Public Papers - 1991 - November
Exchange With Reporters Following a Meeting with Prime Minister Major of the United Kingdom in Rome, Italy
The President. This was erroneously billed as a press availability when it is but a photo op. So, fire away on the photos.
Q. -- -- meeting?
Q. What did you discuss?
Q. Do you expect any conflict between the European defense identity and the American role in NATO at this meeting?
The President. I think that will all be smooth. Don't you, Prime Minister?
The Prime Minister. Absolutely.
The President. Really.
The Prime Minister. We're all here to reinforce NATO.
Q. But, I mean, can you really square the Americans keeping a dominant role when they're cutting back their forces in Europe for understandable reasons?
The President. We have a sufficient force to take care of our obligation and our own national security interests, and one of those fundamental national security interests is a vigorous participation in NATO. It is in the interest of the United States to do this, as well as in the interest of the alliance. So, that's the way I would handle that one. And I think our -- I'm just going to not leave here until every single member of NATO understands that. But I think they all do; don't you, Prime Minister?
The Prime Minister. I don't think there's any doubt about it. Nowhere in Europe is there any wish to see any damage done to NATO, and everywhere in Europe is there a total understanding that NATO's been the guarantor of our security for 40-odd years. That's how it's been, and that's how it will stay.
Q. I thought that the Germans wanted to make the decisions more themselves.
The Prime Minister. The position in Europe is that the Europeans feel they have to take the greater share of the overall burden. They all agree to that. It's the overall burden within the NATO structure.
[At this point the President's helicopter approached.]
The President. Here's our man circling, making it difficult for everybody. But thank you all very much.
The Prime Minister. Thanks very much.
Note: The exchange began at 8:04 a.m. at the U.S. Ambassador's residence, the Villa Taverna. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.