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20 November 2002

Transcript: Bush Lays Out Strategic Vision for NATO, U.S. Official Says

(Briefs reporters November 20 on President's first day in Prague)
(4120)
The President, in his November 20 Prague speech, laid out an important
strategic vision for NATO enlargement, enunciated first in his Warsaw
speech of 2001, a senior Bush administration official said, as he
briefed reporters on the President's activities in Prague preceding
the November 21-22 NATO Summit in the Czech capital.
Bush is committed to NATO enlargement for all of the democracies of
Europe, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, and all those who lie
between that are willing to accept the responsibilities of NATO
membership, the official said.
A goal of the Prague Summit, the official said, "is to bring NATO
allies together, all of them, together in a way to deal with the
challenges of the 21st century. And I think ... we will succeed in
doing that."
Bush met individually November 20 with Czech President Vaclav Havel,
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, Turkey's President Ahmet Necdet
Sezer, and with NATO Secretary General George Robertson, the official
noted.
In each of those meetings, the official said, Bush discussed his
priorities for NATO, as well as Iraq.
"There will be a solution to the problem of Iraq, but that is not
going to create the millennium of peace, that is not going to solve
the overall problem of dictators, weapons of mass destruction,
terrorists and the nexus between them. The President was citing a
strategic vision, was laying out a strategic vision for NATO, and an
important one. Iraq is coming up fast. It is not the first challenge
of the 21st century, it is not the last challenge of the 21st century,
it is a major challenge that we face. And NATO has to develop in ways
to be able to handle all of these challenges and new ones as they
come," the official said.
He added that he believes and hopes "that NATO will be able to express
some solidarity on Iraq in some form, and we'll know tomorrow," he
said.
"Obviously, countries have to make their sovereign decisions. It is
not a light matter -- if it comes to that, it is not at all a light
matter to engage in any kind of a conflict. And I think it's only
decent to recognize that other leaders face the same difficult
decisions an American leader would face," the senior administration
official said.
Asked specifically to discuss the outcome of the bilateral between
Bush and Turkey's new President, the official said the United States
is going to be working very closely with its Turkish friend and ally
in the period ahead in a number of areas. "Obviously, we're going to
be consulting very closely on Iraq and working with Turkey in a number
of other areas," he said.
"Turkey is one of the world's great Moslem democracies; it's a Moslem
country in NATO; it's a country which aspires to be part of the
European Union; and it's a terribly important relationship for the
United States. It's a country of great promise. It has some challenges
ahead of it, but it's got a new, fresh government with a tremendous
amount of energy. And it's important to give the Turkish people and
the Turkish leadership an indication of America's determination to
keep working with this country," the senior official said.
Following is the White House transcript:
(begin transcript)
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Prague, Czech Republic)
November 20, 2002
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY A SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL ON THE
PRESIDENT'S BILATERAL MEETINGS
Hilton Prague
Prague, Czech Republic
MR. MCCORMACK: Good evening. We have a senior administration official
here tonight to talk about the President's day, his meetings, talk
about the President's speech, and answer any of your questions. The
attribution for the briefer would be senior administration official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good evening. The President had a good
first day here in Prague. It started out with a meeting with President
Havel. They've met before, of course. Followed up with a meeting with
Czech Prime Minister Spidla. In the afternoon, the President met with
President Sezer of Turkey; Lord Robertson, the Secretary General of
NATO.
The President gave his speech, which I assume most of you attended or
you've seen a text. This was a very good first day. I don't think I
have to say more about the speech, and I'll be happy to answer
questions about it.
The bilaterals -- the Havel press conference was actually very useful.
I think you got a sense of that meeting from the press conference
afterwards. With Prime Minister Spidla, the President had not met him
before. This was an -- Spidla is a relatively new Prime Minister. They
discussed Iraq; they discussed the NATO summit and the NATO summit
agenda; a discussion of Russia and the importance of reaching out to
Russia.
President Sezer -- this was also the President's first meeting with
President Sezer, although he has -- the President has met with the
outgoing Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit. They discussed the strong
bilateral ties between the two countries. They discussed Iraq. They
discussed Turkey's challenges with its new government.
And with Lord Robertson, the President and Lord Robertson discussed
the upcoming couple of days of the NATO summit, how much NATO has done
to prepare for this. And the President reviewed some of the themes
from the speech.
Now, rather than go on, you were present at the speech, you know what
the President's vision is, and I'd be happy to take any questions.
QUESTION: Why doesn't the President believe it's the obligation of
every NATO nation to back the U.S. if it comes to war with Iraq?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't quite understand the premise
of the question. The President --
Q: He said today he would leave it to each NATO ally to decide for
itself whether it backs the U.S. in such a war.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, obviously, each country has to
make a decision. We want to see Iraq disarmed and the President has
said time and again that Iraq will be disarmed, peacefully if at all
possible, but in any event. And he has said also repeatedly that if
the preferred means -- which is a peaceful means -- doesn't work, the
President will lead a coalition, an international coalition to see to
it that Iraq is disarmed.
Obviously, countries have to make their sovereign decisions. It is not
a light matter -- if it comes to that, it is not at all a light matter
to engage in any kind of a conflict. And I think it's only decent to
recognize that other leaders face the same difficult decisions an
American leader would face under those circumstances.
Q: The President today talked about expanding NATO even beyond the new
members you will invite in tomorrow. How much bigger does NATO need to
be? How many more nations do you envision coming in?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the President -- when the
President outlined his vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace,
and talked about NATO enlargement in his Warsaw speech, June 2001, he
said that all the nations, all the democracies of Europe, from the
Baltic to the Black Sea, and all those who lie between that were
willing to accept the responsibilities of NATO membership should have
an opportunity to join the Alliance.
Now, that is not a commitment to any particular nation, it is a
commitment to NATO enlargement. So what the President said today was
no more than what he had said before. NATO's door is not closed. I
think it would be a mistake to suggest that NATO's door is closed.
Countries like -- countries as far different as some of the European
neutrals and some of the Balkan countries have thought about NATO
membership. This is for the future, but the President, from the very
beginning, has said that NATO enlargement is a process open to the
European democracies ready and willing.
Q: I'm a little confused. If NATO's new challenge is fighting the war
on terror, and if any military action against Iraq is a part of that
war on terror, why isn't the President essentially saying that the
binds of NATO mean that every country must make some contribution to
any future action in Iraq?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The NATO summit is outlining a course
for NATO in the 21st century. If that's a strategic vision, NATO is
going to be dealing with new sets of challenges radically different
than the challenges it faced during the Cold War. The Soviet Union is
gone; NATO does not have to defend against the Soviet army. It doesn't
have to get 1975 really down right; that's fighting the last war.
There are new challenges and the President talked about that. And in
his speech he talked about Iraq, but he also talked about more general
challenges of the 21st century.
There will be a solution to the problem of Iraq, but that is not going
to create the millennium of peace, that is not going to solve the
overall problem of dictators, weapons of mass destruction, terrorists
and the nexus between them. The President was citing a strategic
vision, was laying out a strategic vision for NATO, and an important
one. Iraq is coming up fast. It is not the first challenge of the 21st
century, it is not the last challenge of the 21st century, it is a
major challenge that we face. And NATO has to develop in ways to be
able to handle all of these challenges and new ones as they come.
Q: What was the upshot of the meeting between Bush and the Turkish
President -- the meeting between Sezer and Bush?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That we are going to be working very
closely with our Turkish friend and ally in the period ahead in a
number of areas. Obviously, we're going to be consulting very closely
on Iraq and working with Turkey in a number of other areas.
Turkey is one of the world's great Moslem democracies; it's a Moslem
country in NATO; it's a country which aspires to be part of the
European Union; and it's a terribly important relationship for the
United States. It's a country of great promise. It has some challenges
ahead of it, but it's got a new, fresh government with a tremendous
amount of energy. And it's important to give the Turkish people and
the Turkish leadership an indication of America's determination to
keep working with this country.
Q: -- for a U.S.-led coalition against Iraq --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're going to be consulting very
closely with our Turkish friends, as we have, in the weeks ahead.
Q: The President, in his speech, laid a lot of emphasis on the
December 8th declaration that Iraq has to make. He said that there
will be no toleration of any deception, that delay and defiance will
invite the severest of consequences. Was he intending by that
statement to put Saddam on notice that if that declaration in any way
falls short of what we believe Iraq has in the way of weapons of mass
destruction, that that would invite or trigger immediate and voluntary
disarmament, let's say?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You're asking me a kind of double
hypothetical which is, first, what is Saddam going to say, and then
what would our reaction -- what would our hypothetical reaction to his
hypothetical response. And that's -- I don't do single hypotheticals,
and I sure don't do hypotheticals squared. The point, though, is that
Saddam must be disarmed. That is what this is about. The world's most
dangerous weapons in the hands of a dictator like that is a danger and
a mortal danger. This problem cannot be allowed to drift for another
12 years; the President has made that clear. And we will see whether
Saddam intends to comply with the will of the international community.
Q: Well, in this case, it was the President who actually raised the
hypothetical of a deceptive Iraqi declaration. What we're just trying
to do is understand the implications of the hypothetical that he
raised. Can you help us out there?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We will see -- we will see where we
are, but I don't want to start doing hypothetical scenarios and
what-ifs. I won't elaborate on the President's words.
Q: Does the President believe that some long-time NATO allies -- let's
say Germany, maybe others -- aren't losing a clarity of purpose? And,
if not, why did he raise restoring the soul of NATO in that context in
his speech?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President has been struck in his
meetings with the Central and East European leaders by the perspective
that they bring to all of NATO's older members, including the United
States. These are leaders for whom the totalitarian horrors of the
20th century are not things they read about in books, and not things
that their parents or grandparents told them, but things they,
themselves, lived through in ways that were personal, up front and
occasionally very nasty. That experience brings a kind of wisdom and
perspective which is very useful for everybody in the alliance. And
it's -- to listen to leaders who have had to struggle for the
independence of their country and to struggle against foreign
domination, to struggle with the legacy of what Hitler and Stalin did
to Europe, and then come out of that process and embrace democracy and
tolerance and good relations with one's neighbors is a rather
inspiring experience. And that's -- you really can't be -- can't be
human not to be affected by this. And that's something the new allies
will bring and have brought to the Alliance. Someone like Havel is an
example of that.
Q: Is the answer "yes" to the first part of the question, that the
President believes there is maybe a loss of a sense of clarity among
the long-time allies?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I prefer to put it in the positive way
that I put it.
Q: He didn't put it in the positive way, he said, not inward-looking
or isolated by indifference. Who is he talking about and what is he
talking about?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He's talking about the freshness of
perspective, which is also -- which is very useful.
Q: So Schroeder has a stale perspective; is that a fair assumption?
(Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would not leap to that conclusion.
Q: Why wouldn't you?  (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Why wouldn't I? For a number of
reasons -- (laughter) -- but let it suffice to say that I think that a
fresh experience is good for everyone, for everyone -- including,
certainly including Americans. We all benefit.
Q: I'd like to follow on Ed's question. Is it in any way a goal of the
President at this meeting to improve relations with Germany and heal
that rift? And, along those lines, how is it that he has time here to
meet with the leaders of Turkey, Britain, France, but somehow not with
the leader of the ally that we have the most tension with?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President and Chancellor Schroeder
will certainly be seeing each other quite a bit over the next few
days. There's a dinner tonight. I believe there's a dinner tomorrow
night. There are long sessions at the NATO summit, itself, and related
events Thursday and Friday morning. So they will, obviously, be seeing
each other.
The President spoke with Chancellor Schroeder by phone a week and a
half ago, I believe, and we have a lot of business to conduct with
Germany. We are doing so. German Defense Minister Struck came to
Washington, met with his counterpart. Dr. Rice met with her
counterpart, the new German National Security Advisor, last Friday. So
we have an active dialogue with Germany and the German leadership.
Q: But is one of the goals of this meeting to try to heal the rift?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: One of the goals of this meeting is to
bring NATO allies together, all of them, together in a way to deal
with the challenges of the 21st century. And I think we're going to do
a -- I think we will succeed in doing that.
Q: You said there would be a final declaration on Europe?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, you know, tomorrow we'll see. I
believe that, and I hope, that NATO will be able to express some
solidarity on Iraq in some form, and we'll know tomorrow.
Q: Back to Germany. According to media reports, 50 letters were sent
to different countries asking for -- certain military capabilities in
the event of a war against Iraq. Was such a letter sent to Germany?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Germany is a strong ally of the United
States and a country we are working with closely. And we are certainly
conducting our business with Germany based on its standing as a major
ally and a major and important country. So I cannot imagine that if
such contacts were made, that Germany would not have been sent a
letter, if you follow that tortured sentence.
Q: A follow-up. The President said this morning that at that point --
meaning only if Saddam does not disarm by himself -- consultation will
begin. But actually, the consultation has already begun. Is it not
like that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This gets into an interesting question
of consultations. Look, the allies and interested nations around the
world are talking about the challenge that Saddam Hussein poses all
the time. We are constantly consulting with our friends and our
allies. We've been doing so for a very long time. It's inconceivable
that the President would meet with foreign leaders and not discuss
Iraq, since it's a major issue. So we are consulting.
And the results of these -- of consultations have been impressive.
We've seen a crystallization of world community opinion since -- in
the past couple of months which has been very heartening. People are
talking all the time and thinking about various options, and to do so
is prudent and wise.
Q: What has triggered this letter, this formal letter -- as a request
of UK Defense Secretary said today that it received a formal request
for military assistance. What has triggered that? And I assume this is
a letter that has gone out to all NATO members, all NATO allies,
including Turkey.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, without exactly confirming or
denying the existence of any particular letter, it is true that Saddam
Hussein's willingness even to pretend, if that is what is happening,
to accept the inspectors and abide by U.N. Security Council resolution
1441 is a result of the strength of will and determination on the part
of international community. The President that a diplomatic solution
is by far the preferred one. He's also said repeatedly that other
solutions may become necessary. That being the case, it's only prudent
and wise to think about what that may mean. But it is certainly true
that the credibility of the international community's expressed
determination to see Saddam Hussein disarm has been a major factor in
the progress we've made so far.
Q: I'm sorry, the UK Defense Secretary has come out and said he's got
this letter. So it's not a question to confirm or deny, it's a
question to me of, why, given the strength of the President's rhetoric
today that they feel a need to take that one step further now and
actually make a formal request for military support.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Planning and consultation is
important, and it's important before you make decisions so you can
have -- you start thinking about these things.
Q: Russia has expressed reservations about NATO expanding to its
border. How much of the President's trip to St. Petersburg will
concern damage control?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I wouldn't put it that way. I'm
familiar with Russia's reaction to NATO enlargement this time around
as opposed to the 1997 round, and Russia has been far less -- Russia's
concerns have been far less intensely expressed, and it seems to me
that Russia is coming to realize that NATO enlargement is, in fact,
not detrimental to Russia's security, that the admission of Poland,
Hungary and the Czech Republic in '99 did not damage Russia's
security, and that, in fact, some Russians are beginning to understand
that NATO enlargement actually benefits Russia's security because it
brings stable, secure democracies to Russia's border, and having
improved neighborhood is good for any country.
Now, obviously, the President is going to Russia, and one of the
reasons he's going to Russia is to encourage the Russians to keep
thinking along these constructive lines. That's very much a part of
the trip.
Q: In that case, would the President oppose to Russia someday joining
NATO?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's -- Russia has said publicly and
repeatedly that it is not interested in joining NATO. It has also said
that -- and President Putin has emphasized that NATO's relationship
with Russia, through the NATO-Russia Council is an important
institution. That relationship needs to be developed. And so, that's
really the answer, as far as we've got it.
Q: -- separate deadline, the President said that Saddam Hussein would
be lying if he didn't fully declare his arsenal. Are we prepared to
prove that lie today, or will the United States have to rely on this
inspections regime to do that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You're ask -- I'm reluctant to start
anticipating where we might be, based on what Saddam Hussein might or
might not say on December 8th.
Q: This is the President, this is not me. He's the one who said if on
December 8th he doesn't declare his arsenal of weapons, then he will
be living a lie in his final stage. So the President is saying that
that would be a lie. Can we prove that lie now, or do we have to do
some work in the international community to prove that he's got what
he says he doesn't have?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have a lot of information and we
expect to get more information, but I won't go further than that.
Q: Could you -- on the question of Turkey, did -- the President of the
Ecevit government in Turkey has said repeatedly that it's not
interested in participating in military action against Iraq. Did the
President discuss that with the Turkish President today? Did he get a
different response?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You're aware, I'm aware, of the
position of the former -- now former Turkish government, headed by Mr.
Ecevit. They obviously discussed Iraq. Turkey has said that it is
concerned both about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in
its neighborhood, and obviously it doesn't like the thought of
military conflict in its immediate neighborhood. But this was a
constructive and useful discussion.
I don't want to have to characterize it, except, obviously, they did
discuss Iraq and the President and President Sezer talked about the
need for continued intense consultations and said they were -- they're
both pleased that these consultations are ongoing and serious.
Q: And can I follow up on that?
Q: But Turkey considers this still a subject for consultation? I mean,
their decision is not final?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we're consulting with the
Turkish government very closely, we're working with the Turkish
government. I don't want to characterize their position; you should
ask them. But it was -- this was a constructive discussion between the
two Presidents.
There is an incoming -- the government in Turkey has -- there is a
prime minister, but the government has not received its vote of
confidence in the Turkish Parliament, which is not going to be a
problem, but it's pretty new. So I don't want to start characterizing
the views of the new government that isn't fully in place. But it was
a good meeting.
Q: Just a follow-up. Did they discuss the Kurdish question, especially
in the event of a war against Iraq? And in particular, has the United
States given Turkey any guarantees that the city of Kukuk in Iraq
would not fall into Kurdish hands in the event of war?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have -- we're aware of Turkish --
we're obviously aware of and sensitive to Turkish concerns and we've
talked to them about this, and talked about it in terms of the future
of Iraq and our interest in an Iraq state and its territorial
integrity. This has been our position and we're talking to the Turks
about it.
Q: Anything on Kukuk?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Specifically, Kukuk didn't come up
today.
Thank you all.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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