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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 4, 2005

Press Briefing by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley
James S. Brady Briefing Room

Play Video  Video (Real)

12:27 P.M. EDT

MR. HADLEY: Good afternoon. On Friday, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart for Europe for the third time this year. They will travel to Latvia, The Netherlands, Russia and Georgia. I'd like to take you through the trip schedule, and then I'd be happy to answer any questions people have.

Friday, May 6th, will be a travel day. The President and Mrs. Bush will arrive in Riga, Latvia that night. On Saturday, May 7, the President and Mrs. Bush will participate in an arrival ceremony, after which the President will receive Latvia's highest honor, the Three Star Order. The President will then meet with President Vike-Freiberga, of Latvia, followed by a visit to the Freedom Monument, which symbolizes Latvia's regained independence.

The President will then meet with representatives of civil society, followed by a lunch meeting with all three of the Baltic Presidents. That would be President Vike-Freiberga, President Adamkus, and President Ruutel. After the lunch meeting, all four Presidents will participate in a joint press availability. President Bush will then offer remarks at the Small Guild Hall. And that evening, President and Mrs. Bush will depart for The Netherlands.

On Sunday, May 8, the President will have a breakfast meeting with Prime Minister Balkenende, followed by a youth roundtable. Upon completion of the roundtable, President Bush will pay his respects to Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, and will congratulate her on her recent 25th anniversary celebration as Queen.

The President will then lay a wreath at The Netherlands-American Cemetery in Margraten. At the cemetery, he will be joined by Her Majesty and the Prime Minister, and the President will offer remarks and afterwards, greet American and Dutch veterans.

On Sunday afternoon, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart for Moscow, Russia. Upon arriving in Russia, the President will meet with President Putin, and President and Mrs. Bush will have dinner with the Putins.

On Monday, May 9th, in Moscow, the President and Mrs. Bush will join President Putin and other world leaders in viewing a military parade that commemorates the end of World War II in Europe. After a garland laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and lunch at the Kremlin, the President will participate in a roundtable with civil society leaders, followed by a greeting with U.S. and Russia war veterans.

On Monday afternoon, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart for Tbilisi, Georgia. Upon arrival, they will visit Old Town Tbilisi.

On Tuesday, May 10th, the President and Mrs. Bush will participate in an official arrival ceremony. Later that morning, President Bush will meet with President Saakashvili, followed by a joint press availability. After the press availability, the President will meet with Georgian civil society leaders and then meet with Speaker of Parliament Burjanadze. President Bush will then offer remarks to the Georgian people in Freedom Square at the site of the Peaceful Rose Revolution. Tuesday evening, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart Tbilisi for Washington, D.C.

The purpose of the trip, really, is twofold: to honor the shared sacrifice of millions of Americans, Europeans and others to defeat tyranny, and at the same time, to mark the growth of democracy throughout Europe and the world, more generally. The trip will also underscore the common commitment of the United States and our European allies to work together to advance freedom, prosperity, and tolerance in Europe and beyond.

In the visit to the Baltics, the President will emphasize that our alliance with Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia is strong and it is built on a commitment to shared values: democracy, rule of law, and tolerance; values that we are working together in partnership with the Baltic states to advance within those states, within Europe, and, more generally, abroad.

The Baltic states are demonstrating their value as allies by working with us to advance freedom in such places as Belarus, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan, where all three Baltic states have deployed troops.

The President will also lay out a broader concept of freedom and democracy, pointing out that it is more than just elections, but also includes a commitment to building an open and inclusive society which embraces its minorities and provides a protection for minorities and individual rights through rule of law and strong, independent institutions.

In The Netherlands, the President will pay tribute to the Americans, Canadians, and Europeans who helped to end the rule of Nazism and fascism in Europe. There are over eight thousand American soldiers resting in the Margraten Cemetery, and a monument -- a monumental testimony, really, to the Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice to guarantee freedom from tyranny for millions of Europeans.

He will also pay tribute to the historical tie between the United States and The Netherlands. The United States and The Netherlands share the values of freedom, democracy, opportunity, rule of law. And we are working together closely to advance these priorities.

The President will travel to Russia to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. He will acknowledge and pay tribute to the enormous burden that Russians shouldered in that war, having lost more than 27 million people in World War II. Russia was a partner in defeating Nazism, and again is a partner of the United States in combating terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Finally, the President will be the first United States President to visit Georgia. Georgia's Rose Revolution is a landmark in the history of liberty. The President will pay tribute to that accomplishment, and commend the people of Georgia for choosing democracy and standing up for their freedoms through non-violent means. The United States supports Georgia's desire to deepen its ties with NATO and the EU, which requires continued reform and also for Georgia to address through peaceful means the separatist conflicts that are in that country.

And I'd be glad to answer any questions.

Q Do you think that Russia should use the occasion of this celebration to talk about the darker Soviet past and acknowledge its occupation of Poland and the Baltic countries, and try to make some rapprochement with these countries?

MR. HADLEY: Well, obviously, the trip, I think, is an occasion and an opportunity for people to both celebrate some of the accomplishments of the history, as in ending fascism and Nazism in Europe, but also to come to terms with some of that history. We've been pretty clear on how we see and understand that history. One of the legislative chambers of the Soviet Union did, in 1989, renounce, essentially, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Obviously, it would be an appropriate thing for Russia, now having emerged out of the Soviet Union, to do the same thing.

But I think one of the things that the President wants to do on this trip is to encourage parties to look forward and to focus on what now ties us together; that, in fact, Europe now is moving towards a Europe, whole, free and at peace. We do share common values of democracy and freedom, and we should be talking about ways -- while acknowledging the past, we ought to be talking about ways to move forward and advance those principles not only in Europe, but also beyond.

Q But didn't Putin just recently praise the Nazi-Russian alliance as a method of securing its borders? And aren't you concerned about the growing trend toward authoritarianism in Russia?

MR. HADLEY: The President has obviously spoken about the importance he attaches to the progress of freedom and democracy in Russia. He has said very clearly that as Russia becomes more democratic and strengthens its democratic institutions, it will enable us to have an even closer relationship with Russia. So this has been on the agenda for a while.

It is interesting that in that speech you allude to -- the so-called state of the union speech for Putin -- the focus really was democracy, and I think there are some hopeful passages in that speech whereby he made clear that Russians have opted for democracy and freedom as their future. And, of course, as Russia and as Putin move to implement and operationalize those principles, it will enhance the cause of peace and security in Europe, and also enhance the course of freedom, both in Europe and abroad.

Q Does the President see a need to press President Putin on democracy again in Moscow, as he did in Bratislava?

MR. HADLEY: Well, look --

Q Or was the message received then and there's no need to bring it up again?

MR. HADLEY: Well, it is interesting. I don't -- it is interesting that, as you know, it was a subject of Bratislava, and it is interesting that Putin decided to devote his speech to the subject of democracy. But, obviously, this has been a subject of conversation between the two men for months and months, and I'm sure it will continue to be a topic of conversation of them in the weeks and months ahead.

Q What message are you trying to send to Putin by beginning the trip with visits to two ex-Soviet republics, Latvia and Georgia?

MR. HADLEY: Well, we're not -- the President is not going to those two countries to send any message to Europe -- to Russia. As I tried to point out, the trip as a whole is an opportunity taken together to celebrate, obviously, the defeat of fascism and Nazism in Europe. It is also to acknowledge and celebrate the end of communism of Europe -- in Europe -- and the advent of what we're beginning to see increasingly, a Europe whole and free, where democracy and freedom are increasingly practiced by all the states. That's the real message.

And the real message, of course, to all countries, is what does that democracy and freedom require? It requires, of course, respect for minorities, rule of law, and inclusion of minorities in your political system. That's obviously one message that he will send -- and that the common values that are reflected increasingly in Europe ought to be a basis for us cooperating to deal with problems not only in Europe, but abroad.

So if you take all of that together, I think that's really the message. It's a celebration of really the progress of freedom in Europe, and a rededication to work in partnership with Europe to advance the cause of freedom not only Europe, but abroad.

Q Would you address those outside this administration, though, who served in the National Security Council who have said the President had to go to Latvia and Georgia, given the type of ceremony that's going to be going on in Moscow and the new Stalin statues and the way that Putin is planning on holding the ceremony?

MR. HADLEY: I don't know whether he had to go or not. But the point is the President decided he wanted to go in order to showcase the kind of message I just described. And I think he's looking forward to a very productive trip.

Suzanne.

Q Last week, President Bush said that he didn't appreciate Putin's comments, his renewed commitment to providing short-range anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, and that he had made those views known. Do we expect that that's going to be a high priority on the President's list -- his discussions with Putin? And do we also expect that he might talk about that publicly?

MR. HADLEY: Well, I think as you think about this trip, it is -- the focus, particularly of the Moscow segment, is obviously going to be the celebration there. Putin will be host to -- President Putin will be host to over 50 heads of state and government. And I think the celebration and the commemoration of the end of the war in Europe is going to be the central focus. There's -- the President is going to have a meeting with President Putin; it will not last very long. And then there will be the private dinner. And I think this is one of few meetings, bilateral meetings that President Putin is having. So there's not a lot of time to work with here.

Again, this is an issue, though, that the two leaders have talked about, that we have talked about with the Russians in other channels. And our concern, of course, is weapons of that sort that could fall into the hands of terrorists, particularly when you're talking about a country like Syria that has a history and has current relations that involve support for terror. So it's a concern that we have been clear with the Russians about; they have tried to address. There is a controversy about whether they have addressed it in an adequate way. But this is not a new issue. This is an issue that's been on the agenda for a while.

Q But does the President think that perhaps he can be more persuasive in a face-to-face private meeting to re-address that?

MR. HADLEY: He's had face-to-face private meetings with President Putin and has had an opportunity to raise all of these issues.

Q Will the President make any specific statements in support of either the Baltic states' desires for Russian acknowledgment that they lost their freedom a second time at the end of World War II, and -- or of Georgia's desire for Russian troops -- to move Russian troops out of Georgia?

MR. HADLEY: Well, as I said, if you look at all the stops together, I think it will be an opportunity for the President to celebrate freedom. And part of that freedom, of course, is the defeat of Nazism and fascism in Europe. Part of that freedom -- celebration of freedom, of course, is also the end of communism and the liberation of Central and Eastern Europe. And he, of course, will want to celebrate both of those events. So I think that is an opportunity for him, by his presence and in some of the statements he will make, to emphasize that point.

He will also make clear that it is a nation -- a Europe now of states whole, free, and at peace; that sovereign states -- sovereignty needs to be respected; and that since we are -- since the states of Europe increasingly are committed to a common set of values and principles, this ought to be able to be a framework by which they peacefully and through negotiation can resolve the kinds of issues you've talked about. And he will obviously want to encourage that process.

Q Sir, will the President meet with the Chinese President? Is he satisfied with the current U.S.-China relations?

MR. HADLEY: I think the President believes we have a good relationship with China, but as I said, there's very little time in Moscow and there will be not an opportunity for the President to meet with other world leaders in a formal way. He, of course, is meeting with President Putin, which, as you would expect, since President Putin is the host, and it's very traditional to meet with the head of government of the host country when you visit. So that's, I think, quite to be expected.

Q By opening the trip with a speech, one of whose main themes is that democracy is more than just elections -- not to belabor the point, but isn't that directed at Vladimir Putin?

MR. HADLEY: I think it is an issue that all states that are building democracies need to confront; that as the President said many times, democracy is a journey, it's not just about getting your sovereignty and declaring majority rule. It is increasingly about rule of law, respecting minorities, providing safeguards for individual rights, but also dealing with your minority communities. And that is a message that we've had to learn at home, as the President has been very eloquent about this, over our 200-year history. It is an issue that countries that are new to democracy need also to address. And that is something that the Baltic states will need to struggle with, Georgia will need to struggle with, as well as Russia.

So I think it's an effort -- it's not pointed at anybody. But the President, as you know, has been very passionate of the importance of the freedom agenda and the spread of democracy, and he's tried to help countries understand what democracy really requires, what the journey looks like. And a lot has been accomplished, but all of these countries would be the first to recognize they have further to go. And what the President, I think, is trying to do is to help them chart in a way the way forward in terms of the next generation as they -- of the development of democracy.

Q Does President Bush have scheduled to be meeting with South Korean President Roh in Moscow? Are they going to maybe discuss North Korean issues?

MR. HADLEY: As I said, there really isn't any time for him to meet with other world leaders. He is going to meet with President Putin as the chief executive of the host country, which you would expect, but there really is no plans for other bilateral meetings.

Q Do you consider this a diplomatically tricky trip? It would be easy to offend the Baltic leaders who don't want to go to Putin's party; it would be easy to offend Putin. Is this any trickier than the normal trip to Europe?

MR. HADLEY: Look, it's a tricky world out there. There are a lot of challenges the world over. I think it is not tricky in this sense; that the President is going with a vision and a set of principles, and he's very clear about that vision and comfortable with those principles, and he believes that those principles provide the framework by which various issues of the day can be resolved. And that's the message he's going to send.

Q And if they're offended, the heck with them?

MR. HADLEY: Sir.

Q Can you respond to those critics who say --

MR. HADLEY: I'm sorry, I pointed to the gentleman at the back. I'm trying to get some of the folks in the back. Sorry, you're next.

Q Thank you so much. Could you specify the agenda of the bilateral meeting between President Putin, especially if the case of North Korea issue might be coming up? Where will be their focus on the North Korea issue of this moment?

MR. HADLEY: The two men have been together a lot. They have a very good personal relationship. Everybody knows the issues of the day. I think they will be meeting in a very small group and they will discuss the issues of the day; there's not, sort of, any formal or set agenda. But it's not surprising -- there are a range of issues in which we are working with Russia, and it's not surprising that they would come up and certainly that is one of the issues on that agenda. Whether it will come up specifically or not, I really don't know.

Q Certainly the two men have been together a lot, yet, there have been a number of issues that have strained relations, most notably, the last discussion in Bratislava at which President Putin clearly showed there were things he didn't want to be talking about. Will some of this meeting entail a sense of shoring up of that relationship, rebuilding a rapport that had existed early on, yet has been made difficult?

MR. HADLEY: I don't think that the relationship is strained. I think they have had a rapport, they continued to have it in Bratislava, and they will have it in Moscow. I think it is interesting that for all the publicity associated with the discussion of democracy and freedom in Bratislava, that we did see a speech, a very important public speech by President Putin devoted to that subject. So I think it's an indication that this is an ongoing dialogue between the two leaders on this very important subject.

Q Can you respond to those who -- those critics who say that there have been mixed signals from the Bush administration about Russia; that on the one hand, the President in his inaugural address and since has talked about the spread of liberty and freedom, and yet on the other hand, there are these meticulous efforts to continue to be friendly with President Putin, because you need his cooperation on other issues; and that those are mixed signals and that administration officials who may be part of the State Department who are overseas are kind of quietly working with some of the more anti-Russian forces and some of the former Soviet republics?

MR. HADLEY: I don't think there have been mixed signals. Obviously, the President has said that we have a strategic relationship with Russia, we have a lot of common interests, and a lot of common issues where -- that are important to them and important to us, that if we're going to make progress on, we're going to have to work together -- combating terrorism, one; combating proliferation is another. And it's wholly appropriate for us to work those issues and cooperate where it is in our mutual interest to do so, and at the same time, be very clear about our principles, be very clear about the importance, we think, to the future of Russia, to the future of Europe, and to U.S.-Russian relations, for Russia to make continued progress on the road towards enhanced freedom and democracy.

I don't think those two things are inconsistent. They are -- they are both very important to the relationship, both that we cooperate on areas of common interest, and that Russia can make progress on the freedom and democracy agenda -- because, again, the more they do, the more it will make it possible for us to have the kind of relationship we would like to have with Russia.

Q When the President is watching the parade in Moscow, will he be in the peanut gallery? And who will be on either side of him in the peanut gallery, which world leaders?

MR. HADLEY: I have not seen a seating chart. (Laughter.) This isn't our party, this is the Russians' party. As I say, the President and President Putin have a good relationship and I'm sure that the Russians will handle it in a way that is consistent with diplomacy, protocol, and all those other things.

MR. JONES: Final question.

Q Steve, can you tell us a little bit about --

MR. HADLEY: And then you. Two more questions. Sir?

Q Vladimir Putin was recently in the Middle East meeting with Israeli and Arab leaders. He proposed a peace discussion in Moscow that hasn't gotten off the ground. But what do you think his motives were there? That's traditionally been a U.S. sphere of influence.

MR. HADLEY: Well, actually, if you think about it, historically, there has been a Soviet and Russian participation in the Middle East. I would point out that the Quartet, for example, has four members, one of whom is Russia, and we have worked very closely with the Russians in the context of the Quartet to try and advance the Middle East peace. So it's not at all surprising that President Putin would go to the Middle East. He also has a relationship with the Israeli government and with Prime Minister Sharon, and it's not surprising that he would go there.

He did talk about a conference. There are questions, obviously, about timing. The idea of a -- sure, there will be, obviously, conferences in this process; but the question about when and about what are issues that need to be addressed.

Q Thanks, Steve. Sorry to jump to today's news, but can you give us some indication of what the administration's view of the arrest of al-Libbi means, in terms of the consequences and disruptive nature it might cause to al Qaeda?

MR. HADLEY: As the President said earlier -- and I direct you to his remarks -- this is a big deal. This is a guy who was not only, in some sense, the successor to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but also, in some sense, because in some sense the leadership is a bit constrained, he was not only doing operations, he was a facilitator, he was into finance, he was into administration. This is a real accomplishment and a positive step in the war on terror. And I think it is also testament to the good cooperation we are getting from the government of Pakistan, who had the lead.

This, in many ways, is their accomplishment. We provided active support, but this is really something that they have accomplished, and we salute them for it. And it's an indication that, by working together with friends and allies, and doing the patient kind of work that's required over time, we can set back this organization and to bring to justice its key leaders. And we continue to believe that's a critical element to success in the war on terror.

Thanks very much.

END 12:55 P.M. EDT