Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on The Diane Rehm Show -- WAMU-FM
Washington, DC, June 19, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MS. REHM: From WAMU in Washington, I'm Diane Rehm. The US is perhaps the most criticized nation in the world. It maintains involvements in the interest of supporting democracy and peace and protecting and supporting its own economy. The US is blamed for doing too much, interfering where it's not necessarily wanted or needed, or for doing too little, standing by while civilians of far-flung nations are victimized. Even Americans find themselves at a loss to explain their country's priorities in choosing and pursuing overseas involvements.
Today I'll talk with the woman whose job it is to guide and implement America's foreign policy. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joins me in the studio. Throughout the hour, we'll welcome your calls on 1-800-433-8850.
Madame Secretary, good morning and welcome back.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's great to be with you, Diane.
MS. REHM: Nice to see you. What can you tell us, first of all, about your meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat last week?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, he was here because we are in the midst of very intensive negotiations now to try to get the Palestinians and the Israelis, who have very hard decisions to make, to narrow the gaps between their positions. President Clinton saw Prime Minister Barak in Lisbon about ten days before that, and it was appropriate to have a meeting with Chairman Arafat.
I am going to be going to the Middle East within the next ten days or so and try to see whether there is a basis for going to a summit. But these are very, very difficult issues.
MS. REHM: What are the chances that you will reach an agreement by September 13th?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we're working very hard because September 13th is a key date. Chairman Arafat has said that he would unilaterally announce a Palestinian state. And also, Diane, I think that with President Clinton there is truly a unique opportunity. He is someone who, among American presidents, is not only trusted by the Israelis, which I think is kind of a normal position for American presidents, but trusted by the Arabs and developed over years now a relationship with Chairman Arafat. And so I think that there is an opportunity here to do something. And Prime Minister Barak wants to move and so does the Chairman, so we are going to keep pushing.
MS. REHM: How much land are we actually talking about? Someone on this program said 200 yards.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That's on the Syrian track.
MS. REHM: Right.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That goes back and forth, but it's not a lot. I mean, what the Israelis would like to have is a strip of land around Lake Tiberias because they feel that that provides a certain amount of security for their ability to continue to have water.
MS. REHM: So that becomes an enormously important strip of land.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It does because, you know, the Israelis are now on the Golan Heights, and in order to feel secure, I think, that they say that they need to be able to have a strip of land around it. And so it does become enormously important.
MS. REHM: Madame Secretary, how much of all of that work has been overseen by you or developed by you?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, it is kind of the consuming aspect of being Secretary of State, and my predecessors also spent a great deal of time on it. I am kind of the overseer of it, and Ambassador Dennis Ross is the chief negotiator. But it's something that takes a tremendous amount of time. It also takes a lot of visits to the region.
MS. REHM: Of course, there has also been a lot of talk and press that, in fact, the foreign policy oversight has moved from your office to that of the National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger. What's going on there?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, there have always been discussions about how the National Security Advisor and the Secretary of State work together. And I worked on the National Security Council in the Carter Administration with Dr. Brzezinski, and there were lots of discussions then about how he and Secretary Vance got along.
As a political science professor, I spent a lot of time studying all this, as well as working on it, and this is the situation: President Clinton is a very strong foreign policy President; the National Security Advisor is his foreign policy staff, to put it in that way -- very close, someone who sees the President a lot and whose job it is to coordinate national security policy flow to the President so that the President can make the decisions.
I am, however, the chief diplomat for the United States and the one who does, along with obviously with the President and the National Security Advisor and the Secretary of Defense, formulates American foreign policy. And I don't think that ever in the history of these two jobs have two people gotten along better than Sandy and I.
MS. REHM: Have there been any substantial differences between the two of you regarding either the Middle East or North and South Korea? Have there been different paths to the President?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Obviously, we've disagreed on certain things, as have all of us within that very small circle of principals which also includes the National Security Advisor to the Vice President and the Director of the CIA and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs --
MS. REHM: Can you give me an example --
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, I won't. No, because that is the kind of -- you know, the President expects us to have differences. That's what we're paid for. If we all agreed, I think there would be something wrong. But, basically, when there is a disagreement, then it goes to the President, and he needs the benefit of a lot of different opinions.
And partially also what happens is when we meet -- and we all meet constantly -- it is everybody's job to see a foreign policy perspective or a national security perspective from the perspective of the department that you represent. And if I didn't do that or Secretary Cohen didn't do that, we wouldn't be doing our jobs. So this is how foreign policy is made in the United States in terms of people looking at it from different vantage points, presenting their best judgment to the President of the United States. But most of the time, we all agree.
MS. REHM: Why do you think the press has taken up this issue as to whether Madeleine Albright is making foreign policy or whether it's Sandy Berger who has the President's ear?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it's one of those kind of who's up, who's down, who plays what game in Washington. And it changes all the time. Sandy and I have a lot of laughs over it, frankly.
MS. REHM: I'm glad.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: And we really -- it is not an issue for us.
MS. REHM: Let's talk about the tone of last week's summit between North and South Korea's leaders. How much is US foreign policy toward North Korea going to shift if relations between these two countries improves?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think we have to understand what happened. It was a historic summit; there's no question about it. And seeing these two leaders shake hands and deal with each other is really remarkable. I've been to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, and I've always described it kind of as being the other side of the moon. And it's very stark and there is propaganda music coming from the North. And, I mean, there's no way, truly, Diane, to tell you; it's the last vestiges of the Cold War.
So to see these two meet really was historic. We have wanted to see a peaceful and denuclearized Korean Peninsula -- that has been our goal -- and stability. So that's why we think this is a good idea. We do continue to have concerns, obviously, about North Korea's missile capability and to make sure that their nuclear program continues to be curtailed. And those issues are -- the South Koreans also agree with that.
So we have to see how it all evolves. I am going -- leaving tomorrow on a trip to go to Korea and then to China, and then to Poland -- everybody goes to Poland via China -- and then to the Middle East. But I will have a chance to talk more to the South Koreans about what happened. And their national security advisor was here last week and he briefed President Clinton and me on how that summit had gone.
MS. REHM: Well, you know, the US has called North Korea a rogue state. Is its leader, Kim Jung-il, a rogue leader?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, we are now calling these states "states of concern" because we are concerned about their support for terrorist activity, their development of missiles, their desire to disrupt the international system. They remain -- North Korea remains on the terrorist list, and we are going to really be looking at how this relationship develops.
Things don't change overnight, Diane. This is clearly an important development. We want to see how the North-South relationship evolves from the statements that they signed. We have to make sure that North Korea is not a threat.
But one thing that has happened, we agreed in September of last year to ease the sanctions, and they are being eased. We have an announcement now in the Federal Register for consumer goods to go in. Nothing that can be used for strategic purposes or dual use. And some American business men are looking at some small investment deals, so there's a possibility here of change, but it's not going to happen overnight.
MS. REHM: On another subject, in the Far East. Congress voted last month in favor of establishing permanent normal trade relations with China. What's the next step in developing our relationship with China?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, only kind of half the job has been done in Congress, because the Senate hasn't voted on it yet, and we expect that -- we hope that that will happen soon, and that that will not be delayed. Then, China has to finish its deals about getting into the World Trade Organization, which will be very good, because we then, if we have any trade disputes with China, we'll not be doing it alone. They will go before an international body to resolve it, and we'll have another 134 countries working with us.
We also want to, and this is one of the reasons that I'm going to China, is to try to talk to them more about proliferation of nuclear weapons and their whole proliferation policy. We obviously have to talk to them about relations with Taiwan, the need to have a peaceful dialogue, and we had -- this is a concern obviously to us. Then we will talk about human rights, as we always do, and generally about the evolution of China and our very complex relationship with them.
MS. REHM: Do you see this free trade element opening the way towards, for example, greater freer speech, movement within China, and that sort of thing?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, we said originally that the reason we would do the World Trade Organization, and push for that, is that it was important for economic reasons that our market was open to the Chinese, and there was no reason for us not to push to have their market open to us. Because we will be able to sell goods directly to them, not just transfer the manufacturing technology, it will create jobs, so there was an economic reason.
There was a national security reason, because we think that China can help, in terms of providing regional stability, helping with North Korea, the Taiwan issue; and, finally, though this was not done for human rights reasons, the fact that China will be opened up is something that will help. Internet will get in and open the information.
MS. REHM: Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and you can join us questions, comments, 1-800-433-8850. Stay with us.
MS. REHM: Welcome back, as Secretary of State Madeline Albright sort of visually takes us around the world, to the kinds of hot spots that she is concentrating on, and that truly all of us as a global enterprise need to be concerned about, aware of. The travel that you have done, and continue to do, Madame Secretary, is truly phenomenal. How do you find that energy, that stamina, to keep you going?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have said this before, and it does sound a little hokey, but there is no greater honor then representing the United States. We are involved in everything, people expect us to be; they may get irritated sometimes that we are, but if we're not involved in everything, then they criticize us for not being involved. So there is a lot of adrenaline that comes from representing the United States, and I believe in the goodness of American power.
I don't mean just the military power, but our talking about democracy and human rights, and putting forth the values that have made a great America. So, that's where it comes from. I do say this, that makeup is a wonderful thing.
MS. REHM: To what extent though, have you been perhaps troubled or bothered by the concentration on appearance? I've never heard this kind of concentration on appearance as far as male Secretaries of State, and here you are, and somehow each appearance you make people comment on your clothes, your hair, your hat. I mean, what is this all about?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that it's not hard to believe. Still the world that I'm in is a man's world, as is yours, to a great extent.
MS. REHM: Indeed.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: People are unused to seeing a woman doing this job, or I have a lot of fun in my speeches, talking about the fact that I never thought that I'd be Secretary of State because I had never seen a Secretary of State in a skirt. I think that in the end, it doesn't bother me, because what I like most of all is that the American people, or a large number, seem to be very comfortable with me.
I love it, when I'm out on the streets, and people say hey Madeline, what do you think about this issue? So it goes with the territory, and maybe after there have been more women in these kinds of high level positions, people will stop commenting. But I do get letters. Either my skirt is too short or too long, or my hair has changed, or whatever.
MS. REHM: Well, there you are. Are you concerned about what you've seen so far in Russia from the new President Vladimir Putin?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, it's a very mixed bag, Diane. What's happened is he clearly has kind of taken hold of Russia, after a period that to the Russians seemed kind of chaotic and disorganized, and the buzz word in Moscow is poryadok which means "order." The question is whether he is going to have order with a small o, or a capital O, and some of the things he's done, or directed be done, or allowed to be done, have troubled us.
Most recently, the arrest of Mr. Gusinsky, who is one of these oligarchs, but also is the owner of a media conglomerate, and a group of stations that has been critical of Putin, and he ended up in jail. He's now been released, but still has to go through his trial, and that's the kind of thing that is of major concern.
Plus his activities in Chechnya have been of concern to us. He clearly is concerned about terrorism, but the humanitarian excesses that took place, and the civilians that were displaced, too many people killed, is not the way to solve a problem that needs to be solved politically.
MS. REHM: To what extent are you talking directly to him about what's happening there?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we talk very directly. I had had contact with him in January. I went to Moscow and had a three-hour meeting with him where I made that very clear. I talked to my counterpart, Foreign Minister Ivanov, very frequently about this. I either talk to him on the phone, or we see each other at meetings. So we have made very clear, and President Clinton made very clear during the summit, where we agree and where we disagree.
MS. REHM: Of course you got to think about NATO and its role as these conflicts around the world develop. How do you think the role of NATO is going to change as Europe develops, and independent defense force, and as Russia continues its transformation?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, we have known NATO as the most powerful military alliance in the history of the world. It was set up against communists, against the Soviet Union. We have managed, I think, in the last six years, seven years, to make NATO relevant to today's threats, and those are threats to peace and security generally, and not just one threat versus the Soviet Union.
The enlargement of NATO, by taking in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland was a very important way of showing that there shouldn't be any artificial dividing lines in Europe for NATO. So I think we have made NATO relevant, and will have said that there is an open door for other countries to come in, when they meet the requirements of NATO membership.
At the same time, the Europeans are developing their own defense identity, as it's called. We don't have any problem with that. In fact, we believe that they should have more capability. They needed to do more in the Balkans, and the fact that they didn't is what made us take a more active role. What we don't want to have happen is to have this be decoupled from the alliance, that needs to be kind of a pillar within the alliance, not outside of it. We are not troubled about them having their capability.
MS. REHM: Let's turn now to another part of the world, and US relations toward Cuba. What do you see developing? Why is Cuba continuing to be such a thorn in the US side, or considered as a thorn in the US side?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: An awful lot has to do with the fact that they are 90 miles off our shore. I think that makes it a different situation, or in addition to that, the fact that Castro really has not allowed for changes to take place there. He continues to have a very repressive regime, and that is of concern to us. Our situation is now governed by the fact of Helms-Burton legislation, which put the embargo into law. Previously, a President could lift the embargo by executive order. It is now the law of the land, which we obey.
What we have tried to do, and I think pretty successfully actually, is to give assistance as we can to the people of Cuba. So we have allowed much larger people to people contacts. I found very interesting a story today in the paper about the number of Americans that do travel to Cuba under legal auspices of group to group and I think that's very good.
MS. REHM: They can spend money.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: They can spend money. The thing that we've also done is it used to be that Cuban-Americans sent money to their Americans in Cuba, but it was all having to be done under the table so that ultimately not much money would arrive to the Cuban. So we legalized remittances, originally just for Cuban-Americans, and now any American can send money to Cubans. There's also been a misunderstanding. There's not an embargo on food and medicine. We have contributed assistance there in medicine.
MS. REHM: How much?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Several hundred million in many years. They can buy medicine. They can buy food, but the government doesn't want to buy food from us. I think that we can sell food to private enterprises now. Basically what we're trying to do is kind of give some elbow space to the people. I tried personally, Diane, after the Pope had been to Cuba, to see if there could be a wedge of opening there.
You know, the Pope was just absolutely critical in opening up Poland and Eastern Europe. Now, the Pope is Polish, and not Cuban, but he did have some effect. I talked to the Vatican about it. We have systematically, as I say, been trying to expand the breathing space for the people of Cuba.
MS. REHM: Have you talked with Mr. Castro directly?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, we have an Interests Section down there, but I have not done that. He doesn't like me very much.
MS. REHM: He doesn't like you. Well, I want to ask you now as a mother, as opposed to a Secretary of State, if you can divide the two roles, what is your feeling about Elian Gonzalez, and where he should be?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Actually I don't have to divide myself on this, because I have believed that he needs to be with his father; that the father, that bond is very strong, and that that is the right thing to do. Of course, it's now part of the legal process. With this regard, I think that the most important thing is for this child to be with his biological father.
MS. REHM: So this whole court process, if you had had the wherewithal, you would have done away with it?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, I think that it -- I think this is a country of laws, and I think that it's useful for us to go through this. I'm sorry for -- the saddest part about this is the little boy, you know, who, no matter how you describe it, has become a political football. But he needs to be with his father.
MS. REHM: All right, one last question before we open the phones. The US and Britain are still bombing Iraq in the course of monitoring that country's so-called no-fly zone. But The Washington Post recently ran a front page story on the growing number of civilians deaths and injuries resulting from those actions.
What kind of event or change will it take to move in to a new phase of interaction with Iraq?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think what's happened, Diane, is people have forgotten how this all got started. Saddam Hussein invaded a neighboring country. He pillaged there. They burned oil fields. They took property from Kuwait. They took prisoners from Kuwait. They did something that is unacceptable in international law as to cross another boundary.
The United Nations put on a series of resolutions that Saddam Hussein had to abide by, and they had to do with his verifying that he would not have weapons of mass destruction; he would destroy the ones he had; that he would return property; and that he would not use terror against his own people. And he has not lived up to those, and the United States, through its sanctions regime, maintains that.
We have also again, where there's a misunderstanding, there is not an embargo on oil -- on food or medicines. Saddam Hussein has been able to buy food and medicine, and we in fact created a program called Oil-for-Food whereby, in the last six months, he has been able to buy $8 billion worth of food. And, you know, he has plenty of money. He has built 50 or so new palaces since the end of the war, to the cost of over a billion dollars.
So the way this will end is when Saddam Hussein lives up to this responsibilities under the sanctions.
QUESTION: But do we need to continue the bombing?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The bombing happens for the following reason: First of all, the no-fly zones are set up, one in the north and one in the south, in order to, in the north, to protect those people that live up there, the Kurds, who frankly he had gassed a lot of them before the Iran-Iraq -- during the Iran-Iraq war and before the invasion of Kuwait; and, in the south, because he's not supposed to be moving his tanks towards the south. The only time we bomb is when we have been illuminated by their radars or there is some danger to our pilots.
MS. REHM: But, are we perhaps making mistakes and bombing civilians instead?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I can't answer -- I don't know the answer to that question and I do not believe -- you know, when our pilots are in danger, which is the only time that they bomb, then I think that our responsibility is to care about the lives of our pilots.
MS. REHM: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at 24 before the hour. You're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. And we'll open the phones now, 1-800-433-8850, and I'll look forward to hearing your questions and comments.
Let's go first to John in Miami, Florida. Good morning to you.
CALLER: Hello, thank you for taking my call.
MS. REHM: Certainly.
CALLER: My question is about Turkey and its continual denial of the Armenian genocide. The Administration has not pushed the issue, nor has it recognized the genocide that was really Hitler's model for the Holocaust. Turkey has tried to revise history, much like the Holocaust deniers have attempted to do.
What is so bad with the coming clean of the killing of over 1 million Armenians that were living in Turkey?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have, in fact, discussed this a lot with the Turks. When President Clinton and I were in Istanbul last fall during the OSCE Summit we talked about it, and when I've met most recently with Foreign Minister Cem trying to get them to look at the history of what happened with Armenia. And we have, in fact, been -- it's very much a part of our discussion.
MS. REHM: Now, does that mean that not only is it on your radar screen but that the US might take some kind of formal action?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have a very complicated relationship with Turkey. Turkey is a NATO ally. We have talked to them generally about human rights problems in Turkey, as well as obviously the Armenian issue. And it's very much a part of our discussion that they have to allow the opening of a Greek Orthodox mission -- missionary, to also have a better human rights approach in Southeast Turkey. So it's very much a part of what we talk about with them.
MS. REHM: Madame Secretary, I think there are certainly critics of US foreign policy who would argue that what's going on is US attention to those areas where there are economic or military interest, but none other.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I disagree with that. We have taken up -- because I feel so strongly about it and so does the President -- that there are humanitarian interests that are actually US national security interests. There are people who disagree with us, who say that our national security should only be concerned with so-called geo-strategic areas or areas of economic importance. But we have made a point of saying that humanitarian crises require our attention.
The problem is -- and this is a very serious problem -- is that our hands are being tied by Congress to a great extent with not enough money for my budget. My budget -- you know, nobody ever believes this, that people think foreign assistance is like 25 percent of the budget or some huge number.
MS. REHM: What is it, less than 1 percent?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Less than 1 percent. One penny out of every federal dollar goes to all the foreign policy, foreign affairs programs, plus running my department, plus worrying about security and making sure that our embassies now are built securely, which is really quite a very -- you know, when foreigners ask me about this, it's really a very low number. We have the lowest number of any industrialized country in terms of our assistance. But then, also, we have holds on a lot of our important humanitarian programs.
MS. REHM: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. When we come back, we'll talk more about security issues around the world and, of course, take more of your questions, comments. 1-800-433-8850. Stay with us.
MS. REHM: Madame Secretary, you'll be in Poland soon for a meeting of ministers of democratic nations. Tell us a little bit about the conference. What are the issues on the table?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, this is a conference that we have been working on some time with the Polish Government and several other convenors from other continents; for instance, the Indians or people from Mali, Korea. Because, clearly, democracy is on the march and there are more and more democratic countries. But democracy is not an event; it's a process, and there are setbacks for some countries or democracies are in regions where they are under siege.
And so this conference, which at first was very small, now has over a hundred countries coming, about 70 foreign ministers. There is also going to be a forum of NGOs meeting in a parallel way. And we are going to have a variety of panels talking about democracies can really help in other in fragile times.
MS. REHM: NGOs being nongovernmental organizations. It does seem to me that out of that could come sort of a broader view of what needs to be done in Europe, throughout Eastern Europe and perhaps even Western Europe, to create that kind of alliance, coalition.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, it's part of that, but we're also looking at Latin America, Africa, Asia. And people say that democracy is just kind of a Western concept, but it's not. I mean, you see it everywhere in the world.
MS. REHM: At the same time, do you feel that the US has perhaps, in certain cases, attempted to impose democracy where countries have not been ready?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: You can't impose democracy. Democracy is a choice, by its very definition. And I think that people need to have the opportunity to decide about their own lives and be able to figure out if they have a regime that has a one-party system, how they can, in fact, make their voices heard. And so a lot of people think that democracy is having an election, and obviously an election is important, but the other parts of it -- the institutions that go with democracy and independent legislature and independent judiciary -- those are the kinds of things that we're going to be talking about in this conference.
MS. REHM: All right. To Forth Worth, Texas. Good morning, Ann.
CALLER: Good morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
MS. REHM: Sure. Are you on a speaker phone, by chance?
CALLER: No, I'm in my bathroom.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I can appreciate that.
CALLER: Putting on the last touches. Thank you, Madame Secretary, for being on Diane Rehm; it's wonderful. I don't know about your skirt length, but I love your brooches that you wear. (Laughter.) They're wonderful. My question is, or sort of a comment is, I agree with the policy in Iraq, but what I was wondering is, if we couldn't expect the very wealthy Arab states in that region to take over the doling out and the -- of you know, of humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.
I kind of think maybe they would know how to do it better than we do, but I think we're enablers in a lot of ways. We pour -- maybe in other -- Africa, and so forth, we pour humanitarian aid in, and then we sort of enable these people to wage war, I think some times. I'll take my comment off the air, and I'm very impressed with your work, and I'm very glad you're there, thank you very much.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you Ann. Let me just say that the problem is how to make sure the food and medicines get to the right people, and so the United Nations is the one that actually does the distribution of the food and medicines that can go in there, either by the Iraqi regime selling oil for this very purpose, or other ways.
The Arab countries are very concerned, obviously, about their Arab brothers and sisters in this region. I -- as you may have heard in my previous comment, I don't think we pour humanitarian assistance anywhere, because we don't have enough to pour. We have to make sure that the countries are not spending their money on arms. That's why we were so depressed by the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which now does have a cease-fire, because as we all know at the same time they have terrible ravages from a drought. We very much encourage countries not to spend their money on arms.
MS. REHM: To a caller here in DC, is it Saryhan, you're on the air.
CALLER: Yes, it's Saryhan. Good morning Diane, Madame Secretary.
MS. REHM: Good morning.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning.
CALLER: Diane, I'm a first-time caller and I first would like to congratulate you on the quality of your unique program.
MS. REHM: Thank you so much.
CALLER: Day in and day out you bring the most interesting topics to us. Madame Secretary, Diane opened up the program, and correctly stating, in my opinion, that the United States is the most criticized nation in the world. As a non-American, an international student who has studied in the United States for the past eight years, in the field of International Relations, I would agree with her that some of the -- the US is the most criticized nation in the world. Now some of this criticism is fair, but most of it is exaggerated.
Now, I also want to mention, before I ask my question, that I am a graduate of the School of Advanced International Studies here at Johns Hopkins, and we consider you as one of us still.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I always appreciate that.
CALLER: My question is actually on the recent elections in Peru, and what your view on that is, that ended with Mr. Fujimori's presidency. The initial reaction from the US, if I'm not mistaken, if I didn't miss the sequence, was a harsh response criticizing the procedure, but then the past couple of days the news show that the US is kind of supporting the result.
MS. REHM: Has moved somehow, I agree.
CALLER: I was wondering what your opinion on that is? Do you think that Fujimori is good for Peru, its democracy there, and was his election legitimate? I'll take my answer off the air.
MS. REHM: Thanks for calling.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, and let me explain what has happened here. We have been, and continue to be very concerned about how the elections were carried out. The OAS observer mission was not there, the opposition leader pulled out, and we in fact were very concerned about the validity of the election. At the same time, we felt that our best procedure was to operate multilaterally through the OAS.
Our very tough position, along with some other countries, markedly Canada, who was chair of the OAS meeting that took place a couple of weeks ago, has enabled us to pull together a consciences on this, and Foreign Minister Axworthy of Canada and Secretary General Gaviria of the OAS are going to be going to Peru in the next couple of days, in order to push Fujimori to make sure that these independent institutions of democracy exist.
I think here, you're right. We were very tough, and we have now, it sounds probably to the public, softened, but the truth is what we've done is maintained our unilateral position of saying that this was not an appropriate way to carry out elections, but our moving through what we think is an appropriate channel of the OAS to make our will known on the fact that he has to take some steps that are democratic.
MS. REHM: What's in the issue that he had served only a portion of the first term, filling out someone else's, so he felt legitimately he could run a third time.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That's one of the reasons, but I think that one of the aspects, and we were talking about these conference of democracies, Community of Democracies that we're having, is the question is to what extent constitutions are used properly or are interpreted in a way to try to keep one country -- one party in power. We are concerned about what happened in Peru. I think that we felt that he should have allowed a runoff with the other opposition candidate in there.
MS. REHM: To John in Philadelphia, you're on the air.
CALLER: Yes, Madame Secretary, thank you for taking my question.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Hi.
CALLER: There's a fascinating case before the Supreme Court right now involving the State of Massachusetts and its law that was passed I think four years ago dealing with companies that are investing in Burma. I believe the court is about to make a decision on that. The administration, I believe, has taken a position in favor, or a friend of the Court position in support of business position, basically that there should be -- businesses should be allowed to engage -- to be involved in countries like Burma where human rights and political situation is very bad.
Can you explain why the administration has taken that position, given what you've said about the human rights issues in China an Cuba, and giving people breathing space and so forth?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes. First of all, let me say that we have made very clear that what's going on in Burma and the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi's party has not been allowed to participate is unacceptable, and the US we have some of our own sanctions. The reason that we took the position that we did is that we believe that foreign policy is a federal issue, and not one that is left to the states, so that it is based on a constitutional aspect that the federal government does foreign policy. It isn't that we do not -- I would not describe it as the pro-business position, but the pro federal government constitutional position.
MS. REHM: To Cleveland, Ohio. Frandislove, you're on the air.
CALLER: Good morning Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
MS. REHM: Good morning.
CALLER: I should first state that I was born in Yugoslavia, and I came to the states as a child. I am an American citizen. I was in Yugoslavia visiting in the late eighties when the entire situation in Kosovo erupted, so I followed it fairly closely since then, because the region of Yugoslavia called Vojvodina, which is in northern Serbia, the autonomy was taken away simultaneously with the Kosovo autonomy. It was a well integrated region, Romanians, Hungarians, Serbs, Croats, and just about every other ethnic group was well represented.
I always saw Doctor Rugova, who I have the highest regard for as the de facto leader of the ethnic Albanians. He was their leader since before their autonomy was taken away by Milosevic. A KLA, on the other hand, and it's primarily from the information that I read published by your own State Department, was considered a terrorist organization, and essentially criminal. So I was just extremely surprised when I saw the KLA evolve as Kosovo Liberation Army, and Dr. Rugova simply get pushed aside -- prior to, during and after the Rambouillet Agreement.
MS. REHM: Now, we're almost out of time. What is your question?
CALLER: That's the question. Why did we embrace the KLA?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say, I don't think you can put it as we embraced. What we have been doing is working with the political forces that exist in Kosovo, and Dr. Rugova continues to be the most popular leader in Kosovo. His people are a part of this joint council that the United Nations has established, and he is recognized as a political leader. What we want to do is move to first municipal elections in Kosovo, so that people can choose who they want to represent them.
MS. REHM: Madame Secretary, is there any chance that you might run for office in the Czech Republic, as suggested by President Vaclav Havel, who happens to be a good friend of yours?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I was greatly flattered because, as the previous caller, I was born in a foreign country, in Czechoslovakia, and came to the United States as a child. I am an American citizen, and very proud of it, and very proud of this country, and nothing could make me prouder than to represent the United States. But, you know, I was obviously flattered and Vaclav Havel is a friend, but I'm Secretary of State of the United States.
MS. REHM: What will you do after your term is over?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't really know. I have not decided that. I don't want to think about it yet because I have six and a half very full months -- and we figured out how to make every day longer by traveling from east to west. And there will be lots of things to do. I'm very interested in this whole concept of the community of democracies. I'm very interested in how information is playing in our societies these days by enabling people to have voice their opinions without going through governmental institutions.
So there are lots of things I'm thinking about intellectually. I'll probably write something and talk, but I really am not thinking about it now because I've got to think about the Middle East peace and about doing more in terms of integrating the Balkans into Europe and African peacekeeping.
MS. REHM: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, thank you so much for joining us this morning.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It was a pleasure, Diane, and as always, to be with you. And thank you for really putting on a terrific program. I agree with the caller who said it's a quality program. We always appreciate what you've done.
MS. REHM: Thank you so much.
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