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U.S. International Engagement: A Time of Great Opportunity Statements by Secretary of State Colin Powell on Key Foreign Policy Issues

BG0104E | Date: 2001-05-25

Secretary of State Colin Powell says this is "a time of great opportunity" for the United States because "there is no other ideology...that can truly compete with what we can offer to the world." America, he says, must "use the power we have -- our political power, our diplomatic power, our military power, but especially the power of our ideas -- to remain engaged in the world." Powell became the 65th Secretary of State January 20, after having served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-1993) and as national security adviser during the Reagan administration. The following are excerpts adapted from recent public statements made by Secretary Powell that reflect his perspective on key foreign policy issues confronting the administration of President George W. Bush during his first year in office.

U.S. International Engagement

When I look at today's challenges -- whether it's Iraq, whether it's the Middle East, whether it's weapons of mass destruction, whether it's trafficking in women, whether it's human rights -- what gives me the strength every day to deal with them, and what gives me hope, is the certain knowledge that we have the system that works. It is our system of freedom. It is our system of democracy. It is the free enterprise nature of our economic model. It is our system that believes in the individual rights of men and women.

If we hold true to the principles of our system, and if we keep advocating that system around the world, we are going to continue to reshape this world in a way that will benefit all mankind.

And so I think this is a time of great opportunity for us. There is no other ideology out there that can truly compete with what we can offer to the world. We know it works. It defeated the Soviet Union. And, although we're not unmindful of the challenges that are still there, it is changing China.

And what we have to do is build on our successes and not be afraid of the challenges and the risks, and to use the power we have -- our political power, our diplomatic power, our military power, but especially the power of our ideas -- to remain engaged in the world. And that is exactly what President Bush and his national security team intend to do.

-- Opening Statement before the House
International Relations Committee, March 7


On my first trip (since becoming secretary of state) I not only went to the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, but I came back through Brussels to meet with my NATO colleagues and with my new EU [European Union] partners. It's a different NATO. It's a different Europe than the Europe I knew so well as a soldier during the Cold War, when I stood aside the Fulda Gap waiting for that Soviet Guards Army to come at me....

That's wonderful, but we have to remember that the Alliance is still vital. And the message I gave to them: the United States will remain engaged in this Alliance and with the European Union as well. And we can build it up. It is not going away. It is not going to fall apart. Our European allies may want to look at things like the European Security and Defense Identity [ESDI]. We've made the case that ESDI has to be an essential part of our NATO efforts as well, and we think they understand that. NATO is still alive and well, and that's why nine more countries are standing there waiting to see if they can join this great Alliance.

Why do they (the former Warsaw Pact nations) want to join NATO? Is it to become a partner with their other European friends? Yes. But the real reason: they want to join so that they can have that connection with the bastion of freedom, and that's here in North America, represented by the United States and Canada. That's why they want to be part of NATO, and that's why we have to keep letting this Alliance grow. And I think we have the potential to cause NATO to be that, in the future, which it was in the past: the bulwark of security, peace, and freedom on the Eurasian land mass, and something that Russia will have to deal with. Russia's future is to their west, because they need the technology, the information, the economic know-how that comes from the West.

One of the challenges that NATO is going to have over this spring and summer is to come to some judgment within the Alliance as to the standards we want those nine countries to meet before we consider admitting them into NATO. As you know, with three of those countries in particular, there is a set of sensitivities: the Baltic states and our relationship with Russia.

The basis that membership will ultimately rest upon is this: have they met the standards, can they contribute to the Alliance, are we able to defend them under the provisions of the Alliance, and do they meet especially the standards of democracy and economic reform and stability?

-- Testimony before the House International Relations Committee, March 7,
and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, March 8

Balkans Peacekeeping

The United States is committed to the success of peacekeeping forces in the Balkans. With our NATO allies, we will review carefully and on a regular basis the right types and levels of our forces. We are determined to meet our commitments to stability in the region, and we would avoid any steps that would jeopardize the Alliance's success so far. We are committed to ensuring that as we review our force posture in the Balkans, we do so in full consultation with our NATO allies. The simple proposition is that "we went in together, we will come out together," and in the process of doing so, make sure that we have the right mixture of balance of forces at all times.

-- Joint Press Conference with NATO Secretary General
George Robertson, Brussels, February 27


We have made it clear to all the leaders in the region, and [to] those who...are trying to disrupt progress -- those who act as radicals and try to disturb the practice of democracy...that we will stand with the Macedonian government. We made it clear that we will support the territorial integrity of Macedonia. We made it clear that we will work closely with that government, that is a coalition government, so that it is not shattered by this kind of gangster activity within Macedonia, spilling over from Kosovo.

American troops, alongside their NATO colleagues, will do everything they can to patrol the Kosovo side of that border, to stop the infiltrators from coming in and putting this nation at risk. We will engage diplomatically in every way possible to make sure that Macedonia can stand free and democratic, and free to choose its own future without being disturbed or upset by these kinds of armed radical elements.

-- Remarks to the National Newspaper Association, March 23


We want to be good friends with Russia. We're not standing back from Russia. We are not looking for ways to offend Russia, but we have made it clear to our Russian counterparts that it is a mature relationship, and we have to speak candidly to one another....

There was a problem this week [the week of March 19], a problem that had to be dealt with...having to do with an [American] spy by the name of [Robert] Hanssen. As we examined that case, and as we also examined a continuing problem that we have had with Russia concerning the level of their intelligence presence here, we decided that we had to respond. [The United States responded to the discovery that senior Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Robert Hanssen had been spying for the Russians since 1985 by announcing the expulsion of about 50 Russian diplomats.]

We responded in a way that was measured, realistic, practical, and as far as we are concerned, that ended the matter. And it is not part of a great scheme; it was a stand-alone problem we had to deal with. We didn't shrink from it. We didn't walk away from it. We dealt with it in a realistic way.

And I had a long talk with Minister [of Foreign Affairs Igor] Ivanov about it, and he of course expressed his view on it in very, very strong terms....

And we will get through this, because the world needs a good relationship between Russia and the United States. The world needs us to explore all of these issues of concern together: bilateral relations, trade relations, regional problems, weapons, missile defense -- all of those will be discussed.

-- Remarks to the National Newspaper Association, March 23


China is a giant trying to find its way in the world, with a communist leadership still, yet with distinctly Chinese textures that belie any real categorization other than capitalism now weaves a strong strain throughout. Our challenge with China is to do what we can that is constructive, that is helpful, and that is in our interests. Japan, South Korea, Australia, and our other allies and friends in the region have a stake in this process of nurturing a constructive relationship -- and we will want to work with them in responding to a dynamic China.

With full membership in the World Trade Organization, with increasingly responsible behavior in the region and in the world, and most vitally with increased freedom for the Chinese people, China may yet fulfill the promise that Sun Yat-sen began almost a hundred years ago. But in the meantime, we will treat China as she merits. A strategic partner China is not. But neither is China our inevitable and implacable foe. China is a competitor and a potential regional rival, but also a trading partner willing to cooperate in the areas -- such as Korea -- where our strategic interests overlap. China is all of these things; but China is not an enemy and our challenge is to keep it that way.

The U.S. has long acknowledged the view that there is only one China. In that respect, Taiwan is part of China. How the PRC (People's Republic of China) and Taiwan resolve the differences in interpretation of that view is up to them -- so long as military force is not one of the methods used. In the meantime, we will stand by Taiwan and we will provide for its defense needs in accordance with our Taiwan Relations Act, which is the foundation for our commitment to that hardworking and prosperous democracy. Let all who doubt, from whatever perspective, be assured of one solid truth: We expect and demand a peaceful settlement, one acceptable to people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. This is one of the fundamentals that we feel strongly about and that all should be absolutely clear about.

-- Opening Statement, Confirmation hearing before
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, January 17

Visit of China's Vice Premier Qian Qichen

We had an excellent series of meetings [March 21-22 in Washington] with China's Vice Premier Qichen, who...was open [and] wanted to hear from the new administration. He wanted to convey very strong feelings about what's happening in their economy. He wanted to make sure we understood their concern with respect to Taiwan, and we made sure he understood our concern.

We were not looking for a single word to describe this complex relationship, but to acknowledge that it is a complex relationship. We are trading partners, we will be regional competitors, but there is so much we can work on together, and must work on together, to try to bring China more into the international global community, to get accession to the World Trade Organization. And together, we can leave the past behind and move forward in more positive ways, more positive directions, while protecting our respective interests.

-- Remarks to the National Newspaper Association, March 23

North Korea

North Korea is a regime that is despotic; it is broken. We have no illusions about this regime. We have no illusions about the nature of the gentleman who runs North Korea. He is a despot, but he is also sitting on a failed society that has to somehow begin opening if it is not to collapse. Once it's opened, it may well collapse anyway.

President Bush has indicated that he appreciates what South Korean President Kim Dae Jung has done with respect to opening that window, as it is often referred to (in meeting with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Il in June, 2000), and supports him and supports the additional things he's going to be doing this year...while at the same time, we'll review what it is we plan to do with respect to our engagement with North Korea, when we decide it is the appropriate time to re-engage.

At the same time, we have expressed in the strongest possible terms our concerns about North Korea's efforts toward development of weapons of mass destruction and the proliferation of such weapons and missiles and other materials to other nations, not only in the region but around the world. A major source of proliferation.

And as we look at the elements of the negotiation that the previous administration had left behind, there are some things there that are very promising. What was not there was a monitoring and verification regime of the kind that we would have to have in order to move forward in negotiations with such a regime.

And the North Koreans had not engaged on that in any serious way in the period of the Clinton administration.

And so what the President has said is that we are going to take our time, we're going to put together a comprehensive policy, and in due course, at a time and at a pace of our choosing, we will decide and determine how best to engage with the North Korean regime.

-- Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, March 8

Middle East

In the Middle East, we have a major challenge to the peace process. I applaud the commitment of our past presidents in their tireless efforts to help find a resolution to this half-century-old conflict with its roots in antiquity. President Bush shares this goal. We seek a lasting peace based on unshakable support for the security of Israel, the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people, our friendships in the Arab world, and a hard-headed recognition that the parties themselves must make the peace.

We deplore the increased violence in the area and encourage the parties to do everything possible to bring it to an end. You can't successfully pursue peace in the midst of such violence. We also pledge to focus our own efforts on the region as a whole and not just on the peace process itself. We are ready to work with all the parties in the region to achieve a comprehensive solution. Peace for Israel means peace with all her neighbors, Syria included, where we need to build on the opportunity created by Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon.

-- Opening Statement, Confirmation hearing before
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, January 17

Sharon Visit

[Israeli] Prime Minister Sharon was [in Washington March 20], and we had very, very open, candid talks between two friends. We made sure that Israel understood our complete commitment to their security....And at the same time, we talked about what we should try to do -- working with our Arab friends in the region, working with Chairman Arafat -- to get the violence...under control, both sides showing all the restraint possible to get things to a lower level so that economic activity can pick up again and people can once again feel safe and secure in their neighborhoods.

Let's get security cooperation and coordination going again between the two sides. And then when we have a more stable situation, we can take action to begin discussions toward peace once more, something that both sides want, something that both peoples need in order for them to share this blessed land together.

-- Remarks to the National Newspaper Association, March 23


The situation in Iraq was the principal purpose of my trip throughout the Persian Gulf and Middle East area in February. When the Bush administration took over on the 20th of January, I discovered that we had an Iraq policy that was in disarray. We were losing support for the UN sanctions regime that had served so well over the last 10 years.

It seemed to me the first thing we had to do was to change the nature of the debate. We were being falsely accused, and we were taking on the burden, of hurting Iraqi people, hurting Iraqi children, and we needed to turn that around. The purpose of these sanctions was to go after weapons of mass destruction.

So let's start talking about how the Iraqi regime is threatening children, their own children and the children of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and Syria and all over the region, how they were in danger (because) of what Saddam Hussein was doing, and take away the argument he was using against us.

We then had to take a look at the sanctions themselves. Were they being used to go after weapons of mass destruction or, increasingly, were those sanctions starting to look as if they were hurting the Iraqi people? And it seems to me one approach to this was to eliminate those items in the sanctions regime that really were of civilian use and benefited people, and focus the sanctions exclusively on weapons of mass destruction and items that could be directed toward the development of weapons of mass destruction.

I carried that message around the region and I found that our Arab friends in the region, as well as members of the Perm Five (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia), as well as a number of my colleagues in NATO, found this to be a very attractive approach and felt that we should continue down this line. Let's see if there is a better way to use these sanctions to go after weapons of mass destruction and take away the argument we have given him that we are somehow hurting the Iraqi people. He is hurting the Iraqi people, not us.

There is more than enough money available to the regime now to take care of the needs they have. No more money comes in as a result of a change to this new kind of sanctions policy, but there is greater flexibility for the regime, if they choose, to use that flexibility to take care of the needs of its people.

How do we get out of this sanctions regime ultimately? The inspectors have to go back in. If he wants to get out of this, if he wants to regain control of the Oil-for-Food escrow accounts, the only way that can happen is for the inspectors to go back in. But rather than us begging him to let the inspectors in, the burden is now on him. We control the money; we will continue to restrict weapons of mass destruction; you no longer have an argument, Mr. Iraqi Regime, that we are hurting your people.

If the inspectors get in, do their job, we're satisfied with their first look at things, maybe we can suspend the sanctions. And then at some point in the future, when we're absolutely satisfied there are no such weapons (of mass destruction) around, then maybe we can consider lifting (the sanctions). But that is a long way in the future. So this wasn't an effort to ease the sanctions; this was an effort to rescue the sanctions policy that was collapsing.

As part of this approach to the problem, we would also make sure that the Iraqi regime understood that we reserve the right to strike militarily any activity out there, any facility we find that is inconsistent with their obligations to get rid of such weapons of mass destruction.

That takes care of the UN piece. On the no-fly zones, we're reviewing our policies to see if we are operating those in the most effective way possible. And with respect to the Iraqi opposition activities, we are supporting those. Our principal avenue of support is with the Iraqi National Congress, and last week I released more of the money that had been made available to us by the Congress for their activities. And we're looking at what more we can support and what other opposition activities are available that we might bring into this strategy of regime change.

And so I think it is a comprehensive, full review to bring the coalition back together, put the burden on the Iraqi regime, keep focused on what is important -- weapons of mass destruction -- and keep him isolated and make sure that he is contained. And hopefully, the day will come when circumstances will allow, permit, or it will happen within Iraq, we see a regime change that will be better for the world.

-- Opening Statement before the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, March 8
Western Hemisphere

It was no accident that President Bush's first meetings were with Prime Minister Chretien of Canada and President Fox of Mexico. We understand how important Mexico is to us -- our second largest trading partner after Canada. And we have begun work with President Fox to start a new way of approaching mutual problems. I will be chairing committees that were formed at that summit to deal with the problems of immigration. NAFTA [North American Free Trade Association] is the great engine that can help break down barriers and give opportunities to Mexico to provide jobs in Mexico for Mexicans and deal with the immigration problem that we all face.

We are going to be committed to an Andean plan, going beyond Plan Colombia, in order to make sure that we deal with the drug supply problem in that part of the world. It's the same reason that we're looking forward to the April Summit of the Americas in Quebec, where all of the democratic nations of this hemisphere will come together to talk about democracy and education. Those are the two principal agenda items. And then we'll talk about trade and a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas so that we will be linked from the top of our hemisphere to the bottom, with trade barriers going down for the purpose of all the nations of this hemisphere getting access to information about technology and the wealth-creating potential of the free enterprise/free trade system.

-- Opening Statement before the House
International Relations Committee, March 7


We need to maintain our outreach to Africa -- and with more substance. One of the most important actions the Congress undertook this past year was the passage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. Free trade is important the world over, but different regions require different formulas for fostering free trade. This Act is the right way to begin to bring Africa into the more prosperous world of free-flowing capital and open markets.

With powerful economies such as South Africa's, and eventually Nigeria's and other transforming African states, we can begin to change the lives of Africa's poorest peoples. We know also that Africans must do more for themselves. In Nigeria, this means full speed ahead with privatization and opening further the Nigerian economy. In Sierra Leone, Liberia, Angola, the Congo, and elsewhere, this means stopping the killing, taking the weapons out of the hands of children, ending corruption, seeking compromises, and beginning to work in peace and dialogue rather than war and killing. It means giving the profits from oil and diamonds and other precious resources to schools and hospitals and decent roads instead of to bombs, bullets, and feuding warlords.

-- Opening Statement, Confirmation hearing before
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, January 17