|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on PBS-TV "Newshour with Jim Lehrer"
Madrid, Spain, July 9, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MR. JIM LEHRER: Madam Secretary, welcome.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you.
MR. LEHRER: On NATO expansion, it's now finally been decided. How do you feel about it personally?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think, Jim, this is a very historic day. An injustice has been undone, and an undivided Europe has really begun. It is a very exciting time, I think, for everybody that's been here; all the leaders from the Partnership for Peace as well as the three invitees -- the Czech Republic, the Poles, and the Hungarians were here. They were very pleased that something that they had been hoping for, frankly, for 50 years had come to pass.
For me personally, Jim, since you asked, NATO was finally created after the coup in Czechoslovakia in February 1948. The communists had been systematically taking over Central and Eastern Europe. When the Czech coup happened in '48, the West realized that something effective had to happen, and so NATO was founded. It was as a result of the Czech coup that my family left Czechoslovakia.
For me to have the opportunity to represent the greatest country in the world now, in undoing that injustice, is a great personal pleasure, I must say.
MR. LEHRER: As you know, Madam Secretary, there are many Americans who do not have that kind of connection to this event. The polls and the anecdotes say, "Hey, wait a minute, what is this all about for America other than the fact it's going to cost some money and possibly even some lives down the line." How do you respond to that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think the point here, Jim, is that we know, from the history of this century, that Americans have, in fact, come to the rescue of Europe twice -- in the first and second world wars, and then, obviously, have given a great deal of assistance to Europe throughout the Cold War. So Americans are committed to Europe and European security.
What has happened, when we haven't paid attention to issues quickly enough or early enough, then the cost in lives is much greater. Hundreds of thousands of Americans died in those two world wars and billions of dollars were spent. What we're doing now is working to make sure that there is a new security system to deal with the current threats and the threats of the future. So we're trying to get ahead of the game.
What we're trying to do is to prevent Americans dying for conflicts in Europe. That's what this is all about.
MR. LEHRER: So it should not be seen then as three more countries for American -- young people to die for if they, in fact, are involved in a military skirmish of some kind?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that what has to be seen is that these three new countries will not just be consumers of security by the United States but producers of a more secure Europe; and also because the U.S. has interests in Europe, producers of security for the United States. So it's a pretty good deal, I think, not only for the three countries that are coming in, because it obviously it is for them, but for the United States. Because the U.S -- we have shown over and over again that American interests are affected by what happens in Europe.
I think that we, obviously, are going to be taking this case to the people. That's what the whole ratification process is about. We will be explaining our case in such a way, I think, that the American people will understand that this is good for America.
MR. LEHRER: The ratification process also requires a vote of the United States Senate, a two-thirds vote. Do you see any problems getting that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: What we've seen, Jim, actually over the last couple of years, many members of Congress in the Senate as well as the House have been very interested in the enlargement of NATO. They have passed resolutions favoring it and, in fact, naming the countries. So they have been on the case.
There obviously are going to be questions. We welcome that. As I said, in a democracy, the ratification process is the way that any Administration explains its case. That's what we're going to be doing, and we've already begun that, Jim.
Secretary Cohen and I, in an unprecedented appearance, appeared together before the Senate Arms Services Committee a couple months ago to begin the process of explaining the value of an enlarged NATO to the American people. Obviously, the Senators are there as the representatives of the American people.
MR. LEHRER: Another item that was on the agenda for the summit there in Madrid was Bosnia. What's the latest on Serb leader Karadzic's plans to return to political power?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me first say what we were doing here. What has been very interesting is that Karadzic and some of the other Pale Serbs have been trying very hard to separate the allies out from each other and try to point up that there is not agreement among us on all aspects over the Bosnian issue. We proved the exact opposite here. Because what happened was that there was a very strong statement that came out of this summit which supported Mrs. Plavsic who is the constitutionally-elected President of the Republica of Srpska and showed that the allies -- all of us here -- were very concerned about illegal activities and attempts to make her life more complicated and undue her constitutional powers.
I think that whatever attempts were being made there to separate out us from our friends and allies on Bosnia, the opposite happened.
MR. LEHRER: But Karadzic is still a problem, is he not?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Karadzic is a problem. We have said over and over again that it is important for the implementation of Dayton, for those who are charged with war crimes to be turned over to the War Crimes Tribunal. We believe that that is a responsibility of the parties, and we are making that statement over and over again.
We do believe that Karadzic is really a barrier to a lot of the implementation of the Dayton Accords and to peace and security coming to Bosnia. So we keep urging the parties to turn him over.
The War Crimes Tribunal was set up in order to deal with people such as Karadzic.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: But don't most people still believe that -- Karadzic is not going to be turned over by anybody. The NATO troops are going to have to go get him. I read a story even this morning that he's very well known and well seen around the community where he lives. Why doesn't the NATO troops just go ahead and get him and get this thing over with?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Jim, it's not as simple as that. The issue is one where the NATO troops have the authority to go after war criminals but not the obligation. It's up to the military commanders on the ground to make the judgment as to whether it is appropriate at any given time to use their authority. I am not going to second-guess the military commanders on this.
The truth here is that Karadzic's crimes -- there is not Statute of Limitation on them, and his day will come.
MR. LEHRER: Did you all talk about this at the summit, about the possibility of going after him?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, that was not part of the discussion. What we did here was, have this communiqué that spoke about the importance of supporting Mrs. Plavsic and isolating the Bosnian Serbs, that group which is trying to undermine the Dayton peace process.
MR. LEHRER: While you all have been in Madrid, back here, Senator Thompson made some big headlines yesterday by saying that China had mounted -- there was evidence that China had mounted a major effort to illegally influence U.S. elections. He said that effort was still on-going. Does that jive with your knowledge of the situation?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that I have heard what Senator Thompson said and how he characterized what was going on. I've also heard that other Senators have quite a different view of the evidence that they say they have.
We have said for sometime that if these allegations are true, they would be very serious. When I've met with Chinese leaders, I have made clear the seriousness of these allegations. But this is something that is being investigated by the Department of Justice, and we want that investigation to run its course so that we can make sure about this issue.
I would not agree with the characterization of Senator Thompson. I would only say that others have characterized the issue quite differently.
MR. LEHRER: Have you seen similar evidence that he has seen and drawn a different conclusion? Is that what you're saying?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, I have not seen the evidence. I don't know what evidence he has. All I am saying is that other Senators who apparently have seen the evidence that he has seen have characterized it quite differently.
MR. LEHRER: Does this affect the conduct of foreign policy with China at all?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As I said, I have raised it with the Chinese a couple of times. But I think, also we need to understand, as I said when I was in Hong Kong and other times, that we have very important interests, American interests in dealing with China. We see China as a major power as we move into the 21st Century; a country with which we have to have a very complex relationship.
Strategically, we have a lot of issues that we deal with him on -- on issues of proliferation, on dealing with Korea, on dealing with Cambodia; a whole set of issues that we must deal with to pursue American interests. While these allegations are very serious, I think that you would agree that it is essential that we pursue American interests.
MR. LEHRER: On Cambodia, Madam Secretary, the violence there, are American citizens in serious danger?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are watching the situation very carefully. There are a number -- I think about 1,200 American citizens that are in Cambodia. Some of them have been evacuated by Cambodians. We are watching the situation very carefully. We are very concerned and, obviously, disturbed by the fact that the democracy that was beginning to grow in Cambodia, that the people of Cambodia voted for in overwhelming numbers two years ago, is now subjected to this kind of force.
MR. LEHRER: As a practical matter, is there anything the United States and the international community can do about it?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think the international community has invested a great deal in the whole Cambodian situation. It is of concern. The United Nations had a peacekeeping operation there. I'm sure it's an issue that is going to be discussed in the U.N. It is a subject that will be talked about, I'm sure, when the ASEAN meet. The United States is making very clear that we do not favor the forceful change of government, and that what is important is for all parties to be involved in creating a democratic government in Cambodia and that elections should go forward. We are making that clear as are other members of the international community.
MR. LEHRER: Does the United States have a favorite in this contest between these co-premiers that fell apart that resulted in this violence and uproar?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, we don't have a favorite but we do not believe that Hun Sen, having taken over by force, is an appropriate way to deal with governmental change. We believe that it is important for the Cambodian people to be able to be able to select their leadership. We think it's very important that elections go forward.
We think that there was a process that was in place and that these issues can be resolved peacefully. We do not want to seen former Khmer Rouge within the government.
MR. LEHRER: Finally, Madam Secretary, you've been Secretary of State now for -- what? -- five months, six months?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That's about it. Yes.
MR. LEHRER: That's about it. Is it everything you expected it to be?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It is more so, I have to say, Jim. A day like today makes it ever truer because it is a great privilege to be Secretary of State of the United States. When you are there with over 50 other countries and you know that you are, in fact, as the United States, in a position to do something really good for not only the world but more importantly for the American people, as we did today, I feel really good. I am obviously very pleased to be able to be present at such a historic occasion.
MR. LEHRER: Well, we're please to have talked to you tonight. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Jim.
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