|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
The Rostov Lecture Series
School of Advanced International Studies
Johns Hopkins University
Washington, DC, January 18, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
[Audio streaming, courtesy of The Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies]
"Sustaining Democracy in the Twenty-First Century"
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. Thank you. I know you claim me as one of your own because I keep getting those annual giving - (laughter). I do my best.
Thank you very much. I am delighted to be here before such a distinguished audience, with many honored guests, and including several generations of the SAIS family.
I'm sorry that Ambassador Nitze is not here, because I did want to point out that two days ago he celebrated his 93rd birthday. And to George Kennan he might seem like a youngster, but to the rest of us, he is an inspiration. And so even though he's not here, I hope we can all wish Happy Birthday -- somewhat belatedly -- to Paul* Nitze, and may he have many more.
I am especially interested to see a lot of students here. Of course, I know that spring registration had been scheduled for today, but was postponed because of my speech. So I actually have no idea how many of you came to hear me, and how many came expecting to register and just stayed on only because your morning was already shot. But whatever your motives, I hope you will sit back, relax, and think up the easiest possible questions for when I finish my remarks.
Three years ago, at my Senate confirmation hearing, I testified that the framework for American leadership must include measures to control the threats posed by nuclear weapons and terror; to seize opportunities for settling regional conflicts; to maintain America as the hub of an expanding global economy; and to defend cherished principles of liberty and law.
I said further that our key alliances and relationships were at the center of that framework. For these are the bonds that hold together the entire international system. When we are able to act cooperatively with other leading nations, we create a convergence of power and purpose that can solve problems and spur progress around the globe.
This basic framework will continue to guide us in the year 2000. Our priorities include an even stronger NATO, bolstered by new members, developing new capabilities and prepared for new missions.
We will strive, with our partners, to build peace in Kosovo, and integrate all of Southeast Europe into the continent's democratic mainstream.
We will work in consultation with Congress, our allies and others, to respond effectively to the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction, and the missiles that can deliver them.
We will focus attention on our complex relationships with Russia and China, adhering to core principles, while seeking to advance common interests.
We will continue our efforts with allies in Asia to ensure stability on the Korean Peninsula, and to work with everyone concerned to ease tensions in South Asia.
We will strive for even greater cooperation along our borders with Canada and Mexico, where economic, legal, social and environmental issues have an especially direct impact on the lives of our citizens.
And we will do all we can to support peace in key regions such as Central Africa, Northern Ireland, the Aegean, the Caucasus and - most immediately - the Middle East.
It is in this region that we are coming closer to settling one of history's longest and most enduring conflicts.
Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara journeyed to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, for intensive negotiations. This Thursday, Chairman Arafat will meet with President Clinton in Washington. And at the end of this month, I will co-chair with Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov a ministerial meeting of the Multilateral Steering Group in Moscow. This group brings Arab and Israeli leaders together to develop solutions to regional problems.
All this activity reflects that negotiations are now moving ahead. But negotiating the peace remains a formidable task. As we are seeing in the Israeli-Syrian negotiations, both sides genuinely desire peace, but overcoming a legacy of mistrust is not easy. Understandably, both want to be sure their needs will be addressed first. Our challenge is to work with both sides and find ways to narrow their differences to the point where all needs get resolved simultaneously.
To succeed, the parties will have to overcome many problems, and bridge gaps that may appear unbridgeable at the outset. There will inevitably be many ups and down and roadblocks, prior to a breakthrough.
Sometimes, negotiations may be delayed while the parties consider their next moves, as is the case with the Syrian track at this moment. Sometimes deadlines are not met, as has often happened on the Palestinian track, but in the end they seem to work things out and achieve the results necessary.
But despite these tribulations, a key underlying reality is emerging: the logic of peace has become compelling for Arabs, Israelis and the Palestinians alike. Their leaders will have to take hard, fateful, even painful decisions. But they have increasingly come to understand that there is no better alternative.
The children of this region deserve to grow up free from the threat of terror and war, in societies that are working together to build prosperity, manage shared resources and enrich civic life. This has long been the dream of those who care about the Middle East and the people who live there.
Today, more than ever, the opportunity exists for the region's leaders to make it possible. It is in America's interests, and fully in accord with our values, to help them do so.
The Middle East, and the other priorities I have listed, will engage much of our time and energy in the months ahead. But the primary reason I have come here this morning is to talk about a general imperative that underlies these and many other specific goals, and that is democracy.
This focus is appropriate, not because democratic elections always produce good leaders, or because free people always use their freedom wisely, or because free economies always generate prosperity, or because democracy is efficient. In truth, democracy can be maddening, messy, and muddled. But as Churchill famously observed, as a system of government, it is miles ahead of whatever is in second place.
Moreover, democracy is the hard rock upon which America's world leadership is built. It is why our land has attracted to its shores a steady stream of the worlds boldest and most creative women and men. It is why our predecessors had the courage and faith to triumph in two global conflicts. It is why we were able to stand tall during the decades of the Cold War. And it is at the heart of what Joe Nye has called America's "soft power" in the current era.
These are those who scoff and say that promoting democracy is all well and good, but what about our specific national interests? My reply - and I think this would be backed up by modern Presidents, from Truman to Reagan, and Bush to Clinton - is that our identification with democracy is vital to the pursuit of our interests.
Today, the United States has the strongest economy and the finest armed forces in the world - of which we are justly proud. But even a country as powerful as America will often need the help and cooperation of others if we are to protect our security, prosperity and values. And most people around the world recognize that when we act in support of freedom, we aid not only our interests, but theirs, as well.
A hundred years ago, the number of countries with a government elected competitively, and, on the basis of universal suffrage was zero. Today, according to Freedom House, it is 120. These include countries on every continent, and people of virtually every culture and faith. For those wedded to stereotypes, it is worth noting that a majority of the world's Muslims - as well as Hindus, Christian and Jews - now live in countries considered at least partly free.
Over the past half century, we have seen nation after nation gain its freedom: in Asia and Africa, from colonialism; in Latin America, from military dictators; in Central and Eastern Europe, from Communism; and in South Africa, from apartheid.
We have witnessed and celebrated all this, and yet we are not complacent as we enter the new century. Because we understand that true democracy is never achieved; it is always a pursuit. And we know that if we who love liberty grow weary, those who love only power will one day sweep us away.
This morning, as we scan the horizon, we must ask whether the century just past will prove the forerunner to a time of greater freedom and deeper democracy, or whether the democratic tide has already begun to recede.
We know that, in many countries, the arrival of electoral democracy has been accompanied by economic expectations that are, as yet, unfulfilled. For example, over the past decade, daily life for most people has gotten harder, not easier, in the New Independent States. Surveys indicate a majority have come to equate democracy with inequality, and the unraveling of the social fabric.
Around the globe, newly democratic countries are having trouble matching the visible and immediate promise of elections with tangible, widespread benefits for their people.
If unaddressed, this raises the risk that public confidence in democracy will erode, and support grow for failed remedies from the past, including protectionism and authoritarianism.
But economic anxieties are far from the only threats to democratic government. In the Caucasus and part of Africa, transitions have been retarded by ethnic strife.
As Vice President Gore recently emphasized, HIV/AIDS has become a threat not only to health, but also to economic, social and political development, especially in Africa.
And quite a number of electoral democracies are in trouble because their leaders are concentrating not on self-government, but on self-enrichment, self-glorification and self-perpetuation in power. The result is sham democracy, where rights are not respected, and the very concept of political openness is tarnished by association.
When elected governments depart from democratic principles, they run a grave risk. Political opponents may feel they have no option but to try to seize power through unconstitutional means.
But by so doing, these opponents run an even greater risk. A military coup or other violent seizure of power moves democratic development back to "square one." It brings to power authorities who lack legitimacy, and are ineligible for assistance from the United States and many others.
The right approach for those frustrated by sham democracy is to push, with principled determination, for genuine democracy: greater accountability, more openness and real competition of ideas. This approach takes time, but it can bear fruit, especially if other democracies are listening and prepared to reinforce the message in appropriate ways.
It is by now a truism that what's most important is not a country's first election, but rather its second and third. And what matters is not simply that people have the right to vote, but that they are offered a real choice, under conditions that are truly free and fair.
Elections, moreover, are but one note in the democratic symphony. A full orchestra is required, including markets that reward initiative; police that respect due process; legal structures that provide justice; and a press corps that is free to pursue the facts and publish the truth.
These institutions do not arise overnight. Building democracy takes many years and much patience. It requires not only the seeds of democratic ideals, but also the soil of democratic culture in which those seeds may take root and grow.
But patience is not a policy. Democracy may be conceived by dreamers, but it is made real by doers. And our responsibility, as the world's leading democracy, is to work in partnership with others to help nations in transition move to a higher stage of democratic development.
We must begin by affirming our faith in democratic principles and values, understanding that however difficult the path, there is no real progress without liberty.
We must work within global and regional institutions to strengthen the commitment to democratic principles and assist governments that practice them. We must use our assistance to foster vibrant civil societies, and economic reforms that reward the hardworking many, not just the privileged few. And we must use the tools of public diplomacy, including modern technologies such as the Internet, to spread indispensable ideas such as freedom.
I am proud of the help that USAID, the State Department and other US government agencies are providing to nations in transition. From Asia to Africa to the Andes, they are training judges, drafting commercial codes, advancing the status of women, bolstering civil society, and otherwise helping to assemble the nuts and bolts of freedom.
I am pleased that in this work, we have partners such as the European Union, Japan, and a host of non-governmental and private-sector organizations that are committed to making the new century a time of freedom and growth.
The United States is determined to make a good start towards this goal, by making the year 2000 a time of democratic advancement across the world stage.
In June, the Polish Government will host an unprecedented gathering of countries from around the world whose governments have expressed their commitment to the democratic path. I will join my counterparts not only from Poland, but also Chile, the Czech Republic, India, the Republic of Korea and Mali as co-convenors of that conference. This Community of Democracies initiative will explore ways that we can cooperate more effectively in strengthening democratic societies and values.
Poland will simultaneously host the non-governmental World Forum on Democracy, recognizing that the growth of civil society is a key to broadening democratic constituencies. Later in the year, the International Conference on New or Restored Democracies will be held in Benin, focusing on complementary goals.
The underlying theme of these efforts is that democratic societies must learn from and assist each other, whether in times of relative stability, or when emergencies arise.
In the year ahead, the United States will be focusing particular attention and resources on the challenges faced by four key democracies: Colombia, Nigeria, Indonesia and Ukraine. These nations differ markedly, but each can be a major force for stability and progress in its region. And each is at a critical point along the democratic path.
This past weekend, I visited Colombia to express support for President Andres Pastrana's plan for achieving peace, fighting crime, promoting prosperity, and improving governance throughout his country.
The United States has a profound interest in helping to achieve these closely-linked goals. Four-fifths of the cocaine entering our country either comes from Colombia or is transported through it. Most of Colombia's heroin production is exported to the United States. Drug-related activities fuel crime and corruption, aggravate social problems, and retard economic progress throughout the Americas.
During my visit, I explained President Clinton's decision to request $1.6 billion in assistance. If approved by Congress, this aid will help Bogota gain control over parts of the country now dominated by guerrillas, paramilitaries and drug traffickers. It will support alternative development programs, increase our backing for narcotics interdiction, and strengthen mechanisms for judicial reform and protecting human rights.
The struggle in Colombia is not between right and left, rich and poor, or between one ethnic group and another. It is between those who want to pursue prosperity and social development democratically, and those addicted to criminality, violence and corruption.
Only Colombians can devise a solution to Colombia's ills, and President Pastrana has put forward a bold plan for doing just that. And we are proud to support him.
Another major test of democracy is underway in Nigeria, a country with a troubled history but great human and cultural strengths. Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, and exercises enormous influence within its region. It is also a major trading partner, and one of the largest suppliers of imported oil.
Over the past two years, Nigerians have made an inspiring journey from dictatorship to democracy. But years of military misrule have imposed enormous costs. President Obasanjo enjoys broad popular support, but his government is fragile, and he must also cope with high public expectations: During the 1970's oil boom, Nigeria's per capita income was more than four times what it is today.
Nigeria faces the full array of problems confronting a nation in transition. Public institutions are weak; the economy troubled; the military in need of reform; and the population divided along ethnic, religious and regional lines.
The new president has only been in power for seven months, but he has launched a forceful set of initiatives aimed at curbing corruption, asserting civilian control and protecting human rights.
In response, President Clinton and Congress have nearly quadrupled our assistance to Nigeria. Our purpose is to help Nigerians address urgent threats to stability and democracy, to invigorate key institutions such as the legislature and courts, and encourage needed economic reforms.
During my visit to Abuja last fall, I said that history may one day compare the importance of the democratic transition in Nigeria to that of Nelson Mandela's election in South Africa. Nigerians today are engaged in a high-stakes test of democracy, and we must do all we can to help them succeed.
Far to the east, Indonesia has embarked on its own transition, reflecting its unique culture and history. For the first time in decades, it has elected a President in a contest, the outcome of which was not known in advance, and a parliament whose decisions really matter. All the while it has been buffeted by financial crises, civil disturbances, factional violence, and controversy over East Timor.
The Indonesian people deserve great credit for conducting fair and peaceful elections. And the new President, Adburrahman Wahid, merits broad support as he strives to establish the economy, deepen civilian control over the military, establish the rule of law, maintain national unity and respects human rights.
These challenges are simple to identify, but devilishly difficult to achieve. The new President is widely respected for his humanity and wisdom. But to succeed, he must make tough decisions and explain them in terms of his people will understand and accept.
A half century ago, one of Indonesia's founding fathers, Mohammed Hatta, warned his countrymen that the struggle for true freedom would "go on for a very, very long time," demanding sacrifices and suffering. Today, Indonesia is nearer the goal of true democracy than it has ever been, but the struggle is far from over. And our job, which reflects our interests, is to ensure that the Indonesians don't struggle alone.
Accordingly, we have substantially increased assistance for democratic institution-building in areas such as judicial reform, civil-military relations, and the development of political parties and the parliament. We will continue to deepen our investment, in light of Indonesia's importance, and in response to Indonesia's requests and needs.
Finally, we come to Ukraine, a country that is key to building a secure and undivided Europe, and a partner and friend to the United States.
Since gaining independence, Ukraine has made much progress towards a democratic society and market economy. Although a candidate for ethnic discord, it has maintained internal peace. It has held three competitive, albeit imperfect, presidential elections.
Most recently, President Kuchma won a clear mandate for far-reaching economic reform, and further integration into European and global institutions. He responded by appointing a strong reformer as Prime Minister.
Like many other countries in transition, Ukraine is threatened by economic decline, corruption and crime. Lower living standards have undermined respect for government, and dampened public morale. Relations between the executive and legislative branches have been strained. Wealthy oligarchs have used their political contacts to expand their empires, and the independent press has been intimidated and harassed.
The United States has provided Ukraine almost $2 billion in assistance this decade. Our focus has been on nuclear threat reduction, and democratic institution building. And this year, we plan to double our most important exchange programs, in order to help educate and train the next generation of Ukraine's leaders.
Nineteen ninety-nine was notable for what didn't happen in Ukraine. The economy did not melt down, and the Communists did not come back to power. Our hope is that this year will be memorable for positive reasons, the most important of which would be to carry out long delayed and much needed structural reforms to protect Ukraine's solvency, attract foreign investment and fuel its economy.
Ukraine's transformation into a fully stable and democratic European state would assist similar transitions throughout the former Soviet Union. It is in America's national interest that Ukraine succeed. To this end, we will continue to help our partner move down the path to deeper reform, fuller freedom and sustained growth.
Of course, as you can tell from listening to me, it takes resources to put meat on the bones of our backing for democracy for these four key countries and worldwide, and this will require congressional and public support.
Funding for international affairs declined substantially in the 1990's, in real terms, compared to the decade before. We are fighting to reverse this trend.
International programs are frequently dismissed as "foreign aid," but the truth is that they aid America. By helping to build a more stable, prosperous and democratic world, they make our citizens more secure, create new economic opportunities, and reduce the likelihood that our armed forces will be called into combat.
Many Americans are surprised when I tell them that the amount we allocate to the entire spectrum of foreign affairs is only about one penny of every dollar the federal government spends. So when I say we've quadrupled something or doubled something, keep in mind, within what? But that penny, that penny out of every dollar, may be responsible for 50 percent of the history that is written about our era, and makes a difference in the lives of 100 percent of the American people.
The best leaders of both parties in Congress understand this. They know that American diplomacy belongs on the short list of budget priorities, and it should be a starting point next month when consideration of the Year 2001 Budget begins.
This morning, I've come here to state plainly that as the new century begins, the United States is determined to help other democratic peoples preserve and deepen their freedoms, and to keep liberty's torch alive in the hearts of those still denied their fundamental rights.
Some say it is hegemonic to promote democracy, and that we are trying to impose our values on others. I say, by definition, democracy cannot be imposed. In any country at any time, it is a dictatorship that is an imposition; democracy is a choice.
Further, when we raise democracy's banner, we do no more than pay what we owe to those whose vision and sacrifice enabled us to live in a world more free than it has ever been. This is a debt we owe, not only to Jefferson but also to Bolivar, Shevchenko and Kossuth; not only to the Roosevelts, but also to Marti, Masaryk, Gandhi and Mandela; not only to Martin Luther King, but also to Vaclav Havel, Kim Dae Jung and Aung San Suu Kyi.
We know, from our own turbulent history, that the path to democracy is rocky, treacherous, and always uphill. But we also know that if we keep faith with the democratic principles - as this is the only path that we can all walk together - and that (with) the democratic principles that have guided us this far, we will have the light we need to guide us through the perilous miles to come.
Thank you very much, and I would be very pleased to respond to whatever questions you might have.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Madame Secretary, thank you for those remarks. I failed to note, in introducing you, that you are also a member of the Board of the National Endowment for Democracy, which I'm proud to say I'm a member of the Board now. And I think you've made a powerful case for how democracy serves American interest.
I know there are a lot of questions in this audience. If the press will bear with me, I'm going to call on some students first but I will get to the press as well. Does any brave student want to ask the first question? It's always the hardest. 'Way in back. If you can speak loudly it will save us getting a mike back there.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I just wanted to return to the topic of Colombia for a moment. And regarding the $1.6 billion package, it's interesting that just ten years ago the level of assistance that the United States sent to Colombia was under $10 million. And what critics of the package have - the point they have made is that there is a possibility for increasing involvement in their counter-insurgency war, not just the counter-narcotics wars that the administration has purported to support.
Yet, when I talk to officials within the US Government, they oftentimes wink and say well, everyone knows that it's very difficult to differentiate between the narcotics and the insurgency issues. In that sense, we are confident that part of this will go toward counter-insurgency efforts.
And my question is, if that is OK by the standards of the United States Government, why does the US Government not make a more explicit policy of saying that this will be going to aid the Colombian military in its counter-insurgency battle?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It is not going to the Colombian military for its counter-insurgency battle; it is going for counter-narcotics. It is based on Plan Colombia, which President Pastrana has created in the last month, which is a comprehensive plan that deals with the basic problems that exist in Colombia, which is the production of narcotics, their peace process, the importance of getting their economy back on track, and developing appropriate social institutions, with a great emphasis on human rights.
After a lot of study of Plan Colombia, the US Government, the Clinton administration decided that we would support it. The Colombians themselves are putting $4 billion toward the plan. The World Bank is putting $2.7 billion toward it. And we are the - the IMF, I'm sorry, is putting that, and we are supporting that funding coming from the World Bank and the IDB.
We think it is a good plan, because it does have all those comprehensive aspects to it. Proportions of the money will go to the social economic development aspect of it, and the larger proportion will go primarily to funding counter-narcotics efforts.
It is very clear - from your question it is also clear - that, clearly, the insurgents benefit to a great degree from the money that comes from coca production. And so, to that extent, there is a connection. But we have made very clear that the money we are giving is for counter-narcotics.
The money that is going to fight that is going to the - a portion of it, $95 million - to the Colombian National Police; and a portion to the Colombian military -- the only part of which will be used is composed of military that have been vetted, by name, for not having any human rights abuses. And they are there, not to fight, but to protect the Colombian National Police as they go into the Putamya, the southern area of Colombia where the coca production exists.
I believe that this is a very good investment, and especially after my trip this weekend down there where I met with all of President Pastrana's team; with Gen. Serrano, the head of the police; and looked at now how some of the port facilities worked; talked about crop eradication; and, also, made very clear about our great interest in human rights. So we believe this is a good investment.
And having also then gone to neighboring countries, I know that trying to get Colombia and the drug problem there under control, is something that is good for regional stability, obviously good for the United States.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Back there.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - democracy in China? With a country that's so large and so populated it seems almost attainable, and I'm curious to see how you predict what will be happening in the near future.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me just say this, it clearly is very large and difficult to predict. I think that China, and our relationship with China, are among the biggest challenges that face us. China, with its size and location and potential power, is a major power in the world, in the region, and therefore necessary for the United States to engage with China across the board, which we are doing.
We have been pressing, and obviously successfully, to get them into the WTO, and we will be taking to Congress the legislation necessary for normal trade relations with them.
At the same time, we are making very clear that we are not giving up, in terms of our own principles and the need for human rights, and we're introducing in the United Nations Human Rights Commission a resolution condemning China's approach or dealings with human rights issues.
I think - and when I've been to China and met with various programs -- of students and people dealing with their legal system -- I think that we are generally pushing, in order to open up Chinese society. It is very difficult; however, technology is helping us. There is no question that with the spread of Internet and globalization, the spread of information, there is no way to keep that out of China. If China is going to compete economically, the two go together. They need to have the kind of technology in order to be able to be part of the international economic system, and it can't be stopped.
At the time that I was a student here and then teaching, I spent a lot of time talking about how alternative sources of information undermine communist systems. I spent more time than I wish to tell you on that subject. And what is evident is that there is no way - there wasn't even then - to have a completely hermetically closed information system. It is now impossible to have a hermetically closed information system.
And from times when the Xerox machine was an enemy of the people, it is now obvious that people have access to a variety of information - and with information comes democracy. So I can't predict the amount of time; I just think that information and the desire of people to run their own lives, those two together and the need to be a part of the economy, makes this evolution inexorable, but difficult to predict its timing.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) in Africa -- (inaudible) - Vice President Gore mentioning that HIV is such an impetus to the development of the continent. Do you foresee the United States relaxing its policy in relationship to allowing these countries to develop generic HIV drugs and HIV-related illness drugs?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that this has been one of the major issues, in terms of intellectual property rights, and the question of how it's possible to have generic drugs that are available. Again, I believe that having put so much stress on the whole proposition, I think we have to look at how to make the HIV/AIDS drugs available to people.
The problem here is that millions of people are dying of HIV/AIDS in a way that undermines the stability of these various countries. And, also, it was a little unusual to raise this issue in front of the Security Council, but for those of you that are UN buffs, I believe it was absolutely an appropriate thing to do, because it becomes a security issue. And in order to bring it right down to Security Council business, a lot of the peacekeepers themselves are those who are in danger of getting HIV/AIDS or spreading HIV/AIDS. So it is the major danger, and I think we ought to be looking at various ways to make it possible for people to deal with the ravages of AIDS.
QUESTION: I just want to greet you as a fellow member of the '63 Class of SAIS.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We both look a little different. (laughter)
QUESTION: And I wondered if I could sneak in a question, looking back on that time, to know how it was that you did choose SAIS, and what impact that specifically had on your illustrious career.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, Lou, you know we used to study together. We had out study group. I thought at the time - and I still do - that SAIS was really offering a very well-rounded approach to international relations and foreign policy. I say this with some care, having taught at Georgetown. I have to do this right.
Interestingly enough, I at that stage already was interested in having a doctoral program, follow a doctoral program, and believe it or not that at that time SAIS, maybe they still do this, require that at the beginning of your graduate work you actually write down what your dissertation is going to be on. My dissertation ended up being on something different, but it did make me think a lot about the longer range of what I was trying to do with my international relations education.
And I felt that SAIS did and does provide a way of being able to look at the large variety of what international relations is. It was not as wide and varied then as it is now. If I were designing a curriculum for an international relations course at this time, it would be so totally different, not only from when I was at SAIS, but when I taught at Georgetown, of putting in subjects that I deal with today that have to do with the environmental and health, as I was just asked, and obviously a lot more on economics than we ever had, and issues to do with a lot more cross-border activity, and maybe a little bit less memorizing of regional institutions.
But -- there will be a few people in this audience who will remember this. There was a course that we called Wide, Wide World, that everybody took and that covered everything. And the value of that course for me was - and I hope nobody from Columbia is listening - is that I translated it into many, many credits at Columbia. (Laughter.)
DEAN WOLFOWITZ: I just want to note for the record, in deference to your having taught at Georgetown and having degrees from Columbia, I didn't want to make any competitive claims for SAIS here. But I do think it's testimony to the value of that kind of education.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I must also say that my father was the dean of another competing school at the University of Denver.
DEAN WOLFOWITZ: Barry Schweid.
QUESTION: I want it noted that I have a Columbia degree, and I'm glad you chose Columbia. On the Middle East and on the subject of democracy, wouldn't opportunities or chances of peace in the Middle East be more secure if the US were endeavoring more to promote democracy among the Arab partners you want Israel to come to terms with? Or put another way, how can you depend - how can you trust an agreement or expect a democracy, even a tough little country like Israel - to trust an agreement reached with authoritarian regimes?
And more practically, can you tell us what you are doing, what contacts now either you or Ambassador Ross or whoever, are now pursuing with Syrians and Israelis, to try to repair this breach?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that I think, obviously, the world would be better off, as I've stated in my remarks, if every country were a democracy. They are not all democracies, and they are all in various stages in their evolution.
I think that various countries have different systems where, interestingly enough, I believe that public perception and public opinion, whether they're democracies or not, still play a role; it's just a different role.
I think to say that countries that do not have democratically elected governments, by our standards, does not mean that they can simply just make things happen. I do think that we have in the past found, if you look historically, that it is possible to have treaties that last with countries that are not democracies.
And if you are interested in case in point which might lead to another question, here is we have the ABM Treaty signed with the Soviet Union, and it has been the bedrock of our arms control program. So I don't think that that is - while democracy everywhere is much desired, I don't think that that is an element that is necessary in order to sign functioning agreements.
As to what's going on, I think that I would not describe what is happening now as a breach. I think that, as I've said in my remarks, that we knew all along that these were going to be very difficult negotiations. If they were easy, they would have been resolved a long time ago. And the leaders of both countries have fateful decisions that have to be made.
As has been made - I put out a statement yesterday on this - is that, basically, what is happening now is that there is a delay because each country has a different approach to how it wants its major problems dealt with. And as might be expected, each one wants to have its needs decided first.
And what we are trying to do is to develop some simultaneity, and try to move the whole package forward. In the absence of having the highest-level talks at the moment, experts will be coming from both countries in order to give us their comments on the text we put down.
And the text we put down was our effort to record, really, our understanding of where both sides were on the key issues, and the text is heavily bracketed and shows where the differences are. And we're just going to keep working it.
But I think that, Barry, you as much as anybody, has seen the ebbs and flows of the Middle East peace process and other processes in diplomacy, and I think that we just have to keep at it. It's very important; it's very serious. The President and I have been talking to leaders. He spoke with President Asad this morning, and I spoke with Foreign Minister Shara yesterday. We have been talking with Prime Minister Barak on a frequent basis, so we're just going to keep working. But "breach" is not the right description for where we are now.
QUESTION: Tyler Marshall, Los Angeles Times. Madam Secretary, another struggling democracy that you didn't mention was Russia. The US-Russia relationship is not the best at the moment. American-sponsored reforms have produced more disillusionment than prosperity and also some suspicion; NATO enlargement, Kosovo war also added to that suspicion, and now we have the Chechnya war, which has clouded the relationship.
You're going to Russia shortly. What can you do in your last year in office to improve that relationship?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It sounds so terminal. Let me just say, first of all, I did mention Russia, not as one of my four countries, but in terms of managing the relationships with Russia. It's clearly one of the major issues we have to deal with in the year 2000.
I think that we want to see the continued reform programs going forward. You know, it's very easy to see half-full/half-empty activity, as far as Russia's concerned. And I think we have to understand that President Yeltsin's actions were according to the Constitution. They had Duma elections. They're going to have a Presidential election. There are various aspects of a functioning market economy going on. There has been some improvement in their economic situation.
And Acting President Putin is somebody that I've been kind of describing as having two strands to him, one where he has a tough side in terms of his KGB background and his stand on Chechnya; at the same time he has, I think, been one of the leading reformers, first of out of St. Petersburg, and then within the Yeltsin administration. And he, from what we can tell, seems determined to move reform forward.
So we are not kind of starry-eyed about Russia. We are very realistic about the difficult problems, but also understand the importance of pushing and working with them and having it seen as being in our national interest, that we continue to provide assistance in the form of threat reduction, and assistance to various parts of their civil society.
When I go to Russia - and this is a very good example - I'm going to have bilateral meetings with somebody who is actually is a very good friend of mine, Igor Ivanov, and talk about the things on which we disagree, obviously, but at the same time look for areas where we agree. And the fact that we're going to be co-chairing a meeting on the multilateral talks that come out of the Madrid Conference for the Middle East is an example of that.
And so with a country the importance and size of Russia, we are bound to have a relationship that has some pretty tough points and some areas of cooperation, but I am pretty sanguine about it moving forward properly, and our having an important role in making it happen.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I'd like to return to the Israeli-Syrian peace track if I could. I'd love to get your reaction to that leaked text in the Israeli press last week. How frustrated were you to see something that was supposed to be kept private between the US, Israel and Syria suddenly the full seven pages printed in the Ha'aretz? Did you express this frustration to the Israeli government, and do you think that it was something that was done by Prime Minister Barak, or by somebody within the Israeli cabinet who was opposed to the peace process? And how do you prevent future leaks?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, preventing future leaks -- let me just say this It is very hard to carry on diplomatic negotiations of this type where countries have to put, kind of, their crown jewels on the table, and hope that it be done in a way where there is complete privacy, because it's very difficult. On the other hand, it's also very difficult to expect, in the kinds of societies we live in, that such a complete blackout is possible, even though it does not help.
My reaction to the leaks is that they are unhelpful, and I think that that's my best reaction that I have -- is that they were unhelpful.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Over there.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on the ABM issue you touched on, there is a test, as you know, tonight, of the National Missile Defense System. I wonder whether you feel that the diplomats in the US Government are kind of at the mercy of the technology at this point; that if the technology works, the administration has set up a policy that it will go forward, when from a diplomatic point of view this may prove to be a highly problematic decision regarding relations with Russia, because it may upset the whole ABM structure?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that we have never said that - first of all, let me clarify this. There has been no decision made on the deployment of the National Missile Defense, and that decision will be made sometime during the summer. And it will be based, not just on what you're saying, on technology - the feasibility of it is obviously a part of it - but also on the threat, the cost, and its effect on our national security, including how it affects arms control agreements. So it is a -- there are a number of criteria on which this decision is going to be based.
And I think it's very important for everyone to understand, as I said earlier, that the ABM Treaty has been a cornerstone of our arms control process. If one were to go forward with the NMD, then obviously there would have to be some adjustments. But I hope that people will understand that the decision is not just being made - would not be being made, because it has not yet been made - on the basis of just the technology. That is just one of four aspects of it.
So diplomacy, and the overall context in which we're operating, has as much impact on this as what can be done by the testing. By the way, I for one cannot confirm whether there's something going on tonight. I just want to make that clear: I do not know that.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I'm told that you have time for one more, which puts me in a terrible position. I suppose I should just blindfold myself. I'm going to let Mrs. Rostov. I think she is entitled.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think she is entitled, yes.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, are any of these programs that you've been speaking about, are they predicated on any of the human rights issues that we are also facing: the World Trade Organization problems? So many people spoke against China because of their human rights abuse. How do you feel about that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that all our programs have within them the importance of our country's dedication to human rights. I think as I've talked about democracy being a central theme to our foreign policy, I happen to believe that human rights must be, because we have to be true to our principles.
And I feel more and more, as I come to the last year of being Secretary of State, that I think that what is very important is: There is no doubt in my mind that we are and will continue to be the most powerful country in the world. But I believe in order to have American power work, it has to be good power. I believe in the goodness of American power. And in order to do that, I think we have to stick to the principles that we have, and human rights are high -- right up there. I spent a lot of time this last weekend talking about human rights in Colombia. I spend a lot of time when I'm in China talking about human rights, and I do it everywhere I go.
But I also think this - and I think it is very important to understand this - is that we have lots of aspects to our foreign policy. We have to be able to engage with countries and go at them in different ways. There is no one way to achieve what we want.
And I think the hardest part about all the things that those of us that are in government now, and those of us who may be in government later (laughter) have to deal with is that, often things to the outsider don't seem consistent. And yet, if you begin to deal with each of the issues separately and you keep your eye on the ball about where you want to be, and from my perspective it is to exist within a community of democracies where we can understand how people operate within their countries, and that there are human rights. But we're not there yet. And in order to get there, we have to take a number of steps, which to those that are not following it on an hourly basis, or those who don't actually have to make the decisions, may seem to be inconsistent.
But I feel we have a very good framework, and as the last Secretary of State of the 20th Century and the first of the 21st --
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think we're on a good path. But it's difficult, and there are ups and downs, but I do think that we have a good lodestar. Thank you very much.
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