Interview With Michele Keleman of NPR

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Brussels, Belgium
March 6, 2009

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you’ve exchanged letters, you met briefly in Egypt this week already with Sergey Lavrov, but this is going to be your first lengthy meeting with the Russian foreign minister tonight. How do you set the tone? Because as you know, your predecessor had quite a testy relationship with him.

SECRETARY CLINTON: We’re going to hit the reset button and start fresh because clearly, the Obama Administration believes that there are a number of important areas to discuss with the Russians. We’re just at the beginning of this discussion, but I’m looking forward to it.

I was pleased that Foreign Minister Lavrov came to Sharm el-Sheikh, was a participant in our Quartet meeting, joined with all of us in reasserting the Quartet principles. That was a very good sign. And Russia joined with us in the P-5+1, sending a letter to the IAEA about our concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program. So there’s a lot for us to do together.

QUESTION: And the Obama – the Russians seem really interested in arms control, and I wonder if you can give us a sense of how the Obama Administration is going to approach that topic differently from the Bush Administration.

SECRETARY CLINTON: We’re going to believe in arms control and nonproliferation as a core function of our foreign policy. As you remember, Michelle, there was a great deal of confusion and infighting and ideological position-taking regarding arms control and nonproliferation in the last administration. We’re committed to both, and we are going to be working with the Russians on the START Treaty and the nonproliferation treaty and other matters of great concern to us.

QUESTION: About missile defense, is the Obama Administration going to slow down the pace of that to give you more time and room to get the Russians on board to help rein in Iran’s nuclear program and Iran’s missile program?

SECRETARY CLINTON: There is really nothing to slow down. The question about deployment is dependent upon, you know, fiscal and technological answers being provided. As we said, and as the President has made clear – our view toward missile defense and the Russians is to clarify that our intention is to work to provide a shield that would deter Iranian aggression.

QUESTION: You actually called it an important part of our arsenal yesterday at NATO, and I wonder if the Obama Administration is ready to put, sort of, resources into it, or are you waiting?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We have a lot of different kinds of missile defense. We have sea-based missile defense, we have the missile defense based up in Alaska. Missile defense is a part of our arsenal. The specific issue about deploying in Poland and the Czech Republic is, as I said, a question of fiscal and technological concerns.

QUESTION: Yesterday at NATO headquarters, you suggested this high-level conference on Afghanistan, a big tent conference, and you said that Iran would probably be invited. What incentive does Iran have to come to such a meeting?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We made a proposal for a big tent meeting. We don’t have any agreement or details or place or anything like that set up. But we think it’s important to provide an opportunity for everyone who has an interest in the stability of Afghanistan to come together and determine how we’re going to work toward the security and stability there.

Iran’s a neighbor. Iran, for example, is deeply concerned about the importing of narcotics into Iran from Afghanistan. There are a lot of reasons why Iran would be interested, and over the last years the Iranian ambassadors to Afghanistan and even Iraq have consulted about Afghanistan with our ambassadors. There’s a history of discussions about Afghanistan so they will be invited. Obviously, it’s up to them to decide whether to come.

QUESTION: Well, it’s interesting. You have this overture, you’re sending envoys to Syria, you’ve told Israelis and Palestinians on this trip that peace talks are inescapable, you’ve talked about this fresh start with Russia. This is a lot of diplomatic outreach in one week.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, it does feel like a lot, but I think we have a sense of urgency in the Obama Administration. We believe that there are a lot of challenges and threats that we have inherited that we have to address. But there are also opportunities and we are being extremely vigorous in our outreach because we’re testing the waters. We’re determining what is possible. We’re turning new pages and resetting buttons. And we’re doing all kinds of efforts to try to create more partners and fewer adversaries.

QUESTION: And do you think that’s why you had such an overflow crowd at this town hall in the European parliament building, or why you got applause at a dinner with European foreign ministers? I mean, that’s quite unusual.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that the Europeans are excited and relieved at the change in Washington. President Obama and I share a view that there are many ways that the European Union and the United States must work together. We believe that about NATO. These are our strongest ties of alliance going back decades. And it’s important to demonstrate that the United States is back. We are listening. We’re consulting. We don’t pretend to have all the answers to meet these problems that we share.

It was gratifying to see that there’s an excitement among Europeans for this renewed level of cooperation. The President will make his first trip to Europe in April and I believe that you’ll see the excitement at a frenzy pitch.

QUESTION: Thank you very much for your time, Madame Secretary.


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PRN: 2009/T2-21