PRESS BRIEFING BY
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER
The Marriott Hotel
Q What can you tell us about the meeting today?
MR. BERGER: President Kwasniewski opened by expressing his very deep gratitude and that of the Polish people for the action taken in Madrid by NATO yesterday. He said that this is a decision that changes the history of Europe and the world, and expressed very strong support of this for the Polish people and their willingness to accept the responsibilities of NATO membership.
He talked about the new constitution, which has been -- is being adopted here with great pride. He talked about the economy of Poland. This has been a remarkable situation since 1989 when the Solidarity government was the first post-communist government -- six percent annual growth rate; two-thirds of gross domestic product in Poland is now in the private sector. The unemployment rate, which at one time was staggering, is down close to 10 percent and going down. He noted that the United States is major investor in Poland and is helping to make this happen.
On regional issues, he talked about the importance now of the countries of Central Europe coming together in cooperative ventures that will be economically advantageous to all of them, as well as politically. He said he was pleased by the NATO-Russia Founding Act and that this was an extraordinarily important moment for the Polish people, and the President coming here really enabled them to celebrate this.
The President said to him that the real credit for what happened in Madrid yesterday belongs to the Polish people and the struggle that they have waged since 1980 and before for democracy. He talked about the responsibilities of NATO membership, not only the military responsibilities that come with it, but also the role that Poland can play in reaching out to its neighbors and others in the region as a model of economic reform and democratic reform and success. Having gone through some very
tough times here in Poland, they have really come out the other side of the tunnel on a very, very attractive trajectory.
And they had some brief conversation about the state of Polish-Jewish relations, which President Kwasniewski has made a strenuous effort to improve, and they discussed that for a time.
They then had a one-on-one, which obviously I was not at.
Q Sorry, I thought you were done. Out of the tunnel -- is that the President's phrase?
MR. BERGER: No, these are my characterizations. The only thing that actually -- really say was a quote here was yesterday's decision changes the history of Europe and the world.
Q Did they discuss also the costs of joining NATO and also the part which the United States would be willing to pay for the restoration of Polish army?
MR. BERGER: The President made the point that NATO membership carries with it responsibilities, and part of those responsibilities are burden-sharing, upgrading of military so that they can operate together, and that obviously would involve some costs. But there was no specific discussion of numbers or figures.
Q How long was the meeting?
MR. BERGER: I would say the meeting was about 40 minutes. There was quite -- were you at the ceremony, the arrival? I don't have to describe that to you -- and then the meeting was about -- with others in attendance was about 45 minutes. And then they went one on one, and that must have been at least 15 or 20 minutes.
Q Was there any mention of the raid in Bosnia at that meeting?
MR. BERGER: No.
Q Poland more than most of any particular country in Europe has been a kind of crossroads for a war. Has there been at any point in this process any concern about taking into NATO an historically strategic hot spot like this?
MR. BERGER: Poland has been the object of war very often, not necessarily it's instigator.
Q That's what I mean.
MR. BERGER: No, I think if anything, as you've heard us say over the last several days, the process of bringing in countries like Poland increases stability because not only does it solidify their democracy, but it also contributes to a better relationship with their neighbors.
In all of Central and Eastern Europe, there are ethnic and border disputes. Almost a dozen of them have been resolved in the last few years in part because countries are seeking stability and in part because they're seeking to become members of NATO. So I think Poland in NATO adds to the stability of Europe and the strength of NATO.
Q I'll grant you all of that. I'll grant you that thinking. But did no one bring up at any time, hostile countries tend to come through Poland and --
MR. BERGER: I don't think Poland should be
penalized because it has been the victim of aggression. (Laughter.)
Q I'm not sure that's what I'm asking. I'm wondering if the concern never occurred to anyone.
MR. BERGER: I think this issue -- all aspects of this have been discussed and considered before the President's speech in January of 1994 when he proposed NATO enlargement. And there have been -- lots of studies have been done in NATO about risks and costs and benefits, and I think all factors have been taken into account.
I understand the point you're making. I don't think that the fact that Poland is at a geopolitical crossroads and therefore has been overrun by the aggressions of others in the past should -- all the more reason to have Poland inside of NATO and part of the stable situation.
Q Just on that point, doesn't Poland exemplify that still the old formulation of keeping the Russians out and the Germans down still have, even after this NATO summit, still have some validity?
MR. BERGER: No, I really don't. I think that you heard none of that at Madrid. You certainly -- Q The fact we didn't hear it doesn't mean it's --
MR. BERGER: The fact that Chancellor Kohl was a pivotal figure in Madrid and has been an intense advocate of NATO enlargement, the fact that we worked intensely and diligently over months with NATO to bring Russia into partnership with NATO reflects a new equation, reflects a new reality. And that's not to say that history can't repeat itself, but it is -- we're trying to create a new history here, a new kind of dynamic.
Q -- talked about -- France is not going to put up any money for the NATO enlargement?
MR. BERGER: The NATO communique makes it clear that all of the NATO members will bear their responsibilities under this enlargement proposal, and I am sure that France will fulfill its responsibilities and obligations.
Q Was that a sudden decision to have these Cabinet --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. One of the things that occurred to me as I was watching that ceremony is --we've said -- the reason we came to Poland was to congratulate the Polish people and to talk about the responsibilities of NATO membership. There really is a third dimension here, which is it's an opportunity for them to celebrate their own achievement.
Q Is the President going to try to disabuse Prime Minister Chretien of his idea that somehow NATO expansion was inspired by domestic politics?
MR. BERGER: I think Prime Minister Chretien knows that that's not the case.
Q Really? How can you say that?
Q Did they have a conversation since these remarks, is that how Prime Minister Chretien is aware?
MR. BERGER: No, I'm not aware of any conversations.
Q To go back to Bosnia for a second, Mr. Berger, has the President ever approved --
MR. MCCURRY: We're done with that. Thank you.
Q Mike, what is on the record now?
MR. MCCURRY: The stuff related to -- please check the transcript. You'll see in the final transcript and we'll make that clear. But beginning with the Kwasniewski read out, with the exception of one question in there about Bosnia, right through to the end. And I'm on the record right now.
And the President, I think that he understood that Prime Minister Chretien was speaking in a private setting and if there's any further clarification needed it will come from the Canadian government.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
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