THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release April 16, 1997
NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SAMUEL BERGER
NSC SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR DEFENSE AND ARMS CONTROL POLICY
The Briefing Room
1:35 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: First, for your enjoyment and
entertainment today, given the President's focus on foreign policy
matters of great significance, I've asked the President's National
Security Advisor, Samuel R. Berger, to be here to tell you more about
the work the President's doing today on two fronts: first, his
meeting with a bipartisan group of senators and members of the House,
tonight for a real intense session on foreign policy objectives the
administration is pursuing that we hope we will pursue in a
bipartisan way; then secondly, the work the President will do today
to secure the very necessary ratification of the Chemical Weapons
Sandy will also then introduce my favorite briefer at
the White House, Mr. Robert Bell, the NSC Senior Director for Defense
and Arms Control Policy -- close enough? And he can walk you through
a real important development in the CWC debate on the Senate,
occurring today, which we put out some paper on earlier.
Mr. Berger, welcome to the Briefing Room.
Q Does that ensure the passage, these conditions that
you've agreed to?
MR. BERGER: Okay, let me just say a few things first.
Does that mean I'm the second favorite briefer? I'm certainly not
the favorite, I guess. (Laughter.)
Q Don't worry about it. We make up our own minds.
MR. BERGER: Tonight, as Mike indicated, the President
will be hosting a meeting at Blair House of a very broad
cross-section of congressional leadership, particularly those who are
involved in foreign affairs appropriations and defense policy issues
on the Hill.
This is a session that will go from roughly 6:00 p.m.
until 9:00 p.m. It is something the President has wanted to do since
very early in the year, just to call together and convene a
mini-retreat with the Congress to talk about a fairly broad range of
our foreign policy objectives over the next four years and engage in
a give-and-take with the members of Congress.
The President will be talking about NATO enlargement.
He'll be talking about Asia and our relationships there. He'll be
talking about how we -- our fight against terrorism and drugs,
expanding the international trading system, Bosnia, a wide range of
issues in an exchange with the leadership. And I think it's a very
important opportunity for both the President and the congressional
leadership to build a kind of bipartisan consensus around America's
leadership in the world.
Now, as part of that, the President will speak directly
tonight to this group about a priority that is coming to a head next
week, and that is the Chemical Weapons Convention. And I want to say
a few words about that, and then I want to ask Bob to brief you on
some quite important developments over the past few days.
There is an enormous amount at stake in the vote which
we now expect will take place next week on the Chemical Weapons
Convention. First is the question of America's leadership in the
fight against weapons of mass destruction. We have been the prime
movers of this treaty for almost 20 years. The negotiations began
under President Reagan; they came to conclusion under President Bush,
who signed this treaty. And if we now, having, in a sense, been the
originators and the prime drivers of this treaty, fail to ratify it,
we become associated with the outlier nations, as opposed to those
who are inside the treaty trying to build a new regime against
chemical weapons. We become associated with the Iraqs and the
Libyas, as opposed to the broad swath of the international community
that's fighting chemical weapons.
General Schwarzkopf in his characteristically
straightforward way, I don't particularly want to be associated with
those thugs. And I think issue number one is America's ability to
continue to lead in the world in fighting weapons of mass
Second, I think most of you are aware, we are destroying
our chemical weapons stockpiles. This is a decision that was made in
the '80s because of judgment by our military and civilian leaders
that we did not need them, that they were not a necessary or
appropriate weapon. So this treaty is about other people destroying
their stockpiles, not about us destroying our stockpiles, and
reducing the threat to a future American military unit that might be
on the battlefield.
Third, this treaty makes it harder for rogue states to
develop chemical weapons by, first of all, even if they're outside of
the treaty, by imposing restrictions on the transfer of chemicals
that can be used for chemical weapons; by a very aggressive
inspection system whereby if there's a suspected location in which
prohibited weapons are being manufactured, international inspectors
can be sent to that site; and, third, by putting them outside the
system, outside the international community.
So it is another tool to isolate and fight the
development of chemical weapons by rogue states. Finally, it is
another tool in the ability to fight terrorists who might use
chemical weapons. Obviously, nothing can stop the terrorists from
cooking up chemical weapons in their basement, but by reducing the
stockpiles, these enormous stockpiles in the hands of most of the
countries in the world, many of the countries in the world, by
restricting the transfer of these chemicals by imposing an inspection
regime, all of these things together will make it more difficult for
terrorists to obtain these weapons.
And that is why this is a treaty that is supported by a
very, very broad, cross-section of Democrats and Republicans across a
very broad, ideological spectrum. Obviously, President Bush, every
chairman of the joint chiefs of staff for the past 20 years, and a
very distinguished array of former military CINCS and chiefs, Paul
Nitze, Ed Rowny, negotiators of arms control agreements under
President Reagan and others, Secretary Baker, veterans groups,
chemical manufacturers -- there is broad support for this treaty.
We, as I said, expect and hope to see a vote next week,
because the treaty will come into force on April 29th. And if we are
not in the treaty in the beginning, we will not be part of shaping
how the institutions of this treaty take hold. We will not be part
of the inspection teams. We will not be part of the executive
committee that operates this treaty. We'll be on the outside rather
than on the inside.
Now, what I want to ask Bob to brief you on is the
result of a process that has been going now for over two months, and
resulted from some early -- an early conversation that President
Clinton had with Senator Lott, from which Senator Lott formed a group
of senators to work with the administration, seeing whether we could
address many of the concerns that have been raised by those who have
some difficulties with the treaty. And in parallel, there has been a
process between Senator Biden and Senator Helms. And as a result of
those two processes, there are over 25 amendments to the articles of
ratification that have been agreed to and that were released today by
Senator Biden. And I want Bob to go through that with you and
explain it because it really does address the broad range of concerns
that have been raised about this treaty.
There still are some concerns that we can't address
without gutting the treaty. We can't address some of these which are
actually, in a sense, killer amendments. But we have gone the extra
mile here to try to, in a serious and good-faith fashion, address the
concerns that many had about various aspects of this treaty. And I
think as a result of that, the treaty that the Senate will vote on
next week will be much stronger and tighter with the amendment's
stronger and tighter regime than the one that was before them last
Q Does the agreement on the conditions ensure passage?
MR. BERGER: No, I wouldn't say that, Helen. I think
that this is very much up in the air at this point. There is some
strenuous opposition from some groups. And I would not say that this
is -- the outcome of this is at all certain. And I hope that all of
you will focus attention on this issue because I think it is really a
jump ball at this point.
Q Sandy, while we have you for a second, there is a
report from Israel television that the police in Israel are
recommending that Prime Minister Netanyahu be indicted for his role
in selecting that attorney general, and I wonder if you would care to
react to this report.
MR. BERGER: I've seen the report, Wolf, but this is a
matter for -- internal matter involving the Israeli government, the
Israeli judicial system, and I don't think it's appropriate for me to
Q Sandy, do you see any prospect for compromise on
these four so-called "killer amendments" that are out there now?
MR. BERGER: I think on each of those, we have -- and
Bob will describe it -- we have put forward an alternative which I
think addresses much of the concern that is embodied in those areas.
But I think at the end of the day, there will be a group of senators
who will oppose the treaty and who do oppose the treaty.
Q What is the President going to do to make sure that
at least the vote comes? Is he meeting personally with Senator
Helms? Is there anything else he can do to those --
MR. BERGER: The President has been very, very active
and will continue to be active. From the beginning, he's talked to
many senators about this, spoken with Senator Lott particularly about
it several times. We had the event here in the White House -- the
President will be making more phone calls. We had last week a
session with about 15 senators here at the White House. He will
raise it tonight at the retreat, and I suspect that he'll be speaking
to it more in the next week.
Q Will Senator Lott be at the retreat tonight? Will
Armey and Gingrich -- any of the --
MR. BERGER: I believe Senator Lott will be there. I
don't believe the Speaker will be there tonight.
Q Was he invited?
MR. BERGER: I don't have the list, honestly.
Q Could you provide the list for us?
MR. BERGER: Maybe after the event. I'd rather give you
the list of people who actually come than the list of people who --
Q If it's leadership in foreign policy and defense,
wouldn't Senator Helms and the Speaker at least have been invited?
MR. BERGER: Oh, they certainly were invited.
MR. MCCURRY: They were both invited and unable to
MR. BERGER: I think there, obviously, in a situation
like this always going to be conflicts. But there will be 35, 40
Q Do you think the Senate's going to ratify the
Chemical Weapons Convention?
MR. BERGER: Ann, I honestly don't know the answer to
that question. I'm not trying to be cute here. I think that this is
-- I think there are a lot of undecided senators. I think the stakes
are enormously high, and I think it would be a tremendous setback for
the fight against terrorism and the fight against chemical weapons if
we did not ratify this treaty. But I can't tell you that I know what
the outcome will be.
Q Sandy, let me go back just for a minute to the
Netanyahu topic just for a minute. I know that it's an internal
matter vis-a-vis Israel, but clearly that has ramifications for the
United States. I mean, what are the U.S. concerns as they relate to
MR. BERGER: No, I'm not going to answer it any
differently than I answered to Wolf. Dennis Ross is in Israel, he
will go forward in his meetings. He'll be meeting with the Prime
Minister I believe today.
Q What is the status of State Department
reorganization? Senator Helms -- obviously, that's a priority for
him to at least in some way mollify him --
MR. BERGER: We have been very, very actively engaged
over the past several weeks in an internal exercise to develop a set
of options for the President that he can decide among for reform of
the foreign policy agencies. How you reform them is a subject of
some disagreement. That there needs to be reform, I think, is not
subject to disagreement. I would expect that we'll be in a position
to present those options to the President in the very near future.
Q Is he going to be briefing the group tonight on the
MR. BERGER: I suspect that they may raise this issue,
but as of now, we have not gone to the President with the options.
But I think that we are a very -- we're getting close to being able
to do that.
Q Can you just talk a little more about what the
President hopes to get out of tonight?
MR. BERGER: I think -- let me take this last question
and then we'll ask Bob to step up. I think there is no
concrete or specific objective -- that is, agreement, on the level of
the State Department appropriations bill. I think this is part of a
larger process and a way of doing business that I think we've tried
very hard since January to engage in, and that is, bring the Congress
into the formulation of foreign policy to the extent we can, trying
to seek bipartisan consensus where we can. The Secretary of State
has been very active in that. The Secretary of Defense -- by
definition, anytime he speaks to anybody in the administration, it's
a bipartisan conversation.
I've been very active in it, and Ambassador Richardson,
in spending time on the Hill, trying to explain what we're doing,
trying to listen to the Hill in terms of their views. And so I think
it's a give-and-take where the President has an opportunity to define
what his core objectives are as he did to the newspaper editors and
in the State of the Union, and then focus particularly on two or
three for this discussion, probably NATO, perhaps Bosnia, Asia, CWC,
given the fact that there is a limited amount of time. And I'm sure
the senators and congressmen will have their own individual matters
they'll want to raise.
MR. BELL: As Sandy said, we believe that yesterday was
a milestone in the Senate's ratification proceedings on the Chemical
Weapons Convention. Final agreement was reached on 23 conditions to
the resolution of ratification that will accompany this treaty.
Agreement was reached with Senator Helms, Chairman of the Foreign
Now, as everyone here knows, and I'm sure across the
country in schools and homes as well, the United States Constitution
provides that treaties can only be ratified and entered into force by
the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate. This is
the advice part, these conditions. And we hope to get to the consent
part next week.
As Sandy said, reaching this milestone is really a
tribute to many, many different leaders and officials who have been
involved the last two and a half months in this process. The White
House deeply appreciates the cooperations and good offices of the
Majority Leader who, as Sandy said, established this nine-member
steering group and engaged in meetings over about 30 hours that
produced about two-thirds of the conditions in this package.
I just want to say from my involvement in the process,
that Senator Lott is a very tough negotiator, indeed, and would just
remind you that last September, when the treaty was set aside, the
point of departure was that if we could agree on perhaps three
conditions -- three conditions -- we might be able to get the treaty
back up. We're here today with agreement on 23 -- I think this could
get as high as 25 or perhaps 30 by the time the treaty is called up
Wednesday. So it's come a long ways.
We would also want to thank all of the senators that
were involved in Senator Lott's steering group -- task force, that is
-- Senator Nickles, Senator Helms, Senator Kyl, Senator Stevens,
Senator McCain, Senator Warner, Senator Coverdell, Senator Shelby,
and Senator Smith, which was indeed a representative sampling of the
views within the Republican caucus on this treaty; and, of course,
the senior staff, including Senator Lott's lead negotiator, Randy
Scheunemann had carried the ball for about 30 more hours of
negotiations. And last but certainly not least, to Senator Biden and
Senator Helms who, themselves, as Senator Biden said in his cover
letter, spent about 28 hours negotiating this package and carrying it
from the 17 mark to the 23 mark, with maybe a few more to come.
Now, outside this package, there are two critical issues
that have been under intense negotiation between Sandy Berger and
Senator Lott himself that have been at the heart of a lot of the
debate on the treaty. That is the issue of search warrants and the
issue of those appropriate uses of riot control agents, or RCAs in
wartime scenarios. I think we're very close on that, and we hope to
get final agreement very soon on those two issues, taking the package
to 25. Now, these agreed conditions represent extraordinary progress
over two and a half months in addressing virtually all of the issues
that have been raised during the debate on the treaty.
I might add that you've heard criticism of the treaty,
to be sure, over the last few weeks, particularly the last few days,
including in hearings in the Foreign Relations Committee. And I
would just say that many of the critics, most of the critics, both in
the op-ed pieces, the editorials and witnesses before the committee,
have not -- I repeat -- not been privy to these conditions. So we
would hope that as soon as we can make these conditions available to
those that have raised so many concerns about the treaty, that their
concerns would be moderated or perhaps even allayed, and we could
broaden the base of bipartisan support for the treaty.
As it stands today, and assuming that we do close with
the Majority Leader on the search warrant and riot control agent
issue, we would then go to the floor next week for a debate on the
treaty that will probably focus on three fundamental propositions
where we've not been able to reach agreement with Senator Helms, even
though as Sandy said, we have made offers that go way beyond the
benchmark of last September in each case.
Those three propositions are, first, the question of
whether U.S. participation and leadership in this treaty regime
should be held hostage to some other state or some other group of
states joining the treaty first, whether that state is Russia or
Libya. Second, the issue of whether the assurances and
certifications that the President has made in this agreed package,
which are binding, legally binding conditions on the President,
whether those assurances, as they relate to two specific parts of the
treaty, Article X and Article XI, which have to do with various kinds
of assistance that might be provided to other states, whether those
assurances are sufficient to meet the concerns or whether, as we
believe Senator Helms will insist, the Senate vote on a proposition
to reopen the treaty, reopen the negotiation, go back and actually
try to renegotiate Article X and Article XI of the treaty, a
proposition that we don't think is realistic or feasible.
And then, finally, a vote on a proposition that the
treaty only enter into force, in terms of U.S. participation, if the
President certifies a standard of verification that we know the
Director of Central Intelligence cannot support, and thus the
President could not make.
We have offered in this negotiation to certify a very
high standard of verification effectiveness indeed, the capability to
detect a systematic effort by an adversary to equip across the ranks
his army with an offensive CW capability. But the Senate will vote
on whether that is a sufficient level of verification under the
treaty or whether it will insist on a standard that we couldn't meet.
Now, we're confident, when these issues come to a vote
next week, if we can get it to a vote, that when the full Senate
works its will on these issues, which, after all, is the procedure
envisioned and called for under the Constitution, that the Senate
will make the right choice and will not adopt amendments that would
have the effect of killing the treaty by preventing us from joining
Q Did they make any promises? What was their quid
pro quo? What do they get -- the so-called negotiation?
MR. BELL: Well, Helen, I think the negotiation of the
treaty in Geneva is a lot like a negotiation in Congress between the
House and Senate.
Q I meant the conditions that --
MR. BELL: I was going to come to that. You go into
negotiation, and a lot of countries come to the negotiation and they
want a lot of things. This is a treaty, as Secretary Albright has
said, that was negotiated with a "Made in USA" stamp on it. This is
a treaty that we took the leadership in negotiating. Most of the key
provisions are provisions that were agreed to at American initiative.
But like in any negotiation you'll find some language in a treaty
that was necessary to be put in there to sort of get out of the
negotiation and let countries have a way of receding to the U.S.
position in the talks.
What's happened in the ratification phase is that
critics have focused on some fairly general language and presented
some worst-case concerns about how it might be interpreted. What
we've done through these assurances in most cases is to make clear
that we don't interpret it that way, and that we would make a maximum
effort, do everything within our power, to make sure no one else
interprets it that way.
Just one example, some critics have said that under
Article XI of the treaty there is a requirement for us to take down
the Australia group multilateral export controls on certain types of
chemicals that an outlaw state might find valuable in making weapons
of mass destruction. We have now agreed with Senator Helms on a
condition in which the President not only certifies that we don't
read it that way, but he certifies that we have sent instructions to
our ambassadors in all 30 countries that belong to the Australia
group -- they have gone in to see the host country, and at the
highest diplomatic levels have received assurances back that none of
the states of the Australia group read the treaty that way, that none
of them are going to claim that the Chemical Weapons Convention
supersedes the Australia group restraints.
And there is a mechanism beyond that, on a year-by-year
basis, where we'll report to the Senate on our success in keeping the
Australia group restraints in place. That's indicative, I think, of
the kinds of conditions that we've been able to work out.
Q Do you acknowledge that the critics of the treaty
identified deficiencies in the absence of these 25 agreements? Or
was it simply a matter of clarifying what the administration's intent
MR. BELL: It's a very complex treaty. I doubt that
anyone in the room has read it. When you do read it, it's almost
overwhelming in terms of level of detail. There are formulations in
here, as I said, that were arrived at to be able to conclude the
negotiation. If read in isolation or out of context, there is a
sentence here, a sentence there that can raise concerns.
The senators are totally within their rights -- it's the
prerogative of the Senate to ask these kinds of questions. It's the
intention of the Constitution by giving the treaty partnership role
to the Senate and requiring a two-thirds vote to ensure that there's
an extraordinary level of scrutiny and questioning about treaties
because, after all, the Founding Fathers knew that treaties were
forever. So this has been a perfectly legitimate and appropriate
process that we've gone through. It's taken us to now, I think,
through this package, to get all the clarifications and all of the
conditions communicated in a way that we think should be compelling.
We had hoped that we had done that in the hearings over the last
But, as you know, senators are busy, they can't go to
all the hearings. There was a lot of testimony, a lot of assurances
that were given in the hearings that were perhaps missed. I think
this focuses everyone's attention now on the exact terms under which
we had entered the treaty.
Q Has it been the administration's position that much
of the criticism of this was politically motivated? That was the
line last fall when the passage fell apart.
MR. BELL: I believe what we said last fall was that the
letter that Senator Dole wrote to his colleagues the night before the
vote that the treaty was due to come up just created an impossible
political situation because the environment by then was so
super-charged with the presidential campaign that an objective review
by the Senate of the treaty was not necessarily guaranteed, and that
it would be better to just let things calm down and put this over
until after the election, which is what we did.
Q Bob, are you now assured of a vote next week, or is
that still in some doubt?
MR. BELL: The Majority Leader will have to address that
himself. He has certainly, on a number of occasions over the last
week, in an informal way, assured Senator Daschle that this is coming
to a vote. We take the assurances of the Majority Leader explicitly;
he's a man of honor and we respect that. At the end of the day, of
course, the floor debate is governed by a unanimous consent agreement
in most cases, and as Richard Perle once said, the devil's in the
detail. So working out that last bit of detail and unanimous consent
Q -- employee of this administration.
MR. BELL: Sorry, I think that was back when Richard was
a Democrat. But -- (laughter) -- and was working for Senator
Jackson. At any rate, I think they're still right on the cusp of
getting the unanimous consent agreement nailed down, and once that's
promulgated and you have that delicious moment of silence where no
one objects, then we know that we've got the treaty coming up and the
terms of reference agreed.
Q Just to follow up on John's question, do you now
accept the reservations and concerns and objections that have still
been raised of this treaty as substantive and not political?
MR. BELL: It's just not my role to characterize the
motive of any senator. I worked up there too many years to get into
that. But we do acknowledge that very valid concerns and questions
have been raised about this treaty and we, in good faith, as Sandy
said, have worked very hard, through 60 hours of hard negotiation
--not just general discussion, but 60 hours of negotiation on the
text of these conditions -- to make sure that we've addressed those
Q On another subject since you're here, is the U.S.
government aware that Russia has broken its promise not to send
advance conventional weapons to Iran?
MR. BELL: I'm going to pass on that if I could. I came
in this morning and went right to work on the Chemical Weapons
Convention and vaguely aware that there's a story on that. I've not
had a chance to look into it myself. There might be others that can
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:03 P.M. EDT