THE WHITE HOUSE
the Press Secretary
READOUT TO THE POOL
BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION
ON THE PRESIDENT'S DINNER WITH
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR
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.
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
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?
OFFICIAL: I'm not going to go any further on the particulars of it.
This sounds like a very businesslike kind of --
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
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?
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.
LOCKHART: How about some color, and then I have to get my colleague back
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.
going to go with Lockhart as your only source on the menu?
Q No. We'd
like to know the menu, please. (Laughter.)
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?
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?
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.