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THE WHITE HOUSE
January 16, 1997
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY

MCCURRY: Let me do a couple of other things. I want to tell you a little bit more about the President's foreign policy meeting that I mentioned earlier today. He met for about an hour and 10 minutes with his foreign policy team. The President, Vice President were all there. Outgoing Secretary Christopher was there along with Deputy Secretary of Defense White, General Shalikashvili, Erskine Bowles, Larry Summers, Madeleine Albright, who, of course, would be there in her capacity as U.N. Ambassador -- Leon Panetta, Leon Fuerth, Sandy Berger, Strobe Talbott and a host of others to discuss the matters that we were discussing earlier -- the future of a united, integrated Europe and Russia's relationship to that united, integrated Europe, which is one of the key foreign policy areas that the President will be working on in his coming term.

They reviewed policy related to European security, NATO expansion, NATO adaptation, the effort to create a Russia-NATO charter, particularly on the eve of very important discussions that NATO Secretary General Solana will have with Russian Foreign Minister Primakov.

They also discussed a variety of other issues that will soon be on the agenda of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission. There is a scheduled meeting of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission February 6th to 8th to be held here in Washington. Part of this meeting previewed items that will be reviewed at that time.

I mentioned to some of you earlier, there was also an opportunity for Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott to talk about his consultations in Paris, Bonn, London and Brussels with President Chirac, Chancellor Kohl, Foreign Secretary Rifkind and Secretary General Solana.

Q: What's the most important foreign policy objective in the short-term that the administration has?

MCCURRY: Well, Sandy Berger was here for you Saturday and identified six key strategic objectives. But they all amount to preserving America's extraordinary leadership position in this world as we enter a new millennium and as the United States of America is literally the indispensable nation. Preserving America's leadership role and enhancing the interests of the United States as we continue to lead the world towards greater democracy, greater freedom, greater human rights and greater economic prosperity will be the central challenge of the coming term for the President.

There are six very specific objectives we have, ranging from nurturing our relationship to Asia to the matters about Europe that we discussed earlier, to dealing with the post-Cold War challenges of terrorism, drug trafficking, international crime proliferation we've identified before, to making sure that we deal with the problems of environmental degradation, and to address some of the key regional disputes that we've talked about in the past -- Northern Ireland, the question of Cyprus, Bosnia, and the Middle East peace process itself, of which we just had a very significant step forward -- all of these things as sketched through in the little briefing you had from Sandy Berger on Saturday represent the President's foreign policy agenda for a second term.

Q: Did they adopt any new policies? Did they shift any position -- any instructions to Solana? Any -- what came out of this meeting other than just kind of a talk-fest?

MCCURRY: A great deal came out of it, and I've described it generally for you publicly. A lot of hard work went into molding the diplomacy particularly around the issues that relate to NATO, to Russia's relationship to NATO, to the approaches we will take to our key European allies as we advance the work plan we have for Europe in the coming term. And some of that will become obvious to you as we go through the year, but I'm not going to substantively get into some of the specific directions they talked about today.

The overall policy is well-known; the President has articulated it, we've talked about it here from time to time. We were into today the discussion of how you go out and actually achieve the very specific objectives the President has outlined.

Q: If Lebed comes, will the President see him? And do we know yet who invited him? And on a related question, why isn't Russia invited to join NATO? I know it was created against Russia, but, you know, if you really want to unite Europe, why is Russia left out?

MCCURRY: Well, Russia -- no one is left out. One of the things we've made very clear about the approach we take to NATO is that it is a non-exclusionary process. But the process as we have defined it includes all the things we've talked about in the past here -- NATO defense ministers and foreign ministers discussed in their recent ministerial level meetings. It is very central to the United States objectives with respect to NATO and Europe that we maintain a very close strategic partnership with Russia. That is why we've suggested there have to be parallel discussions with Russia that focus on the promulgation of a special charter that defines that parallel and special relationship that should exist. We see the future of Europe and the future of NATO as being one that is inclusive and one that acknowledges the very special status that Russia plays.

Q: Well, its antagonism is understandable, isn't it, because it was created -- NATO was created against Russia? Why don't you just take her in?

MCCURRY: No, NATO was created to protect freedom and democracy of the West at a time we faced a totalitarian threat from the East. And it worked exceedingly well. But we live in a new world now which has new possibilities and we see an inclusive attitude towards Russia towards it. I might suggest to you that the attitudes in Russia about NATO are molded, in fact, because of the experience of the Cold War. And we know that, we understand that. That's why we were especially sensitive to the concerns that President Yeltsin and others have as we address NATO issues. But that's a much longer discussion that we could take a much larger amount of time on. I've got other items that we need to go through.

Q: But what about Lebed?

MCCURRY: Lebed -- Lebed is -- we have no information other than he was apparently invited by a member of Congress who got an allotment of tickets. And I can't help on that. He's not -- we don't control that part of the Inaugural Day ceremonies. That's under the jurisdiction of the Joint Congressional Inaugural Committee. So you'll have to direct your inquiries to them. I don't know how he got a ticket. He was not invited by the United States. We have extended the invitation formally to the Russian Federation through the Embassy to the Ambassador.

On the other question, though, if he's here, he is a significant figure who has played an important role in the recent life of Russia and I wouldn't rule out some possibility that the State Department might have contact with him if he is here. But I don't even know if they know at this point what his itinerary is.

Q: Do you have a response to the Boston Globe story?

MCCURRY: I've got a couple of others things before we get to that.

Q: Can we stay on Lebed for a second? Does the government not have some reaction to this given that Lebed has very recently called on President Yeltsin to resign, called him an old, sick man, said he should step down and -

MCCURRY: They have a vigorous -

Q: Is this not a diplomatic issue here?

MCCURRY: They have a vigorous political life in Russia. And we refrain from commenting on the internal domestic dialogue, political dialogue that occurs in Russia. His role is known, his public statements are known. And if was invited by a member of Congress or by the -- or how he was invited is really up to those who are responsible for it. We had nothing to do with it here. That's my point.

Q: Actually, this dialogue occurred in Germany. The man said, I'm not a democrat, I'm a realist, I'm a pragmatist.

MCCURRY: You sound authoritative on the views of General Lebed -- more so than me.