NEWSMAKER WITH SECRETARY ALBRIGHT
July 9, 1997
A day after officially inviting Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to join the military alliance, the NATO meeting in Spain ended with a call for a gradually larger membership and a new focus on Bosnia. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discusses the future of Europe, possible efforts by China to influence U.S. elections and the worsening situation in Cambodia in a Newsmaker interview with Jim Lehrer.
JIM LEHRER: Madam Secretary, welcome.
A RealAudio version of of this segment is available.
July 8, 1997:
A debate over the ramifications of inviting Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join NATO.
May 20, 1997:
The new defense plan as seen by John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan.
May 14, 1997:
Sec. of State Albright discusses Russia's coming to terms with NATO.
May 12, 1997:
Retiring NATO Commander General George Joulwan on the future of NATO and what should happen to Bosnian war criminals.
March 20, 1997:
The Clinton-Yeltsin summit: Russia asks for a ban of troops and nuclear weapons in new member states.
February 7, 1997:
Vice-President Al Gore's National Security Advisor Al Fuerth discusses NATO expansion.
February 7, 1997:
Two Russian experts discuss how America's former Cold War enemy views NATO expansion.
Search a listing of NATO member countries.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, Secretary of State: Good to be with you.
JIM LEHRER: On NATO expansion it's now finally been decided. How do you feel about it personally?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think, Jim, this is a very historic day. An injustice has been undone, and an undivided Europe has really begun. And 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, and they were very pleased that something that they had been hoping for, frankly, for 50 years had come to pass.
And 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. And when the Czech coup happened in ‘48, the West realized that something effective had to happen. And so NATO was founded. And it was as a result of the Czech coup that my family left Czechoslovakia. So for me to have the opportunity to represent the greatest country in the world now in putting--in undoing that injustice is a great personal pleasure, I must say.
JIM LEHRER: As you know, Madam Secretary, there are many Americans who do not have that kind of connection to this event, and 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 them money, and possibly even some lives down the line? How do you respond to that?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that 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. And 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--and 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. And what we're trying to do is to prevent Americans dying for conflicts in Europe. That's what this is all about.
JIM 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?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that what has to be see is the 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 interest in Europe--producers of security for the United States. That's a pretty good deal, I think, not only for the three countries that are coming in--because it obviously is to them--but for the United States because the U.S. we have shown over and over again that we do have--American interests are affected by what happens in Europe. And so I think that we obviously are going to be taking this case to the people. That's what the whole ratification process is about. And we will be explaining our case in such a way I think that the American people will understand that this is good for America.
JIM LEHRER: Yes. The ratification process also requires a vote of the United States Senate, a 2/3 vote. Do you see any problems getting that?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, 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. And I think that there obviously are going to be questions. We welcome that, as I said. In a democracy, the ratification process is a way that one, the administration, any administration, explains its case, and 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 Armed Services Committee a couple of months ago to begin the process of explaining the value of an enlarged NATO to the American people, and obviously, the Senators are there as the representatives of the American people.
JIM 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?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, 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 out that there is not agreement among us on all aspects of the Bosnian issue. And we proved the exact opposite here, because what happened was there was a very strong statement that came out of this summit. We've supported Mrs. Plasic, who is the constitutionally elected president of the Republic of Serbska, and showed that the allies, all of us here, were very concerned about illegal activities and attempts to make her life more complicated and undo her constitutional powers. So I think that whatever attempts were being made there to separate out us from our friends and allies on Bosnia, the opposite happened.
JIM LEHRER: But Karadzic is still a problem, is he not?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Karadzic is a problem, and it is--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 stands--is really a barrier to a lot of the implementation of the Dayton accords and to peace and security coming to Bosnia, and so we keep urging the parties to turn him over. And the War Crimes Tribunal was set up in order to deal with people such as Karadzic.
JIM LEHRER: But don't most people still believe that if--Karadzic is not going to be turned over by anybody, the NATO troops are going to have to go get him, and he's--I read a story even this morning--that he's very well known and well seen around the community there where he lives. Why doesn't the NATO troops just go ahead and get him, and get this thing over with?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, 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. And 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. And I am not going to second guess the military commanders on this. The truth here is that Karadzic's crimes--there is no statute of limitation on them--and his day will come.
JIM LEHRER: Did you all talk about this at the summit, about the possibility of going after him?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: No. That was not part of the discussion. I mean, what we did here was have this communique that spoke about the importance of supporting Mrs. Plasic and isolating the Bosnian Serbs, that group which is trying to undermine the Dayton peace process.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Now while you all have been in Madrid, back here Sen. 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. And he said that effort was still ongoing. Does that jibe with your knowledge of the situation?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that I have heard what Sen. 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 do--we have said for sometime that if these allegations are true, they would be very serious. And I have made it quite clear that I have--when I've met with Chinese leaders, I have made clear the seriousness of the 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, but I would not agree with the characterization of Sen. Thompson. I would only say that others have characterized the issue quite differently.
JIM LEHRER: Have you seen similar evidence that he has seen and drawn a different conclusion, is that what you're saying?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: No. I have not seen the evidence. I don't 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.
JIM LEHRER: Does this affect the conduct of foreign policy with China at all?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say, as I've 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 them 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, and while these allegations are very serious, I think that you would agree that it is essential that we pursue American interests.
JIM LEHRER: On Cambodia, Madam Secretary, the violence, are American citizens in serious danger?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, we are watching the situation carefully, and there are a number--I think about 1200 American citizens that are in Cambodia. Some of them have been evacuated by Cambodians, and 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.
JIM LEHRER: As a practical matter, is there anything the United States and the international community can do about it?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think the international community has invested a great deal in the whole Cambodian situation, and it is a concern. The United Nations had a peacekeeping operation there. I'm sure it's an issue that is going to be being discussed in the U.N.; it is a subject that will be talked about, I'm sure, when the AUSEAN meets and the United States is making very clear that we do not favor the forceful change of government, and that what is important is for other--all parties to be involved in creating a democratic government in Cambodia and that elections should go forward, and we are making that clear, as are other members of the international community.
JIM LEHRER: Does the United States have a favorite in this contest between these two co-premiers that fell apart and this thing that resulted in this violence and uproar?
SEC. MADELEINE 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 select their leadership, and we think it's very important that elections go forward, and we do--we think that there was a process that was in place, and that these issues can be resolved peacefully. We do not want to see former Khmer Rouge within the government.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Finally, Madam Secretary, you've been Secretary of State now for what, five months, six months?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: That's about it. Yes.
JIM LEHRER: That's about it. Is it everything you expected it to be?
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: It is more so, I have to say, Jim, and a day like today makes it even truer because it is a great privilege to be Secretary of State of the United States, and 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. And I am obviously very pleased to be able to be present in such a historic occasion.
JIM LEHRER: Well, we're pleased to have talked to you tonight. Thank you very much.
SEC. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Jim.