|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
Interview on ABC-TV "Good Morning America"
May 21, 1999, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
CHARLES GIBSON: Joining us this morning from Washington, the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, along with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook. I welcome you both. Thank you for joining us.
Let me put forth a proposition and then the two of you can have at me, if you wish. But you are here because there are disagreements among the members of the NATO alliance about what to do next and you have to do what you can to smooth those over. Madame Secretary?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: False. Robin Cook is here because we consult frequently, and we either talk on the phone or see each other in person in the United States or in many different capitals in Europe. This is part of having a vigorous alliance. We are well-coordinated. We are very supportive, all of us, of an intensified bombing campaign in which we will prevail, and the goal here is to get the refugees back. We are all united on that.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Foreign Secretary?
FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: First of all I'm here, precisely because there are no two allies that are closer than the United States and Britain, and there are no two Foreign Ministers who work more closely together than myself and Madeleine Albright. There is no division between us. On the contrary, we're both united in our resolve. The refugees are going to go back under our protection and we're both going to be there to provide that protection.
And let's also remember the bottom line of the air campaign is that it has been a success. We've destroyed a third of their equipment in Kosovo. We've seen this week a lot of the soldiers simply walking out, a whole battalion deserting. That's an army that knows it's in decline and knows it's losing.
MR. GIBSON: The U.S. and Britain close, but there are 19 members of NATO and both of you talked about objectives and goals and being united on those. But the question is, how to reach those objectives and goals if the bombing alone does not work.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We believe that we will prevail, and that the air campaign is working and will work. The main point here, Charlie, is that we have to have patience and perseverance. As we all talk to our colleagues within the alliance, that patience and perseverance is there. Obviously, there are discussions. These are 19 democracies, and we are all talking with each other. But the goals are firm; the conditions are clear; and we will prevail.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Foreign Secretary, let me run through the specifics. The British have been pressing -- your country has been pressing to start preparations for ground troops. The U.S. has opposed that proposition until at least this week when the President said he might consider it. The German Chancellor said this week, flat out, that his country would block a ground war. Portugal, Greece, Italy want a pause in the bombing. Those are all different approaches. That sounds like a split.
FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: First of all, it's not just we. Back in Washington, some three weeks ago, at the summit for NATO, we agreed then that we would start planning to make sure that we were ready for the time when our troops can go in to take the Kosovo refugees back. The reason for that is that the air campaign is succeeding. So, we need to plan for success. We need to be ready for that time when the air campaign has made its mark, has destroyed the Yugoslav army as a fighting force, and we can go in. That's why we are reviewing and preparing and updating our plans for all options so that we can take advantage of that success.
On the question of a bombing pause -- sure, at some point, when we get progress from Belgrade, if we get a diplomatic agreement, the bombing is going to pause. But nobody is arguing for NATO to give up and to stop bombing with nothing to show for it from Belgrade. The only person who benefits from that is Milosevic because it would give him a chance to regroup, re-equip, strengthen his forces, and that would prolong, not shorten, the conflict.
MR. GIBSON: Madame Secretary, let me turn to you. Why even consider the contingencies on ground troops when the German Chancellor says no?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Because first of all, the Germans are part of an agreement where we have all decided that the NATO military committee needs to be updating and giving us new assessments of plans for both ground forces in a permissive and non-permissive environment. It is the responsibility of all of us to go forward with planning. I believe that as we keep our eye on the goals -- and the goals are to get the refugees to go back, to have them protected by an international force with NATO at its core, and to have the Serb forces of all kinds out. Those are very clear, and all the allies are united on that.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Foreign Secretary, isn't there essentially a practical deadline in all this? You say eventually we will prevail. But given the onset of winter -- and very difficult winters that occur in the Balkans -- really to get these refugees back before the winter, because it's impractical to take them back in mid-winter, you really have to prevail August, September, somewhere in there to get the refugees moving back in.
FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: Well, I don't see any sign that the Yugoslav army at the present rate of attrition is going to hold out until August or September. Sure, of course, what we want to do is to succeed as soon as possible. That's why we are intensifying the air campaign, and that's why also we're making sure that we're ready to take advantage of the success when it is safe and when it's appropriate for us to go in there.
If I can just pick up your earlier point -- I speak regularly to my German opposite number. Germany and the other countries in the alliance are solidly behind those key objectives. We're going to get the Serbs out of Kosovo; we're going to get NATO in; and we're going to get the refugees back. Nobody's going to settle for less.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, I appreciate you joining us. Madame Secretary, Madeleine Albright, it is always a pleasure to have you here.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good to see you, Charlie. Thanks.
FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: Nice talking to you.
[End of Document]