environment would be one inwhich the government in Belgrade either would accept its presence oracquiesce to its presence. And that's pretty straight forward.
Q Can you clarify on the oil shipments -- NATO hasdecided that it wants to prevent ships, tankers, boats fromdelivering petroleum products to ports that will make it intoYugoslavia. That now it's up to the defense ministers to figure outhow that will be stopped? And, second, have Bulgaria and Romaniasigned on to stopping petroleum shipments over land -- that's thewhole eastern side of Yugoslavia -- and if they don't agree, then howcan you stop those shipments?
MR. BERGER: What NATO has decided is, NATO has askedits defense ministers to determine how NATO can halt the delivery --I'm paraphrasing a little bit -- of war material, so that suggests,through any means, including by launching maritime operations, takinginto account possible consequences on Montenegro. I think thedefense ministers here have a rather broad mandate to determine waysin which we can limit resupply of war material, and that clearly isintended to include oil, to Serbia. But as I say, there are a myriadof legal and military and political and logistical questions thathave to be looked at to determine what is feasible.
Q -- weapons, will they be actually allowed to use aforce of arms if they decide that's appropriate?
MR. BERGER: It's certainly not ruled out.
Q Secretary Albright spent some time Wednesday infront of Congress saying that President Clinton would be talkingabout the long-term future of the Balkan Peninsula. She mentionedthe possibility of the common currency among the countries in thatregion, perhaps a customs union, stronger economic and politicalties.
First of all, can you tell us, did this come up today?And, secondly, can you tell us more specifically what kind of anarrangement you foresee politically for those countries on the BalkanPeninsula, long-term?
MR. BERGER: I would imagine this will be discussed morespecifically on Sunday, when first the NATO leaders meet with thefrontline states and then later they meet at 42, with the partners,the APC.
The President has spoken in broad terms in San Franciscoabout the need for the kind of economic and political structures inSoutheast Europe -- integrative structures, stabilizing structures,to be built over a long period of time -- that have brought stabilityand peace to the other parts of Europe.
I think this is a -- the EU has spoken to this in thelast few weeks, and I think this will be a theme, increasingly, overthe next two days. I don't know that any fully elaborated plan willevolve, but what I hope would evolve would be the impetus from theleaders to begin now to look at what this region can look like twoyears from now, four years from now, after this conflict is over.
THE PRESS: Thank you.