Interview With TVP's Tomasz Lis
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, it is one-and-a-half years since President Obama took office, and it is one-and-a-half years since you took the office of the Secretary of State. How, in this period of time, do you redefine the U.S. attitude toward the international community? And how has the attitude of the international community toward the U.S. changed, as you can experience this -- experienced this firsthand (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that what we have tried to do is reestablish America's leadership by demonstrating that we intend to live by our own values, to try to live up to our own ideals, to engage with countries, whether we agree with them or not, to see whether there are ways we can promote peace and prosperity, democracy, and freedom, and to deepen our relations with friends and allies, like Poland.
It has been a very intense year-and-a-half. But there are many examples of where we think we have begun to create new understandings and partnerships around specific issues. And I think here in Poland, where we have always had a very strong, close relationship by culture, by values, by family ties and so much else, we have recommitted ourselves to Poland's defense and security. But we are also looking to expand that. So we are looking to see how we can help Poland become more energy independent, to develop its own resources -- like shale gas, for example -- and to work closely with Poland in a leadership role on behalf of democracy, which is why I'm here in Krakow, to attend the Communities of Democracy, which is a joint Polish-American initiative going back 10 years.
QUESTION: You just gave an expression, "friends and allies like Poland."
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: Right before the Iraqi War and after the war, President Bush very often talked about strategic alliance, which was, I guess, too optimistic, from our perspective. In the last years, actually, many people started to think that we are not strategic ally of the U.S., actually we are sort of not so important partner. What is your assessment of the state of the relationship between our two countries?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think it's very strong. And speaking not only for myself but for the Obama Administration, we certainly view Poland as a strategic ally. Polish soldiers have fought alongside Americans in Iraq, and now in Afghanistan. Poland has been at the forefront of what we have attempted to do in NATO to create a missile defense security system to protect against short and medium-range missiles from countries like Iran. Poland has been a close ally in our consultation, as we try to "reset the relationship with Russia," and Poland has shown some very committed efforts to do so itself, especially since the tragedy of April 10th.
We view Poland as a leader in Europe, as a country with regional and global significance. And, as I made clear today in my meeting with Foreign Minister Sikorski, we think that the future holds even greater promise for that relationship.
QUESTION: And how would you respond to people in Poland who say -- and there are a lot of them -- that for quite a long time America took us for granted. As you mentioned, we are in Afghanistan, we were in Iraq. And very often "our leaders do it for a handshake or for the opportunity in the White House."
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, certainly that's not the way that I see it in this Administration. I can't really speak for what might have come before. But, from our perspective -- take the missile defense issue. I know there were many people in Poland who were skeptical when the Obama Administration came in and said we want to change what we are doing, we want to move toward what we call a phased adaptive approach. But now that it's been analyzed, even as Foreign Minister Sikorski, who was skeptical, said in a press conference, this is so much better for Poland.
So, in effect, what the Obama Administration did was more supportive of Poland's defense. We are, as you know, working on increasing our security cooperation with the patriot batteries, with very significant deliveries of F-16s, C-130s, closer cooperation to protect your troops in Afghanistan. And we have just received word that Poland will be part of the global shale gas initiative. And we want Poland to be a leader in Europe on energy alternatives, and we intend to provide technical and other assistance.
So, I think that if there are those who have those questions, I hope we either have or will put them to rest.
QUESTION: You mentioned Afghanistan. What is your reaction to Mr. Komorowski's declaration -- he is our temporary head of state, as you know -- that Poland will start withdrawing -- actually finish withdrawing -- withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan in 2012, even though there is no deadline for the end of American and NATO mission in Afghanistan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we will look forward to close consultations with the victor in your election. Obviously, the United States takes no position in elections here in Poland, but we very much value our relationship with successive Polish governments.
And with respect to troop commitments in Afghanistan or any withdrawal schedule, once the government is in place, we want to talk and consult about how that would actually be implemented.
QUESTION: And American Administration is pretty much in place. The question is, if we -- meaning you Americans, we NATO allies -- do we really have reliable scenario to avoid disaster in Afghanistan that would hurt American credibility, NATO credibility, and all the participants in this mission?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you know, General David Petraeus has just taken over command in Afghanistan. The President and I, we certainly have a lot of confidence in him. He was very successful in Iraq, and he believes that we all -- the international security forces: NATO, the United States, Poland -- that we can be successful.
Now, no one is understating the difficulty. But the reason why we're there is because we recognize the threat that an ungoverned, failed state that provides safe haven to terrorists presents to all of us. And, despite how difficult the conflict has been, you can point to slow but steady progress. And part of our challenge is to accelerate that progress, and to institutionalize it.
In every survey that's been done, the people of Afghanistan do not want to see the return of the Taliban. Yet, at the same time, they are constantly under attack by a relatively small, but nevertheless lethal suicidal band of extremists. And the trick is to create the conditions where the people will feel secure enough to stand up to the Taliban. And in much of the country that exists, but in many key areas -- particularly in the south -- it is still a very difficult fight.
QUESTION: During your stay in Kiev you said that the door to NATO is open for Ukraine. But nearly at the same moment, Ukraine parliament said that, actually, they don't want to join NATO. And apparently, Kiev is tipping more and more toward Moscow.
So, my question is, don't you think that we -- we, meaning Western community -- we are losing Ukraine?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don't think that. I think that the example you give was really an effort to balance Ukraine between the West and NATO and Russia. Because they also said they wouldn't join the collective security treaty organization, which is former Soviet Union countries.
I think Ukraine is trying very hard to chart its own course. And it has made very clear that it is eager to join the European Union. And the European Union has been positive in its response to Ukraine, and has set forth a series of steps for Ukraine. Ukraine agreed to joint U.S.-Ukraine military exercises this summer. Ukraine is participating in NATO operations and UN peace-keeping operations.
So, I think what Ukraine is intending to do is to create a balance that will enable it to realize its own future, and not be at the mercy of or unduly influenced by Russia or anyone else.
QUESTION: Talk about Russia, it's 18 months since (inaudible) the relationship with Russia. On one hand, we have cordial meeting between President Obama and President Medvedev. On the other, we have new example of Russia spying on --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: -- on America, which some people take very, very seriously.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: So, do you deal with the change in Russia a change in a better direction, or do you view Russia going the old ways?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have seen some very positive signs in the last year-and-a-half: a new treaty on reducing nuclear weapons that was negotiated by Russia and the United States, increasing assistance by Russia in Afghanistan; cooperation with the United States and the international community on sanctions, to try to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons state. So, there are a number of examples where we have seen positive results of our reset.
Now, with respect to the arrest of the Russian spies in place in the United States, we are obviously going to continue to protect our interests. And that means going after those who would attempt to threaten us. But we don't want an incident like that to color the entire relationship. What we are trying to do is create a broad enough agenda so that we can work together. And when there are problems, as is evident from the spy case, deal with those. Those people were arrested, and they are in our criminal justice system, and they will be dealt with. But we don't want that to undermine our effort to reduce nuclear weapons, which we think is in our national interest and the security of the world. So, I think it is, again, a balanced approach that we are attempting to follow.
QUESTION: And one more question. When you (inaudible), according to this, you were hesitating for quite a long time if you should take the job of the Secretary of State. Actually, according to (inaudible), you were against the idea for quite a long time. Looking from the perspective of 18 months (inaudible), what is your assessment for (inaudible) today?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am very pleased that I am serving my country and working with President Obama on so many critical issues. We have only touched on a few of them in this short interview. We could literally talk for hours about what's going on around the world.
And, you know, the United States has to lead. The United States cannot solve all of the world's problems, but the world's problems cannot be solved without United States leadership. And we want to lead in a way that brings people toward us and together, as opposed to putting them in opposition to us. And I think that both President Obama and I have made that very clear.
It's a complicated geopolitical situation that we face. And there are emerging and rising powers, there are very serious dislocations from the economic crisis. So it's a lot to do. And sometimes you can become a little weary, traveling around the world as much as I do. But I know it's important, and I believe in the efforts that we are undertaking. And I believe, too, that it's important to have, you know, face-to-face encounters, not only with other government officials, but with the press and with the public in countries, because today people are so much more connected and more interested in what's going on in the world. And there are so many transnational problems, whether it's climate change or epidemics like HIV/AIDS, or whatever it might be. So, I am very grateful to have this opportunity to serve my country.
QUESTION: And the last question, you just mentioned you are traveling all over the world, constantly.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: So, it's a very, very hard job. At the same time, you have to cope with the preparations for the wedding of your daughter, Chelsea.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That's right.
QUESTION: So, how can you cope with two quite different tasks, but both of them extremely serious?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Serious, important, and stressful.
QUESTION: I guess.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, luckily, we have email now. And I can communicate and people can send me pictures of flower arrangements or other kinds of decisions that have to be made. It's a very happy time for my family, with our daughter's upcoming marriage. And it truly is the most important thing in my life right now. But my daughter and my husband are very supportive of the work that I do. And I am grateful for that, and I have been able to fit in tastings and dress selections, and all of the other things that the mother of the bride has to do.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for your time, and thank you very much for giving the Polish audience a chance to get to know American position firsthand.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. It's an honor to be here.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you very much.
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