November 2, 1999


6:15 P.M. (L)

               THE WHITE HOUSE

                   Office of the Press Secretary
                                             (Oslo, Norway)
For Immediate Release
November 2, 1999

                                BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY
                          SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL

                                       Radisson SAS Plaza Hotel
                                                     Oslo, Norway

6:15 P.M. (L)

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Let me just say a few things about
the President's meeting with Prime Minister Putin.  This was the second
meeting that the two of them had together.  They previously met in
Auckland.  I would say that it was a serious meeting and it was a frank
meeting.  It was a useful discussion, consistent with what we've been doing
in the past.  We've been engaging Russia at times where there have been
difficult issues in the relationship, and obviously, there are some
difficult issues now where there are differences such as in Chechnya, such
as the need to bring to a conclusion an adaptation of the Conventional
Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, some issues on arms control.  And as we have
in the past, what we found is that when we engage and work through these
problems, that that's the most constructive way to come up with effective


     On arms control, Prime Minister Putin provided President Clinton with
the signed copy of a letter that President Yeltsin had sent on arms control
issues, which I understand has generally or broadly met its way around
already.  President Clinton acknowledged that we obviously have some
differences on arms control issues, but it's important to continue work.

     He said that what we are dealing with here is a common threat, a
threat that affects both the United States and Russia and is from rogue
states.  And from that perspective, our work on a limited national defense
is not directed against Russia, but in fact, against a threat that can
affect both of our countries.  And from that perspective, it's in our
interest to be able to share in security benefits that are developed from
work on a missile defense system.

     We've made a number of suggestions to the Russians on the kind of
cooperation that we might be willing to consider.  We think that they're
serious proposals.  We've already had a number of meetings with the
Russians on these issues.  While on one hand, there have been some strong
statements in the press by Russia about their differences and disagreement
with an ABM system, at the same time, there's also been serious dialogue,
and it's important to continue that dialogue, and that's one of the things
that the President underscored.

     Let me stop there.  That was sort of the core elements of the meeting,
and I'm glad to answer whatever questions --

     Q    Did the letter from Yeltsin surprise you in its tone or its
warnings of dangers, the treaty collapsing?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Not really.  It's a serious letter,
and President Clinton said that we would respond to it in a serious way.
There are parts of it that are quite familiar.  First of all, the letter
emphasizes the importance of continuing a dialogue on reduction of nuclear
arsenals, and we, in fact, have agreed with that, and in the statement that
President Clinton, President Yeltsin issued in Cologne, they said -- they
both said that we should continue parallel discussions in START III and on
the ABM Treaty.

     The Russians have, in the past, indicated to us a concern that an ABM
system can somehow affect or mitigate the deterrent fact of the strategic
forces.  We have consistently said that we don't believe that's the case,
because we're looking at a limited system that, in fact, no decisions have
been made at this point, but we are looking at a limited system that's not
directed at Russia.

     In fact, some of Russia's own generals have indicated that the kind of
limited system that we're looking at is not directed against Russian
strategic forces.  And what we have consistently said is that we want to
work with the Russians on ways to address issues specific to the treaty to
strengthen the treaty, and that from our perspective, if we look ahead to
the future and we assess potential security threats for the future, it's
important for us to begin thinking now how to respond to those, and in
fact, last -- in September of '98 at the Moscow summit, the two Presidents
actually issued a joint statement on security challenges for the 12st
century, which reinforced the importance of looking ahead to the future.
And I think it's in that context that we're going to continue its dialogue.


     Q    On ABM, does Russia have reason to believe that the United States
would deploy a new missile defense system without a renegotiated treaty?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  We've consistently said that we want
to be able to address issues of missile defense in a way that's cooperative
and transparent, and that we want to do that through a parallel discussion
on nuclear reductions and requirements for missile defense.

     We have consistently stressed the importance of having transparency
measures in any form of agreement on adaptation of the ABM Treaty.  The
importance of that is, particularly, to address Russians' concerns about a
breakout capacity.  And so what we have consistently focused on is how to
do this in a cooperative way, how to do it in a way that maintains
strategic stability and recognizing that what we're trying to do is not
negate the Russians' strategic deterrence, but to address a different
threat and maintain at the same time a balance in strategic stability.

     Q    Could you elaborate on the contents of the Yeltsin letter, the
main points that you saw?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  The contents were very much as I laid
out; a desire to continue discussions on nuclear arms reductions, which is
not something new.  We have, in fact, shared that view and indicated that
it should move ahead jointly with discussions on missile defense.  The
letter indicated a concern that the ABM Treaty could somehow affect
Russia's strategic deterrent, and as I indicated before, it's not our
perspective that that will be the case.

     The letter indicated a concern that amendments to the ABM Treaty could
weaken the treaty.  Our perspective has been that, in fact, a strong treaty
is one that addresses changes in a changing international security
situations, and in Cologne when the two Presidents issued a statement on
arms control, it recognized that the ABM Treaty has provisions for
amendment for changing international security environments.

     The letter indicated that we should address questions of threats from
rogue states by cooperation on export control and control of ballistic
missile technology.  We agree with that fully.  The concern that, of
course, we've had is that the countries that may actually get this
technology are not necessarily operating on the basis of a rational basis
of what kind of impact a strike against the United States might have, and
therefore it's important to maintain a defense against such strikes.

     The letter indicated that it hoped -- President Yeltsin hoped that the
United States would work with Russia on a resolution that they are
introducing at the United Nations, and we indicated to them that in fact,
if such a resolution is based on the principles that both countries have
accepted in the past -- in particular, the principles that are embodied in
the Cologne statement issued by the two Presidents that that's something
that we could discuss.


     THE PRESS:  Thank you.

                                     6:50 P.M. (L)