|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright|
Interview on ABC-TV's "This Week" with Cokie Roberts, George Will, and Sam Donaldson
April 18, 1999, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MR. DONALDSON: Welcome to our program. As you see, we certainly have a full plate today, but a topic continues to be the war over Kosovo. It's interesting, after almost four weeks of bombing, the questions remain the same. Will the bombing work? Will ground troops be needed? Will Milosevic be actually branded a war criminal? And, most importantly, Cokie, I suppose, how will it end?
MS. ROBERTS: Well, we want to get those questions right away with the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who joins us this morning. Thank you very much for being with us, Madame Secretary. As always, in the questioning, George Will.
Madame Secretary, the President, in The Times of London today, talked about Slobodan Milosevic as a demagogue: "We are in Kosovo because Europe's worst demagogue has once again moved from angry words to unspeakable violence." Then he went on to call him a belligerent tyrant: "The region cannot be secure with a belligerent tyrant in its midst." He stayed short of calling him a war criminal. Is that something the United States is not ready to do?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, we know very well that the chaos that has been created in the Balkan peninsula in the last decade has been created by Milosevic. This is his fourth war. He took action against Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, and now he is taking this disgusting action against the Kosovar people.
In my meetings last week with the front-line states, it is evident to all of them that he is creating instability in the region. We believe that he is responsible for all the things that are going on, in terms of the burning of the houses and ordering people to execute people and rape. The War Crimes Tribunal is being provided with all kinds of information. We are being helpful; so are the other countries. Deciding whether somebody is a war criminal or not is a legal issue. That is in train; the statute of limitations on war crimes -- there is no statute of limitations.
But we are saying, as the President has said, he is responsible for what is going on.
MS. ROBERTS: Now, there were reports in papers today that the United States was slow in being forthcoming with that information, even though The Hague was pressing for it.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think we have provided as much information as we have, as is possible. It was the United States that really supported the creation of the War Crimes Tribunal. People think it would never exist if we hadn't done that. We are providing as much information as we can declassified as rapidly as possible.
MR. WILL: Reports are that on this day, which is, I guess, the 25th day of the bombing, there are 7,000 more Yugoslav forces in Kosovo than when the bombing started. Journalists on the ground there suggest that the forces there are operating confidently and roaming with impunity. What can you tell us that would suggest that this is working?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that what is evident from all the information that I've seen and that has been reported is that his military, generally, is being weakened while our air campaign is strengthening. There has been a serious degradation of his military, its ability to operate. We have hit command and control centers; his oil refineries are not working; his ammunition supplies are down and the ammunition production facilities have been seriously damaged. So, systematically, there is a way of wearing down his military while at the same time our air campaign is strengthening.
George, the unity of the allies is something that I think is to be applauded and is really remarkable. I think we should all be very proud of that.
MR. WILL: You mentioned oil refineries. Oil lubricates the modern war machinery. There are reports in the paper this morning that he is getting oil through the Montenegrin ports and that the United States is hesitating to blockade those because that would be an act of war. Are we not at war; and why would we not blockade those ports?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, we're taking all kinds of steps to try to limit the ability for outside powers to deliver oil. The Croatians have turned off their oil pipeline, and we are talking with our NATO allies about taking stricter action in order to limit the amount of oil that goes in.
MR. WILL: Would that include blockading those ports?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, there is a way to visit and search ships, and we are looking at a variety of ways to tighten the screws on him economically.
MR. WILL: Are we worried about the possibility of a coup in Montenegro? Milosevic has called the President of Montenegro a traitor. He has 10,000 to 12,000 troops there. Would that cause us to hesitate?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, we're in very close touch with President Djukanovic of Montenegro. We have said that we support him as a democratically-elected leader. We have warned Milosevic about the fact that spreading this to Montenegro would have serious consequences. There are refugee camps in Montenegro; we're doing everything we can to support them and make sure that this kind of thing does not happen.
MR. WILL: Coming back just a moment to the question of indictments in the war crimes and all that, we have said this is a war about certain values and that he is the antithesis of these values, particularly of international lawfulness. How do we, at the end of the day, negotiate with him? Can we negotiate with him other than the modalities of capitulation, the modalities of strict compliance with NATO's stated objectives? Can you envision any other negotiation taking place?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say that it is harder and harder to imagine that the United States could negotiate with him. But there is no need to, because I think that as we move through with this, he is being seriously weakened. Our allies are all determined to prevail. It is possible, if one looks at this, one signs final terms with people that you've been in a war with. I don't think we're precluded from doing that, but we have no intention of negotiating terms with him. We know what we need, which is that the refugees have to come back; his forces have to get out; and an international military force needs to go in, in a permissive environment that would allow the Kosovars to have self-government.
MR. DONALDSON: Before we get to the point of how you're going to make that happen, back to oil. Is it true that Hungary is shipping oil there?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No. What they have done is to allow a humanitarian convoy through from Russia. The only amount of oil that went with that was in order for the trucks to be able to go and deliver it. In fact, I think the Hungarians, as new NATO allies, have been very stalwart in making sure that the arms embargo is not broken versus Yugoslavia.
MR. DONALDSON: Madame Secretary, tackle again the question you're constantly asked -- about the air war. Is it working? I mean, Milosevic is still there; he's still doing what he was doing in Kosovo. He's pushing out Kosovars; he's killing them. What are you accomplishing?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, Sam, we never expected this to be something quick or easy. We have a sustained air campaign planned; it is now going forward. I believe that he is systematically being weakened in the ways I described to George. And his military is being weakened in a way in terms of its long-term ability to act, its supplies and how we are degrading it.
At the same time, our air campaign is getting stronger. I think if you listen day by day to the damage assessments, you can see that greater damage is being done to the things that really matter to Milosevic. Those that he holds dear are being damaged.
MR. DONALDSON: Well, then, your logic is that he has to give up, because Secretary Cohen and the Joint Chiefs have clearly said that air power alone can accomplish only limited objectives. They cannot stop the killing on the ground. Do you think he's going to give up, or do you think in fact NATO will have to come to the decision on ground troops?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, he has a choice. He can ultimately see where this is heading, and he can agree to the terms that we've talked about. Or we will have done enough damage to make it impossible for him to have this terrorist grip over the people of Kosovo.
MR. DONALDSON: But by that time -- excuse me -- will any people in Kosovo continue to exist?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, unfortunately, they are now outside of Kosovo. But they -- we're hoping and I think NATO and various organizations have really done a remarkable job now of getting these camps in order and are prepared to do more. So we are heartened now by the ability of the international community to deal with that. Obviously, the major thing that we want is for these people to be able to go back.
This hand of terror and power that Milosevic has held over Kosovo has been and will continue to be, as we go through this, seriously damaged and weakened in such a way that he will not be able to exercise that kind of power. Additionally, Sam, there will be a change in the balance of forces on the ground. As you know, the KLA is now -- Milosevic has always been the best recruiter for the KLA, and it is gaining more people.
MR. DONALDSON: Is NATO planning for ground war; and specifically, are American forces -- in Colorado or elsewhere -- beginning to train for a ground war?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that, as I've said, the air campaign is going on. The President has said he has no intention for ground forces. In the fall, we had a plan developed for putting forces in to implement a peace agreement, and an assessment was made about ground forces in a non-permissive environment. That assessment can be quickly updated, and that is where we are.
MR. DONALDSON: But my question was, is training going on?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As I understand it, there is training going on all the time around the United States for various --
MR. DONALDSON: But for this specific possibility, Madame Secretary?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Not to my knowledge. I was asked this morning, and there are various kinds of training operations that go on for various options all around --
MR. DONALDSON: Forgive me, Madame Secretary -- not to your knowledge. You are the top foreign policy official of our government. Wouldn't you know, wouldn't they tell you?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have been told that there is no training specifically going on for this kind of operation.
MR. WILL: General Clark is quoted in The Weekly Standard as having told the Administration that he can't achieve NATO's goals without ground troops. I gather you would reject that.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I was just in Brussels and had a long conversation with General Clark. He is getting what he needs, and I think he is doing a great job as the SACEUR.
MR. WILL: One further question about targeting that puzzles some people -- why is Serbian television, the instrument of a demagogue's and a dictator's social control -- why is Serbian television still on the air on the 25th day of bombing?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I'm not going to discuss targeting. Clearly, the television and the propaganda machine there is despicable and we are trying to penetrate it in every single --
MR. WILL: So we've tried to shut it down and failed?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm not going to go into the details of that.
MS. ROBERTS: There are reports today in U.S. News that American intelligence officials met recently with the KLA in order to get some arms to the KLA. Can you confirm that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, I cannot; and I met with the KLA spokeswoman when I was in Brussels. We talked generally about goals; we did not talk about KLA arming.
MS. ROBERTS: And do the goals include independence? All the conversation about Milosevic, how do they ever live under Serbia again?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have said -- the President repeated earlier this week -- that we are not supporting Kosovar independence. We are supporting a high degree of self-government, and the Kosovar people know that.
MR. DONALDSON: When you say the ground plans can quickly be updated if necessary, you really, of course, open the door for the fact that you think they have to be updated and we have to use them.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have said where we are, which is that the President has said that he has no intention and that the air campaign is inflicting a great deal of damage and weakening his military.
MR. DONALDSON: But the mothers and fathers of this country, whose sons and daughters may have to go and die in a ground campaign, if it comes to that, want to know where you're going.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have said where we're going, which is with a sustained air campaign that is backed by 19 countries of NATO in a truly remarkable unified way.
MS. ROBERTS: Thanks so much, Madame Secretary; thanks so much for joining us this morning.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you again.
[End of Document]