THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release December 7, 2000
PRESS BRIEFING BY
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER
ON PRESIDENT'S TRIP TO IRELAND AND ENGLAND
The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:05 P.M. EST
MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon. As we prepare for the President's
trip, there are a number of significant questions being asked -- Why is he
going? What can he accomplish six weeks before he leaves office? What can
he say in his public remarks that will help the parties focus on a more
united future, rather than a bitter, partisan past? Now, this briefing is
not just about the President's trip to Nebraska. (Laughter.) Regarding
his travel to Ireland, Northern Ireland, and England, there's no question
he will be joyously received as a leader who has made an unprecedented
commitment and lasting contribution to the Irish peace process.
Now, I know one question you're asking is, will this be the
National Security Advisor's last foreign trip briefing. Darned if we know.
But here to talk about the President's speech tomorrow in Kearney,
Nebraska, population 28,168, and the trip next week to Ireland, Northern
Ireland and England, which will include a second major foreign policy
address, we have our favorite son of small town America, the pride of
Millerton, New York, population 867, the National Security Advisor Samuel
MR. BERGER: Do you think Crowley is having withdrawal syndrome?
Q Is he opening at the Improv? (Laughter.)
MR. BERGER: Yes -- like Henny Youngman as your warm-up act.
Q Take my Security Advisor -- please. (Laughter.)
MR. BERGER: I wanted to talk to you, as PJ said, about the
President's upcoming travel, which begins, at least from my perspective,
tomorrow in Nebraska. The President will deliver a major speech about his
foreign policy at the University of Nebraska, in Kearney. He'll talk about
the role America has played in the world as we enter this global age, and
the principles that ought to guide our involvement in the future.
It's a speech that I think is quite appropriate to give in the
heartland. Building a popular consensus for principled internationalism
has been very important to the President these past eight years. Polls
have shown that the American people display often a good deal more
understanding of the need for America's engagement in the world than
sometimes is reflected in the national debate. Defining America's role in
this global age is the subject for tomorrow's speech.
Then, on Monday evening, after lighting the Christmas tree, we
leave for the Republican of Ireland, for Northern Ireland and England.
Back on September 13, David Trimble and Seamus Mallon, First Minister and
Deputy First Minister respectively of the new Northern Ireland Executive,
came to Washington specifically for the purpose of inviting the President
to visit Northern Ireland, again before the end of his presidency. That
invitation was echoed by the Taoiseach, Prime Minister of Ireland Bertie
Ahern, as well as by Prime Minister Tony Blair. And the President
accepted, which will come as a great shock to you.
Northern Ireland has achieved extraordinary things since the
President's first trip there -- that some of you were part of back in 1995
-- at a time when the possibility of the Good Friday Accord, which was
accomplished in 1998, was really hard to imagine. The Good Friday
Agreement is working. For the first time in 30 years, Northern Ireland
politicians are working together in an executive. They've produced,
together, a budget and a government program.
Leaders of both communities are working together on basic issues
that affect people's lives -- education, agriculture, health care,
environment, et cetera. The peace dividend is clear, and the number of
American companies investing in Northern Ireland, which has risen from 40
in 1994 to 100 today, resulting in 22,000 new jobs.
But there are still real hurdles to an enduring peace, and I'm
sure there will be for some time. The process still is fragile. Today
there is the issue of engagement by IRA with the De Chastelain Commission,
on putting arms beyond use; the suspension of Sinn Fein participation from
North-South meetings; the issue of implementing police reform. These are
all now issues in dispute.
The President will speak to the people of Northern Ireland and
their leaders while he is there. He will urge them to focus on the
unmistakable benefits that have been brought by the Good Friday Accord,
arguing that the problems of power-sharing are far preferable to the
problems of being powerless. As he has at key moments in this process in
the past, he will remind the people and leaders of Northern Ireland how far
they have come, what's at stake, how much they have to lose by going back.
He will try to lift their sights a bit from the challenges of the moment to
the more distant horizon, which is a lasting and durable peace.
The President is not going to negotiate the current issues. That
is for the parties and the British and Irish governments. But he will try
to contribute to a climate in which the parties and the governments are
better able to reach these solutions in the future.
Now, let me briefly go over the schedule. We begin on Tuesday
morning in Dublin, a chance for the President to consult with the Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern on the peace process. It is also a chance to highlight
Ireland's extraordinary economic success story. Ireland, today, is the
fastest growing economy in all of Europe with one of its lowest rates of
unemployment. And it's a good example of what can happen in the North once
people are truly confident that peace will last.
After a call on the Irish President McAleese, and a lunch with
the Taoiseach, the President will travel to Dundalk, just south of the
Northern Ireland border in the Republic of Ireland, where he will give an
outdoor speech. The Troubles hit this border region hard. But Dundalk
today is a model of economic regeneration. This is a place that knows what
violence has wrought and what peace can bring.
The President will spend Tuesday night in Belfast, and then on
Wednesday morning he will meet with David Trimble, Seamus Mallon and other
party leaders at Stormont, the site of the new Northern Ireland Assembly.
In the afternoon he will deliver a speech to the people of Northerm
Ireland, at a new modern arena known as the Oddessy Center, Oddessy
Complex, which is part of a revitalized Belfast waterfront. Prime Minister
Blair will be in Belfast with us.
That evening, the President will depart for England, where he and
Prime Minister Blair will have dinner with the First Lady and with Mrs.
Blair at Chequers, and I'm sure there will be a discussion of Northern
Ireland and a broad range of other issues.
Then, on Thursday morning, the President will deliver a speech at
Warwick University, about 150 miles outside of London. Warwick is one of
Britain's newest and finest research universities, singled out by Prime
Minister Blair as a model both of academic excellence and independence from
The President will speak there to one of the greatest challenges
the world faces over the next decade: to narrow the unsustainable gap
between rich and poor among and within nations, focusing on issues we have
been devoting considerable time and resources to in recent years, such as
Third World debt relief; fighting infectious diseases such as AIDS, which
are devastating parts of the developing world; basic education rights; and
the digital divide -- all of what might be called the new development
agenda for the 21st century.
These are issues that the President has succeeded in placing on
the agenda of the G-8 meetings, at least the last two, and it is essential
that they remain a priority for the United States and for the world in the
future. And the President will speak to those issues at Warwick.
In addition to the speech, he will have an audience with the
Queen in London, and then we will head back home on Thursday night. And
that is a summary of the trip, and I'm happy to try to answer any
Q You said Tony Blair joins in Belfast?
MR. BERGER: Yes.
Q And can you tell what the significance, what's the message
there, of Blair accompanying Clinton there in Belfast?
MR. BERGER: Well, Northern Ireland still is a part of Great
Britain, and, therefore, it's appropriate that the Prime Minister be there.
And, as I say, the purpose -- the President will speak to the people of
Northern Ireland when he's there, and to the leaders. And what the
President very often has done in this process, in addition to importuning
the parties at various points and trying to persuade them to make various
steps, I think more than anything he has raised their sights, has caused
them to look at their common interests, has caused them to look at what
they have at stake in maintaining this process.
Like any peace process, this is a difficult -- implementation is
difficult. The light at the end of the tunnel, on this and most peace
processes, is often another tunnel. And what the President is basically
going to do there is to try to contribute to the environment in which the
current differences can be resolved.
Q The President has gotten involved in negotiating the issues
in the past. Why isn't he going to do that now?
MR. BERGER: Well, I assume that when he meets with the parties
in Belfast, at Stormont, he will talk about all these issues. But we're
going to be in Stormont, in Northern Ireland, only for a matter of a few
hours. And so there really is not an opportunity for the President to do
what George Mitchell did over months and months. And it's for the parties
and for Prime Minister Blair and Prime Minister Ahern to come to grips with
these issues. But I'm sure he will speak to the parties about them. I
don't expect necessarily they will get resolved while he's there. I think
that his going will help, I believe, contribute to the environment in which
they can get resolved.
Q Sandy, you said that at various times the President weighed
in on what he's considered key moments. Does the President consider this
time in the dispute over cross-border and the RUC a key moment for him to
get involved, or is as several congressmen have described it to me, a
victory lap for the President before he leaves?
MR. BERGER: I think that this is a critical time for the peace
process. There are a cluster of issues that have come together. It's the
next big hurdle, just as it was a year or so ago, and each time these
things become very difficult to resolve. So I think that his going at this
time is an effort to not necessarily resolve the specific problems, but to
speak to the parties about the necessity of seeing their larger interest in
having them resolved.
Q Sandy, the head of security for the State Department was
quoted a short while ago as saying that security protection for Secretary
of State Albright should be extended for a period of months after the
transition. Do you think that's a good idea? Would it be a good idea for
you, as well? Is there a new threat level that we don't know about?
MR. BERGER: Well, I just heard about this, Bob, when I was
walking in the door, so I don't know what the rationale is. But it is
something I'll discuss with the folks here. It was not something I was
expecting to do.
Q Do you think it would be a good idea for you?
MR. BERGER: I can't make that judgment. Again, it's not
something I'm anticipating, but I will rely upon their judgment. I would
prefer not to, actually.
Q Is there anything extra in the way of security that we could
know about in terms of this trip you're taking next week in Ireland, due to
other things than Ireland?
MR. BERGER: There is always, when the President travels, extra
efforts that are undertaken, obviously, in connection with his travel. But
there is no -- I have no specific threat information which relates to the
trip next week.
Q How long, exactly, will you be in Northern Ireland? You
said a few hours.
MR. BERGER: We get into -- we're going to go to Belfast on
Tuesday night. We will be there all day Wednesday. And we will wind up
Wednesday night -- the President will stay with Prime Minister Blair in
Chequers, and the rest of us will be in London. So he'll be there a full
Q If the President is asked by the parties to return in some
sort of senior advisory role after he leaves office, would he consider
MR. BERGER: I don't know. I think -- they have to, obviously,
continue to deal with these issues among themselves. I'm sure the
President will have an abiding interest in peace in Northern Ireland, peace
in the Middle East, peace in the Balkans, and will always be available if
it's necessary and useful. I don't want to speak for him, but I don't
think that's too great a risk on my part of saying it.
Q The two university speeches, Nebraska and in the U.K., on
these general topics, the President's thoughts are pretty well-known, even
to the casual observer. He's for a continued engagement globally, and he's
for globalization, but with an eye toward reducing disparities within and
among nations. Is he going to sound any new ideas or create any new news
with these two speeches?
MR. BERGER: Well, I think the purpose of these two speeches is
-- let's take them separately. I think the purpose of the speech tomorrow
is to pull together in a, hopefully, coherent way the foreign policy that
has been pursued by this administration and the fundamental principles that
We came here, we arrived here, the President was elected at a
time when we were still in what was being called the "post-Cold War
period." By definition, that's defining the thrust of our policy in terms
of what's ending. Our task was to define our foreign policy in terms of
what we're building. I think we've done that over the last eight years,
and I think that tomorrow's speech seeks to draw that together and to point
to the future as we talk about a foreign policy for a global age.
I think the speech in Warwick really is to challenge the
international community to deal with a new set of issues that are
exacerbating the divide between rich and poor. We had a development
agenda, a North-South development agenda, during the '60s and the '70s and
the '80s, which was primarily based upon aid, aid flows. And in the '80s
we tended to emphasize trade as being almost exclusively the mechanism of
We've tried, over the last few years, to focus and to bring into
the first tier of national security concerns how to deal with what might be
called a globalization gap, the globalization gap. That is, how do we deal
with the digital divide; how do we deal with this terrible problem of AIDS
and malaria and tuberculous in the Third World, devastating Africa, India
and many other parts of the world. Can we do serious leaps on Third World
debt in a way that assures that the benefits of that relief will be plowed
back into education, into health care and to things that -- into good
governance -- things that will change the lives of the people of these
And I think the President sees, as you know from having listened
to him, that this is a fundamental issue that the world will have to come
to grips with. It's unsustainable, this gap, over a long period of time,
in an age in which we all see what happens in the world simultaneously. We
can choose not to act, but we can't choose not to know. And the President
would prefer us to know and to act.
Q Regarding Northern Ireland, would the President hope that
his successor would be involved in Northern Ireland as he has, or does he
feel that they've now reached a point over there where they don't need that
sort of outside boot to the degree they did in the mid '90s? And two, why
should an American President get so involved? What is the national
interest? Is it because there are a lot of Irish Americans in this
country? Is it because the late, lamented special relationship with the
English? I mean, we still have it. What is the reason?
MR. BERGER: I think wherever the United States and the President
of the United States -- let me back up -- we live in a time of inordinate
-- of unparalleled American influence; economically, militarily,
culturally, socially and every other way. Now, we could sort of sit back
on our haunches and say the woes of the world and we'll basically just live
behind the security of a continental nation. I don't believe that that's
I believe that where we can use our influence, and where people
want us to use our influence to be a peacemaker, we should do that. I think
if we can advance peace in the Middle East that's in our interest. I think
if we can advance peace in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where the President has
been deeply involved and we're on the verge of signing -- the parties -- a
peace agreement -- we've had our special envoy, Tony Lake, out there seven
times in the last year, as well as Secretary Rice and Gayle Smith of my
staff -- I think it is a way of exercising American power that I think
helps justify -- is both our responsibility as a leading power in the
world, and I think helps to define America in a way in which our power is
less resented, because it is being used to advance peace and not simply to
advance our self-interest.
Q Beyond that, would the President, however, want his
successor, does he hope that his successor would remain very engaged with
the Northern Ireland problem, or does he think that they have, as I said,
moved on to another phase now, that sort of help isn't needed?
MR. BERGER: Well, I think that the United States always will
have a special connection to the problems there. We've played a very
active role over the last several years. I would hope that the next
President would take an active interest and would be available to be of
assistance. Obviously, some of this, in this case in particular, derives
from the President's particular standing with the parties, but he earned
that standing the hard way, by working at it.
Q Sandy, w hat do you think this President's legacy will be
in foreign policy? That's something -- he ran on a domestic policy back in
'92, but he's been very active, he's been to Africa, China, the Mideast
peace talks, and now Ireland again, the Good Friday Accord. What do you
MR. BERGER: Legacies will be written by you all and by
historians. Let me tell you what I think the accomplishments have been;
I'm more comfortable with that word. I think that this administration has
revitalized our alliances. We came in at a time, found NATO to be
questioned -- its purpose and relevance to be questioned at the end of the
Cold War. We've opened it to new democracies, to new missions, and as a
result of that, acted for the first time as a military alliance.
Similarly, I think, in Asia, we have strengthened the relationship with
Japan, and we've obviously built, I think, a much stronger relationship
with China, but on a principled basis, as well as with Korea.
I think that as a peacemaker, the President has been uniquely
successful. Whether that has been Northern Ireland, we've been talking
about the Middle East, even with its current problems, in Bosnia and
Kosovo, even in Ethiopia and Eritrea, where what he's done has been pretty
much below the radar screen.
Third, I think that he has elevated a new series of issues that
are going to be -- we're going to talk about it at Warwick University, to
the first -- to the attention of the United States and the world as issues
we have to deal with. Whether those are -- whether that's global climate
change or terrorism or Third World debt, poverty, et cetera, I think that's
an important step.
I think in the global economic area, the President -- this has
been an uniquely productive period, in terms of both the architecture and
the results of global commerce. The President completed the GATT Round,
did NAFTA, did an historic agreement with China, we did 300 other trade
agreements. I think he's been the first President of the global economy --
of the global age and the global economy.
So, I think -- I guess the final, fifth area that I would talk
about, and these will all be things he talks about tomorrow, has been
trying to bring old adversaries -- in particular, Russia and China -- into
the international community. And I think there, there have been some
successes and there are still areas that concern us.
Q Sandy, what's the drop-dead date for North Korea? Beyond
what date is it just too late to do it?
MR. BERGER: January 20th. No, I think we need to decide in the
next few weeks whether it makes sense to do it.
Q Are you getting any indications from the Russians that
they're prepared to release Edmond Pope?
MR. BERGER: As was said yesterday, we believe that Pope's
conviction was unjustifiable and wrong. Mr. Pope has written to -- let me
say, we have said to the Russians at every level, from the President on
down, consistently, that we believe that he should be released on
humanitarian grounds, if nothing else.
Mr. Pope has written a letter to President Putin that has been
delivered today, asking to be released. It is my understanding that the
Pardons Commission of Russia will meet tomorrow and make a recommendation.
Ultimately, the decision will be made by President Putin, and we certainly
would hope that he would exercise that authority.
Q Sandy, Congressman Curt Weldon yesterday told CNN that he
was afraid that to achieve the release of Edmond Pope, the United States
will have to give back to the Russians a convicted Russian spy that is
here, that that's going to be the cost of getting Edmond Pope back, which
he thinks would be egregious, since he agrees with the administration that
he was wrongly convicted. Can you unequivocally rule out any U.S.
participation in such a deal as that?
MR. BERGER: That's not even under discussion.
Q If it were to be discussed, would the United States reject
MR. BERGER: I don't think it's necessary. I think that we
believe that the Russian government ought to release Mr. Pope, and we hope
that will happen.
Q Yesterday the IRA released a statement, again reiterating
their decision to work to put arms beyond use. The Taoiseach's language on
this has changed also over the last few weeks where he says now that they
would like to see arms put beyond use instead of saying that they would
like arms decommissioned. Does the White House work along the same lines
as the Taoiseach, that you would like to see arms put beyond use, or would
you like to see them decommissioned?
MR. BERGER: Well, I don't want to get into the semantics of how
one describes it. There are obligations under the Good Friday agreement on
both sides, and we hope and expect those obligations will be fulfilled. We
welcome the statement yesterday that you referred to. And obviously
further steps need to be taken by the IRA in conjunction with De Chastelain
toward the objective of decommissioning.
MR. CROWLEY: Last question. Joe.
Q On the speech in Dundalk, is that any significance seeing
that Dundalk has been associated with this dissident group, the Real IRA,
that's continuing to use violence?
MR. BERGER: No. The significance of Dundalk is -- we wanted to
go outside of Dublin. The President has been -- I think this is the third
time that he will have been Dublin. Last time we went to Limerick. And
this is a community, as I say, that's on the border with Northern Ireland
which suffered severely during the conflict, and which is revitalizing
since the conflict. And I think that symbolically expresses both what we
can't go back to and what the future holds if we stay on -- if they stay on
Q Sandy, Sudan -- what's the reaction to what the action taken
against the U.S. envoy there? Does he have the right to visit whoever he
pleases, whether or not it's a dissident?
MR. BERGER: I'm not familiar enough with what's happened today,
obviously, to be able to answer your question.
Q Sandy, this is a very busy time for Mrs. Clinton as she
prepares for the Senate. Why has she elected to go on this particular
trip? Will she have separate meetings with Irish leaders, or sit in on all
the President's meetings ?
MR. BERGER: Mrs. Clinton has herself been quite involved in --
both in Ireland and in Northern Ireland, and has worked with a group called
Vital Voices, citizens for peace, in a sense -- small "c", small "p" -- and
is herself a highly respected person in Northern Ireland, and I think
believes -- has a deep commitment to the peace process. So it's not at all
to me surprising that she would go, and I think, quite appropriate. And
she will have her own -- there will be separate events that she does there.
Q Does the President believe that there's a need to convince
people in the heartland of an active foreign policy? Does he see this as a
case to be made to them tomorrow?
MR. BERGER: Well, the President has not given a comprehensive
foreign policy speech in some time. I can't even remember. And he
certainly has never given one in Nebraska. And I think that you ought to
see this as a speech as this administration begins to end -- got a little
maudlin -- (laughter) -- as this administration ends, that seeks to put
what we've done in the international arena in some context to talk about
the principles, the objectives, and because I think they have relevance not
only retrospectively, but they have relevance prospectively: what is
foreign policy for this global age.
Q Will he speak again on foreign policy in January? Is this
the big foreign policy speech?
MR. BERGER: I would not rule it out, but I think this is an
effort to pull things together.
Q If I may take you to the U.N., sir, the new U.N. sanctions
against the Taliban, also new U.S. sanctions on Pakistan and also Osama bin
Laden's contact with the terrorists groups in Pakistan. And finally, if
this administration will bring Osama bin Laden to justice to stand trial in
the United States?
MR. BERGER: We have sanctions against the Taliban because, among
other things, because -- and particularly because they have provided safe
haven for bin Laden, who is responsible for terrorist acts against the
United States. There is a prosecution of bin Laden, indictment of bin
Laden in the United States. I believe there will be a trial, and we
certainly would like to bring him to justice. He is clearly at the core of
a network of groups that are threatening to the United States.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:42 P.M. EST