PRESS BRIEFING BY
DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF NSC JIM STEINBERG
Hotel Miguel Angel
MR. STEINBERG: Good evening. Since I know for many of you I may be all that stands between you and some topas, I will try to make this succinct and we can move on.
The President had a series of meetings late this afternoon and early this evening, and the day before the opening of the NATO Summit. He began first with a meeting with the U.S. congressional delegation which accompanying him here to Madrid -- this effort to include members of Congress as part of our ongoing effort to involve Congress in the whole process of NATO enlargement and adaptation.
Many of you know, the President met with the group that's known as the Senate-NATO Observers Group a couple of weeks ago in the White House, and today we had eight members of Congress from both Houses and both parties as part of the delegation. And they will also be participating in the meetings as well as part of our delegation.
The President started off by discussing our overall goals for the summit. He stressed the broad nature of the effort. Although, obviously, the issue of NATO enlargement and the open door is an important part of our discussions, there are a number of other aspects of what's taking place here and he stressed the need to see this in the broader context of our efforts to develop an undivided and democratic Europe. He talked a little bit about our efforts to develop the European security and defense identity, the first meeting of the EAPC at the heads of state level that's going to take place on Wednesday, and also the very important signing of the NATO-Ukraine Charter which will also take place on Wednesday.
The President complimented Secretary General Solana for the efforts that he had made and indicated that it was really something that we were all very proud of what he had been able to do. And at the end of the meeting with the congressional delegation, he brought Secretary General Solana into the room where the Secretary General had a chance to meet and discuss issues briefly with the congressional delegation.
One of the other things that the President stressed in his opening remarks to the group was the importance of congressional travel to Europe. He noted the fact that with the end of the Cold War, that there were many members of Congress who did not travel as frequently to Europe and have a chance to meet with leaders and the public in Europe, and he strongly urged them to continue to do that and to increase their efforts.
Each of the members of the congressional delegation spoke briefly. Their comments were fairly common. The main
points that they made were, first, to stress the importance and the necessity of a public debate about NATO enlargement, in particular the need to articulate for the American people the rationale behind NATO enlargement with a particular focus on the U.S. interest in maintaining security and stability in Europe. And the President welcomed their advice and suggestions on how to
make this most effective in terms of communicating with the American people.
The members made a point on stressing the need to get clarity on the issue of the cost of NATO enlargement so that there could be a good understanding as we move forward with ratification as to what the implications of that would be. They talked about their concern about burden sharing and making sure that all of the countries of NATO participate in the effort.
And, finally -- and I think it was quite important that several of the members stressed the need to talk to the American people about the benefits of enlargement to the American people.
Following the meeting with the congressional delegation, the President met with Secretary General Solana and his team here. The purpose of this meeting, which was a fairly brief meeting, was to review the events of the coming two days -- obviously, again, the discussion about enlargement, but also the fact the there are a number of other issues on the agenda. They spoke briefly about the state of discussions on both Spain and France's potential integration into the integrated military command. They talked about the session of the European-American partnership council tomorrow and the fact that this was really giving a further boost to the Partnership for Peace, which had been so successful over the past several years.
They discussed the process of accession negotiations that would take place following the summit and the procedure and timetable that they foresaw for that. They talked about how we would move forward to inaugurate the NATO-Russia partnership council that comes out of the NATO-Russia Founding Act that was signed at the end of May in Paris. And, finally, they had a brief discussion on the situation in Bosnia.
The third meeting of the evening was the President's bilateral with the Prime Minister of Spain, Prime Minister Aznar. The meeting took place at the Moncloa Palace, which, for those of you who have not had the privilege of being there, it is an extraordinarily beautiful palace, a beautiful setting on the edges of Madrid. The Prime Minister began by telling the President a little bit about the history of the Palace and the fact that it had really been the actual front lines of the fighting during the Civil War and that the actual trench lines between the two sides actually ran through the grounds of the Palace, which had been very severely destroyed during the fighting. And he noted the fact that the room in which they met, which was a kind of covered patio, had been created -- the covering had been erected at the time of President Nixon's visit to Madrid.
They began their discussions, which was in some respects a continuation of the discussions that they had been having in Mallorca, with a discussion of the elections in Mexico. You heard the President had something to say about that following the meeting. But as the President indicated, Prime Minister Aznar had a chance to talk to President Zedillo about the elections and both the President and the Prime Minister expressed satisfaction about the fact that the elections had gone forward and that the people of Mexico had had a chance to express their views there.
The discussion then turned to a brief discussion of the summit tomorrow, and the Prime Minister expressed his conviction that this was going to be an enormously important development for NATO, a really historic summit that would carry on the work that all of our countries have been engaged in for a number of years.
They then turned to a discussion of the status of
the discussions about Spain's own integration into the integrated military command. Prime Minister Aznar thanked the President for U.S. support in trying to move this forward, and he expressed his belief that while there are still some issues remaining, that they would be able to be resolved and that Spain would be able to carry through with the Prime Minister's firm intention to try to see Spain integrated into the military command. He indicated that it was something that, from the very beginning of his time in office, he had established as a priority and wanted to continue to see that through to its conclusion.
They then had a very brief discussion on Albania, and the Prime Minister indicated that they were going to continue to work with the Italians on the effort to restore democratic government there.
On Bosnia, they both noted the importance of moving forward on civilian implementation and discussed briefly how they could jointly advance those efforts, and particularly how at the meeting tomorrow they had hoped to get a strong statement from all of the NATO leaders here about the importance of moving forward.
The Prime Minister brought up the issue of strengthening NATO's Mediterranean dialogue, and this is something that will also come up as part of the discussions today. It's something that Spain has taken an important leading role in as some of the new challenges facing the Alliance coming from the south, and the Prime Minister reviewed some of his own efforts to engage with the countries of North Africa and the Middle East to strengthen the ties between NATO and the countries of the Mediterranean.
They had a brief discussion about the upcoming Ibero-American summit on Cuba. The Prime Minister indicated that he was going to continue his efforts to maintain an effective, common European position to make clear that Europe, much as the United States wants to support democracy and make clear to Cuba that that's an important part of their overall relationship, and noted that this was something that, although there had been divergent views expressed in Spain about the role that he had taken in trying to strengthen the pro-democracy position of the EU, that it was something that he intended to continue working on.
They then turned to the issue of bilateral relations and the Prime Minister observed that our bilateral relations are excellent and, indeed, that the only problems we had is that we did not have any problems that we needed to discuss as part of our bilateral relationship.
They concluded with a discussion of the ongoing efforts of the government of Spain, as well as other European countries to deal with the issue of the Nazi confiscation of assets during World War II, and the Prime Minister outlined the efforts that the Spanish government is making to work with the Holocaust survivors and others to try to uncover all of the facts and to make sure that we have a full understanding of what has taken place.
He indicated that this was very important to Spain, that Spain was very proud of its record, but wanted to make sure that all the facts were uncovered and all of the information provided to those who were interested.
Finally, the President, in his concluding remarks, returned to the issue of Bosnia and once again stressed the need for an effective coordinated effort to achieve greater progress on civilian implementation and reviewed some of the discussions that had taken place at the Denver Summit and said he was looking forward to engaging more closely with Spain, which plays an
active role not only as part of the SFOR force, but is also providing police monitors to the international police task force.
Q You referred way back to uncertainty about the cost. I thought you guys were satisfied on the $150 million to $200 million cost which, of course, most everybody else thinks is badly underestimated? Is the U.S. now edging away from that low figure?
MR. STEINBERG: No. Barry, I was characterizing -- Q Could you repeat the question?
Q Sure. The briefer referred to discussion over the uncertain cost of expanding NATO. And I wonder if it reflected some second thinking by the administration which had given $150 to $200 million a year as the U.S. cost, which a lot of people think is understated.
MR. STEINBERG: Well, Barry, as you no doubt know, there are also some people who think it's overstated, particularly here in Europe. So Secretary Cohen in the meeting reiterated our belief that the number that the Pentagon has come up with is our best estimate of the number. When I suggested the question of uncertainty, a number of members of Congress pointed to the fact that there were several different estimates. They weren't questioning necessarily the estimate the administration has given, but rather because there are a number of different estimates out there to try to get some clarity about why different groups and organizations have come up with different numbers, so that there is a real good understanding in connection with the ratification debate.
Q And a quick technical question. The decision, apart from leaks, how will it be announced, what is the venue? Who announces it? Solana, I guess. When, et cetera.
MR. STEINBERG: Barry, I don't think there has been any specific decision about how that's going to be done. Obviously, the Secretary General has a responsibility for that, but I'm sure he's going to be discussing it with the heads of state tomorrow as they proceed through the discussions.
Q Secretary Albright said earlier today that Clinton will ask the summit to endorse coordinated action, perhaps economic action, to isolate Karadzic. Are there additional economic steps that have not yet been taken that could be taken?
MR. STEINBERG: I think that -- I haven't seen the specific quote, so it's hard for me to comment specifically, so let me just rather than commenting on her quotehard for me to comment specifically. So let me just, rather than just commenting on her quote, let me just speak to the broader issue, which is that we obviously are concerned by efforts by some in the Republika Srpska to try to undermine the constitutional and legal authority of Mrs. Plavzic and the government there. And we want to make clear, as we have all along through Dayton, that we expect the constitutional provisions to be respected and we expect her authority to be respected. And we are going to certainly take a hard look at the different kinds of steps that we could take against those who might seek to try to interfere with that.
Q You've already done a lot on economic sanctions
MR. STEINBERG: We've done a lot of economic sanctions, but I think that what we've been talking about is trying to focus the effort to make sure that what funds flow, flow to those parties in Bosnia who are living up to the Dayton agreements. And so the focus here would be to make sure that as
money is disbursed, that it does not go towards anybody who is interfering with the implementation of Dayton.
Q A follow-up on that -- has the time come to take action and to arrest Karadzic?
MR. STEINBERG: As you know, the President was asked about that and I can't improve on his answer.
Q When do you expect to be able to answer precisely that question?
MR. STEINBERG: As I say, I think you've heard the most authoritative answer.
Q On the way in, Secretary Cohen -- Secretary Cohen has been asked about this in the past and has always said, that's a police function, not a military function. Today he said he wouldn't rule it in or out.
MR. STEINBERG: John, I haven't seen Secretary Cohen's answer, but I'm sure it's fully consistent with what the President had to say.
Q Do you happen to know who will represent Russia at Wednesday's Euro-Atlantic Council meeting?
MR. STEINBERG: I'm not a hundred percent sure. The Russians had indicated to us earlier that a Deputy Prime Minister was expected to attend, but I have not had a chance to check since we've gotten here whether that is the case, in fact.
Q Can you elaborate, please, on Albania and what the President said with Italians -- was it a bilateral meeting?
MR. STEINBERG: He didn't say anything with the Italians. The Prime Minister of Spain noted for the President the fact that the operation had continued, that the elections seem to have gone forward reasonably positively, and that Spain intended to continue to be involved, working very closely under the leadership of Italy.
Q I'm wondering what kind of compromise might come out -- you've got this -- where do you think this thing is going to go tomorrow?
MR. STEINBERG: I would not want to presume to try to judge what the leaders will decide tomorrow. I think that one of the things that's important, I think they all agree is it's important for them to have a good discussion of these issues. This is an extremely momentous decision that NATO is going to take. It has long-term implications for NATO's future and we think it's very important that they have a chance for each of them to talk about how they see the future and to come to some resolution about what they want to say, not only about what we do today, but what we will be doing in the future.
Q Earlier today a NATO spokesman said that they hadn't finished drafting final language for paragraph eight, which deals with this open door commitment to further rounds of expansion, and that there was still discussion and presumably some differences over exactly how far to take this open door. Can you shed any light on -- everybody's for the open door, but apparently, some are for it to be a little bit more ajar than others. What's the hang up this late in the game about being able to come to closure on language on that point? Because the President said it's very, very important.
MR. STEINBERG: For those of you who've had the experience of attendance at NATO ministerials and other NATO gatherings, the exception would be completion of all the language
before the event. There's a sense, I think, that leaders feel that they want to have a chance themselves to address it; this is not something, given the importance of it, that they want to leave entirely up to the preparatory work. I think that there are different ways of expressing what the expectations are about the process that will take place following tomorrow's decision on who should be invited to join. And I think it's trying to get a good sense of what the expectations are, how to talk about the process and what will be coming in the future, that they want to get clear in terms of their expectations. I think that each of them has their own kind of take on that issue and I think they want to hear each other out before they come to some final decision on the language.
Q Is the U.S. looking for language that would at least infer early admission of the Baltics and is that causing a bit of a stir among some of the Europeans?
MR. STEINBERG: I think what the United States is looking for is a very clear indication that this is an ongoing process; that as countries meet the requirements, as they demonstrate their potential to contribute to NATO, to contribute to security, to meet all the other things that we're looking for in new NATO members -- consolidated reforms on a political and economic scope -- that that door will remain open; and that there is a sense that it will depend on the ability of these new members to meet the qualifications, rather than some kind of artificial limitations.
Q Joseph Biden today said that some European countries want only five countries in the first round, and then close the door. Is that true, to your knowledge? And what is the U.S. prepared to compromise about? You say three countries, you say you want the Southern Command, and you say the door should stay open. Are you unwilling to compromise on all those three questions?
MR. STEINBERG: I think what we intend to do is to support the positions that the President believes are necessary to maintain NATO's integrity. As he said tonight and has said a number of times before, the NATO military alliance is one of the most important parts of our own security and it is essential to the security of Europe; and that as we move forward, enlargement is an extremely important part of extending stability and security, but we want to do it in a way that doesn't undermine the military effectiveness. And that's a question that goes not only to who comes into NATO and how we proceed with that process, but also how we proceed with the development of the new command structure. And so all of these issues are drawn by his best judgment about what is necessary to maintain NATO's effectiveness while we move forward with enlargement.
Q On the Boeing-McDonald Douglas merger, what's the administration's next step if the EU nixes the deal and Boeing basically ignores it and goes ahead? What specific steps would you take to defuse that?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, as you know, the EU has not taken a final decision with respect to that merger and that there are discussions continuing to go on. So we're obviously hopeful that this can be resolved in the course of these discussions. And I'm not going to presume that it will not lead to an outcome that resolves the questions.
Q Do you expect the President to speak to Zedillo? And, also, what -- can you fill us in on what the Spanish conversation with Zedillo was really about -- I mean, congratulating him, or what?
MR. STEINBERG: My impression, although, I'm not entirely certain about that, is that Zedillo called us, but you'd
have to check with the Spanish on that. Obviously, there's a close relationship between Spain and Mexico. Spain has always been very interested and engaged in Latin America and I think that the focus, at least, of the discussions as Aznar recounted it to the President was to note the fact that this was a very important election that took place; that by all accounts it seems to have gone quite smoothly; that the people of Mexico were able to express their views.
Obviously, you had in Mexico City a candidate of a different party, a former presidential candidate who won that election -- that I think both the Prime Minister and the President saw this as a further maturation of democracy in Mexico and a very positive development.
Q Can we go back to Barry's original question? What is it that's going to be decided tomorrow? And can we expect the invitations to be announced tomorrow night or Wednesday?
MR. STEINBERG: On the timing, it really will depend, of course, on how the conversations go tomorrow. I'm just -- I'm not in a position to try to predict right now how that's going to go. We obviously hope that what comes out of the discussions tomorrow is the decision to announce an invitation to the three countries to begin accession discussions with NATO and also a very clear statement about the fact that the door is open and that we're going to keep this process under continual review, and that, as countries develop and meet the qualifications of NATO membership, that NATO will be open to taking them in.
Q -- going to agree tomorrow and maybe announce at another --
MR. STEINBERG: I just -- I can't -- I mean, the discussion will go as it goes, and I can't predict for the leaders when they'll finish those discussions.
Q Are there any NATO countries that have told the United States that they don't agree with the idea that there will necessarily be a second round, that they want one round only?
MR. STEINBERG: I don't think any country has put it explicitly in those terms, John. I'm certainly not aware of any country that has said that. I think that different countries have a different notion about how the process should go between now -- I mean, after today's discussions how the further discussions should take place, what should be the process for keeping these things under review. But I am unaware of at least as a matter of formal government position that any countries have said that this should be one time and that's it.
Q As a follow-up to that, does the United States have a position on whether specific countries be named in the communique or do you want to leave it more -- the language more spacious and not specific?
MR. STEINBERG: I think this is something that the leaders want to talk about tomorrow -- about what's the best way to maintain the open door, to maintain the integrity of the process. As the President said tonight, we want to make sure that all countries feel that they have an opportunity if they do the kinds of things that we think are important for them to do for them to get in. At the same time, the President has obviously made clear that we think that both Romania and Slovenia have made considerable progress. And I think what they'll be discussing tomorrow is what's the best way to reflect those overall goals.
Q Jim, is there even the slightest chance that more than three countries would be invited after the consensus
process works its way through this week?
MR. STEINBERG: I think our belief and expectation is that the three countries which we believe should become and be invited to join NATO would be the ones that will be invited to join NATO.
Q Would you be really surprised?
MR. STEINBERG: I would just say what I said.
Q Is the United States prepared to use its ability to block consensus to make sure that there are no more than three?
MR. STEINBERG: I think the President has made clear that he thinks that three -- there are three countries which are now at the stage that they should be invited to begin accession negotiations.
Q And you'll make that clear tomorrow and be prepared to invoke what is effectively a veto?
MR. STEINBERG: The NATO works by consensus, and as we've indicated, we think there is a consensus for the three.
Q Jim, just to follow up on your answer on Zedillo, do we see Mexico as more stable or less stable after the elections?
MR. STEINBERG: I think -- I believe, if I heard the President correctly, what he said was that we think that democracy and pursuing the democratic process always contributes to stability; that that is something over the long run -- that there cannot be stability without an opportunity for the people to express their views, to feel that the government is elected. As the President said, it doesn't matter who wins, it's the deepening of the process of a good, open, fair process. And so, in that sense, the election contributes to stability.
Q Months ago, the administration said that -- people like Secretary Albright said you were reviewing your options to get compliance with the Dayton Accords. The President just now said, the rules of engagement will not be changed. Does that rule out any more vigorous, active role by American and other NATO peacekeepers in apprehending the likes of Radovan Karadzic?
MR. STEINBERG: You had a chance to ask the President that, and he gave an answer to that. But the President indicated, as he has said many times before, that we think that the war criminals provision of Dayton is an important provision. We think the parties should comply with it. And we want to support the efforts of the War Crimes Tribunal.
Q Well, under the current rules of engagement, do NATO peacekeepers have the authority, if Karadzic falls on them, to arrest him?
MR. STEINBERG: As you know, Barry, under the current rules of engagement, if SFOR comes across war criminals, they can detain them.
Q Could you be more specific about what Mr. xx** said about Cuba? What is it exactly that the disagreement is about with other people in Spain?
MR. STEINBERG: I think that what he said was that he was -- upon coming into office, he was convinced that it was important for Europe to be very clear in its support for democracy in Cuba; to make clear that it is an important part of
the EU's own relationship with Cuba that it made clear its support for democracy and the importance of Cuba opening up to democracy and freedom of expression; that he recognized that because he had taken a very public stand on that and helped create a very important consensus that we think was a very positive step forward for Europe, that there had been some in Spain who had criticized him, but that he was proud of what they had done and would continue to do it.
Q They didn't talk about Helms-Burton at all?
MR. STEINBERG: They did not talk about Helms-Burton.
Q They didn't mention it?
MR. STEINBERG: Not to the best of my recollection.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
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