|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on the Diane Rehm Show, WAMU-FM
Washington, D.C., March 27, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MS. REHM: Since taking office just two months ago, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has demonstrated her interest in reaching out both internationally and domestically. She met with leaders around the globe as part of a nine-nation, 11-day tour; participated in last week's summit at Helsinki and accepted Senator Jesse Helms' personal invitation to meet in North Carolina.
She joins me in the studio to talk about America's most pressing foreign policy challenges and her priorities for the coming months.
Throughout the hour, we'll welcome your calls. (202) 885-8850, or 800-433-8850.
Madam Secretary, welcome.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's great to be with you, Diane.
MS. REHM: Nice to see you. The American people seem fairly uninterested right now in foreign policy issues. You've said that you think it's important to engage them on these very issues. How can you do that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Diane, I think the best way to do that is to try to explain what each and every American stake is in foreign policy and make it less foreign, frankly. For a long time, people were very scared about the effects of the Cold War and fighting communism; the fact that nuclear weapons were targeted on the United States, that made it very immediate. Then, with the end of the Cold War, there were those actually who thought history had ended and that we wouldn't ever have to worry about foreign policy again.
The truth is that the world is now so interdependent. Americans want to feel free to travel in the world, to invest, to be able to have the benefits of that interdependence. We have to make sure that the world is secure enough for all of us to be able to do that. The new threats are very specifically the kind that will affect individual Americans. They are terrorism; they are drug smuggling, international crime, disease that knows no borders, environmental problems.
What I want to do is to travel around the United States a lot in order to be able to bring it to a level where it's local. Everybody says all politics are local. Well, so is foreign policy.
MS. REHM: You promised early on to tell it like it is. Yesterday, you made a speech at Georgetown University with specific reference to U.S. relations to Iraq. Are you trying to encourage the people of Iraq to overthrow Saddam?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are not telling the people of Iraq to do anything. They are obviously the ones that make their own decisions about their government.
What we were trying to indicate was that, first of all, the policy that the United States has followed for the last six years since the end of the Gulf War will remain in place in terms of being firm and tough about making sure that the Iraqis and Saddam Hussein, specifically, lives up to the obligations that the United Nations imposed. That means getting rid of the weapons of mass destruction, stop terrorizing his own people in the north and the south; stop exporting terrorism; account for the POWs and MIAs from Kuwait; recognize Kuwait. I made that very clear.
But I also said that we are prepared to have a dialogue with a successor regime. We expect, if there were a successor regime, that it would also abide by those obligations that I've just listed, but that we are prepared to have such a dialogue. The Iraqi people have to make their own decisions.
MS. REHM: But you're saying, under no conditions would that kind of dialogue take place with Saddam himself?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: What Saddam has to do is to live up to these obligations. He knows how to do that. When I was Ambassador at the United Nations, I would, on a regular basis, do what diplomats call "demarche," which is to have a discussion with the Iraqi Ambassador, telling him that these are the things that we expected to have happen. Saddam knows exactly what needs to be done in order to regain status in the international community.
But, frankly, Diane, the problem with Saddam Hussein is, he has lied. There's no other way. You said, I'd tell it like it is. He has just plain out lied to the international community about what he has in terms of weapons of mass destruction. I think it's very hard for a congenital liar to prove that he is now telling the truth. That is the issue here. So the deceit that Saddam has perpetrated means that the burden of proof is on him.
MS. REHM: Middle East envoy Dennis Ross is meeting today with Yasser Arafat, trying to get a clear indication and declaration from him against the use of terror and violence. Is it clear that such a declaration on his part would halt the violence?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The President and I asked Dennis to go and meet with Chairman Arafat and with Prime Minister Netanyahu to assess where the situation is. Frankly, we need to figure out how to get the peace process back on track.
What we do think is that it is very important for Chairman Arafat to give a red light to the terrorist activities. I think that is one of the things that - the violence is very hard to control. It requires Chairman Arafat to have 100 percent effort to try to halt it. We know that doesn't always translate to 100 percent results, but 100 percent effort is required. We want to make sure that he does everything that he can to halt the violence. Then, while he has condemned the terrorist act that took place in Tel Aviv is to just have there be no perception that he is in any way allowing terrorist acts to go forward. So we think he needs to give a red light on that.
MS. REHM: Is he, in fact, in charge of that extremist right wing?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That is a very difficult question to answer because there is indication that he's not able to control everything. But, the issue here is that the perception that has existed that perhaps he gave a green light to that, has to be countermanded by having him give a red light.
MS. REHM: Then, I gather Mr. Ross will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in the hopes of getting some action to allay the anger over Israel's decision to build a new Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem. If Mr. Netanyahu continues to move forward on the construction, where do they go from there?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think the issue here, Diane, is the construction, we have indicated - we felt - was a decision we had preferred would not have been taken. The important part here - and this is what Mr. Ross is trying to assess - is how we can get what has been an incredible peace process back on track.
We are saying this is one of the worst moments that we've had in the three or four years that there has been positive progress since the wonderful ceremony that we had on the White House lawn in 1993.
What Dennis is doing is assessing the situation, taking a measure, and then he'll come on Friday to report to the President and me. Then we will assess where to go from here.
MS. REHM: Of course, the U.S. has been criticized for vetoing a measure that would have condemned Israel at the U.N.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I can explain that very easily; (1) because I was in a position like that before; now, I'm giving the direction on it. The U.N. is not the right place to be dealing with the kinds of issues that are being presented in Israel at the moment. Frankly, what everybody needs to focus on is what is going on on the ground, what the two parties are able to deal with with each other. The main point is how to bring them back together so that they can talk. Resolutions out of the Security Council may make people feel good but they don't accomplish anything. What they do is create a greater sense of confrontation.
I am the greatest believer in the U.N., but it is not the right venue for discussing issues to do with Israel and Jerusalem.
MS. REHM: (202) 885-8850, or 800-433-8850. Your questions, comments, for Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Turning now to Russia. There's a massive work strike expected today in protest against the government's failure to pay back wages. How dangerous is a predicament is this for Boris Yeltsin whose policies are being blamed for the failure to pay?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Clearly, there is a very difficult economic situation in Russia. We have been heartened by the fact that President Yeltsin, last week, named a new economic team that is very reform-minded. This Mr. Nemtsov, who is the Mayor of Nizhni Novgorod, is somebody that has a very good record in terms of economic reform. His new advisor, Mr. Chubais, is also an economic reformer. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin is. So there is a new team, and we think that should inspire confidence in the way that President Yeltsin wants to deal with what is clearly a very difficult economic situation.
MS. REHM: But how long is that going to take? And how long are those workers going to wait? Many are saying they can't feed their families, they can't provide even the basics.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The issue here is, how to get policies into place that will deal with this. My sense, from having seen President Yeltsin just last week, is that he is very much back in charge. His explaining to the people that there is movement on this should do some good. Obviously, there is concern about the fact that Russia does have a very bad economic situation.
MS. REHM: Is the U.S. prepared to offer monetary support for this very issue?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The United States has done a great deal already in terms of providing ways for them to get rid of their nuclear weapons and been involved in trying to press the Russians into creating some kind of better economic structure. We do, in fact, have, at this very moment, a proposal before Congress to fund $925 million for a whole program for Russia and the New Independent States so that they can create a better economic climate.
They can't be in the business of kind of just being our clients. They need to figure out a way to develop a better economic system. That is what the assistance that we are asking for would do.
MS. REHM: Some commentators have speculated that should the situation worsen you could end up with another outbreak as you've seen in Albania?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Albania is a very special case. First of all, Albania itself had been isolated for 50 years. It's a country that practically nobody ever went to, and had a leader who built tiny little bunkers all over the country trying to prevent invasions. Then, Albania got involved, as you know, in a very complex pyramid scheme.
Russia does have serious economic problems, but it is a country that has a functioning governmental structure and a sophisticated leadership. They have serious problems, but I am not apocalyptic about it.
MS. REHM: Do you see the potential for sending U.S. troops into Albania?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: What we are seeing is that the Europeans are taking the lead on all this. The European organizations are in the lead. The Italians are very interested in dealing with the issue. I do not foresee American forces.
We had been concerned, and obviously evacuated large numbers of Americans from there. That is now complete. We believe this is an operation both diplomatically and in any other way that the Europeans can and will take care of.
MS. REHM: Turning now to China. During Vice President Al Gore's visit this week, he said allegations of illegal campaign contributions would not affect Sino-Soviet relations. This is kind of a fine line to walk, but he said that because there are allegations that the Chinese have brought influence with you as officials seeking safer, bold treatment on a range of issues. How does that affect ongoing relations with the Chinese in the interim, Madam Secretary?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Diane, first of all, if these allegations are correct, they're very serious and obviously would affect how we look at things. But they are allegations, and at the moment we have no way of knowing whether they are true or not. When I was in China, I raised the question with the Foreign Minister, and they denied any governmental involvement in this.
But the thing that I think we've got to keep in mind, if there has been something going on here, obviously we will take that into consideration; it's very serious. But in the meantime, what people have to understand is why we have and have to have a relationship with China.
Let me take a minute to explain this. China is a huge and vastly important country and will be even more so to the United States in the 21st century -
MS. REHM: Because -
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Because (1) it will by then probably have 1.5 billion people. It is a major regional power. It is an influential power. It is one of the Permanent Five at the United Nations. It has also global responsibilities in a variety of ways. It acts with us many times at the United Nations. It is going to be and is a huge influence throughout the world and especially in the region, so we must deal with it.
We also have some very important strategic business with China. China has now become in the last four or five years very much onboard with the rules about nuclear proliferation. They have signed on to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. As I said earlier, controlling nuclear weapons is one of the major priorities of the Clinton Administration, and China has been helpful.
China also has been very helpful with a major issue that we have with North Korea. North Korea, as you know, also had a developing nuclear program and instability in North Korea. Instability in the Korean peninsula is something that concerns us. China is helping us on that and is also very concerned about it.
The environmental issues that might be created out of a China with 1.5 billion people will dwarf the environmental problems that we have now as they become increasingly developed. So our relations with China are very, very important. We also are obviously concerned about the human rights issues there and in Hong Kong, and we do need to trade with them. So it is a multifaceted relationship, and I think this is the point that has to be made: We are going to engage with China, but engagement does not mean endorsement of all their policies.
MS. REHM: Madam Secretary, you're also reaching out domestically as well as internationally. You've begun to develop good relations with Senator Jesse Helms, who's been quite critical of Clinton foreign policy. Does Senator Helms have a legitimate reason for complaint, as far as you can tell?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: In terms of our foreign policy, not in terms of our substance of our foreign policy, I don't believe so. I think that we have gone through a variety of policies. He doesn't agree with a lot of them. Where I think - and the reason that the Senator and I do actually get along, first of all, he is a very courtly and charming man and was a wonderful host to me in North Carolina.
But I believe that he really does believe in American national interests and the importance of standing up for them, and so do I, and we disagree about a lot of things. I gave a speech at his university about the Chemical Weapons Convention, something that he's not in favor of or has a lot of questions about.
When I spoke before - before I had this job - about the importance of the U.N. at a previous visit that I had with him in North Carolina, that's something he doesn't agree with. But we have a relationship that I think allows us to cooperate on issues that are good for the United States.
MS. REHM: After that meeting in North Carolina, I gather he has now agreed to at least allow the Chemical Weapons Treaty to come onto the Senate floor.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It seems that way. He has been working very closely with a very good friend of the Administration and of mine personally is with Senator Biden, who, as Senator Helms himself mentioned, that he and Senator Biden are looking at a variety of ways that would make it possible for the Chemical Weapons Convention to be taken to the floor.
MS. REHM: But now what about this whole issue of reorganization of the State Department? Senator Helms thinks that there's a huge waste in the bureaucracy and wants to combine several agencies under the aegis of State.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me again put this into context. We have had for the last 50 years a foreign policy that has basically been set up to fight communism. That is what we were doing, and we did it extremely well. With the end of the Cold War, we have to rethink generally the direction that our foreign policy ought to take. It is my belief that now the central priorities of American foreign policy are, as I said, to control weapons of mass destruction, nuclear proliferation. That is the new way that arms control is going to be discussed.
Then I think that it is very good for the United States to have a long-term, sustainable development policy so that other countries can grow and become part of the international system in the most practical way so that they can grow, (1) to be democracies, but (2) also they provide huge markets for the United States, depending upon how you view the importance of American foreign policy.
So I believe that those are the central issues within American foreign policy, and I want to see our foreign policy structure be able to do that in the best possible way. I'm not going to comment specifically on plans for reorganization, but I do think that one needs to understand how to make our machinery - our foreign policy machinery - as effective as possible to carry out those major duties.
MS. REHM: And at 29 past the hour, you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. One further question regarding Senator Helms, and that is the Helms-Burton Law, which in terms of trading with Cuba has gotten us into some hot water with our own allies - for example, Canada. Where do you see that going?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think there is a part to the Helms-Burton legislation which makes it clear that the President can waive a part of it - Title III - if in fact there is apparent effort towards pressing the transition to democracy in Cuba. We have worked very hard - Ambassador Eizenstat specifically - working to get our allies, along with us, to do something that we all agree on, and that is that Cuba should move towards a democratic system of government. We are going to keep pursuing that hope very much that our allies will also take very firm action.
We have had disagreements with them over this - there is no question - and the problem with Canada is probably the most serious. The Prime Minister is coming here in a couple of weeks. This will obviously be a big subject of discussion. But what we believe - President Clinton does, as do I, as does Chairman Helms - that it's very important for the Cuban people that the island become democratic. It is a dinosaur, Diane. It is the last totalitarian government in the Western hemisphere. It's an embarrassment.
MS. REHM: So do you see President Clinton continuing to defer the issue rather than setting those limits in place and putting all of our allies again in a position of antagonism towards --
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it depends on the allies. I think that the issue here is that we all need to work together to accomplish what we do agree on is the transition to democracy.
MS. REHM: And I want to ask you about your intention that was reported in The Washington Post this week to elevate the importance of women as part of the U.S. international agenda. Again, Senator Helms did not agree with you on that issue.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It was very interesting. This was a university that he had gone to that was of many people from Union County, where he lived, and there was very widespread applause to the particular series of statements that I made about discrimination against women. I think that it is very important for the American people as well as throughout the world to understand that we are losing a major resource when over half the population of the world is not respected or integrated into political and economic positions that allow us to have an influence.
There's no problem about women finding work. Women are basically the backbone of work in especially Third World countries. It's more a matter of making sure that women are properly respected and have an ability to exercise economic and political power, and more than that in some countries are not subjected to violence of rituals that are criminal, we believe.
MS. REHM: And you feel you can impose that in terms of U.S. foreign policy standards.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that what we can do is set the standard and have others understand the importance of it.
MS. REHM: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, we'll take a short break. When we come back, we'll open the phones: 202-885-8850. I'm Diane Rehm. Stay with us.
MS. REHM: Welcome back. I'm Diane Rehm, and here in the studio, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. We'll open the phones now and take your calls. 202-885-8850, or 800-433-8850. We'll go first to New York. Jennifer, you're on the air.
QUESTION: Hi, I'm Jennifer Atwood from New York City. First of all, I'd like to say I'm a huge fan of Madeleine Albright.
MS. REHM: I think there are a lot of us out there.
QUESTION: I want to say that I went to the Women's Conference in Beijing as an NGO, and I would like to know how is the U.S. State Department implementing the goals of the Beijing Conference to help women overseas?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Jennifer, very good to talk to you, and thank you for your kind words. We have moved a lot of implementation aspects of the Beijing Conference to the United Nations - I'm sorry - to the State Department, and we are working on carrying out the various parts of it. Teresa Loar, who you probably met there, is working very hard on this. We have a program developed, and we just had an initiation of the office in the State Department, and I can just assure you that we're staying on top of the various applications that need to be made to it within our own country and obviously in terms of stressing that we move forward internationally also.
MS. REHM: And to Fudilla in DC. You're on the air.
QUESTION: Good morning.
MS. REHM: Good morning.
QUESTION: How are you?
MS. REHM: Fine, thanks.
QUESTION: It's a pleasure to be able to call and ask a question of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright this morning.
MS. REHM: Good.
QUESTION: My question is, Liberia is now closer to elections than at any time since the civil war began in 1989. I would like to know, where is Liberia on your agenda, and what do you plan to do to help that small West African country regain its democracy, Secretary of State Albright?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you for asking that. Let me just say I was in Liberia last year. It's one of the saddest places I have ever been to. It clearly has a very close connection with the United States, but the tragedy there is that the Liberian leaders themselves seem to have forgotten about their people and are fighting constantly in terms of power and control of the resources.
We would like the elections to take place, and we are pressing through the United Nations and also bilaterally to have them happen. But the great tragedy is that what has happened is they have initiated children soldiers. They bring people in - kids from the bush - and in effect get them doped up on sugar cane and various things, and they are rampaging through the streets. We are pushing the Liberian leaders to act responsibly to move towards elections.
MS. REHM: And to Northfield, Michigan, John, you're on the air.
QUESTION: Hi, good morning.
MS. REHM: Good morning.
QUESTION: Secretary Albright, first of all, I'd like to say what an inspiration you are to someone who's interested in foreign affairs and has just had a baby girl, who, because of you, has a better chance of climbing the diplomatic ladder --
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
QUESTION: -- to its highest levels. Second, I'm a social studies teacher and our high school international relations class is running a simulated Security Council session. One of our topics is Lebanon. I've been reading a little bit about the Lebanon first planned, and do you think that that depends on Syria disarming Hizbollah? And, if it does, do you think that's possible?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Clearly, one of the real problems here is that it's very hard for Lebanon to act independently these days, and we would very much like - we have talked about the importance of independence and territorial integrity of Lebanon. Part of what we're trying to do in the Middle East is to make it possible for Lebanon to behave again as if it has in fact the possibilities for independent action. But it's very difficult, very dangerous in Lebanon still.
I'm very glad that you're doing what you're doing with your class. It's absolutely terrific, because it's through simulations of that kind that I think students are able to really grasp what can be done in foreign policy and what can't be done, frankly. So congratulations to you.
MS. REHM: And to Elizabeth in Flemington, New Jersey. You're on the air.
QUESTION: Good morning, Diane.
MS. REHM: Hi!
QUESTION: Hello, Secretary Albright. I know you have said women's issues will be a priority in the U.S. foreign policy. What actual steps are being taken to make sure this happens and to clear the views of U.S. women's groups?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, we are trying to implement the Beijing Conference agenda within our own government and also throughout the world. We are now trying to push very hard for the Senate to ratify the Convention against the Discrimination of Women. We also are - I am frankly trying to get women into higher level positions in the State Department.
Mrs. Clinton, herself, is, I think, the greatest advocate for women's issues. As you know, she's now traveling through Africa making those statements that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights. We are pursuing an active policy throughout and pushing it through the sustainable development programs or economic programs.
MS. REHM: Let's go to Norfolk, Virginia. Connie, you're on the air.
QUESTION: Hello. I'm just curious. I can't imagine how you find the time to read everything you must have to read to know everything about anybody in the political world, and also what was the last book you read for pleasure?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Wow. I have to admit that recently I have not read a book for pleasure. Though you may think this is crazy, the reading that I do all day long is a pleasure to me, because all my life I have loved foreign policy and international relations. Every day I still pinch myself about the fact that President Clinton really gave this opportunity to me and therefore to women of the United States to be able to have this kind of a leadership role.
So I'll have plenty of time to read novels, and I do enjoy all the reading that I do do. I can assure you of that.
MS. REHM: On that personal score, you have learned so much or at least there have been so many revelations about your life, your growing up, your relatives and three grandparents who died in the Holocaust. Has that changed your perspective?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am very proud of the way I was raised, Diane. My parents always raised me to respect human rights and everybody and to understand the difference between right and wrong. I always thought that the Holocaust was one of the most horrendous acts in human history. I have always believed in the rights of people to live their lives the way they should. I have always been opposed to totalitarianism.
In terms of my basic beliefs, I have not had to change anything. I have always been very proud of my heritage. I am now even prouder of my heritage and very proud of my parents who actually, Diane, gave me life twice, I now know, not only by the original birth but by bringing me to this amazing country.
MS. REHM: You know, there are an awful lot of people - there are always critics out there - but there are an awful lot of people who have had a hard time accepting the notion that you had no idea about your background.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That's their problem. I know what I know, and my parents - there were no holes in the story. I wish I'd known earlier, and I just feel that people should look into their own lives. I'm never going to satisfy everybody on this score. I'm sorry about that, but I know what I know, and I know when I knew it. So I am deeply sorry that I didn't know earlier, but I'm very proud of what my parents did for me and my brother and sister.
MS. REHM: Have you now begun meeting with numerous relatives?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: My brother and sister actually went to the Czech Republic and met with a lot of people, and I have now been in contact in a variety of ways, and we're putting a lot of pieces of it together.
MS. REHM: Very interesting. Let's go to Sam here in DC. You're on the air.
MS. REHM: Hi!
QUESTION: Hold up with a point - there's been so much thud that it just keeps piling on. First, I have to correct a factual error that I just learned about. There are actually more men in the world than women -
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't think so.
QUESTION: Even though women would naturally live longer, they're deprived of necessities of life. It's in a book by Laura Flanders - actually, it's someone I know - it just came out, called, "Actual Majority, Medium Minority." The actual majority are first in the United States rather than the world, but she's got the figures on it, and there are several tens of millions of "missing" women because they're deprived of -
MS. REHM: All right. Your question.
QUESTION: Yeah. I actually called regarding the policy on Iraq. It seems to me it's quite unconscionable. We're making Iraq go through every twist and turn of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, and it's have a devastating human impact. The U.N. figures are 4,000 children dying under five years old every month. Meanwhile, if I might, in Israel - Israel is brazenly defying all kinds of U.N. resolutions on building settlements. I know we vetoed the recent ones, which I think is also wrong, but there are others on the books saying that they shouldn't be building, and so on; that they should be - we were talking about before, that they should be withdrawing from Lebanon. It just seems brazenly unfair.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me go through this a little bit with you. First of all, what Iraq was doing and we are concerned about is threatening not only the region; but as I said in the speech yesterday, creating biological weapons that could in fact kill every man, woman and child in the world. On that question of the Iraqi children, I have been maybe more concerned about the Iraqi children than Saddam Hussein has been. The United States was the chief backer and writer of Resolution 986, which provides for Saddam Hussein to sell oil in exchange for food and medicines. By the way, there has always been an exclusion in the embargo for food and medicine. It has been Saddam Hussein who has not chosen to take advantage enough of helping his people. So we are concerned about the Iraqi children and have provided a method for Saddam Hussein to be able to feed them rather than build palaces for himself.
MS. REHM: To Mira, in St. Louis, Missouri. You're on the air.
QUESTION: Hi. The State Department released a report earlier this year documenting widespread human rights abuses in Nigeria. There's a transition program currently under way, which I think is just a scheme by Abacha to install himself as a civilian leader.
Right now, there are 19 activist from the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni people who are awaiting trial from the same military tribunal that convicted Ken Saro-Wiwa. I'm wondering, what is the U.S. going to do to increase the pressure on the Nigerian Government? Do we have to wait for these 19 people to be executed before stronger action is taken?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have been very concerned about the whole situation in Nigeria. Interestingly enough, it was possible for us to get a condemnation of Nigeria when Saro-Wiwa was, in fact, murdered. We have been leaders in this horrible problem of trying to change Nigeria. We are looking at a variety of ways to maintain pressure on them and on the Abacha regime.
MS. REHM: I hope that answers it. To Elyria, Ohio. Rita, you're on the air.
QUESTION: Congratulations to Madeleine Albright. We were cheering you at our University Women's Group when you were nominated.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
QUESTION: My problem is, I'm Hispanic. I perceive - to follow that Sam, I suppose he was -- his train of thought, a blatant unfairness in policy application, especially in this case, Cuba.
If you recall, we have a different treatment of China. I remember seeing and hearing about how they gunned down, mowed down the young people in Tiananmen Square. Yet, I can go to the store and buy any sorts of products made in China. I don't, but I could. But, yet, it seems that a country like Cuba, who has not taken hundreds of people and mowed them down. I'm sure there, and I don't deny it, human rights abuses, but not to the scale.
I did go during the Carter Administration and admired their school system and their medical system.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: This is a question that often comes up. The truth is that Cuba has had a repressive system for the last 35/40 years. The people of Cuba have suffered under Castro's regime. We need to do what we can. I think the difference is a very pragmatic one, in many ways.
We deal with countries in different ways. We do not have a cookie-cutter approach. We are pressing China in one way and Cuba in another. Cuba, we believe, can have their regime changed as a result of concerted international pressure.
MS. REHM: Nine minutes before the hour, you're listening to the Diane Rehm show.
There has been a halt in the progression of appointments of Ambassadors and others in high-level positions at the Department of State. Number one, why is that occurring; number two, how does it hinder the operations of State?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me take the last part first. It does not hinder the operations of the Department of State. We are working and some people have stayed on, so it has not in any way hindered the work. Frankly, we are not that far behind schedule. I have my number three, Tom Pickering, his name has gone to the Hill as has Stuart Eizenstat's, who will be Under Secretary for Economic Affairs.
We have a whole set of people who are practically on the way to having their names submitted to the Hill. I think the procedures are all a little bit more complicated now for reasons that everybody has been reading about in terms of vetting people. It takes longer. The process is much more complex in the last 20 years.
MS. REHM: And concerns about campaign financing, in this case?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Not particularly. No. I don't think that's the issue. I think the issue is that the whole process of - I know when I, myself, even four years ago, people require a great deal of information about those that are being asked to come aboard. It takes a while for people to collect the information and for checks to be made.
I think the most important point here, Diane, is that in no way is the work of the State Department suffering.
MS. REHM: To Dallas, Texas. Luther, you're on the air.
QUESTION: Thank you. Diane, I just want to say how much I enjoy your show.
MS. REHM: Thank you.
QUESTION: To Secretary Albright. I have for many years followed your career and the things that you've done and have been amazed at just your tenacity.
Just a question to you. Do you foresee in your future possibly pursuing a political career as an elected official? I think you would be an incredible asset in that role.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much for what you're saying. I am having so much fun now - my version of fun - and focusing on all the things that I have to do now and not thinking beyond doing a good job, and thinking, if I really behave myself, I am going to be the last Secretary of State of the 20th Century, which is kind of amazing, being able to prepare the American people for the 21st Century.
As I walk down the halls of the State Department and look at the portraits of all the men who have preceded me, I am so proud of having this job and I want so badly to have the American people be proud of me.
MS. REHM: We had a long discussion on this program as to whether you might actually be eligible to run for Vice President in the year 2000. I got all kinds of e-mail because, apparently, constitutionally, you are not permitted.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am not. You have to be American-born.
MS. REHM: We'll either have to change the Constitution or find some other spot.
Let's go to Cathy in Silver Spring. You're on the air.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madeleine Albright, I was very pleased to hear that you identified long-term sustainable development as a priority for foreign aid for the post-Cold War. You think it's very urgent that foreign aid be reformed for the post-Cold War, and that it's more than a matter of moving the boxes around, reorganizing the foreign affairs bureaucracy.
Unfortunately, the priority for sustainable development is not reflected in the foreign aid budget. It constitutes less than half the - probably about a third of one percent of the national budget. I think there's also a danger that if the U.S. Agency for International Development is folded into the State Department that development aid will be subverted to short-term political objectives.
MS. REHM: Are you concerned about that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm concerned about the fact, generally, that the budget for foreign affairs is very small. The whole budget is less than one percent of the entire Federal budget; as I have said, less than one percent basically - more than 50 percent of our history will actually be written on the basis of what we do in foreign affairs, and it affects 100 percent of the American people.
We are working very hard now in Congress to try to get our funding for the whole foreign affairs function.
Let me say, though, that the issue here is not whether sustainable development will turn to the effects of short-term diplomacy. What we need to understand is sustainable development is our diplomacy.
MS. REHM: Let me ask you one last question, and that is, if you have a single, high priority goal that you want to accomplish by the time you leave this office?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's a combination of many goals. A goal that is essential here is to persuade the American people that we all have a stake in a functioning international system; that we cannot look inward; that the threats that face us are not the kind that American can close itself up. We have to understand that terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, drugs affect everybody. So my goal is to get the American people to understand our stake in the international system.
MS. REHM: Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. I want to thank you so much for coming on. I hope you'll come back and see us.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'd be happy to. Thanks, Diane.
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