Return to: Index of 1996 Secretary of State's Speeches/Testimonies ||
Electronic Research Collections Index ||
U.S. Department of State
96/01/18 Q&A Session after Speech at Harvard University
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release January 18, 1996
QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION
FOLLOWING ADDRESS BY
SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
JOHN F. KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT
Thursday, January 18, 1996
QUESTION: (Michael Llewyveld, Journal of Commerce) A growing number of
U.S. foreign policy analysts feel that our policy with respect to Iran
has grown too tough. And with respect to Russia, it's not tough enough.
In the case of Iran, we have not been joined in our unilateral embargo
of Iran by the EU. They have objected particularly to secondary boycott
sanctions which the Administration now supports against foreign
companies that deal with Iran.
In the case of Russia, people feel that we have not set limits for
Russian behavior and we have not made clear to them that our support for
loans by the IMF should be contingent on what we consider to be good
Could you address those two areas of foreign policy?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Joe, I guess you should have added one more
condition, that there be one question at a time. (Laughter) I'm glad to
try to address both parts.
We see Iran as being in a special category. Iran's worldwide
sponsorship of terrorism, its open defiance and opposition to the Middle
East process, its efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction require
a different approach and different treatment from the rest of the world.
So President Clinton has basically ended U.S. economic relationships
with Iran. We feel that the other nations of
the world should not be providing the sinews and resources that enable
Iran to conduct terror operations around the world.
There was a slight misstatement in what you said. We have not, in terms
of the secondary boycott, we have supported a position against
investment by other countries in Iran, and that's as far as our present
position goes. But I don't blink from the idea that we are strongly
opposed to Iran. We think their government is misleading their people
and hurting other countries in the region and around the world.
We're going to stay with that policy. We look to persuade our allies to
join us. We see some signs that our policies are having an effect.
But, in any event, on some occasions the United States simply has to dig
in its heels, take a strong position, and that's what we're doing and
we're going to continue to do with Iran until they change their
Second, with respect to Russia. We have very great stakes with Russia.
Russia is a powerful nation. We have accomplished a number of things in
coordination with them, particularly in limiting the nuclear arsenals of
both countries. We have worked with them on Bosnia and the Middle East.
So we've got a big stake with Russia, a need to stay engaged with
Russia. We're going to be sending signals to them that we want to stay
engaged. But at the same time, I think they must understand that if
they're to be welcomed into Western institutions, if they're to have the
support of institutions like the IMF, they need to stay on the path of
reform. I think that would be echoed by the leaders of those
international institutions from which they're expecting support.
We're anxious that they continue on the path to reform. That will be
evaluated not only by us but by others as we move down this path. We
want to retain an engagement; we want to stay positive; we want to
continue to work with them on the world's problems. It requires an
effort on their part to continue on the path of reform.
MR. NYE: May I add that it would better if we could have questions from
students and members of the community since journalists have a chance to
ask questions of the Secretary all the time anyway.
QUESTION: The Honorable Mr. Christopher, I think we all understand that
there is no humanitarian issue in the Golan, no Arab government, or the
British Government never tried to invent a Golani-Arab national identity
the way the Palestinian-Arab national identity was disseminated.
So, in a decade, when authors try to understand just what brought
American policymakers to believe that Israel must relinquish control of
the Golan in order to achieve peace in our time, how would you guess
they will explain it?
To be succinct, Mr. Christopher, what irks you about Jews and Yitzhak
Rabin on the Memorial Heights?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Passing that alleged slip of the tongue
(Laughter), the interest that Israel has in achieving peace with Syria
is to avoid the last remaining strategic threat to Israel. But perhaps
even more important is to close the circle of peace.
There is an opportunity in the Middle East now for Israel, if the terms
are right, to reach a peace agreement with Syria and then with Lebanon
and, thus, to enable the Middle East to broaden the circle of peace.
What is in Israel's long-term interest is to end the Arab-Israeli
conflict. The key to that, as I said in my remarks, is to reach an
agreement with Syria. If and when that happens, I believe that there
will be a widening of the normalization and that Israel will be in a
situation of much greater security.
The United States is deeply committed to Israel's security. We will
continue to pursue that policy of assisting the parties in achieving
peace in that area.
The leaders of Israel at the present time believe that it's in their
interest to try to achieve peace in the region. We will do so in view
of our long-standing commitment to Israel's security and in view of our
conviction that if we can once and for all bring that area beyond the
cycle of violence between the Arabs and Israelis, it will be a better
life for all the people.
I've spent so much time there I can't resist saying there has been
tremendous progress in the area. The region is so different than it was
three years ago. People are moving back and forth between Jordan and
Israel. Israel no longer has that sense of deep isolation that it has
felt at an earlier time.
We must move beyond where we are now to close the circle of peace.
QUESTION: I'm a former student; a '79 graduate of the Kennedy School.
I have a two-part question.
MR. NYE: Let's just do one. One at a time.
QUESTION: They are interlinked. (Laughter) You said that Congress is
trying to slash your budget which is actually one percent of the total
A half percent of the budget is being used for USAID, which is doing an
excellent job in many parts of the world to reduce poverty.
As for INS support last year, in 1993, 316 million foreigners visited
the USA. Many foreign countries charge on an average $20.00 like
Australia, New Zealand, Fiji -- $20.00 embarkation fee to whoever visits
their country. Are you thinking of charging $20.00 for 316 million
foreigners, that's raising $6.2 million a year? Are you thinking about
this? This is my part one. (Laughter)
The second part to my question is, as you know, in many countries there
has been the sale of women and children, the trafficking of women and
children, the abuse of human rights. Those countries cannot afford
money to help the victims.
Are you in a position to make a negotiation or a dialogue and give them
some seed money for those countries like South Asia nations to have a
fund to help the victims and to stop the abuse of human rights.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I must say I don't see the close linkage between
those two questions. (Laughter/applause)
On the first part of your question, the State Department does have a
program of charging for passports and charging a little bit more if you
want one overnight. We do have a program under which visas are charged
for on a modest basis.
This income is very important to the maintenance of the State
Department. It's one of the few things we're able to count on in this
period. I would not like, without some further thought, a sort of head-
tax on people entering the country. Because all those who enter the
country benefit our economy in very important ways and none of us want
to discourage that kind of tourism in the United States.
On the second question, let me just say that our human rights policy,
which I spoke of in my remarks and to which I am personally so deeply
committed and have been throughout my government service, is totally in
opposition to that kind of treatment by countries. We think countries
on their own motion ought to end that kind of uncivilized practice that
QUESTION: (Danny Grossman) Sir, I'm a citizen of Israel studying at
the Kennedy School. As such, I express my appreciation for the role
that your government has played and for your personal commitment to
achieving peace in our region.
However, I wonder if you might, sir, please elaborate on what your
interests, meaning the United States interests, is in an Israeli-Syrian
peace; and how you would define the role to be played by an American
peacekeeping mission on the Golan which Secretary Perry recently spoke
of? And how would you ensure that such a commitment, or any commitment
of this sort, would remain intact given the democratic nature of the
United States which is responsive to changes in Administrations, public
opinion, and, finally, government approval?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: The Middle East has been a source of great
concern and interest to the United States ever since the creation of
Israel and, indeed, ever since World War II.
As I look back over the various books written, the memoirs of my
predecessors, as I look back over the books written by Presidents, it's
clear the Middle East has been a dominant theme in American foreign
We are committed to that region, and I must say as you look back, only
when American is actively involved have we made progress in the Middle
East. So the United States is committed for the deepest, both political
and economic, reasons to peace in the Middle East.
We spent an enormous amount of foreign aid in that region, and not
improperly so, but it is an indication of America's interest that we
have been so deeply engaged. I believe it is for that reason the United
States wants to assist the parties in, as I say, closing the circle of
peace by aiding them and reaching an agreement between Syria and the
With respect to a United States' force on the Golan Heights, let me
emphasize that the parties have not reached that point in negotiation.
There has been no explicit discussion of the kind of international force
that there might be.
The United States has said for a long time -- and this goes back to the
prior administration -- if the parties request it, if it would
facilitate the peace, the United States would be prepared to consider
joining an international force or being part of a force that would be a
As you probably all know in this well enlightened audience, there's been
an international force ever since the agreement between Egypt and Israel
-- a force in the Sinai. They've never lost a single person. The
expenses are reimbursed by the parties, so it's not been an enormous
burden on the United States, but we provide a great service.
The analogy is there, and I think the United States would be prepared to
consider that. On whether or not we can sustain that commitment, we
have a good record of keeping our commitments of that kind. Of all the
places in the world where there seems to be strong bipartisan support --
and I commend the bipartisan support, as I did in my remarks -- the
Middle East is certainly high on that list. Thank you.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Senator -- (laughter) -- Secretary
Christopher. My name is --
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: That's the kind of slip of the tongue I don't
QUESTION: (Alex Rodriguez) Perhaps some day then. (Laughter) I'm a
first-year student at the Kennedy School of Government from Arizona.
I'd like to ask you a question with regard to the situation in Bosnia.
As an officer in the United States Army, I'm just wondering what some of
the contingencies are in case the Dayton plan goes awry. Hopefully, God
willing, you can come back here next year and tell us indeed that plan
is sticking together and peace is holding.
However, what are the contingencies currently in effect? If you could
please elaborate on that point.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: First, it's a perfectly good question. We don't
expect the United States forces to fail. One of the things that it's my
good fortune to do is occasionally visit our troops around the world. I
must say you would all be proud of them. They're enormously well
trained, and their morale is exceedingly high. The rest of the world is
really in awe of the quality of United States troops. I've visited them
in Kuwait. I've visited them in Haiti. I'll be visiting them soon, I
believe, in Bosnia.
So we don't expect them to fail. They were not trained to fail. We
expect that United States forces will carry out their role in Bosnia,
which is to separate the forces and provide an opportunity for the
civilian tasks to go forward. Not to do the civilian tasks, but provide
the environment for that.
I talked to General Shalikashvili about it as recently as yesterday
morning at breakfast, and he feels confident that we're going to be able
to perform our tasks there. Surely you'll read things in the papers
about this provision not being fully complied with or that not being
fully complied with. But so far the compliance level looks high. I
would expect the separation of forces to take place, and I think the
more they see of American troops, the less likely they are to want to
take them on.
I suppose it's possible to imagine a contingency where war would break
out there again if the parties conclude that they don't want to keep the
Dayton agreement. There's little that we can probably do at the end.
Of course, we can deal with sporadic violence. We can deal with rogue
But if the parties themselves decided they wanted to go back to war,
which I do not expect, then, of course, it would have to be another NATO
decision as to what might be done about that. But let me say that my
own experience with the parties and after many, many long hours and days
in negotiations in Dayton, I think the parties have come to the point
where they're war weary. The war fatigue is enormous. I think as the
leaders get out among their people, they're going to see even more war
fatigue than their leaders themselves have.
MR. NYE: This will have to be our last question if we'll keep the
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary. My name is Carlton Larson.
I'm a junior in Harvard College. I bring your greetings from
southwestern North Dakota. My home town of Dickinson is about 80 miles
from your home town.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: That's wonderful. That's terrific. (Laughter)
QUESTION: And we wish you would come back and visit us. We know that
Bosnia and Israel are much exciting destinations, but perhaps --
(laughter) -- perhaps you could fit it in.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: You know, I hope to go to Medora some time this
QUESTION: That would be great.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Medora is in the Bad Lands in southwestern North
QUESTION: My question relates to a point the previous gentleman brought
up, and that is the support for USAID, which I think was a critical
element of foreign policy and which I didn't hear anything about in your
speech. I was curious as to just how strong a priority support for that
program is from the State Department and how critical you view that in
terms of achieving our other overall foreign policy objectives.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I tried to cover so many things in my speech
that there's only a phrase there, but I do lament that Congress has not
supported our international programs abroad, and probably USAID is our
most important of them. It's a very high priority for us.
We do need to fuel those programs. We get so much value for relatively
modest programs. We gain so much in terms of influence, but we also
gain in terms of long-term prosperity of those countries who become very
good customers of the United States. There's just example after
Take South Korea, which was an aid recipient at an earlier time -- now
there's more trade with South Korea in a single year than our entire aid
program over 15 or 20 years. So it's a very good investment for the
United States. I hope we can persuade the Congress of that. It will be
a high priority. Clearly, we're in a very difficult time.
But let me say this: My prediction is that whoever is the next
President -- and I expect that President Clinton will be the next
President as well as the current one -- (applause) -- I believe whoever
is the next President will want to go to the Congress and say, "Look, we
can't do foreign policy on the cheap. We can't lead on the cheap, and
we need to have larger funds so we can carry out our foreign policy in
the interests of the United States."
Thanks very much.
To the top of this page