|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on CBS-TV "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer
and Tom Friedman, New York Times
Washington, D.C., March 23 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MR. BOB SCHIEFFER: Good morning again. Both Secretary of State Albright and Tom Friedman, the foreign affairs columnist of the New York Times are with us here in our Washington studios.
Madam Secretary, we do want to ask you a lot about the summit where you have just returned. But as happens so often, the Middle East intrudes again so let me ask you about that first. Fighting in the streets of Hebron today, more terrorists attacks yesterday - how bad is the situation there now, and where do you think the peace process is at this point?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Clearly, we're yet again in a very delicate and difficult moment. We have been in touch with all the parties there. I spoke to President Weizman yesterday. President Clinton spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we have been speaking and being in contact with Chairman Arafat and working very hard to yet again say that the most important thing is for there to be talks; that the violence has never made anything better in terms of the Middle East situation and that it's important for the violence and terrorism to stop and for a dialogue to be resumed.
MR. SCHIEFFER: What kind of a response have you gotten?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think they all see that it's necessary to move to a phase where they can talk again and understand that violence is getting them nowhere.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Tom.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Madam Secretary, actually just the opposite, though, seems to be happening this morning. The latest report out of Jerusalem is that Prime Minister Netanyahu plans to break off the political talks with Chairman Arafat at this time and will only talk about security issues in light of what they claim are systematic Palestinian violations of the security agreements between the two sides. Do you think it's wise now to be breaking off the political dialogue?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We, obviously, hope that they will get back to talking. But the issue here is that there has to be an effort to stop the violence and that there has to be an effort on the part of Chairman Arafat. We believe that here have, in fact, been efforts on his part - 100 percent efforts - to stop the violence and the terrorism but the result is not 100 percent.
Chairman Arafat has condemned the violent acts, but we think that there needs to be some improvement.
MR. FRIEDMAN: I've had Israeli officials telling me in the last couple of days that there was a specific meeting on March 9th in which Chairman Arafat gave a green light to Palestinian groups to engage in violent resistance here, one result of which was the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Is that the view of the U.S. Government that Arafat has given a green light for violence?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's very hard to know exactly whether that happened or not. There clearly has been some perception of that. He did, however, condemn the terrorist act. He has stated a number of times that violence doesn't get anybody anywhere. In fact, to a great extent, he, or the Palestinians, are also the victims of violence generally as being a way of not letting the talks go forward. But there needs to be improvement. There's no question, Tom, there needs to be improvement in stopping violence and certainly not supporting terrorism in any way. But one must remember that Chairman Arafat did condemn the terrorist act.
MR. FRIEDMAN: So just to restate your view. Your view is that there's no hard, concrete evidence by the United States, (a) that he gave a green light, and (b) your view is, it would not be in your view the best possible thing to happen now that political talks stop between Israel and the PLO?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: There is no concrete evidence. There clearly is a perception of the green light but no concrete evidence, and there clearly needs to be an improvement in efforts to stop violence and to make sure that terrorism is condemned. We do believe that it's important for there to be talks. Nothing has ever been achieved in the Middle East by violent acts. It has been achieved only when the parties together have decided that it's time to talk, and I stress "the parties." The parties must talk before the U.S. can do anything.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Madam Secretary, Egyptian President Mubarak, as you know, has warned that there will be a new era of violence in the Middle East if Mr. Netanyahu and his government don't stop the construction of this new housing that is going on now in East Jerusalem. You have said it's not helpful. Do you want to go beyond that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have said that what is important is for what had been the momentum that came from the Hebron talks to be used to build bonds of confidence and to get the parties to permanent status talks so that they could talk about issues, such as Jerusalem, the borders, water, refugees. We hope very much that the Har Homa decision as well as these horrible terrorist acts - nothing in the world, no decision made by Prime Minister Netanyahu could justify the killing of women and children. But what is important here is for there to be a return to the talks.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Do you think that they should stop this building just flatly?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have said that it's not helpful.
MR. SCHIEFFER: But you wouldn't want to say more than that.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that the issue here is that they need to get back to the talks. We need to have them sit down and discuss it, so that there can be bonds of confidence built instead of terrorist acts.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Madam Secretary, Prime Minister Netanyahu has made a proposal - Let's set aside all these interim steps, because each one is more complicated than the next, and let's go right to final status negotiations; let's sit down, Arafat and me, and just negotiate the end of this. Do you think that's a good idea?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that we do believe that a lot can be resolved in permanent status talks. But, Tom, what I said earlier is that the permanent status talks are going to require a great deal of creativity. A lot of the most difficult issues were set aside until the very end for that reason, and they require a creative aspect, which is why we wanted so much for there to be bonds of confidence built to keep building up those approaches.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Would you ever consider something like the Camp David talks or some kind of a summit here in the United States, for example?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think at this moment what is important is for the parties to understand that their dealing with each other is of utmost importance - and when they have made that determination, then there is a role for the United States. But we have to delay discussions, such as what we might be willing or able to do pending a deliberate decision by the parties to talk with each other.
MR. FRIEDMAN: It sounds like, though - just to clarify this, Madam Secretary - that in terms of going right now to final status negotiations, you don't think that's a particularly good idea, because it sounds to me from what you're saying, you don't think the ground has really been prepared for that - the creative thinking hasn't been manifested.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't want to prejudge this. I think that at the moment, clearly, violent acts are deterring positive discussion, but I think we need to be very careful about assessing what the right schedule is and not to rule out any kind of process that could bring the parties together as rapidly as possible. We do believe they need to talk to each other as rapidly as possible.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let's talk a little bit about the summit. You're just back. The press reports are that the U.S. officials were extremely happy with the results. Tell us why you think this was such a good summit?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I tell you what was interesting about this, Bob, I think most of us who have studied summits - I haven't been to one before - saw them as kind of confrontational battles between titans. This was a very different kind of summit. This was what I would call a problem-solving summit, where President Yeltsin and President Clinton were looking towards the future and sorting out different ways that these two countries can work together and deal with a variety of problems.
So at the summit, despite the fact that there was disagreement - and there was - about NATO enlargement, they were able to make some very significant progress in the arms control area as well as on economic issues. On arms control we were able to deal with the START II and III, with the ABM and theater missile defense demarcation as well as the Chemical Weapons Agreement - or to move forward on that.
So I think that we need to view summits differently. This was a working summit where two countries that have a great deal of work to do together were able to solve some problems.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me just talk to you a little bit about this business of NATO expansion, because, as you know, there are scholars on both sides of this issue, and many scholars, including George Kennan, who is probably the premier Sovietologist, the father of containment of communism, says this idea of expanding NATO is one of the worst ideas yet. The thrust of what he is saying is that Russia's in a weakened state, that somehow we may be backing them into a corner to do something that they really don't want to do, and that as a result we might restart the Cold War. How do you answer that kind of criticism?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that we all have to be engaged in new thinking; that many of the scholars have their ways of looking at things - I'm not going to dispute that - but what I do think is that we are in a new era where the Russians are eager to be a part of a European security system and eager to be a part of discussions about the future of Europe.
We were able at this summit in Helsinki to talk about a NATO-Russia charter, which would allow Russia to feel that it was at the table in a series of discussions about the future of Europe; never to have a veto over NATO discussions but to have a voice.
I think that one should always understand that Yeltsin is a powerful, dynamic leader in Russia; that those who criticize NATO enlargement are primarily the communists who obviously see this as a way of undermining some of Yeltsin's ideas and also are looking backward. What I thought was the most interesting thing about this summit was President Clinton saying to President Yeltsin that basically a new Russia needs to see a new NATO - and that, I think, would also help if some of those scholars saw the same points.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. We're going to take a break right here. We're going to come back and talk a lot more about that very point in just a minute. We'll be back with Secretary Albright after these messages.
MR. SCHIEFFER: And we're back again with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, talking about the proposal to expand NATO, to include the old Warsaw Pact countries of Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, and about how there has been some opposition to that in various quarters. Tom.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Madam Secretary, you said that what the Russians really have to understand is that there is a new NATO. Do you think Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary want to join NATO because they think there's a new NATO or because they think it's still an anti-Russian alliance and that both NATO hasn't changed and Russia hasn't changed?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that those countries that you mentioned do not wish to be in a gray zone, where they're not a part of a large democratic alliance. I think that they do not particularly want to be part of an anti-Russian alliance. They want to be part of a new European security system and to feel that they are part of something they weren't a part of for 50 years; that this is the unfinished business of the second World War; that Europe was artificially divided, and they now will be with Western Europe where they believe they should have been in the first place.
They have accepted a large - well, basically our discussion of what the new NATO is like. They have been there at meetings as a result of the Partnership for Peace. They know the advantages they already have by being part of a new NATO, and it is my belief that they want to join this club. We have made absolutely clear and absolutely sure that none of their sovereign rights have been in any way limited by agreements that we have made or discussions that we have had with the Russians.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Madam Secretary, let me just ask you this question. It seems to me that throughout the long history of the Cold War, every time one side took an action, there was a reaction by the other side. Sometimes it was the West taking the action and Russia would react, and sometimes it was the other way around.
Now NATO is going to add new members around the Russian borders. What tells you that the Russians aren't going to react this time by, for instance, building up their nuclear arsenal again instead of building it down, by increasing the number of troops in the field instead of reducing them?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Bob, you have been also a victim of the Cold War. We don't think this way anymore. The point here is that we are into an entirely new era that requires a way for us to look at our relationship with Russia in a different way.
MR. SCHIEFFER: How do we know the Russians are not going to think that way any more?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Because the Russians themselves - not some of the communists that are looking backwards - but President Yeltsin who has just appointed a very forward looking economic team knows that the future of Russia is not by building up their military but by developing a vibrant economy.
You know what was so important at this summit was Russia's desire to be a part of the international economic system.
One of the things that they wanted was to be able to join the Paris Club, the WTO - the World Trade Organization - to be with the G-7 in Denver, at the summit of the Eight. The forward-looking thinkers in Russia are thinking about how Russia can be a part of the international system and not be isolated behind Cold War rhetoric.
MR. FRIEDMAN: If the Cold War is over, why are we expanding the pre-eminent Cold War alliance against the will of the Soviet Union?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Because this is not to be seen any more as the pre-eminent Cold War alliance. This is an alliance of democracies that is trying to create stability in central and eastern Europe. The Russians know and we know that two world wars started out of that unstable area in central Europe.
MR. FRIEDMAN: You mentioned the "gray zone," Madam Secretary between now what will be the expanded NATO and Russia. There's still going to be a big gray zone there - Ukraine, the Baltic states. What do you think is going to happen in that gray zone after we've already pushed the border of NATO forward?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, we have made very clear that the first countries to come into NATO will not be the last.
MR. FRIEDMAN: So we're going to -
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: NATO is open to all democracies, and the President made that clear.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Including Russia?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, the President said that. They said they didn't want to be a part of it but the President did say that, including Russia. We are also developing an expanded relationship with Ukraine and are making clear our interest in the democratic evolution of Ukraine.
With the Baltics, there is a whole way to bring them into the European systems. What was very interesting, Tom, in the discussions in Finland and other discussions I've had with Nordic countries, is the Baltic area is very important to the Nordics and they will be working with them also very closely.
MR. FRIEDMAN: It's also very important to Russia since it's right on their border. What did Boris Yeltsin say to you when you said, This thing extends right up to the Baltics; we're going right up to your border?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: This is one of the areas of disagreement.
MR. FRIEDMAN: What did he say? Could you share it with us? It's very important, I think. The American people should know.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think the American people should know that the Russians have a different view of NATO expansion from ours. There's no question about that. But, also, what the American people need to know is that the Russians want to be a part of an international community that acts responsibly and want to be participants in arms control agreements that lessen the level of danger.
As the President said, as a result of the agreements we made in Helsinki, it will be possible in the beginning of the next century to have 80 percent less strategic weapons as the countries face each other. These are huge advances and cannot be underestimated.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me sneak in a couple questions about China. The Director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, confirmed last week that a grand jury is looking into whether China tried to influence our elections by putting money into the system some way or the other, through front organizations. What if they did? What should our response be to China? The Vice President is there now.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Clearly, these are very serious allegations. The President has asked that they be looked into. They are being looked into, as you've pointed out.
But the issue that I have to make very clear to you is that while these investigations are going on - and they may prove one thing or another - those of us that are involved in foreign-policy making are pursuing a very active policy of engaging with China because it's in our national interest. We cannot allow a country the size of China to be isolated. That does not mean, Bob, that we endorse. We are engaged with them, but "engagement" does not mean "endorsement."
MR. SCHIEFFER: So what will the Vice President say to them about all this?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think the Vice President is going to mention our concern with this. But he is there in order to pursue what we're calling a multi-faceted relationship with China, where we tell it like it is on human rights and the necessity for them to preserve a way of life in Hong Kong; where we explore areas of cooperation in a strategic relationship.
We need to develop a cooperative, strategic relationship because we are very concerned about nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction, trying to make sure that we can solve the problems in Korea, environmental problems. So the Vice President is going to be exploring a broad range of issues.
MR. SCHIEFFER: I must ask you this, because the story is all over Washington, that this fund-raising touched so many people. Were you ever asked to make phone calls, or did you? Or did you ever become involved in any way as UN Ambassador in trying raise money for the Democratic Party?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Never.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Did anybody ask you to?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, never was asked.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Did anybody on your staff ever - were they ever involved, and did you find out about it?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No one on my staff was. While there was always, I think, a desire, by many people always, to participate in the political process, we made very clear that there would be absolutely no relationship between us and fund-raising.
MR. SCHIEFFER: About 30 seconds, Tom.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Very quickly. Will U.S. troops be out of Bosnia in June 1998?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The most important thing here, Tom, is for us to accomplish the civilian part of the mission in Bosnia. We have said that the troops would be out roughly within that period, but we are now concentrating on making sure that the civilian side of Dayton, the Bosnian -
MR. FRIEDMAN: So they might not be out by June 1998?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think they will be out. But the important part here is to make sure also that we use this time in the best possible way to achieve what we can for the Bosnians so they can then take over their own lives.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Madam Secretary, a pleasure to have you with us this morning.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
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