17 May 1998
THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary (Birmingham, England) May 16, 1998 PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER Metropole Hotel Birmingham, England ................ And on India, we are pleased that the strong statement condemning the Indian tests and calling for restraint, calling upon them to join the CTBT, and indicating that this would have an effect on the dealings of each country with India.
.............. Q: Sandy, Pakistan says that the G-8 response to India's tests was very weak and they say that they're going to do what is in their own national interest. How do you respond to their complaints? BERGER: Well, I have not seen that -- I take it there's a letter -- I have not seen it. First of all, I think the statement of the eight is a strong statement, condemning unequivocally, without any hesitation, India's testing, and indicating that it has and will affect the dealings of every one of these countries with India. In addition, a number of countries have taken actions beyond that -- Japan, Canada, the Dutch, Swedes, the Danes, and I know several other countries, a number of other countries are considering actions. So, number one, I think this is a strong statement. It is accompanied by actions that have been taken by a number of governments, and hopefully, further actions will be taken. Number two, I hope the Pakistani government will decide that their national interest is better served by not testing than by testing. If they make that decision, I think, as the President indicated, they will capture the high ground in the longstanding regional struggle in South Asia. I think the nature of their relationships with many governments will change. I suspect the attitude in our own Congress, which has been quite restrictive with respect to Pakistan, would change, which would then free up our capacity to cooperate with them more fully. And on the other hand, India has isolated itself clearly in the international community on this issue. So as we've said all along, we very much hope the Paks will decide not to take this step. Q: Sandy, Bhutto said that if there is a military capability to eliminate India's nuclear capacity it should be used. Does that exist, and is there any thought being given to doing that? BERGER: Well, I'm not -- obviously, it would not be appropriate to take military action in this situation. Q: Why not? BERGER: Why not? Because it would simply escalate into a regional war which would have devastating consequences for both countries. Neither side will win that. Both sides will lose. The Pakistani people will lose and the Indian people will lose. They've had three wars in the last 20 years and they've not gained from any one of them, it seems to me. So I think that is not a wise course of action. Q: Is the reality that when it comes to nuclear proliferation to India or Pakistan, or previously to China, that there's just a limited amount of pressure that the rest of the world can bring to bear, just a limited amount of things we can do to -- BERGER: I think that's not absolutely true. Obviously, countries proceed on the basis of their own perceived self-interest. I think this has much more to do with misguided nationalism on the part of India than national security. But I think that you have to look at this in a slightly wider time frame. The fact is the world has made enormous progress in the past 10 years in controlling nuclear weapons. Let's start with the principal nuclear relationship, that between the Former Soviet Union, now Russia, and the United States. If the Duma ratifies START II, as we hope it will, nuclear stockpiles will have been reduced two-thirds from the Cold War. And if we get to START III, as I hope we will, we hope to reduce them by 80 percent from where they were. We have had an extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which expired and is now extended indefinitely, and 149 nations have signed a treaty that was first proposed by Dwight Eisenhower, which we were able to negotiate, banning nuclear tests. And I think the more nations that sign that treaty, the better, because it will isolate even further those who feel compelled to test. So, can we control everything that every country does? Of course not. But I think that India is more isolated today than it was before this test. And the general record of nuclear deescalation over the last 10 or 15 years has been quite strong. This is an unfortunate step backwards on that trend. Q: One assumes that this statement, no matter how strong or weak, could have been agreed to by fax. Where is the added value of these guys sitting down and going over this? BERGER: Well, I think there's been an enormous added value by virtue of the President's conversations with President Chirac, with Prime Minister Hashimoto, with Prime Minister Blair, and others. Not everything is embodied in a joint statement. I mean, I think that the President -- I don't mean that there's a secret codicil here that we haven't shared with you, but I think the strength and persuasiveness with which the President has made the case to these leaders that this is a dangerous step, that it is important to speak out against it, that it's important to publicly and privately oppose it to stop not only Pakistan from testing, but other nations from testing -- there's no question that the level of -- and I've been told this by my counterparts from other delegations -- there is no question that the sense of urgency and concern that is felt by the others has been significantly enhanced by their conversations with the President, who feels this very strongly. Q: The India tests would appear to have undercut your efforts to get the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Is that the way you read it? BERGER: Quite the contrary. I believe that the India tests make all the more compelling the argument for ratifying the treaty as soon as possible for two reasons. Number one, as I said, the more states that sign and ratify this treaty, the more isolated will be the countries, the more outside the norm of international behavior will be countries that seek to test. And our capacity to make that argument persuasively, assigning and ratifying the CTB, is obviously is enhanced if we've not only signed, but ratified. Number two, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has a number of provisions in its verification provisions which will enhance our capacity to detect activity of this sort. For example, in addition to our own national technical means which we have in any case, this will provide for international censors, will provide for short notice on-site inspections, whether there is suspicious activity. So we will have to verify -- we will have to watch out for these things whether this treaty goes into effect, or not, but this treaty gives us tools to do that which we would not otherwise have. And I think, third -- even though I said two -- third, there is a moment here in which we have your attention, we have the American people's attention about the dangers of nuclear testing. One thing happened when the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was signed. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty said the era of nuclear testing should be over. And backsliders, like India, should understand that they are swimming against the tide. Q: Sandy, you talk about the political isolation. Will you consider it a success if you leave Birmingham and all you've got is political isolation and no one else joins to put any additional economic pressure or force any other changes on India's behavior? BERGER: Well, as I say, a number of -- I read a list of a number of countries that have, including Japan -- Q: -- to some extent? BERGER: To some extent. I hope others will. And I think the strength of this statement is important. And the fact that these countries will make this an issue in their dealings with India is important. And the fact that it has gotten this kind of attention is important. We would have preferred India not to test. We made that clear to India repeatedly since this new government took power. But having done so, I think that it's important over the long-term that it reach the judgment that further testing would be unwise. .................. Q: Sandy, how dangerous a situation will it be if Pakistan follows India's lead and conducts a nuclear test? What's the -- when they let the genie out of the bottle, what happens? BERGER: Well, it will further escalate the situation that is already tense and has been for some time, really since the beginning of the -- for 50 years in some ways, but certainly in the last 25. There are two arms races that we have been concerned about in the South Asian peninsula -- one is the nuclear arms race; the other is the missile proliferation race. And these things heighten capabilities and with heightened capabilities and heightened tensions you have greater danger. I would hope that the two countries would realize, whatever their capabilities might be, that any further conflict between them would be a disaster. ............... Q: Back to India and the statement from last night, you made the argument yourself today repeatedly that as a result of the leaders getting together there is a greater sense of consciousness about it, a greater willingness to at least think that this is a terrible problem. But can you point to anything that any country has done since arriving here, any signals that they have given you in a concrete way that they are prepared to take any further steps that they had not already done before they came to Birmingham? BERGER: Japan has taken some further steps since it has arrived here and there have been statements made by others indicating that they will go home and look at this very seriously. And Prime Minister Blair called Prime Minister Vajpayee after this and spoke of the dismay of the international community. Your question goes to specific actions and there have been leaders who have indicated that they will go back and look at this more seriously. I mean, obviously, this happened as they are arriving; these are things that one usually does in consultation with your legislature, your parliament, and so it would not have surprised me if there were further actions. ............ Q: Could I just ask another question on Yeltsin? To what extent will the dynamics between Clinton and Yeltsin tomorrow change as a result of this nuclear showdown in South Asia? Do they have more pressure to deliver something on the nuclear front despite being tied up with the Duma and the ratification? BERGER: No, I don't think -- I'm sure it will be discussed, although -- I mean, they have discussed it, obviously, last night. But there are a number of issues on the agenda between President Yeltsin and President Clinton. There's not much more to say about it, I think, than was said last night, but issues involving the new Russian government, what its direction is, what its priorities are, questions of START II ratification, START III. We have concerns we want to talk to the President about in terms of missile proliferation, or missile technology proliferation. So there's a pretty heavy agenda. This may come up some more, but they have discussed it. ............. Q: Sandy, when do you expect to get a readout from Strobe Talbott on his trip to Pakistan, and when will the President be getting that briefing? BERGER: Well, we've had reports from the traveling party periodically, last night. And I have generally briefed the President on those reports. An unidentified senior official traveling with Deputy Secretary Talbott had a press conference yesterday, I think, before he left in which he said that the talks have been very good, that he believed that the Pakistani government had not made a decision as of that point, but they had made no commitments. I suspect that I will see Strobe tonight because of the dinner. I would not expect the President to see him until tomorrow. ................. Q: Sandy, -- the President's proposed trip to India and Pakistan, has any of it -- on the trip to India and Pakistan, is there any thought of definitively not going or changing that -- BERGER: We have not made any decision to change our plans at this point, but we'll see how that -- I think it's something we just have to consider over a period of time. ............. Q: Sandy, is there any solution that's been made to the F-16 problem for the Pakistanis? And what kind of incentive can you give them besides just saying that they be "good guys," not to blow up a bomb? BERGER: I think, first of all, the F-16s -- we have been trying for some time to resolve this issue with the Congress. This is a complicated issue where they paid for the F-16s; we still have them. There is reasons for that cutoff, this was not capricious on the part of the Bush administration by any means. But it has resulted in what seems to be an unfairness. We're now making money off the interest on this. When Ambassador Richardson was in Pakistan in the first half of April, he did raise with the Pakistanis some ideas that we have that we think that we could accomplish with the Congress that would resolve this issue. I don't want to discuss them, particularly, publicly. I do think -- the larger question -- one of the problems we've had in expanding our relationship with Pakistan is the so-called Pressler Amendment, which has cut off virtually all US assistance to Pakistan. A few years ago, with our cooperation, Senator Hank Brown of Colorado amended that to open up some areas of cooperation, but not many. I would have to believe -- and based on some conversations I've had with senators in the last few days -- that if Pakistan were not to test, that we would have a far greater chance to make inroads on the Pressler Amendment in the Congress, in a bipartisan way, than we have had before. And I think that would be a welcomed development. Q: To the end of delivering planes, perhaps? BERGER: To the end of resolving the plane issue in a way that is satisfactory to Pakistan and the United States. Q: Which could include delivery? BERGER: Let me leave it where it is. There are a lot of ways to skin the cat and what's important here is it's resolved in a way that they are satisfied with and a way we're satisfied with. Q: Have you found a third country buyer then, Sandy? BERGER: I don't want to thwart something by speculating on it. Q: Is there anything else beyond rolling back Pressler that you can do for the Pakistanis? Apparently, one editorial in Pakistan said today that they wanted some kind of security guarantees from the US. BERGER: Well, we have a security treaty with Pakistan. Or a security alliance, I guess, it's not a security treaty. It's not been my sense here that the Paks put a price tag on not testing. This is going to be a decision that they make based upon their own judgment of their national interest. And as I say, I hope that they will do that -- I hope that they will decide that it is in their national interest as we head to the future to be part of the tide of history that is giving up nuclear testing rather than the undercurrent of history reflected by the Indians that seeks to go backwards. Q: Sandy, you said no decision had been made on whether the President will go to India later this year, but could you imagine the President going if India had not yet disavowed any further nuclear testing? BERGER: I don't want to really speculate beyond what I said. We have not -- in time, we will look at the issue, but no new decision has been made on that. ............ (end transcript)