|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright|
Interview on CBS's "Face the Nation"
Washington, DC, March 28, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
QUESTION: We begin with the Secretary of State. Madame Secretary, thank you for joining us. The reports do not sound so good coming from Kosovo today. We hear of more atrocities; we hear of more refugees being driven from their homes. Can you confirm any of these reports?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, they're very bad reports and we are collecting information on them. But what we think is happening is that he is really getting ready to eliminate the KLA, the UCK forces, and to have an increased systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing. He has been doing this, Bob -- I mean, I think the thing that we have to remember is that he has been on a campaign for the last 14 months of really building up his forces in and around Kosovo. We now think there's somewhere between 10,000 and 18,000 of his forces within Kosovo massing this last offensive.
There are terrible reports about men and women -- men being separated from women and children, then they being taken off and executed; villages being torched; people arriving across the border with no shoes and literally told to leave their villages. So it is a very, very bad scene.
QUESTION: Do we have any kind of satellite verification? I mean, there's one report, for example, that maybe as many as a half-billion people have now been driven out of their homes. We keep hearing of people being put on forced marches behind tanks. Do we see any of that in the satellites?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, this is information that's coming out of NATO. There obviously are a variety of ways to check this, and I'm not going to go into the details.
QUESTION: But you can confirm the --
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We can confirm a lot. The numbers are harder to confirm, but there are huge numbers. I mean, they are in the hundreds of thousands and there are clearly people being put on buses and forced to move out, and then people who are -- reports of their being executed and various rapes and pillaging going on.
QUESTION: You said at the beginning of the week -- and I mean, this is a quote -- that the purpose here is to deter Milosevic from continuing his aggressive activities against the Kosovar people; if he does not do that, then damage his ability to do so. Isn't what you're telling me that all of this thus far has simply backfired?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, absolutely not. I think you have to look at this in context. What has happened here is that for the last ten years, Milosevic has been trying to end the rights of the Kosovar people. He has systematically expanded this; he has killed people; he has moved this ethnic cleansing. We have tried to have a peaceful approach to this. He has now moved even further. And if you remember Racak just a few weeks ago, where there were massacres -- dozens of people with their throats slit -- it has been a systematic expansion of this whole atrocity. What we have done -- before he was doing it with impunity -- we are now making sure that he pays a very heavy price.
QUESTION: But doesn't this suggest it's getting worse and not getting better?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We all know that these things that he is now massing. But I think that it is just simply an upside down argument to think that NATO or we have made this get worse. Milosevic is to blame; he is the one who is making it worse. What we were trying to do is make sure that he pays the heaviest price for what he is doing. But I think it must be very clear that to say that this has now backfired is just dead wrong.
QUESTION: But don't you think he stepped this up in a sense to thumb his nose at NATO?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, because I think that the reason that we did what we did was that we could see this massing going on and he was planning to do this anyway. That is what was our estimation of it. I think that what we did and are doing and will continue to do is to make him pay a heavy price. He will come out of this with a military that is devastated.
QUESTION: There are some reports now that Albanians are being used as human shields, if you will, around munitions plants. Do you have any confirmation of that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have heard things like this, but that is harder to confirm.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how you can make Milosevic pay for this without sending in ground troops?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we are. What is happening now is that Secretary General Solana has given SACEUR General Clark an order to go into a phase that had been already planned of more intensive air campaign that has a wider range of targets and is also now going to go against forces in the field. So Milosevic's army is, as we said, going to be -- and is already -- very severely damaged; and we will continue to do that.
QUESTION: There are some reports that the British are actually interested in sending in some kind of a protective force. Have you heard anything about that, and would that be something you'd be interested in?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As you know, President Clinton has said that we have no intention of sending in ground forces. Our only intention has been and plan has been to send in forces in a peaceful climate, and that is if there is a peace agreement. So we have no intention of sending ground forces --
QUESTION: Of any kind?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Of any kind.
QUESTION: David Martin, our CBS News national security correspondent, raised an interesting point earlier today on another CBS broadcast when he said that you cannot stop from the air a group of thugs going from house to house and just grabbing people by the neck and taking them out in the yard and shooting them or doing some of the other things that are going on here. So having said that, how can you really bring this to a halt only from the air, or do you not agree with that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that clearly this is what some of them are doing there. But I think that what we have to do is to make very clear to Milosevic, who is directing this and can stop those thugs that this is a price he cannot afford to pay, that he will be -- his military that he feels so proud of is being systematically damaged in a very serious way. Milosevic knows that he can stop this by going to negotiations on the framework of the Rambouillet agreement, or he will continue to suffer these kinds of losses.
QUESTION: Let me go back to this business of ground troops, because I think that's one thing that really does worry people. Are you saying here this morning that no way, no how, no way possible is the United States going to put American ground troops in there in a combat kind of role?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am saying what President Clinton has said and has repeated a number of times -- that he has no intention of sending ground forces into this operation.
QUESTION: I don't say this to mean disrespect, but we have learned to be very careful interpreting the words of this President. So when you say "no intention," does that mean that could change?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: All I can tell you is the words -- he will not send ground -- he says he has no intention. He is the Commander-in-Chief, and when he speaks he should be respected.
QUESTION: So if Mr. Milosevic does not stop, what do we do?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we will continue this campaign as long as it is necessary, until the job is finished.
QUESTION: Do you think he's waiting to see some fissures in the Alliance? He figures he can just wait you out and then maybe at some point, Greece, Italy, will say, okay, we've had enough; we're not going to participate in this any more?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: He may be waiting for that, but he's got a long wait because I can tell you I have been on the phone with every one of the NATO allies -- 18 other members of the Alliance -- in the last 24 hours. Each of them, in their own way, has said that they are completely behind us; that Milosevic is the cause of this; that obviously everybody, at some stage, would like a diplomatic solution -- so would we. But there is unity in the Alliance.
I was very encouraged by my phone calls. The President made phone calls to the leaders and then we followed up with my making phone calls to the foreign ministers. There is complete unity.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I don't think anyone would expect you to put a date certain on how long this is going to take, but could you just give us some sort of estimate? Are we talking about an operation that's going to go on for weeks, for months?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm not going to go into an operational time line. What has been said by the Pentagon and by SACEUR and by NATO is that this will go on until it is completed. I'm not going to give any time frame.
QUESTION: Should Mr. Milosevic fear for his own life and safety?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that he should in the following way, which is that I feel really sorry for the Serb people, who are good people -- we have no fight with the Serb people. I just wonder how long they're going to put up with this, or his military. I just feel really sorry. I lived in Yugoslavia when I was a child, and I speak some Serbo-Croatian, and I feel really sorry for them.
QUESTION: Let me ask you just kind of a layman's question, as it were. We now have an all volunteer army, we don't have a draft. But why should an American parent think it is worth it to send his son or daughter to this part of the world, where they've been fighting each other for hundreds of years? I guess my question is, what's in it for us?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Bob, I think that there are many things that are in it for us, starting from a small picture to a larger one. First of all, I think that this area of Europe is of great interest to the United States. It's near the Middle East; it's near the center of Europe. We believe that it is good for America to have a stable, secure, free and open Europe.
Also, I believe that Americans are repelled by this kind of barbarism and the horror of not doing something about this. If we do something about it at this phase, when it is still relatively contained, it is better than what happened when we have to do a larger job.
The other part I feel very strongly about and so, I'm sure, do the American people -- that we cannot end this, the bloodiest century in the history of the world, by returning to the kind of barbarism that we saw in the middle of it and stand by and watch it. I think Americans believe that.
QUESTION: Yesterday, the Russian Foreign Minister said, I believe, he called it one of the blackest days in the post-war history of Europe. Do you think there's any possibility that the Russians may somehow try to intervene here, either by supplying the Serbs with weapons or, in fact, by trying to introduce in some way their own forces?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it is a black day when you see this kind of barbarism perpetrated by a dictator like Milosevic. The Russians, we have spent a lot of time talking to them --
QUESTION: He was talking about the United States and NATO intervening, not the Serbs.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, but this was not started by NATO; this was started by Milosevic, and they know that.
I think that the Russians themselves have an opportunity now to put themselves on the right side. I can't imagine that they want to go into the 21st Century on the side of a barbaric act such as this.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, very quickly, there are some people in Congress who believe that we should be arming the Kosovars. Should we?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that we do not believe that is appropriate, and besides, it would not deal with this issue now. It would take two or three years to do something like that. What we have to do is to make sure that we deal with this systematic ethnic cleansing now.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I think we have to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us this morning and best of luck.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Bob.
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