THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release April 23, 1999 4:40 P.M. EDT
PRESS BRIEFING BY
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER
The International Trade Center
MR. LOCKHART: -- Sandy Berger, who will give you a sense of the President's day and what we've gotten done today. And we'll take your questions. If there are other questions from the White House press corps on domestic questions, I'll be glad to take them afterwards. Thanks.
MR. BERGER: Thank you, Joey. Thank you very much.
Let me try to give you a sense of today's meeting on Kosovo, on particulars, seeing how the meeting was, I believe, televised and available to you. It was quite an extraordinary session, let me say. If there was one refrain that was heard again and again and again, it was this: This Alliance stands solidly behind the air campaign. It will intensify that campaign and it will prevail. And virtually every leader said that in one form or another.
I would note that we have seen evidence of the intensification this week as NATO planes attacked a number of high-value national targets that go to the heart of Milosevic's command and control. As you heard earlier from General Clark, the effort was designed to strike at his ruling party headquarters, electrical sites, Serb propaganda elements, command and control locations, and more troops in the field. And what the leaders were saying today was, more, not less; stronger, not weaker.
Those attacks are and will be designed to underscore the determination to continue to extract a higher and higher price from Milosevic, from his intransigence, until he reaches the point where he decides to cut his losses.
Today's session also accomplished a number of other important goals, at least from our perspective, including total allied unity on reaffirming NATO's unconditional demands to Milosevic in order to end the air campaign. Several leaders indicated that we could not, should not, reduce those conditions, even as there were diplomatic efforts to try to get him to accept them.
Second, intensifying economic sanctions to continue to tighten the pressure on Milosevic and on his ability -- on his war machine. As you know, the EU has already placed an embargo on oil. At least several other states not members of EU spoke about individual steps that they intended to take, and the leaders directed the defense ministers to develop a program for -- get the exact language here -- the defense ministers to determine how NATO can halt the delivery of war material, including launching maritime operations.
And a number of leaders spoke about the importance of interdicting the oil that is going to Serbia, the resupply.
Several spoke about the unacceptability of our pilots flying in and taking out oil refineries, flying in and taking out storage facilities, if that oil can be resupplied, and that we had to bring a stop to that -- through embargo, but also through interdiction efforts.
The defense ministers have been charged to operationalize that -- a word I hate -- to develop an operational plan for that, taking into account the consequences on Montenegro. Obviously, no one seeks to destabilize the situation in Montenegro any more than it is already in danger.
There is a very strong statement in the communique, I think the strongest we've made at this point, on NATO's response to any attempt by Mr. Milosevic to widen the war by threatening the frontline states. Specifically, NATO will respond to such challenges by Belgrade to its neighbors, resulting from the presence of NATO forces or their activities on their territories during the crisis -- a strong statement of willingness to respond if Milosevic acts against the frontline states.
A commitment to continued cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal. A number of leaders spoke of the need and importance of continuing to work with Russia in its effort to find a diplomatic resolution of this which is consistent with the conditions that they have set forth. The effort of Prime Minister Chernomyrdin does not appear to meet that test, at least as of now. But we're encouraged that he is making that effort and that Russia apparently has indicated that it would participate in some kind of an implementation force. These are steps forward, but obviously, the ultimate criteria here is whether the objectives -- that is, getting the Serb troops out, getting the Kosovar people back, having an international security presence that can protect the Kosovars -- whether those criteria are met.
The day obviously was also noteworthy because of the inclusion into the Alliance of three former adversaries -- Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. I'll try not to, obviously, quote other leaders, but I thought President Havel was particularly moving when he said -- I think maybe 10 years ago he had been the person who had declared the end of the Warsaw Pact on behalf of all of the nations in the Warsaw Pact. And for him personally to be participating now in this critical NATO meeting was a very moving and important experience for him.
We have much to do tomorrow in terms of continuing the work of adaptation of NATO that we've been working on for about five years. I suspect there will be more conversations about Kosovo at dinner, as well. But I was very pleased with and heartened by the tone of the meeting today. It was extraordinarily determined. As I say, the almost universal chorus was, we're going to continue the air campaign, we're going to intensify the air campaign, and we're going to win. And there was no dissenting opinion from that that was expressed.
Q -- the NATO diplomatic initiative. When will NATO take this planned resolution to the Security Council, and what do you think the chances are that Russia will not veto it?
MR. BERGER: Well, notice what -- I think the key phrase here is, this could follow the passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution. So this outlines one scenario, where once Belgrade has accepted the conditions, a force would be constituted -- NATO at its core, but perhaps, hopefully, including Russia, including other partnership countries; and as was the case in Bosnia, that that force would be then endorsed by the United Nations Security Council. But it was important to us in this paragraph that that not be a requirement.
Obviously, no one would have a veto on that, but it would be -- I think it would be the ideal scenario. And as I said, that is what happened in Bosnia -- where once Dayton took place, we took it to the U.N., endorsed the agreement and endorsed the force that would give it, obviously, its greatest strength.
Q Why was the naval blockade rejected to enforce an oil embargo? And do you believe that an oil embargo can be enforced without a naval blockage?
MR. BERGER: Well, first of all, the premise of your question is wrong. What this says is that defense ministers -- we have directed our defense ministers to determine ways that NATO can contribute to halting the delivery of war material, including by launching maritime operations, taking into account possible consequences on Montenegro. So the defense ministers basically have a mandate now to develop an interdiction system -- call it what you want -- that will stop oil. And what is the particular legal and military and architectural design of that is not something the leaders are going to try to entertain.
But there was -- your question is upside-down -- there was a specific endorsement of stopping the oil not only through an embargo, which means I'm not going to sell, myself, or the EEU is not going to sell, in stopping the oil on the seas -- again, there are a lot of legal and technical and military issues involved in putting together a regime, which the defense ministers have been asked to do.
Q The Russians, the Russian diplomatic initiative, have both included the fact that the NATO attacks must stop, and then other things. You are continuing to have your government contact with the Russian government. How come the Russian government keeps putting that option up, knowing it's going to be shot down by NATO?
MR. BERGER: Well, it's obviously not acceptable to us. We would expect there to be a verifiable beginning of implementation before we would engage in any kind of pause or any kind of suspension. That is an area where we, at this point, may not see eye to eye with the Russians.
There are others. We believe that there has to be an international security presence, for all the reasons that you're all familiar with and I've talked to you about before.
Now, I think, again, we haven't seen much from -- Mr. Chernomyrdin has indicated that he's got activities in Moscow over the weekend and we may know more about this on Monday. But there's some indication that the Russians have said they are prepared to participate. Well, that would be a step forward -- even that would be a step forward. It would not be sufficient, obviously, but it would be, I think, useful. It would be an acknowledgement on their part that there needed to be an international military presence. But on the question of our stopping bombing, it could not be on the basis simply of a promise.
Q What kind of contact have the allies had with Chernomyrdin? Is there any chance he'll be coming here to the summit? And have you been able to clear up discrepancies over how he describes President Milosevic's willingness to accept international presence and what the Serbs are saying about that?
MR. BERGER: He's definitely not coming here, as far as I understand it from our embassy in Moscow. He has -- I think both -- Foreign Minister Ivanov is not back to Moscow. I think he wants to -- he's indicated he wants to -- Ivanov -- he wants to consult with him, and there are some party activities that he's engaged in in his own party over the weekend. So he indicated, or his people indicated to us that he had no intention of coming here.
I suspect that over the next few days, that we'll have more contact and we'll get more detail. I think that -- I'm not sure that the Russians are asserting that this is a sufficient basis on which this can end. It certainly doesn't look like that from our perspective, but we encourage them to continue.
Q Yesterday, the President was asked if he could envision sending an international security force into Kosovo without Milosevic's approval. And he said, of course, there are scenarios under which that could occur. Does that mean that the U.S. would consider sending ground troops into a semi-permissive environment?
MR. BERGER: No, it illustrates what happens when you answer hypothetical questions. The President also said that our policy hasn't changed, and he also said that there's a permissive environment and there's a non-permissive environment. There's a lot of other terminology that is being used; I've looked all those words up in the dictionary, I don't find them. And I think any two of you would define them differently.
Our position remains the same. Number one, we are committed to this air war. Number two, we believe it can and will succeed. Number three, I'm more convinced of this today, now, than I was four hours ago by virtue of the meeting that I just sat through, because I've seen 19 leaders who have made it very clear that they will succeed.
We will participate in a multinational force with NATO at its core if that is part of an agreement or if there is acceptance by Milosevic of such a force. But we do not favor participation under other circumstances.
Q You say if there's acceptance, then you are definitely saying that he has to agree, he has to come to some kind of agreement. You say if he accepts it.
MR. BERGER: Yes, accepts or acquiesces.
Q And does that have to be in writing? What form would that --
MR. BERGER: Oh, come on. We're not -- nor am I going to answer how he has to spell his name. These are hypothetical questions. Right now, what we've got to do is keep focused on the air war and on prosecuting it vigorously, and on intensifying it in a serious way over the coming days and weeks, as you have seen over the past week.
I think we've made quite clear what our position is in terms of ground forces. We don't favor them in a non-permissive situation. And that's as far as I'm going to go.
Q Sandy, on paragraph six you stressed the word "could," but the paragraph also says, "we will seek a U.N. resolution." Is NATO going to seek a U.N. resolution? Will the United States support that? If so, why, after months of refusing to go that course, would you do it? And why shouldn't Milosevic take heart that this is the beginning of UNPROFOR II?
MR. BERGER: Where do you see --
Q Mine says, "this could follow the passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution" --
MR. BERGER: Which we will seek.
Q -- which we will seek.
MR. BERGER: Yes. That doesn't mean that if we don't get it, we won't go ahead.
MR. BERGER: Let me try to be clear about this. We're now talking about a situation in which we have vindicated what we're fighting for; that is, essentially, the right of a people to return to their homeland from which they've been driven by force, and the right of them to live there with security and protection. He's accepted perhaps not my formulation, but he's accepted that.
We would then -- NATO has said and we have said -- we've been prepared to participate in an implementation force. We would seek the U.N.'s approval and I think we would have a reasonably good chance of getting it under those circumstances. I mean, you can envision a situation in which Russia has been part of bringing this about, or Russia participating in this force, therefore, the prospect of a veto being eliminated.
But we're not going to be subordinated to a U.N. veto, or let the U.N. block us going forward because one country on the Security Council doesn't want to go forward -- one country with a veto. So, there was another part of your question.
Q Is this the beginning of UNPROFOR II -- a U.N. protection force?
MR. BERGER: No. I mean, we've had UNPROFOR I, and we weren't part of it, but it's quite enough. We would not -- the reason why we have said that if we were to participate in a force we believe NATO ought to be at its core, although there could be other elements of it, is because we believe, or the United States, that there has to be an effective force, and we have to have confidence if we're going to put American soldiers in that force, that there is a command and control competence and integrity that we have in NATO, and that we believe we could trust.
We would not go into a situation which, even permissive, would be not without risks unless our own people -- this is something we owe to our own people and to the American people -- our own forces were in a coherent, workable, effective force. And that is not my recollection of UNPROFOR.
Q If I could ask you a question about another matter. Two days ago, CIA Director Tenet briefed congressional leaders about alleged Chinese spying, and yesterday a couple of those congressional leaders talked with the President about their own investigation. I wonder if the administration is now prepared to concede that there are indications of Chinese spying during the Clinton administration and that there may be indications that it occurred at some of the national labs, and if you're willing to talk to us about what the administration is doing about it or has done about it.
MR. BERGER: Well, I'm not going to be able to answer your questions fully because of ongoing investigations and ongoing security matters. We do believe that there has been a problem at the national lab -- a security problem at the national labs. That is why in 1998 the President signed a presidential directive ordering a set of reforms in the way counterintelligence and security was handled at the labs.
Moreover, the President has asked his Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, chaired by Senator Roy Rudman to look at this matter generally with respect to the labs and to see whether or not everything is being done, everything was done in an appropriate way, and whether more could be done.
Two days ago, the President, when we were briefed from the agency, based upon their damage assessment coming out of the Cox Commission, the President asked his National Counter-Intelligence Advisory Board to look more broadly at vulnerabilities that may exist beyond the labs in the way in which nuclear weapons information is handled in the government, and to report back to him on any further steps they are taking.
And so this is something that we take very seriously. I think we've acted very responsibly, and we'll take further actions. We've adopted almost all of the recommendations, for example, of the Cox Commission.
Q -- define a permissive environment. And he specifically left out the idea that Milosevic would have to permit the forces in. What he said was that Serb forces would not be presenting any resistance, and that the implementation force would be able to do its job with the least hindrance. And he later said -- specifically left out the idea of permission. I know you're saying that this is a hypothetical situation --
MR. BERGER: I can only speak for American policy. And I don't believe that NATO has spoken formally on this, but in any case, we have indicated that we would participate in a force in a permissive environment. A permissive environment would be one in which the government in Belgrade either would accept its presence or acquiesce to its presence. And that's pretty straight forward.
Q Can you clarify on the oil shipments -- NATO has decided that it wants to prevent ships, tankers, boats from delivering petroleum products to ports that will make it into Yugoslavia. That now it's up to the defense ministers to figure out how that will be stopped? And, second, have Bulgaria and Romania signed on to stopping petroleum shipments over land -- that's the whole eastern side of Yugoslavia -- and if they don't agree, then how can you stop those shipments?
MR. BERGER: What NATO has decided is, NATO has asked its defense ministers to determine how NATO can halt the delivery -- I'm paraphrasing a little bit -- of war material, so that suggests, through any means, including by launching maritime operations, taking into account possible consequences on Montenegro. I think the defense ministers here have a rather broad mandate to determine ways in which we can limit resupply of war material, and that clearly is intended to include oil, to Serbia. But as I say, there are a myriad of legal and military and political and logistical questions that have to be looked at to determine what is feasible.
Q -- weapons, will they be actually allowed to use a force of arms if they decide that's appropriate?
MR. BERGER: It's certainly not ruled out.
Q Secretary Albright spent some time Wednesday in front of Congress saying that President Clinton would be talking about the long-term future of the Balkan Peninsula. She mentioned the possibility of the common currency among the countries in that region, perhaps a customs union, stronger economic and political ties.
First of all, can you tell us, did this come up today? And, secondly, can you tell us more specifically what kind of an arrangement you foresee politically for those countries on the Balkan Peninsula, long-term?
MR. BERGER: I would imagine this will be discussed more specifically on Sunday, when first the NATO leaders meet with the frontline states and then later they meet at 42, with the partners, the APC.
The President has spoken in broad terms in San Francisco about the need for the kind of economic and political structures in Southeast Europe -- integrative structures, stabilizing structures, to be built over a long period of time -- that have brought stability and peace to the other parts of Europe.
I think this is a -- the EU has spoken to this in the last few weeks, and I think this will be a theme, increasingly, over the next two days. I don't know that any fully elaborated plan will evolve, but what I hope would evolve would be the impetus from the leaders to begin now to look at what this region can look like two years from now, four years from now, after this conflict is over.
THE PRESS: Thank you.