PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF ERSKINE BOWLES, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY ROBERT RUBIN, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION RICHARD RILEY, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS SAMUEL R. BERGER; AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ADMINISTRATOR CAROL BROWNER.
THE WHITE HOUSE
The Briefing Room
January 11, 1997
BERGER: Thank you, Erskine. The initial meeting this morning with the members of the President's national security team, old and new, lasted for about an hour and a half, about 30 minutes of which were presentations by various members of the national security team to the President, and the remainder of the discussion with the President and the Vice President.
In our opening presentations to the President, we outlined six fundamental strategic objectives which we believe the United States must pursue over the next four years that build upon the cornerstones that have been put in place over the past four years. On each subject we outlined specific objectives and opportunities, as well as the difficult issues inherent in each of those objectives and the risks that we face.
In broad terms, those strategic objectives are the following: One, building an undivided, peaceful democratic Europe, which involves both the cluster of issues surrounding NATO expansion and our relationship and NATO's relationship with Russia itself. Second, cementing America's role as a stabilizing force in a more integrated Asian-Pacific community. We talked about China, we talked about Japan and Korea. Third, helping to bring peace to key regions of the world. We specifically discussed our goals and challenges in Bosnia, Middle East, Northern Ireland and Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Fourth, confronting the range of new security challenges the President has talked about often over the past two years, such as terrorism, international crime, drugs, the environment, rogue states. Fifth, assuring that we maintain a modern and ready military force and that we gain adequate support for the resources that we need for an effective American diplomacy.
Finally, the effort to continue to build an open global economy regionally, such as in Latin America, and there was some considerable discussion of that, as well as globally to create American jobs through exports.
We also specifically discussed and addressed defense intelligence and U.N. reform priorities. No one doubts today that America's armed forces are indispensable and that we have the world's strongest and finest military. General Shalikashvili at one point noted that the difference between the United States and others' military today is greater than any time in his adult life and that our challenge was to maintain that advantage going forward with a new set of challenges, including modernization of forces.
The President made it clear that he wants to build on the foundation that was laid in the first term, that he foresees an active foreign policy agenda, both for our country and for himself. He stressed the need for a close partnership with the Congress on foreign affairs, something he would like to initiate right away; and an ongoing dialogue with the American people about our international interests, not only what, but why we are engaged so actively in the world.
A major theme of the session was the President's eagerness to have the tools to get these tasks done. Madeleine Albright summed that up well, I think, by her statement that right now, less than one percent of our budget -- that is, the foreign affairs budget -- will be used to write 50 percent of the history and legacy of our times. We talked about how we can expand those resources by building a bipartisan consensus for engagement in the world.
At the end of the session, I noted -- recounted a similar somewhat smaller scene in Little Rock in 1992 during the transition, when a number of us were briefing the President on the daunting challenges of Haiti, including the fact that a million Haitians were building -- tearing off their roofs and building boats, heading for the United States. It was a very sobering briefing. The Vice President leaned back at that point and said, that's a worthy challenge.
And I think that as we went through the challenges that we face today,
we both did so with generally an energized sense of excitement, as
well as a sober sense that there are serious challenges that we must
face, but with a clear sense that the opportunities do outweigh the
problems that we face and this is an extraordinarily exciting time
over the next four years.