|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview with PBS-TV "Newshour With Jim Lehrer"
Washington, D.C., May 14, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MR. LEHRER: Madam Secretary, welcome.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Very good to be with you.
MR. LEHRER: The United States fully supports today's NATO-Russia agreement. Tell us why.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'll tell you, Jim, this is a really historic, important day. What President Clinton has been talking about and working towards is having an undivided, democratic, and free Europe. That has been our long-term goal.
Today, as a result of this NATO-Russia Founding Act, we are putting into place one part of what is necessary to accomplish that. The other is NATO enlargement. What is so important about this is that we are able to anchor Russia within a European system.
We all know that it's very important to make sure that Russia is not isolated; that we see a new Russia, and that Russia sees a new Europe and a new NATO. That's why today is such a great and historic day.
MR. LEHRER: The Russians wanted a voice in the new NATO decisions. Does this agreement give it to them?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me explain something. There are really two parts to this. NATO has a sacrosanct council, the North Atlantic Council, which makes the military decisions on behalf of NATO. Russia will have no voice in that at all.
What this document does is create a new joint NATO-Russia Council where Russia will, indeed, have a voice and where we will be talking about a whole host of issues that have to do with cooperation in Europe or outside of area. But what's very important for people to understand is that Russia does not and will not have a veto over any action within NATO itself--the enlarged NATO or the current NATO. It will have a voice, and we will operate by consensus within that joint council. But if we disagree in that joint council, then NATO can go its own way and Russia can go its own way.
MR. LEHRER: Will that voice be heard before the fact or after the fact? In other words, will they be consulted before NATO makes major decisions, military or otherwise?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that there will be ongoing discussions. Let me also clarify something else. Even now there is a 16-plus-one, NATO plus Russia and other countries, discussion about various issues and policies. So what this document also does is in some way institutionalize something that's already going on.
There will be meetings within this joint council and Russia will be consulted at times. But the thing that's really important to note is, it will never have a veto over NATO actions.
MR. LEHRER: President Yeltsin indicated today, in talking to reporters in Moscow, that this agreement does give Russia some power to block NATO decisions. Is he just talking about a different agreement or he's reading it differently, or what?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: He's talking about this joint council in which we will operate by consensus. So if they disagree with something that is brought to that council which may have to do with issues within various parts of Europe or even outside of Europe, or questions about joint missions or a whole range of consultative activities--if Russia disagrees with that, then they will not participate in that particular operation.
Technically speaking, within the joint council, if Russia disagrees, nothing will happen jointly. But it does not have a veto over NATO action.
MR. LEHRER: On some specific things. What does this agreement say about the placement of nuclear weapons and any new countries added to NATO?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Again, Jim, let me make something very clear here. What is important about this document, it has taken basic known NATO doctrine and embodied it within this document. It has been NATO doctrine that there [was], under current circumstances, no intention plan or reason to use nuclear forces within the potential new members of NATO.
Subsumed under those three "no's" is that there would also not be any nuclear storage sites. That is a clarification--well, it's a restatement of what is NATO doctrine.
MR. LEHRER: But it's in the agreement, though; right?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's in this act.
MR. LEHRER: In the act.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: In the act. It's a matter of stating what is known NATO doctrine in the act.
MR. LEHRER: What about limits on troop deployments in the new countries?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Again, what this did was take a document that was issued NATO in March of this year in which the NATO members agreed that they had no plans to station substantial combat military forces in the new countries, but that they needed to fulfill their missions by having interoperability; the ability to reinforce and to coordinate, to integrate. That is a NATO statement.
Adjacent to that, or subsumed within that, is the idea that those forces will need to use some existing infrastructure, and they will use the infrastructure that they need in order to fulfill that particular mission.
Frankly, if you look at this specifically, the fewer the number of forces in a country stationed there, the more likely it is that there will be a necessity of having infrastructure in order to be able to receive them when they go in to reinforce.
MR. LEHRER: So when you say "infrastructure," you mean military installations, right?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Right, yes.
MR. LEHRER: Military bases of some kind?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Military bases.
MR. LEHRER: No special limits put on the number of potential NATO installations in this agreement?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No. There are no limits on that. They are to be adequate for the mission as I described it.
MR. LEHRER: As decided by NATO? Not in consultation with Russia?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As decided by NATO.
MR. LEHRER: NATO Secretary General Solana, who negotiated this thing, he said today that the reason this deal was struck was because reason finally came to the fore. What did he mean by that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think, here, it's very important to know that what has happened here is--this doesn't happen very often--this is a win-win-win situation. It's good for the United States, it's good for the Europeans, and it's good for Russia.
I think the Russians saw that this was in their national interests. They, by the way, also want to ultimately see stability in Central and Eastern Europe. They saw that we were restating NATO doctrine. This is, I think, maybe what Secretary General Solana really meant--that this NATO is not directed against Russia.
Obviously, throughout history NATO has been a powerful alliance with a single enemy. The NATO doctrine previous to this has made it very clear that there is no single enemy. This is not arrayed against Russia. The enemy, if there is one, is basically the instability that is created by having these countries feel as if they are in a gray zone.
I think the Russians saw that this alliance is not against them. There is a new Russia and there is a new NATO.
MR. LEHRER: Does Russia have to do anything new or differently as a result of this agreement?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Russia, I think, is basically going to be more cooperative within this agreement, through this joint council. I think they will be in a mode, along with us and the other NATO members, of looking at subjects together rather than separately.
There's a whole understructure to this which is the CFE Treaty on conventional forces in Europe, which is also a part of this. Through that, there will be limitations on forces.
MR. LEHRER: Did they formally agree under this agreement to drop their objection to the expansion of NATO?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think they will not ever be happy with the expansion of NATO. They will make those statements clear. But what we have managed to do is to make sure that two very important goals of the United States have now been put into place. One is to make sure that Russia is a part of Europe and is not isolated, and the other is that we are able to enlarge NATO according to the wishes of the current NATO members.
Jim, I just have to reiterate the historic aspect of this day. Europe has been either divided or unstable throughout this century. President Truman was incredibly proud of having created NATO. I think now President Clinton has the ability to bring about the next historic moment, which is to do for Central and Eastern Europe what could not be done at the end of the Second World War and to finally end a division that we have all had with Russia.
I just have to keep repeating-this is a great day. We are on our way through a series of very historic decisions. We will be talking about this all throughout the summer and I think throughout the next year as we go through this process. But this is a very important, historic, initial step.
MR. LEHRER: It is not subject to approval by the Congress, is it?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No. This is not a treaty. This will be politically binding by the signatures of the political leaders. But there was no kind of negotiation on this that would put it into the treaty mechanism. Obviously, NATO enlargement is something that will be going before the Senate.
MR. LEHRER: That will be done in July, when NATO actually does that; right?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It will be done in the ensuing months. What will be happening in July is we will invite those members. Then, we will have some time in order to get the ratification of that.
MR. LEHRER: Just for the record, that's most likely Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic; right?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's unclear at the moment. We have not said who the members are going to be. When we meet in Portugal, as Foreign Ministers, at the end of the month, we will be looking at the mechanism for making that decision.
MR. LEHRER: One step at a time, in other words?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: yes.
MR. LEHRER: Okay. Finally, before we go, Zaire: Today's meeting between President Mobutu and Kabila, the rebel leader, didn't come off. What happened, Madam Secretary?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: There were some hang-ups in terms of questions as to some aspects of the meeting. We are very disappointed that the meeting did not take place. It is very important that the two meet. It is really important for Zaire to have a process where there can be a movement towards a government that has been elected; some kind of a peaceful transitional process. We have to do something about the tragic situation to do with the refugees.
It is a very tough situation. We have obviously tried with the South Africans to bring the two together. The international community will be pursuing that because it's essential that they get together and we have some kind of a peaceful transition.
MR. LEHRER: Is there an agreement of any kind on the part of President Mobutu to step aside?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that he is looking for ways to have a transition, but I can't go into the details of that.
MR. LEHRER: Do you think there will be a meeting tomorrow?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We hope so. As I said, we are very disappointed that one did not take place today. We believe it's essential that the two meet.
MR. LEHRER: Madam Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much.
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