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THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release April 24, 1999
                       BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY
                   SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
                ON MEETING OF NATO-UKRAINE COMMISSION
                     International Trade Center
                         Washington. D.C.

5:15 P.M. EDT

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. The NATO-Ukraine meeting was not too long, but it had a good exchange. President Clinton's remarks were on the record; I think you have them.

Q We really don't know what he said or --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I wasn't taking notes, so -- there will be a transcript.

Q I mean, if you need to know that to get this, we don't really --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay. Anyway, President Kuchma gave a long presentation about confirming that Ukraine was sticking to its choice for Europe, its course towards integration into Eur-Atlantic structures, but expressed concern that the crisis over Kosovo had jeopardized that course because it had given some fuel to what he called the revanchist forces in some of the countries of the former Soviet Union -- including in Ukraine, but also referring to the hardliners in Russia and Belarus -- who would like to exploit this to create a new Cold War and drag Ukraine into it.

But he pledged that he's determined to continue the line of cooperation with NATO, and to work to build a unified security system. He laid out Ukraine's serious economic problems, which is really not officially part of the NATO-Ukraine agenda -- (laughter) -- but laid out some of the familiar problems. They're still stuck with the legacy of Chernobyl, and inherited the Soviet economic system, overly militarized, and they're still trying to break out of that.

And he appealed for an early conclusion of the Kosovo crisis, and expressed the regret that this time the U.N. had been paralyzed, and the Ukraine's hope that the next time there was a crisis of this kind, the U.N. would play its proper role. And then closed by talking about the need to work together to prevent ethnic conflicts from happening again, of this kind.

A number of the NATO leaders spoke, and sort of stressed similar themes about their commitment to NATO-Ukraine cooperation. Speakers were the Turkish President, Canadian Prime Minister, the Norwegian, the Dutch, President Chirac, and the Polish President, Kwasniewski, spoke on behalf of the three new members.

And many of them hit on some of the same things: the record of cooperation, the Ukrainian offer to the Partnership for Peace of this major military training facility that it has in the town of Yavoriv, which is the first to be designated by NATO as a Partnership for Training Center, where NATO and Central European forces will train together. This is important because we're always trying to say the partnership is a two-way street, the partners are supposed to contribute and not just be beneficiaries.

And then there was discussion of -- comments on some of Ukraine's program for cooperation with NATO, which is a very ambitious agenda. So that's the NUC summit.

Q Do you know anything about what happened at the NAC session? There was a little bit of confusion, who was going to go, and then -- you didn't go, did you?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. All they did was meet to kind of give the official blessing to the text that had been finalized during the lunch, and just after lunch. The foreign ministers had reconvened after further consultation, and settled the remaining issues on the European defense section we talked about earlier -- some minor Turkish concerns, which have been resolved.

Q So there was nothing on oil at that meeting?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, no. It was simply a laying on of hands to confirm that the communique and the strategic concept, which had up until then a couple of words unresolved, were agreed and put into final summit --

Q Earlier, was France the only country that raised any objection to the military being used to search ships? Or were there other objections raised, by other countries?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This was in yesterday's meeting, that the substance was discussed. As I can recall, it was only Chirac who expressed some reservation in his opening comments, but joined the decision that you saw in the statement. His main concern was not doing things that would impose undue hardship on Montenegro, and that's why you have that caveat in the decision sheet about taking into account the consequences for Montenegro.

But he confirmed that they stand by the EU decision on an oil embargo, so oil is embargoed. And our military is preparing to take concrete steps to disrupt any efforts to deliver it.

Q No, but I guess we understood from Chirac's news conference that he's still considering that military cannot be used to board ships and search them for oil.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think the Secretary General was saying, essentially, watch this space. It's agreed that NATO will take action, including military action involving our naval forces. Exactly how that's going to be worked out will unfold over the next days.

Q Right. I guess my question is, was France the only one that raised this objection to the military boarding ships?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They didn't even get -- it wasn't that specifically raised in the summit. It was just a general concern, more related to Montenegro than to the legal issues. Although we've heard the legal issues in Brussels.

Q Did the Ukrainians have anything to say about the embargo issue?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No.

Q Do you have any comment on reports out of Germany that they're not going to pay for the -- foot their part of the bill, or foot the bill for air strikes, like they did in Iraq?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I haven't seen that. I mean, in a NATO operation, each nation pays its own way -- its own forces, supports them, sustains them. There's no reimbursement from any NATO central account. NATO doesn't work the way the U.N. works. So if they have planes flying, they pay for the planes, the fuel, and all the forces on the ground to sustain those forces. That's the way it works. Nobody else pays for them.

So I don't think they intend to pull out, either. The sense I got from the Germans is that they very much supported the intensification of the air campaign, and we hope they'll respond to SACEUR's call for some additional contributions.

Any other questions coming out of the morning session?

Q On the possible entry of new NATO members, how specific is the list? Are they going to narrow down from the pool of nine at all, give any sort of strong hints about who might be next?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The communique -- you don't have it yet?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's about to come out.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I have an advance copy, but I -- don't all dive for it at once.

You'll see a very complex and detailed treatment of the open door, beginning in paragraph seven. It's a paragraph with about -- I don't know how many sub-paragraphs, it goes on for a page and a half -- which, first it welcomes the three new members who've just been inducted; then it reaffirms the openness of the alliance, and pledges that we will continue to welcome new members -- this is similar to what we said at Madrid.

Then it goes through and recognizing -- recalls what we did in Madrid in recognizing the progress of certain countries -- remember, some were named and some were not. And then it says, "today we recognize and welcome the continuing efforts and progress in Romania and Slovenia. We also recognize and welcome continuing efforts and progress in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania" -- who were not named by name last time, they were only named as the Baltic Region.

And then, since the Madrid Summit, "we note and welcome positive developments in Bulgaria, and we also note and welcome positive developments in Slovakia." So now they've been named.

And then, slightly different treatment in the same paragraph, the other two candidates, Macedonia and Albania. We express gratitude for their cooperation with NATO, and welcome their progress on reforms. So the nine candidates all get that very nuanced treatment.

And then it goes on to explain the basic elements of the Membership Action Plan, which is the key initiative, here, to shift NATO from a more reactive posture towards candidates towards a proactive posture. We will now work actively to prepare them, to groom them, for membership in a more active way, with -- you'll see the points in the communique.

And then finally, it says that Foreign Ministers are directed to keep the process under review, and that the leaders will review the process at their next summit meeting, which will be held no later than 2002. So that kind of puts an outer limit on when the next round of enlargement is likely to occur. This is not a commitment to invitations in that time frame, but certainly it's a signal of an inclination to go in that direction.

So, after you study this document, I'd be happy to answer other questions. Thirteen pages --

Q That's all the Mapping the Way -- that's the Mapping the Way document, right?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, no. This is the summit communique. An Alliance for the 21st century.

Q What time is that expected to be released?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They're just making zillions of copies right now, because it was finalized about 45 minutes ago.

But this has -- all the summit decisions are summarized in here. You've got the key elements of the strategic concept, which is also being Xeroxed. It has the enlargement stuff I just mentioned, it has the business about ESDI. It has the Defense Capabilities Initiative in summary form, and then some stuff about continuing our work in Bosnia.

Oh, I would call your attention to decisions on Southeastern Europe, if you're interested. In the communique, in paras 16 and 17 -- 16 through 19, actually. The Southeast European piece, in the context of the crisis, it talks about the increased importance, and then it lays out a number of initiatives, including proposing tomorrow morning to the seven countries that will be attending the meeting at 9:30 a.m. -- the neighboring states -- the establishment of a consultative forum, the 19 plus 7 Forum, that would be created as an ongoing mechanism with a variety of activities that would be pursued with those specific countries.

Q This is indefinitely, not just for the Kosovo crisis?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. It's indefinite, there's no time limit on this. I mean, the proximate cause is the crisis, but this would be established as an ongoing mechanism -- as long as it's useful, I guess. It doesn't say anything about timing.

And -- then there's stuff about the EAPC, Partnership for Peace, where there's -- we've got four major initiatives on enhancing the Partnership for Peace. Russia, Ukraine, Mediterranean Dialogue, Weapons of Mass Destruction Center, and the other parts of the weapons of mass destruction issue.

This is your basic text.

END 5:27 P.M. EDT