|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks and Q&A Session at the
American Society of Newspaper Editors
Washington, D.C., April 10, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Remarks As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you, Deborah Howell, for that introduction. Mr. Giles, Mr. McGuire, distinguished leaders of the Fourth Estate, thank you, I am delighted to be here.
I want you to know at the outset that I am one public official who has no complaints about the press. In fact, one of my cabinet colleagues asked me recently how he could get his picture in the newspaper as often as I do.
I had two surefire suggestions. I said, first, you could hold hands with Senator Helms. Second, you could wait until next spring and ask the President to let you throw out the first ball on baseball's opening day.
Speaking of which, one of our less articulate federal agencies once described an airplane crash as "an uncontrolled descent into terrain." That is also a pretty good description of what happened to my pitch. The bad news is that the ball didn't go far. The good news is that it would have been impossible to hit.
In any case, I have decided not to give up my day job.
That job requires, among other things, that I do my best to talk about foreign policy not in abstract terms, but in human terms.
It is vital, in our democracy, that Americans support what their government is doing overseas. But as Secretary of State, I know we will not have that support unless we explain clearly the "who, what, when, where" and especially the "whys" of the policies we conduct around the world.
Today, I hope to contribute to that effort.
American foreign policy has three central goals.
Today, as a result of American diplomatic and military leadership from Administrations of both parties, our citizens are safer than at any time in memory.
The purpose of NATO enlargement is to do for Europe's east what NATO did 50 years ago for Europe's west: to integrate new democracies, defeat old hatreds, provide confidence in economic recovery and deter conflict.
Some suggest that NATO enlargement will divide Europe, but I say that NATO cannot and should not preserve the old Iron Curtain as its eastern frontier. That was an artificial and unjust division, imposed by force.
What NATO must and will do is keep open the door to alliance membership, while building a strong and enduring partnership with all of Europe's democracies.
And as President Clinton and President Yeltsin agreed in Helsinki, this partnership includes Russia.
The lesson of the summit is that the quest for security in Europe is not a zero sum game, in which the interests of Russia and those of Central Europe must conflict. Today, we are all on the same side. Full recognition of this fact will enhance our security, allow the people of Central Europe to become full members of the European mainstream, and permit Russia to achieve the deepest and most genuine integration with the west it has ever enjoyed.
But while the process of adapting our NATO alliance is moving ahead, another process of great importance to the security of the American people is not.
Today, in the Middle East, we face an unpredictable and dangerous situation caused by deterioration in the Arab-Israeli negotiating process.
In recent years, Arabs and Israelis have made enormous gains in transforming the political landscape of their historically-troubled region and laying the foundation for a real and enduring peace.
Now those gains are threatened. And the people of the region have once again become the victims of confrontation and violence. The reason is that Arabs and Israelis alike have begun to lose faith in the process and in one another. The Oslo process and the working partnership between Israelis and Palestinians have broken down.
Israelis have begun to lose confidence in the Palestinian commitment to their security and to prevent terror and violence.
The Palestinians perceive that Israel's actions on the ground have preempted and prejudged the core issues that are reserved for permanent status negotiations.
We have, in the past, experienced many difficult times in this process and we hope now to find a way forward. But to do that, we must restore the integrity of the negotiating process.
The starting point must be a recognition that there is no room in the process for terrorism or violence as a tool of negotiation. It should be obvious that there is no moral equivalency between bulldozers and bombs, and no justification for terror under any circumstances.
Looking ahead, Israelis must see that terror will not be used against them as a means of leverage in negotiations. Palestinians must see that Israelis are not taking unilateral actions on issues that are reserved for permanent negotiations. And both must assume responsibility for reversing the deterioration in the negotiating environment.
Reaffirmation of the core understandings of Oslo provides a focus for doing that. In recent days, the President and I have been consulting intensively with the parties, and we will continue to do so.
Arab-Israeli peace remains a top priority for this Administration. The stakes are high. And we will do our utmost to get this process back on track. At the same time, the parties must do their share and make the decisions that are required to restore faith in the negotiating process and in one another.
Another priority that relates to American security and that I would like to emphasize today is the Chemical Weapons Convention, or CWC. That agreement--which is now before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee--will enter into force on April 29. We are working with Senate leaders to encourage a favorable vote before then so that America may take its rightful place as an original party to this historic treaty.
Chemical weapons are inhumane. They kill horribly, massively, and-once deployed-are no more controllable than the wind. That is why we decided long ago to eliminate our stockpiles of these weapons. We will not use them against others; the CWC would help ensure that others never use them against us.
The CWC sets the standard that it is wrong for any nation to build or possess a chemical weapon, and gives us strong and effective tools for enforcing that standard. This will make it harder for terrorists or outlaw states to build, buy or conceal these horrible weapons.
Not everyone agrees. There are critics of the treaty who say it is flawed, because we cannot assume early ratification and full compliance by the outlaw states.
To me, that is like saying that because some people smuggle drugs, we should enact no law against drug smuggling. When it comes to the protection of Americans, the lowest common denominator is not good enough. Those who abide by the law, not those who break the law, must establish the rules by which all should be judged.
The truth is that the Chemical Weapons Convention has "Made in America" written all over it. Administrations of both parties have pushed for it. Leaders of both parties are backing it. Every Chairman of our military Joint Chiefs of Staff going back to the Carter Administration has endorsed it.
For America to have a seat at the table when the rules for implementing this treaty are written, the Senate must act before April 29. We are doing all we can to convince the members of that body what is true: that the CWC will be good for America; that it will enhance American leadership, protect American soldiers and make all of us safer than we would be in a world where chemical weapons remain as legal as lawn chairs.
The CWC is an agreement whose time has come, and that time is now. We hope the Senate agrees.
The second overriding objective of our foreign policy, after security, is American prosperity. An effective foreign policy can help create American jobs. Here, the Clinton Administration has had extraordinary success. Since 1993, more than 200 trade agreements have been negotiated, causing exports to soar and creating an estimated 1.6 million new jobs nationwide.
We all know that competition for the world's markets is fierce. Often, our firms go head-to-head with foreign competitors who receive active help from their own governments.
Our goal is to see that American companies, workers and farmers have a level playing field on which to compete. And we continue to make progress towards that objective.
Last December, we achieved an International Technology Agreement that will open up new markets for our high tech firms.
Earlier this year, we signed a global telecommunications agreement that will dramatically increase opportunities for companies across America.
As long as I am Secretary of State, our diplomacy will strive for a global economic system that is increasingly open and fair. Our embassies will provide all appropriate help to American firms. Our negotiators will seek trade agreements that help create new American jobs. And I will personally make the point--as I did during my February visit to South Korea, Japan and China--that if countries want to sell in our backyard, they had better allow America to do business in theirs.
Strong alliances, economic leadership and active diplomacy all contribute to our security and well-being. But to build the kind of future we want for our children, we must also remain true to American values.
Some suggest that it is soft-headed for the United States to take the morality of things into account when conducting foreign policy.
I believe a foreign policy devoid of moral considerations can never fairly represent the American people. It is because we have kept faith with our principles that, in most parts of the world, American leadership remains not only necessary, but welcome. And central to our principles is a commitment to democracy.
Democracy is a parent to peace. Free nations make good neighbors. Compared to dictatorships, they are far less likely to commit acts of aggression, support terrorists, spawn international crime or generate waves of refugees.
That is why, in Central Europe and the New Independent States, America is right to support a continued process of economic and political reform.
It is why, in Bosnia, America is right to participate with our many partners in helping to build a future in which leaders are elected, differences are settled without violence and human rights are respected.
It is why, in Zaire, America is right to urge rebel and government forces to halt their fighting, allow refugees access to humanitarian relief and agree to a process for the future guided by democratic principles.
And it is why America is right to speak out, as we are doing this month at the UN Commission on Human Rights, against violations of human dignity in Cuba, Sudan, Burma, China and elsewhere around the globe.
All of these efforts to enhance American security, prosperity and values serve American interests. But they do not come without a price tag.
Under the Clinton Administration, we insist that other countries pay a fair share of the costs of what we do together. But we cannot lead without tools.
I have urged Congress, as I urge you, to support the President's request to fund our international affairs programs.
The amount for everything from aid to our partners in the Middle East to building peace in Bosnia to spurring private enterprise in Africa equals about one percent of our total budget. But that one percent may determine fifty percent of the history that is written about our era; and it will affect the lives of 100 percent of the American people.
In closing, let me say that I well understand that there is no certain formula for ensuring public support for American engagement overseas. Our citizens have always been ambivalent about responsibilities abroad.
Consider that at the end of World War I, an American Army officer, stuck in Europe while the diplomats haggled at Versailles, wrote to his future wife about his yearning to go home:
"None of us care if the Russian government is red or not red, (or) whether the king of Lollipops slaughters his subjects."
Thirty years later, that same man-Harry Truman-would lead America in the final stages of another great war.
In the aftermath of that conflict, it was not enough to say that what we were against had failed. Leaders such as Truman, Marshall and Vandenberg were determined to build a lasting peace. And together with our allies, they forged a set of institutions that would defend freedom, rebuild economies, uphold law and preserve peace.
Today, the greatest danger to America is not some foreign enemy; it is the possibility that we will ignore the example of that generation; that we will succumb to the temptation of isolation; neglect the military and diplomatic resources that keep us strong; and forget the fundamental lesson of this century, which is that problems abroad, if left unattended, will all too often come home to America.
A decade or two from now, we will be known as the neo-isolationists who allowed totalitarianism and fascism to rise again or as the generation that solidified the global triumph of democratic principles.
We will be known as the neo-protectionists whose lack of vision produced financial chaos or as the generation that laid the groundwork for rising prosperity around the world.
We will be known as the world-class ditherers who stood by while the seeds of renewed global conflict were sown or as the generation that took strong measures to deter aggression, control nuclear arms and keep the peace.
There is no certain roadmap to success, either for individuals or for generations.
Ultimately, it is a matter of judgment, a question of choice.
In making that choice, let us remember that there is not a page of American history of which we are proud that was authored by a chronic complainer or prophet of despair. We are doers.
We have a responsibility in our time, as others have had in theirs, not to be prisoners of history, but to shape history.
A responsibility to use and defend our own freedom, and to help others who share our aspirations for liberty, peace and the quiet miracle of a normal life.
To that end, I pledge my own best efforts, and solicit your understanding and support.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you spoke about the role that U.S. leadership can play in promoting democratic principles and human rights. You didn't specifically mention press freedoms, which, of course, are of great concern to this organization. There's a good deal of worry about what will happen to Hong Kong. There's a letter on the Letters page of The Washington Post this morning about restrictions in Jordan. I wondered if press freedoms are a part of your human rights agenda. Are you willing to raise those issues? I know situations differ, but are you willing to raise those issues with world leaders, and do you think that it can do any good?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that this Administration - the President and I - are personally dedicated to the freedom of the press. It is vital to the existence of democratic societies, and it is a subject that we raise whenever we can with whomever it affects.
I can tell you specifically that in recent meetings that we've had - whether it's in Bosnia or China, wherever we've been -- we talk about the importance of having an open media and having press freedom. I think we all understand that the very basis of a free society is a free press. And if I might say, one of the reasons that was so delighted to be able to speak to all of you today is that while it is clear that it is essential to have an appropriate adversarial position, it is also very important to have all of you understand what we are doing in foreign policy and generally in policy.
The partnership, without compromising either part, is essential in a democratic society; and we make that point everywhere that we can. As far as Hong Kong itself is concerned, we want very much to make sure that it is possible for the way of life that has existed in Hong Kong to be able to continue.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, it seems to me that China is one of our major foreign policy challenges as well, which you didn't really mention in your speech. China is a growing military, economic and diplomatic power, as you know. I wonder what the correct position should be for the United States with China now; and how do you see our relations with that country, say, in five or ten years?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, I think I actually did mention China. Let me also say that as I was going through my speech I thought "My goodness, this is long." So if all of you stand up and say the things I didn't mention I might have been here for four hours. (Laughter)
Let me say that there is no question that China and our relationship with China is clearly the most important and significant relationship that we have to deal with as we move into the 2lst Century.
On my trip - my first trip - I made a deliberate decision to go to China, something that has not been done by a Secretary of State certainly on her first trip (laughter), but any Secretary of State. I think that I did it in order to show the importance of this relationship.
It's a very complex one. It is one that is strategically important because we agree with the Chinese on a number of security issues that are important for U.S. national interests - that is, questions of nuclear proliferation, questions to do with the environment, how to deal with the Korean Peninsula and a set of issues about the region. We disagree with the Chinese on a number of issues. We disagree on human rights, and we clearly have issues of difference on trade.
I think that what we have to learn to do is to engage with the Chinese, but not endorse everything that they do, and understand that we are going to have a multi-faceted relationship with them where we will tell it like it is on issues that are fundamental to the United States and at the same time understand the strategic importance of having a relationship with a nation of such vast geographical and population size.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, at the Helsinki Summit, President Yeltsin said during his press conference that NATO had agreed not to build up its military infrastructure in Eastern Europe. Right after that press conference you told the press of the world that you repudiated that viewpoint, that NATO reserved its right to build up a military infrastructure in Eastern Europe as it wishes. My question is this: Have the Russians responded to your repudiation? And, number two, will this issue enter largely into the negotiations on a NATO-Russia Charter?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, I think what needs to be clarified here is that as we talked about the NATO-Russian Charter and stated a variety of positions on nuclear weapons and infrastructure, what we were doing was restating NATO policy. It was not some aspect that there was any negotiating about. NATO has very strict guidelines. Also, the CFE Treaty is the determinative aspect of how troops and infrastructure are determined for central and eastern Europe.
I think, here, as far as the NATO-Russia Charter is concerned, we consider it an important document and a way, frankly, of making clear something that I said in my remarks, that it is very important to integrate Russia into the West; to make very clear that we are on the same side. The NATO-Russia Charter will provide a mechanism to bring Russia to the table and have a voice but not a veto. I think that is the important part of how that particular charter is being framed, and we are working on negotiating the various aspects of that now and hope very much that it will be ready, as I think Foreign Minister Primakov indicated today or yesterday that he would like to have a signing of such a document in May.
We would like to have that be so. But whether it is ready or not, we will go forward with NATO enlargement in Madrid in July.
QUESTION: The press reported this morning that China's hand-picked man in Hong Kong, the new chief executive, was announcing the elimination or the reduction of freedom of association and public demonstrations. I'm wondering why the Administration has been relatively quiet about what's about to happen to democracy in Hong Kong and your reaction to the latest announcements from this gentleman appointed by Beijing?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that we have made very clear our views about Hong Kong to the Chinese and publicly that we expect that the way of life of Hong Kong, the political and human rights that have been there, will continue to exist; that we are watching the situation very closely. We believe that the structure of Hong Kong, as it exists, is very important to us and, frankly, to the Chinese.
We are, as I said, watching this intensely. Both I and the Vice President made these points very clear when we were in China, and we will continue to do so.
QUESTION: You've made it clear that you plan to not allow the Middle East peace situation to deteriorate. What I'm not clear on is how, exactly, you see your role in that process and whether you plan to conduct the kind of shuttle diplomacy that your predecessors have conducted. And if a Camp David-style process has been ruled out, how do you see us moving forward to rescue the situation there?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Again, let me put this into context. I think you would all agree that we are in a very difficult period. It is absolutely essential for us to make sure that the cycle of violence is broken and that we can have an atmosphere again in which very fruitful negotiations that have taken place in the past can be resumed.
The President and I are working intensively on this subject. I think you would probably take note of the fact that in the last six weeks, we have had all the leaders that are somehow involved in the Middle East process from the region here in the United States. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been here. King Hussein has been here. President Mubarak has been here. Prince Sultan has been here.
We have had very intense negotiations behind the scenes in Washington. We also have been - and I specifically have been on the phone more than I can even begin to tell you - dealing with the whole part of this. Yesterday, I called about a dozen Arab leaders.
Today, we have Abu Mazin here from the Palestinian Authority in order for us to be able to continue discussions.
The point here is that the United States is, indeed, indispensable to the Middle East peace process. We will continue to play a central role. The issue, though, is what the parties themselves are willing to do at this point. Even as central as we are, we cannot play a role if the two sides do not have the competence to meet with each other - the Israelis comfortable enough with the terror situation, and the Palestinians, as I said in my remarks, confident enough that some of the permanent status issues will not be pre-empted.
We have a great sense of urgency about this. We are working it very hard. I think that each particular period in the Middle East peace process has presented its own difficulties. We have always gotten through them. We will get through this.
Each particular period has required a different kind of personal involvement by the President and the Secretary of State. For this period, the President and I believe that the center of discussion, to a great extent, has shifted to Washington as the people have come here. Thank goodness, we have functioning telephones.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, Hawaii is the only state where a majority of residents have their ethnic and culture roots in Asia rather than elsewhere. So it's understandable that our country at-large is Eurocentric. But with Asia the most dynamic region in the world, why is our foreign policy in non-crisis situations, at least until now, also have to be Eurocentric?
I guess my basic question is, I've heard your remarks about Asia but they really are dealing with crises. I'm asking, can we really afford to continue to send Asia to the back of the bus?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I would dispute that a little bit. First of all, I think that we are all aware of the importance of Asia to the United States in terms of a whole variety of issues - some to do with security, some to do with trade, some to do with the fact that we see the evolution of democracies, friends in Asia.
If I might be able to return to my trip. There was the question as to where the first trip goes to. It was very evident to me that our relations with Asia were of equal importance as our relations with Europe. Therefore, it was essential that that be made clear, at least symbolically, on the first trip by including Asia in my agenda.
It was quite a trip. As I said, it was nine countries in 10 days. The point was - and I don't want to just kind of put everything on symbolism - it was very important to show in that trip the equality of the relationship. As the mother of twins, I understand the importance of treating equally.
Therefore, I deliberately went to China, Japan, and Korea, arguably the most important countries to us in the Asian relationship. I plan to go to Asia more. We also have a number of structural relationships through APEC and a number of Asian structural relationships that we have that I will nurture and pay a great deal of attention to because I agree with you that it is a vitally important area to the United States.
If I may say so, for the first months, there has been a great deal of focus on a European issue, and that is NATO enlargement and the Russia-NATO Charter. Everybody thought that last year was the 50th anniversary of everything. There are a few other 50th anniversaries left.
What there are now is the anniversary of the Marshall Plan and the creation of the institutions for Europe. NATO enlargement is taking up a great deal of our time and attention. But I can assure you that our Asian policy is not crisis-managed or crisis-driven, and that we do understand the importance of Asia to America.
As the mother-in-law of a Hawaiian citizen from the State of Hawaii, I can assure you that I understand.
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