[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1994, Book I)]
[January 11, 1994]
[Pages 28-31]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's News Conference in Brussels
January 11, 1994

    The President. Good morning. As all of you know, this historic 
summit meeting of the North Atlantic Council was my first NATO meeting. 
I'm glad we were able to accomplish as much as we did here. I'm 
convinced that history will record this meeting as a major step in 
building a new security for the transatlantic community.
    I'm very pleased that our NATO allies approved our proposal for the 
Partnership For Peace. I believe it will help our alliance to meet 
Europe's new challenges, and I'm pleased by the response the Partnership 
has already generated from nations who have contacted us and said they 
are interested in being a part of it.
    Ultimately, the Partnership will lead to the enlargement of NATO and 
help us to build a security based not on Europe's divisions but on the 
potential of its integration. I look forward to working with NATO 
leaders in the coming months to prepare for exercises with the states 
that join the Partnership and to work on the next steps towards NATO's 
    Today NATO also took dramatic steps to prepare for its new post-
cold-war missions by calling for the creation of combined joint task 
forces. These task forces will make NATO's military structures more 
flexible and will prepare the alliance for nontraditional missions. They 
will also help us to put the Partnership For Peace into action by 
serving as the vehicle for Eastern militaries to operate with NATO 
forces, something that General Joulwan will begin to prepare for 
    I'm pleased that during this summit NATO began to address the threat 
posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The agreement 
that the United States will sign with Ukraine and Russia this Friday 
will also make a major contribution to reducing that threat. With the 
end of the cold war, we no longer face the threat of confrontation 
between nuclear powers, but we do face continuing conflicts, including 
the reality of the murderous conflict in Bosnia. At this meeting we 
discussed candidly and at some length NATO's policy towards Bosnia. We 
reaffirmed our commitment to respond to the strangulation of Sarajevo 
and to help to implement an enforceable peace agreement if one is 
reached by all the parties.
    I want to discuss this with some precision, if I might. The United 
States last evening in our discussions took a very strong position that 
we ought to reaffirm our air warning, that is, the possibility of the 
use of air power to relieve the strangulation or in retaliation for the 
strangulation of Sarajevo, but that the language ought to be left in our 
policy if, and only if, we were prepared to follow through. And I made 
it clear that for our part, we were prepared to follow through, and 
therefore, we supported leaving the language in. But along with the 
Secretary General, I urged our allies not to leave it in unless we were 
prepared to follow through, on the theory that we should not say things 
that we do not intend to do.
    In addition to that, I supported the United Kingdom and France and 
their call for plans to ensure that we can complete the bloc rotation of 
troops to Srebrenica, so that that can take place, the exchange of the 
Canadians for the

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Dutch forces, and to explore how Tuzla airstrip might be opened. Now, 
either of these activities could require the use of NATO, including 
United States air power. We also have a continuing commitment to and the 
opportunity to use air power to protect the United Nations troops there 
if that is needed for close air support.
    Now, these are the actions which have been taken. In other words, we 
have reaffirmed our position of last August, which is an important thing 
to have done in light of the recent shelling of Sarajevo. We have 
instructed our military command to come up with plans to see what can be 
done to ensure the rotation of the troops in Srebrenica and the opening 
of the Tuzla airstrip. And those plans, as has been said by the 
Secretary General, can include the use of air power.
    Let me just mention one or two other things. While the WEU and other 
European international bodies would play an important role in meeting 
the security challenges in Europe in the coming years, I still believe 
that NATO remains the linchpin of our mutual security. And so, as we 
finish this summit, I want to say a special word of thanks to Secretary 
General Woerner for his remarkable leadership. I have had the 
opportunity now to meet and work with many leaders around the world. He 
is a genuine statesman. He understands what is at stake here. He has a 
vision of the future, and he leads this alliance with great vision and 
discipline. And I thank him for that.
    I also want to thank the other NATO leaders for their hospitality 
and especially the Prime Minister of Belgium and the people of Belgium 
and Brussels for their hospitality to us. I believe this was a very 
successful meeting. They had accomplished everything that I hoped, and I 
think as the years go by we will be glad that it occurred.


    Q. Could you please tell us whether or not there was unanimous 
belief by the NATO allies that these air strikes could go forward, or is 
there something that still needs to be done before you can actually 
commit to movement?
    The President. There was unanimous--and I want to be very clear on 
this--there was unanimous support for the policy as it is written. 
Everybody voted for it. In order to trigger the air strikes, what must 
happen? I want to emphasize two things. One is, whether they occur or 
not depends upon the behavior of the Bosnian Serbs from this moment 
forward. Secondly, based on that behavior, our military personnel will 
take this issue back to the NAC in our absence, and we will deal with 
it. And of course, we will consult with the U.N. if it is something that 
involves the use of air power other than to give support to the U.N. 
forces as already approved.
    So that is what I think--at that point, we'll deal with the facts. 
Some of us, I think it's clear, were stronger than others about the 
appropriateness of it under the circumstances that we now know about or 
could imagine. But I think the accurate thing is there was unanimous 
support for the policy, which means everybody who voted for it 
recognized that air power might well be used. What happens now depends 
upon the behavior of the combatants, principally the Bosnian Serbs, and 
what the military commanders come back and recommend.

Partnership For Peace and NATO

    Q. When you get to Prague, in light of this meeting and in light of 
your own feelings, will you be in a position to tell at least some of 
the Visegrad leaders that they are in fact on a fast track toward 
membership in NATO?
    The President. I think I'll be in a position to tell them, number 
one, the purpose of the Partnership For Peace is to open the possibility 
of NATO's enlargement as well as to give all the former Warsaw Pact 
countries and other non-NATO nations in Europe the chance to cooperate 
with us militarily, that NATO is an alliance with mutual 
responsibilities as well as the security guarantee. And we are clearly 
serious about pursuing this, including ultimate membership, as evidenced 
by the fact that the Secretary General said in his closing remarks--I 
don't know what he said here in the press conference because I didn't 
hear it--he said in his closing remarks that General Joulwan would 
immediately contact the military leaders of these countries, including 
the Visegrad countries, to talk about how we could begin planning for 
mutual operations in training and exercise.
    So I think that they will clearly understand that this is a very 
serious proposal that opens the possibility of membership, not one that 
limits it.

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    Q. Mr. President, the Secretary General said in his remarks that the 
instrument is there regarding Bosnia and other threats, but he's not 
sure that the will is there. Now, you just mentioned unanimity. It was a 
unanimous vote, as we understand it, last August for the same policy, 
yet many attacks have taken place in Sarajevo and have been unanswered 
by NATO. So first, do you think that there is a greater will now; do you 
sense a greater determination despite the misgivings of those 
peacekeepers on the ground? And secondly, is there a lower threshold, do 
you think, given this language that the British and the French, we 
understand, proposed on Tuzla and Srebrenica? Is there a lower threshold 
to use air power in those instances than for the wider air attacks 
regarding Sarajevo?
    The President. I would make two points in response to your question. 
One is, I don't know that the threshold is lower, but there are more 
instances in which air power can be used now under the NATO policy. That 
is, clearly the policy asks our military command to explain how we can 
guarantee the troop rotation in Srebrenica and how we can open the 
airstrip at Tuzla, including the use of air power. So there are clearly 
more opportunities for it.
    Secondly, is there still a difference of opinion about whether and 
how quickly we should use air power, especially to relieve a shelling of 
Sarajevo? I think on today's facts there are clearly some differences 
among the allies. And let me just mention one consideration. Those 
countries that have troops there are understandably concerned about the 
danger to their troops. If we use air power, are they more likely to be 
retaliated against? On the other hand, I think they're closer to being 
willing to use it than they were in August because a lot of them are 
very sensitive to the fact that their troops seem to be in more danger 
now than they were in August and that their casualties are increasing.
    So do I think we are closer to real unanimity than we were in 
August? I do. Would they all vote the same in a given-fact situation? I 
don't know. That's why I think it depends largely on what the Bosnian 
Serbs do.
    Q. Given the fact that there is still some difference of opinion, 
doesn't this come close to failing your own test from your intervention, 
that why threaten if you're not going to have the will to----
    The President. But I believe, based on what several of them said to 
me privately, they are more prepared to deal with this than they were in 
August. That is, Secretary General Woerner and I both said, ``Let us not 
put this language back in unless we mean it. Let us clearly understand 
that we must mean it if we put it in this time.'' And they voted 
unanimously to put it in. And afterward several of them came to me 
privately and said, ``Of course, we have reservations about what happens 
to our troops, but we have reservations about what happens to our troops 
under the status quo, and we are prepared to go forward with this.''
    Q. Concerning Bosnia, can we say today that you and President 
Mitterrand are on the same wavelength; do you agree, no more bones of 
    The President. Yes. I've been a little surprised by the press 
reports that indicate to the contrary. I strongly supported President 
Mitterrand and Prime Minister Major's amendment adding Tuzla and 
Srebrenica to the resolution. I did not support substituting Tuzla and 
Srebrenica for the general commitment to use air power to relieve the 
siege of Sarajevo, for a very important reason. I think that it will be 
very hard for the U.N. mission to succeed. That is, keep in mind what 
the U.N. mission is doing, by the way, folks. We have the longest 
airlift in history there. We are trying to enforce the embargo. We are 
trying to enforce the no-fly zone. In other words, we are trying to 
contain the combat and the loss and trying to keep open humanitarian 
aid, hoping that we can all do something to convince all three sides 
that they have a real interest in stopping killing each other and taking 
whatever agreement they can get now.
    Now, I believe if Sarajevo is destroyed and cannot function as a 
center for all kinds of activities, it will be very difficult for the 
U.N. mission to succeed. The French and the British have troops on the 
ground there. They naturally have more reservation about the use of air 
power in response to the shelling of Sarajevo than nations that may not 
have troops on the ground there. I understand that. They agreed with my 
position, and I strongly agreed with theirs. I do not believe there is a 
difference of opinion between us on this policy now.

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    Q. The Ukrainian opposition is now saying that President Kravchuk 
does not have the authority to go ahead and sign an agreement, and 
there's also some sign from some Ukrainian officials who are saying that 
the terms of a final agreement are yet to be determined. How sure are 
you at this point that this deal will not fall apart?
    The President. Well, I believe President Kravchuk will honor the 
deal. They've already started to dismantle the missiles. And I think 
that the other thing that's very important to emphasize here is that 
this agreement guarantees compensation for Ukraine for their highly 
enriched uranium, something they have wanted and demanded. And so I 
think, as the details of it become known in the Rada, there will be more 
support for it.
    Let me just try to give you an American analogy here, if I might. 
It's not an exact analogy, but when President Bush signed the original 
NAFTA treaty--or when we approved the side agreements with the NAFTA, we 
didn't know at the time whether everybody in Congress would think it was 
a wonderful idea or ratify it or try to derail it. But we went through 
with it, and eventually the United States stood firm behind it. 
Executives often have to sell to their legislative branches what they 
know is in the national interest of their country.
    This agreement reached by President Kravchuk, I think, was reached 
with the full understanding in his mind that he would have to sell it 
but that it contained advantages for Ukraine far more than had 
previously been recognized. And I think, as they know more about the 
details and the facts, that he will prevail there. And I expect the 
agreement to stand up, because it's clearly in the interest of the 
country. They get far more than they give up on this.


    Q. Have you spoken with President Yeltsin about Bosnia, and does he 
agree with what you describe as a new resolve to deal with it?
    The President. No, we have not had this discussion. But last August 
when all this came up, the Russians knew that what we were doing was 
taking a position with regard to the use of air power that was clearly 
tied to behavior by the Bosnian Serbs. And at the time, and I think 
still, no one considered that the United Nations mission could proceed 
and could function if Sarajevo were completely destroyed. No one 
believed that. So I don't believe that anything that happened today, 
once fully understood--I'm sure we'll have the chance to talk about it 
in some detail--I don't believe that anything that happened today will 
undermine the understandings that we have with the Russians.
    Thank you very much.


    Q. [Inaudible]
    The President. I don't want to say that. What I'm trying to tell you 
is that that's why I said it was not an exact analogy. What I'm saying 
is that any time an executive makes a deal in any country in the world 
with a legislative branch, there are going to be people in the 
legislative branch who don't agree with it or who just don't know if 
they can agree with it until they know what the facts of it are. That's 
the only point I'm trying to make. I am not making any judgment about 
how the Ukrainian Government works but simply that this always happens. 
This shouldn't surprise anybody. This always happens. Every decision any 
executive makes is going to be second-guessed by people of the 
legislature. It's almost the way the system's set up.

Note: The President's 40th news conference began at 10:50 a.m. in the 
Joseph Luns Theatre at NATO Headquarters. In his remarks, he referred to 
Gen. George A. Joulwan, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe.