May 25, 2000


                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                    May 25, 2000

                             PRESS BRIEFING BY

                  The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:55 P.M. EDT


          Q    Sandy, two things.  Do you expect that this will be the
President's last trip to Europe, or do you anticipate him going back for
anything during the final eight months in his presidency?  And secondly,
could you be more specific about what you expect in Russia in terms of any
breakthrough or agreements on AMB, missile defenses and arms control?

          MR. BERGER:  We have no other trip to Europe that is now planned,
but I wouldn't rule out the possibility that there would be a further trip
for one reason or another between now and the end of the year.

          With respect to ABM and START, I don't expect any resolution of
this issue during this visit.  This is the first time the President would
have had an opportunity to discuss it with President Putin.  He will
describe for President Putin what we see as a new threat.  I think almost
everyone agrees there is, over some time horizon, the danger of long-range
ballistic missiles from third countries that could reach the United States.
We've developed, but not yet decided upon a limited national missile
defense system that deals with the threats that are anticipated.  We would
like to do that in the context of an ABM treaty that is modified in some
respects so that it strengthens arms control.  And, in parallel, we would
like to proceed on START III.

          But I don't expect these issues will be resolved at this summit.
I expect that it will be a good opportunity for us to explain our view of
the problem, and for President Putin to express his view of the problem.

          Q    Sandy, George W. Bush has suggested publicly that he would
like the President not to make any kind of arrangements on arms control, it
would tie the hands of a future President.  Is that going to impinge at all
on these talks in Moscow?

          MR. BERGER:  Let me say this.  I think Presidents are elected by
the American people to serve four-year terms, and I believe that they're
expected to advance the national interest from day one until the final day.
And I expect the President will do that.  He will act in a way that he
believes is in the national interest, and he will not do things that he
doesn't believe are in the national interest.

          That doesn't mean we will or will not reach an agreement.  It
doesn't mean -- as the President has said, he will decide later this summer
whether he will -- whether we will go forward to deploy the limited system
we have developed later this spring, based upon a number of criteria that
you're aware of.

          I guess I would simply point out that President Clinton's
predecessor, President Bush, signed the START II treaty in December of
1992, after the 1992 election.  And I think it was quite appropriate,
because as I said, I think it -- the United States cannot afford to do
business only three years out of four.

          Q    How do you respond to the latest revelations that the
national missile defense project is fundamentally flawed from a technical
point of view?

          MR. BERGER:  Well, the President has said that he will make a
decision later this year, based upon four criteria -- Number one, what is
the nature of the threat.  What is the nature of the threat of long-range
ballistic missiles from North Korea later in the decade, potentially from
Iran or Iraq?  How serious is it?  What is the time frame?

          Number two, what is the technilogical feasibility of the system?
We will have had some tests.  There have been a number of issues raised.
Initially, there will be another test in, it looks like now, the beginning
of July.  Presumably, there will be something called a defense readiness
review; they'll make some recommendations to Secretary Cohen.  He will make
some recommendations to the President.  So we'll look at all those

          Number three is what is the cost of the system, and how does that
relate to other priorities.  And number four, what is the overall effect of
such a system on the national security in general -- not just on the
immediate threat.  So all of those issue are on the table.  We will look at
all of the information that is available to us at the time, and the
President will make a decision as to whether to proceed.

          Q    But if I might just follow up on that, sir, there is a
respected body of opinion amongst academics who have looked at the date
from the first round of tests, and who say, first of all, the data has been
doctored, and second, that there is no technical way in which this can
work.  And you're about to spend, it seems, billions and billions of
dollars on that.

          MR. BERGER:  That's about three editorial comments in that
question.  I would say, first of all, we will look at all of the
information.  I think there are differences of viewpoint on this, respected
people I think on both sides of this argument.   But we have not made a
judgment.  We will make a judgment based upon a very clear analysis of all
of the information and all four of the factors I talked about.

          What we have been talking about with the Russians over the last
year is some modifications to the ABM treaty which would enable us to
proceed with this limited system in a way that preserved the AMB treaty.  I
think that is in Russia's interests to do.  But, as I say, we will make
that decision later this year.


          Q    Mr. Berger, your original expectations -- the
administration's expectations for this summit on arms control seemed to be
much more optimistic at one time, and you've been forced to scale them
back, apparently in the face of Russian --

          MR. BERGER:  I don't think we've scaled them back.  I've never
expected an issue as complex as this to be resolved in this summit.  This
is the first time that President Clinton will have an opportunity to
discuss this.  These are serious issues, and they involve both whether we
can agree to modifications in the ABM treaty, whether we can make further
progress on the START III process that President Yeltsin and President
Clinton set as an objective in Helsinki in 1997.

          But I think, hopefully, we will have some greater degree of
understanding of each other's position which can lead, then, our folks to
continue discussions between Moscow and subsequent meetings.

          Q    What incentive is there for the Russians, given the
calendar, given the fact that this administration has only months to run?
What incentive is there for the Russians to agree to any deal this year at
all, rather than waiting for the next --

          MR. BERGER:  I think they have to decide whether they want to
reach an agreement now that will assure them that a limited NMD system will
take place within -- bounded by -- within a ABM treaty that continues to
maintain strategic stability, or whether they want the possibility that a
future President might go forward with an NMD system, perhaps even more
Star Wars-oriented NMB system, that would be more threatening to the
Russians in the absence of an ABM treaty.  That's a calculation they have
to make.

          Q    Sir, could you clarify -- I don't exactly understand the
relationship between the NMD and the ABM treaty.  I mean, is our position
that it doesn't violate it, or that is does violate it, and we need to work

          MR. BERGER:  No, I think there's no question that either the
limited system that we have proposed, or even some of the other ideas that
have been proposed in terms of sea-based systems, boost-phased systems,
require a modification of the ABM treaty.  And so, what we seek from --
what we would like to have from the Russians, what we'd like to see is
their agreement to such a modification.

          It is obviously not a prerequisite, but it, in our judgment,
would be preferable to have a system -- to have this proceed in the context
of an ABM treaty, which we believe does, in fact, contribute to strategic
stability.  And those, for example, who are saying we want a bigger NMD
system, but lower numbers of START really are proposing two inconsistent
things,  because if you have a bigger NMD system, the Russians are going to
build up, not build down.  So I think we've struck a balance here which,
hopefully, the Russians will see is in their interest, but that's what
we'll see.

          Q    Why is it okay, then, for us to violate treaties that we
sign with other countries?  I mean, I guess --

          MR. BERGER:  First of all, there's a provision in the ABM treaty
whereby any party can, with six months notice, withdraw from the treaty.
We're not proposing here today to violate the ABM treaty.  We're saying to
the Russians -- the ABM treaty actually provides for its amendment, and it
has been amended once before.  It's not something frozen in concrete back
in 1972.  It envisioned that there would be new threats that would have to
be dealt with.  And so it is not a violation of the ABM treaty to change
the ABM treaty by mutual consent, so that if this President or a subsequent
President decides to move ahead with a national missile defense system, it
is bounded by an ABM treaty which will provide strategic stability.



                           END       12:50 P.M. EDT