News

November 17, 1999

PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SAMUEL "SANDY" BERGER

8:12 P.M. (L)



                                THE WHITE HOUSE

                         Office of the Press Secretary
                               (Istanbul, Turkey)
___________________________________________________________________________
____
 For Immediate Release                             November 17, 1999

                                 PRESS BRIEFING
                                       BY
                NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SAMUEL "SANDY" BERGER

                               Conrad Hotel
                             Istanbul, Turkey


8:12 P.M. (L)

.................

     Q    The President's meeting with Mr. Yeltsin, if the ABM Treaty and
the national missile defense are on the agenda, will the President offer
any new ideas on how to overcome Russian refusal to engage in talking about
amending the treaty -- or how to overcome it?

     MR. BERGER:  I believe the subject will come up, as well as START,
START II, START III.  Let me just put this in a little context, because I
think it's a little bit misunderstood in terms of where we are on the
national missile defense issue.

     The President said sometime ago that he would decide sometime next
year whether to proceed with a national missile defense directed towards
terrorist rogue states, based upon four criteria, four issues that he'll
take into account.  One, the threat, what is the level of threat that we
face?  Two, the technological feasibility of this very complex undertaking.
General Shelton has described this as being like a bullet shooting at a
bullet.  Three, the cost.  And, fourth, its overall impact on security,
including arms control.  We very much believe the ABM treaty serves our
national interest, and would like to preserve it.

     What we have discussed with the Russians is engaging with us in two
ways.  One, since they also face these same rogue nation threats, in
cooperation on a limited NMD system itself, so that they could also benefit
from its evolution, should we go forward.  And, B, to make some
modifications in the ABM treaty that would enable us to go forward.  And I
believe we will continue to seek to have those discussions with the
Russians over the next months, until a decision is made.

     Q    In other words, you won't have any new ideas on ways to overcome
the resistance that they've shown consistently on this?

     MR. BERGER:  Well, I think part of this -- part of this, obviously, is
a very technical discussion of whether this is in fact a threat to the
Russian deterrents or not.  And that discussion needs to take place and has
taken place already, and will continue to take place at a technical level,
at a military-to-military and a strategic expert-to-expert level talks.
But I think the President will seek to describe for President Yeltsin what
our intent is, what our purpose is, what the capability is of the kind of
system that we're looking at, which we would do in phases, to assure him
that this is not directed at Russia.

     They've already exchanged two, I think, very serious and thoughtful
letters.  I mean, they've exchanged one set of letters; President Yeltsin
sent us a very, I think, serious and non-polemic letter, one that made
their case.  And the President sent back a letter responding.  And so there
is a dialogue going on on this.

     Q    What did he say in that letter?

     MR. BERGER:  What?

     Q    What did he say in that letter, and when did he send it?

     MR. BERGER:  This exchange took place over the last month.  And as I
say, the letter from President Yeltsin was an analysis of their concerns,
and the letter from the President was our response to those concerns.

.........

     END  8:40 P.M. (L)