News

USIS Washington File

17 May 1998

[EXCERPTS] TRANSCRIPT: BRIEFING BY NSC BERGER ON G-8 FOREIGN POLICY ISSUES





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)