For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 1, 2008
Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En route Bucharest, Romania
5:43 P.M. (Local)
MS. PERINO: Let me start off by saying that we're going to Bucharest, Romania, which is always helpful to tell you where we're going.
Q The President got his daily intelligence briefing. That's always good.
MS. PERINO: We don't have to say who actually said that for the transcript, although people might be able to guess.
Okay, we would characterize today as -- I talked to the President, that he felt it was a very good visit with a friend and ally in Kiyv, Ukraine. They had wide-ranging discussions on areas such as the Membership Action Plan and NATO. You heard the President's position on that; it's been very clear, in his support.
One thing of note is to remember that Ukraine made their pitch for MAP for their "sovereignty, independence, and future." They are asking for a chance. And the President believes it would send a signal throughout the region that these two nations are and will remain sovereign and independent states.
We also signed, as you saw, the space agreements on increased cooperation regarding space matters; also the trade investment agreement. They talked a lot about energy, especially the President encouraging Ukraine to focus on transparency and diversification.
They also spent a little bit of time talking about how internal politics plays a role in healthy democracies. And the President said we see that in our own country, and in Ukraine they are experiencing that, as well. But he encouraged them to keep their eye on the big picture, which is freedom, justice and democracy, and to understand that sometimes people will throw a sharp elbow, but keeping your eye on the big picture is a sign of a healthy society.
He also said that he greatly enjoyed the social lunch and the cultural exhibits, in particular the famine memorial, the church -- St. Sophia -- and then also the PEPFAR program. He said it was very inspiring to see these young kids who are taking it upon themselves to teach one another how to prevent contracting HIV/AIDS, also making sure that it's not a stigma for people that live with HIV/AIDS, and that society can deal with that problem. They're making good use of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Mrs. Bush also visited the Peace Corps site, which Bush 41, former President Bush, reopened in 1992 I believe is the right date on that. So she was pleased to go there and see them.
Regarding tomorrow, the President's speech -- you'll get the excerpts in a little bit, but let me just describe it for you. First of all, it starts off by reminding people of his June 2001 trip to Europe, in which he said, "All of Europe's new democracies, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, should have the same chance for security and freedom and the same chance to join the institutions of Europe." He also said in that speech that, "We share more than an Alliance; we share a civilization."
So in this speech, he will talk about NATO expansion. He believes the door to NATO membership should remain open. And in particular for this summit, one of the things they'll be talking about is Membership Action Plan potential for Ukraine and Georgia, as well as membership for the MAC countries, also known as Macedonia, Albania and Croatia. We continue to have discussions with our allies, and the leaders will meet on Thursday to finalize that discussion.
He will talk about -- in his speech -- about the Afghanistan -- the role NATO is playing in Afghanistan, the importance of that mission. We do anticipate a discussion at NATO about the role of troops and possible increases in troops from various countries. I think you've already heard some of that in the past several days; you probably will hear more.
He will talk briefly about Iraq, as well as missile defense. In regards to missile defense, he will talk about it necessary -- being necessary to defend against an emerging threat, a threat that he believes is real and urgent. He will also talk about the possible cooperation with Russia that we have been working on for the past several months.
He will also talk about how this will be President Putin -- I'm sorry, President Putin will be the first President from Russia to attend the summit -- actually, I should say it's President Putin's first NATO summit. The President is looking forward to meeting him there, and then he'll have a chance to visit with him more personally when he goes to Sochi at the end of the week.
I think that's all I have for you.
Q Will he meet Putin on Thursday privately for a few minutes?
MS. PERINO: I'm not sure. We'll let you know. It's possible for -- I don't think it's on the schedule, per se, but since all the leaders are there, it's -- oftentimes they can get together and have a talk.
Q Does he have a schedule of bilats that you could release?
MS. PERINO: I will check.
Q Is there any compromise -- short of a MAP plan -- that would be acceptable, that would still be a positive signal, but that everybody might get on board with?
MS. PERINO: Certainly not one that we're focusing on. The President was very clear today in response to a question at the press conference that while some might have suggested that the President would trade MAP for better relations with Russia, that he was very clear to President Putin that he supports Ukraine and Georgia being given MAP; this is their chance for NATO membership, it is not NATO membership. At the end of that process, those countries might decide that it's not for them.
And so he thinks that they should be given a chance. And so we're not focusing on anything short of that, but continuing to have discussion with our allies across the board, both from the State Department level all the way up to the President.
Q What are the odds at this point? I mean, the Germans have been pretty strong on this, saying they don't think this is appropriate, this morning.
Q And the French, as well.
Q And the French, too.
MS. PERINO: I saw one of the things that the French Foreign Minister said today, that -- something along the lines that Europe and Russia need to have discussions about possible MAP for Ukraine and Georgia. The last time we checked, Russia didn't get a vote. And this is a NATO discussion, a NATO exercise, and it will be a NATO decision. And again, the President's position is very clear. We understand that other people may have disagreements, but we believe that giving these two states that want to be democratic, independent and sovereign a chance to join NATO is important and it should not be derailed.
Q What does it say about the state of the Alliance today, that they're probably not on the same page when it comes to this next step, that the future is still under some debate within the -- especially between East and West?
MS. PERINO: I couldn't tell you about all the NATO summits going all the way back. These are healthy, independent, sovereign countries that get together and have robust debates about various issues. And so I think that the fact that we can all have these frank and open discussions is a good sign. And that's one of the reasons the President enjoys coming to these meetings, because they're clarifying moments where people can fully express themselves and lay it out on the table.
The President has made himself very clear, that the door to NATO should remain open, and especially for countries that have shown that they have the will and the determination, and they, on the merits, deserve to be considered for membership -- a Membership Action Plan.
Q Is the United States also pushing for the intensified dialogue for Bosnia and Herzegovina?
MS. PERINO: I do believe -- there will be some continued conversation about that, obviously, in regards to -- also regarding Kosovo and all the different various missions that NATO is involved in, including -- all across the board, I think up and down -- all around the world. And I think that's one of the things that people will talk about over this next few days, which is how NATO can play a very constructive, good role all around the world, from -- not just from the military perspective, providing security or being in the fight, like they are in Afghanistan, but also it's important that we can't -- obviously, none of these situations can be solved by force alone. But NATO has an ability to help countries strengthen their democratic institutions, help provide -- make sure that services are being provided to their citizens.
And also, on the economic side, to help societies like Afghanistan again, for an example, help them build an economy so that people can lift themselves up out of poverty. And I think that the President will talk about that in his speech tomorrow, too, briefly.
Q Isn't the stage being set, though, for disappointment and failure, since France and Germany say that they're not going to allow the MAP for these two countries?
MS. PERINO: I think we need to wait and see what's going to happen. And I think while some people might want to declare failure before we even get to the summit -- we haven't even touched ground in Bucharest yet -- but that's your prerogative, and we'll continue to work with our allies and we'll see.
Q So you don't think the French and the Germans are going to carry through on what they say?
MS. PERINO: As I said, I think that we should see -- we should wait and see what happens. We are working very hard to talk with our allies and make the case. But it could be a clarifying moment, and that's not a bad thing, either.
Q What do you mean by that?
MS. PERINO: I think it's important -- I think the President fully believes that whenever you have a situation where a decision is coming to a head, you have lots of people making themselves known, talking -- there's also going to be a lot of talks that go on in private. And so I would caution against anyone thinking that there's a final outcome before we even touch the ground.
Q Have they settled the Macedonia name issue yet?
MS. PERINO: Not that I've heard.
Q -- get that one done before you get the next bunch?
MS. PERINO: We are working at all levels on all issues, including that one.
Q I would expect no less.
MS. PERINO: Any other issues?
Q Anything new on Iraq? Alphonso Jackson? What have you got?
MS. PERINO: No, I don't have anything new on that. Okay, let me see if your excerpts are ready.
Q Appreciate it.
END 5:55 P.M.