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America's Former Top Diplomat; Imagine a World

Aired March 11, 2014 - 15:00:00   ET


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour.

As we drill down into the diplomatic faceoff that is gripping the world over Ukraine between Russia and the West, it is ratcheting up now as European and American officials meet here in London to discuss slapping Moscow with sanctions.

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, has said they could happen as soon as this week and they may include asset freezes and travel bans.

And the clock is ticking down to what the West calls an illegal referendum in Crimea this weekend, organized by the Russians to try to cement their hold on that province after sending in troops to take effective control about two weeks ago.

The ousted Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, upped the ante, stepping into the light again in Russia to claim that he's still the legitimate president of Ukraine. And he insisted that he'll return.


VIKTOR YANUKOVYCH, OUSTED PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): I want to remind you that I'm still not just the legitimate president but also the head of the military. I've not stopped my responsibilities. I'm alive. I've not been left without my powers according to the constitution. Western countries say I've lost my legitimacy when I fled. But I have not fled.


AMANPOUR: So through that defiant rhetoric, is there a glimmer of diplomatic headway perhaps? Late today the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone to his Russian counterpart, the foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. This after an unusual public spat that was televised overnight, Lavrov telling President Putin that Kerry refused to come to Moscow to negotiate.

So as the West tries to navigate its most difficult and complex confrontation since the collapse of the Soviet Union, few know the inside intrigue, the high-stakes diplomacy that Kerry is trying to work than my guest, the former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright.

It was during her term under President Clinton that the U.S. brought Russia into the G8 and helped knit it into global economic and political institutions. Born in Czechoslovakia before World War II, Albright is clear-eyed about this moment in history.


AMANPOUR: Secretary Albright, welcome to the program.


AMANPOUR: Can I start by asking you, as a former secretary of state, there's a current flap, a public flap, between Secretary of State Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov and President Putin, in which, publicly, President Putin and Lavrov have been seen complaining about Kerry's diplomacy and refusal to go to negotiate in Moscow.

Did you ever face anything like that at a high level, high-stakes diplomatic moment like this?

ALBRIGHT: Well, there are moments where you think, why can't we get this together. The bottom line is, scoring points is not what it's about. What has to happen is to do diplomacy.

So I don't think this is very helpful in terms of the seriousness of the problem that they have to deal with, is just to think they're scoring points.

AMANPOUR: President Clinton, former president, under whose administration you served, has said this week that President Putin is basically treating Ukraine as a piece on the international chessboard without concern for its people and saying pushing a country towards a split is crazy and outdated.

Is that where we're headed, do you think, the way it looks now, that this country is going to split apart?

ALBRIGHT: I hope it doesn't. I mean, the very hard part for Ukraine is its geographical location. It's not going to change where it is.

And so the question is, how can it be a part of the West, which is clearly what the people want, because they've seen what has happened to their neighbors and especially the Poles, for instance, and how to have a relationship with Russia.

And I think that what the Europeans and the Americans have been saying is absolutely, it's possible to do both. And what I think is a tragedy is that Putin is providing a zero-sum game and it doesn't have to be.

AMANPOUR: I want to show you some of these unbelievable billboards that have been put up in the Crimea ahead of this referendum that's scheduled for Sunday.

This one behind -- you can read it. You read Russian.


AMANPOUR: I mean it says 16th March, ?? ????????, we choose.

AMANPOUR: We choose.

ALBRIGHT: We choose.

AMANPOUR: And the choice looks to be a swastika -- in other words, a Nazi Crimea or a free Russian Crimea.

ALBRIGHT: It is stunning. And it is part of the propaganda effort that we've been watching. I was watching Russian TV in the last couple of days.

And what they have done, there are, let me just say, probably good- willed people who are concerned that their Slavic brothers and sisters are, in fact, all of a sudden being subjected to fascism or Nazism because that is what Russian TV is putting out, and saying -- and for a lot -- and a lot of older people, Christiane, who probably remember World War II and the tragedies that took place in Ukraine.

And so this is just pure unadulterated scare tactics. Obviously, as in any country, there are some right-wing forces, but that is one of the more outrageous placards that I've ever seen.

AMANPOUR: But now let's talk about a really troubling reality.

Could Crimea simply be a fait accompli that this referendum is going to go ahead?

The West calls it illegal, that they may very well -- are very likely to vote to be either independent or to join Russia.

And what on Earth are you all going to do about it?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that the Russians have, in fact, sent their troops in there. We don't know how many. We don't know what uniforms they're really wearing. And I suppose it is possible that it could be a fait accompli.

I think, however, that the Russians and whoever are their supporters there, that are, I mean, in many ways, part of a fifth column, or really those that are working on behalf of somebody else, I think ultimately, they will be punished because the bottom line is that what is happening, and at least the ideas that I've heard, is, instead of bringing Russia into a world where we are cooperating economically and diplomatically, the Russians are isolating themselves. And --

AMANPOUR: But does it matter?

They seem to think it doesn't matter. They seem to think that any sanctions which are being considered will actually backfire on Europe and the United States. They seem to be wallowing or taking pride in their very strong position as energy and oil suppliers to Europe.

ALBRIGHT: I think it's a very short-term view in the following way.

First of all, the energy picture generally is changing. We hear all the time about energy revolutions, you know, the -- the shale revolution ultimately will come to Europe. There are other supplies of oil.

In fact, what has happened to Russia in many different ways is kind of the oil curse. They have done no reforms whatsoever because they have that oil money. Oil prices may go down as a result of the shale revolution in a number of different ways. There are other sources.

One of the things that could happen is we are working on some different arrangements with Iran.

Iran could export oil. We could -- the United States could change some of its export regulations. And while I think that, if this is a fait accompli, we do have to prepare ourselves for kind of a moment of aren't we right by the Russians, you know, a lot of chest-thumping and this was the right thing and we saved these poor people from fascism.

But I think in the long run, they have created a huge problem.

I hope that this is not a fait accompli. I think that the Duma has, in fact --

AMANPOUR: The Russian parliament.

ALBRIGHT: The Russian parliament has had a -- decided that their vote whether to encourage or accept or whatever the wording is on Crimea coming into the Russian Federation, isn't until the 21st. And so, in fact, there could be some time -- I hope there is -- for diplomacy.

AMANPOUR: What is a diplomatic solution to this that satisfies Russia, the West and -- and Ukraine?

ALBRIGHT: I think that the diplomatic solution is that, as I said earlier, basically, Ukraine is in a complicated geographical situation, that they can, in fact, have a relationship with the West, whether in some variety of relationships with the European Union, also with the International Monetary Fund, ways -- and the thing we can't forget, if I might go back to this, is we have to remember that this is about Ukraine and they are an economic basket case at this point.

And we can't get diverted so that there's no help to them.

AMANPOUR: But about Crimea, you know, it is fairly autonomous. The Russians do have a very long-term agreement for the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.

What more could Russia want from Eastern Ukraine and Crimea?

More autonomy?

Some people are suggesting Russia could agree to a compromise that's - - that gives it more say or persistence, say, in the affairs of that part of Ukraine.

ALBRIGHT: There is a solution. I mean there could be more autonomy for Crimea. the question is whether Putin wants a solution. He may like this kind of disarray, because it's kind of in everybody's face.

But the bottom line is, ultimately, he has created problems which, I think, will come home and bite Russia.

Putin is making this a zero-sum game when it doesn't have to be. And it's dangerous for him to do that.

AMANPOUR: And you know that a lot of the narrative has been that Putin feels personally, and on behalf of the great Russian empire, affronted by the loss of the Soviet Union, by what he perceives to be Western and U.S. triumphalism.

Is he right?

ALBRIGHT: No. I mean let me just say this. The Russians are really good at revisionist history. And so having been there, let me tell you what the -- what this is all about.

The Cold war ends. We didn't win the Cold War, they lost the Cold War. The Soviet Union disintegrated from inside. This was not something that the West did. The Communist system simply does not work.

And so that is the genesis of the problem.

So one of the things that happened -- and this was deliberate, Christiane. We were asked to do something that has never been done before, which is how to devolve the power of your major adversary in a respectful way.

So this was part of what we were trying to do. And we brought them into the G8. We made a point of welcoming them into a variety of international fora to be a part of that. We also helped them during a financial crisis.

The question was NATO. I know there are those who think that that was a mistake. I think it was absolutely the right thing to do. There was nothing --


AMANPOUR: And moving NATO toward --


AMANPOUR: -- Russia.

ALBRIGHT: -- because what -- and, in fact --

AMANPOUR: Because they need that.

ALBRIGHT: Well, they're -- they're just misunderstood from the very beginning. I went to talk to Yeltsin about this. And I said, this is what we're doing. And he said, we're a new Russia. And I said, this is a new NATO. It is not against you. And you can ultimately be a member of NATO.

So it is not something that is against them. So they have been bound and determined to be opposed to it. So there was that. And then generally, kind of a way to bring them in and respect them.

They are using this, oh, woe is me, in order to garner sympathy and have some kind of a way of recreating something that they destroyed themselves.

AMANPOUR: You've dealt with Sergey Lavrov. He was the U.N. ambassador when you were U.N. ambassador.

What kind of a guy is he?

What was he like the last time you met him?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I dealt with him a lot at the U.N.

And he can be hot and cold. I mean he's very, very smart. He argues very well.

But the last meeting we had was really peculiar. What happened was that I had been asked to chair this group of experts that were looking at a new strategic concept for NATO. And so we had decided that we would have a dialogue with the Russians about that.

So I arrive at the foreign ministry -- and I am known for my pins. So I had on this pin that is a knot. And he looked at the pin and he said, so what is that?

And I said, it's our bond.

So then we left the hall, we went to sit down at the shiny table. And he looks across the table and he says, I know what it is, it's James Bond.

And I said, no, Sergey, it's our friendship.

And he said, no, it's what you think of our pipelines.

And I said, no, Sergey, it is a sign of our relationship, given to me by your predecessor, Igor Ivanov.

And so he has this capability of seeing what he wants to see. And he does like to score points.

AMANPOUR: And, obviously, that speaks volumes as to what's going on in their mindset right now.


AMANPOUR: I might just close by saying you have a very optimistic looking sunflower on your chest right now, on your brooch area.


AMANPOUR: Are you optimistic?

ALBRIGHT: I am. I really am. And I wore it --

AMANPOUR: Can this be solved?

ALBRIGHT: I wore it on purpose, because I do think that this can be solved. And there's a combination of tools here. And the tools are diplomatic, which are absolutely essential, and not just the United States.

I mean it has to be done with our European allies and, Christiane, the Ukrainians have to be at the table. We can't do to the Ukrainians what happened to the Czechoslovaks at Munich, where they were just told to do something and the country was sold down the river.

So Ukraine has -- the Ukrainians have to be at the table.

AMANPOUR: Look, their representatives, whether it's Yulia Tymoshenko, whether it was Yushchenko, whoever it might be, have also not been the most democratic, have also not been the least corrupt. I mean they have a terrible, terrible reputation.

Many of them now in power are looking to the U.S. for help and guidance.

Must the United States be quite tough with them, as well?

ALBRIGHT: Yes, I think so. I mean tough love is the way that I would put it.

Corruption is the cancer of democracy, or of any government. And so I think that there is a solution. I am an optimist who worries a lot, but I am an optimist, so I deliberately thought we should do this.

AMANPOUR: Former secretary of state, thank you very much for joining me.

ALBRIGHT: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: So a little wary optimism for a solution to this looming showdown and accentuating the positive in an unlikely place, the deadly world of drones. A controversial new report stirs the pot and poses tough questions. Our exclusive with the human rights advocate who wrote it when we come back.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program and turning now to the ever- controversial use of drones and the civilians they kill.

America uses drones the most and President Obama more than his predecessors did, but mostly, of course, the operations go on in secret. Now Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism is trying to enforce accountability and transparency.

After more than two years of investigating this report is bound to please many and anger many more. It seeks to put a human face on the cost of what many deride as remote control war. And Ben Emmerson joins me now from Geneva, where he has just briefed the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Thank you for joining me and welcome to the program.

Let me ask you first, Mr. Emmerson, what is the point of this report?

Why was there the necessity for a special rapporteur in regard to drones?

BEN EMMERSON, SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND COUNTERTERRORISM, UNITED NATIONS: Well, there are two quite separate parts to the report. The first is looking at the reality of allegations that drone use has resulted in very large numbers of civilian casualties and we've looked critically at those allegations.

And the second is to try to sort out some of the uncertainty that continues to exist about what the legal regime should be. So it's those two sides that come together in this report.

AMANPOUR: Well, I want to point out, because I mentioned about accentuating the positive. Obviously that's not the thrust of your whole report, but I was struck by how you started it, with a quote from the International Red Cross, basically saying, "any weapon that makes it possible to carry out more precise attacks and helps avoid or minimize incidental loss of civilian life should be given preference."

That is sort of the positive side of drones.

EMMERSON: What we absolutely certainly know is that this technology allows near real-time, 24 hours' surveillance. And that is something which increases the situational awareness of commanders and therefore can reduce the number of civilian casualties, providing the laws of war are strictly adhered to.

AMANPOUR: Obviously the thrust is, as I said, the controversies over the death of civilians. And I want to point to one of the examples in your report, and it's about a jirga, as they say, a sort of a tribal meeting in the north, Waziristan part of Pakistan. We have a map of that area in our desk and we can see a reconstruction photo of the jirga meeting.

And there you talk about a lot of injuries; apparently this one, there were 43 civilians killed. What was the reaction to this by the authorities? Did you get or was there the transparency and accountability and investigation that your report says has to happen?

EMMERSON: Well, we're still working for the transparency that is required with an incident like this. Look, the Pakistani authorities have given me an estimate of between 400 and 600 civilians killed during a period of years in which drones were deployed by the CIA in that Fatah region. This was one of the most notorious headline incidents which caused a great deal of outrageous in the Fatah region and provoked a very hostile reaction from the Pakistani government.

And so to that extent, it's an incident which calls -- cries out for a full investigation and explanation. What we do know is that the United States, United Kingdom and Israel, the three states that use this technology, routinely carry out their own post-strike analysis and investigation.

In any case where there is any suggestion that civilians may have been killed, and so what we're calling for today is for -- in relation to a certain number of strikes, 30 in all, where there's reliable evidence that civilians have been killed or injured, we're calling for the post-strike investigation in relation to those cases to be made public.

AMANPOUR: So that is -- and, yes. So you're calling for transparency in that regard.

Let me just ask you, though, because one of your case studies specifically recommended sanctions, administrative and disciplinary sanctions in an instance involving misreading intelligence from a drone in Afghanistan, they allege, and killing up to 23 civilians in a pickup truck.

Did you ever get the satisfaction of those administrative and disciplinary sanctions? Did they happen? Were they imposed?

EMMERSON: Well, just to be clear, that recommendation didn't come from us. It came from ISAF, from the international force in Afghanistan, under the command of General Stanley McChrystal.

The important point about that instance is that it's pretty much the only case in which the post-investigation report has been made public, where clear errors were made by the predator crew that were responsible for targeting the individuals concerned. And where ISAF itself made recommendations for punishments to be administered in relation to those who'd fallen short of their professional obligations.

So far as we are aware, those punishments were carried into effect. But the crucial point is that we have held that up and I do hold it up as an object lesson, as an example, if you like, a benchmark of transparency. The trouble is it's a pretty much isolated example. And we're asking for precisely that same degree of transparency for the other 29 or so strikes that are listed in the report, both in relation to the United States, to the United Kingdom and ISAF and in relation to Israel's activities in Gaza.

So if I get you rightly, it's accountability and transparency as we said that you're looking for. I want to switch a little bit, switch gears a little bit to what's going on in the U.S. Senate right now, sort of vaguely related to this.

You've also been very outspoken about the CIA and right now the CIA is being accused of breaking into U.S. Senate computers over an investigation into its detention and interrogation program. And Senator Dianne Feinstein is suggesting that the CIA broke the law by doing that and hacking computers.

Do you agree?

EMMERSON: Well, I'm certainly not going to descend into the detail that the spat between the heavyweights Feinstein and Brennan. I met John Brennan. He's a man who I have a great deal of respect for and certainly you mentioned the linkage. I mean, one of the points that we make in the report is that there hasn't been a single allegation of a civilian casualty in Pakistan since John Brennan became director of the CIA.

But what I can say about this particular story is that I've been calling since March of last year, when I prepared a report for the Human Rights Council on rendition, secret detention and torture, that it is the obligation of the U.S. administration, of President Obama, who has been sitting on this report now for very, very many months, to make it public as quickly as possible. This type of internecine strife that's taking place with -- between the Senate and the CIA at the moment is only possible whilst that report remains classified in the way that it is. It deals with very serious international crimes; it deals with gross and systemic human rights violations. There is no excuse for it to remain classified any longer.

Of course, some details may need to be redacted, names and so forth. But the guts of that report now need to be made public. The boil needs to be lanced. And it needs to happen as soon as ever possible, within days.

AMANPOUR: Well, we thank you very much indeed for your insight and that you told us exclusively on this program about this important report into drones.

Ben Emmerson, the special United Nations rapporteur, thanks for joining me.

And after a break, we'll turn from unmanned drones bringing death from the skies to manned space exploration and a safe landing for Russia and the U.S., hope for celestial peace and cooperation even as they squabble here on Earth. We'll be right back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, while Russia and the United States continues sparring towards a showdown over that referendum in Crimea, imagine a world where Russian and U.S. space travelers return to Earth hand in hand. Two Russian and one U.S. astronaut landed safely on the snowy steppes of Kazakhstan today after 166 days in orbit together on the International Space Station. Flashing smiles, they were pulled from their space capsule and bundled into blankets. It is, of course, an inspiring example of cooperation, unlike the diplomatic wranglings between Moscow and Washington and the West here on Earth.

Only last month in Sochi, the Russians paid tribute to their space program in the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, where a similar spirit of sporting harmony prevailed. And as they orbited miles above the skiers and the skaters, the Russian cosmonauts carried an unlit Olympic torch of their own and waved it proudly on a space walk back in November.

Back on Earth, Russia pride continues to smolder over Ukraine. But for one triumphant moment, a reminder of just what can happen when we aim for the stars together.

And that's it for our program tonight. Remember you can always contact us at our website,, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you for watching and goodbye from London.