For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 13, 2001
Press Availability with President Bush
and NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson
3:35 P.M. (Local)
ROBERTSON: Ladies and gentlemen, the NATO heads of state and
government have just completed our informal lunch, where we continued
to discuss many of the things which were raised in our formal session
during this morning.
It's very rare that the Prime Ministers,
Presidents, and the Chancellor have an opportunity to discuss privately
among themselves the broader issues before the Alliance and our
long-term strategies, but that's what we've been able to do
today. And I personally believe it was an exceptionally
useful meeting. I had a chance to speak with
you earlier on, on the discussions in the formal session, and I've
already issued a formal press release, and I have nothing further to
add at this time. But let me take this opportunity, on his
very first visit to the Headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization, to introduce the President of the United States,
President George W. Bush.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you,
sir. Thank you very much for your
hospitality. I've got a statement to make, and we'll be glad
to answer some questions.
Before I talk about the meeting, I do want to
say a brief word on some important developments in the Middle
East. I'm encouraged that both Israel and the Palestinian
Authority have agreed to a cease-fire plan, and I'm proud of America's
role in helping to achieve it.
Today, on my flight from Spain to here, I
talked to CIA Director George Tenet, who has worked very hard to bring
the parties together. He is cautiously optimistic about the
agreement that's been signed.
Our country recognizes that an end to violence
is a necessary first step toward implementing the Mitchell Committee
Report and a resumption of real negotiations. All the
parties must now take additional steps that will place them on the road
to a just and lasting peace. All the parties must build
trust by demonstrating good faith in words, but more importantly, in
deeds. This process is difficult. But hopefully,
it has now begun.
And as for the meeting today, I'm most pleased
with the meeting. I did think we had a great
discussion. We reaffirmed the deepest commitments of
history's most successful alliance. We discussed new
security challenges. We outlined the work ahead as we move
towards next year's summit in Prague. It was a good start on
a long and important agenda.
First, there was broad agreement that we must
seek a new approach to deterrence in a world of changing threats,
particularly the threat posed by the spread of weapons of mass
destruction and ballistic missiles.
I told the allies I'm committed to working
closely with them to address this common threat by developing a new
framework for nuclear security. This framework must include
greater nonproliferation and counter-proliferation efforts, decreased
reliance on offensive weapons, and greater transparency so that
responsible nations can have greater levels of confidence.
I also spoke of my commitment to fielding
limited, but effective, missile defenses as soon as
possible. I explained that the ABM Treaty embodied the Cold
War nuclear balance of terror between rival superpowers. But it no
longer makes sense as a foundation for relations that should be based
on mutual confidence, openness, and real opportunities for
All this marks a major shift in thinking about
some of the most critical issues of world security. And I
was pleased by the open and constructive reactions. I'm
encouraged that in today's meeting we saw a new receptivity towards
missile defense as part of a new strategic framework to address the
changing threats of our world.
As one of our close allies noted, the world is
changing around us, and NATO's great strength has been a willingness to
adapt and move forward. Another noted, NATO is a defensive alliance
and, thus, an increasingly important role should be played by defensive
systems to protect all our citizens from terrorist blackmail.
Secondly, we agreed that we must reach out to
Russian leaders, and to a new Russian generation, with a message that
Russia does have a future with Europe. The United States
will seek to build this strategic framework with Russia. Now
that Russia has recognized a weapons of mass destruction threat to
Europe, future cooperative work on a new strategic framework could be a
great task which brings NATO and Russia together.
Third, we agreed on the need to commit the
resources that will allow NATO's force to do their jobs. The
decline in defense spending amongst NATO nations must be
reversed. And when we do spend, we must spend wisely. It
shouldn't be a question of whether to buy American or buy European, it
should be a question of how to buy transatlantic. North
American and European companies should collaborate to produce the most
advanced systems at the lowest costs.
We agreed that NATO and the European Union
must work in common purpose. It is in NATO's interest for
the European Union to develop a rapid reaction capability. A
strong, capable European force integrated with NATO would give us more
options for handling crises when NATO, as a whole, chooses not to
engage. NATO must be generous in the help it
gives the EU. And similarly, the EU must welcome
participation by NATO allies who are not members of the EU. And we
must not waste scarce resources, duplicating effort or working at cross
purposes. Our work together in the Balkans shows how much
the 23 nations of NATO and the EU can achieve when we combine our
Our work together in the Balkans reminds me
that I'm going to commit to the line that Colin Powell
said: We came in together, and we will leave
together. It is the pledge of our government, and it's a
pledge that I will keep.
We agreed that we must face down extremists in
Macedonia and elsewhere who seek to use violence to redraw borders or
subvert the democratic process.
Concerning Bosnia and Kosovo, we agreed that
this is a major effort, an effort that we will continue to work
Fifth, and finally, we agreed that NATO must
prepare for further enlargement of the Alliance. All
aspiring members have work to do. Yet, if they continue to
make the progress they are making, we will be able to launch the next
round of enlargement when we meet in Prague.
We agreed that all European democracies that
seek to join our ranks and meet our standards should have the
opportunity to do so without red lines or outside vetoes. We
must never lose sight of what NATO does and what it stands for, how it
safeguards prosperity and protects democracy in an ever-widening
Europe. Let us then be true to the great vision of our
fathers and grandfathers, is what I said; the preservation of peace by
democratic leadership, the defense of freedom through collective
I'd be glad to answer some questions, starting
with Jim Angle.
Q Thank you, Mr.
President. Your critics at home, sir, suggest that you are
prepared to deploy a missile defense system that will not
work. First, Mr. President, will you deploy defensive
technologies that have not been successfully tested? And,
second, you suggested that the ABM Treaty may be a problem sooner
rather than later because, as you put it, it prevents us from exploring
the future. When does that become a problem, and what do you
do about it?
PRESIDENT BUSH: First, it's
important to -- for people who are following this issue to understand
that we're not asking our allies to sign on to a specific
system. We're asking our allies to think differently, and
asking Russia to think differently, about the post-Cold War
era. The ABM Treaty is a product of the Cold War
era. It was a time when the United States and Russia were
bitter enemies, and the whole concept of peace was based upon the
capacity of each of us, each country, to blow each other up. The new
threats are threats based upon uncertainty. The threats that
somebody who hates freedom or hates America or hates our allies or
hates Europe will try to blow us up.
And the fundamental question is, will
freedom-loving nations develop a system to enhance freedom to prevent
that from happening. And I make the case,
yes. But before we can lay out a specific case, Jim, it's
necessary to set aside the ABM Treaty so we can fully explore all
options available to the United States and our allies and
friends. The ABM Treaty prevents full exploration of
And for those who suggest my administration
will deploy a system that doesn't work are dead-wrong. Of
course, we're not going to deploy a system that doesn't
work. What good will that do? We'll only deploy a
system that does work in order to keep the peace. But we
must have the flexibility and opportunity to explore all options.
I'm making good progress on this issue here in
Europe. There's some nervousness, and I understand
that. But it's beginning to be allayed when they hear the
logic behind the rationale.
I look forward to my meeting with Mr.
Putin. There's no question this is going to be an important
meeting on Friday. And there's no question that this will be
a topic -- it won't be the only topic -- that we'll
discuss. It will be -- the topic of missile defense will be
in a part of a larger framework about how the United States and Russia
can cooperate, how we can find areas to grow our economies and how we
can work together to keep the peace.
Lord Robertson, you're supposed to call on
LORD ROBERTSON: Am I?
PRESIDENT BUSH: You don't have to
if you don't want to. (Laughter.)
LORD ROBERTSON: You're very
observant, but I'll --
Q Mr. President, you
stressed the continuing vitality and importance of NATO as a collection
of freedom-loving democracies. Nowhere in Europe is
democracy more threatened at the moment than in Macedonia. There is, I
see, I note from today's meetings, a growing sense of alarm at
developments there on the ground. For many people, it seems
an obvious question: Why is this huge, well-armed military
alliance not willing to put even perhaps a small number of troops into
Macedonia, if the government there were to request it, to bring about
some sort of stability after which the very significant political
reforms that are acquired there can be enacted?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The conversation I
heard approached the subject from an opposite
direction. Most people believe there's still a political
solution available before troops are committed.
I want to remind you, KFOR does have troops on
the border, and we must continue the presence on the border to prevent
insurgence and arms from reaching the Albanian
extremists. But the sentiment I heard here was that there is
still a possibility for a political settlement, a good possibility, and
that we must work to achieve that settlement. Lord Robertson
can speak to that very clearly; he is no his way to Macedonia in short
Have you told them that?
LORD ROBERTSON: I did --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Okay,
good. Well, if you didn't, I just did. (Laughter.)
LORD ROBERTSON: I told them before,
but they may not have been listening. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Anyway, he's
going. And -- but the idea of committing troops within
Macedonia was one that most nations were troubled over. They
want to see if we cannot achieve a political settlement first.
LORD ROBERTSON: That is a good one
behind the program of President Trajkovski that was signed up to by the
National Unity government yesterday. And there will be talks
among all the political parties about the reform program at the
That is a big breakthrough and I think that
that is something we all want to put our support
behind. We're not talking about other options. Bilaterally,
countries have supported the former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia. On the border, as the President has said, there
are large numbers of troops, including extra troops that have been sent
down from the boundary between Kosovo and Serbia, who are policing
aggressively that border and inter-indicted only the other night quite
a number of those who seemed intent on mischief in that area.
What we need now is a continued cease-fire and
a continuation of the existing cease-fire, a recognition by the armed
insurgents that the reform process that they claim they are interested
in can be achieved through democratic means, and an international
community that stands full-square behind the territorial integrity of
So we're not considering any other options at
the moment than the bilateral support that has been given at present,
and by encouraging a political process, which is the only way to a
sustainable peace in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
PRESIDENT BUSH: John.
Q Mr. President, are
you prepared to say here and now, sir, that you will go ahead with a
limited missile defense, with or without the agreement of NATO and the
European Union? And are you prepared to unilaterally abandon
the ABM Treaty, or is it crucial for you, sir, to have Russia's
agreement on that point?
PRESIDENT BUSH: John, I have made
it clear to our friends and allies that I think it's necessary to set
aside the ABM Treaty, but I will do so in close consultation with not
only members of NATO and EU countries who are not members of NATO, but,
as well, with the Russians.
I believe strongly it's necessary to move
forward. I think it is necessary to do so in order to make
the world more peaceful. I can't imagine a world that
continues to be locked into a Cold War mentality when the Cold War is
over. Along these lines, I'll also assure our allies and
friends that we will move to reduce our offensive weapons to a level
commensurate with keeping the peace, but one that is below where our
levels are now.
I mean, I think it's important to go through
these committees and arms control agreements, and those are important
stabilizers. But rather than wait for hours of endless
negotiations in order to show the world that we're sincere about peace,
on the one hand, we will consult on defensive weapons; on the other
hand, we'll move by ourselves on offensive weapons.
It is the right signal to do, it is the right
signal to send that the Cold War must be abandoned
forever. And I believe we're making progress. I don't think
we're going to have to move, as they say, unilaterally. I
think people are coming our way. But people know that I'm
intent upon doing what I think is the right thing in order to make the
world more peaceful.
LORD ROBERTSON: How would you --
the questions all appear to be for you, Mr. President, anyway.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Fournier, yes, you
always get to ask a question.
Q I appreciate it,
sir. Following up on your comment in the Middle East, I'm
wondering whether or not, because of the negotiations your
administration succeeded on with the cease-fire, if you or your
administration is going to get more involved, even more involved in the
Middle East. Specifically, do you plan to send the Secretary
of State to the region in the near future? What would it
take for you, yourself, to go to the region?
PRESIDENT BUSH: First and foremost,
we're very involved. After all, it was George Tenet of the
CIA that has been working long hours to bring people to the
table. But this is just the first step. It's one
thing for folks to sign a piece of paper; it's another thing for the
parties to act. And as you notice in my statement, I called upon both
parties to act.
It is still a fragile situation
there. As I understand, Mr. Burns is still coming to talk to
Colin this evening. He's very much engaged in the
process. And we'll decide whether or not the Secretary of
State or myself will become more directly involved, based upon the
positive steps toward peace that now must be taken.
It's wonderful news that we've signed the
document. But the fundamental question is, will parties take
steps to peace, concrete actions that will help build the confidence
necessary so that peaceful-loving countries can say, the cycle of
violence has been finally broken, and then there is the opportunity to
have political discussion. But until the cycle of violence
has been fully broken, as the Mitchell Report calls for, that we will
delay political discussions. It's important that these
parties now take the document that's been signed and implement it with
Q We're not --
PRESIDENT BUSH: You only get one
question at a press conference.
Q Good afternoon, Mr.
President, sir. There has been a lot of talk on this side of
the Atlantic about a unilateralist approach out of
Washington. I think in Washington, those of us who work
there have heard that it's leadership. I wonder if you could
differentiate the two for us.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I hope the
notion of a unilateral approach died in some people's minds today
here. Unilateralists don't come around the table to listen
to others and to share opinion. Unilateralists don't ask
opinions of world leaders.
I count on the advice of our friends and
allies. I'm willing to consult on
issues. Sometimes, we don't agree, and I readily concede
that. But there's a lot more that we agree upon than we disagree
about. And, no, I think the people of NATO now understand
they've got a strong, consistent, loyal ally; one that supports the
mission of NATO and one that understands not only the history of NATO,
but the importance for NATO as we go down the road.
That's why our government believes in the
expansion of NATO. We believe NATO is the core of a free and
peaceful Europe. And as Lord Robertson will tell you, ever
since he came to my office in Washington at the Oval Office, I have
been a loyal supporter of NATO and its mission.
A unilateralist is one that doesn't understand
the role of NATO and one that won't fully support NATO, like my
government is going to do.
LORD ROBERTSON: It's worth making
the point, I think, that all of the heads of state and government today
very much welcome the fact that the United States, and the President in
particular, was willing to share the thinking process on these key
issues before any decision was taken.
I would say that the statement that the
President made, underlining what Secretary Powell and Secretary
Rumsfeld have said about the Balkans, also was a clear signal of the
inclusiveness that the American administration has in view for NATO.
"We went in together, we will come out
together." There will be no unilateral decisions taken by
this ally or by any other allies. We have common
missions. And there was a warm welcome today for the fact
that the thinking process on this whole new landscape of such urgency
was to be the subject of detailed consultations -- not just around this
table today, but in detail and among experts, as well. That
was a very good signal and it was widely welcomed.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Steve.
Q You campaigned on a
pledge to reduce the troop presence in the Balkans. Do you
now see that as politically impossible to do at this point?
THE PRESIDENT: Actually, the troop
presence in the Balkans has been reduced since I have become the
President. It's been reduced on a reasonable timetable, one
set with the United States and in consultation with
allies. It's a timetable that was embraced by NATO.
I said today in my talk that it's important
for our nations to work together to put civil institutions in place
that ultimately can become the framework for the reduction and,
ultimately, the removal of NATO troops. But we recognize it's going to
take a while. And so, what I said was, we came in together
and we'll leave together. And that's important for our
allies to hear.
LORD ROBERTSON: And, in the
meantime, we'll get the job done together.
Thank you very much. I think we
need to go.
PRESIDENT BUSH: See you next stop.
END 3:55 P.M. (Local)