Interview With Marietta Slomka of ZDF Television

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Hotel Adlon
Berlin, Germany
November 9, 2009

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, do you remember where you were on that very special day in Berlin 20 years ago and how you got the news?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I was in Arkansas, and I was just talking to Tom Brokaw, who was one of our major TV anchors in 1989 in the United States, and the word came and I turned on the TV, and my husband and I were just glued, as we say, to the TV. And it was so exciting to see history unfolding before your very eyes. It wasn’t something that happened off-screen that you later heard about and was reconstructed. It was there. And Tom Brokaw famously said, “The war is over, the wall is down.” It was an exciting moment.

And as someone who grew up in the Cold War and had a lot of teachers who cared deeply about what happened and parents who were committed to freedom for people, it was a wonderful moment.

QUESTION: Now that you mention the war is over, the international system has changed. If you look at really for Germany from a foreign policy point of view, what does our – what is the German role on global stage nowadays?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think in the last 20 years Germany has assumed not just a role in Europe but a role in the world. A reunified Germany in a unified Europe is really the heart of Europe. And I think the German leadership that you’ve had over these last 20 years has understood that while the challenges of reunification were difficult and there was a need to continue to work to integrate East and West, that Germany would be called upon to exercise more responsibility outside of its borders. And that’s what I see Chancellor Merkel doing. She came to the United States, delivered a very important speech to our Congress, was very well received. I had breakfast with her this morning.

And of course, we talked about Germany and Europe, but we talked about Afghanistan and Iran and climate change and so many other important global issues.

QUESTION: As you just mentioned, the heart of Europe, your predecessors in the State Department considered Germany as Old Europe. (Laughter.) But that perception has changed, I assume.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, that has more than changed. That was one of the strangest comments. But no, for me personally and for the Obama Administration, I think it was telling that during his campaign President Obama came to Germany, that I am here today because we care deeply about celebrating this historic moment with the German people and people everywhere who are freedom loving. But it is important to look at Europe now and see Germany as one of the real decision makers, not only in a regional way but globally as well. And that’s what I see happening.

QUESTION: You mentioned more responsibilities. Are there hopes and – or even expectations from your side towards Germany and the policies of Germany?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, but of course, that’s up to the German Government and the German people. But I know how significant a role Germany played in the G-20 efforts on recovering from the global recession. Germany has taken a leading role on climate change. We stand shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan under very difficult circumstances with your soldiers and our soldiers. We see Germany’s very strong position with us vis-à-vis Iran and their nuclear program, and Germany, of course, is very committed to a two-state solution and peace in the Middle East. So on many of the most difficult issues of the day, Germany is playing a very important role.

QUESTION: And on the key issue, Afghanistan, is there expectations about – in terms of more support, more military engagement?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that is, of course, up to Germany itself. But we believe that during the consultations that the President and I and our Defense Secretary and others have carried out, it’s been a very useful discussion with our German counterparts. And we, of course, would hope for continuing support. We would hope that Germany would be not only a partner but part of the group that would really explain why this is important to the United States, to Germany. I think that we are fighting a common enemy. The United States doesn't go to Afghanistan because we hope for just a better circumstance in the future for that country, although that would be very welcome, but because we think our security is affected and we think the security and the values of our friends and our allies like Germany are also impacted.

QUESTION: Could Germany do more?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s going to be up to Germany. And we – when we are at the point where the President has made a decision, we will, of course, consult with the German Government and see what their reaction is.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. It’s a pleasure.

QUESTION: And have a nice day in Berlin.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. It’s always nice to be in Berlin. Thank you.

PRN: 2009/T15-8