[EXCERPTS] DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
BRIEFER: NICHOLAS BURNS FRIDAY, APRIL 25, 1997
BURNS: I'm glad to see that you noted that. It was a major success. I
think it really was one of the significant successes of the
President's second term in foreign policy because of the stakes that
were involved and because of the intense involvement of the President,
the Vice President, Secretary Albright, and Secretary Cohen, and we
are very pleased the Senate has given its advice and consent.
We now look forward to becoming part of the rule-making body for the
Chemical Weapons Convention and fully a part of the effort to
implement it worldwide, and we call upon all the great powers of the
world to ratify this treaty.
Unfortunately, we understood this morning that the Russian DUMA has
decided to go on vacation and they have not ratified this treaty. It
is very important that Russia now make the effort to ratify this
treaty, and very quickly. Fortunately, I think we have good faith and
good will on the part of the Russian Government and President Yeltsin
and Foreign Minister Primakov and we look to the Russian elected
legislators to show similar good faith and make sure that Russia is
part of this effort. But we think this vote last night in the Senate
is a vote for American engagement in the world, American leadership in
the world, and for making sure that chemical weapons do not present a
threat to the American people or to our friends around the world.
Q: Nick, how do you feel about the proposition that this may be the
last hurrah for arms control? I'll give you reasons for that: no
landslide, took enormous lobbying, you got reluctant senators like
Lott and Warner, among others, saying they did this very reluctantly.
It took a hell of a campaign, right? The DUMA is sitting on START, the
DUMA is sitting on this, and you are killing the Arms Control Agency,
which is no small matter.
How would you deal with the notion that maybe --
BURNS: I didn't think we would be put on trial this morning.
Q: -- the State Department is killing the Arms Control -- the
President of the United States is killing the Arms Control Agency.
BURNS: No, we are elevating --
Q: For 30 years --
BURNS: We're elevating it.
Q: You're not elevating.
BURNS: We are.
Q: You're eliminating an independent --
BURNS: Anyway, I'll let you finish.
Q: -- an independent link to the White House, the director's job, and
you're putting it under a State Department ceiling. So the question
is: What is the future of arms control? Do you see a glorious future
for arms control led by this administration or any other one?
Q: How so?
BURNS: I don't think this is the last hurrah by any stretch of the
imagination. First, you have -- I think you see, Barry, throughout the
last 35 years that the Test Ban Treaty and the SALT treaties and the
START treaties and the non-proliferation treaties have always had
their share of controversy attached to them and there have always been
divisions in this country about whether we should go forward with each
one of those. So it's not surprising that we would have had a very
tough debate about Senate ratification of the Chemical Weapons
Convention, number one.
Number two, we have some significant treaties ahead of us. START II,
signed by President Bush, needs to be ratified by the Russian DUMA
and, fortunately, we have the agreement of President Yeltsin that he
will push for that. That came out of the Helsinki summit meeting and
we now need to see the Russian DUMA step up to the plate on that and
on the CWC. Now, we have said that if START II can be ratified, we
would be willing to engage in a further round of discussions on
follow-on reductions in the level of strategic offensive arms between
the United States and Russia. That issue was discussed at Helsinki
but, obviously, the United States needs to see the Russia DUMA ratify
START II first.
And, Barry, on your question, the opinion you've given, your belief
that somehow we're killing ACTA. I, for one, as a U.S. Government
employee, have long felt that there is needless duplication in our own
Executive Branch on foreign policy issues, not just public diplomacy
but also in arms control. We are not killing the arms control
community in this government. In fact, we are making sure that the
Secretary of State is going to be the chief arms control official of
this government and that the new Undersecretary will report to her but
will also, if you read the press statements that have been put out by
the White House and State Department, will also, of course, be
double-hatted and have a negotiating role and a primacy that, of
course, has a voice in the White House. So I think the reorganization
plan is not going to diminish our interest or commitment to arms
control and security issues.
Q: A quick check on how you stand with the North Koreans
non-proliferation. The same thing: Are you able to convince them to
stop -- have you made any headway in persuading them not to sell or
provide dangerous technology to all sorts of regimes around the world?
BURNS: We are going to have talks with the North Koreans on May 12th
and 13th, and our talks will be headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary
Bob Einhorn. It is a very important issue. We have some concerns about
North Korean behavior and compliance, and we will be raising them at
those talks in New York.
Q: Nick, can we go back to the questions on the chemical treaty?
Q: The DUMA today said it wanted more money to help get rid of these
weapons and pretty much made it clear that they weren't planning to
deal with it until the Fall. I mean, you call for quick action but it
seems like they're just saying forget it.
BURNS: We're extremely disappointed in the decision by the DUMA to put
off debate and consideration of this treaty until the Fall. Our U.S.
Senate just spent hundreds of hours talking about this issue with the
administration, debating it on the floor of the Senate, in committees
in the Senate. Our Senate has acted responsibly and with a degree of
urgency because on April 29th, next week, this treaty goes into
I would think that the Russian Government and the Russian people would
also want to be totally involved in the implementation of the treaty,
and we need Russia to be involved. And, you know, the DUMA is an
elected body of the Russian people. They are going to wait six months
before they take up one of the landmark security treaties of our time?
We think it's very important that the DUMA get to this.
We think there is absolute good faith on the part of the Russian
Government. The Russian Government has indicated it does want to go
forward, and we would hope that the Russian Government and DUMA can
work out whatever concerns that the DUMA has. We had -- in our country
we had 28 specific issues that we took up with our own Senate. We
answered the concerns that our Senate brought to the debate, and with
a very good result for the United States.
Q: What about the demand for more money, more international help, to
deal with the destruction issue?
BURNS: Well, that's an issue that they are going to have to address to
the Russian Government itself. As you know, the United States in the
past has assisted Russia, first the Soviet Union and then Russia, in
the issue of chemical weapons destruction through the Nunn-Lugar
program. There are sufficient, we think, monies from the international
community, including the United States. I was not aware that this was
a separate issue that they were still raising. It's an issue they
should raise with the Russian Government. And if the Russian
Government wants to raise it with us, we'll certainly listen, but we
do think the time has come for the Russian DUMA to ratify it.
Q: Will Secretary Albright raise this issue with Primakov when she is
in Moscow next week?
BURNS: I'm sure it's going to be on the agenda. It's such an important
issue for all of us, CWC. I'm sure it will be on the agenda.
Q: Given the fact that that decision yesterday was that of the DUMA,
is there anything Yeltsin and company, is there anything Yeltsin and
company can do in order to speed this up?
BURNS: Well, I think we have had a similar situation here in the
United States. We were contacted by over a hundred governments in the
last couple of months -- please, ratify the CWC. Understanding -- I
think all those governments understood that we wanted to, but we had a
constitutional debate here, a debate brought about by our
constitutional structures here. The same is true in Russia.
We work with the Russian Government. That is our partner in Russia,
and we assume that what we say to the Russian Government, if it
pertains to the DUMA, will be translated on to the DUMA; that the
message will be delivered to the DUMA, in other words.
Q: Nick, on ACDA, if it's such a sensible idea to avoid duplication in
such things as arms control and have the Secretary of State be the
chief arms control negotiator, why did it take two years? And why did
the State Department have to be dragged kicking and screaming across
the line to accomplish this?
BURNS: Jim, the State Department was not dragged kicking and screaming
across the line. When Secretary Albright came in --
Q: It certainly resisted fitfully for the last two years.
BURNS: All I can do is point you to Secretary Albright's confirmation
hearings in January where she said she was open to consolidation, open
to talk about that in the government and with the Congress, that from
January 20th on, she worked with the Congress and worked with the
agency heads here on this. And she feels it's a good result, a very
The central point here is that the structure of U.S. foreign policy
was set up for the Cold War. The Cold War is over. It is now time to
get on to the next century and to the new world. We don't need
needless duplication. I see it in my own work on public diplomacy.
There are certain things that USIA does better than the State
Department. There are certain things that we do better than USIA. We
are going to combine our efforts now over the next couple of years.
The same is true of ACDA and our Bureau of Political Military Affairs.
Q: But as Spokesman for the State Department, not only this
Administration, but the State Department during the past couple of
years, would you agree that the State Department did resist this
BURNS: I think it's -- in my own knowledge of it -- you are talking
about the period of late 1994, early 1995 -- is that it was a very
complicated affair, and it wasn't politically possible for a variety
of reasons to go forward.
Thankfully, we have surmounted some of those problems and we have a
reorganization plan that we believe is good, that will make us more
streamlined, and make the State Department more effective, and that
has to be the principal concern of the Secretary of State.
Q: Nick, on the DUMA and its decision not to vote on the Chemical
Weapons Treaty, you have been saying all along that it was crucial for
the United States, both for the United States and for all these other
countries that were begging us to ratify, to be involved at the
beginning. Russia is one of the largest -- has one of the largest
stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world, and clearly should have
been a major player on this issue. How much damage is it going to do
to the implementation of this treaty, to the organization of the
structures that will be needed, that Russians will not be at the
BURNS: Well, first of all -- on the first part of your question, David
-- it benefits all Americans that the Senate ratified the treaty last
night because we will be on the governing board that writes the rules
of implementation. So we are better off because of the Senate's vote
last night, the Senate's leadership, bipartisan Republicans and
Second, we have always believed that if the United States showed the
way forward for some of the countries that have signed the treaty but
not ratified it -- and there are a number of them -- that that would
put more pressure on them, give them more impetus to move quickly.
We now hope, given the very decisive result in the Senate last night,
that that message will be heard in Moscow. I don't think it needs to
be heard in the Kremlin as much as it does in the DUMA. And we hope
very much that the Russian people will now understand that the same
stakes that were present for the American people, are present for
them. If Russia doesn't ratify, Russia won't be on the rule-making
Q: But what I'm saying is, they have only got a few days left. They've
made clear they are not going to vote on it before then. They are
already missing the boat, aren't they? How much damage is that going
BURNS: Well, it's going to do damage to Russia. But the Russian
Government -- it will do damage to Russia because Russia won't be in
on the ground floor on implementation. But I think you are asking a
different question, and that is: will it impair the implementation of
the treaty overall because Russia is not involved?
The Russian Government has shown good faith. The Russian Government is
the executive arm of Russia. It will be the one that makes sure that
Russia abides by the Chemical Weapons Convention, even if it hasn't
been ratified, and we fully expect Russia to abide by the commitments
in that treaty, short of ratification. That is an important point.
Q: (Inaudible) do the Russians get sanctioned automatically now by not
being a part of the treaty? Because that was the --
BURNS: No, I don't believe so. No, the sanctions are -- the sanctions
in the treaty are included for those who violate the terms of the
treaty. But the whole argument that we have been making here is that
if you don't ratify by April 29th, you are not part of the group that
actually writes the rules, so Russia won't be part of that. We will.
Q: But on the Hill, in the debate it was argued repeatedly that there
would be sanctions on U.S. chemical firms?
BURNS: Well, that is a different sort of question. I thought you were
talking about violations. It is true that if you don't ratify, there
is the prospect that your private companies would face losses, job
losses and profit losses, because they would not be able to compete on
an equal basis with the companies of countries that have ratified.
Now, fortunately, the $600 million annual loss that we predicted for
American companies and American workers will now not be felt because
our companies will be on the ground floor, and they will be able to
compete effectively with companies of countries that have ratified.
Q: But will there be sanctions on Russian entities?
BURNS: I don't believe sanctions is the proper word.
Q: Perhaps, fines.
BURNS: I think it's a question of whether you are in the preferred
group or the non-preferred group. American companies will. Russian
companies will find themselves in the latter group until their
government -- until their DUMA ratifies.
Q: (Inaudible) the United States can do or might do to mitigate the
disadvantage that Russia will find itself in the coming months?
Because it won't be part of the steering committee on --
BURNS: We can urge the Russian Government to use its influence with
the DUMA to seek early ratification.
Q: (Inaudible) the treaty partners, the treaty parties, rather -- in
other words --
BURNS: The rules are quite clear. You can't sit on the governing board
if you haven't ratified.
Q: Nick, we re beating this to death and we want to go on to whether
Dennis Ross is going to Middle East, as the Palestinians say.
Q: Well, I've got a couple more --
Q: No, no, but I do, too. So go ahead. This is an important issue as
Q: Well, I just wondered if --
Q: Maybe we can jump this --
Q: Another point is that last night the members of the -- certainly
the Democrats, Biden and Daschle, were making rather strong statements
about the historical significance of the event, and saying it was the
most important single act undertaken since the end of the Cold War,
the most important single treaty. I just wonder, would you put it in
some historical context?
BURNS: Well, I think we very much agree with both what Senator Lott
and Senator Biden said. Those are the two comments that I heard
publicly. And that is, this is a landmark, historic treaty because it
paves the way for the world to rid itself of chemical weapons and to
set up very stringent rules which will penalize those who choose not
to do so, penalize the cheaters around the world. I think we know who
they are: the rogue states. And it allows the United States to join an
international consensus on one of the most important issues of our
time, and to be in the position of leadership as we begin after April
29th to implement this treaty.
Had the Senate not ratified, we would definitely have been in the same
group with Iraq and Libya, and that would have been most uncomfortable
for all of us, including the Secretary of State, who referred to this
publicly several times. So, fortunately, as the world's great power,
we are in a position of leadership thanks to a bipartisan coalition of
Republicans and Democrats, including very substantial leadership from
Senator Lott, Senator McCain, Senator Biden. Lots of people deserve
credit for this on Capitol Hill.
Q: Could you just specify the Secretary's role in this, as you would
sum it up? I mean, she wasn't up there lobbying actively like Gore was
last night. Was she on the phone the last five days? Exactly how would
BURNS: This was a team effort. The President and Vice President led
the effort, Secretary Albright and Secretary Cohen. Sandy Berger
deserves enormous credit for this. All that team devoted themselves to
Senate ratification. I can tell you for weeks on end now, Secretary
Albright has been taking 10 minutes between meetings to make a phone
call to a senator on CWC.
When we were in Annapolis a week ago Tuesday, for her speech to the
Midshipmen, she spent over an hour in the Commandant's house before
dinner making a series of phone calls to senators on this. She was
repeatedly up on Capitol Hill.
At the end of the NATO enlargement testimony with Secretary Cohen,
they talked about CWC. They disrupted their entire weekend last
weekend to prepare for and appear on jointly Meet The Press --
Secretary Cohen and Secretary Albright. This was an all-out push by
the Administration. It was pedal to the floor, all-out effort to make
sure that we did our best to convince the Senate.
And so the Secretary was part of the leadership team that put this
together, and a lot of people deserve credit, but certainly the
President, the Vice President, Secretary Cohen, Secretary Albright,
and Sandy Berger, John Holum. There are lots and lots of people. And,
of course, all the senators who voted for the treaty.
It was good to see President Bush, President Ford, Secretary Baker,
General Powell, General Scowcroft, prominent Republicans stand up
publicly -- Senator Dole -- and support it.