[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[May 13, 1998]
[Pages 743-747]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks Following Discussions With Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany and an Exchange With Reporters in Potsdam, 
May 13, 1998

    Chancellor Kohl. Mr. President, dear Bill, it is a great pleasure 
and a great honor for me to welcome the President of the United States 
to this historic place, and at this historic time, and to welcome him on 
behalf of the German people, on behalf of the German friends.
    We talked about this earlier today, and I tried to explain the 
importance of the day and the fact that you have come here today, after 
what's happened in the second half of our century. You, as the President 
of the United States of America, you've come here to also see to the 
reunited Germany. So it's not just one of similar events, not one of 
similar days, because when the last American President came to Potsdam, 
he came on the occasion of the Potsdam Conference in 1945, and at that 
time, Germany--and the chances of Germany belonging to the free nations 
of our continent--looked very bad. And this is last, but not least--the 
fact that we've been able to overcome that part of our

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history is something we owe last, but not least, to our American 
    Allow me to say that all American Presidents since Harry S. Truman, 
up to the present President, William Jefferson Clinton, by showing their 
support, by expressing their friendship, by extending the hand of 
partnership, have prepared the ground for German reunification.
    We have come together at an historic site, a site where the memory 
of Frederick the Great is very much alive. This is where he was buried. 
He was a man who enjoyed high esteem in the United States because he was 
an enlightened spirit, a cosmopolitan, literal-minded person. He was the 
first to sign the first Prussian trade and commerce agreement with the 
United States, then newly independent. So I think it is apt that we meet 
here today, on the threshold of the next century at a moment where we in 
Europe have taken decisions on the introduction of a single European 
currency, at a moment where we are about to build the European house, a 
house that is big enough for all European nations to have a room in it, 
but also a house--and that is very much a German wish--where our 
American friends will have a permanent right of residence.
    The American President, my friend Bill Clinton, when visiting 
Berlin, said, ``The Americans have come here, and they will stand by you 
today and forever.'' He said, ``America is on your side, now and 
forever.'' And I think that that is a practical expression of a policy 
that serves peace, that wants to establish freedom for all nations, that 
wants to offer opportunities for future generations to continue to live 
in peace and freedom. And that was the purpose of our talks today. We 
talked about the topical issues, about what is going on in the world 
right now, and we talked about how we can make a contribution to peace 
and freedom. This is also the purpose, Mr. President, of the many 
meetings that we have, more or less continuously. We talk on the phone; 
we meet very often. And I hope that that practice will continue.
    Once again, I bid you a very warm welcome, Mr. President.
    President Clinton. First let me thank the Chancellor for another 
opportunity to come to Germany to represent the United States and to 
enjoy his wonderful hospitality and the friendship that he has had for 
the American people and for me. I have particularly enjoyed having the 
opportunity to come to Potsdam today to talk about the next 50 years of 
history between the United States and Germany and a united Europe--a 
much different and more hopeful conversation than the one President 
Truman had here over 50 years ago.
    Before I say more about our discussions, I think it is important 
that I make a comment about the nuclear tests by India. I believe they 
were unjustified. They clearly create a dangerous new instability in 
their region. And as a result, in accordance with United States law, I 
have decided to impose economic sanctions against India.
    I have long supported deepening the relations between the United 
States and India. This is a deeply disappointing thing for me, 
personally. The First Lady and our 
daughter had a wonderful trip there; I have 
stayed in regular touch with the leaders of India for the last 5 years; 
I have looked forward to a very bright and different future. But the 
nuclear tests conducted by India, against the backdrop of 149 nations 
signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, demand an unambiguous 
response by the United States.
    It is important that we make clear our categorical opposition. We 
will ask other countries to do the same.
    I hope the Indian Government soon will realize that it can be a very 
great country in the 21st century without doing things like this. 
Chancellor Kohl and I just talked about our conversations and efforts 
with President Yeltsin. I'm hoping that the 
Russian Duma will soon ratify START II so we can go on to START III and 
continue to dramatically reduce the nuclear threat in the 21st century. 
It simply is not necessary for a nation that will soon be the world's 
most populous nation--it already has the world's largest middle class--
that has 50 years of vibrant democracy, a perfectly wonderful country, 
it is not necessary for them to manifest national greatness by doing 
this. It is a terrible mistake.
    I hope that India will instead take a different course now. I hope 
they will adhere without conditions to the Comprehensive Test Ban 
Treaty. And as I mentioned to the Pakistani Prime Minister, Mr. 
Sharif, today, I also urge India's neighbors 
not to follow the dangerous path India has taken. It is not necessary to 
respond to this in kind.

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    Now, let me say just a few other words about the relationship 
between the United States and Germany, about which Chancellor Kohl spoke 
so movingly. When I was here in 1994, we talked about our shared vision 
for a united Europe and a strong United States-European partnership in 
the 21st century. I think it's fair to say that the progress that has 
been made in the years since is greater than we would have imagined just 
4 years ago.
    Europe is increasingly integrating around the commitment to 
democracy, open markets, and security alliances. Europe's East is joined 
more closely than ever before to the West. Some of the most seemingly 
intractable conflicts on this continent, in Bosnia and Northern Ireland, 
are giving way to peace and cooperation. All that has happened in the 
last 4 years.
    And Chancellor, I believe that Europe has come so far in so little 
time in no small measure because of your leadership for German 
unification, for European Monetary Union, for freedom in free markets, 
and an undivided democratic Europe at peace. The world is in your debt, 
and America is pleased about the prospects for our common future because 
of what has happened.
    We talked a lot today about what we have to do now to continue this 
process of integration and to strengthen our transatlantic partnership. 
I'm delighted that both our countries have ratified the invitation of 
NATO to Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland to become our new 
members. I also believe the United States should continue to support 
other efforts at European unity, including EU enlargement, including the 
historic decision this month of 11 European countries including Germany 
to establish the European Monetary Union. A strong and stable Europe 
with open markets and healthy growth is good for the world, and it is 
certainly good for America.
    We also talked a lot about the importance of Russia and Ukraine; 
their success is critical to our future security. We strongly support 
Russian reform, and both of us are looking forward, as I indicated 
earlier, to talking to President Yeltsin in a 
few days in Birmingham.
    Finally, let me say we're quite concerned about the crisis in 
Kosovo. The news that President Milosevic 
and Dr. Rugova will meet this week to start a 
dialog without preconditions is a sober first step toward resolving a 
very dangerous conflict. And we want them to make good on their 
commitment to serious dialog.
    Let me just say one other thing. I want to thank the Chancellor for 
his emphasis and his urging to me to do more to promote people-to-people 
exchanges between the United States and Germany. That will be even more 
important as we enter the new century. I'm pleased the American Academy 
in Berlin will open its doors in the fall, bringing our artists and 
cultural leaders to Germany for study. I'm working closely with Congress 
to get the funds to begin construction of our new embassy in Berlin just 
as soon as possible, so that when the German Government takes up its 
work in Germany's new capital, it will have an American partner in place 
and ready to do business.
    Chancellor, thank you again for the warmth of your welcome and the 
depth of your friendship to the United States. I'm glad to be back.

Nuclear Proliferation in South Asia

    Q. Mr. President, President Clinton, the Indians have answered your 
warnings of yesterday with two more nuclear blasts today. What does that 
tell you about India's intentions and your ability to influence them?
    President Clinton. Well, I don't know about my ability to influence 
them. I just know what the United States law requires, and it's a very 
stiff sanctions law. It basically says, no more aid. It requires us to 
vote against aid for India in the International Monetary Fund and the 
World Bank and other international fora. It cuts off export credits and 
basically says we can't do anything but ship humanitarian supplies and 
food. And I think it's a very sad thing.
    But I don't think it's too complicated. I believe--they may think 
that their security requires this, but I think it's more likely, if you 
just listen to the rhetoric of the party in power, that they believe 
that they have been underappreciated in the world as a great power. And 
they think one reason may be that they're not an out-front, out-of-the-
closet, open nuclear power.
    Well, I think they've been underappreciated in the world and in the 
United States, myself. They're a very great country. And they will soon 
be the most populous country in the world. They already have the biggest 
middle class in the world. Indian-Americans have the highest level of 
education of any ethnic group in the United States.

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    But to think that you have to manifest your greatness by behavior 
that recalls the very worst events of the 20th century on the edge of 
the 21st century, when everybody else is trying to leave the nuclear age 
behind, is just wrong. It is just wrong. And they clearly don't need it 
to maintain their security vis-a-vis China, Pakistan, or anybody else.
    So I just think they made a terrible mistake. And I think that we, 
all of us, have a responsibility to say that and to say that their best 
days are ahead of them, but they can't--they have to define the 
greatness of India in 21st century terms, not in terms that everybody 
else has already decided to reject.
    Q. Mr. Chancellor, is Germany going to support sanctions against 
India and, if so, how?
    Chancellor Kohl. Well, we will take a very close look at the 
sanctions that individual countries are going to take, but there's no 
doubt whatsoever that the Federal Government--that is to say, that the 
Germans, who have been traditionally linked in a very close friendship 
with India and the Indian people, will make it very clear that this was 
the wrong decision for them to take, that we do not accept that 
decision, and that we do not see any reason that would justify such a 
decision and that we are deeply concerned about the positive effect that 
this decision might have in a region that is already marked by tensions.
    The objective of an international peace policy must be to reduce 
tensions and not to increase tensions. This decision will make a 
contribution to increasing tensions in the region because it, too, is in 
a way a direct challenge to the neighboring countries, whether justified 
or not, but the neighboring countries might react.
    Q. Mr. President, how long do you expect the sanctions to remain in 
place against India? What would it take to lift them? And finally, if 
Pakistan were to undertake its own nuclear tests, would the United 
States feel obliged to impose sanctions against it?
    President Clinton. If you look at the law as it has been in place 
since 1994, I believe, we actually have no discretion. In order to lift 
the sanctions, as I read the law, Congress would have to vote to do it. 
And the only thing I could do in the Indian situation, for example, is 
to delay--or any other similar situation--if a nondeclared nuclear state 
undertakes nuclear testing, under our law the President must impose 
sweeping sanctions immediately or delay for up to 30 days to see if 
something can be worked out. But even if that happens, the President--
unlike most of our laws, the President does not have the power to waive. 
I can just delay for 30 days, during which time the Congress would then 
have the opportunity to repeal the sanctions or revise them in some way.
    And so, I can't answer any of your questions until I have a chance, 
A, to consult with Congress and, B, to see what the next steps are with 
    Q. Mr. President, did you talk about Turkey?
    President Clinton. [Inaudible]--but we have before, but not this 
    Q. Mr. President, there's been a lot of criticism of the U.S. 
intelligence community and whether or not we knew beforehand of the 
first series of nuclear tests. Did we know beforehand of this second 
series of nuclear tests? If not, what does that say? If we did, were we 
powerless? And in your conversations with the Pakistani Prime Minister, 
do you have any reason to believe that they will not now follow suit?
    President Clinton. Well, that's a lot of questions. Let me say, 
first of all, on the intelligence question, before this round of tests 
started, I did not know it was going to start. And I made that clear to 
all the other people in the region. I don't ever discuss our 
intelligence operations, and I won't now. I will say that I've asked 
Director Tenet for a thorough review of 
    Now, on the Pakistani question, let me say, I had a very good, 
respectful conversation with Prime Minister Sharif. He has tried in the past to reduce tensions between 
India and Pakistan. I encouraged him to stay on that path. I encouraged 
him to resist the temptation to respond to an irresponsible act in kind.
    I understand the pressures on him at home are probably enormous. You 
can just imagine how the public feels about it in Pakistan and the kind 
of ripple, traumatic effect this is having in their country. So I can't 
say for sure what is going to happen. I can only tell you that we had 
what I thought was a very good and respectful conversation, and I hope 
that neither Pakistan nor any other country will respond in kind to 

Middle East Peace Process

    Q. Do you blame Netanyahu for the deadlock in the peace process in 
the Middle East?

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    President Clinton. Well, my experience in these things, which is 
mounting up now, indicates that the public placement of blame is not 
very productive if what you really want to do is get the parties to talk 
    Let me tell you what the facts are. Fifteen months ago we were asked 
by Prime Minister Netanyahu to explore 
whether or not there was some way we could facilitate, if you will, an 
acceleration of the Oslo process, which was embodied in the peace 
signing in September of '93 in Washington, to move, more or less, 
immediately to final status talks between the Palestinians and the 
    He pointed out that a lot of these 
issues were highly contentious, especially for his government, and it 
would be better to make--to put them all together in one big package and 
try to make--have as few votes as possible to ratify the process. And I, 
frankly, thought he had a good idea. I thought it then, and I think it 
    And for a year and some odd months, we have worked very hard to try 
to find a formula which will enable the parties to take one more step in 
the process started at Oslo, and then go to final status talks. In other 
words, we haven't tried to find a formula to resolve all the issues; 
we've tried to find a formula to get them over the hurdle to get into 
final status talks. We came up with a set of ideas. In principle, but 
not in all the details, but in principle, Mr. Arafat accepted them. Mr. Netanyahu was not in a position to do so. He went home to 
Israel; he asked Mr. Ross, my Middle East 
Ambassador, to go out there and talk to him. He did. He's coming back 
now; he's on his way, or he may already be in the United States. 
Secretary Albright has stayed behind. 
They will talk some more.
    I'm hoping that we can find an agreement based on the ideas we've 
presented which will enable these two parties to get together and go 
into final status talks.
    I think, frankly, there is still some mistrust between them. And I 
think, frankly, there is still some difference of calculation among some 
of the actors in the Middle East drama about whether they are or are not 
benefited by a delay, by a stall. I can only tell you that I have seen a 
lot of doors open and close in the last 5\1/2\ years, and my view is 
that it is neither in Israel's nor the Palestinian Authority's interest 
to promote delay; that far more bad things are likely to happen than 
good things by a deliberate strategy of delay.
    So I'm hoping that we'll be able to unlock this problem and worry 
about responsibility in the future and get results now.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 3:48 p.m. on the terrace of 
Sans Souci Gardens. In his remarks, he referred to President Boris 
Yeltsin of Russia; Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan; President 
Slobodan Milosevic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and 
Montenegro); Ibrahim Rugova, leader, Democratic League of Kosovo; Prime 
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel; and Chairman Yasser Arafat of the 
Palestinian Authority. Chancellor Kohl spoke in German, and his remarks 
were translated by an interpreter. A portion of these remarks could not 
be verified because the tape was incomplete.