NEWSMAKER: SAMUEL BERGER
September 23, 1997
Security adviser Samuel Berger promises that the Stabilization Force, or S-FOR, will leave Bosnia in June of 1998, as originally planned. He talks with Phil Ponce about his recent trip to the area, and the new US-Japan defense agreement.
PHIL PONCE: Bosnia was a subject of Samuel Berger's address at Georgetown University this afternoon. We take up that and other issues with him now.Mr. Berger, welcome. In your speech, you said that next June the stabilization force's mission will end, but that the international community's engagement will continue. Just what is the international community going to be doing after June?
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September 11, 1997:
Sandy Berger, former Clinton National Security adviser, testified before the committee.
March 27, 1997:
Sandy Berger discusses VP Al Gore's trip to China, and possible attempts by China to influence the 1996 elections.
July 29, 1997:
The Senate considers allegations that the Chinese government tried to influence the '96 electionsthrough illegal campaign contributions.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the White House.
Restoring Bosnia's economy and society.
SAMUEL BERGER, National Security Adviser: Well, I think the international community has to stay involved in Bosnia over the long-term in a number of ways. We have enormous effort going on to assist in economic reconstruction. We have effort going on to try to train and professionalize the police to assist in the standing up of national institutions. All of those enterprises need to continue and the international community has an obligation to stay the course on those civilian implementation activities.
PHIL PONCE: More specifically, you said that the role of the United States after next June remains to be decided. What is going to decide that role?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, I think at the very least we will be involved in the civil implementation task, trying to build a more stable and durable peace in Bosnia that will be self-sustaining. The question is whether there will be an international community--NATO will decide--that there needs to be a security presence after June--is yet to be determined, and what, if any, role we would play on that has not been decided. I think first one of the most important factors here is how much progress we continue to make. There's been over the past six or seven months an intensification of momentum and progress toward building a more stable peace. There continue to be serious problems in Bosnia, daunting challenges. But we can't also deny the fact that there's also not only peace and the absence of war but there is beginning to be a more stable peace and people's lives are improving.
Will there be US troops in Bosnia after June, 1998?
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Berger, right now there are what, slightly more than 8,000 U.S. troops still in Bosnia? Is it likely, I mean realistically, that after June, there will still be some U.S. troops there?
SAMUEL BERGER: I don't know the answer to that question. The President has indicated that the--and NATO has indicated that the S-FOR mission that is currently there will end on schedule in June 1998.
PHIL PONCE: S-FOR stabilization force?
SAMUEL BERGER: That's correct. That's the NATO force. I think the international community will be there. We will be there helping on the economic side. We will be there helping on the political side. Whether there needs to be a security presence I think remains to be seen.
PHIL PONCE: But is the bottom line--I mean, many people look at the U.S. troops' presence in NATO and think that the bottom line is that U.S. troops are going to be there as long as they're necessary to maintain the peace.
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, I think it's premature to say that. This is obviously the--we have an enormous stake in the success of Dayton and in peace in Bosnia. We went into Bosnia to help build that--to help create that peace at Dayton and then into the NATO force for a very important reason. The largest war in Europe since the end of World War II was raging in the center of Europe with enormous risks of spreading beyond the contours of Bosnia and engulfing a larger region. We have a stake in maintaining that stability. There's been significant progress over the past two years, I think in the last several months on the civilian side, there's been considerable progress, the military side had shown a great deal of progress, the forces that stood down, the armies have been demobilized. Essentially, there is much more freedom of movement in Bosnia today than there was two years ago. And we'll just work at this as hard as we can every day between now and June.
PHIL PONCE: Is it possible to have the kind of state that you're talking about without also having a commitment of troops?
SAMUEL BERGER: I think--as I say, the international community has to stay involved in Bosnia and for the foreseeable future to help the Bosnians build their peace and take advantage of this opportunity. Whether that involves any kind of security, international security presence, remains to be seen.
The administration will work with Congress to maintain the peace in Bosnia.
PHIL PONCE: And how much work does the administration have to do to keep that option open with Congress?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, again, as I say, the President has indicated that in June this mission will be over. So we're operating on that assumption. I think we work very closely with the Congress, who obviously has to support any funds, American funds that are spent in Bosnia, as we try to secure this peace. But if you're a 15-year-old, as I said today in my speech, if you're a 15-year-old girl in Bosnia today, your life is much different than it was two years ago. You're not dodging bullets and avoiding shells and hiding in your basement and wondering whether you'll freeze this winter. Water's been restored. Heat's been restored. Electricity has been restored. And there is essentially a safety to walk down the street. That's a very major accomplishment of the international community.
PHIL PONCE: So for people who look at Bosnia and associate it with all the negative things of the past, you're saying what, in certain respects the glass is half full?
SAMUEL BERGER: I think that's a fair way to put it. The way I said today is that we should not look at Bosnia through rose-colored glasses, but neither should we look through a glass darkly. I think there's been a tendency to be over-pessimistic about and overly defeatist about Bosnia to give--to say, for example, we should just partition Bosnia along ethnic lines. I think that would be a terrible defeat for the West to validate the ethnic cleansing and validate the aggression by doing that.
PHIL PONCE: Expand on that a little bit. Some of the critics are saying--Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, for example, that is unrealistic to expect a unified Bosnia, but your point is--
SAMUEL BERGER: My point is that I think that she's wrong, respectfully. The fact is that history is prologue, but history is not destiny. One is not preordained by one's history. There have been long periods, for example, from World War II until the war began in Bosnia in 1991, where Bosnians, Muslims, Serbs, and Croats lived side by side, inter-married quite liberally. That's hardly the sign of vicious hatred. Obviously, there are ethnic hostilities there, but there is a capacity for people to overcome that if they have the hope of a better future. And I tink that's what the international community is trying to help the Bosnian people achieve.
Dealing with anti-NATO sentiment.
PHIL PONCE: How do you respond to people who look at the continuing--some would say growing, sort of resentment on the part of Bosnian Serbs towards the NATO presence?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, there's something quite extraordinary going on in Serbska, which is the Serbian section of Bosnia, which has been the recalcitrant obstructionist part of Bosnia. What's happened is the emergence of indigenous movement around President Plavsic that really is going after the Serbs in Pale, the old-line rejectionists like Karadzic and his cronies, and saying we don't want to live in a corrupt place, where people like a small handful of politicians profiteer and the rest of the people are poor. And so Mrs. Plavsic continues to be quite chauvinistic in her views. She does see Serbska--Serbska's future as tied to the whole and not viable as an isolated--self-isolated entity. And we--that's a rather remarkable development. And she's gained a good deal of ground in recent weeks.
The US redefines Japan's defense guidelines.
PHIL PONCE: Sir, we could move on to other topics, today the United States signed a new defense treaty with Japan, anticipating the possibility of Japan being attacked or other areas around Japan being attacked. What would Japan be called upon to do exactly?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, these defense guidelines, which are amplification of our security arrangement, modernize the nature of our relationship that goes back many years. If there were a contingency in the region, for example, in Korea, the most unstable and dangerous area in the region, what these guidelines do is essentially help define the new roles and missions that the Japanese military would perform for the United States or with the United States in conjunction with a contingency such as Korea.
PHIL PONCE: Specifically, what would those roles and missions entail?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, they might be logistic; they might be transit. They might involve pre-positioning. All of these things would be part of modernizing this security relationship, which is extraordinarily important to America as a Pacific power, for a new era. It's not directed at any country. It is not--does not seek to isolate any country, but it seeks to bring into the 21st century, so to speak, and consistent with the Japanese constitution, a working relationship with Japanese military in the case of these kinds of regional contingencies.
PHIL PONCE: Under this defense theory, what happens if United States troops are tapped by the North, Japan is supplying them, and a Japanese ship is attacked directly?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, under our security treaty we have a security obligation to Japan. We had it before, and we have it now. And so Japan is a security ally of ours, and we would consider an attack on Japan to be a violation of our solemn security obligation to Japan.
PHIL PONCE: But do the Japanese, themselves, have an additional option under this treaty to take a more aggressive stance say?
"We do not seek to contain China."
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, the Japanese have a constitution, a peace constitution, which constrain what they could do within the context of that constitution. But obviously, if Japan, itself, were attacked, which is quite an improbable scenario in the range of things today, I'm sure that Japan would defend itself very vigorously.
PHIL PONCE: What do you say to those people who look at this defense agreement and say this is certainly going to make the Chinese very nervous?
SAMUEL BERGER: Well, I will say what I said to the Chinese when I was there in August and met with them about this and other things; that this is not directed at China. This is--we have an important security relationship with Japan. We have had it for many years. It needs to be modernized so that we can deal with the contingencies of the future, but this is not directed at China. We are in the course of trying to build a stronger relationship with China. We don't seek to contain China. We seek to bring China more actively into the international community, so that it's more a part of the economic rules like the WTO, so that it's more part of the--
PHIL PONCE: The World Trade Organization?
SAMUEL BERGER: Right. I'm sorry. And so it's more part of the non-proliferation regimes, and it's more part of the respect for human rights that's embodied in the universal declaration of human rights. So our hope and the reason that President Clinton is going to be meeting with President Jiang in October is to--not to contain China--quite the opposite--is to integrate China into the international system and to build a more constructive relationship with China.
Is the NSC Tamraz-proof?
PHIL PONCE: Sir, very quickly, in the time we have left, something domestic, and that is campaign finance, are you comfortable that the setup in the National Security Council now is Tamraz-proof, so to speak?
SAMUEL BERGER: We have made a number of changes in the procedures. We now are responsible for vetting any foreign visitor that meets with the President or the Vice President or the First Lady or Mrs. Gore. We have procedures to do that. We have procedures to follow up to make sure that our advice is taken, and I feel very confident that we will--we've taken strong measures, and I'm pretty vigilant to make sure that they are abided by.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Berger, thank you for being here.
SAMUEL BERGER: Thank you.