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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview for CNN's "Late Edition" with Wolf Blitzer
Taped from London, United Kingdom, June 12
and broadcast June 14, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, June 15, 1998
U.S. Department of State

Blue Bar

MR. BLITZER: Madame Secretary, thanks so much for joining us on "Late Edition."

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Very glad to be with you, Wolf.

MR. BLITZER: We're going to get to an extensive discussion of the new nuclear threat that's been posed as a result of the India-Pakistan explosions. Before we get to that, a few questions in the headlines right now. As far as the situation in Kosovo is concerned, last week on this program the Senate Majority Leader, Trent Lott, expressed fear that Kosovo could turn out to be another Bosnia. Do you agree with him?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we're very concerned about that, that we don't want to repeat what happened in '90 and '91. Therefore, we are all determined to be very clear early on about what has to be done.

We have just completed a meeting with the Contact Group, which includes the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, the Russians and the U.S. And then we expanded it to have Japan and Canada here. We all made very clear that there were certain steps that President Milosevic had to take in order to try to bring the violence down; to make sure that his special forces are not out there; that the Yugoslav Army is not there; that there is free passage; that the refugees are not -- people are not displaced and become refugees. And we are working very hard to make very clear to him that the escalation in violence and the bloody business that's going on there is unacceptable.

MR. BLITZER: How good is your intelligence on what is actually happening in Kosovo right now? Would it be accurate to say that ethnic cleansing is already underway?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are calling it ethnic cleansing in the building. Basically what happens is that portions of the Yugoslav Army or these special forces go into villages and torch houses of Kosovar Albanians. They are chosen because they are Kosovar Albanians. The very sad part about this is that there are moderate Kosovar leaders, such as Dr. Rugova and the people that he represents. The actions that the Yugoslavs are taking, that Belgrade is directing, is creating a group of extremists among the Kosovar Albanians. Actually, Belgrade is the best recruiter for Kosovar extremists.

MR. BLITZER: I noticed you've already said that no additional UN authority is required for the NATO troops to get involved more directly in stopping what you now describe as this ethnic cleansing going on in Kosovo. But do you believe if U.S. troops, whether air troops or ground forces, are engaged in fighting in Kosovo that the U.S. Congress should pass some sort of resolution authorizing this?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think you're jumping many steps here. What we are trying to do -- our major goal here is to have a diplomatic solution. NATO has done planning, and the planning is done as a basis of under-girding our diplomacy.

President Yeltsin has asked President Milosevic to come to Moscow next week. We are hoping that diplomacy will prevail here, and that the planning that NATO is doing will be a visible sign to Milosevic that we are prepared, and that he should get the message. After all, it was really the kind of military action that took place, as far as Bosnia is concerned, that finally drove the message home to him. So maybe he'll get the message ahead of time this time.

Obviously, we're going to be consulting with Congress. You yourself quoted Majority Leader Lott. I was up in Congress this week, and we talked about Kosovo; and we will continue to do so.

MR. BLITZER: You said that time is limited. Can you give us a ball park? How much time is there before President Milosevic will have to accept these conditions?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have said that he needs to do it expeditiously, immediately. So there's not a date with it. But all of us meeting today made very clear that the bloody business and the violence must end, and that the diplomatic track needs to be re-engaged.

While in many of the meetings that Milosevic has had with others, he promises one thing and then nothing really happens, we'll see what effect President Yeltsin has on him. President Yeltsin is a dynamic leader. He has had a close relationship, generally, as one Slav country to another. And President Yeltsin is somebody who has a lot of authority. So let's see.

I think the main thing for us, Wolf, is that we want to get it back on a diplomatic track, and that the military planning is in support of our diplomacy.

MR. BLITZER: Okay, let's move on and talk about a couple of other issues before we get to the nuclear proliferation matter.

As far as President Clinton's trip to China is concerned, you have noticed that Harry Wu, who was once a long-time political prisoner in China, now living in the United States, a political dissident, he bluntly -- he really candidly described President Clinton's decision to go to Tiananmen Square to meet with the Chinese Government to received there as "a policy of appeasement." How do you reassure those human rights activists in China that President Clinton's willingness to go to Tiananmen Square is not, in the words of Harry Wu, a policy of appeasement?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have a great deal of respect for Harry Wu, but he's wrong.

I think that President Clinton made very clear in his speech this week on China that he will make very clear to the Chinese, as he already has, that they are on the wrong side of history as far as human rights are concerned. President Clinton will not mince words. He will make what is American policy about human rights very clear. We want to see an improvement in the Chinese human rights policy.

But we believe that by engaging with China that we have a better chance of really pushing them on the human rights policy. China, as the President said yesterday -- I hope people really get this -- one out of every four people in the world is Chinese. Therefore, the idea of not dealing with them, not engaging with them, seems really foolish in terms of U.S. national interests.

Now, engagement does not mean endorsement. We do not endorse their human rights policy. And President Clinton will make that very clear there, as he did to President Jiang when he was here.

MR. BLITZER: And those critics on Capitol Hill and elsewhere who say that President Clinton's willingness to go to Tiananmen Square is roughly the same as President Reagan's willingness to go to Bitburg. What do you say to those critics?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think President Clinton made it very clear yesterday that protocol is not policy. This is where they greet their visitors; they have greeted other heads of state there. It is beside Tiananmen Square, in front of the Great Hall of the People.

What is more important is what the President says. The President made very clear yesterday, as he has any number of times, that he plans to make very clear that our relationship with China will never be totally normal until they improve their human rights policy, and until they get on the right side of history. He has made that so clear already, and he will continue to do so.

We knew there were a lot of people who said that we shouldn't go to the Beijing Women's Conference because it would somehow be compromising. The statements that Mrs. Clinton made there, that I made there, that others made there delivered a message even better than doing it from the outside. It's good to go there and tell them what we think.

MR. BLITZER: One quick question on the Middle East -- the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Is there any hope that this peace process is going to get back on track any time soon?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, Wolf, we're working it very hard. There are constructive meetings that are going on. It's a little bit of an emotional roller coaster, but I do think that I will pursue it to the best of my ability. We're going to try to keep narrowing the gaps and if we can't, then we'll let people know.

MR. BLITZER: Okay, Secretary Albright, stay with us. We have to take a quick break. When we come back, more questions for Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. We'll turn our attention to ground zero, as CNN takes a week-long look at the global threat of nuclear weapons. Stay with us.

(Commercial break.)

MR. BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." CNN this week begins a week-long review of the new nuclear age, the problems of nuclear development, nuclear proliferation. Joining us now from London, resuming our conversation, the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.

Madame Secretary, what is the most dangerous spot on Earth today, as far as the potential use of nuclear weapons is concerned?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, Wolf, clearly the India-Pakistan situation is the most dangerous spot.

But let me put this into context a little bit. Ever since the beginning of President Clinton's first term, he has been talking about the fact that the greatest threat, as we move into the 21st Century, is the issue of proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. This has been a priority issue for us. We have been involved in negotiations with Russia about it. We have extended the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention. This has been one of our highest agenda items.

I think, frankly, what happened is that some people thought we might have been making it up. I mean, they kind of thought the Cold War was over, all those facts that everybody had learned about warheads and throw weights that they could kind of put behind them. People were lulled into thinking that we had dealt with this problem. President Clinton knew that we had not. Therefore, it has been high on our agenda.

We also knew that Pakistan and India had the capability, and we all worked very hard to make them -- we hoped -- to make them understand that they would be less secure if they exploded nuclear weapons. They are today less secure than they were two weeks ago; and therefore, it is a very dangerous place.

MR. BLITZER: Especially dangerous, we're told, because of the emotional dispute involving Kashmir, which could be a flash point for the potential use of nuclear weapons. Is there anything the United States can do -- the Clinton Administration, you personally, can do to ease this crisis over Kashmir, which many people say is the root of tensions between India and Pakistan?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, that problem has been going for the last 50 years. The UN and various envoys have tried to do something about Kashmir; and ultimately it is one of those issues that can only be resolved by the parties themselves. We will do what we can to try to get them to meet with each other and deal with it, because the nuclear problem has to be really dealt with in terms of its root causes as far as India and Pakistan are concerned. And you're right, Kashmir is a flash point.

What I find interesting is that while there has been some reluctance by other countries to talk about Kashmir as a problem, in the various communiqués and meetings that we've had in the last couple of weeks, Kashmir is named as the root cause, or one of the causes, of the problem. I think international attention on it will help, but ultimately it's the dialogue between the two countries. The U.S. is obviously going to do what we can to try to push them together, to facilitate it, but as with so many of these disputes, unless the leaders themselves make the hard choices it's very hard for outsiders to make something happen.

MR. BLITZER: Senator Richard Lugar, who is going to be on this program shortly, following you. He's already written an article and he's suggesting that perhaps the United States is engaged in too much use of sanctions -- that these sanctions really don't have much of an impact on a lot of these countries that they're directed toward. Are you beginning to realize -- is the Clinton Administration beginning to realize that the use of economic sanctions is really limited?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's interesting, Wolf, it's not the Clinton Administration that needs to realize it; it's the Congress that needs to realize it. The sanctions are primarily imposed by laws. The very tough sanctions that have now been put into place against India and Pakistan is the Glenn Amendment, which has no waiver authority and no flexibility; it's all sticks and no carrots.

I was up on the Hill last week and I met with almost half the Senate -- Senator Lugar was there, Majority Leader Lott and Leader Daschle was there and a number of other people. We talked about the fact that something has to be done about this proliferation of sanctions legislation. The Majority Leader welcomed the idea that we might have an executive legislative working group on this. I know that Senator Lugar has been involved with Senator Dodd in some legislation. I think that we must do something about it, because sanctions that have no flexibility, no waiver authority, are just blunt instruments; and diplomacy requires us to have some finesse.

MR. BLITZER: Given the fact that many of these other countries that you would call rogue nations -- Libya or Iraq, perhaps Iran, North Korea -- they're already on the face of US sanctions in all sorts or forms. It probably isn't much of a deterrent -- the threat of more sanctions -- if they want to go ahead and try to follow the Indian and the Pakistani examples, and develop their own nuclear capabilities.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I do think that the threat of these kinds of sanctions, which I think people -- as far as the Glenn Amendment is concerned -- will see that as a result of it, the aid programs to their countries have been drastically cut, by over a billion dollars they will lose; this is a disincentive.

The problem that we have is that those sanctions -- the Glenn Amendment as it is currently written -- doesn't allow for any incentives. There is no way to induce those two countries, from our perspective, to get better behavior. So what happens is we launch -- we have all the sticks or the sledgehammers and then other countries can go in and pick up the contract. So we have to figure out a way to give the President of the United States -- and I have to tell you, we have to remember, there is one President of the United States and one Secretary of State. We are responsible for implementing U.S. foreign policy, and we need some flexibility. I can't do business, or the President can't do business, with our hands tied behind our backs. We need flexibility. And I do believe that Congress is going to work with us to try to provide some flexibility to let American power be used in a way that is best for America's interests.

MR. BLITZER: It sounds like you're suggesting that with Congress right now is meddling, is interfering and is causing the Administration more grief than cooperation.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that there could be better cooperation between Congress and the Administration on these sanctions laws. They are, I think, not designed in order to help America carry out its national interests.

If we have to sanction every country because its religious laws do not fit America's and really judge what religious persecution is, and we have to sanction every country in the world as result of it, it sure doesn't leave us much operating room to try to figure out how to engage with countries that are needed in order for us to have a functional international system, and where we are able to work with other countries to promote America's national interests -- that is security, trade liberalization, human rights. The issues that we need to deal with require that the executive branch have flexibility; that's the way the Constitution is written.

MR. BLITZER: All right, give us the big picture right now -- what can the United States do to make the world safer from the potential use of nuclear weapons anywhere around the world?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: What I think we need to do is to make very clear to India and Pakistan that they have become less safe and less respected, so that there's no incentive for other countries to follow suit. So if they had not blasted their way into nuclear weapons states, which is a category under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. They have not blasted their way onto permanent status of the Security Council. These are things they wanted, and they wanted respect. They had respect. The country of Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, my goodness, they had more moral authority than many countries in the world. They blasted away that respect. So nobody should think they gained by that.

I think, then, also, we have to make sure that the whole non-proliferation set-up is vitalized and made really vital to all of us and shored up. So I believe the Senate must ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. We have to get implementing legislation for the Chemical Weapons Convention. We have to -- there are those who think these treaties don't mean anything. On the contrary, what has happened as a result of these blasts is it's evident that the international community needs to be linked together, making clear what our views are.

So we're going to work on that and we are -- I'm very pleased that the meetings we've had recently where more and more countries -- I would count over 80 just in the last ten days who have reaffirmed their commitment to these treaties and have condemned India and Pakistan for what they're doing. But most of all, Wolf, we have to be aware of the fact that the nuclear age is far from over, and we have to be engaged in confidence-building measures in a variety of ways to make sure that non-proliferation is high on the agenda.

MR. BLITZER: One final question, Madame Secretary -- it's kind of you to join us. The two superpowers -- the United States and Russia -- still have most of the world's nuclear warheads. The Russian Duma -- the parliament -- has still not ratified START II; it looks like it's going to be delayed until the fall. Do you think it would be important or wise for President Clinton to still go to Russia to meet with President Yeltsin, even before the Duma ratifies START II?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I do think that we have to keep in mind the incredible progress between the United States and Russia on arms control. If we follow through on START III, 80 percent of all various nuclear capable programs will have been cut down. We have no weapons targeted at each other. We are in a constant discussion in terms of how to follow through on arms control issues.

I met with Prime Minister Primakov just now in London. He was concerned about the recent action of the Duma, and has plans for how to keep pursuing the ratification of START II. He is dedicated to it as is President Yeltsin. I think that President Clinton -- we have a lot of business to do with Russia, and I think that we do not want some extremist groups in the Duma not only to control the arms control agenda between the two countries, but all the other broad agenda that we have with Russia.

So whether and when the President goes will be determined by the kind of business that we need to do with Russia. I can only tell you that it's very broad, it's very important, and the two Presidents have a relationship where they're able to deal with a whole host of issues. So the decisions will be made on their own merits.

MR. BLITZER: Okay. Secretary Albright, it was kind of you to join us from London, to take some time out from your hectic schedule. We appreciate it on "Late Edition."

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thanks a lot, Wolf.

MR. BLITZER: Thank you.

[End of Document]

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