THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release February 9, 1995
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY A SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
ON KOHL VISIT
The Briefing Room
2:35 P.M. EST
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I will not say too much unless
you have some questions. The President very much looked forward to this
visit, of course; has developed a very close personal relationship with
Chancellor Kohl and wanted to continue the close partnership that
they've developed on tackling the big issues in our respective foreign
Kohl, obviously, saw the visit in the same way; plus, he had
the added purpose of taking the pulse of Washington since the midterm
elections, getting a sense of the political scene. And he told the
President during their initial meeting in the Oval Office of some of the
messages he was going to convey on Capitol HIll about the importance of
strong U.S. leadership, importance of the transatlantic relationship in
NATO to European and world security, and how NATO and European
integration were not alternatives but, for Germany, they were both
essential components for stability in Europe.
The President confirmed the importance he attaches to working
with Chancellor Kohl and with Germany in promoting European integration
in dealing with the global economic problems and, as he mentioned,
tackling the redefinition of our international economic institution.
Both of the leaders had the same issues as their top
priorities on the agenda -- NATO expansion, Russia and Chechnya and how
we proceed, and Bosnia.
On NATO expansion, there had been some speculation in recent
weeks that there was some divergence between the U.S. and German
positions. But these meetings confirm that there's absolutely no
daylight and we're looking forward to working with the Germans, together
with our other allies, on the NATO study of expansion that is underway
in Brussels, and which will aim towards presenting initial conclusions
to the members of the Partnership for Peace this fall. They
specifically agreed that the pace that was set in the December decisions
at NATO was just the right one, the focus should be, first, on the why
and the how of NATO expansion and that we should not, at this stage, set
a timetable for expansion or define the list of preferred candidates.
At the same time, both were in full agreement that it's
essential that NATO expansion not draw a line between NATO and Russia,
but, rather, we needed to develop a European security system in which
Russia played a part, and they both agreed on the concept that the
President first set out in his Cleveland speech of a NATO Russia
arrangement developing in parallel with the expansion of the Alliance.
And Chancellor Kohl emphasized the need for something similar for
Ukraine as well.
And they also agreed that NATO expansion and the enlargement
of the European Union very much related processes, although they're not
formally linked, and they may not be precisely synchronized, but they're
both part and parcel of the process of building a united, democratic
On Russia, the two compared assessments of the situation, and
both agreed on the gravity of developments in Chechnya -- the human
tragedy, the threat to democratic institutions in Russia. At the same
time, they both agreed that Yeltsin was trying to be responsive to
Western concerns, had agreed to the OSCE mission, and both agreed, most
importantly, that it was too soon to write off Yeltsin or to write off
reform in Russia, even as we press for a political solution and an
immediate end to the violence, but that it was very much in our interest
to back Yeltsin and to try to keep Russia on the reform track.
On Bosnia, both leaders expressed apprehension about the
situation, but agreed that we need to push ahead in our Contact Group
efforts, trying to isolate the Bosnian Serbs. Particular stress was
placed on the Muslim Croat federation, as the President mentioned in the
press conference, and this will be a key area of joint action by the
U.S., Germany, and some of our other European partners over the coming
weeks, trying to shore up that one bright spot in a bleak landscape,
following up on the meeting that took place in Munich over the weekend.
Finally, they touched on a number of other issues more
briefly. The President did express our concern about Iran and the need
to avoid economic support for Iran, given its involvement in
international terrorism, and how this jeopardized the Middle East peace
process. Chancellor Kohl expressed concern about Islamic
fundamentalism, citing Algeria and the potential for spillover if
Algeria falls to other areas of the Middle East. Spoke briefly about
the Korea deal and the President urging Germany to participate in
support of that package.
Chancellor Kohl stressed the importance of preserving and
strengthening U.S.-German cultural ties. I think in the spirit of
Senator Fulbright, as he mentioned today. And they exchanged views on
the political and economic situations in the two countries.
So there's a survey. I'll be glad to take your questions.
Q Can you give us a little more detail on the $20- million aid
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm a little far removed from
exactly how that works. I understand that it's $14 million from this
stand-by fund, already appropriated funds -- ERMA -- and I'm not sure
what that stands for -- plus another $6 million out of DOD funds for
humanitarian supplies directed towards the victims of the violence in
Chechnya, the refugees, displaced persons.
Q Who will administer the program? How will it be channeled
to the refugees?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There I'm out of my league.
You can follow up perhaps with the press people to get details on that,
MR. SPALTER: We will confirm the details of that shortly.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's not from my part of the
Q Was there any discussion of the paralysis of the United
Nations and, therefore, of the NATO Alliance on Bosnia?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That was not the line of
Q Does either one of them think that there's any harm done to
the international peacekeeping effort by the fact that the United
Nations doesn't seem to be able to get its act together on Bosnia?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, again, that wasn't among
the subjects discussed today. I think we certainly recognize that the
U.N. mission in Bosnia has been not without its failings, but that it's
still performing an important humanitarian role. And we're trying to
beef it up so that its withdrawal doesn't prove to be inevitable, both
in Bosnia and Croatia.
Q Was there any discussion of the kind of pressures that the
U.S. and Germany could exert on Yeltsin to make sure he stays the course
of reform, besides the diplomatic messages? Like real pressure.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. I think both of them
agreed that it would be wrong at this point to start imposing
punishments or sanctions on Yeltsin.
We have been stressing, both publicly and privately, the
gravity of the situation and the risks that it poses for our continued
cooperation if Yeltsin doesn't move quickly to solve the problem
peacefully. But both agreed that we had to stand by Yeltsin at this
point and not write off the prospects of reform and not undercut even
further the reform process by cutting assistance.
Q Doesn't that amount to giving him a blank check, in fact.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I would categorically
protest. We're not giving him a blank check. He knows that his image
in the West has been seriously damaged and that the political basis for
continued support for Russian reform has been shaken and that he doesn't
have unlimited time. But we are not pulling the plug at this point.
Q Did they specifically discuss the Mexico bailout package?
Did Kohl express disappointment with the way it was handled?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There was a brief discussion
of that. Actually, the President brought it up to express our regret
that the urgency of the situation didn't permit more time for
consultations. And, as the Chancellor said at the press conference,
these things happen, and he was quite understanding.
I would note that the Germans have, in other ways, been
supportive of efforts to shore up the Mexican economy through the Bank
for International Settlements, for example, even though they abstained
in the IMF.
Q It was a little confusing, can you explain more about what
Kohl was talking about in terms of wanting to review IMF credit lines
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That really wasn't part of the
meeting, so I wouldn't want to speculate. He's having his own press
conference, I understand, at 5:15 p.m. You can ask him if -- you may
have to pose the questions in German. (Laughter.)
Q Was there really complete agreement on Bosnia between the
President and the Chancellor? I mean, do they see eye to eye on how to
proceed now that the latest attempt to force the Serbs to accept the
peace plan have failed?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, they didn't get into
the nitty-gritty of the diplomatic strategy that we're pursuing. But it
did reflect general agreement that the focus now should be on isolating
the Bosnian Serbs. I think we would say that the effort to persuade
directly by trying to get him to accept the Contact Group plan ran its
course; it was not successful. It was a risk worth taking, in our view,
but now we're focusing again on maximizing his isolation, specifically
encouraging Milosevic to recognize Bosnia and Croatia and the other
former Yugoslav republics within their existing borders as a way for
Q Isolation was tried in the past and it failed.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it's a continuing
process. We think that the closure of the border by Milosevic while it
has not been perfect -- and there have been some disturbing developments
in recent days with the helicopters -- has been squeezing the Bosnian
Serb economy and has been causing even fractures within the Bosnian Serb
leadership. So it still has some ways to play out before you can draw
Q There is still some trust in Milosevic? You are going back
to the Milosevic option that was called off?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This has turned into a Bosnia
briefing. I wouldn't say that we have trust in Mr. Milosevic. We
believe that he sees it in his interest, in order to escape the economic
sanctions that really have crippled the Serbian economy, to pressure the
other Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia toward political settlements. Whether
he's prepared to pressure them hard enough remains to be seen. But we
think it is at least a valid means for pressure.
Q What was the Chancellor's -- you mentioned that the
President urged the Chancellor to participate in the Korea deal. What
was the Chancellor's response to that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would say positive, without
making a specific commitment. It's our hope that Europeans in general
-- we're not looking to Germany alone -- will make a reasonably
substantial contribution in order to solidify the overall package in
which the Japanese and the South Koreans obviously are going to be
playing the biggest part.
Q Did they discuss the actual -- the question of the water
reactors going from South Korea to North Korea? I mean, did that issue
come up at all?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, they did not get into the
finer points. It was a short-item discussion.
Q You mentioned no daylight on NATO expansion. I'm not
conversant on what the German position had been or what the -- what were
your fears of daylight going into the meeting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We had positive signs on the
eve. I was saying that there had been some speculation, particularly
after Yeltsin's speech in Budapest, that some Europeans were concerned
that our initiative to move to the next stage of the NATO expansion
project was premature, that we were moving too fast. So we were quite
pleased to confirm that Germany was very much in sync with us, wanting
to move ahead steadily on NATO expansion; recognizing how it can
underpin reform in Central Europe, while at the same time ensuring that
Russia and NATO develop a direct relationship in parallel so that
Yeltsin and other reformers don't see this as something designed to
isolate or exclude Russia from European security.
Q Will the President ask for Senate approval, Senate
ratification of an amendment to the NATO treaty if membership is
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: When the time comes. That's
some years off; we don't have a timetable, but something towards the end
of the century at the earliest. But, yes, the accession of new members
to the Washington Treaty would require the advice and consent of the
Senate. And I think the same applies in virtually all other NATO
countries. So this is something that has to be done, in our view, in a
serious, deliberate way so that all the questions are answered and that
we don't simply extend paper security guarantees to new members. They
have to accept the responsibilities as well as enjoying the rights of
membership, and the Congress will want to know exactly what are the
implications for us, politically and financially.
Q One last thing. Was there any discussion of -- support for
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it didn't come up.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END2:49 P.M. EST