Washington, 9 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Madeleine Albright is not going to change U.S. foreign policy, but she is likely to be more aggressive in carrying it out when she becomes Secretary of State.
That was the message that President Bill Clinton's nominee for the most senior foreign policy post in Clinton's Administration delivered to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.
"I have been known for my plain speaking, and I am going to tell it like it is, here and when I go abroad," she said.
Albright testified before the committee and received an enthusiastic reception. Even though the committee is controlled by the Republican Party majority in the Senate, the Democratic president's choice for secretary of state was universally welcomed.
Her prepared remarks indicated that she plans to be more energetic and act as an outspoken advocate of U.S. interests. "We must be more than an audience, more even than actors," she said. "We must be the authors of the history of our age."
Albright's nomination is expected to be confirmed without debate by the full 100-member Senate. She will be the first woman in U.S. history to hold the post. Albright is succeeding Warren Christopher, who is returning to private life after serving four years.
Albright is much more popular with members of Congress than Christopher. She won friends on Capitol Hill during her tenure in Clinton's first term as Ambassador to the United Nations, where she led the successful U.S. effort to prevent secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali from serving a second term.
She listed a number of priorities for U.S. foreign policy in the coming years. Chief among them, she made clear, are maintaining the U.S. as "a European power," and following through on the planned expansion of the NATO alliance into central and eastern Europe.
"Our purpose is to do for Europe's East what NATO did 50 years ago for Europe's West," she said, "to integrate new democracies, defeat old hatreds, provide confidence in economic recovery, and deter conflict."
The 16-nation military alliance plans to invite some of its former communist adversaries to become members this summer. The most likely candidates are the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Many other central and eastern European nations also want to join. Albright said an enlarged NATO will not preserve a division of Europe but will "keep open the door to membership to every European nation while building a strong and enduring partnership with all of Europe's democracies, including Russia."
Russia is opposed to the expansion of the alliance, but it has agreed to cooperate with NATO to establish a new relationship based on a charter agreement. Albright said the U.S. is very sensitive to Russian concerns.
"We believe that it is very important to expand NATO, to deal appropriately with the new countries, the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe," she said. "But at the same time we fully understand that one of our key relationships is with Russia, and that we have to establish a relationship between NATO and Russia through a parallel system through this charter."
She added that the U.S. believes it is very important "to have an enhanced relationship also with Ukraine," to ensure "that there is no country group left out" of a security network.
Commenting on the aspirations of the Baltic states to enter NATO, Albright said the U.S. wants to make sure that the Baltic countries -- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- have a sense of security.
She said that is why NATO is working with the Baltic states "to help them be a part of the European framework."
Albright said the issue is to help develop a security system which is not threatening to anybody "in which Russia and Ukraine will have a way of dealing with an expanded NATO."
Albright also told the Senators that she wants to stop the erosion of financial support for the State Department. Budget cuts mandated by the Congress over the past four years have forced the State Department to cut more than 2,000 employees and close more than 30 foreign missions. Foreign assistance that the U.S. provides to other nations has also been reduced by 30 percent.
She urged Congress to restore funding, saying the U.S. needed "first-class diplomacy." Albright said that "force alone can be a blunt instrument and there are many problems it cannot solve."
Albright said the U.S. cannot protect its interests abroad and maintain a leadership role in the world "on the cheap."
"We must invest the resources needed to maintain American leadership," she said. However, she also acknowledged that the U.S. does not have "unlimited resources, nor do we have unlimited responsibilities ... we have to weigh our commitments carefully."