THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release July 8, 1997 6:50 P.M.
PRESS BRIEFING BY
MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Hotel Miguel Angel
MR. TOIV: First, we have two briefings. First, we have a briefing with the members of Congress. They will be followed by Secretaries Albright and Cohen and Sandy Berger. But we have today Senator Roth, Congressman Gilman, Senator Mikulski and Senator Smith of Oregon.
SENATOR ROTH: Good evening. We're indeed pleased to be here. We're here on behalf of our colleagues back in Washington, both in the House and the Senate. My name is Bill Roth and I'm a member of the Senate from the State of Delaware. I chair the Senate's NATO Observer Group. The Observer Group was established by the leadership -- bipartisan leadership of the Senate for the purpose of advising and giving our recommendations on NATO and NATO expansion.
Today is indeed a historic day. And let me say that it's really only the beginning. The decision to invite the democracies of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to join NATO is a long awaited step in the effort to heal the wound of Yalta that left Europe so tragically divided. And today's decision, as I say, is a first step towards eliminating a security vacuum in Europe.
I believe that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are shining examples of democracy returned to Central Europe. The people and leaders of these nations have amply demonstrated their commitment to the values and principles that underpin the North Atlantic Alliance. These three nations provide a sound foundation on which to begin the process of NATO enlargement.
And I do want to emphasize that this is only a beginning. As a matter of fact, the NAC specifically named a number of other nations that will be given serious consideration. But the really important fact is that the door continues to be
open to all democratic European nations who are in a position to help strengthen the security of Europe.
I told the heads of state today that it's imperative for NATO to have an aggressive open door policy. And the European democracies that have been working for NATO membership but did not get invitations will and are receiving unambiguous assurances that the door is, indeed, open.
I would just like to say that I don't think this would have ever happened without the leadership of the Secretary General, Mr. Solana. I think he's done an outstanding job. As far as America is concerned, it has been a bipartisan effort, the leadership coming from the President together with the leadership in the Congress.
So I'm heartened by what happens today, as I think it does strengthen security, it fills the vacuum that exists in Eastern Europe, and it means that we're taking a long step towards a unified Europe, a unified democratic Europe. That means peace in our time.
Ben Gilman, who is Chairman of the International Committee -- International Relations Committee.
CONGRESSMAN GILMAN: Thank you. I'm Ben Gilman from New York, Chairman of the House International Relations Committee. I've been assigned to bring a congressional delegation from the House to monitor the summit meeting. And we couldn't be more pleased with the decision that came about today, the historic decision that was announced earlier. We commend President Clinton and our 15 NATO allies for recognizing the urgent need to adapt NATO to the challenges of a post-Cold War era.
By welcoming emerging Central and Eastern European democracies into NATO we'll be consolidating the progress they've made on political and economic reforms, expanding the zone of stability and freedom in Europe, and reducing the risk that Americans might be called upon again to fight a war in Europe.
I know that many have been asking whether the Congress is going to support this decision. I don't think there is any doubt that the Congress will eventually support that decision. It will take a lot of homework, and there is a lot of work to be done to make certain that our colleagues will be supportive and the American public will be supportive.
Everyone seems to have forgotten that NATO enlargement has been a Republican priority for a long period of time. It was an element in the Contract with America. The first bill calling for NATO enlargement was passed by the Congress and signed into law back in 1994. We passed and President Clinton signed additional laws calling for NATO enlargement in '95 and in
'96. Our '96 bill, the NATO Enlargement Facilitation Act, passed the House by a strong support of 353 to 65; passed the Senate by 81 to 16, indicative of the fact that there is strong support in both the House and Senate.
And just last month the House passed the European Security Act, which, once again, called for prompt NATO enlargement and stressed the vital importance of keeping the door open to NATO after the first round of enlargement.
I'm particularly pleased that the decision announced today is in full accord with the legislation that the Congress has already adopted. The invitation to Poland, to Hungary and to the Czech Republic tracks the NATO Enlargement Facilitation Act, which identified those countries as the leading candidates for admission in NATO. And the open door policy endorsed today is precisely what we called upon in the European Security Act.
I believe that the President and our allies have demonstrated that they're listening to the Congress, and we will be supporting today's decision.
We've also had the opportunity in the last few days to meet with the leadership in the Czech Republic, the leadership of Hungary, the leadership of Poland; they all recognize that they, too, have work ahead of them to make certain that their constituencies, their public, and their parliamentarians are going to be supportive of the decisions reached today.
SENATOR MIKULSKI: Good afternoon, everybody. I'm delighted to be part of a bipartisan and bicameral delegation here today, joining with President Clinton to support these three countries who will be joining NATO -- to be here to support the expansion of NATO, to support the open door policy to continue the expansion, and then to go back to the United States Senate and to work for ratification.
Today, indeed, is a very personal day for me because of my own Polish American heritage. It's a great country when you can give your undivided loyalty to the United States when you pledge allegiance. I can give my undivided attention to the Senate when I take my oath to uphold the Constitution when I'm sworn in to be a Senator. But America did not ask my family and I to melt.
I was raised in a background where we saw America as a great mosaic, and that when you came to this country you worked very hard to be American, but you could also keep your history and your heritage. I was raised by my great grandmother and my own family who came from this Poland to escape change. She came seeking only hope and opportunity, and that certainly came to our family.
And she loved the country and she loved the Democratic Party. She kept on her mantlepiece three pictures; one of my Uncle Joe when he made the police force, the other Pius IX; and the other Roosevelt. But after Yalta and Potsdam, my great grandmother turned the picture of Roosevelt down because she felt the betrayal of Poland. And we all felt that. We all felt that Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Baltic states were part of the captive nations.
And as a college girl, I was there when we had the invasion of Hungary and was part of demonstrations. I was working for Bobby Kennedy's presidency in 1968 when we had the Prague Spring, and I was a congresswoman when there was the founding of Solidarity, only to see that after Lech Walesa jumped over the wall, that then martial law was declared.
In my own neighborhood of Baltimore, in support for the people of Solidarity, we all put on the same pin that Lech Walesa wore. It is the picture of the charred Madonna of Czechtahova (phonetic). We in Baltimore in the Polish American community wore this Madonna of Czechtahova as an act of solidarity with the people in Poland who had been under martial law.
As a United States Senator, I worked to support dissidents. As a United States Senator, I worked to support Solidarity. As a United States Senator, I worked for the expansion of NATO. And I will tell you today, I wear this pin -- I wear the colors of the United States of America and I wear this pin in solidarity with the people of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
I'm glad we've expanded NATO, and I'm glad that the dissidents are now able to become democrats. And we look forward to joining with them in the Alliance, a new Alliance for a new century. Thank you very much.
SENATOR SMITH: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm Gordon Smith from the State of Oregon. I'm very honored to stand here with my colleagues, Republican and Democrat, House and Senate, in support of NATO expansion.
I listened with great interest to Senator Mikulski and her heritage and the feelings that she brings to this historic day. I am a child of the Cold War, if you will. I grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland; though I am the Senator of Oregon and born in Oregon, I was raised in Maryland. I remember as a schoolboy having nuclear arms drills where we would learn how to get under our desks and our families would build bomb shelters. And I remember seeing with great alarm the Czech Spring and the attempt to put a human face on communism, and watching helplessly with all Americans as that hope was snuffed out.
And it was that pain, I think, that contributed the great joy that we all felt as Americans, as citizens of the world, when Poland and other countries began to crack the walls of communism and we watched the Berlin Wall fall.
What we have done today, and what the Senate I truly believe will do in the coming year, is to keep the promises made at Yalta, but not kept then. What I think we will do is fill a vacuum that, if left unfilled, will be available to mischief. What we do today is to spread the values of democratic free enterprise. We understand that the predicate of prosperity and peace is security. And I think that because America is a melting pot of all nations, that we do, for very little money in the end, extend the kinds of peace and security that all the world hungers for.
I do believe that the United States Senate will ratify this treaty. I know there will be questions about why should America's sons and daughters be at risk to die for Hungarians or Czechs or Poles, but I think that the best answer to that is that they will not have to die if we act now. It occurs to me that in 1919, had there been a NATO formed, there may not have been a war in 1939. Fortunately, our predecessors got the lesson of Versailles and the failure of the League of Nations, and in 1949 they established NATO, and NATO has worked, NATO has won.
But NATO must redefine itself now. And if I offer any unique perspective among these members of Congress, it is perhaps as a member of a newer generation of Americans who will be asked to shoulder the bill and even the burden in the next century. And I believe that the right course, the right thing for America to do is to carry on, not retreat. And by doing so, we will save lives, we will save money, and we will spread our values that are a great blessing to all the world.
Q All of you sound like this is a very anti-Russian treaty. And you all spoke of a vacuum -- what is the vacuum? Are they threatening in any way?
SENATOR ROTH: Well, I think the threat today is a different threat than that of the Cold War. I think the threat of today is terrorism, weapons of mass destruction. I find it very interesting -- for example, we spent a couple of days in Prague. You could go there and talk to the people, like President Havel, and he will talk about the vacuum that now exists in Central Eastern Europe.
Really, what we are trying to do is create the same kind of circumstances in Central Eastern Europe that NATO created in Western Europe after World War II -- provide an environment of stability and security that will enable democracy to continue to
be practiced and strengthened. That's all we seek to do. But I think what most people feel who are supporting expansion, we firmly believe that a unified Europe, a democratic, unified Europe means peace in our time.
Q Then why not take in Russia?
SENATOR ROTH: Well, nobody has -- Russia has never asked to become a member. And, of course, as some people would comment in the case of Russia, it's a Eurasian power and a very large, significant one, but what we are saying about opening the door -- we are opening the door to all democracies that want to join NATO, that indeed are -- that will contribute to the security and strength of the West.
Any more questions?
Q Senator, how do you explain to all your constituents why it's worth $200 million a year for 10 years for the expansion of NATO?
SENATOR ROTH: Well, I would go back to the statement that was made earlier -- freedom is never free. We must create security, stability if the values of the West are to prevail. And that's what we seek to do. I don't -- you know, as someone said, no one likes to pay a premium for insurance, but they always feel very good about having it when they have a catastrophe.
What we're trying to do is to prevent future catastrophes like we had in this century, in World War I, in World War II. And let me also point out the fact that Bosnia shows that if there is any major problem here, it's almost impossible for the United States not to become involved.
Q So you say you expect this to be ratified, but how big a fight do you think there will be before that vote takes place?
SENATOR ROTH: Well, I think when the chips are down, when it comes to a vote for Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, the votes will be there. Why? Let me point out that, first of all, there's been a number of resolutions the past three years, one a year, promoting expansion -- and those resolutions have carried by an overwhelming vote of -- I think the last one was 81, 82 votes. Just within the last month a resolution was unanimously adopted providing funds for Romania, for the Baltic countries, to prepare them for membership in NATO.
So I think there is a great deal of support, both in the Congress, bipartisan, and the public. As I told the President, it is going to take strong leadership on his part to get the message across. The same is true in the Congress. There will be a very active debate, as there should be. That's the
Q Sir, how much credit do you give to President Clinton for this enlargement?
SENATOR ROTH: Well, as I suggested in my opening statement, I think the President has been a leader in this area and he deserves great credit. And I compliment him on it. I think it's also true that there has been very strong leadership from the Congress, from the Republicans, as Congressman Gilman pointed out. So to me, one of the significant things is that we have a policy emerging that has bipartisan support. I think that's a very positive move, and I strongly support it.
Q Senator, right now it looks Senator Helms will be opposing you on this. What are the chances of winning him over and how damaging is it if you can't?
SENATOR ROTH: Let me point out that, as you know, I'm chairman of the Observers Group. And as such, we've had a number of meetings with the President, the Secretary of State, and others. We had a meeting at the White House about two or three weeks ago where I delivered a letter endorsing expansion of NATO, specifically mentioning four countries, and that letter was signed by the Chairman of Foreign Relations Committee, as well as the ranking member, as well as by myself and a number of others -- Trent Lott supported it. So there is very broad support there. But going back to your question, that letter endorsing expansion of NATO was signed by Jesse Helms.
Q Senator, in your speech today to the NATO Summit, you put great emphasis on the need to have clarity early on on burden-sharing. I'd like to ask you how big a problem this could potentially be in blocking or undermining ratification? And do you feel that there ought to be a clear spelling out of exactly how much each NATO country will provide to foot the bill before the Senate vote? Because in today's communique you have only very vague language that they're just going to study how they're going to foot the bill.
SENATOR ROTH: Well, I would hope that we could address that problem with great particularity. It is an important issue. I think it's critically important that it be clear that all countries, those that are now members of NATO and those that are prospective members, are going to bear their fair share of the burdens, the risks, and the costs.
Now, we all know that it's very hard to spell out to the final dollar what it is going to cost, but I think the American people and the members of Congress before they vote are going to want to know, if you make certain assumptions, what the costs are going to be. I also think it's very important, and I also had this in my speech, that we -- that Bosnia be addressed before we get to the question of ratification, because both
involve burden-sharing, and I think it would be very complex to try and handle both at the same time.
Q -- qualify that as there is more clarity about burden-sharing -- is the United States prepared to offer more clarity about giving Europeans enhanced authority over NATO forces, which is something France and others have wanted?
SENATOR ROTH: If I might just add on burden-sharing, we met both yesterday and today with the President of the Czech Republic and with the Prime Minister of Hungary, and both of them assured us that they were going to recommend increases in their defense budget in order to provide a more equitable share of the burdens of the new membership in NATO. And I don't think there was any trade-off for giving more responsibility in the command of NATO or in the leadership of NATO.
Q How much more responsibility is the Congress allowed to give Europeans?
SENATOR ROTH: Well, I think that will be up to the Alliance, and I think there will be an equitable distribution in responsibilities and leadership among the Alliance.
Q Chairman Gilman, have you been tracking what this very same NATO Summit is doing about Bosnia? And do you find that reassuring to you that NATO is willing to step up to a challenge with war criminals running free and the NATO peacekeepers are not authorized to do a darn thing about it?
CONGRESSMAN GILMAN: We just met with General Joulwan just yesterday and today. We met with our leadership in the various countries and we stressed how important it is to make certain that Bosnia is going to be -- the responsibilities of all of us in Bosnia are going to be fulfilled.
And one of the responsibilities is building the political infrastructure, and that has been unduly delayed. And we're pleased now we're going to have new leadership with regard to taking the responsibilities of the political infrastructure build-up, and hopefully we'll now be able to move forward to make up for the delay.
Q -- war criminals, should NATO go after war criminals? You're all so buoyant, vibrant, vigorous --
CONGRESSMAN GILMAN: As a general --
Q -- NATO, do you want them to do anything about people like --
CONGRESSMAN GILMAN: I asked the General about that and he said he had passed out a poll to the Alliance, to the
members of NATO, and asked them, do you want us to pursue the war
criminals. And he got back a negative or a failure to respond. So he said, I'm willing to do what has to be done, but I want the support of the Alliance. And so far, NATO has not responded.
Q So what does that mean?