Interview With Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: Hi, Hillary Clinton.
SECRETARY CLINTON: How are you, Peter?
QUESTION: Great pleasure to meet you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Nice to meet you.
QUESTION: So how’s it been so far?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s been great. I mean, first of all, I love your country and I was disappointed that I had to turn back from my trip on the way here at the beginning of the year for AUSMIN because of the Haiti earthquake. So it’s wonderful to finally be here and to be in Melbourne, which is a city that I had not visited before.
QUESTION: And you’ll be waiting for what, 15 or something years to come back, right? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I’m going to come back more often. That’s my hope.
QUESTION: So what’s – what have you achieved today? I presume you’ve intensified the alliance.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think we have had, so far, very intense and productive consultations. And I think your paper ran the op-ed that Bob Gates and I wrote about the alliance, which is a sort of shorthand version of our assessment. We are very happy with the cooperation that we receive in defense, diplomacy, and development – what I call the three Ds of national security and foreign policy. And we have an opportunity in this setting to go into depth on issues that affect both of us, and to look for ways that we can better coordinate our cooperation, better leverage Australia’s considerable strengths, particularly in this region, and gain insight from the knowledge and expertise. As Kevin Rudd said in our earlier meeting, because of Cricket and Commonwealth, Australia has a lot of relationships that are quite deep and longstanding that we think are going to be increasingly important for our security going forward.
QUESTION: So on the first D, defense, there’s been talk of an intensification, use of bases, space and cyber agreements. Have they all occurred?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, this is a work in progress. This is an ongoing consultation. For decades, we have shared facilities, we’ve done joint exercises. We have appreciated Australia hosting some of our space facilities and technologies as well. So as we explore what each of us needs to bring to the alliance in accordance with our respective expertise and experience, we’re going to be looking at how we can really prepare for this alliance to be even stronger going forward. We face new challenges. I mean, that’s a self-evident and obvious thing to say. So what worked for the past 60 years in terms of America’s role in the Pacific, in terms of our AUSMIN in-depth cooperation has to be carefully evaluated to make sure that it’s meeting the challenges of the future.
QUESTION: And how do you adapt it to the future?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, (inaudible) take the Pacific island nations. When it comes to humanitarian needs, Australia is right in the forefront and so is the United States. How can we better prepare to mitigate, prevent disasters, and respond? We shouldn’t be reinventing the wheel. I mean, when disaster strikes, speaking for my own country, we shouldn’t say, “Okay, well, okay, where’s our check list? What are going to do this time?” We should have planning and contingency preparedness that we work out with Australia. Or take the unfortunate spread of terrorism. We can’t wish it away. We know that we’re facing an enemy that’s very adaptable, clever, and deadly. Australia knows that because of the horrors of the Bali bombing, and we, obviously, because of 9/11.
We have great intelligence cooperation, but we also need to be sure that we are keeping our eyes open as widely as possible and how do we go about ensuring that. I mean, I – you could go on and on. There is so much that we do together that is already successful, some of which is clear because you cover it in the press, but some of which is, for obvious reasons, not. And so we’re looking very thoroughly at every aspect of our alliance going forward.
QUESTION: Is this a part of the U.S. signal to the region that the U.S. is here to stay?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Absolutely. My first trip was to Asia; this is my sixth trip. The President is in Asia as we speak. We know that there was a feeling here in the region that the United States was abdicating its presence and leadership. As I have traveled the region, I can tell you that there’s been an enormous amount of relief on the part of leaders, and none more so than our alliance partners. We have close alliance relationships with Japan and South Korea and Thailand and the Philippines, obviously Australia. And what we are intent upon doing is not just demonstrating we’re back by flying from capital to capital, but putting real meat on the bones of that position so that – I talk about forward-deployed diplomacy. Obviously, our military, in close cooperation with yours, is looking at how we can upgrade the presence of the United States in partnership with Australia and others. So it’s a full court press, but also with a very conscious awareness that we just can’t do what we used to do and expect to be successful, because we have different challenges and unfortunately different threats.
QUESTION: Exactly on that point, when you say countries of allies have been reassured. Reassured – sorry, you said relieved. Relieved, why? What’s –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I – without naming names, I can tell you that presidents and prime ministers with whom I have met across the region were very open in saying that they had felt that because of our involvement in Iraq and particularly Afghanistan, that we were not as engaged in the Pacific region as we historically had been. And so when I, clearly, explained that we intended to be, but that we had to do it in accordance with where we are today, not where we were in 1960 or 1950, that has started these intensive discussions that we’re having with a number of the countries in the region.
Now, it’s clear that with our alliance partners there’s an existing framework. But also with some of the emerging and burgeoning powers, we have a strategic dialogue now with Indonesia, and it’s not just because the President spent some of his time growing up there, it’s because we view the consolidation of democracy in Indonesia, the very successful counterterrorism efforts that the Indonesian Government has carried out to be extremely important to our position in the Pacific. We know that Australia has a deep relationship with Indonesia. So again, how do we better work together to enhance our relationship with Indonesia?
With a country that we know something about because of our history, Vietnam, we’re finding more areas of cooperation and openness on the part of Vietnam to – looking at ways that we can, not only through defense, but through working on government issues, on human rights, on commercial and trade agendas, deepen that relationship. And I could obviously go on and on. But the fact is that we have engaged in a very strategic review of where the United States is in the Pacific – Asia Pacific region in 2010; where our friends, partners, and allies are; and where we hope to move toward.
QUESTION: One of the other op-eds in the papers today is from a former Deputy Secretary of the Defense Department, which in our system is a nonpartisan public service job – Hugh White. He’s been advocating strongly that because of the increase in growth of China that Australia should be reassessing its alliance with the U.S., with the implication downgrading the priority on the U.S. and increasing the priority on China. What’s your response to that as the other half of the alliance with Australia?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that the core values of the Australian people, the quality of life, the standard of living, the aspirations that Australians feel are very much in line with the way Americans think and act. So our relationship is essential to both of us. That doesn’t mean we won’t have relationships with others, but it does mean that this will remain the core partnership. And it is, I think, important to recognize that just because you increase your trade with China or your diplomatic exchanges with China, China has a long way to go in demonstrating its interest in being and its ability to become a responsible stake holder. There’s no doubt about its economic success. But any fair reading of history would argue that unless that economic success if matched by growing political space and openness, there are going to be a lot of tensions within China that will have to be dealt with. And that’s an internal matter for China, except insofar as – because of internal tensions, China acts out externally that will impact the interests and wellbeing of its neighbors and beyond.
So I don’t understand this either/or mentality. I think that Australia and the United States will remain core allies, not just because we have government-to-government relations, but because we have people-to-people connections that are deeply rooted. And as each of us develop our relationship with China, we want that to be a win-win. But it will more likely be a win-win if Australia and the United States are working in concert.
QUESTION: Earlier this year I heard you make, I thought an electrifying point about the current position of the U.S. and the West as one model for other countries, and China as an alternative. How do you see that at the moment?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that I can’t claim that that’s an original point. I think others have made it. But there are those who look to China and say, “Well, gosh, they’re growing at 9, 10 percent a year and they’re keeping the lid on.” And if you are of an authoritarian mindset and if your history may be such that that’s a more comfortable position for you to assume, that might be attractive. But I think it comes with many inherent contradictions. And particularly given the global economic crisis, many in the world looked and said, “Well, look at the United States. They had this great financial collapse. They couldn’t control the excesses of the market and they paid a huge price for it.” So there’s a clear difference. But, of course, that discounts in my view, both history and reality.
Economies like ours, which are free and very much focused on entrepreneurial energy and individual initiative are resilient, dynamic, come back, reinvent themselves, because we don’t wait for somebody in our national capital to tell us what we can and cannot buy. We are out there making hundreds of millions of decisions a day that are motivated by a desire to increase productivity, to make a claim for greater profitability, and it has worked. And it is, by far, along with democracy, the winning models. Free markets in democracy have proven themselves time and time again.
So, I again, would just offer a word of caution that if you really care about the development of your country, if you believe in the wellbeing of your people over the long run, then you will have to match political freedom and respect for human rights with economic progress.
QUESTION: Can I ask, on a different angle, last question. Just to pick up on a point you made yesterday, when you were for the ten trillionth time ruling out the president – running for presidency, and you said that were other things you want to get on and do in your life.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, of course.
QUESTION: What are they?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’ll talk to you after I’m done with this job, Peter. (Laughter.) I’m someone who takes one day at a time. I am 100 percent focused on the enormous responsibility that I bear as Secretary of State in taking our message around the world. So I don’t – I’m not thinking about what I would do next, but I am very focused on trying to do this as well as I can.
QUESTION: But there's a plan, right?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Not yet, not yet.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Just a lot of things like catching up on sleep. I think I’ve been sleep deprived for about 18 years. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: All right. Well, thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. What a pleasure.
QUESTION: It’s my pleasure.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thanks so much.