|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
En route to Washington, DC from Skopje, Macedonia, June 11, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, June 14, 1999
U.S. Department of State
QUESTION: Tell us about the Russians, what are they up to?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all there are a lot of unconfirmed rumors, what I know is from my conversation with Foreign Minister Ivanov this morning in which he said that they would not be entering Kosovo unilaterally. That he understood that there was a unified command and that because they were so far away that they, whatever movement was going on, was in order to get closer so that they would be ready to deploy as part of an international force. So that, and Strobe as you know, went back, he is talking with them. They are looking at arrangements whereby they can be a part of the international force.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No.
QUESTION: Were you satisfied with what Foreign Minister Ivanov said?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: He was pretty categorical by saying that they will not go into Kosovo unilaterally. And Strobe had the same message from him when he went back so I think it's a matter of trying to figure out how they fit in to the overall picture.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the other day you said that you supported, a clip that I saw characterized it as (inaudible)
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: You mean they are not to have a sector of their own? Basically the thing that we want to avoid is anything that looks as though there is a partition. So I think that there are a variety of creative military ways to arrange that. And I think that is what they are working on now.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have no way to comment on that. I think Mr. Ivanov is making pretty definitive statements on this. He said he had just been with President Yeltsin. So it's a little hard to believe that.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that they notified the SFOR commander they were going to do it. Notified the SFOR commander.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't know. Those are military issues and I don't know the details of them. But I would just say to you that there is no reason to over amplify this. I think that for the last couple of days Ivanov had said to me that he wanted to get the Russian forces integrated into this and I said we were sending back the military people, General Fogelsong who had been doing a lot of the work before, was on the border doing the military technical agreement and he had to do that. I mean he's the one who's really been working this and so we wanted to make sure that he could go back and have the further conversation, he was otherwise occupied.
QUESTION: Where is Strobe?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: He's back in Moscow.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: He's part of our team, yeah.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Look I mean every day there's been some thing that we've had to work on. And you've asked me if I'm optimistic and I always say I was born an optimist but I'm realistic and this is going to happen. This is a very complicated issue with lots of different pieces that have to fall into place, I think in some form or another every day we're going to have some challenge that we have to deal with. My basic sense is this is going to work out.
QUESTION: I don't understand even now that the war is over, especially now that the war is over why, I think you made a reference today, but they didn't let us close enough to hear you at all through the day, that the Serbs and Milosevic have lost Kosovo. I mean telling Albanians this, and Jane had an interesting piece I think today, looking forward to civil administration which means these people wouldn't pay taxes to Yugoslavia, I mean, it's very hard to get into peoples' minds and I'm not trying to read your mind or the U.S.'s mind but you know deep down I suspect that you all are laying the groundwork for an independent Kosovo. Telling Albanians this, that Milosevic and the Serbs have lost Kosovo.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Lost control over it. They have. Yes, they have. It is territorially within Yugoslavia but it is going to be run by an interim international administration.
QUESTION: (inaudible) Muslim state to the Albanians.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, it is not. It is a status that best represents what needs to happen now. Things are moving very rapidly in the region. The Southeast European Stability Pact is going to...basically it will, we think might create kind of a structure whereby a lot of these places,...you look at a country like Macedonia that's small, and Bosnia to a great extent, are going to be able to fit into it, but I'm not going to predict what's going to happen at the end of this period. But we are not saying,...we are not supporting Kosovar independence.
QUESTION: I can't help but think of the Middle East because there was talk of some sort of a confederation, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians, and everybody will live happily ever after. But there was never one until now, nor is there now a suggestion that affects sovereignty. When you talk about this sort of a regional arrangement, am I hearing (inaudible)
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, I think that you've heard me on this before but I do think that there are different things that are happening to sovereignty right now. And Western Europe, they have given up very large portions of their sovereignty in order to throw in together, the biggest symbol of this is the Euro, when countries give up their currencies. And they have given up customs provisions and a variety of things that draws them closer together. This is not the Middle East, this is Europe.
QUESTION: (inaudible) 90% by Muslims...
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't think, look, I think you will have to see where this leads but at the moment there is no question in my mind that Serbian Belgrade, that Belgrade has lost control over Kosovo.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary will you change the subject from the Middle East? I was curious how you responded to that reaction that you got in the refugee camp today and whether that was what you expected would happen?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I didn't really expect it because you never know how people really feel. They've been in a camp. I'm sure they are eager to go home and have not been living under the best of conditions yet the sense that I got was that these were people who loved the United States and knew that we had been the ones that had been behind this and there was a great sense of happiness. Also I think a lack of cynicism, a sense that something important was going to happen to them and openness. I wouldn't be telling you the truth if I didn't tell that (inaudible) feel pretty good.
QUESTION: Because a number of the Albanians I talked to said that they can't imagine living in Kosovo with their Serb neighbors again. They said that all the Serbs have to go and then they even brought up it's hard for them to see not even wanting to take revenge on the people that did such damage to their loved ones. I mean aren't you just a little bit concerned about that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: But I talked to some people who said that they'd have to put it behind them. So there's going to be obviously a mixture of people with different feelings and what has to happen is there has to be a...it's going to take a while. And with KFOR there and I think getting them into doing things and rebuilding their houses, it's a little different then sitting in a tent trying to figure out why you're there, deciding that you're there blaming "X" group of people for it are different from when you go back and are rebuilding your life. But it's not going to be easy. Nobody has ever said it would be easy. But I think we are going to keep taking this a step at a time. Make clear to them that revenge is not the answer here. Clearly there are going to be episodes. We can't be starry eyed about this, it's going to be difficult.
QUESTION: Could we go back to the Russians for a minute? These last couple weeks seem to suggest that you have very good lines of communication with Moscow but maybe not a whole lot of trust right? We're worried about this coming on, worried about them backing out of the UN agreement at the very last minute. We certainly seem to be a little worried about them today. So maybe you could just talk about that. Because even though there is a lot of communication, there doesn't seem to be a lot of trust.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: They are going through a very difficult period. There is a great deal of communication with them at every level. The President has talked to Yeltsin, the Vice President has talked to Stephasin, I've talked to Ivanov constantly. Strobe has got incredible communications with all of them and I think that they are trying to sort themselves out, sort out what their role generally is in the world and in the region. And I also don't think it's unexpected. They are going through a very difficult period. What I found so interesting in Germany was that, seriously, we didn't know, first of all we didn't know whether they would show up at a G-8, and then we didn't know whether they would really negotiate, and then we didn't really know whether they would agree to a Security Council resolution. So systematically, they are being constructive players in this. It's not without difficulty but they are part of it and I think that this is probably, this is one of the most difficult things we've tried to do with them since the end of the Cold War. We're assessing where they are on things, where they want to get. We had a lot of discussions that were difficult when we set up the Founding Act and so it's really if you think about it, it is quite remarkable that a country first of all, an empire that has come down to its central core of Russia after having built itself up for most of the century. A country who was our number one enemy for fifty years, we now have a very important, serious working relationship and dealing with some of the most complicated issues that can exist. I'm not surprised by any of this. It's just a matter to keep working at it.
QUESTION: Would the U.S. be willing to pay part or all of Russia's cost to participate in the KFOR if it made the difference whether they would be a part of it or not?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have not had that kind of discussion.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Not that I know of. I mean it's conceivable at some (inaudible) level they've talked about it but I have not been a part of that discussion.
QUESTION: What would be the impact if Russia went in without coordinating with the KFOR?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It is not part of the agreements that were made and we don't expect that to happen.
QUESTION: (inaudible) U.S.-Russia relations though.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Get back to talking to and get them to coordinate. I don't see this as, I mean it's an issue, it's a problem but we've had issues and problems every singe day so you sit down and you work it out and you send your best people to go work it out and I think that Strobe has done a fantastic job thus far and he's back there and he's working it out.
QUESTION: Couple of questions. Could you tell us when your special envoy will be going over to give the report to the Chinese on the embassy bombing. Is that something that you have decided on yet?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I haven't. Soon. But I don't know. We'll let you know.
QUESTION: I couldn't hear Steve's question so you may have already answered it, when you landed this morning and got your briefing from General Jackson or from the other general, did you guys discuss what you would do if the Russians did deploy into Kosovo without all the command and control having been worked out.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all at that stage we were trying to get the facts and the military there were checking as to how they would operate but basically they felt that it was important to assess the facts. That's as far as we'd gotten and then I had to ...
QUESTION: Do you see it as a possibility they might do that and if they did what would our response be?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We asked that and I think the point here is that everybody is working now to have them be part of the integrated process. The Russian Foreign Minister told me that he understood that there was a unified command and they have not only been told, they will not go into Kosovo. So I'm not going to speculate on this. We're all working to try to get the pieces into place.
QUESTION: I hate to back and forth on the different subjects but while we've got you, the refugee camp again this morning, do you have anything more you can tell us on a personal level about how it affected you aside from what you had to say to them in terms of what you had promised them on the professional level? Just your thoughts.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'll tell you what I was amazed about is the number of children and basically how smiley and happy they were and very eager for hugs and kisses and very open and friendly. And I think, this sounds so hokey, but they love America and I was there and I was a symbol of America at that moment and I just kind of felt that in many ways as you know there have been those who have questioned whether this was the right thing to do and when you see all those faces and people reaching out to shake hand or to hug and kiss and say thank you and chant "USA, USA" you kind of get a little bit of reinforcement in terms of thinking it was the right thing to do.
QUESTION: Did you hear from anyone that you had gotten a better reception than Mrs. Clinton?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No I can't, I don't believe that anyway.
QUESTION: Your response suggests that there were doubts in the way that this was the right thing to do.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I want to make that absolutely clear that there was never a doubt in my mind or the President's mind that this was the right thing to do. I got asked yesterday by Jim Lehrer whether I woke up in the middle of the night. I did wake up in the middle of the night a lot. But not with doubt but trying to keep thinking about different things that had to be done, all the moving parts of this and were we pushing as much as we could in this place and were we...I mean I've spent the last 78 days in how many hundreds of phone calls?
I have never spent so much time on the phone and I'm definitely a telephone person. But we discovered a new form of diplomacy, and we did a great deal of telephone work and sometimes one-on-one and sometimes more people would be on the phone and I made it a regular point of checking around the Alliance every week. So that is what I would wake up thinking about in the middle of the night. But never doubts about whether this was right. And now seeing all those folks made me feel pretty good.
QUESTION: Could I just make one point about what you mean by this new form of diplomacy.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well I think that what is very interesting is that the cell phone helps you but it also helps in diplomacy and what is interesting is that we had calls anytime of the day and night but you could find people. Foreign ministers, not just this one, travel all the time, and you get people and because you could reach them because they had cell phones in the car or somebody could go into a dinner and say "Madeleine Albright wants to talk to you," so they'd bring people out. We were all in touch with each other.
QUESTION: ...real time.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Real time.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anymore about the phone call you got as you sat down with that last family and walked around the back of the tent with a cell phone in your ear?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That was a phone call from General Clark who said that I was in his sector.
I told him that I saw a lot of his equipment around and that this was a great day and he was just telling me that basically what they were doing to get prepared. That the withdrawals were going on schedule. I think it was kind of (inaudible).
QUESTION: Would you apply this telephone diplomacy to the next obvious area of involvement after Balkans state, meaning the Middle East that would seem to be next. So we've had, I don't know why everybody's so...since Henry Kissinger (inaudible), Secretaries of State have spent an enormous amount of time...and Warren Christopher and others spent an enormous amount of time being snubbed by the Syrian President.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I do think that you can do...first of all I have done an awful lot on the phone. I did already. Actually I have very large ears because I've been on the phone so much all my life. But I really do think that one can do a lot in real time and you can sometimes surprise people with a telephone call and get a response that is more realistic about what is going on than if you plan a trip and it takes you a week to get it worked out.
QUESTION: You don't need a poker face, only a poker voice.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: A poker voice, that's a very good line.
QUESTION: Do you think that your success in this conflict has given the Europeans sort of a new confidence in themselves? Do you see the Germans emerging as a new leader of Europe now? One of the last chips of the post-Cold War world is starting to fall into place now that the United States might be able to back off a little bit now and the Europeans take the lead on these types of things as you have been pushing them to do?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that the Europeans are clearly also going through their kind of assessment of where they are as they go into the 21st century and they have taken a lot of steps in terms of tying themselves more tightly to each other, and elaborating on their institutions and figuring out which are the ones that are really useful to them. They meet an awful lot. They have a different way of dealing with each other then we do. What I've found interesting is that as a part of their Euro meetings compromise for them is a good word. I think it's a word that most people don't like to hear Americans say. But their diplomacy and their working together is the art of the compromise and they work it.
QUESTION: Fischer said even appeasement isn't a bad word until you're dealing with mass murder.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that you have to understand that when you have...as a former European, I always felt there was such a difference living or being brought up as someone who lived in the center of a continent with so many neighbors that you had to learn a lot of languages just to get anything done. But Americans have a huge luxury by having the whole continent to ourselves and I think most born Americans don't quite understand that and so if you are living in a relatively small area, with people of different cultures and histories, compromise is not necessarily bad. And they have a different approach to it then we do. So Sid back to your question I think that they have sorted out more how to deal with each other. I think that Germany is playing an important role. Obviously a lot also depends on personalities. The Germans have taken their EU presidency very seriously, not that the others have not, they had a kind of a confluence of things that don't always happen. They were President of the G-8 and they had the EU presidency and they have a number of things that have come together that put them into an important moment.
And they thought up this stability pact and also their foreign minister. I think Joscha Fischer is a remarkable person. He comes, all of you know his very interesting background. He likes to shake things up. I think he's a positive shaker. He works very hard. He has a sense of the things that went wrong with Germany. We have a lot of very interesting discussions about how awful it was for him to go to Auschwitz and how yesterday he said that it took--we're talking about the Serbs--he said it took the Germans a whole generation to figure out how to deal with their guilt. And that the Serbs, it will take them a long time too. He is a very, very thoughtful person. He thinks in ways of making things work and to him compromise is a good word.
QUESTION: He gave a very emotional response to someone yesterday who kept asking about where's the money, where's the money? And he said look at what's happened in Cologne. The same thing is going to happen here. The President of Macedonia really cast serious doubts on the political will of the Europeans to come up with the money necessary at a time when they themselves are very strapped for cash. Do you worry about that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that they are very eager to run this. They feel a responsibility to run it and they have talked about wanting to be in charge of the reconstruction and I think they will work on donor's conferences, and try to come up with the money. I do believe that there will be money coming in from other parts of the world. Obviously there will be from the United States. But we won't certainly be paying a large part of the money. What is also very interesting is that the moderate Arabs are very interested in what is happening in a positive way and I think want to be a part of the solution here so there are lots of options here. As we go through the story for a while I think you are going to be asking me many, many times why did this happen today? Is it a set back? Or that there was a mis-estimation or something. But the bottom line here is this is undoubtedly the most complicated thing that the international community's been involved in. Much more complicated than Bosnia. And I think that we are going to, we know where we're headed and we know what we believe in. We know that the job has to get done. Along the way we are going to have to be very pragmatic and deal with each day, you'll have plenty to write about, each day there will be something. And whenever you get bored we'll do the Southeast European Stability Pact.
QUESTION: What makes it more complicated than Bosnia? To me it seems less complicated. In Bosnia you had three ethnic groups instead of essentially two. You were basically creating a country instead of putting a peacekeeping mission into an existing country.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Part of it was that Bosnia actually was a sovereign independent state. And the fact that this is a part of Yugoslavia and yet it has to develop a different status. It had a status. The status was taken away. And I also do believe that it is as you all have read the history as I have, there are some very special places in Kosovo for the Serbs. And so I think there are a variety of complications plus the amount of slaughter as quickly as it came and the fact now that Milosevic is an indicted war criminal. There are many, many parts of this that are very complicated. And I think also that this particular problem has actually festered longer in terms of the ten years they've been without what they've wanted. And there have been so many attempts at working this out diplomatically. Then you have a very interesting Kosovar Albanian community. And then you have Albania and it's next to Macedonia. We could have a whole 50 minutes on this. But I really do think it is complicated.
[End of Document]