|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 17, 2005
Press Briefing by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley on the President's Trip to Europe
James S. Brady Briefing Room
4:03 P.M. EST
MR. HADLEY: Good afternoon. On Sunday, President and Mrs. Bush will depart for Europe, with stops in Belgium, Germany and the Slovak Republic. The trip provides a great opportunity for the President to meet with some of America's oldest and closest friends and allies. It's also an opportunity, as the President said this morning, to reaffirm the importance of the transatlantic link for dealing with the challenges that America and Europe both face.
The President looks forward to his conversations with European leaders. We have shared values and principles, as well as a common agenda, and there are many opportunities before us to make the world safer, healthier, more prosperous and free. And so the United States and Europe have the responsibility and the opportunity to work together to address these common challenges.
Among these challenges are finding new ways to support the new governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, advancing an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, and spreading freedom and democracy to parts of the world that have known too little of both.
I'll outline the President's schedule, and then would be pleased to take some questions.
The President and Mrs. Bush will depart for Brussels, Belgium on Sunday, February 20th, arriving that evening. The President will start his meetings the next day, Monday, February 21st, paying a courtesy call to his hosts, Their Majesties King Albert II and Queen Paola of Belgium. The President will then meet with Prime Minister Verhofstadt of Belgium, followed by a meeting with NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer.
On Monday afternoon, the President will deliver a speech at the Concert Noble. The speech will focus on his vision of a united transatlantic community, working together to promote freedom and democracy, particularly in the broader Middle East. The speech will build upon the President's inaugural address and State of the Union remarks. It will be an opportunity for him to communicate directly with the people of Europe, and will show America's desire to work in partnership with Europe, based on common values, to advance the cause of freedom.
On Monday evening, President Bush and President Chirac, of France, will meet for a working dinner.
On Tuesday, February 22nd, the President will begin his day with a breakfast with Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom, and then he will proceed to NATO Headquarters. Upon arriving at NATO, the President will meet with Ukrainian President Yuschenko. President Bush will then participate in a NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting, followed by a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Berlusconi, of Italy.
Also on Tuesday morning, the President will participate in a meeting and luncheon with the NATO heads of state and government, and will participate in a press availability with the NATO Secretary General.
On Tuesday afternoon, the President will meet for the first time since the EU's historic enlargement with the now 25 member states of the European Council. He will hold a joint press availability with European Council President Prime Minister Juncker, European Commission President Barroso, and High Representative of the European Union Javier Solana.
That evening, President Bush will participate in a working dinner with the three representatives of the EU just named, namely Mssrs. Juncker, Barroso and Solana.
On Wednesday, February 23rd, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart Brussels, Belgium for Frankfurt, Germany. Upon arriving in Frankfurt and proceeding to Mainz, Germany, the President and Chancellor Schr der will greet American and German soldiers that served in Afghanistan. The two leaders will then meet, followed by a joint press availability. The Chancellor and Mrs. Schr der will then host a lunch for the President and Mrs. Bush.
On Wednesday afternoon, the President will participate in a roundtable conversation with German citizens, followed by a visit to the Gutenberg Museum with Mrs. Bush. After the visit to the museum, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart Mainz for Wiesbaden, Germany, where they will have the privilege of meeting with members of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division.
After meeting with and addressing the troops, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart for the Slovak Republic.
On Thursday, February 24th, the President will meet with President Gasparovic, and later with Prime Minister Dzurinda of the Slovak Republic. On Thursday morning, the President and Prime Minister Dzurinda will have the unique opportunity to meet with the Champions of Freedom, individuals from Central and Eastern Europe who are on the forefront of advancing the cause of freedom in that region. The President will pay his respects to those veterans of the struggle for freedom, as well as encourage those who continue to struggle for freedom and democracy today. The President then will deliver remarks to Slovak citizens in Bratislava's town square.
On Thursday afternoon, the President will meet with Russian President Putin, followed by a joint press availability.
On Thursday evening, the President and Mrs. Bush will depart the Slovak Republic and return to Washington, D.C.
That's the schedule as it stands now. If there are any changes, the Press Office will notify you. I'd be glad to take any questions.
Q Can you say how direct the President is going to be when he talks to Vladimir Putin about the retreat from democracy in Russia? And what are the President's concerns there?
MR. HADLEY: Well, we've -- as you know, the President has a good relationship, good personal relationship with President Putin. We've been able to solve some problems and work together, the United States and Russia, in areas of counter-proliferation, counterterrorism. We're working together in terms of the six-party talks in North Korea, in terms of advancing Middle East peace.
The President, in prior conversations, has emphasized to President Putin the importance of the principles of freedom and democracy, and his view that the United States wants to broaden and deepen its relationship with Russia, and to have that relationship reach its full maturity, Russia needs to progress along on the course of democracy and freedom, for the good of the relationship and, obviously, for the good of the Russian people. And I'm sure that will be a topic of conversation, as well.
Q Will he say that he's concerned that Russia is not making the progress the United States would like to see?
MR. HADLEY: There clearly have been some developments recently that have raised some questions and concerns, and I'm confident the President will discuss them with President Putin.
Q Stephen, European officials see a real opportunity to turn a corner here in U.S.-European relations. Does the President see it the same way?
MR. HADLEY: Yes, he does, and I think he was clear on that today. The -- he reaffirmed today in his comments with many of you the importance of the transatlantic relationship towards meeting the challenges that the United States and Europe face in the 21st century. I think we are knit together by a common set of principles and a common set of values, and the President sees very much the opportunity for the United States and Europe to work together to advance the freedom agenda, which the President has talked about in his State of the Union and in his inaugural address.
There's a lot more that we share with the Europeans in terms of common principles, common values, and a common approach to problems. And I think what you'll see is the United States and Europe working together to develop a common agenda, going forward.
Q Stephen, when Secretary Rice was over there and met with the NATO Secretary General, he spoke specifically about new steps that NATO could take, and that he was optimistic that NATO would take, not only in the future training of Iraqi security forces outside of Iraq, but inside Iraq; also setting up a new fund and garnering new financial contributions in order to help transport equipment and other things into the Iraqi security force and the Iraqi military. Is that something that the President is likely to get some new assurances on when he's in Europe?
MR. HADLEY: We clearly want to see this as an opportunity for the United States and Europe to identify ways in which we can support the new Iraqi government. And I think that will be a subject for his conversations, not only in NATO, but also in terms of the EU. NATO, of course as you know, already has a training mission that is going on in Baghdad. There are also members of NATO who are doing training outside the country. The Germans, for example, are doing training in UAE. So there will be a question about whether there can be an expansion of those training activities. Certainly, that would be an item of discussion with NATO.
In terms of the EU, there will be a new government in Baghdad, and one of the questions is how can the EU and the United States work together to support that government. Developing confidence, developing ministries that can deliver the better life that the Iraqi people want is a new -- a huge challenge for this new government. And I think there will be some discussions about how the United States and Europe can work together towards supporting that new government as it organizes itself and then deals with a staggering set of problems.
Q But in terms of concrete assurances, or specifics, we know that there's not going to be any specific communiqu or anything like that, but the NATO Secretary General said specifically when Secretary Rice was there that he thought -- wanted to have specific commitments from the 26 NATO members in some form, either through training or financial contributions by the time of Bush's visit. Is that something that's going to happen?
MR. HADLEY: Certainly, it's something that they've talked about. And there's a huge amount of progress already made, because, as you know, a number of NATO countries -- in fact, the vast majority of NATO countries are already, in one form or another, supporting this effort. So I would expect that you will see that set fill out.
And in terms of the EU side, this new government -- the Iraqi government certainly faces its challenges, but, of course, it has an enormous advantage: It is now elected by the Iraqi people in a very -- in an election which over 8 million showed up. So the new Iraqi government has an enormous opportunity. And I think the question on the U.S. and the EU side is how to help the Iraqi government take advantage of that opportunity to really bring democracy, freedom and stability to the country.
Q Are we likely to see a course of action emerge on Syria, on how to increase pressure on Syria from all the meetings the President has?
MR. HADLEY: Well, I think events in Syria have brought it to the fore. As you remember, in September there was U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 that focused on the issue of Lebanon -- the continued Syrian occupation of Lebanon -- a call for those forces to leave and for the international community to support free and fair elections in Lebanon. So that's an issue that has gotten some attention.
Obviously, the activity Syria has been engaged in, in supporting some of the former regime elements that have been contributing to the violence in Iraq, is something else that's gotten international attention. The Iraqi interim government has focused on that problem. And now, all the countries in the region clearly have an interest in seeing an Iraq emerge that is stable and at peace with its neighbors. So that will, clearly, be a subject.
And, of course, the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri is a troubling event, and you've had a President's resolution out of the U.N. Security Council calling for an investigation of that event.
So I think there are a lot of things that will put Syria on the agenda. And what Syria needs to do is pretty clear. They need to stop letting their territory be used to support terrorists, not only in Iraq, but also in the Middle East. They need to facilitate a free and fair election in Lebanon. They need to take seriously the requirements of 1559 and restore sovereignty to Lebanon.
So the things Syria needs to do are clear. And I think one of the things the United States and Europe need to do is to send a clear message to Syria that the winds of change are blowing in the Middle East in the direction of fighting terror and greater freedom. And Syria is a -- is, in some sense, an outlier, and it's time for Syria to take the right decisions and get in step with the positive trends that are happening in the region.
Q Could you detail a little bit the President's agenda with -- in his meeting with Yuschenko? And also, the President has announced more money for the Palestinians. What do you hope the Europeans will commit to during this visit in terms of furthering Middle East peace?
MR. HADLEY: Well, the -- in terms of meeting with Mr. Yuschenko, it will be a fairly brief meeting. It's in advance of this -- you know, there is an established NATO Ukraine Council, and this -- the NATO heads of government -- state and government being in Brussels, we're using that as an opportunity for a meeting of that council.
So I think the conversations that the President will have with President Yuschenko will be fairly brief, and the focus will be on that meeting. And, obviously, the message the United States and Europe want to send to the Ukrainian people is a celebration for the election that they have conducted and a support for the movement towards democracy that we've seen going on there.
The second part of your question?
Q Just that the President has announced -- or has asked for more money for the Palestinians.
MR. HADLEY: Yes.
Q What sort of concrete commitments are you looking for, for the Europeans to promote Middle East peace?
MR. HADLEY: Well, we have a real opportunity going on -- presented to us in the meeting in London on March 1, where various representatives of the international community will meet with representatives of the Palestinian Authority. And it's a real opportunity for the Palestinian Authority to lay out their agenda for building democratic institutions for reconstruction in the Palestinian Territories, for getting economic activity back in those areas, and beginning to build the institutions of a Palestinian state.
The President has made clear by the money he included in the supplemental that we are prepared to make a financial contribution to that process. And he will call on the Europeans and, indeed, the international community more generally to make a similar contribution because he believes we really have an enormous opportunity to help the Palestinian people start building the institutions for a democratic state, which as you know, he believes is a key towards final resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli issue. So it's a real opportunity.
Q Steve, is the President planning any gestures to the Europeans on global warming? Of course, this is an issue that has been raised again with the Kyoto Treaty taking force this week.
MR. HADLEY: I think the agenda that the President and the European leaders discuss will be a fairly broad one. Some of the subjects, obviously, we've talked about here: the freedom agenda, what that means for Iraq; Afghanistan; Middle East peace; obviously, the war on terror. But it's a broad agenda we have with the Europeans, so I think there will be some discussion about trade, about international economics, about what we can do to pursue successful development in places like Africa and elsewhere. And I think there'll be discussion of environmental issues, including pollution and climate change. And I think the effort will be to find areas of common ground.
The truth is there's a lot we are already doing with Europe in terms of research in connection with climate change, in terms of developing technologies that will dramatically reduce pollution and therefore make a contribution to a positive direction on climate change. So I think there is an opportunity to develop a common agenda not only between the United States and Europe, but also, of course, to begin reaching out to some key developing countries which will need to be part of this issue.
Q Many Europeans were reminded this week of their view that America has gone its own way. It's an outcast on this issue. Does he not plan to take advantage of this forum to do something to try and overcome that view?
MR. HADLEY: Well, I think actually there are a number of things that we are doing with the Europeans, in terms of research and technology in the way I described, and also beginning to do with developing countries. Developing countries face an enormous dilemma: How can they have prosperity and progress without sacrificing their environment? And this is something where the United States and Europe can together help so that the developing world doesn't have to make that hard choice -- that can advance the cause of prosperity and at the same time respect their environment.
So there is actually a lot already going on between the United States and Europe. I think you'll see coming out of this an expansion of that agenda. So rather than going our own way, I think what we have done in some sense is showing the way of how we can cooperate with Europe and developing countries to really move on this agenda in an effective way. And that's what I think we'll try to do.
Q Mr. Hadley, Iran -- the question of negotiations between Europe and the Iranian government on suspending or eliminating their nuclear weapons development program. How will that topic come up in Europe? And what can the -- what can the President do to get the United States involved with that diplomatic effort?
MR. HADLEY: Well, there's a lot of commonality between the United States and Europe on Iran, a lot of consensus about what Iran needs to do. It needs to give up the pursuit of nuclear weapons. Everybody is agreed on that. It needs to stop its sponsorship of terror, particularly with respect to the Palestinian areas and Hezbollah, because the activities of those groups is very much in the way of the positive development, we hope, between the Israeli and the Palestinians.
There is the treatment of their own people, which both we and the Europeans have talked about and that Condi talked about in her press availability with Chancellor Schr der. So it will come up in one sense because there's a commonality on the agenda -- concern about Iran and a commonality about what Iran needs to do.
We've actually been very much involved on the nuclear issue. You may remember, this was managed for a long period of time in the IAEA Board of Governors -- 35 members; we, of course, are part of that, and we've been in active participation on that. It is true that the Europeans, the EU 3, have taken the lead in the recent conversations with Iran that resulted in the current agreement. We've been supportive of that effort -- the President has been supportive of that effort, and we would continue to do so. The real question, of course, is where we go on that arrangement, that it is -- basically temporarily freezes their enrichment activities, and what we need is a permanent cessation of their enrichment programs and any reprocessing activity.
That's what the Europeans are trying to seek. And I think the question is whether the Iranians are willing to go forward. And I think that's really the next thing that we need to see, is something from the Iranians about a willingness to go forward in the path that the EU 3 have described.
Q Can I follow up on that?
Q Would it be at the NATO Summit that the President would raise those concerns and issues? Where would that come up?
MR. HADLEY: Well, I expect it will come up in a variety of discussions. You know, in some sense it's -- in many respects, it's the same group of players at NATO and at the EU, so I think it will come up probably in different ways in both of those forums. My guess is it's probably more likely to come up on the EU side.
Q I just wanted to follow up on the President's statements on Israel, in relation to Iran, of course. What exactly constitutes a threat to Israel, since there has been this verbal threat by the Ayatollah? And at what point does the United States come to Israel's defense?
MR. HADLEY: Well, I think the reality is that virtually all the countries in the region would view an Iran with nuclear weapons as a destabilizing factor in the region. And that's, of course, where we don't want to go, because that's a very difficult problem for all of us to manage. And that's, of course, why we've been engaged with the IAEA Board of Governors; that's why we have been supportive of the EU 3 effort, so that we don't have to face that eventuality.
Q So the President said today he was hopeful that by the time he gets to Europe he'll be able to talk somewhat about the culpability that Syria may or may not have had in Monday's bombing. I'm wondering if you can tell us that there's been a conclusion that, at a minimum, the Syrians knew, had some advance notice of this, or anything you can share with us about the progress of that investigation.
MR. HADLEY: We really don't know. The Lebanese authority are doing an inquiry. The President's statement -- the U.N. Security Council President's statement of earlier this week asked the Secretary General to review and, in some sense, oversee these events and report back to the Security Council. There may be efforts to expand the scope of the investigation. I think we're at the early stages. We just don't really know at this point.
Q Could you elaborate a little bit on how the President might enlist France's help, with its special relationship in Lebanon, to contend with Syria, and separately, how the President will deal with Mr. Putin and Russia's planned sale of weapons to Syria?
MR. HADLEY: We've actually been very much involved with the French government in connection with Lebanon. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 was really an example of a very good collaboration between the United States, France, and other countries, as well. So it has been an area of close collaboration between the two of us, and I think it will continue to be so.
In terms of these reports of a Russian sale of SAM systems to Syria, obviously, we have some concerns about it. Syria, of course, continues to be on the list of countries that are state sponsors of terror. This is a particular time of hope in the Middle East, and we don't want to do anything that would destabilize the situation. So we have some concerns, and we've raised them with the Russian government in an appropriate way. And other countries have raised their concerns, as well. And we are hopeful and confident that the Russians will take them into account.
Q Back to Iran for two quick questions. You say you're engaged with the EU 3. I think there's a sense from their end that they would like to see the United States do more, possibly get behind this idea of various incentives and such. Do you envision that the President will offer any sort of concrete support for that notion?
And secondly, Secretary Rice's comments about the totalitarian nature of the Iranian regime, the loathsome nature of it, was that based on any sort of new sense that you have of greater repression, or new intelligence on that? Or can you give us -- shed some light on where those comments rank?
MR. HADLEY: I wouldn't accept your characterization of the comments she's made. I mean, what -- the President has said for some time that we stand, the American people stand on the side of those people in Iran who want greater freedom and democracy. And there's no secret. That's something I think we share with the Europeans, as well.
I think that in terms of the discussions that the EU 3 -- let me go back to that. And some of the things that give us pause about that, of course, are the last election for the Majilis, the efforts that were made to eliminate candidates that were not acceptable to the Iranian government. There have been some actions against opposition members, some actions against the press, if you look back over this last six months to a year. So while there's a trend in the region for greater freedom and democracy and participation by people, unfortunately, the trends in Iran seem to be going in the other way.
In terms of where the Europeans are in the discussion with the Iranians, you know there is an ongoing discussion talking about the kinds of opportunities that would be available to Iran to have expanded diplomatic, economic and political ties if they were to permanently cease their uranium enrichment program and give up any reprocessing. And the truth is you can tell from the statements that have been made by the Iranian government, the jury is out. We need to see where the Iranians are heading. That's the next thing we need to see.
Q President Bush is the first American President who is going to Slovakia. Can you elaborate more what will be his message for Slovaks in Bratislava? And then I'm sure Slovak government and also EU will open American visa policy. What can we expect from President Bush?
MR. HADLEY: Two things. One, obviously, he's coming with a message that the United States and Europe have a common agenda to advance freedom and democracy in the world. And it's -- the stop in the Slovak Republic is a nice opportunity for the President to remind Europe and the rest of the world of the progress we've made together in that part of the world. It's also an opportunity to pay tribute to the people of the Slovak Republic and also other countries in the region for the right choices they made in pursuing democracy and freedom and making the hard choices that those countries had to make as they moved out of communist regimes, and to really celebrate the progress we've made, and to acknowledge those men and women who were on the forefront of the cause of freedom in Central and Eastern Europe. And hopefully, by acknowledging their contribution, give some hope and support to those people who are advancing the cause of freedom elsewhere in the world.
Q Your visa policy?
MR. HADLEY: Yes, there will clearly be discussions about that. You heard a way forward that has been developed when the President met with President Kwasniewski, of Poland. We think that kind of way forward ought to be available to other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and would put us on the road to putting the visa issue behind us.
MR. JONES: Time for one more.
MR. HADLEY: Yes, ma'am.
Q Sir, you talk a lot about common ground and commonality.
MR. HADLEY: Right.
Q And certainly, the United States and Europe have common goals in a lot of areas, but isn't the problem that they have vastly different ideas about how to achieve those goals? And I'm thinking specifically here of China, Iran, and global warming. And do you expect any kind of resolution to come out, any kind of common approach to come out of these meetings?
MR. HADLEY: I guess I wouldn't accept the proposition, vastly different, in Iran. Actually, I think we have a fairly coordinated approach on Iran with respect to the nuclear issue. We've worked very well in the IAEA Board of Governors; we've been supportive of the EU 3 Initiative. So I think, actually, we have a good convergence on the nuclear issues, and I think it's important for us to continue our dialogue with Iran, to continue to talk about their support for terror and other things.
Secondly, in terms of China, again, I think there is a lot of commonality in terms of China. Obviously, we have -- we all have an interest in China continuing to move in the direction of democracy and freedom and being a constructive member of the international community. We have common concerns about human rights. Yes, there is the issue of the EU arms embargo, what to do about that. But I think it will be approached in a very constructive spirit. The President has real concerns about it, as we've described. He will share those concerns with the Europeans. They will, obviously, have an opportunity to express their views. And he will listen.
And I think since we have a basic common set of overall objectives, I think we'll find a way forward that will be acceptable.
MR. JONES: Thank you, very much.
MR. HADLEY: Okay, thank you.
END 4:34 P.M. EST