Interview With Dr. Sebastian Hesse-Kastein of MDR Radio

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

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, do you still remember when you heard for the first time that the wall had come down?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I do. I was living in Arkansas with my husband and my daughter. He was the governor of Arkansas at the time. And it seems like a very long time ago, because televisions were much smaller, they were in boxes, not in flat screens hung on walls. And we were just captivated because both Bill and I had been interested in international relations, and of course, as children of the Cold War we had followed the history of the Berlin airlift and President Kennedy’s visit and so many of the events, including the building of that wall. So it was an extraordinary moment. And Tom Brokaw, who was a famous TV anchor, was in Berlin and reporting, and memorably said, “The war is over, the wall is down.” It was an extraordinary moment, and we were just glued to our television sets.

QUESTION: Did you think back then this is the beginning of a new era?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I have to be honest; back then I didn’t know what it meant. I thought it meant the unraveling of the Soviet Union. But would there be rearguard actions? Would people break up? Would East – the Eastern part of Germany become their own state? I didn’t know any of that. But the exhilaration of the freedom and the people, particularly the young people who were literally tearing down the wall with picks and hammers and bare hands, said so much about the yearning that people have to be free and to make their own decisions. And I was very pleased to watch the smart leadership that Germany had during that time.

And then when Bill became president, I got to know Chancellor Helmut Kohl. We talked often about his commitment to reunifying Germany. And yet I still don’t think I could have predicted you’d have a reunified Germany in a unified Europe, with not only a unified Germany but the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe being part of the EU and part of NATO. It’s remarkable what has happened in a short period of time.

QUESTION: In what way has the world changed since then? Is it a safer place now or a better place?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, in many ways it’s better. It is certainly better in Europe. The peace in Europe, the social contract that has been developed, is a model. The fact that countries that warred against each other twice in the last century are now working together, partners and allies, is a great accomplishment. It was a bipolar world. The Cold War seemed very simple in retrospect. You had the Soviet Union and the West that were, in a sense, facing off right here in Berlin and elsewhere in the world.

So there is not that sense of certainty and clear rivalry now. It’s much more diffuse. It is non-state actors like the terrorists as well as rogue states. So the complexity is greater, the danger a different kind of danger. We don’t face the threat of nuclear annihilation as we did then, but we have to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons so we never face that again.

QUESTION: As you probably know, a vast majority in this country is for pulling out the troops out of Afghanistan, the German troops, as soon as possible. This year the mandate has to be renewed in the German Bundestag. What is your message to the decision makers why should the German army stay?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, of course, this is a decision for the German Government and the German people, and I respect that. So let me talk about America. The President has had us going through a very thoughtful, deliberative process, asking all the hard questions. We didn’t want to accept any assumptions. We don’t believe that enough progress was made in the last eight years under the prior administration. But at the same time, we do think that we have to prevent Afghanistan from becoming, once again, a haven for terrorists who will use it to attack the United States, Germany, other friends and allies and interests around the world.

How do we best approach that? That’s what we are studying and working on now. We would hope to have Germany as an active partner, because we really do believe it goes right to our security interests. This is not about whether Afghanistan makes economic or social progress. We think that would be important. We would like to see it happen. But that’s not why American troops are there. American troops are there because we face a threat, and the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the syndicate of terrorists headed by al-Qaida, including elements of the Taliban, are plotting against us all the time. They are opportunistic. They will seek the opportunity to do harm to the German people, the American people, the British, the French, those who represent the kind of modernity and values that they stand against.

So I hope that whatever President Obama ends up deciding, that we can make a case to the American people, and to Europe and others, that we’ve got to continue to stand with each other.

QUESTION: Is there any idea out there what the new strategy is going to be like?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we’re getting close. I obviously can’t preempt the President to talk about his decision. But it will be based on a very careful assessment of what is in the security interests of the United States and our allies around the world.

QUESTION: What can Germany contribute?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Germany has already contributed. Germany has contributed not only troops and had losses and sacrifices among those troops, Germany has contributed civilian assistance and financial assistance. We have a big task to accelerate the training of the Afghan security forces. Germany has expertise and experience doing that. So there will be a number of ways that Germany can participate. But of course, ultimately, it is up to the German people.

QUESTION: Our new Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has announced in D.C. last week that he wants to support President Obama’s disarmament initiative, not only by words but by acting as well. How could help – what kind of help would you need or would you like Germany to add?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that there is a great commitment by President Obama to try to stem nuclear proliferation. And we can certainly use Germany’s help in preventing nuclear materials around the world from falling into the wrong hands. The United States is negotiating a reduction in its nuclear arsenal with Russia. We want to have NATO carefully study all the different aspects of the nuclear posture that we have through NATO. I think we want to demonstrate good faith, but we also have to be careful and thoughtful about how we proceed. And that’s something we’ll be discussing not only with Germany, but with other of our partners in NATO.

QUESTION: I wonder if the disarmament ideas our new government has is disarming another country as well, like getting rid of nuclear weapons. Can you tell us when the U.S. might pull out its nuclear bombs out of Germany?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that has to be considered in the context of NATO strategy. But I also think we have to be very careful about how we evaluate the different threats, the need for deterrents. So it’s a complicated issue. And I think NATO is the appropriate forum to consider all of the ramifications, because we have obligations to states further east. We have obligations to states in the Balkans and further south. So we have to bring everyone’s opinion to the table as we consider what to do.

QUESTION: Let’s talk about climate change.


QUESTION: What will the U.S. bring to Copenhagen to the UN summit there?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the United States will bring a climate change bill based on a cap-and-trade model that was passed by our House of Representatives, a very vigorous effort going on in our Senate that we think will bear some fruit. But more importantly and more immediately, the Obama Administration has taken a number of steps through regulation to limit car emissions, utility plant emissions. We put $89 billion into clean energy technology. So we are doing a lot, in just eight months after the prior administration denied the problem for eight years.

But I think it’s very important for us to rise to the challenge, and that developed countries like Germany and the United States have responsibilities, but so do the developing countries like China and India. And we have to expect more from all of us.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thank you very much for this interview.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. I’ve enjoyed being with you.

PRN: 2009/T15-9