U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #4, 00-01-19
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Wednesday, January 19, 2000
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1-3 US will judge Acting President Putin by his actions, not his
history. US will similarly judge Duma by its legislative actions.
2,5 Profound US disagreements over Chechnya continue.
4-5 New security doctrine not a major departure from 1997 document.
14 Potential spill-over of Chechnya conflict into Georgia and
Azerbaijan a concern of US.
14 US continues to believe dialogue with rebels in best way to resolve
1,3 Deputy Secretary Talbott met with Foreign Minister Singh in London.
3-4 US believes UNSYG Annan's nomination of Rolf Ekeus for UNMOVIC is a
5-6,8,9-10,13 Chairman Arafat will meet President Clinton tomorrow
afternoon; Secretary Albright will also host lunch for
him. Working-level bilateral meetings will take place
also. February deadline for a framework agreement is a
goal for achieving progress. Meetings with Chariman will
discuss status of peace process,.
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
6-10,12 US made judgment that it would not be fruitful to return to
Shepherdstown today, and that an alternative method was needed to
get parties' needs met simultaneously. Plan is for one of the
parties to come to US to work on US draft; then for other party to
come to US following week to work on draft. Working-level February
trip to Middle East a possibility. Parties have tough choices to
make. US not going into details on withdrawal in public.
10 Possible visit of Elian Gonzalez's grandmothers discussed with
Cuban Government Jan. 17.
10 Khalil Deek current under legal proceedings in Jordanian courts.
NATIONAL MISSILE DEFENSE
11-12,13 Failed test last evening combined interceptor with new
radar to guide it, along with a new battle management
system. Decision on deployment scheduled to be made this
summer. Many US allies have serious questions about this
13-14 Visit of Crown Prince is private. Bahrain is a key US ally in
region. Secretary Albright is hosting a lunch for him today.
14 US had excellent working relationship with Chancellor Kohl during
his term in office.
15 Crime, corruption issues were discussed bilaterally in Washington
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 19, 2000, 12:42 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. We put out a
statement, I believe yesterday, about Secretary Albright's travel at the
end of the month to Russia and Switzerland. We have a statement after the
briefing on the seizure of heroin in Thailand and on the meetings between
Deputy Secretary Talbott and India's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh.
With those notices, let me go directly to your questions. Mr. Schweid of
the Associated Press, why don't you start?
QUESTION: The Associated Press - and I'm sure other reputable news
organizations - have been carrying stories about an alliance, for want of a
better word, between Mr. Putin's supporters and the communists in the
Russian parliament. And I guess I still hear echoes of the Secretary
yesterday calling Putin one of Russia's leading reformers, although she did
say the administration is not starry-eyed.
We know in this country politics makes strange bedfellows, but do you think
she wants to redraft her description of Mr. Putin?
MR. RUBIN: Well, having also heard what she said yesterday, I think the
point she was making is accurate, which is that there are different strands
to Mr. Putin's history. And what we have said about the Acting President is
that we are going to judge him by his actions, not his history, because in
his history you find, on the one hand, him having been a KGB authority and,
on the other hand, him having been associated and working very closely
with some of the leading reformers in the Russian political system,
including the mayor of St. Petersburg and including Mr. Chubias.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - a bit of corruption charges --
MR. RUBIN: That's a different point, and if you'd like me to address
QUESTION: No, no, your point is still well taken.
MR. RUBIN: -- I could give you 15 minutes on corruption. But my point is
that there is different strains in his background. And so the question is
what will he do, and what will happen in his interaction with the Duma.
We're going to judge the Duma and the Russian political system by the
legislation they pass and the actions they take, not by the purported
alignments which would require us to make judgments about the internal
domestic politics of Russia.
What we will do is judge the Duma's actions by whether they are sound in
the direction of economic reform, whether they are sound in terms of their
foreign policies. We may disagree with many of them. It's no secret that
the United States and Russia have had disagreements, strong disagreements
on certain foreign policies. Certainly with respect to Chechnya and acting
President Putin's leadership of the Chechnya policy, we have profound
disagreements. We are deeply disturbed by the intensification of fighting
in Grozny. We are deeply concerned about the impact of this intensified
fighting on innocent civilians, most of whom are too scared or too old or
too injured to flee to safeties.
And these kind of reports only reinforce our view, and our view which is in
disagreement with Mr. Putin, and certainly Secretary Albright has been at
the forefront of those who have demonstrated that disagreement including, I
might add, in authorizing lower level officials to meet with the
representative last week, something that was strongly objected to by
Mr. Putin's government.
So I think it's fair to say that we are going to have an open mind on
legislation and on Mr. Putin's domestic policies pending the decisions on
what those policies are, and we're not going to judge those policies based
on previous background he may have in either the KGB or in his work in St.
QUESTION: Sure. We had a President who ran the CIA, and going to work for
the KGB was not necessarily considered a bad thing for people to do in
But about today's arrangement, I mean two days of protests now about a
deal. You have had - the administration has had experience - I can't use
the phrase "dealing with" but, you know, hoping for something out of the
Duma that, in the thrall of communists and nationalists just simply didn't
develop, including the START treaties - you know the promise today.
I mean, isn't it ominous that the communists would have a major role again,
apparently with the approval of Putin's backers? Doesn't that harbor ill
MR. RUBIN: Well, the communists have had a major role in the --
QUESTION: Yes, they've had the experience. You know what it means.
MR. RUBIN: And during that time, there have been some steps forward on
reform and some failure to take steps forward. The fact that the communists
have a role in the Duma does not mean that Mr. Putin is unable to move
forward on his stated support for continued economic reforms and
strengthening democratic institutions in Russia. We will have to see. We're
going to judge Mr. Putin and the Duma by its actions and not by the
maneuvering that created the current structure.
QUESTION: Just really quickly, the India thing that you mentioned with
Talbott, does that have to do with some kind of a terrorism coordination?
You don't have to read it. I just --
MR. RUBIN: I think it does not have any dramatic development in that
regard. It indicates that there were several issues discussed, including
the recent hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814, counter-terrorism
issues and other global issues.
QUESTION: The reason I asked that was because the Indian Foreign Ministry
has put out a statement saying the US and India have agreed to some kind of
MR. RUBIN: Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism, which will hold its
first meeting in Washington in early February.
QUESTION: I just wanted to know if that was in it.
MR. RUBIN: I never realized my words had such a direct reaction on some
QUESTION: Yesterday, Kofi Annan's nomination for the Iraqi arms
inspection position ran into trouble. I'm wondering if you anything more to
say about that today then you did yesterday.
MR. RUBIN: Yes. The United States does support Secretary General Annan's
work and welcomes his nomination of Ambassador Ekeus for the post of
Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC. We believe that both the Secretary General
and his nominee deserve the support of the entire council.
Since the beginning of this selection process, we've been focused on
qualifications rather than names. We articulated many weeks ago objective
criteria including technical disarmament expertise, independence,
professional and managerial ability, as the only acceptable basis for this
choice. We have not made our agreement conditional on the selection of a
particular candidate and are interested in a qualified nominee. In our view,
given his background, Ambassador Ekeus is superbly suited to the task of
launching UNMOVIC and performing the disarmament mission.
In Resolution 1284, the Security Council asked Secretary General Annan to
undertake many complex tasks related to Iraq. In our view, it is important
that council members now support him as he begins to carry out these tasks,
and we find it particularly ironic that some of the council members who
advocated most strongly for the Secretary General to have a strong role in
this process are the very members who are challenging his judgment in
recommending Ambassador Ekeus.
We expect consultations among council members to continue with the aim to
reach a consensus on Ambassador Ekeus. We don't know how long this will
take. We don't see the need or the wisdom and needlessly delayed process.
Delay will only mean the delay in the potential implementation of this
resolution. It's an important choice, and we think it's important to get
this choice right.
Finally on this matter, we think it is unwise in the extreme for countries
to allow Iraq to have veto power over what the Security Council and the
Secretary General's decisions are in the area of arms control for Iraq.
That will only be a prescription for problems. Let's bear in mind that Iraq,
had they been cooperative, would have gotten out from under the sanctions
regime a long, long time ago. If we only allow Iraq to make the decisions
as some seem to want, we are putting the whole system on its head,
and we're never going to get the disarmament that the resolutions
QUESTION: So are you suggesting then that the French and the Russians are
acting on stooges of Iraq and their opposition and the Chinese as well,
although their opposition is not as strong.
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm making a couple of general points, and I'm making
the first point that certainly there were several countries, including
those you mentioned, who made a strong case for a strong role for the
Secretary General. The Secretary General has now made a decision, and we
think in this regard it behooves member states to respect that decision and
to try to work with the Secretary General, especially those countries that
are constantly urging others to work with the Secretary General; that when
they are not satisfied with his choices, it might be wise to give
him the benefit of the doubt.
Secondly, Iraq has rejected Ekeus. And what I'm saying is that Iraq's
rejection of Ekeus, in our view, should not be as significant a factor. If
Iraq had its way, sanctions would be lifted now.
QUESTION: But are you saying that the Russians and the French are - are
you suggesting that the Russians and the French are opposed simply because
Baghdad said no?
MR. RUBIN: Well, you have to ask them what their reasons are.
QUESTION: Back to Russia.
MR. RUBIN: Sure.
QUESTION: One of the things that Putin already has done is to release a
new security doctrine, a military security doctrine, and it is said to be
more confrontational than was perhaps believed before and seems to lower
the threshold for possible nuclear action. Do you have any comment on this
doctrine and how this factors into your analysis about what kind of leader
he is or he is going to be?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. We have reviewed the new Russian national security
strategy and do not believe that it represents a significant major
departure from Russia's concept issued in 1997 or that it makes the use of
nuclear weapons more likely. Russian doctrine has rejected no-first-use of
nuclear weapons since the mid-1990s. So the fact that they're contemplating
the first use of nuclear weapons, there's nothing new there.
Both the 1997 and 2000 national security concept assert the right to use
available forces and assets, including nuclear, if all other measures of
resolving the crisis situation have been exhausted and have proven
The US and Russia hold regular discussions on this matter. We're going to
discuss this with them. We try to develop better understanding of each
side's nuclear doctrine. And I think it's fair to say that we recognize
that there have been some adjustments in the wording, but in terms of a
major departure going from, say, no-first-use to first-use, we think that
isn't what happened here. They have always retained that right.
QUESTION: Thank you Mr. Rubin. Grozny has become a blood bath. Apparently
the Russians are trying to take the city, to possess the city. Is it
consistent with our policy that the Russians should have free reign in
their military strategy to take Grozny, hold it, and apparently then, after
that, we can maybe expect some negotiations?
What can you say about that?
MR. RUBIN: I think in response to one of your colleague's questions I
indicated that we were disturbed by the escalating offensive in Grozny. It
is not our policy to let Russian forces do whatever they want and then
negotiate. We have made very clear our strong opposition to the path Russia
has chosen in seeking to deal with a problem that we recognize is real,
which is the terrorist problem, but the path they've chosen we've had
major problems with.
We have discussed those problems directly. We've met with officials from
Chechnya who discussed with us the humanitarian, human rights and military
problems. We have a different view than Russia so, no, it's not our policy
to let Russia do what it wants.
QUESTION: If I can switch to the Middle East, I wanted to know your
expectations for Arafat's visit tomorrow. It's not going to be the three-
way with Barak that had been anticipated. In light of that, what do you
think might come of it? I assume Secretary Albright will be participating
in some fashion.
MR. RUBIN: Right. Yes, I think in response to many questions at our
favorite city, Shepherdstown, I indicated that I wouldn't rule out the
possibility of a three-way. I think that I was - at least I was - very
clear that it wasn't yet an expected event or even an anticipated event, if
you'll allow me that slight distinction.
With respect to what we anticipate from this event, the President will be
meeting with Chairman Arafat in the afternoon; Secretary Albright will be
hosting a lunch for him at her home in Georgetown. I think it will be a one-
on-one lunch. We believe it's very important to talk to Chairman Arafat
about his concerns and his assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian track and
the importance of making progress on that track if we're going to meet the
stated goal of a February, mid-February, framework agreement.
I think, in a sense, it will be a stock-taking session to try to see how
far we've come and how far we have to go if we're going to meet those
goals. There will also be a round of subcommittee meetings of the US-
Palestinian Bilateral Committee on Friday, January 21st, to review progress
since the last round of meetings. They will be chaired by, on the
Palestinian side, Nabil al-Sha'ath and, on our side, by the estimable
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Tony Verstaendig. They will talk about
economic issues, improving investment climate, some political issues as
part of the building of a stronger, deeper relationship between the
United States and the Palestinian Authority.
So, in broad terms, that is what the President and the Secretary will do
during the course of his visit.
QUESTION: One other follow-on. Is there any thought that the Secretary
might go to Syria after Moscow, her trip next week? Has there been any
progress in getting the Syrians back, and is that one way you might do
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that where we are now is that we made a judgment as
the mediators that it would not be fruitful to return to Shepherdstown and
begin discussions today. We concluded that since both sides had indicated
their determination to deal with their issue of concern and have that dealt
with and resolved first, that we wouldn't have been able to achieve much.
And we decided that we needed to develop an alternative method to
enable the parties to get their needs met in a simultaneous fashion.
The parties did indicate that they would have come here if we had insisted,
but we made the judgment that that would not have been the most fruitful
way to proceed.
I think Secretary Albright and Joe Lockhart indicated that the President
spoke to President Asad yesterday. The Secretary has had a couple of calls
with Foreign Minister Shara in the last several days.
What the plan now is, is that later in this week or in about a week's time,
we'll have one of the parties come to the United States and work with us on
the draft, and then the following week the other party will come to the
United States and work with us on the draft, at which point we will be in a
better position to assess where we go.
At this time, I can not confirm any planned trip of the Secretary from
Russia to Syria. I can say that, as I have indicated to some of you - I
hope publicly and, if not, let me do it publicly - that when she left the
Middle East the last time she indicated that it was her intention following
intensified discussions between the Palestinians and the Israelis to
consider a follow-up trip in the February time frame in order to make a
recommendation to the President as to whether a three-way summit process, a
framework with the objective of achieving a framework agreement, was
going to be a wise decision; in other words, was there a basis, a
sufficient basis, for bringing the three leaders together in an intensified
working process to yield, hopefully, a framework agreement.
So I would say to you directly I wouldn't rule out a trip in February to
the Middle East for that purpose. Whether there would be a Syria component
to that or not, I just couldn't say at this time.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - to talk about?
MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check that.
QUESTION: At what level?
MR. RUBIN: It will be at the working level.
QUESTION: Just the group, the committee, the technical --
MR. RUBIN: Working level. I don't know that - no, it will not be at the
QUESTION: Just to follow up on President Arafat's trip here tomorrow, is
the US satisfied thus far with the progress or lack of progress that has
been made on final status issues?
MR. RUBIN: Well, it's really not up to us to be satisfied or dissatisfied.
It's our view that the parties have some tough decisions to make, and if
they don't make those decisions we can't get either a framework agreement
or a comprehensive agreement by the Fall, as planned, or as set out as a
It is certainly our view that mid-February is rapidly approaching and it is
going to be a formidable challenge to try to solve the problems that need
to be solved if we're going to have a framework agreement struck by mid-
February. So we recognize that this is a formidable challenge, but we have
not given up hope.
The people who do the work in this business have seen a lot of problems
resolved in the final days of a negotiations, and these are tough
decisions. We recognize that. And, frankly, we want to talk with Chairman
Arafat about that schedule and what is possible, and thus take stock for us
in trying to assess how realistic it is to make that schedule that's been
QUESTION: Does the talks with Yasser Arafat serve the purpose at all of
putting pressure on Syria?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we set these talks up with Chairman Arafat at a time, as
you probably know, that we were all expected to be in Shepherdstown, so we
did not expect there to be a situation where Chairman Arafat was the only
leader in town. So they weren't intended for the purpose that you
We've also taken the view that both tracks are going to proceed at their
own pace based on the calculations and decisions and political importance
that each leader attaches to making the tough calls, and that that's the
pace that is going to determine whether the Palestinian track succeeds or
whether the Syrian track succeeds.
We have no intention of engaging in some playing one track off against each
other, even when Secretary Albright was able to - having met with President
Asad and President Clinton - announce the resumption of the Syrian track,
she made very clear to Chairman Arafat and informed him of this before it
was public because she recognizes that the Palestinian issue is at the core
of the comprehensive peace that we're trying to achieve. So they're both
important, and we're capable as diplomats and policy-makers of carrying
both difficult negotiations on at the same time, depending on the
pace that the leaders choose for making the tough decisions.
QUESTION: Two things, one really quick. The lunch that Arafat's having
with the Secretary, that's before the Clinton meeting?
MR. RUBIN: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So that's his first meeting, then?
MR. RUBIN: I think so. I don't know what his schedule is in the morning.
You'd have to check with the very able spokespeople, who are very
QUESTION: The other thing is, these talks, the expert level talks,
originally it was planned to have them both come together, right? Why has
it been decided to have them held separately?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know what the original plan that was communicated to
you is. I know that there was an understanding that there would be working
level people meeting with the US. Whether that was automatically assumed to
mean that it would be working teams meeting together or whether that was
communicated by somebody in the executive branch, I do not know. But when
I checked on what the actual plan is, that is the plan.
So I can't answer your question about whether it changed because the first
time I tried to get some detailed information about what would transpire
over the next couple of weeks, that was the plan that was described to
QUESTION: I'm still a little bit confused.
MR. RUBIN: That's terrible. After all that clarity I tried to bring to
QUESTION: I'll ask you to try again. Earlier this week, we were told on
background that we might expect a couple of folks, experts, from Syria and
Israel to come here this week. Is that now off and we're going to wait
until the Secretary's back and then we'll have one country and then the
following week have another country? Or is that still on and we will still
have the --
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't think you should be confused. You've asked
essentially the same question, I think, as Matt. I will check the
transcript of what was told to you on background, but I think it was more
vague than you all understood it to be as to whether the two sides would
meet together late this week or early next week, or whether they were
sending people here late this week or early next week. And maybe there was
a little vagueness there that I am now able to clarify.
So I wouldn't assume that there was a plan and that that plan changed. That
might have happened. I just don't know. But what the plan now is that I can
confirm to you, for all the world to see, is that the intention is to bring
one side here, work on the draft, try to do it in a very careful and
controlled way, look at the problems, clarify the text, discuss the text,
and then do the same with the other side some days later. And I don't
know who comes first, but as soon as I can tell you that, I will.
QUESTION: President Clinton said this morning that he thought that the
sides were only 10 percent away from coming back to the talks instead of -
and they're not 90 percent, apparently implying that people think they're
much further away from coming than they are.
MR. RUBIN: On the Syria-Israel track? Well, first of all, my standard
comment: I agree with the President. I would want to look very carefully at
his remarks before commenting, but I can give you my impression of the
QUESTION: And if that's different.
MR. RUBIN: I certainly hope that it is fully consistent with the
President's description. We indicated that if we had wanted, they would
come back now, so in that sense they're zero percent away from coming back.
We made a judgment that we thought it was wiser to wait some time before
reconvening in that forum or in some other forum to move forward. So it's
not that the two sides are refusing to come to meet together in Shepherdstown
or any other location; it's that it was our judgment that doing so
would not have yielded fruit; it wouldn't have helped us to close gaps; it
wouldn't have helped us to advance the process.
QUESTION: I presume he meant 10 percent away from coming back with
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, we believe that there is a good chance that this
agreement can be struck. We've always said that. We hope that the two sides
will make the decisions necessary to get an agreement, but they have to
make them. And we've always said that this is an agreement we think can be
made. Will it be made is a different question. And I don't think the
President was indicating that it will be done but, rather, that there's
a good chance that it can be done, and that remains our view.
QUESTION: Just to come back to the Palestinian track, are you suggesting
that during the course of the discussions with Yasser Arafat there might be
room for perhaps extending the February deadline, changing it in some way,
or is that February deadline a rock solid deadline?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think the Prime Minister and the Chairman have both
indicated that it is not, you know, a deadline in the form of, you know,
that everybody's going to jump off a cliff the next day, that there is a
recognition that having that kind of goal of a framework agreement in mid-
February, and a full agreement I believe in September, is the way to focus
the negotiators and focus the policy-makers to make the decisions necessary
to achieve them.
But I think nobody has described the mid-February time frame as a make-or-
break decision. If you were off by a few days or so or more than that and
you could still make progress, I think people will work towards it. And I
think the Prime Minister of Israel, the Chairman and American officials
have made that clear. It's a goal. The goals is to see whether you can have
a framework agreement in February which will, in our view and the view of
the parties, increase the chances of having an actual agreement several
QUESTION: Since the meeting on Monday evening in Havana between the US
officials and the Cuban officials, has any of Elian's family or relatives
requested a visa from the US to come here, or have you all done additional
work on the subject?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't think there has been any request for a visa.
What I can tell you is that late on Monday, January 17th, after expressions
of interest by the Cuban Council of Churches, we sought confirmation from
the Cuban government regarding the parameters of possible travel by Elian
Gonzalez' grandmothers to the United States. The Government of Cuba
requested assurance from us that the grandmothers would not be subpoenaed.
While we are willing to expedite the visas under the relevant US Immigration
laws, should the grandmothers make a decision to apply, we cannot guarantee
that the grandmothers will not be subpoenaed. We have not heard from the
Cuban Government again on this issue. We meet with Cuban government
officials regularly both here and in Havana on the whole range of issues
related to Elian Gonzalez, as well as the normal range of bilateral
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the US Jordanian citizen that has
apparently been - let me get the exact word - indicted - a military
prosecutor has indicted a US Jordanian citizen in connection with the
arrests made before Christmas?
MR. RUBIN: I have something. I'm not sure you will think of it as
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - something.
MR. RUBIN: Something. Mr. Deek is subject to a legal proceeding -- this
is Khalil Deek - in the Jordanian courts. I can confirm that he is a US
citizen. He has not signed a Privacy Act waiver. This case is currently
under investigation by the government of Jordan. We have seen reports that
the cases of those arrested are being referred now for prosecution in the
courts. It's an ongoing legal proceeding in a foreign country, and the
government of Jordan would have to provide you any further comment on
QUESTION: Recognizing that the Pentagon doesn't have a briefing today,
I'm just wondering if there's any reaction from the State Department to the
failed missile test last night?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that I think all of us in government have a great
interest in a program that is designed to deal with a growing threat that
we all face in this world from the potential long-range missile capability
of countries of concern in the Middle East and Asia. So I think all of us
in government have a strong interest in this, and there are various
functions we all perform.
On the basic issue of the test, I think it's fair to say that being - we
always knew - we the administration - always understood that developing and
testing a missile system like this in a relatively short period of time was
going to be an enormously complex challenge. Essentially, what you're
trying to do is, in layman's terms, shoot a bullet with a bullet and have a
success when that bullet has a closing speed of 14,000 miles per hour. So
this is an enormously difficult challenge.
This particular test combined both the interceptor designed to hit the
incoming warhead as well as a first test of the X Band radar to guide the
interceptor and to detect the location of the warhead as well as a battle
management system to provide command, control and communications for the
whole system. So it was a complex test with three key components and the
test did not succeed. The test failed. We've had two such tests of this
kind of system. One has succeeded; one has failed. There is another test
planned for the Spring.
The goal here is for a decision to be made sometime this summer or in
summer time frame, and that decision on whether to deploy a national
missile defense will take into account several factors; first, the
feasibility of a system, and this test and any future tests will weigh in
that calculation; second, the threat that we may face from long-range
ballistic missiles; third, the cost of such a system; and, finally, the
international security environment including the potential impact on arms
control and the ABM Treaty. So those are four factors that we're going to
take into account. One factor is technical feasibility.
The Pentagon, as I understand it, the experts are now studying the results
of this test to try to determine what went wrong, how significant the
problem is, and obviously improve the chances for a successful test in the
Spring. So this is an ongoing process. It's an enormously complex challenge
to hit a bullet with a bullet at an extremely high rate of speed. And this
question of the feasibility of the system is one of several factors that we
will have to take into account before a decision is made as to whether to
go forward with deployment.
Any more on this? Yes?
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask if the testing and the possible or future
deployment of this ABM shield, if that's one of the most divisive issues in
the North Atlantic Alliance at the present time. It has been so stated in
the press. Is that really true? Is that a terribly divisive thing?
MR. RUBIN: I think it's fair to say that many of our allies have some
serious questions about this issue. Secretary Albright has spent a fair
amount of her time talking with our allies about the importance of dealing
with the potential threat we face from countries like North Korea and Iran
and Iraq, and the importance of dealing with those threats if we're going
to go into the 21st Century with the kind of security that we all
There are a range of views in the Alliance about ballistic missile defense.
That is not news to us. This is an alliance of democracies. They are not
simply a uniform body that agrees on every point. I think they understand
the motivation, and we're trying to do our best to brief them about the
threat that exists from potential proliferators. And the more we are able
to explain to them the threat, hopefully the more supportive they will be
of our position. But I think it's fair to say that it is an issue where not
all Alliance members are in full agreement with the United States.
QUESTION: Is it fair to say, Mr. Rubin, that this test was not a total
failure? It only failed insofar as there was not contact of the kill
vehicle to the target vehicle, that much could be learned?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I talked to my Pentagon colleagues, and I think they
were very clear that this was not a successful test at this stage. They are
evaluating what happened. But I think to draw the conclusion you drew would
be not based on any of the analysis that they have done so far.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the Middle East for just a second. You're
going to love this question. There was a report in an Israeli newspaper
this morning that Prime Minister Barak had agreed to the Syrian demand for
withdrawal from the Golan, and President Clinton had conveyed this in a
letter to President Asad in October. I don't want to damage your reputation
with the Israeli press. Do you have anything to say about that?
MR. RUBIN: I think that's pretty easy. I've taken this view since this
process began with Secretary Albright's trip to Damascus. And when it comes
to the specific question of the border and withdrawal, that I'm simply not
going to entertain that subject and get into the details of a substantive
nature on that subject, and this report falls into that category.
QUESTION: Just to go back to the missile test. Did you say why you all
think it's a failure?
MR. RUBIN: No, I said --
QUESTION: Why did it fail or what failed?
MR. RUBIN: -- that the Pentagon officials are now engaging in an analysis
of the test, and that will take some time for them to draw a conclusion,
but that generally speaking it is fair to say that the test did not
If you're asking me for the specifics of what went wrong and how significant
that is, I specifically said in response to one of your colleague's
questions that that is what the experts at the Pentagon are trying to
ascertain now. I indicated that this was a complex test of a challenging
system. It was complex because it was the first time the battle management
system was mated with the X Band radar and the interceptor, and this makes
a particular challenging test. But in terms of what the specific problems
were, first of all, that would be up to the Pentagon to describe; and,
secondly, I don't think from my conversations with them that they have
drawn that kind of conclusion yet.
QUESTION: Yes, two questions please. One of them on the Secretary's
meeting tomorrow with President Arafat. Could you tell us some substantial
insight as what's going to be discussed? Does the United States require
anything from Palestinians that they require that they fulfill their part
of the deal as for Sharm el Sheik?
And the second question is on Bahrain. Could you tell us about the meeting
MR. RUBIN: On the first part of the question, let me say I've indicated
earlier in the briefing that it's my expectation that Secretary Albright
will in her meeting with Chairman Arafat and the President and his meeting
will be discussing where we are in the permanent status talks. I'm sure the
Sharm el Sheik issue will come up.
In that regard, we've said many times - between Chairman Arafat or Prime
Minister Barak or in discussions between Israelis and Palestinians - and
time and time again the two have proven their ability to resolve these
problems. And we think that the remaining issues in Sharm el Sheik are
resolvable and we hope the two parties will resolve them. More broadly, we
want to get an assessment and take stock of where we are in the permanent
status talks so that we can see how much work we need to do in order to
meet the goal of a mid-February framework agreement.
With respect to Bahrain, the second part of your question, let me say that
Bahrain is a close friend of the United States with whom we want to consult
on a regular basis. His Highness Crown Prince Sheikh Salman Bin Hamad Al-
Khalifa, Commander-in-Chief of the Bahrain defense force is in the United
States on a private visit. Bahrain has hosted the US Navy in the Persian
Gulf for nearly 50 years. It is a key friend and partner in the Gulf.
Bahrain has just finished two years in the UN Security Council where
it did an excellent job of balancing its Arab responsibilities with
its global concerns.
We expect the Crown Prince's meeting in the United States to include
discussions on the Middle East Peace Process, probably some of the very
same issues we've been discussing here, maybe the Secretary might be giving
a little more detail substantively, Iraq, Iran, Gulf security and economic
Secretary Albright is right now hosting a lunch for him at the State
Department. In addition, the Crown Prince is expected to meet with
Secretary Cohen, President Clinton and other US officials. Although he has
spent considerable time in the US, this is his first visit to the United
States as Crown Prince.
QUESTION: Back to Russia. Do you think Russia is threatening the
sovereignty of Georgia and Azerbaijan? And has there been a proposal by
Turkey for the creation of establishing a pact in the Caucasus. Anything on
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not familiar with the second part of your question.
With respect to the first part, let me say that one of the concerns that
Secretary Albright has had about the war in Chechnya is the potential
spillover to countries like Georgia and Azerbaijan. It's one of the reasons
why we think Russia is heading down the wrong path. And that is something
that we have been very concerned about.
QUESTION: What do you know about the arrest last month of a man in
Southern California who's suspected of having planted a car bomb that
killed Rosemary Nelson in Northern Ireland?
MR. RUBIN: That sounds to me like a domestic law enforcement matter, and
I would refer you to the law enforcement agencies.
QUESTION: The current troubles of Helmut Kohl especially since it's been
such a long time - seen as a longtime ally of the United States?
MR. RUBIN: I think there's no question that the United States had a very
good working relationship, an excellent working relationship with
Chancellor Kohl when he was Chancellor. With respect to the current issue
in the German domestic political scene, I would have no comment whatsoever.
QUESTION: Question about the compensation deal to the survivors of Nazi
slave labor. Does the US Government agree with the position of their
lawyers that a freeze which is apparently being put in the bill being
considered by the German Finance Ministry that previous payments should be
taken into account might lead to some of their clients being left empty
MR. RUBIN: Let me get you an answer on that. I have nothing here for you,
but I'll get that for you.
QUESTION: This is in a report by Tass that I haven't seen confirmed
anywhere else, but it says that Chechen rebel commanders are holding talks
in Moscow. Have you heard anything about that?
MR. RUBIN: We've seen some reports to this effect that there were such
talks. We've had no independent confirmation from the Russians of that. But
we certainly have taken the view that dialogue is the solution to this
problem and that the military solution is the wrong solution.
QUESTION: This is a little bit off the beaten track, and I just read
about it before I came in so stop me if you haven't heard anything about
it. But the President of Bolivia has either arrived - okay.
QUESTION: Another one a bit like that actually about Ukraine. There was a
report in the Washington Times that the embassy there had been telling
Kuchma to not have his campaign contributors say anything about his policy
including a certain Mr. Buteiko. Is that true?
MR. RUBIN: That they have raised questions -
QUESTION: About the --
MR. RUBIN: -- crime and corruption?
MR. RUBIN: One for three, Bingo. Crime and corruption and their corrosive
effects on Ukraine's transition to democracy and a market economy were
discussed in detail during the December 8th US-Ukraine Bi-National
Commission meetings in Washington. President Kuchma has identified the
fight against corruption as one of his top priorities during his second
term in office.
Given the negative effect of corruption on economic development and reform
and on respect for the rule of law, this is also one of the highest
priorities on our bilateral agenda with Ukraine. So, in general, what I can
say is that we have raised important ways the issues of crime and
corruption with President Kuchma in a number of meetings including the
meeting the Vice President had with him.
QUESTION: But you could not go so far as to say that particular
individuals had been pinpointed as being those who would be particularly
involved in crime and corruption?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we've had discussions on crime and corruption with the
leaders of Ukraine.
QUESTION: Turkish security forces, they captured in Istanbul the several
cells belongs to Hizballah terrorist group.
MR. RUBIN: We need to develop some hand signals here so midway through
your questions I can let you know very clearly that I have nothing for you
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 P.M.)