[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[February 28, 1995]
[Pages 276-281]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Wim Kok of
The Netherlands
February 28, 1995

    The President. Please be seated. Welcome. It's indeed a pleasure to 
welcome Prime Minister Kok to the White House. Since the days of our 
Revolutionary War when The Netherlands gave shelter to John Paul Jones' 
ships, The Netherlands has consistently been one of our most valued and 
trusted allies.
    I also have warm personal recognition, Mr. Prime Minister, of your 
country. I last visited it a few years ago when I was Governor of 
Arkansas, and I hope I have a chance to visit it again. In the 
meanwhile, I'm glad we had the opportunity to return the hospitality 
    The Prime Minister comes here at a very important time, when we are 
seeking to work together to meet the challenges of the post-cold-war 
era. One of the most vital issues we discussed is the effort to build a 
more integrated, more secure Europe, to ensure that democracy and 
prosperity grow strong in the years ahead. We reaffirmed our intention 
to press

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ahead with the enlargement of NATO to include Europe's new democracies.
    The Netherlands is playing a leading role in building bridges to 
these new democracies. It was the first NATO nation to host a 
Partnership For Peace exercise on its own soil, something for which we 
are very appreciative.
    We also agreed that in parallel with this expansion NATO must 
develop close and strong ties with Russia. We share a vision of European 
security that embraces a democratic Russia.
    The Prime Minister and I discussed a broad range of issues, 
including our interest in continuing to expand trade between our two 
nations. Not many people know just how rich our partnership is. The 
Netherlands is our eighth largest trading partner. And the Dutch people 
obviously think the American economy is a good bet because they have 
invested more in the United States than anyone except Britain and Japan. 
I hope this trading relationship will continue to grow with our 
friendship in the years ahead.
    During our talks, we also agreed on the importance of indefinite 
extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to prevent the spread 
of nuclear weapons. We reviewed our joint efforts in the Caribbean where 
we are working together to combat narcotics trafficking.
    I want to thank the Prime Minister and all the people of The 
Netherlands, especially, for the support they have given to our common 
efforts to restore democracy in Haiti, a truly remarkable success story 
to date. No other European nation has been as forthcoming at every stage 
of this endeavor, from sending ships for sanctions enforcement, to the 
police monitors in the multinational force, to the Dutch Marines, who 
are part of the U.N. mission. Like their involvement in the peacekeeping 
in the former Yugoslavia, this vital help to the people of Haiti writes 
yet another chapter in the great Dutch tradition of supporting 
humanitarian relief efforts and human rights around the world.
    When I spoke 2 weeks ago at the Iwo Jima Memorial commemoration, I 
admired once again the wonderful gift that The Netherlands gave us in 
thanks in part for our part in liberating their country in World War II, 
the wonderful Netherlands Carillon. Today, I want to thank the Prime 
Minister and the people of The Netherlands for renovating and updating 
the Carillon, which is now receiving a 50th bell. This is the gift that 
I have here. Now, as the Prime Minister reminded me, some of the bells 
are as big as he and I are. But this 50th bell, which I assure you--it's 
been over in the Oval Office for a day or so, and we have all lifted it. 
It's quite heavy and quite wonderful, and we thank him for this.
    Bells have rung out the news of victory and liberty for centuries. 
As we move forward to meet the challenges of this new century, it is 
fitting that we and our Dutch friends will be reminded of the common 
cause we shared 50 years ago by the sound of this beautiful new bell. 
May it also be sounding 50 years from now and even beyond.
    Mr. Prime Minister.
    Prime Minister Kok. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Let me, 
first of all, express my gratitude and the gratitude of Minister for 
Foreign Affairs Van Mierlo to be here. Having been here at this official 
working visit, this visit underlined once and again the close links and 
the excellent cooperation and relation between our two countries, both 
on a bilateral basis and also in the international framework. And so I 
want to thank you for that occasion.
    You said a few words about this bell. Indeed, this is one of the 
smallest ones we have, but it's number 50, number 50 on a row. And this 
symbolizes, with the words ``Freedom'' and ``Friendship'' on it, it 
symbolizes how grateful we still are and ever remain for the way in 
which the United States and the United States soldiers participated in 
liberating our continent, liberating our country. And I will be proud to 
see and to hear from far away, from in The Netherlands when, on the 5th 
of May of this year----
    The President. We will ring----
    Prime Minister Kok. ----at the day where, 50 years ago, The 
Netherlands were freed, that the bells will ring, all the bells will 
ring, and that symbolizes then, again, our friendship.
    Coming back to the main purpose of our talks and our visits, the 
President indicated the subjects that have been discussed. I think we 
live in a world where cooperation, partnership, and leadership is more 
necessary than ever before. In this world, we in The Netherlands 
participate in European cooperation. We want to strengthen the European 
Union. We want to expand the European Union. We want to offer 
perspective to the peoples of the Central and Eastern European countries 
that they can be part of our integrated European Union. And we want to

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work on the security architecture together with the United States.
    We are convinced--Europeans--but I'm even more convinced that 
without transatlantic cooperation, European integration at the end will 
not be successful. So we need each other. We need the United States in 
that role, and we want to strengthen our identity in Europe also in this 
field, foreign policy, security policy, but together with the United 
    And I want to end by saying that especially in this time, the role 
in which you, Mr. President, use the word ``leadership,'' the way in 
which you are prepared to take the lead in going the way into the right 
direction in the universal context is impressive and encouraging, 
because we need each other. We need strong and good cooperation between 
Europe and the United States. We need leadership.
    Sometimes I'm a little bit concerned about tendencies in American 
society where you get the impression--but I'm only here for a few days--
you get the impression that there is a certain tendency towards 
isolationism, stepping somewhat back from the international scene. And 
that would be very riskful, to put it mildly. That would be very 
riskful, because responsibility and leadership is a necessity now and 
    Thank you very much.
    The President. We'll begin with one question from an American 
journalist, and then we'll alternate between the American and the Dutch 
journalists who are here.


    Q. Mr. President, what can you tell us about the presence or 
nonpresence of missiles at the opening of the Persian Gulf?
    The President. I can tell you that basically what General 
Shalikashvili said is accurate, and it's a situation that we're 
monitoring very closely. The missiles are rather old. As you know, 
they've been here for some time, in the possession of the Iranians. And 
we are monitoring them, trying to evaluate exactly everything we need to 
know about them. But we're on top of the situation, and we think there 
is no undue cause for concern at this moment.

United Nations Peacekeeping

    Q. I have a question for the Prime Minister and the President. 
First, the President. The Prime Minister has expressed deep concern 
about the debate in this city of scaling down the American contribution 
to U.N. peacekeeping operations. Especially the Republicans are pushing 
hard this idea. But when it comes to this point, who is responsible, 
though, the Republicans on Capitol Hill, or the President of the United 
    And to the Prime Minister: Which Washington did you like the best, 
the Washington of Dole, who you met yesterday, or the Washington of 
President Bill Clinton?
    Prime Minister Kok. I will have to think about my answer. So, first, 
perhaps the President. [Laughter]
    The President. You asked him the right question in the wrong way, so 
I'll try to fill up some time so he thinks of a clever answer. 
    Well, let me say our Congress has voted already. It's a matter of 
American law to reduce our peacekeeping contribution from 31 percent 
down to 25 percent, more in line with our world share of GDP, although 
it's smaller than that.
    Nonetheless--and that was done before the last elections. And it was 
a part of an agreement I reached with the Congress that at least secured 
the money that we owed when I became President in back debts to the U.N. 
The United States was the biggest debtor to the U.N. We owed money, and 
I was trying to get the money and trying to move forward.
    Now, we have been very active in supporting reforms of U.N. 
practices, in which I think we are in accord with, with The Netherlands 
on that. And we wanted to pay our dues, and we want to stay active in 
peacekeeping--at least our administration does. I appreciated what the 
Prime Minister said. A lot of Americans are understandably concerned 
about their own problems in the economic and other challenges we have 
here at home. But we cannot afford to walk away from not only the 
obligations but the opportunities to work together with other countries 
to solve problems before they get more severe and before the United 
States could be dragged in at greater costs in treasure and in human 
    So I very much support the comments the Prime Minister made. I have 
tried to keep the United States actively engaged with Europe, with Asia, 
with Latin America, and indeed with the entire globe in pursuing an 
aggressive strategy of promoting democracy and freedom and peace and 
prosperity. And that will continue to be my policy. It is a policy that 
under our

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Constitution I can pursue as long as I am the President. But the 
Congress does have the ability to appropriate or fail to appropriate 
money. That is their job under our Constitution.
    So that will answer most of your questions when you think about 
these conflicts coming up and what the United States can and cannot do. 
If I have a difference of opinion with them, if it relates to the 
appropriation of money, that's their first job. If it relates to the 
conduct of foreign policy under the Constitution, that's my primary job.
    Prime Minister Kok. Now comes a difficult question. Well, let me 
tell you this. I'm not here to compare. I'm here to listen and to 
debate. And I'm grateful that the President of the United States 
explains his policies and his position in the way he did in our meeting.
    In addition to this, I want to say this: We, to a certain extent, 
also see in other parts of the world, including The Netherlands, these 
tendencies of--in the period where the old enemy, communism, is not 
there anymore, after the cold war--certain tendency where perhaps a 
responsibility for international solutions of international problems is 
not always put high enough on the agenda. So it's not just an American 
discussion. Of course, in America, the discussion is more important than 
elsewhere because of the size of your country, you're a continent in 
itself, and because of the consequences if the United States would 
abstain from playing that active and prominent role.
    So the lesson I draw from this short visit, and also from the short 
meeting yesterday with Senator Dole, is that we have to discuss and 
debate much more also with the Republicans, because I could imagine that 
quite some Senators and Members of the House are just a little bit 
unaware of the responsibility that has to be taken in order to solve the 
number of huge international problems.
    Perhaps some Senators and Members of the House are not fully aware 
of what is the real situation in former Yugoslavia, what the situation, 
for example, of Dutch troops, Blue Helmets, is, and what the 
consequences would be of a unilateral arms embargo lift, where of course 
we here again today heard that the American President would not agree 
    But I think this type of debate, of debate with the Americans, also 
the Americans from the Republican side, is necessary. And I'm ready with 
my government to invest also in that type of contact, because the 
wrongest solution for problems is drawing your back to each other. We 
have to discuss. And I'm glad, as I said before, that between the 
President of the U.S. and the Dutch Government there's a close 
similarity in view, vision, and perspective.
    Q. Mr. President----
    The President. One, two, three. I'll get to all of you. Go ahead. 

Balanced Budget Amendment

    Q. Virtually every major economist, with the exception of Milton 
Friedman, has said, in effect, that the balanced budget amendment is, in 
effect, a crackpot idea that could bring back the kinds of policies that 
triggered the Great Depression. Yet it seems to be benefiting from a 
political stampede on Capitol Hill. How do you account----
    The President. Not yet, hasn't passed yet. It's hanging in the 
    Q. If it does pass in the Senate later today, will you lead a 
campaign to block ratification by the States?
    The President. Well, first of all, I will say--I will keep on saying 
what I've been saying. The only argument for it is the argument that 
many people who helped to create the problem we've got are making, which 
is that we can't help ourselves unless the Constitution makes us make a 
    We never had a chronic deficit problem before 1981. Our country was 
not into the business of permanent deficits, although we slipped into--
we were undisciplined in the seventies, but not chronically so. Then in 
'81 and '82, and then again in '86 we made a series of decisions which 
gave us a permanent deficit. That needs to be corrected. We've made 
major steps in the last 2 years in correcting it.
    The American people are right to want it corrected. But if we solve 
the so-called structural deficit problem, the permanent deficit problem, 
with the balanced budget amendment, then the next time we have a 
recession, it could make it much worse. That's why all the economists of 
all political stripes are against it.
    And I'll just keep making that point and keep urging the 
Republicans--tomorrow, what happens tomorrow, however this vote comes 
out today? I've been here 770 days, and I want the members of the other 
party to propose and vote for something that will reduce the deficit. 
That has not happened yet. And I want them

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to work with me. I will work with them in good faith to do more. That's 
what we ought--that's what the people hired us to do. They want us to 
make the decisions. If we do that, we can demonstrate that the amendment 
is not needed, but that we must get rid of this sort of permanent 
deficit that we built into our economy starting in the early eighties.

United Nations Peacekeeping

    Q. Mr. President, I have a question on balanced budget of the United 
Nations. The obvious question of your leadership in foreign policy will 
be whether you will veto that nation that will diminish contribution to 
a U.N. peacekeeping. Will you do that?
    The President. First of all, it's already in our law that we 
cannot--that we must ratchet down our contributions on a regular basis. 
Now, we also do other things, like what we did in Haiti with the 
multinational force, that we don't believe should be counted against 
that. But I will do everything I can to keep the United States involved 
in the United Nations in peacekeeping and to keep us supporting an 
active role in the world.
    I believe the American people understand that we're better off 
having these burdens shared with all the nations of the world, trying to 
nip these problems in the bud and that if we walk away, as some suggest 
we should in our Congress, and don't spend any money on this, all we're 
going to do is make the world's problems worse, make other countries 
behave in a more irresponsible way, and wind up dragging American 
soldiers and American wealth into deeper and deeper problems that could 
be avoided if we have a responsible, disciplined approach to burden 
sharing and peacekeeping. So that's what I'm going to try to do.


    Q. I wonder if you've had a chance to talk about the sanctions 
against Iraq and whether or not there's a sense out there that the 
international community is willing to stand with the U.S. to keep them 
in place, especially because of what we're hearing from Russia and 
France on pulling back.
    The President. Actually, we did not discuss that today.
    Prime Minister Kok. No.
    The President. You know what my position is. My position is that 
there are a whole set of rules that Iraq must comply with before the 
sanctions could be lifted, and they haven't been. They shouldn't be 
lifted. That's what my position is.

``Apache'' Helicopters

    Q. Mr. President, did you convince the Dutch Prime Minister that The 
Netherlands should buy the Apache helicopter? [Laughter] And Prime 
Minister, have you already made a decision after your talks with the 
    The President. Well, maybe I can let him off the hook. He said that 
the decision had not been made, and I reaffirmed my conviction about two 
things: one, the high quality of the American helicopters, and second, 
the importance of having very good and interoperable equipment for NATO 
allies generally. I made the appropriate points in the appropriate way. 
The Prime Minister listened, made some good responses and made it clear 
that no decision had been made yet.

Bosnia and Croatia

    Q. Did you assure the Prime Minister that the U.S. would take part 
in any possible withdrawal of U.N. peacekeepers from Croatia, if 
    The President.  Croatia and what?
    Q. Croatia with U.S. troops? Would U.S. troops help bring them out, 
if necessary?
    The President. Let me, first of all, say, we did not discuss that 
explicitly. You know, the United States has--I guess we ought to get 
this clear--the United States has committed explicitly and has a plan 
for helping on the troops in Bosnia. And one of the reasons that the 
Dutch have been so strong in believing we should not unilaterally lift 
the arms embargo is that they have troops in and around Srebrenica, I 
    Prime Minister Kok. Right.
    The President. And perhaps the most vulnerable of all of the United 
Nations troops are the Dutch. They have really been brave. They've stuck 
their necks out. They have prevented much more bloodshed and saved a lot 
of lives. And that's why they're against the unilateral lift of the arms 
embargo, because they know what could happen not only to their own 
troops but, if they are compelled to withdraw, what could happen in that 
fragile area. And we all remember it wasn't so long ago when that whole 
area was given up for lost and now hasn't been.

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    Now, we have gone through that. We're still doing our best to 
preserve the U.N. mission and presence in Croatia. We may not be able to 
persuade President Tudjman and his government to do that. We have, 
therefore, not articulated a clear position. Obviously, we feel a great 
obligation to all of our allies who are in UNPROFOR who are in 
vulnerable positions. But I want to say that we have not at this moment 
explicitly embraced a plan, consulted with the congressional leadership, 
and ratified it. But obviously, we are just as concerned about the U.N. 
forces in Croatia as those in Bosnia, but the decisionmaking process is 
at a different point.

Foreign Policy

    Q. The Prime Minister is very concerned about what he perceives as 
isolationist tendencies in American society. Do you share those 
concerns? Do you think there is a danger that the United States may 
abdicate its role as a world leader?
    The President. Yes, I share the concerns. No, I don't think the 
United States will abdicate its role as a world leader. I share the 
concerns because--for two reasons: One is, a lot of our people here know 
that the cold war is over, know that most Americans have worked hard for 
more than a decade now without any appreciable increase in their living 
standards, and would like to see us focus on our problems here at home 
in ways that make progress on our economic and social problems.
    I believe that we have to make progress on our economic and social 
problems, but I don't believe that over the long run we can really solve 
our own problems at home unless we are also operating in a world that's 
more peaceful, more democratic, and more prosperous. The only way a 
wealthy country like The Netherlands or the United States grows 
wealthier is if there is growth in the world, and we trade into it, and 
we work our way into it.
    So we have a very clear personal interest that does not permit us to 
be isolationists. And if we--we could get away with being isolationists 
for a couple of years, and then pretty soon we'd be spending even more 
of our money on military involvement, cleaning up foreign problems and 
dealing with the consequences of our neglect.
    So I believe that we will resolve these tensions and debates by 
reaffirming America's leadership in the world. And that is my 
determination. That is what I'm committed to doing and why I'm so 
grateful for the Prime Minister's presence here in the United States and 
for his words and for the leadership and the example that The 
Netherlands have set in this area.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President's 87th news conference began at 12:55 p.m. in the 
Cross Hall at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to President 
Franjo Tudjman of Croatia.