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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Briefing En Route to Moscow
April 30, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, May 1, 1997
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have, from the time I took on the job of Secretary of State, been making contact with my colleagues. And among them, very high on the list, is Yevgeniy Primakov. We have established a very good working relationship. We are on the phone fairly frequently and have written to each other. We decided, shortly after Helsinki, that it would be useful to have another face-to-face meeting before we get into the more rushed season in terms of NATO enlargement and the NATO-Russia charter. Because he has had surgery recently, I thought it would be polite for me to go to Moscow this time to meet him.
This trip has been planned for some time. I will be dealing with, obviously, the NATO related issues but also a lot of other subjects that we cover when we talk to each other. We talk about Bosnia. We talk about Korea. We talk about the Chinese. There is a whole series of issues that we discuss when we get together. I plan to have those kinds of overall discussions with him on this trip.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, whatever it is that the West has assured the Russians, and there are various constructions of it, is this as far as the U.S. -- I know you are not the prime negotiator, Mr. Solana is -- but as far as the U.S. is concerned, have you reached rock-bottom, the three no's, etc.? Is that it, basically?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Just to repeat: the U.S. is not the negotiator. This is a NATO negotiation, and Secretary-General Solana is the lead. But we have made quite clear -- the President did in Helsinki -- what our position is, why we have taken the position that we have. These are based on the fact that we do not want any second-class NATO memberships. There can be no subordination of NATO to anybody. And you know the other conditions. Basically, we are at our bottom line.
QUESTION: I have a more general question. You are coming up to your first 100 days in office. How would you assess the impact that you have had as Secretary of State, both from the point of view of style and substance?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: God forbid I should assess! You all are going to assess. I think this has been a very useful 100 days because what I have tried to do is create the platform that is going to enable the United States to be able to carry out some very far-reaching foreign policy initiatives. I have stated all along that I thought it was very important to connect the American people to foreign policy and I have gone out and spoken about that. I have thought it was very important to be able to recapture resources that are necessary for carrying out our foreign policy. I have spent a lot of time on the Hill doing that. I have believed that it was very important to create a foreign policy machinery that reflects post-Cold War realities and that creates a foreign policy machinery that was suitable to the way we see our goals and our interests. Through the reorganization plan, we have launched that. I have also wanted to make very sure that we have a bipartisan foreign policy, and that has been a theme throughout those three previous objectives.
In addition to that, I believe that I have established really good working relationships with my colleagues. I do not know what the numbers are, how many Foreign Ministers I have actually had in my office or have spoken to on the phone. My first trip with all of you, I think, set the tone in terms of creating what I think is very important for us, which is a web of relationships with the countries that are most important to us in terms of trying to get our foreign policy going. But, of course, the judgment is all up to you.
QUESTION: What do you actually want to do as a result of this basis you have laid?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have stated the various things we want to do. I never like the order that I state it in to be the order of priorities. A lot of these subjects are high priorities at some time and then fall lower. All of these are very important -- trying to get a united Europe that is free and undivided and all the things that we are doing on this trip; to establish a multifaceted relationship with China and to be able to pursue a strategic dialogue with them; to reinvigorate a relationship with Latin America. The President's trip that we will go on as soon as we get back is part of that. Also, to have initiatives to help Africa resolve some of its most difficult problems. The mission that I sent Bill Richardson on to Zaire is an example of that, plus the trade initiative that we have launched with Africa.
We are working very hard to lessen the threat of proliferation. The Chemical Weapons Convention is a great success in the first 100 days, and is, in fact, an example of the three things we are trying to do. Also, dealing with what are called the "new threats." Those are drugs, health issues, refugees, etc.
QUESTION: What do you expect from Primakov in these negotiations? If you are at the "rock-bottom" position what kind of negotiator is he going to be in this meeting?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me repeat: I am not here negotiating. That is going to be Solana's job. But what I expect is that I will lay out, again, what our bottom-lines are, and he will lay out theirs. What we are going to do is try and close some of the gaps. I do not expect there to be any kind of miraculous dawning. This is a process that we are all pushing along the way. I think a ministerial-level meeting at this time is important. But I am also going to make clear, again, that our deadline is Madrid. Madrid will happen in terms of enlarging NATO. If they are ready to sign on to a NATO-Russia charter we are willing to do that at the end of May. But if it is not ready, then we will pursue that on a parallel track. And I will make that clear to them again.
QUESTION: Where are the gaps right now?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me put this into context. We are involved in one of the biggest changes in the second-half of the twentieth century history in terms of redoing security systems that have worked for Europe since the Cold War. This is a big deal. We have never underestimated the difficulty of what we are trying to accomplish.
There are problems in the following areas: We need to have new thinking about NATO. Just as we have accepted the new fact that we have a new Russia, it is important for the Russians to understand that we have a new NATO. Part of what is going on here is to make sure that we are not talking about security in terms of bloc-to-bloc or alliance-vs.-alliance, but more as individual countries that are part of a defensive alliance. That is a big shift in that it is not bloc-to-bloc. Also, to make sure the Russians understand that an enlarged NATO is not an enlarged threat to Russia.
QUESTION: You felt in Helsinki that you had more or less crossed this bridge and that the Russians were willing to go along and negotiate a charter even though they do not accept enlargement. There seems to have been some backsliding since then, since Primakov talked about May 27. What, in your opinion, has happened?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: This is normal negotiating tactics. We have the outline of the charter. I think they wanted some additional clarifications. I do think that these are, to a great extent, an attempt by them to assure themselves of what I have just said, an enlarged NATO is not an enlarged threat. I think they are using the time in a way -- that I probably would, too -- to get additional clarifications.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, could you elaborate a little on what the focus is, where the difficult spots are? It has been printed that the military issues are the sticking points now, but 90 percent of the rest is pretty much agreed to. Is that a fair characterization?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that it is. I think we have come a very long way. First of all, I expect when we get there, to get "we do not like NATO enlargement." We have heard that all along. We will continue to hear that. President Clinton explained at Helsinki that President Yeltsin had never said they would love NATO enlargement. We expect to hear that, but I do think that large portions of this have been resolved. There are questions about whether, from their perspective, they see it as an increased threat to them.
They will want to talk about some of the CFE aspects of this. Again, let me repeat, that the U.S. can not negotiate a CFE treaty. That is something that happens in a different venue. I am not going to negotiate for the other CFE members. But I think that they are concerned about the force limits and those are the subjects that we are going to be talking about. But I think we have come a very, very long way.
QUESTION: You say that you do not expect an agreement to be announced tomorrow, but do you expect some type of announcement that the Russians, on May 27, will sign an agreement, even though the details are yet to be worked out?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: They have said that they are interested. When President Yeltsin was in Germany, he said that he wanted to sign an agreement on May 27. That is a good sign. But we are not going to sign just any agreement. So negotiations still have to go on. We will see. I do not want to have to be boring, having brought you all along, but we may not have any breakthroughs. I am going because I think it is very important for ministerial-level discussions on this crucial subject to take place. Each step is an incremental one. We will see. Do not get up early waiting for something.
Let me go back to some of the priority issues. I think a very important issue for all of us is the Middle East and the necessity of the U.S. being involved there. We have made quite clear that the U.S. will continue to play the role of broker, but the parties themselves have to give us more to work with. That is the situation. In terms of listing some of the 100 days issues, people have said, "you have not gone to the region." Well, the region has come to Washington. We have had more of the Middle East leaders in Washington since January than in a long time. You know who has been there. In addition to that, I have been on the phone with Chairman Arafat many times and with the Israelis and other parties involved in this.
QUESTION: I am interested in your plans for Friday, when you are going to talk to some Russian intellectuals. Tyler mentioned that there does seem to be a certain amount of backsliding since Helsinki. The leadership in Russia does not seem to be going forward in trying to convince Russians that this is a particularly good idea or that Russia is going to come out of this any better. The President and you said in Helsinki that part of that job would probably fall to you. And the implications after enlargement will be the next step. What is your task on Friday? And are you disappointed that the Russians have not made a better public case?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Just as we are engaged in a big discussion in the United States, presumably there will be a big discussion in Russia, and in the other countries. I found very interesting, when Secretary Cohen and I testified before the Armed Services Committee, that there are very good and valid questions being asked that we need to respond to, that we welcome the chance to respond to.
I think that having this kind of discussion with the Russian intellectuals will be good for all of us. They will understand, probably more than they ever have, that it is totally legitimate to have a discussion where people disagree when you are taking steps of such major proportions. I think its very important for everybody to understand the magnitude of what is going on here and the major switch that is going on as far as Europe is concerned. We are maintaining and adapting the major alliance in the history of the world in order to serve a new situation; keeping together a very strong group of countries that have acted together for fifty years; adding to them; persuading the country against which it was directed that it is no longer the enemy, but much more a part of the discussion. This is a huge undertaking and if there were not questions around it, I would wonder if people really understood what we were doing.
Part of what is going on here is the necessity and responsibility of explaining why this is something so important. I think this is going to be a really interesting discussion. Frankly, I do not expect to persuade them on the first go-around, but this is something that is going to go on for quite a while.
QUESTION: Are you going to see Yeltsin?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I do not know yet, Barry. What happened was that we have always had a phone call scheduled to him Sochi. When I get to Moscow they are going to let me know what the plans are.

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