|Tuesday, 25 February 2020|
U.S. Department of State 96/02/21 Daily Press Briefing
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U.S. State Department Directory
U.S. Department of State
96/02/21 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
I N D E X
Wednesday, February 21, 1996
Briefers: Richard Holbrooke, Nicholas Burns
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 1996, 1:36 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I think this is a record turnout. We have 12 students from Carleton University with us who are here to observe the State Department. Welcome to you.
I think this is a record turnout that is testimony to you, Mr. Assistant Secretary, on your last day. I think it is. I've never seen such a crowd like this before.
Let me just tell you what we're going to do here very briefly. Dick Holbrooke has until about five minutes of 2:00. Then he has to go upstairs to meet the Secretary for a series of awards that are going to begin at 2:00 o'clock. He's going to have a brief statement to make to you, and then he'll be glad to take your questions.
When he leaves, I will stay. I have a couple of things to tell you about, a couple of announcements, and then I'll be glad to take non- European questions. I want to be very brief, because this is Dick's day, and I want to give him the floor.
But I want to say a few things about him. It's hard to make Dick Holbrooke blush, but I'm going to try. We'll see if I'm successful.
The first thing I want to do on behalf of all of my Foreign Service colleagues is to thank Dick Holbrooke for having such great faith in the Foreign Service. I don't know any other senior official in this building who has personally put so much trust and responsibility in individual Foreign Service Officers -- in Bob Frasure, in John Kornblum, in Chris Hill, in Philip Goldberg, in Rosemary Pauli-Gikas, and in many, many others. He gave them the senior assignments in the European Bureau.
He is alone, I think, in that respect of having a universal commitment -- unstinting commitment -- to the Foreign Service, and, Dick, I want to thank you for that.
The second thing I'd like to do is also thank him and congratulate him on his record of accomplishment over the last three years as Ambassador to Germany and during the last two years as Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs. I think his record is unmatched by very few people, not just in the last few decades of American diplomacy but few people, I think, in our memory of American diplomacy.
I think it's his strategic vision about the role of the United States in the world. It's his tact and his tactfulness, sometimes, and his tactical ability as a negotiator and his energy and creativity and I would say even his panache, which make him unique and distinctive and highly successful. I think the Dayton accords will stand for a long time as a textbook case of how American diplomacy can be effective in the modern world.
Finally, Dick -- and I'm going to give you the floor in just a minute -- I also wanted to thank you personally for all the help you gave me in dealing with all these people who are sitting before us. Along with Secretary Christopher and our mutual friend Strobe Talbott and Tom Donilon, I don't think there's anyone in the building who gave me greater personal assistance when it came to public diplomacy as did Dick Holbrooke.
So congratulations and thank you, and now you all will have your shot at Dick.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Panache? Panache? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Definitely.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: That's a first. Since time is very short, for which I apologize, I'll try to make a very brief statement.
First of all, I'm glad Nick mentioned the Foreign Service. I entered the government in June of 1962 right out of college as an FSO. Although I left it ten years later, I believe in it. I believe in it's excellence. I believe it's a much abused and much misunderstood institution. Within it are some great public servants who not only take tremendous risks and sometimes pay the ultimate price but also serve the nation in an under-recognized way.
I leave the government this evening for the third time in the last 33 years with a mixed feeling. Regret and ambivalence are tinged with a sense that this was the only decision I could make for personal reasons, which I think you're all aware of and which I won't revisit here.
There are times when one must make a choice between personal and professional, and in my case this is the first time I've made it a personal priority, and I'm comfortable with it. I have to be in New York City.
But the Secretary and the President know that I'm available if they wish any advice, and they will not get it unless they ask for it. I'm not going to go up to New York and second-guess them or call them and give them any more detailed advice, because a very strong team is in place.
I've been asked constantly who's going to do what was done in the last six months. That was a team effort, a very strong team effort. It was backed continually by a series of senior officials, including Bill Perry, Tony Lake, the Vice President and the President and, above all, Warren Christopher, who gave the negotiating team extraordinary support, and from Dayton on was intimately involved in operational details.
The Rome conference was his idea, not mine, although I knew immediately that it was the right idea, and we put it together. It was originally planned for later in February/early March, and the Secretary called me up and said, "We've got to move it up for the following reasons," and we did.
He called all three Presidents and will continue to be actively and personally involved. He will be backed up by a very strong team. I'm very pleased that he and the President will nominate John Kornblum, my senior deputy, to replace me.
Ambassador Gallucci, in charge of implementation, will be with John a strong team on operations and implementation, and each of them has a superb deputy. Bob Gallucci's deputy is Bill Montgomery, our outgoing Ambassador from Bulgaria, who's been with me on my last two trips to Rome and to the region; and Rudy Perina, the Charge d'Affaires in Belgrade, begins work today in the European Bureau. So we've got a good team in place.
The task ahead of us is, nonetheless, enormous. There are many obstacles to go, and, as I said on November 21 in Dayton, it's going to be a tough haul. We expected bumps on the road. We encountered them. We cleared up some in Rome. We'll have more to go.
But before I answer your questions, I want to be clear on a generic point. Bosnia is the ballgame for United States policy in Europe in this year. We have staked a great deal on success in Bosnia. Failure is unthinkable.
This is to me a seminal period in American foreign policy-making comparable -- and I don't mean to reach into great history and be hyperbolic -- but this is a period comparable to the period between 1947 and 1949 when, in the spring of 1948, a divided city surrounded by adversarial forces created a challenge to which President Truman responded with the airlift and then ultimately with the creation of NATO.
Similarly, in the 1990s, a divided city in the Balkans, surrounded by thugs and murderers, presented a challenge to the West. It's no secret that I view our response -- by "our," I mean the collective response of the West -- as inadequate and belated in the early 90s. But we're not here today to revisit history.
The United States responded decisively in the fall of last year with NATO airpower, with diplomatic pressure, and, above all, with Presidential leadership, and the results speak for themselves.
I know you're going to ask me about the difficulties we're encountering in the last few days, and we can discuss those. But I want to be clear that none of you in this room and me as well would have believed a few months ago that Sarajevo would be opening up, people are reaching across the boundary lines.
Now there are rejectionists on all sides. There is the Hizbollah or IRA factions of the Bosnian Serbs. That's why General Tolimir didn't show up on the George Washington two days ago. But that mini-event was clarifying. It only highlighted the growing isolation of the Pale Serbs. The overwhelming majority of the Serbs of Bosnia want peace, although they're very distrustful of each other.
This historic drama we're playing out has much more at stake than Bosnia. If I compared it to the 1947-49 period, I want to stress that historians know the end of that movie, and they don't know the end of this one. But it's not just Bosnia. The French are re-entering the NATO integrated command step by step. The Germans have troops out of their country for the first time since '45.
The Russians, in a historic move, have put troops under American command there. The future of NATO, as Secretary General Solana and I discussed this morning, is being shaped there much more than in Brussels.
American willingness to support peacekeeping operations is on the line there, and indeed I think the whole policy of the United States in Europe is being shaped, and we don't yet know the end of that movie.
If you were to ask me what my greatest concern is that we can do something about right now today, I would say it's the resource crunch on the civilian side. I find it absolutely extraordinary that the Congress, having given willingly the money for the troops, has been dragging its feet on the civilian money, which is less than ten percent of the troop costs and which every soldier at the senior command from General Shalikashvili on down will tell you is essential for their own success.
The President submitted a request yesterday. It is a bare minimum, and every day that we delay, as we count down towards D-plus-90, the day on which Sarajevo will be an undivided city under Federation control -- every day that we delay we run greater risks. And General Shalikashvili, Admiral Smith, General Joulwan will all tell you that endangers the troops as well. We must get that money in order to get our goals.
I'll be happy to answer your questions.
Q Could you comment on the recent crisis in the Aegean Sea?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I'm really here to talk about Bosnia. I have ten minutes. I'd like not to get into that. We'll do it separately.
Q Dick, there's an atmosphere in Bosnian of impunity regarding the top Bosnian Serbs or other indicted war criminals, with NATO saying they don't want to arrest them -- it's up to the local police -- but the local police being almost under their thumb and refusing to arrest them. So how do you break through this circle, because these same military and civilian leaders are in a sense blocking NATO and you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: First of all, let's put your question -- and everything you say is correct -- in the context of everything that's going on that's positive. You, more than any other journalist in this room -- at least that I'm aware of -- knows what a change has come over the region.
But this is a real problem. General Joulwan, Admiral Smith and I had very frank discussions with President Milosevic about this three days ago in Rome, and I called him yesterday -- Milosevic -- to continue the dialogue.
I repeat, I don't think that implementation can succeed while these indicted war criminals remain in power, openly attempting to subvert Dayton. But that problem is continually being narrowed as everything else moves forward; but it is a central challenge to the agreements.
Q You also said at the time if an agreement was reached, Mr. Secretary, that if Bosnia didn't work as a single country, you would consider this a failure. Given what's been going on in Mostar and what you've seen in Sarajevo and across the countryside, is Bosnia moving toward working as one country?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Mostar is a bigger problem than Sarajevo right now because the Federation created by the Washington agreements in March 1994 must work. If it doesn't, at the end of the IFOR-NATO year, you would face the possibility of the country fracturing into three parts. I would footnote that some people, like the New Republic have openly advocated that. I think that's a bizarre suggestion.
I am very concerned about Mostar. The great drama in Rome was over Mostar. Milosevic and the Bosnian Government reached agreement efficiently and -- I want to stress this, because it hasn't been said publicly -- the Milosevic-Izetbegovic relationship was clearly getting better. They don't like each other and they never will. But they are beginning to realize that they each have a vested interest in Dayton's success.
So Milosevic left the Italian Foreign Ministry by probably 12:00 Sunday and went out on the Villa Borghese to take a walk with his wife, and then we ran into the Mostar problem frontally.
The two Mayors -- the Croat and the Bosnian -- were there; Mayor Koschnick was there. It came down to an hour's argument over a high school -- a high school in Mostar. It's a very nice high school, I understand -- Moorish architecture, built under the Austria-Hungarians, lying in the area the Croats wanted. They finally worked out an agreement to make it a communal structure. But it shows the depth of the anger.
The recommitment's to Mostar, the joint police, and so on, must be carried out. This is not a threat in the next 10 months. But at the end of the 10 months, if it isn't working, it will be very serious.
Q If I can follow up on that and ask you to look into the future a year from now, what makes you optimistic that after the American troops leave --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I've never, ever said I was optimistic.
Q Well, tell me what your scenario is? A year from now when there won't be anymore American troops there to hold it all together, do you feel the Europeans will be anymore capable than they have been of maintaining order? Do you feel the ethnic groups there will be getting along any better than they are now? What makes you feel this will endure?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I think they're already getting better than they were six/eight months ago when they were killing each other. You saw the CBS report the other night about the Serbs from downtown Sarajevo walking into Ilidza freely, visiting their relatives for the first time in four years. The cities are being reborn.
I welcome your questions, and all your questions are appropriate. But keep in them in context. The war is over. The peace isn't here yet.
Now, where are we going to be a year from now? As I said a moment ago, we're not going to revert to the status quo ante of September 1995. But whether we have a single country, as called for in the Dayton agreements, with a single three-person presidency and a national assembly freely elected, whether there's free movement and the refugees are returned, or whether it's something more like a Lebanon or an Irish situation, the jury is out on that. That is the test.
All three Presidents have committed themselves to Dayton. It's going to be very tough to do. We have never misled the American public or any of you in this room as to the difficulties. I am very confident of our determination.
I did not mention earlier the roles of George Joulwan and Snuffy Smith -- Admiral Smith and General Joulwan in Rome -- where each of them spent the full two days participating as part of the negotiating effort. But I tell you that they are committed, we are committed. Our biggest constraint on our side is resources.
What happens after this? Do the best we can.
I don't want to leave you with the impression I'm leaving Government on a downbeat note, so I want to be careful here. I have never been an optimist. I've just been of the view that there was nothing; we had to succeed. We could not afford failure. We couldn't get out and had, therefore -- we couldn't disengage; therefore, we have to be involved.
I guarantee you the situation will be better at the end of this year than it was in the fall of last year. How much better and so on, I don't know.
The 12 months for IFOR withdrawal will be maintained -- the one- year commitment. We are not going to leave behind a force. You talked about a European force. The Europeans have said they're not going to stay without us.
Q It comes to my question: What sort of force do you think should replace IFOR?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: An enhanced police force. I've said many times, the police annex is the weakest in Dayton. I personally would urge that the people who stay in the government re-examine the police annex with a view of significantly upgrading the funding. But right now, we don't even have the funding from Congress for our commitment to it.
Q Do you think the foreign troops will all be out by D-plus-90 and that equip-and-train should and will go ahead?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I don't know the answer to the first question. But if the answer to the first question is not "yes," the answer to the second question is going to be, "we are not going to be able to go ahead."
Q I just want to say thank you --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Just one more thing. I'm sorry. I apologize for interrupting a "thank you."
This issue is extremely important. General Joulwan and I had a very intense talk with President Izetbegovic about the speaking on behalf of both NATO and the United States Government. We made a formal statement -- not even general negotiating business -- about the seriousness of the threat. President Izetbegovic who said that this place that was raided was closing down.
He said to General Joulwan, "Does this pose a threat to Americans? Because I didn't think it did." General Joulwan said, "Here's what we found. As commander of 60,000 troops, we must protect ourselves." So we take this issue extremely seriously.
Q I wanted to follow up on just that issue. Did you find in your discussions in Rome the Bosnian Muslims, did they tell you what their association was with those terrorists? Number one.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: They claimed they didn't have any association.
Q They claim no association whatsoever in official government circles with this?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Their position is, no official association.
Q Let me try something briefly. What are you going to do in New York?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I'm going to join Credit Suisse First Boston tomorrow as -- they put out an announcement late this morning. Since I'm here as a U.S. Government official, it wouldn't be appropriate for me to start discussing business opportunities from an official platform, although it's been done by others.
I would just refer you to Maynard Toll at CS First Boston in New York. He put out something this morning.
Q Dick, can you shed any light for us on the information that you found in the chalet that does affect the security or threat to IFOR?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Because time is short, why don't you ask the Pentagon on that. They have a 20-minute answer.
Q That was my question as well.
Q There's been some confusion. Have the joint patrols begun in Mostar?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: I don't know. I've been asking that question, too. They must begin. Do we know that question, Nick or Aric? They have begun? I hope so.
Q Mr. Secretary, have there been any changes in compliance to arm and train the Bosnians? Are you still in touch with the Turkish Government on that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Jim Pardew is in charge of that issue for the State Department. He is working actively on the plans. We have the plans.
But to go back to the earlier question, we will proceed on those plans in a manner that is consistent with the fulfillment of Dayton on the withdrawal of foreign forces. They're not unrelated issues.
Q Has that contract been awarded yet?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: No, not yet.
Q About a month ago U.S. officials said it would be a matter of a week or 10 days.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: It's been delayed.
Q Delayed because of the foreign fighters?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: It's partly that and partly just the bureaucracy grind that is exceedingly sloweth sometimes.
Q Dick, is there anything that you or anyone in this government can do to halt the exodus of Serbs from the suburbs of Sarajevo?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: We have stated repeatedly that Serbs who are real residents of those areas should not fear; they should stay. But let's be very clear. The Serbs in these areas are two different kinds of people: people who came in, often military people from the Romanija core who came in with their families, occupied houses of Muslims and from those houses shelled the downtown area, because a lot of these areas are where the shelling came from; and real long-term Serb residents of Sarajevo. They know who they are. They know how to sort themselves out.
One-quarter of all the people in this tragic country have been up- rooted. There's some sorting out to do. I'm not being callous. We don't want refugees. But some of the people who are leaving should leave. Others, we hope will stay. We're not going to say which are which because they all know their own divisions.
Q One more. Can I ask one more question on the Russian role? In Rome, did you feel the Russian side was as supportive before their change in government? And have you asked the Russians, perhaps, to use their influence with the Serbs to maintain the stability of the population?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: The Russians were very well represented in Rome by a Vice Foreign Minister, whose name I will not pronounce correctly. Would you like to do that for me? Do it now.
MR. BURNS: Afanesyevsky.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOLBROOKE: Afanesyevsky. He was terrific. The Russians are on the same wave length as we are. We have some tactical differences with them. We have tactical differences with the British and the French. But the Russian role is very important.
Could I just say in closing that, again, as I said at the beginning, this is the third round-trip for me between my hometown and this building, and the second time I've done this particular event from this podium, the last time being January 1981.
As you know, I was a journalist manque at the beginning of my career. I've long since gotten over the desire to be a journalist. (Laughter) But I greatly admire what you do, and I really appreciate it. I know the difficulties you operate under.
I tried to make my colleagues -- Nick said some nice things about the Foreign Service. It's true. But a lot of people in the government don't understand the need to be accessible to journalists and other citizens on a regular basis. We've tried to do that in the Bureau, and I will try to encourage people to continue.
Nick has done a superb job, as did Mike before him, in trying to make the building more open. There are things that have to remain confidential. We had to shut down in Dayton and try to put up a veil of confidentiality. Otherwise, our chances of success, which were long to begin with, would have been zero.
Somebody asked about Greece and Turkey earlier. There's a perfect example. The publicity on Greece and Turkey have significantly compromised efforts to make progress. I'm not blaming you. You're doing your job. It's our job to calibrate it. But I hope you all will understand that when we've held information, we did it for the sake of a long-term goal.
I would pride myself and our Bureau on the fact that to the best of my knowledge the Bureau, and, in personal terms, I never, never misled you; withheld stuff, but did not withhold the severity of the problem and told you as much as we could at all times. That's our commitment to you. I feel very strongly about that because I understand your profession, having been in it myself from time to time.
So I appreciate the interaction with all of you very much, and I wish you all the best. Thank you.
(Upon conclusion of Assistant Secretary Holbrooke's briefing, Spokesman Nicholas Burns resumed the Daily Briefing at 2:02 p.m.)
MR. BURNS: Okay. Always a hard act to follow. I have three things to tell you. We've got about 15 minutes before those of you who want to go upstairs, go upstairs. What's going to happen is, the Secretary of State right now is going to give a group Superior Honor Award to the entire Dayton peace team upstairs on the Seventh Floor. Following that -- a group Superior Honor Award, which is an award given by the State Department for outstanding performance. This is to the Dayton peace team.
Following that, the Secretary is going to meet with Mrs. Katharina Frasure and will give to her, for her husband Bob Frasure, the Distinguished Service Award and the Secretary's Award, which are the two highest honors that the Secretary of State can bestow on anyone.
Following that, the Secretary will go upstairs to the Franklin Room. All of you are invited to attend. There will be series of remarks starting with the Secretary, followed by Secretary of Defense, Bill Perry, who will be followed by the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Bill Owens, and then finally Dick Holbrooke. All of them will make remarks about the Dayton peace process.
The Secretary plans to present the Distinguished Service Aware to Dick Holbrooke for his service over the last three years.
Following that, there will be some individual awards given to the key members of Dick's Dayton peace team. You'll see who they are and their names will be read. They'll come up to get their honors. That will close the program. I think we should conclude by around 3:30-3:45.
(The briefing concluded at 2:17 p.m.)