Sec. of State Madeleine Albright Press Conference, March 18, 1997
ALBRIGHT: Good morning, everybody. As you know, the president leaves for Helsinki for his summit with President Yeltsin. This will be the 11th meeting between the two presidents. Their leadership and personal engagement over the last four years has transformed the relationship between the United States and Russia. As a result, we now have a mature friendship based on common interests and characterized by honesty on matters where we disagree.
As you also know, Foreign Minister Primakov was here yesterday and over the weekend. I met with him on each of the last three days. On Sunday, he was briefed by the joint chiefs and he met with Secretary Cohen at the Defense Department. He met with President Clinton yesterday.
The issues we're dealing with are serious and of utmost importance to both our countries, and that many must still be resolved, but our talks were thorough and cooperative. We had a comprehensive discussion of all the issues on the agenda of the summit, particularly European security and the NATO-Russia relationship.
The president is looking forward to a positive meeting with President Yeltsin.
He's approaching the summit in that spirit, and that is what he told Foreign Minister Primakov yesterday.
The summit will help us advance three shared aspirations: To create a safer world through further reductions in our nuclear arsenals; to expand trade and investment in a way that benefits Americans and Russians alike; and to build a secure and undivided Europe of sovereign, independent democracies.
Sandy Berger is going to speak about the first two of these goals and I wanted to say a few words about Europe. What President Clinton will stress in Helsinki is this:
We are facing an entirely new historical situation in Europe. NATO faces no enemy to its east. Russia faces no enemy to its west. The quest for security on the continent is no longer a zero-sum game in which we must choose between protecting the interests of Central Europe or the interests of Russia, but not both at the same time.
We do not face a choice between diminishing NATO and diminishing Russia. It is not 1949 or even 1989. Today, we are all on the same side. The United States and Western Europe now have a chance to gain new allies and partners who can and will contribute to our common security. The people of Central Europe now have a chance to overcome a Cold War dividing line that has cut them off from the European mainstream.
The people of Russia now have a chance to achieve the deepest and most genuine integration with the West that their nation has ever enjoyed. Let me be clear, we believe that Europe will not be whole and free until a democratic Russia is wholly a part of Europe. That is why we have supported Russia's membership in the WTO and its deepening participation in the P8. It is why we worked hard to ensure Russia's participation in our mission in Bosnia and in NATO's Partnership for Peace.
In each of these cases, we made a decision not to isolate Russia and Russia made a decision not to isolate itself. It is in that spirit that NATO and Russia have been talking about the outlines of a charter that will launch a true partnership between them.
NATO Secretary General Solana and Foreign Minister Primakov are taking the lead in negotiating an agreement. ALBRIGHT: While that job is not finished, they both deserve credit for the progress they have made.
In Helsinki, the president will outline the possibilities of such a partnership for Russia, and for NATO. He will reaffirm NATO's commitment that it has no intention, no plan, and no reason to station nuclear weapons on the territory of new members.
He will discuss NATO's proposals to adapt and modernize the CFE treaty, which will insure that there are no destabilizing troop concentrations anywhere in Europe. At the same time, he will be clear about the lines we will not cross and the barriers we will not build.
NATO enlargement will remain on track. New allies will enjoy the full benefits and assume the full responsibilities of membership. The first new members will not be the last, and we will exclude no European democracy from future consideration. NATO will continue to evolve, but the qualities that have made it the most successful alliance in history will be preserved.
Let me also stress that the point of the NATO-Russia charter is not to convince Russia's leaders to agree to NATO enlargement. That is unnecessary. And it certainly will not happen in Helsinki.
We know it will take time for the progress of trust to catch up with the process of change. The point of the charter is to advance an enduring interest NATO and Russia will continue to share -- our interest in acting together to meet the challenges of the 21 century.
The only steps we will propose to Russia are those we would want to take whether NATO was enlarging or not because they are worthwhile in their own right. For this reason, while we would welcome agreement in the next few months, there is no deadline -- not in Helsinki or in Madrid. The door will stay open.
And at this point, Sandy Berger will say a few words about the other elements on the agenda, and then we'll be happy to take your questions.
BERGER: Thank you. As Secretary Albright has noted, this is the 11th meeting between the two presidents, and in a sense, meetings between American and Russian presidents now have become routine, and that in and of itself is remarkable if you look at the sweep of the last 25 or 40 years.
The high drama of summit diplomacy has given way to a real working partnership, less drama, but perhaps more progress towards common goals.
Secretary Albright has talked about the European security dimension of the meeting in Helsinki, but I think it's also important to emphasize, this is a very important meeting in terms of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Russia.
And there are two principal elements that the presidents will be discussing. One is in the realm of the danger of weapons of mass destruction and arms control; and the second is in the area of economic cooperation.
We've already taken remarkable strides together -- the United States and Russia over the preceding few years. We've agreed to a comprehensive test band, indefinite extension of the Nonproliferation Treaty, the elimination of nuclear weapons from the three former states of the Soviet Union.
We've worked together on improving nuclear safety and ratifying START I. Now, we are awaiting the Duma ratification of START II. And together with START I, that will cut both our arsenals, both our nuclear arsenals by two thirds from the Cold War levels.
We have been discussing with the Russians, guidelines for START III negotiations which could begin immediately after START II is ratified and enters into force. We need to be realistic about the prospects of progress in this area. There are many disagreements between us and the Russians. Particularly in the area of the distinction between, you know, anti- ballistic missile defenses which were restricted by the Treaty of 1972 and our desire to move forward with theater missile defenses.
Both sides agree on the need to preserve the ABM Treaty, both agree on the need to defend against the growing threat of short-range missiles with theater missile defenses.
And we agree that the issue of how you distinguish between ballistic missiles and theater missiles is a difficult one which must be resolved. But we have emphasized repeatedly to the Russians that we are developing theater missile defenses to protect our troops.
When Foreign Minister Primakov was here this past weekend, he had a very, I think, compelling briefing at the Pentagon and heard very forceful statement that our intention with the development of these systems is not directed at Russia but rather directed at protecting our troops and those who are allies against short-range missiles.
And so we will need to see whether we can make some more progress in this area. In any case, we believe that the Russians should proceed with START II ratification which would then let us move into START III.
And I hope that we can make some further progress in Helsinki. But these negotiations will continue thereafter if we don't.
In the economic area, the two presidents will discuss Russia's effort to build a stable, prosperous market economy. What Russia has achieved in a short time, with our help and other Western nations is remarkable. Private sector is now about 70 percent of Russian production and GDP.
Inflation has sharply reduced, the ruble is stable, and yet there remain serious problems in the Russian economy that President Yeltsin has addressed quite forcefully over the past few days.
He has a new economic team, which is a vigorous one, and we want to work with him and with his economic team to promote trade and investment on which Russia's growth depends, and where we think there can be a boon both to the American people and to the Russian people. In essence, if Russia does those things which make foreign investment safer and more stable and more secure, we believe that there is a very substantial amount of foreign investment that is interested in the Russian market. But these two things must go hand-in-hand. Obviously, you can't force investment into a country unless the Russians do the kinds of internal reforms, internal protections that make that investment attractive.
Let me just say that the success of Russia's transition to a free market economy and to deepening the roots of its democracy is one of history's greatest challenges.
It's a great opportunity for Russia. It's a great opportunity for the international community, and we want (AUDIO GAP) productive relationship between the two countries. At Helsinki and beyond, both presidents will be focusing on this U.S.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, on the summit itself if we...
QUESTION: Can we just ask one more question on this?
QUESTION: If you want to, go ahead.
QUESTION: Just as someone who has, somebody who has to deal with Congress every day are you not at all upset by the fact that he was put through this kind of thing? I mean, does this...
ALBRIGHT: Well, one would wish that the process were one that elicited the greatest cooperation and an ability to find out what is the best about people and what they can do to contribute to the foreign policy process. I think that there is a right way to do it and a wrong way.
QUESTION: Mr. Berger, one of the issues though that arose yesterday was that there was yet another case where someone in the NSC recommended against presidential access to someone. And yet, that access continued. Can you say what you are doing at this point to either look into this, to see that this thing doesn't happen again?
BERGER: Well, let me say, I think that over the past few weeks, in each of these instances, the NSC has, and NSC staff people have been proven to have operated and functioned with great caution and care and skill. I think there are -- and I'm very proud of them. You know, these are people who have over the last four years and into the second term carried enormous load in terms of trying to build an American foreign policy for the 21st century, and I think they do that every day, 16, 17 hours a day with great dedication and with great skill.
Now, I mean, I think there are questions that have been raised about the relationship between the NSC and the rest of the White House generically that I think need to be answered in a generic way. I think it's important that there be guidelines on the one hand so that the NSC -- on the one hand, we want to isolate the NSC from political considerations. On the other hand, we don't want to insulate the NSC from the world and from people who have something to contribute.
And I think those are questions that I want to provide guidance to to the NSC. And I intend to reach out to other former National Security Council advisers and others to find out what the best rules of the road are, because obviously, the rules of the road may be changing.
QUESTION: Mr. Berger, are you aware of any other improper efforts to get into Mr. Lakes background? For example, there is a report that the NSA may have been asked for information that they would have that is derogatory about Mr. Lake.
Has anyone come to you with that concern?
BERGER: Well, I know that's something that was, I think, referred to. I am aware of no others, but I'm not aware of all the facts and circumstances involved with Mr. Lake's nomination. But I would say this. I think that the real question -- there are enormously important questions that we need to ask about the future of our intelligence community, what the right mix of intelligence is, what is the relationship of the intelligence community to the rest of the government, what our priorities are, how to manage the intelligence agencies.
I think Tony had some very creative things to say about that. Unfortunately, that was not the subject of the hearings. Those questions remain and we have to address them, but I had wished -- wish that the process would focus more on the future of the intelligence community and the role it plays in the United States and less on searching through raw FBI files.
QUESTION: In the case of Roger Tamraz, were you concerned that the Democratic National Committee may have politicized the CIA in skirting around the NSC?
BERGER: I don't know, Wolf, all the facts on this. This is a matter that is under investigation by the CIA, by the counsel's office. I think insofar as the NSC was concerned, a very clear message was sent to the DNC to not pursue contacts with Mr. Tamraz, but I don't know the other details. Those are matters under investigation by other agencies.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, Boris Yeltsin said yesterday the ball in Helsinki was in Bill Clinton's court, that Russia has made concessions, that there's an uneven situation now, and it's the United States's turn.
How would you respond to that?
ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say that this summit, as Sandy has said, is one of a series of summits where we are now down to kind of regular business. We used to think of summits as either coming at really fabulous times when there was something to celebrate or really dreadful times when relationships had to be mended.
And we now have a mature relationship in which we agree on some subjects and disagree on others. We expect that this will be a summit where a number of questions will be asked, and many resolved, and a very large agenda.
I think it's very important not to look at this summit, as I said, as far as the European security issues are concerned, as a zero- sum game. It is not us versus them or them versus us. We are all on the same side.
The word "concessions" is an inappropriate word. This is a discussion about how to have the Russians cooperate in a new European atmosphere and at the same time, to make clear that the countries that were -- are in a gray zone in Central Europe no longer are there.
And I can assure you that the president nor I are going to bargain away the rights of the Central Europeans.
ALBRIGHT: Neither justice nor history will allow that. And it is a discussion that will go forward in order to make clear that NATO enlargement will go forward, and that Russia, in fact, does have a seat at the table in discussions on Europe, but not a veto over the decisions.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, all through this town -- in think tanks and elsewhere -- people who are really not philosophically very different from the people who work with this administration are very anxious about NATO's expansion's impact on arms control.
I mean, they're not talking about Yeltsin. They're talking about the communists, the military, the nationalists, et cetera, who are holding back the START treaty, and who are -- will see NATO expansion as, rightly or wrongly, as a threat.
Now, if you folks care about arms control, isn't there anything you might do to soften this impact? Or is there any way you can work around START? Perhaps extend for four or five years, has been proposed by some think tankers, the compliance with the 2003 deadline?
ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that it is very important to see these issues in their own separate baskets. While they clearly have an impact on each other, we need to understand NATO enlargement as an issue that is important for a new Europe.
Obviously, as Sandy has said, we are interested in moving the START II process forward and making -- making sure that those limits are lived up to. But I think the important part is to make sure that people understand why we're doing these separate issues.
And Sandy, you might want to...
BERGER: You know, I hesitate to comment on anything coming out of the think tanks. But let me...
QUESTION: It could be your twin. They're not -- they're not the people who brought down Tony Lake.
BERGER: Let me say this. Let me put -- let me put it this way. NATO enlargement will proceed. I think that there -- it is important that NATO enlargement proceed in the right way. I have spoken about the Scylla and Charybdis in a sense of NATO enlargement. On the one hand, NATO enlargement proceeds -- needs to proceed in a way that does not undercut the security of the Central Europeans, that does not create a second class of -- of citizens -- of members of NATO, that does not give the Russians a veto.
At the same time -- and the president has been very clear about this over the last two years; it's been an open, transparent process, which he has discussed at every meeting with President Yeltsin -- that NATO enlargement can proceed in a way which also strengthens the NATO- Russian relationship.
And by creating a NATO-Russian charter, by creating some sort of a consultative mechanism with Russia. This does not have, in any way, to undercut the democracy of Russia or those who are proponents of it.
There is a new Russia.
BERGER: We say that to the American people. And what President Yeltsin must say, equally vigorously, to the Russian people is there's a new NATO. There's a new day, and we're designing new institutions to deal with that fact.
QUESTION: Sandy, do you believe, and Ms Albright, too, if you'd care to answer it, that the Russians fully believe there is a new Russia? I mean, are the Russians fully aware of their changed circumstance in the world?
BERGER: I think the Russians, I think Russia is undergoing a pro social and geo-strategic. And I think that there are, as it defines itself, as the president has said many times, the question is whether it will define its future greatness in terms of the enhancement of the life of its people and a normal relationship with its neighbors, or whether it will define its greatness in old classic terms, which I think are increasingly irrelevant.
So, I do think that there is a new and emerging Russia. It is in our interest to reinforce that. It is in our interest to promote that.
But the Russians also have to understand that there is, that NATO no longer is directed towards Russia. There's a new NATO. It's changed in its force structure. It's adapted dramatically. It's changed in its mission in many respects, and it's no longer the NATO that is a threat to Russia that was, existed during the cold war.
ALBRIGHT: Can I just...? Let me just say, I fully believe, those of us that have studied first the Soviet Union and now Russia, very intensively, I think, understand that the process is a complex one that takes place in a variety of arenas at different times. I think it's most encouraging, for instance, that President Yeltsin has now chosen what seems to be a team that is focused on economic reform, a clear understanding of the necessity, that he sees a prime necessity to move his country.
When I met with President Yeltsin recently in Moscow, we talked about the difference. He kept saying, you know, you have to see a new Russia. And I said to him, you need to see a new NATO.
What I find very interesting is the discussions that I had with Foreign Minister Primakov in the last three days, where we very clearly, both of us avidly defended our countries' national interests, but both of us also understood that a great part of our national interests are satisfied when we cooperate. And, in that spirit, even though we saw Foreign Minister Primakov at four o'clock here yesterday, I was already on the phone with him this morning at eight o'clock working the process of some of the questions we have to resolve at Helsinki.
So, I think, here, we have to understand we are not dealing with a static Russia. We are dealing with a Russia that is adjusting to the many points that Sandy raised.
QUESTION: Secretary Albright, if we take your, the very firm line that you have articulated today on the basic issue of NATO expansion, and then what President Yeltsin said yesterday, I mean, should we not conclude that what's essentially going on here is sort of staking out rhetorical positions in advance of a meeting that's got, that includes real bargaining, because you both know you stands are not tenable?
ALBRIGHT: We are not taking any rhetorical positions. We have made very clear what our position is, and we are not, as I said, we are not bargaining away the rights of the Central Europeans who were, to a great extent, the victims of the Cold War and what President Clinton has said is what he is trying to do is to eliminate the dividing line through the center of Europe.
So we have made our points very clear. I think that what you're going to see is, as President Yeltsin made clear in Moscow and other places, they are not -- they do not like NATO enlargement.
They have made that very clear. But that is not the point. NATO enlargement is going forward, and what we are doing is developing a -- helping NATO, of which we are a part, and Secretary General Solana is in the lead, developing a new relationship between NATO and Russia which would reflect this new relationship.
Let me just make one historical point. Everybody thinks that last year was the 50th anniversary of everything, but the truth is that we have some other anniversaries to celebrate...
What happened at the end of World War II was the creation of a set of institutions that basically created structure for the post World War II scene in Europe. We are now in the process of creating new institutions for the post Cold War.
And they have a lot to do with how Europe sees itself, a lot of institutions that are thoroughly Europe -- Western Europe directed, some that are economic, some that have to do with a variety of integrated processes and NATO enlargement is one of them and NATO- Russia is another.
And what we are all doing here together is looking at an historical process and creating institutions that will serve us into the 21st century.
QUESTION: Sandy, I wonder if you could respond to those critics who charge the president has put too many of his eggs in the Yeltsin basket and is not doing enough to work with alternative voices in Russia beyond Boris Yeltsin.
BERGER: They're wrong.
The fact of the matter is, this is an extraordinarily broad relationship. Number one, I would point out that Boris Yeltsin is the democratically elected president of Russia. You know, presidents generally deal with presidents, particularly those who are democratically elected.
So I think it's normal and quite rational for the president to be dealing with the leader that Russia has chosen. But this relationship is far broader than Clinton-Yeltsin. This is a relationship between Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, which is really more than a personal relationship.
It's an institutional infrastructure that has been developed to manage the relationship on energy and on economic development and on nuclear waste and a whole range of issues. It is now quite an extraordinary relationship.
The relationship that the secretary of state already has developed with the foreign minister, Mr. Primakov, is I think going to be a lively and very productive relationship.
And so -- and when the president goes to Russia, he meets not only with the -- with President Yeltsin. On the last trip, he met with opposition leaders and certainly our embassy does as well.
BERGER: So, I think this is as extensive a relationship as probably we have.
QUESTION: A question on ABM please.
QUESTION: START II is hostage not only to NATO enlargement but also to this demarcation dispute in the ABM treaty, at least in the Russian point of view.
Are the two presidents personally going to discuss ABM demarcation in Helsinki. And is President Clinton going to offer new proposals or compromises on higher capability theater missile systems?
BERGER: We believe that START II ought to proceed to ratification in the Duma without regards to any lingering disputes with respect to ABM, TMD demarcation. And that's our position and the position the president will reiterate to President Yeltsin.
To the extent they believe that it is important for there to be a clarification of the demarcation issue, the presidents may discuss that. But we've made it very clear that we believe that the theater missile systems that we are developing are consistent with the ABM treaty. And that we intend to proceed with those systems and that we don't believe that they do violate the ABM treaty.
So, there conceivably could be some discussion of it. But our view is, that in any case, the -- it would be good for the Russians to proceed with ratifictions...
QUESTION: Do you expect Bosnia, or Albania, or the Middle East or any other issues, other areas to come up, or just these three circumstances?
BERGER: No, I'm sure, I'm sure that there will. Let me just quickly outline the schedule for you as it is currently contemplated. We'll arrive, we'll leave tomorrow night. We'll arrive Thursday morning, Thursday afternoon, Helsinki time. There is a dinner being hosted by Prime Minister Ahtisaari Thursday night. And then Friday, there will be at least two sessions between the two presidents one in the morning and one in the afternoon. A lunch and a planned press conference.
There may be a dinner that evening before we leave, a smaller dinner between the two presidents. It would not surprise me that they talk about other issues of common interests including really many of the ones that you raised.
QUESTION: Concerning the Israelis, now that they've brought in the surveyors and the bulldozer equipment, it seems to follow, are you concerned about what is going to be unleashed there?
ALBRIGHT: Well, as you know, President Clinton expressed to -- when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here and has subsequently said that we had wished that the Har Homa decision had not gone forward. We are obviously concerned about the fact that violence is never an answer to the problems in the Middle East.
And we are, we would very much want to see a return to the table. That is the only time that there has been progress in the Middle East is when the parties are actually talking to each other at the table. And that is the way we would like to see things proceed.
QUESTION: Secretary, are there any specific...
QUESTION: Are the Israelis acting in haste?
ALBRIGHT: I think that the Israelis understand the difficulties that we see with their going forward.
ALBRIGHT: I'm not going to comment further on it.
QUESTION: Secretary Albright, are there any specific issues that you think will actually be resolved in Helsinki? Or is this just part of a process that goes on...
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that there clearly will be some, but I think the issue that one needs to keep in mind here -- that President Clinton and President Yeltsin have not seen each other in almost a year, they have many things to talk about, and that it's important to understand the process of these summits.
We all can talk at various levels and, as Sandy has explained, we have a vibrant and robust process going on on a variety of levels. But ultimately, it's important for the presidents to talk to each other about all of these subjects, and what -- we will see.
I think that it's important to know that having the summits, in itself, is something that we value.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, can I ask you a question about the economic components of this summit? Specifically, is there going to be an aid package from the U.S. to Russia announced during this summit? Or Mr. Berger, that'd be fine. Or do you expect that there'll be any help given to the Russians from the U.S. to help develop their financial markets and their transparency system?
BERGER: Well, as you know, we have proposed in the budget some assistance for not only Russia but other newly independent states. I think the issue here now for the future of Russia's economy is investment really more than aid. And I think the two presidents will talk about both what Russia needs to do to be more attractive to foreign investors, and then what we can do -- both in terms of technical assistance if they so desire -- and in terms of investment incentives to promote that investment.
My own sense from conversations that I've had is that there is a substantial amount of western investment that is very -- finds Russia potentially a very attractive market, and could stimulate a very rapid increase in Russian growth. And we're prepared to support that investment. But investors have to have an environment of legal protection, of tax certainty, and other kinds of reforms that make the risk worthwhile.
So they'll be talking about the general question of both what -- of stimulating Russian economic growth and what we can do to help.
QUESTION: A follow up question, please, on foreign policy. I come from Russia and I had some thoughts on what has been said here.
Do you think that the U.S. needs a foreign policy in the new post-Cold War period?
I said that -- I mean in Russia, very many people -- very many reformers -- very many reformers, whom you referred to, are against NATO, are against some of the policies, and they resent something that they regard as some sort of a high-handed approach on the part of the U.S.
I know from my contacts with my colleagues in other countries that this view is something shared by some others. So you reach out to the American people explaining the foreign policy to them. Do you plan to explain your foreign policy to the world? Do you think it needs correction? Or you believe that, as President Clinton said, you are the only indispensable country in the world? And can basically do whatever you want to?
ALBRIGHT: That's kind of loaded.
Let me say that, first of all, it is not as much our statement that we are the indispensable nation in the world. It is how others also behave that is clear that we are the indispensable nation. It doesn't mean we do everything alone, however, which is why a major component of what we're talking about now is the NATO-Russia relationship in which we are one of 16 and it is the secretary general of NATO that is leading that discussion.
But let me go to your larger point. I think that the United States, more than any other country, is understanding the post-Cold War environment, where we are trying to direct the attention of other countries to the new threats, not the old threats.
And the new threats come from a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. They come from issues to do with the environment, terrorism, drugs. And we need to look forward and not backward.
When I was in Russia, I tried to explain on Russian television that we required -- all of us -- some new thinking, and the new thinking had to do with the fact that we were not involved in a zero- sum game anymore. We are not -- and NATO is not -- poised against Russia. It is an alliance of democracies that have common values that is open to all democratic governments in Europe.
We have made that clear. The first will not be the last. And it is important for all of us -- whether we are explaining policy here or in Europe or in other countries -- to get people thinking forward and not backward.
The Cold War is over. Russia is not our enemy. Russia is our friend. And we want to work with Russia cooperatively to create a new structure.
BERGER: Can I just add -- let me add one thought to what Madeleine has said very eloquently.
I think President Clinton has made very clear to President Yeltsin, to the Russian people -- again to Foreign Minister Primakov yesterday -- that the United States wants a strong Russia. We don't seek a weak Russia. We seek a strong Russia. We seek a Russia that is growing. We seek a Russia in which democracy is strengthening, and in which the economy is strengthening, and in which the Russian people are gaining -- gaining confidence and gaining a brighter future, and that we have a very strong American interest in seeing that happen and being of help to the extent that the Russian government and the Russian people want us to be of help.
So, just to kind of amplify the zero-sum proposition that Madeleine has indicated, it is very much in the interests of the United States and the interests of the world for the greatness of the Russian people and for Russian strength to be recognized, to be enhanced, and to be part of the overall European undivided peaceful security structure that we're trying to build.
QUESTION: Sandy, before you take off, could we get one more on the Lake question, just to wrap that up?
QUESTION: He wrote in his letter that he thinks could have -- had it gone to a vote, he would have passed. Did President Clinton and other people here at the White House do enough to fight on his behalf to make sure that a determined minority didn't basically sabotage his career? There have been questions in the past about whether the administration has done enough to fight for its nominees.. Did it do enough in this case?
BERGER: I think there's been no question about the commitment of the White House and the commitment of this president to Tony's confirmation. The president believes very, very deeply, today no less than the day that he made the selection, that Tony was the right person to lead the CIA.
He's made that very clear publicly. He's made that clear in the conversations that he's had with senators. I remember a press conference in which he -- because none of you asked the question -- he walked back in the room on his own to give the answer to the question that wasn't asked, to make it absolutely clear of his strong feelings that this was the right person for the right job at the right time, and I'm deeply, deeply regretful that that has not been a...
QUESTION: Did you make any progress yesterday with the senators on Mexico, your meeting last night?
BERGER: We continue to have conversations with the Senate on Mexico. I think it's extremely important that we find the most effective -- The real test here is, what is the best way to fight drugs that are poisoning our cities and poisoning our children. And the right way to fight those drugs is, in addition to all of the stuff that we have to do here at home, is cooperating with Mexico and cooperating with the leadership of Mexico that sees this problem with as great a sense of urgency as we do, sees the problem as a threat to its own survival and its own democracy.
And the president made the judgment -- I think the absolutely correct judgment -- that we had had unprecedented cooperation with Mexico and that by proceeding with that cooperation, we'll fight this war against drugs even better. That's a view that we're conveying with the senators. I think it's shared by many senators, and we'll continue the discussion over the coming days.
QUESTION: Thank you.
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