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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on CNN's "Larry King Live"
April 7, 1999, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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MR. KING: We'll spend the opening portions of the program with our Secretary of State, and then the historically two factions of two political parties join together -- Senator Dole will join us, engage in the conversation, and then we'll remain with Senator Dole and then we'll meet our two sisters.

Let's start right with what we just mentioned, the Acting President of Cyprus supposedly going over to free or to attempt to free the three Americans. What have you heard? What do you know?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We know that arrangements have been made for him to be able to go in, and we expect that Milosevic will, without any conditions because these people should never have been arrested, he is going there to see if he can bring them home. That is all we know.

MR. KING: Do you think in permitting him to come -- and if that's the subject of his going -- that that's encouraging?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I hate to give anybody false hopes, but I think that it is useful that the acting president of Cyprus is going there. Arrangements have been made for him go. It is essential that Milosevic turn them over without any conditions because they should not be in this position where they are being used by Milosevic against their will.

MR. KING: Might we say you're hopeful?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I want -- I would like to see them home, obviously. They're very brave Americans and it's important for them to be here.

MR. KING: You had a tough day today in the press. The Washington Post had a front-page article that you misjudged Milosevic, that the main point of the article was that you and your aides miscalculated and that this is your war.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, Larry, you know, I have lived in this town a long time. There is a very strange activity that goes on here and in New York, which is called "cover your you-know-what." I don't want to engage in that.

I think that we have a very important job of pursuing our aims here. I take full responsibility, along with my colleagues, for believing that it was essential for us to not stand by and watch what Milosevic was planning to do and watching him do it. I'd much rather, as I said on Sunday, be here answering your very correct questions about what is going on rather than having to face questions that we were standing by and doing nothing. So I think --

MR. KING: Better this than doing nothing?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Absolutely.

MR. KING: Did you, though -- did you say, as reported, that all -- all it will take is a couple of bomb strikes, and he'll come crawling?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Absolutely not. We would have made -- you know, the way this was all talked about by President Clinton and all of us was that first of all, we wanted to solve this diplomatically. It was essential to have the threat of the use of force in order to get him to understand the diplomacy. We tried that as hard as we could, and he would not accept it.

Then the President and I and all the advisers said that our desire through thhe use of force was to deter him from doing terrible things to his people, to the people of Kosovo, and if we were not able to do that, to degrade and diminish and destroy his military capability for keeping this kind of a grip on them. Therefore, it's very evident that we did not think this would be a one-day event. It's important, and we have been talking a great deal about the fact that we have to be sustained, that we have to be patient. I think that the American people understand this.

What I find so encouraging is that the American people, once they have really learned what this is about and what our national interests are in Kosovo, are supporting our action. They can't stand to see what we're seeing, which are these refugees and the children and the old people and people having lost their homes and being separated. I think they know what we're doing.

MR. KING: What about those who say, well, why here? You were opposed, I think, to going in, in Rwanda and helping people there. Why do we -- why is it specialized occurrences?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, actually, I was not opposed to that, and I tried very hard.

MR. KING: Then that was a misreport too, that you were against that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I tried very hard to be able to get help there, but that exploded like a volcano. It's a long complicated story. But I was not opposed to that.

Here, I really think that what is very important for us to understand, is that the Balkans are not just some appendage of Europe. They're a huge portion of Europe. What we're trying to do as we enter the 21st century is to have a Europe that is whole and free for the first time in history. We cannot have the whole peninsula of southeast Europe be ravaged by a depraved leadership in Serbia that creates instability throughout the Balkans.

MR. KING: Is war always a failure?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that clearly it is better to try to solve things by diplomacy.

MR. KING: So do you ever say to yourself, is there something we could have done short of this?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have to tell you, Larry -- I am glad you're asking me that, because, obviously, we all ask ourselves that every night. I can tell you that we tried every single diplomatic possibility. We went beyond -- there are people who think we went too far, that we kept going on diplomacy. There was no way to do it when you're dealing with somebody who does not understand that he cannot control the lives of everybody around him.

MR. KING: The statements that we have no end plan, that there's just a beginning plan and we don't know if there's ground troops, will there be ground troops. If he doesn't give in, where does this go?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have said that, first of all, it is essential for us to be patient and determined. Nobody expects this to end quickly. The Monday-morning quarterbacks are criticizing a game when it's in its first quarter, frankly.

So we have to be very patient with this. All the allies are together, and we will be very firm with him. We want -- we will consider all the time, say that we have certain conditions, which we have talked about -- is that he has to withdraw his forces. He has to allow -- agree to an international security force to go in. The refugees have to be able to come back. And there has to be some kind of a political settlement. We are going to keep insisting on that.

MR. KING: If it's still in the first quarter, Madame Secretary, then it's fair to ask what's the score.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think at this stage it's probably pretty even, because what has happened is he has done dreadful things. There's no question about that. And watching what he's done and using people as pawns and doing terrible things to them. But the air campaign is really working.

In the last 24 hours, if you add up all the things that have happened, we have been able to hit some of his armored personnel carriers, military infrastructure. We have been able to destroy a lot of the communications that he has in order to give directions to all these special forces and the military.

I think it's very hard to do an exact score. But I do think that while there was some hampering of weather initially -- and he really moved very fast, beyond human proportions, I think, in terms of creating what has been called this biblical horror, basically, or horror of biblical proportions. I think that we are really -- the military is on target.

MR. KING: Are you saying that you're shocked by what we're seeing?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Absolutely. I think that even though --

MR. KING: In other words, it's surprising to you even though you knew him -- you know him?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that it is over the top, as people would say, in terms of the horror. It has reminiscences of the kinds of things that people saw during World War II where there really is a desire to exterminate a group of people or use them as pawns. Seeing those pictures, Larry, of people being put in sealed trains, certainly brings memories to various people.

MR. KING: Poland.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Right. Now, you know what he's done? He has moved some of the people that were at the border of Macedonia and Kosovo --

MR. KING: To where?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Who knows? He's moved them back in, because he is trying what some people call a peace offensive. He is playing games with people's lives.

MR. KING: Would you call it a holocaust?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that it's certainly crimes against humanity. It is huge. It is ethnic cleansing, in its worst term. I think that one has to be careful in overusing terms. But I really do think that it is a systematic way of trying to eliminate a group of people.

MR. KING: More with Madeleine Albright, the United States Secretary of State. She'll be at the Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday. We'll be right back.

One thing on kind of personal nature, and then more on issues. I think it was Arianna Huffington writing in "The L.A. Times," reading from a book about to come out about you, quoting a close friend of yours as saying that this is a personal history of you. You'd been waiting to get into this fight. It's your war. How do you react when you hear something like that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, we all have our history, but this is not my war. This is --

MR. KING: But you're from -- I mean, you're from the plight of Eastern Europe.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I certainly --

MR. KING: You saw the horror of Eastern Europe.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well --

MR. KING: Your family lived the horror.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Absolutely, and I clearly I am a product of central Europe, and seeing what happens when you don't stand up to evil early.

I also lived in Belgrade as a child, and so I know the Serb people; I like the Serb people. I think that what Milosevic is doing by not allowing them to know the truth -- they're totally propagandized at this stage.

MR. KING: Do you think critics are deliberately personalizing it toward you?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Probably, you know, but I --

MR. KING: As a target.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I take responsibility for the fact that I believe that Americans, who are the most generous and humanitarian people in the world, and who have very straight values about not seeing evil, not seeing children dying for no reason except that they are Albanian and not the right ethnic mix for the Serbians -- that's something that the Americans don't put up with. The reason that I am where I am is that America is the most generous country in the world, to have taken somebody from central Europe, allowed me to become a part of the American mainstream, and now have the possibility of representing us. So I think this is not my war. This is America's fight for our values.

MR. KING: They asked for a cease-fire based on the holiday. The last time President Clinton stopped bombing because of Ramadan; he did not stop now. Don't you think that would have been just smart from a standpoint of all the Eastern Orthodox in the world who are celebrating this as a holiday?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, their holiday is not yet, and the question was about the Western Christian Easter, and I think the President quite rightly said that while we're all religious and want to celebrate holidays, when you see the kind of suffering that is going on, that you can't -- they are not stopping for holidays; the suffering --

MR. KING: So it was different than not letting us see if they're hiding something? In other words, Ramadan was different, not because holidays are different, but because the suffering's different.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Absolutely, yes.

MR. KING: So we have --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I mean, I think that there's this issue of seeing all these people who are not taking time out -- Milosevic is not taking time out from herding people out of their houses, or burning them, or practicing a scorched-earth policy. I think what we're doing is trying to figure out a way to make Milosevic understand that this is unacceptable behavior, that you cannot exterminate people like this, and that you cannot make pawns out of them and just play with them as if they were not human.

MR. KING: You labeled, through Mr. Rubin today, war criminals, right?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes.

MR. KING: Is that true? If someone is declared a war criminal, why would that someone want to go to the table when you might arrest him?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, what we were basically saying was that they were in danger of being war criminals because of what they were doing --

MR. KING: Like putting them on warning?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Right, that the world was watching; that the war crimes tribunal was working very hard; that the Western nations and the NATO alliance were all being very helpful, I think, in providing information to them. There are a lot of interviews going on. They were basically told that the path that they were on was one that would subject them to this kind of war-criminal activity.

MR. KING: Senator Dole will join us in a moment. Why not ground troops? The President has ruled it out, and there are some strategists who say, "Why rule out anything in a war?"

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we believe that the air campaign is the appropriate way to handle this, and the President has said --

MR. KING: So are we saying, "never"?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, he has said very -- as he said, and he chose his words very carefully -- he has no intention or plan for ground troops except in a permissive environment. That is one --

MR. KING: What does that mean?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That is one to which Milosevic agrees to have them there as part of a way to implement a peace plan, and it's important that -- this is where we started out when we were at Rambouillet making the agreement -- that there would be a way for the Kosovars to have a high level of independence. Kosovo would not be out of Serbia. In order to have that happen, the KLA would disarm, the Serbs would pull their forces out, and there would be an international force that would go in there to help implement it.

MR. KING: So beyond NATO -- maybe the Russians would go in.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have always said that it was possible, you know, the way the Russians have affiliated themselves with NATO forces in Bosnia, that there were ways to have a force that was composed of more than NATO forces.

MR. KING: Our guest is the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. She's a friend of the gentleman who's going to join us. They have been on opposite sides politically. He ran for president against her president, but we do things unusually in the West, do we not? They're going to come on together to discuss this. Robert Dole will join Madeleine Albright on Larry King Live right after these words.

If he were elected, she would not be Secretary of State.

SENATOR DOLE: How do you know?

MR. KING: (Laughter.) Our guest is the former Majority Leader of the United States Senate and his party's former candidate for President of the United States, Bob Dole. He joins Madeleine Albright.

Up to this minute -- we have more questions, obviously, to ask, and after the secretary leaves us, the senator will remain -- anything that the secretary has said up to this point you would disagree with?

SENATOR DOLE: No, but one thing I want to underscore: I've had a number of conversations with Secretary Albright, and she's never indicated to me that, you know, this guy's going to be a pushover, you're going to drop a couple of bombs.

MR. KING: So that rap on her is wrong?

SENATOR DOLE: That's a bad rap. You know, she's tough, and I have great faith in the Secretary -- as do my colleagues in Congress, both Republicans and Democrats. That's just not accurate. I mean, I've talked to her a dozen times about this issue.

MR. KING: So that story today that she said, "It's over in two days," is out of whack?

MR.DOLE: Out of whack, and I never heard it. We've talked about a lot of things.

MR. KING: Now, do you disagree with anything?

SENATOR DOLE: Well, I -- you know --

MR. KING: To this point?

SENATOR DOLE: I think I could disagree, not with what Secretary Albright's done. I think she's been a very strong voice. We worked together when we were trying to get the Albanians to sign the peace agreement. Keep in mind, they lost about three weeks and permitted Milosevic to move in about 40,000 troops, because they wouldn't sign the peace agreement at Rambouillet. You were there, urging them to do that.

MR. KING: Does Rambouillet still stand, by the way?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we're talking about --

MR. KING: Where is it?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, it's difficult to say that it stands exactly as it is, because the facts on the ground are so different. But we are talking about getting a political agreement within the framework, which would mean some kind of a political settlement along with an implementation force. If I could say that -- and when I hit a really tough point at Rambouillet, I called Senator Dole. He has really been fantastic. We've talked a lot about how to move this process forward. I called him because I wasn't able to get some movement from the Albanians, and he did it.

MR. KING: What got you so into the Balkans?

SENATOR DOLE: I guess it was a trip I made there in 1990. I mean, I went over because I'd heard what had happened --

MR. KING: As Majority Leader?

SENATOR DOLE: As Majority Leader -- in Pristina. And I took six of my colleagues with me. And we were told in Belgrade we couldn't go to Pristina without the Foreign Minister of Serbia. We said, "We don't need the Foreign Minister. We're just on a little visit." There were 20 to 30,000 gathered there to greet us. By the time we arrived, they'd all been driven away with rubber bullets and rubber hoses.

It started a year before that. I mean, Milosevic stripped them of their autonomy, which included their schools, their hospitals, their legislature. Now he's stripped them of their dignity. I mean, he's an evil man, no question about it.

MR. KING: Ground war -- we've heard what the Secretary has said. What do you think?

SENATOR DOLE: Well, my view's a bit different. I mean, I don't want to use ground troops, don't misunderstand me, but I don't think you telegraph what you may or may not do, because he may be sitting over there with a checklist saying, "We're not going to do this, and this, and this."

MR. KING: Might be watching now.

SENATOR DOLE: I hope he is, because I would say to the Serb people, who I have a lot of faith in, you know, one way to resolve this is to have Mr. Milosevic make a graceful exit.

MR. KING: What would you say?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that's a pretty good idea. He's not doing any good for his people. In fact, the part I think is so stunning, Larry, is that he has allowed the Serb people to suffer this way, that he has no compunction about anything. He only wants to stay in power. This is a purely personal power trip for him.

SENATOR DOLE: I think you can't -- divorce the Kosovo problem from the problem we've had for nine years with Milosevic, starting with Slovenia, and then Croatia, and then Bosnia.

MR. KING: You're both asking him to resign?

SENATOR DOLE: Well, I don't care how he leaves, but --

MR. KING: You're asking him to resign?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that he certainly is visiting a lot of plague and torture on his own people, and destabilizing the region. He is not a good addition to the scene.

MR. KING: We're going to hold the Secretary for one more brief portion, OK?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Fine.

MR. KING: Senator Dole will remain with us, and then we'll talk with Senator Dole. Then later, we'll meet the two sisters of Sergeant Stone, a prisoner of war, as told to us by -- by the way, has the Red Cross been allowed in to see them?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, no.

MR. KING: They told us they would.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, they haven't.

MR. KING: Frankly, Madame Secretary, can Kosovo and the Serbs, based on all that's happened, can they ever live together?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that generations in the future can, because these are people --

MR. KING: But now?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's hard to imagine at this stage, I have to say that, because it's very hard, if you think about the people going in and torching their houses, and slitting throats, and separating the military-age men from the women and children. It's hard. But I think that we have to keep pursuing to try to create a way for them to go back and be able to resume their lives.

MR. KING: During the break you mentioned, both of you, that the Serbs are lying, and that we're --

SENATOR DOLE: That's my view.

MR. KING: From your knowledge.

SENATOR DOLE: Just watching their television.

MR. KING: How do you deal when you see something, obviously -- you see something you know not to be true?

SENATOR DOLE: Well, it's like the one Serb official said, these people are out for a walk.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes.

SENATOR DOLE: They've been driven from their homes; their homes have been destroyed; their live stock destroyed; their crops were burned, and he says they're out for a walk. Milosevic will tell you -- he'll look you in the eye and say, "I've never -- I wouldn't hurt anybody. I'm out trying to help these people who were up in the mountains last September, trying to get them blankets." You knew it wasn't true. I'd been there, and I'd driven around the villages, and I've seen the misery. I really believe, when we -- when we had an opportunity to take a look at what's happening inside Kosovo, we're going to be shocked. I mean, the world's going to be shocked at the atrocities.

MR. KING: Shocked, more than we are already?

SENATOR DOLE: Oh, much more.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Absolutely, and I think that that's what's going to happen. That's what..

MR. KING: You mean it's like opening up Dachau?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, because you have not been able to see all of this. I mean, what has happened is BBC got in there for a while, and showed some very terrible pictures of slaughters. But wait until we all get in there.

SENATOR DOLE: They'll put them in mass graves, and they'll destroy the evidence as they did in Bosnia. It's going to be very difficult.

MR. KING: How do you live with this? I mean, how do you really, emotionally?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think the way that I do, and I'm sure the senator does, is by saying that we are trying to do something about it. The way I couldn't live with it is if we just stood around and said, "This is not ours. This is not our concern. This is not a strategically important region. What is the U.S. doing there?" I am able to live with this because I think that we're doing the right thing.

MR. KING: Those who say this is not in the national interest -- how is it in the national interest? Your response is?

SENATOR DOLE: My response is maybe a little different than the Secretary's. But I've been following this so closely for the past decade, and I've seen what this man has done -- under his directions has been done with 250,000 killed in Bosnia, 2.5 million refugees, and now we're seeing what's happening in Kosovo. I mean, this is a pattern of evil conduct. If you look at the international law and you look at the term "genocide" --

MR. KING: You'd call it that?

SENATOR DOLE: Well, I call it that.

MR. KING: So that's the national interests. Genocide is in our national interest, wherever it occurs?

SENATOR DOLE: International interest, as well as our interest.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that we cannot watch crimes against humanity like this, and the evil. Even more than the -- you know, in addition to that, not more than that, the pattern of what he's doing is destabilizing a whole region, a region which has the possibility of coming together with new democracies like Romania and Bulgaria. They are talking with one another. They're trying to get into a new area -- Slovenia -- I mean, these are countries that would like to join the rest of Europe in what is going to be a brilliant new century. I think that that is in the national interests of the United States, to have a Europe that is whole, and free, and secure, because American security, to a great extent, depends on that.

MR. KING: Do you think many people take the United States maybe a little lightly when they -- and they might be a little surprised to see two people, maybe opposing political views, sitting together in support of a concept?

SENATOR DOLE: Well, I would hope not. I would hope that they would understand that when we make a commitment -- when the President of the United States makes a commitment, whether he or she be a Democrat or Republican, then we close ranks as we should. In this case, the Secretary appointed me Chairman of the International Commission on Missing Persons over a year and a half ago. We've been working together, trying to find the remains of 30,000 Serbs, Bosnian-Croats from that conflict. And --

MR. KING: Did you tell Bill Clinton, when he was running against him, that you liked him?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, not on a regular basis, but -- but I do think -- you know, I worked for Senator Muskie in the Senate, and he and Senator Dole worked together very closely. Senator Dole is a patriot, and he shows it every day.

MR. KING: Thank you, Madame.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much.

[End of Document]

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