Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright|
Interview on CNN's "Late Edition" With Wolf Blitzer
Washington, DC, June 4, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State, June 5, 2000
MR. BLITZER: Among those who have joined President Clinton at this summit in Moscow and participated in all the high level discussions with Russian officials is the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She joins us now live from Moscow.
Madame Secretary, welcome back to Late Edition. Thank you for joining us.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you, Wolf.
MR. BLITZER: Thank you. Let's get right to the issue that Vladimir Putin proposed, even in advance of the summit, jointly working with the US in an effort to develop some sort of missile defense shield. Is that something that is on the agenda as far as the US is concerned, a joint US-Russian project?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, interestingly enough, Wolf, he didn't really pursue it in the discussions here. We have talked about it before when the Russians have come to the United States and at other levels, and we believe that it could be a supplement but not a substitute for the ideas of the national missile defense. So it is an idea that is out there, but it cannot take the place in order to protect the US national interests.
MR. BLITZER: Interestingly enough, earlier today Senator John McCain was on "Meet the Press" and he pooh-poohed this whole notion, suggesting the Russians really don't have a whole lot to offer. Listen to what Senator McCain had to say about a joint US-Russian technological development. Listen to this.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Given the state of Russian technology, I don't think it's plausible because I don't think they have that capability. I don't expect the Russians to be able to contribute significantly.
MR. BLITZER: Is that your sense as well, they really couldn't contribute much significantly?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think at this stage, this whole idea doesn't really answer the need. We have talked generally about the importance of sharing various aspects of the process and technology but, as I said, this idea does not really deal with the problem. We obviously can continue to talk about it, but it is not a substitute for what we need.
MR. BLITZER: The other proposal that Vladimir Putin raised in advance of the summit was developing some sort of anti-missile system that dealt at a much lower phase in an actual missile launch, at what's called the boost phase in the missile launch, as opposed to dealing with missiles when they're already up in space.
Is that something that the US is considering at this point?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's my understanding, Wolf, that there is not technology to do that and that we need to focus on the way that we are suggesting, that it be done in the later phase.
MR. BLITZER: The European allies, as you well know, are concerned about a unilateral move towards a limited missile defense shield. Gerhard Schroeder, the West -- excuse me, the German chancellor, earlier this week made clear that he didn't think this was necessarily a good idea. Listen to what he said. He said, "Neither economically nor politically can we afford a new round of the arms race. No one can dispute the Americans' right to develop what they believe is right for national defense. On the other hand we are partners in a common alliance."
The concern the Europeans are expressing is that this will just simply escalate, revive an arms race.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Wolf, we actually spent a lot of time this week with the Europeans. First, President Clinton had a summit with the EU presidency, that is Portugal at this moment, Prime Minister Guterres, and then we were in Berlin. And in both places obviously the subject of NMD came up and what the United States considers in our national interest and what the Europeans think about the whole discussion.
In both places, what was interesting and evident was that they understand that the United States has a sovereign decision to make. They want to continue to be briefed about our thinking. And in the discussions that we had, I would say that Chancellor Schroeder was interested, listened very carefully to what President Clinton had to say. We will continue to talk with them.
We do not want to fuel an arms race. That is not the purpose here. The purpose here is to continue to have stability; to try to make sure that the offensive and defensive weapon systems continue to be linked to each other, not to separate that concept; to work within the ABM Treaty and to recognize the fact that there is a threat. Those are the things that the President spoke about with the Europeans, with Guterres and with Schroeder and, obviously, also with President Putin.
MR. BLITZER: Now the proposal that's been put forward by George W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, goes much further than what the Clinton Administration, even at this point, is considering, a much broader kind of defense against all sorts of missile launches.
Listen to what George W. Bush said earlier this week on what he envisages going forward with.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX): America must build effective missile defenses based on the best available options at the earliest possible date. Our missile defense must be designed to protect all 50 states and our friends and allies.
MR. BLITZER: Do you disagree with that basic concept, as general as he stated it?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, the idea that President Clinton is putting forward does protect all 50 states. He spoke, when he was in Europe, about sharing some technology with allies. I think that it's very important, as Secretary Cohen suggested, that Governor Bush get briefed on the various ideas that are out on the table now.
MR. BLITZER: Get briefed by the Pentagon, by the Joint Chiefs, as well as by the Defense Secretary; is that what you're suggesting?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, that's what Secretary Cohen suggested, and I think that it's the appropriate thing to do. I hope that Governor Bush takes up the offer.
MR. BLITZER: Would it be appropriate for you to brief Governor Bush as well?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that depending upon what -- obviously what begins to happen is that the people that are in office now begin to have briefings and discussions with the candidates. That is appropriate because, ultimately, what I hope very much is that we have a good foreign policy discussion during the campaign but that, also, we understand that we need to have a common approach to our national security. That is what we are supposed to be doing -- to have a bipartisan foreign policy which keeps the national interests of the United States firmly in mind.
MR. BLITZER: As you know, Madame Secretary, Governor Bush did say in his speech that he would hope this President would not do anything that would tie the hands of the next President when it comes to missile defense, arms control, echoing a statement made by the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jesse Helms, who last month -- yes, last month also warned President Clinton not to make any agreements now at this late stage in his presidency.
Listen to what Senator Helms had to say.
SEN. JESSE HELMS (R-NC): After dragging his feet on missile defense for nearly eight years, Mr. Clinton now fervently hopes that he will be permitted in his final eight months in office to tie the hands of the next President of the United States. Not on my watch; it's not going to happen.
MR. BLITZER: And the general -- the general principle, though, that it's so late in the Clinton presidency, don't make any agreements at this point because it would be unfair to whoever the next President is.
What do you say about that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me just say that here in Moscow, the agreements that have been made and the discussions that have been had have not foreclosed any options for President Clinton. He has made very clear that he has not made a decision. When he makes a decision, it will be based on the criteria that he has talked about: the existence of the threat; the technology, whether it works; how much it costs; and how it affects our arms control regimes and national security in general -- our relationship with allies and friends. So he has a responsibility to not be on any kind of an artificial calendar. He needs to take those criteria into consideration.
I also think that one thing that's really important to remember here is that actually there's been a lot of continuity in arms control policy, and I hope your viewers will remember that actually President Bush had signed the START II Treaty, and then it was President Clinton who took it to the Senate to be ratified.
And I don't think it's appropriate for us to take a pause in trying to deal with very important national security issues. While President Clinton and his team is in office, we're going to do everything we can to follow through on what needs to be done on national security issues, and obviously arms control is a central part of that.
MR. BLITZER: All right, Madame Secretary, we have to take a quick break. Just ahead, Secretary Albright heads to the Middle East later this week to help facilitate more Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. We'll ask about her latest Mideast mission and more, when Late Edition continues.
MR. BLITZER: We're talking with the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who joins us live from Moscow.
Madame Secretary, this September 13th deadline for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, is that really -- is that realistic at all, or is this one of these deadlines that, as so often happens in the Middle East, that's simply going to come and go?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that Chairman Arafat is saying that he will declare a state at that point. I do think that we need to work as hard as we can with the parties over the summer because, as President Clinton has said, both publicly and to Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat, separately, privately, there's an opportunity here to move the process forward and we're going to be working very hard. As you know, I leave from here to go to the Middle East and I will do everything I can to press the process forward.
MR. BLITZER: Is this strictly on the Israeli-Palestinian track, or will you also be trying to revive the Israeli-Syrian track now that Israel has withdrawn from Lebanon?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, there's no question that the withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon has changed the dynamic. I think that, as President Clinton said, it was a very courageous thing for Prime Minister Barak to do, and it has changed some of the relationships in the region.
I am going to be concentrating, however, on the Israeli-Palestinian track. We obviously have left the door open on the Syrian track, and what we're looking towards is a comprehensive peace. That has been our goal and President Clinton has worked very hard on this -- as have I, as has Ambassador Ross.
MR. BLITZER: Madame Secretary, a congressionally-appointed commission is going to be releasing a report, formal report, tomorrow, making recommendations to deal with counter-terrorism -- controversial recommendations; for example, monitoring all international students studying in the United States, their studies, their activities; another proposal that the US military, as opposed to the FBI, would deal with counter-terrorism here in the United States, and that countries like Greece and Pakistan be cited as not fully cooperating with the United States in the fight against terrorism.
What do you think about these controversial proposals?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I obviously haven't seen the commission report, and obviously we are very concerned with terrorism and how to fight it. And, in fact, it's been very much a part of the discussions here in Moscow. But I think that in looking at how to fight it, we have to remember what kind of a society we are. We have to look at what the appropriate means are to deal with this.
It's obviously a very serious problem and I don't want to comment on the specific recommendations, but as far as Greece and Pakistan are concerned, it is a subject of discussion with them and was raised both when President Clinton and I were in Pakistan and in Greece recently. And we are pressing them on it, but we are not considering sanctions.
MR. BLITZER: What can you tell us, Madame Secretary, about this report that's going to air on "60 Minutes" tonight here in the United States on CBS, suggesting that an Iranian defector, someone who allegedly had been involved in plotting terrorist operations around the world, is now cooperating with the West, including the United States, and is insisting that Iran, not Libya, was responsible for the Pan Am 103 downing?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think obviously it's an interesting report. You know, we'll have to see it. But you have to remember that the Pan Am 103 trial is going on now. I think it's inappropriate to comment on the specifics of it, because that trial is in the process and the prosecutors are working on it and it's been in preparation a long time. I'm sure that they will consider all the facts.
MR. BLITZER: Finally, Madame Secretary, because we don't have much time left, we're going to be discussing later in this program the Elian Gonzalez case. How comfortable are you personally with the prospect that seems likely now that within the next few weeks Elian Gonzalez and his father will be going back to Cuba, to a communist regime?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have said all along that it's very important for the law to be followed and for the family to be reunited. And that is the position that we have all taken. I believe that it's very important for the case to be carried out in a legal way and for the family to be reunited.
MR. BLITZER: Madame Secretary, always good to have you on Late Edition. Thank you so much for joining us from Moscow. Good luck in the Middle East this week. We hope you'll be back on this program in the not too distant future.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Always happy to do it. Good to talk to you, Wolf.
MR. BLITZER: Thank you.
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