THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
READOUT TO THE POOL
BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
ON THE PRESIDENT'S DINNER WITH
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN
11:09 P.M. (L)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There was a good deal of substance, two hours and a half, two hours and 45 minutes. It was roughly divided into a dinner, and there was a brief walk around the private apartment complex. And then we went back into another room. And if it's important to any of you, we can get the names of the rooms.
If you want, I can come back on color in a moment, including menu. None of you are probably veterans of January 1994 and moose lips, but I've got the equivalent of moose lips for this one. (Laughter.)
On substance, there was some, I would say, personal and social conversation at the beginning. And then they got very much down to business. It was quite broad-ranging. It was international security, very much including arms control and the strategic nuclear relationship between the United States and Russia, the issue of various threats to international security. A number of specific international issues, aside from arms control, including the Balkans and the Caucasus.
They're going to be going back into discussions in a small format tomorrow, and then into a plenary session. And I think you've all got probably as much about the schedule as we do.
Q Did President Putin indicate any what you would view as flexibility on this missile defense system?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not going to say anything whatsoever with regard to the details on the substance or characterizing either side's position.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is a, I would say, very serious and focused beginning of a set of conversations that are going to continue through the weekend.
Q Can you tell us whether the arms control area that you spoke of included missile defense?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It did, yes.
Q Did he explain his proposal, or the kind of outline, in a way that you could understand, without going into what it was?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not going to go any further on the particulars of it.
Q This sounds like a very businesslike kind of --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Businesslike is good. Businesslike is good, yes, and congenial. Remember that the two presidents do know each other, and that was quite apparent from the beginning. There were references to past meetings. There was a sense of picking up on a number of issues, which both have been dealing with, including with each other; albeit when Mr. Putin was in a different capacity. I guess the last meeting was in Auckland -- Oslo and then Auckland? Have I got it right?
Q In addition to the international security issues, were there any other topics -- I mean the Balkans, the Caucasus -- but anything other than international security issues? IMF or any financial stuff?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They touched on international economics and economic relations between the United States and Russia. It was, I would say, a combination of both teeing-up issues, which will be discussed tomorrow, including with ministers and others -- but also delving quite deeply into some of those issues between the two of them.
Q Anything you would characterize as progress?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's nothing I would characterize in any fashion whatsoever. Joe and others will be doing some characterizing later, I'm sure, when it's further along.
MR. LOCKHART: How about some color, and then I have to get my colleague back upstairs.
Q How about the chemistry between the two of them?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The chemistry was, comparison is, I'm not sure, particularly germane. I mean, there was a very easy-going nature to the conversation. It was quite clear that they knew each other, that they knew a lot about each other's positions, and they were very interested in hearing directly from each other about each other's positions.
You're really going to go with Lockhart as your only source on the menu?
Q No. We'd like to know the menu, please. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: All right, all right.
Q You're topping moose lips?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I know I've got a tradition to uphold. I can't do moose lips, unfortunately. But cold spicy boiled wild boar, I thought was pretty good.
Q How did it taste, though?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I didn't get to eat much. But I did -- blini to start with, cold spicy boiled wild boar, which I almost can't say; baked stag ham; shchi -- if any of you who are local know what shchi is, it's a cabbage soup -- trout; goose and red wine; and then - I don't even know what this means in French or English -- plombir.
Q Was it ice cream?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, right. Thank you. It's a very fancy rich ice cream dessert which I can't characterize. Just a word about the tour that President Putin took President Clinton on. He showed him his personal study, which is book-lined. He took him into a small chapel that is part of the Presidenial residence, and he took him to a small gymnasium, or a workout room, which has got a universal gym and a massage table -- and then showed him the guest quarters as well.
And as I said, that was about halfway through, and then back into another room for dessert, and a lot of the conversation took place during and after dessert. So they continued -- that's one reason we're late -- the conversation went quite a long time after the meal was over.
Q How did they address each other? Are they on a first-name basis yet?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let's see. I don't recall them using -- no, but I wouldn't attach any particular significance to that. By the way, President Putin clearly does have some knowledge of English. He dropped in a couple of English words from time to time.
And that's about it, but we'll have more a little later on.
Q Thank you.
END 11:20 P.M. (L)
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