THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release
||June 18, 1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER
AND NATIONAL ECONOMIC ADVISOR GENE SPERLING
Hotel Mondial am Dom
4:13 P.M. (L)
MR. LOCKHART: Before I come back up we're going to get a readout
federal the three bilats today from the President's National Security Advisor,
Mr. Samuel Berger; and the President's NEC Director, Mr. Gene Sperling. They
can give you a fill on the President's day to date and what he's got for the
rest of the day. And then if there are any other issue you want to raise, I'll
be glad to take your questions.
MR. BERGER: Speak softly and carry a big shtick. (Laughter.)
Let me very quickly summarize the three bilateral meetings the President had
today with Prime Minister Blair, with Prime Minister Obuchi, and with
The meeting with Prime Minister Blair and Chancellor Schroeder
really were quite similar. They focused very heavily on Kosovo. I think all
of them have agreed that we now are pivoting to a new stage. As the President
said, having won the conflict, we now need to win the peace. And that is
probably no less an undertaking than the air campaign.
They discussed a number of aspects of this. Essentially, first
there is a -- and these will all be discussed here at the G-7 and G-8, both
formally and informally. There will be, obviously, the need for short-term
relief for Kosovo.
There hopefully will be a donor's conference announced in the
next few days, which we would like to see as soon as possible --
in the next several weeks -- which will deal with the short-term
emergency needs for Kosovo and the Kosovars.
There's then a longer-term rebuilding program for
Kosovo, involving the construction, or reconstruction, of civil
society -- the creation of local police, the holding of elections
and all of the things that we've talked about.
And then the third dimension of this, and the one that
the three leaders talked about the most, was the Southeastern
European regional dimension. That is, trying to build and commit
ourselves to build an integrative process in the region that not
only helps to rebuild the region, but does so in ways that pull
the countries together.
The frontline states, as you all know --
Albania and Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, others -- in many ways
carried the heaviest burden of this war, besides the actual
combatants here, strained by refugees, their economies very, very
badly damaged, their democracies very fragile and very strained.
And we now have a very serious obligation to try to help them
build a broader future.
And the President talked with both Blair and with
Schroeder about a long-term Southeastern European initiative,
that Chancellor Schroeder has taken the leadership in the EU with
the Balkan Stability Pact, which would bring the countries
together, themselves, in helping them to define what their region
might look like, and -- both integrated among themselves, and
then integrated into Europe. So this was a very substantial part
of the conversation.
They talked about who would be appointed as the U.N.
representative for the civil implementation. I think the feeling
with the President and with the other leaders is this is
extremely important. There needs to be somebody here taking this
job who has a unique set of managerial, motivational, and
political skills to do the job.
Now, in addition, obviously, there was a brief
conversation at the end of the President and the Prime Minister
on Northern Ireland. I think this is something they will come
back to later. With Chancellor Schroeder, a few bilateral
issues. But basically, both meetings with Schroeder and Blair
were about Kosovo.
Now, with Obuchi, I'll let Gene be more specific, but
they talked about some economic progress in Japan, trade issues,
growth. Prime Minister Obuchi indicated that they would
participate to the tune of about $200 million in the cooperative
threat reduction program with Russia. The President talked about
this in the State of the Union. We have provided in our budget
$4.2 billion over five years. This is to help Russia control its
nuclear materials and redirect its nuclear and other arm
industries. This will be a major initiative of the G-7 at the
The President was grateful to the Japanese for having
now enacted the defense guidelines, which determine the nature of
our military cooperation. The President mentioned that next
year's summit will be in Okinawa, which provides us an
opportunity to resolve and implement some of the elements that we
agreed to, in terms of our own military presence on Okinawa,
including relocating the air station there.
And the President also talked to Prime Minister Obuchi
a bit about Ambassador Pickering's trip to China and also about
the situation in the Korean Peninsula, our concerns about North
Korean missile testing and the need to watch that very carefully,
as well as to maintain the agreed framework, which helps to
maintain the -- prevent the North Koreans from developing their
Let me let Gene add some economic information, and then
I'll answer questions about Helsinki and elsewhere.
MR. SPERLING: As Sandy mentioned, economics came up in
each of the meetings somewhat, though it was not the primary
focus. In his bilat with Prime Minister Obuchi, they started by
talking about the positive report on the first quarter growth
that Japan had received. The President said that everyone shares
in them getting this positive news, but also stressed that it was
important for Japan to use all available tools going forward,
because the world would be looking at what the three- to
four-quarter trends were in judging the full degree of the
direction of Japan's economy.
They also talked about trade, particularly steel. The
Prime Minister raised it, but the President talked about the fact
that the trade number, the steel import numbers, had come down
from Japan, but that they had not quite -- that while the overall
numbers have come down to pre-crisis levels in virtually every
category; and that while Japan's numbers have come down
significantly, that they have not quite reached the pre-crisis
levels and that it was very important for there to be sustained
progress on this.
They talked about the legislation going forward. The
President made clear he did not want to see the steel quota bill
go through because the United States was going forward on further
trade liberalization and progress at the WTO administerial in
Seattle; did not want to see us in a position where we were
passing a law that would be inconsistent with the rules of the
But the President stressed that because -- that there
was a lot of momentum for such legislation and that made it all
the more important for Japan to show progress in keeping their
steel import numbers down, and that further progress in bilateral
trade issues such as flat glass, insurance, autos, procurement,
would all be helpful in creating the right environment to guard
against protectionist legislation.
At the beginning of the meeting with Schroeder, and for
a longer period of time in the meeting with Prime Minister Blair,
they did talk about debt relief. This discussion should be going
on as we speak in the G-7. They talked about the degree that the
proposal that was on the table, a proposal the United States has
been very strong in advocating and formulating, was a very bold
We hope to be able to give you the full details in a
couple of hours, but to give a context, there is currently $127
billion of debt from the heavily indebted poorest countries --
$127 billion. The current HIPC program dealt with $22.5 billion
of that debt. The proposal that's on the table would more than
triple that amount of debt reduction involving the G-7 countries.
And if other countries were to share in this effort, then a full
70 percent of the $127 billion could be relieved, assuming that
countries met the criteria they needed in terms of conditionality
and proper governance.
The other important thing that they mentioned was that
what was important about this debt relief effort is that this
would free up actual cash flow savings for countries, and that
the purpose of the proposal was to target those savings
specifically to reducing poverty, education, crucial health needs
-- so using very much the debt reduction savings, cash flow
savings, to deal with the most significant problems of poverty in
Already some of the non-profit experts in this area
reporting that under the current program, Bolivia received $67
million in debt service savings; in Uganda, $37 million in
savings. Up to 26 to 33 countries could benefit were this
proposal to go through in its current form.
They also will be talking about going through the
architecture proposals, which is really the culmination of a
significant amount of progress and work that's been done since
Birmingham. And it will deal with the areas of how to have the
private sector more involved and work out ensuring that lenders
have the appropriate risk factors; that there's the type of data
that would prevent against some of the problems that we saw in
terms of short-term foreign cap debt reliance, and the kind of
capital standards that would make lenders fully take account of
the risks involved in lending to countries of very varying
So we will, hopefully, have more -- we will get the
full specifics on the debt reduction as soon as it is agreed to.
Q What about the Russians? What's the latest on the
MR. BERGER: Let me just say -- there will be more on
what Gene said -- the debt relief actions that I believe that
will be taken at this summit are really historic. And there will
be more said about them later, but they'll have an enormous
impact on the developing -- poorer countries in the developing
world, perhaps more than any other single action taken by the
developed countries at any time.
In terms of Helsinki, I think that we are into a period
of closure here. There's still -- I spoke to them just a little
while ago, we're discussing some final issues, but I think there
seemed to be a level of optimism, sobered by the fact that some
unpredictable things have happened in this area in the last week.
But it looks quite good.
Q The President thought that in two hours that he
might have a deal. Without holding to a specific --
MR. BERGER: I don't think he said two hours.
Q Oh, he did, a couple of hours. But withholding to
a time period, do you expect it today?
MR. BERGER: I'm hopeful this will happen today. The
NAC is meeting in Brussels, they've convened. The idea would be
for Secretary Cohen, Secretary Albright to go to Brussels and
brief the allies -- again, if there is an agreement. I think
given the nature of this issue over the last week, until it's
finally agreed to it's not finally agreed to. But I think it's
very close to being agreed to.
Q -- accept a sector for the Russians, will they
have their own sector?
MR. BERGER: I will let -- I think it's only
appropriate, if there is an agreement, for it to be briefed
there. I would say that what is emerging here is something
entirely satisfactory to us. It preserves the unity of command
and control. It preserves the effectiveness of KFOR, and brings
Russia in in a way that we've wanted to from the beginning. So
what is now being discussed is something that is entirely
satisfactory to us.
Q Sandy, we get the impression, rightly or wrongly,
that anything would have been satisfactory, you have been so
resolutely up-beat all week.
MR. BERGER: Well, if anything would have been
satisfactory we would have been done two and a half days ago
we would have been done two and a half days ago. I mean, Bill
has been there for two days and two nights going at this. And
the fact is that we do have some things that we could not accept,
and we're not only there on our own behalf, we're there on behalf
of our NATO allies. So Secretary Cohen was not only in a
position of having to deal with the Russians, but also then going
back and calling the major allies and seeing whether they could
agree to this, because some of this involves deployments in
sectors where they have command.
So I think if we had wanted anything, it would have
been done two days ago. We wanted to make sure we would wind up
with something here that maintained the NATO-led force,
maintained unified command and maintained the effectiveness of
this force -- that is, that the Kosovars will go home, as they
are doing. It appears to me that's the direction in which we're
Q How many Russian troops could the NATO allies
accept in Kosovo?
MR. BERGER: Well, again, I'm going to let the details
of this be briefed when there's an agreement.
Q You stressed the back-and-forth nature of this
surprise operation over the past week. What has that said about
U.S.-Russian relations? Is the Cold War still over? And,
perhaps more importantly, is Boris Yeltsin in control of these
MR. BERGER: Well, I think that, first of all,
obviously, relations between Russia and the West were strained by
the NATO action in Kosovo. But, at the same time, they were
reinforced by Russia's participation in helping us achieve a
peace. And I think that if we are able to complete the
discussions that Secretary Cohen, Secretary Albright are having
in Helsinki we will have the Russians in KFOR, working along side
us and other allies. And I think in the long-term this will
strengthen U.S.-Russian relations.
Q Mr. Berger, to follow up on that, you mentioned
that there's been some unpredictable things in the last week. Is
there a concern that a major nuclear power, such as Russia, is
acting unpredictably on an issue as important as Kosovo?
MR. BERGER: Well, the fact that we may not have been
-- or Mr. Ivanov may not have known this unit was going to show
up at the airport does not, I think, necessarily suggest that
there is not decision-making in Russia. I don't want to get into
-- there are a number of different possibilities about who
ordered what when and who knew what when, what did he know and
when did he know it.
Q Do you know the truth?
MR. BERGER: I think there are a number of
possibilities and I think we have to operate as if any of them
might be true.
Q Sandy, there is another report today that the
President has signed a presidential finding authorizing the CIA
to try to weaken Slobodan Milosevic's grip on power. Has the
President signed a presidential finding and what's he trying to
do along those lines?
MR. BERGER: Well, whether or not that particular --
that is true is something, as you know, that we never speak to
those matters publicly.
I will say this: We have been supporting the
opposition of President Milosevic quite openly for some time --
independent media, opposition parties. And I would expect that
would only intensify in the period following what he has done in
I also think that as we stand up a really robust
Southeast Europe reconstruction program and the people of Serbia
see that their neighbors are participating in it, but they're not
because they're led by an indicted war criminal, that that will
exert some pressure on the system as well.
So, do we support democracy and democratic forces in
Q Sandy, on Japan -- you mentioned that the
President brought up the fact that the next summit is going to be
in Okinawa, and that this provided an opportunity to resolve some
of the military presence issues outstanding regarding Okinawa,
including the air station. Does that mean that next year, the
summit next year is a deadline to resolve the air base, or is an
objective to do that by next year?
MR. BERGER: I don't think it's a deadline. We've had
good cooperation with the Japanese on this. We, as you know,
about a year or so ago signed what's called SACO, an agreement
dealing with how we would maintain our presence, but reduce our
footprint on the island. We've implemented many of those things.
The one issue that remains unresolved is the relocation of the
air station, the Futenma air station. That depends upon finding
some other place to put it, which is a decision the Japanese have
There's new political leadership in Okinawa that is
quite cooperative on these issues. And I think it would be
useful to get these resolved over the next year in any case, but,
obviously, the fact that the summit will be there will just give
us every -- I think both sides more incentive to do that.
Q Sandy, the Russian PM, when he arrived here, said
that the Russians had come to Cologne with several proposals, and
Yeltsin will present them. Are these proposals on Kosovo?
MR. BERGER: I don't know.
Q Sandy, is the Russian dispute slowing the return
of the refugees into Kosovo?
MR. BERGER: I don't believe so. I think that -- as of
this morning, we had 35,000 Serb forces who had left; we had, I
believe, 19,000 -- I'm getting these numbers wrong -- KFOR forces
that had come back. Just need to check those numbers. They're
right? And refugees are returning, perhaps 6,000 yesterday, just
across the border in Albania.
We obviously, as you know, have been suggesting that
the refugees might come back when the areas were safer and more
secure, and have encouraged them to do that. But I think that
this is quite a poignant demonstration of how strongly these
people want to go home. They want to get back to their homes.
They want to find the missing relatives. They want to get on
with their lives. That's not to say that they shouldn't wait
until we can clear the mines out, but I think that's very
So I don't think this dispute has had -- or this issue
has had any effect on the refugee returns.
Q Sandy, the Russian Prime Minister, Sergei
Stephashin, also said on his arrival that the Russians can play a
critical role in preventing Serbs from fleeing Kosovo, just like
the other NATO allies can encourage Kosovar refugees to return.
Is that something that you want the Russians to do, to encourage
Serbs to stay in Kosovo?
MR. BERGER: I think one of the things the President
has said from the beginning is that -- two things. Number one,
KFOR's mandate is to protect both the ethnic Albanians and the
ethnic Serbs. And there have been a couple of ugly incidents in
the last 24 hours in terms of Serb monasteries -- at least, your
folks reported. So, number one, KFOR is there to protect all of
the people of Kosovo. And, second of all, one of the reasons why
it would be helpful to have the Russians here is precisely
because of that. They have the confidence, obviously, of Serb
population and hopefully they will encourage Serbs to stay.
My impression has been the number, the rate at which
Serbs are departing has diminished somewhat in the last day.
Q Sandy, after the Russians hijacked the airport in
Pristina and misled you and misled the President about their
intentions, what leads you to believe now that they can be a
trustworthy partner in KFOR?
MR. BERGER: Well, they'll have their duties, like
everyone else. They'll be subject to a chain of command. They
have done so in Bosnia; we will expect them to do so in Kosovo.
Q You trust them, Sandy? Correct? You trust them?
Q Trick question.
MR. BERGER: Yes. I believe that people operate out of
the basis of their self-interest, Scott. And I believe it is in
the interest of the Russians to do their job in Kosovo, as
they've done it in Bosnia.
Q But let me go back to the -- you were theorizing
that there are a number of different possibilities about who knew
what, and who gave the orders for the military to go in. Would
you acknowledge that one of the possibilities is that Yeltsin and
the political actors there simply aren't in control of all
aspects of the Russian military?
MR. BERGER: Well, I don't want to get into
speculations as to why 150 Russian soldiers wound up at the
airport when they were not supposed to be there, and why we were
told that they would not deploy and they deployed nonetheless.
There are, as I say, a number of possible scenarios, and I think
we have to be wise enough to contemplate all of them.
Q -- disarming the KLA, Sandy?
Q Given the fact that the President is making much
of the Europeans taking over the lion's share of peacekeeping and
reconstruction, was any thought given to having in Helsinki these
negotiations with a multilateral cast rather than just
U.S.-Russia? Why not have brought in the other four who are
going to have their own sectors in Kosovo?
MR. BERGER: Well, the Helsinki talks arose from a
conversation between President Yeltsin and President Clinton. As
you know, they spoke, I guess, three times over the last weekend.
And in their final conversation, President Yeltsin basically
suggested that they operate on two tracks. One was that they
work on the airport issues with General Jackson, working with his
Russian counterpart. And the other he specifically said was
Secretary Cohen and Minister Sergeyev would go to a third country
-- we suggested Helsinki -- to resolve the longer-term issues.
Perhaps he was thinking of the fact that we had the
same issue in Bosnia and, ultimately, Bill Perry and Minister
Grachev came together and resolved it. Perhaps that model was in
But I think Bill has been very conscience in Helsinki
that he's not there representing the United States, that he has
to -- whatever agreement he reaches has to be satisfactory to all
of the NATO allies.
Q Sandy, on disarming the KLA, how is that going?
There are reports of NATO troops that actually had to threaten
force to get the KLA rebels to put down their weapons. How would
you characterize the situation?
MR. BERGER: The understanding that the KLA signed up
to in Rambouillet was to demilitarize, that is, to cease
functioning as a military unit, nor to have the weaponry of a
military unit. In our conversations with them over the past two
weeks, most of the leaders of the KLA -- as you know, it's not
entirely monolithic -- agreed that if the Serbs do, in fact,
withdraw, if NATO does, in fact, deploy, that they would abide by
Now, as I understand it there have been some incidents
where KFOR soldiers have disarmed KLA members that might have
been acting in a threatening way. Don't forget that the
commander of KFOR has very broad powers to maintain security in
Kosovo. But my impression is that General Jackson believes that
his first responsibility is to get his force deployed in full
contingent -- 40,000-50,000 -- before fully taking on that job,
although, we have had continuing discussions and there have
actually been specific documents exchanged with the KLA about the
nature of how they would demilitarize.
Q You said that these unexpected surprises over the
last couple weeks have been sobering. Can you explain the effect
that they've had on U.S.-Russian relations? It sounds like
you're a lot warier now when you deal with them --
MR. BERGER: I think our relationship is basically
sound. I think that, obviously, Russia is going through a period
of difficulty, economically and otherwise. That sometimes
manifests itself in their foreign policy. But I think that,
number one, the vast majority of Russians clearly have made clear
that they want to maintain their democracy. Number two, I think
that most Russian leaders understand that the future of Russia
lies with the West. Number three, I think President Yeltsin
clearly has always understood both that principle and the
principle that the people are the source of his power. Whenever
he's had a problem, he's gone back to the public for a
And I think the final thing I would say is that I'm
quite impressed by this government -- by Prime Minister
Stepashin, who we've had a lot of contact with recently; by
Foreign Minister Ivanov. I think the fact that Defense Minister
Sergeyev and Secretary Cohen have been engaged in these intense
discussions over the last two or three days is very, very
healthy. So I think our relationship, by and large, is good,
even though there are going to be areas where we disagree and
MR. LOCKHART: Thanks, Sandy. Thanks.
Q Sandy, could you give us some kind of preview of
the political statement tonight, that's going to come out?
MR. BERGER: I think someone else is going to come in
and do that a little bit later.
Q It's going to be, like, late. Can you tell us --
Q Well, just -- purpose of the dinner.
MR. BERGER: Obviously Kosovo will be a big part of it;
Middle East. I mean, it's the same -- your basic food groups.
Q Sandy, is it your understanding that Yeltsin's
going to come on Sunday? Is there any doubt about that?
Did you not hear that? (Laughter.)
Q He's off-mike.
MR. BERGER: No, I didn't hear it.
END 4:44 P.M. (L)