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27 July 2004

Stay the Course in Iraq, Afghanistan, Powell Urges Hungarians

Secretary of states addresses chiefs-of-mission conference in Budapest

The U.S.-led coalition "did the right thing" by removing Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, Secretary of State Colin Powell told a conference of Hungarian ambassadors accredited to nations throughout the world in Budapest, Hungary, July 27.

Praising Hungary for having stood firm in the coalition in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq, he said, "we must not let these insurgents deny the people of Afghanistan and the people of Iraq the better future that they deserve."

Powell, in Hungary on the first stop of a week-long trip to Europe and the Middle East, acknowledged being troubled by the recent spate of kidnappings in Iraq. Citing Bulgaria as an example of the courage and conviction needed today, he related how after the murder of two kidnapped Bulgarians, there was pressure on the Bulgarian government to withdraw from the coalition. But, he said, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy told him "the people of Bulgaria will not let kidnappers hold hostage the freedom of 8 million Bulgarians in addition to the two they murdered."

America's partners in Central Europe "know what courage is," Powell said, adding it is "that kind of courage that will be needed, it is that kind of steadfastness that will be needed as we move forward to bring stability and peace to Iraq and Afghanistan and to bring a better life to the peoples of those two countries."

Noting that all 10 of the post-Cold War members of NATO stand with the United States on the ground in either Afghanistan or Iraq -- most of them are in both places -- Powell said, "These contributions are significant regardless of the size of the contribution. The value of the contribution far outstrips its size."

"We must not be faint-hearted in the face of current challenges," he told the Hungarian diplomats. "We must not waver or lose patience. We must stay the course for freedom and in the face of danger."

The secretary urged Hungary and other nations in central Europe to bring their own special talents to bear on global problems.

Hungary, he said, has "strong comparative advantages in political reform, market reform, education, water resource management, technological skills and agricultural innovation." Slovakia has shown "how to fight corruption, how to attract foreign investment, how to modernize a security force." The Czech Republic is "a leader in promoting civil liberties and human rights." And Poles are "expert at revitalizing labor policy and reforming unemployment systems."

Powell concluded by saying, "The loans that you give to others in terms of encouragement, in terms of courage, those loans will be repaid manyfold. That has been America's reward from central Europe, and that will be central Europe's reward to the world."

Following is the State Department transcript of the secretary's remarks and his answers to several questions from the audience:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
(Cairo, Egypt)
July 28, 2004

REMARKS BY SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL AND HUNGARIAN FOREIGN MINISTER LASZLO KOVACS AT THE HUNGARIAN CHIEFS OF MISSION CONFERENCE

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Budapest, Hungary
July 27, 2004

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Laszlo, for your kind words and your gracious hospitality. It's an honor for me to be here today and to have the opportunity to speak to this distinguished group of diplomats. And I am especially honored to be here just a few minutes after the speaker of your parliament presented me with the award. I am deeply honored to have been so recognized, and I recognize also that the honor reflects the depth of friendship that exists between the American people and the Hungarian people: a friendship that is unshakable; a friendship that has gone through difficult times; a friendship that will not be changed by Hungary becoming a part of the European Union, as Laszlo says, there is no competition here. We know that Hungary belongs in the European Union, should be in the European Union, will be an active and contributing member of the European Union. And rather than this being anything that is competitive with Hungary's bilateral relationship with the United States, it's quite the contrary. I think it will strengthen the relationship with the United States.

And what an honor to speak to all of the Ambassadors of Hungary, accredited to nations throughout the world. When I talk to Ambassadors in the United States, my ambassadors, the President's ambassadors, I refer to them as my battalion commanders. Now my wife warned me when I came back into government as Secretary of State, she said, "You're not in the army any more. Stop using all these military terms. Stop calling all the people in the State Department your troops. Stop calling the ambassadors battalion commanders." But I can't break the habit of 35 years of experience. But I also found that the terms are not off the mark. I view all of the wonderful young people who work for me in the State Department as my troops. Even those who are perhaps not so young anymore, I view as my troops. And the leaders of those troops are ambassadors: those who go out to nations far and wide who are in the thick of things -- right on the edge of history in the making. You're not just the eyes and ears of your nation abroad, you're also the vanguard of your nation's interests and your nation's values.

Laszlo and I can sit in our offices and we can write speeches and we can put out directives and we can give all kinds of guidance, but that means nothing until our ambassadors, our battalion commanders and the troops under their direction at the many missions of the world convey those values, convey those ideas to the nations to which you are accredited. Your work is so important, so valuable. I wish you all continued success as you carry forward the foreign policy of your nation, articulated to you by your President and Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, but really it's the foreign policy of your people as they have expressed their desires through the election of your parliament, the election of your leaders.

I was last here in Budapest in May of 2001, early in my tenure as Secretary of State. In so many ways, that was a different era just three years ago. It was before September 11 in the United States; it was before March 11 in Madrid: these two catastrophic events, meaning so much to Europe and to the United States. It was also before two dangerous regimes were eliminated -- one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq -- brought down by a coalition of nations that were determined to defend their people, to implement the will of the international community and to advance the cause of freedom in the world. May 2001 was also before the historic enlargements of both the European Union and NATO, changes of a different but positive kind.

So much has changed that what's different seems to far outweigh that which has stayed the same. What has not changed, thankfully, is that Budapest is still beautiful, still welcoming, still full of enthusiasm, still full of talent. What also has not changed is the continuing upward path of progress that we see in all of Central Europe. Your economies are growing stronger. Your arts are flourishing. Your educational institutions are maturing. And the dynamism of your political life is evident for all to see here in Hungary and throughout this part of Europe.

The United States has worked hard to support these achievements over the years. The United States has walked with you along this path over the last 15 years and so we share some of the pride you deservedly feel in your accomplishments. President Bush from the very beginning of his Administration has demonstrated an abiding interest in central Europe. As you know, one of his first trips abroad was to this region. In Warsaw in June of 2001, the President outlined our shared vision for Europe, one that you are turning into a reality. The President spoke then of a "Europe whole, free and at peace," a refrain that he has repeated many times since. He spoke of erasing artificial boundaries. He asked European leaders to think big, to consider an enlargement of NATO from the Baltic to the Black Sea. And he strongly encouraged the historic enlargement of the European Union.

I remember in those early days of 2001 when we were examining the prospect of another NATO enlargement and the President and I were sitting in the Oval Office one day talking about how many nations should come in, should it be a big bang, a little bang, one, two, three, four? How many nations should come in? And we talked about it for a few moments and came to the same conclusion: that as many should come in as are qualified to come in. Let NATO not constrain itself, let NATO not let anyone remain outside this alliance who is qualified to come in and to be a contributing member of that alliance. And we've now made great strides in that vision. NATO is at 26, the European Union is at 25. Two vibrant thriving organizations and these two great interlocked alliances of nations with so many members in common now work together on an ever-widening range of issues, working more intensely than ever before. And both alliances maintain open and welcoming doors to receive more members in the future.

Both NATO and the EU have also crafted new productive links with Russia and other countries once a part of the Soviet Union. The speed with which all of this is happening will stun future historians, as they pause to reflect years from now on what has happened. It has stunned this soldier-turned-diplomat. Just 15 years ago in 1989, I was still a soldier, four stars, just become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Armed Forces of the United States, having given up the position of National Security Advisor to President Reagan. But in the two years I worked with President Reagan at the end of his Administration as a three-star General National Security advisor I participated in so many meetings with Mr. Gorbachev and other Russian leaders and we could see what was happening. We could see what the effects of Glasnost and Perestroika would be. We could see that something historic and dynamic and unbelievable was about to happen, and then since 1989 I have watched with all of you the cold war come to an end, the Soviet Union come to an end. I have watched all of this happen, I have watched free people rise up and watched parliaments form, seen political parties that used to be contained and constrained into one way of thinking, only one party states explode into multiple points of view. I have watched all this as a soldier, now I have watched it for the past three and a half years as a diplomat -- watched it with amazement, watched it with pride, watched it with pleasure as free people spoke out in the manner in which they wished to be led.

Progress throughout central and eastern Europe, and of course in the former Soviet Union, at the same time was shadowed by an undertone of uncertainty. Would it all work? Would it have all come out right? Did we know how to follow this path and create a path into a brighter future? That undertone, that uncertainty is now faded to the point of vanishing altogether. Your vision has been clear, your choices have been the right ones, and you've achieved your major goals. Hungary, as with all of central Europe, has embraced freedom -- freedom of the mind, freedom of politics, and freedom of the marketplace. And your freedom is now solidly anchored in Europe through EU membership, and in the trans-Atlantic community through membership in NATO.

Hungary has also embraced bilateral partnerships with its immediate neighbors. Each of these free and voluntary associations of nations complement each other. They do not compete with each other, but complement each other and each of them undergirds Hungary's active participation in the work of the United Nations, the OSCE, and other international organizations.

As with any nation, Hungary's future peace and prosperity will continue to require hard work and sacrifice. But Hungary and its neighbors understand well the meaning of both work and sacrifice. The evidence is everywhere to be seen. And everywhere we see Hungary is making the right choices. Hungary is working to bring stability to the Balkans. Hungary is an ally to its European friends and to the United States in the war against terrorism. Hungary is part of the international coalition working to rebuild Afghanistan. And Hungary is part of the coalition that is helping to bring peace and democracy to Iraq.

Indeed, all ten of the post-cold war members of NATO stand with the United States on the ground in either Afghanistan or Iraq -- most of them are in both places. These contributions are significant regardless of the size of the contribution. The value of the contribution far outstrips its size.

All of these nations have come forward; all are prepared to sacrifice for the common good, and all understand that their own national interest is bound up in that common good. And reaching out beyond Europe to help others in need. And the reason for that, I think, is quite clear. We've done the right thing in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We brought down oppressive and dangerous and dictatorial regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. We've liberated 55 million people from dictatorial nightmares.

In Afghanistan, there will be an election in October. In Iraq, there will be an election by early next year. In both nations, it will be the first time, ever, that the people of these countries -- all of the people -- will have a chance to elect their own leaders in a truly free and fair manner. They will be empowered as citizens for the first time. They will have control over government, instead of being mere objects to be controlled by a brutal, dictatorial government.

It's been a struggle in both countries to clear away the detritus of the old order. There are still forces in Afghanistan and Iraq that wish to derail the advent of freedom and democracy, who want to drag their countries back to forms of tyranny that serve the needs of only a few warlords of the previously privileged tyrants. These forces of insurgency against freedom are bound to fail, will fail, will be defeated. But such struggles are always bitter, and almost always very difficult.

You've your own experience in this part of the world with struggles for freedom. From the dark days that shadowed this city in October of 1956, it took more than 30 years for your heroism to be vindicated, for Hungary to be free. It won't take that long for the hope in the hearts of the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq to be vindicated, because the forces of freedom in the world are now stronger than ever.

Hungary and its neighbors were once subjugated and tethered to the wrong side of history. Now you are free, and you are an integral and valuable part of the right side of history. We must not be faint-hearted in the face of current challenges. We must not waver or lose patience. We must stay the course for freedom and in the face of danger.

Let there be no question about the fact we did the right thing. There is much debate, and I know there is much public opinion that says we did not do the right thing in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan we found a regime that had been taken over by terrorists and those terrorists attacked America on 9/11, killing 3,000 people who had gone to work that day, destroying part of the Pentagon and they were intent on destroying other buildings in Washington if that third plane had been successful, fourth plane had been successful. We had to go and deal with those terrorists and we did. And we were joined by nations who understood the threat this kind of terrorism presented.

In Iraq we had a nation that for twelve years had ignored resolutions of the international community that was sponsoring terrorism. A regime that had used weapons of mass destruction against its own people, against its neighbors. It is an historic fact that had the intention and the capability to have such weapons and to develop more weapons if ever released from the pressure of the international community and of international sanctions.

We did the right thing by pulling together a coalition under the authority of UN resolution 1441 and dealing with the regime. There are these insurgent elements who do not want to see freedom, that do not want to see elections, do not want to see peace and every day they are attacking. They are attacking policemen who want to protect their own people, they're attacking officials who were stepping forward just as your officials stepped forward boldly years ago to take on tyrants and to face danger. Those are the ones being attacked and those are the ones that we must stand alongside and stand for, and we must not let these insurgents deny the people of Afghanistan and the people of Iraq the better future that they deserve. We see these kidnappings and they also trouble us. And some people have said, "well, it's too hard, let's pull back, let's not go any further." I'm pleased that so many members, most members of the coalition have stood firm. Hungary has stood firm.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy visited me in Washington last week, and something he said exemplified the courage and the conviction that all of us need to keep foremost in our mind. He was deeply concerned over the two kidnapped Bulgarians. Both of them had been murdered, they had been beheaded. And there was pressure on the Bulgarian government with respect to its policies and whether they should stay. Foreign Minister Passy said that while all Bulgarians and all civilized people were saddened by what happened, the people of Bulgaria will not let kidnappers hold hostage the freedom of eight million Bulgarians in addition to the two they murdered. It's that kind of courage that will be needed, it is that kind of steadfastness that will be needed as we move forward to bring stability and peace to Iraq and Afghanistan and to bring a better life to the peoples of those two countries.

Your experience has prepared you uniquely in practical ways. We need not only the boost from your spirit, but also your ideas, and your skills. Hungary has made the complete transition from a one-party state to a full-fledged, dynamic, multi-party democracy. Hungary has emerged as a donor of foreign aid, with its own new internal development corporation inside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Taken together, Hungary and the countries of central and eastern Europe have the most current successful experience with political transformation. You have earned the confidence to manage economic and social change for your peoples. And these are precisely the skills most in demand today if nations in the Balkans, in the Middle East and elsewhere are to achieve their own political destinies in peace and freedom. Your skills match the needs of an era in which human capital, social trust, and institutional capacity are more important to national success than the old sinews of heavy industries and iron-bound war machines.

When people gain a real stake in their own societies they begin to care deeply about the political arrangements that affect them. They want a voice in those arrangements. And those arrangements are increasingly inter- and trans-national. We live in a world of expanding democracy where people aspire to decide their own destinies and where even undemocratic regimes are pressured by the forces of change, by the forces of the information revolution, by travel where people can go back and forth and see what other societies look like, or the technology inherent in the internet and by spreading hope where people can live better lives, even in the most totalitarian regimes.

Physical boundaries have become more porous, and global engagement in commerce and people-to-people exchanges of all kinds is greater than ever -- so, the dynamism of democracy is going to flow across these boundaries that used to keep the dynamism out. That dynamism is also affecting the whole context of statecraft: the manner in which you do your work at your embassies around the world. As you know, political leaders can no longer work with one another in isolation from the societies they serve, and apart from the principles their people hold dear. If nothing else, the free media alone of democracy makes that impossible. A free media that is an essential part of a democratic system that keeps track of what the legislature's doing, what the appointed leaders are doing, what the President, Prime Minister and all the members of government are doing. A free media that is sometimes...occasionally, I should say, rather, annoying. But always there, always serving the interests of the people: an essential feature of democracy.

It's no longer just raw power and private bargains that determine the fates of nations. People power in a hundred forms, in a thousand combinations, is changing the character of international politics. This new environment raises new demands on diplomacy. The more issues crowd our agenda because democratic publics won't tolerate in silence massive violations of human rights, even those taking place in far away lands, like Darfur in the Sudan. Nobody can look away from that. All of us have a role to play. And as you have watched in recent days you see both the European Union, including Hungary, and the United States and the UN, all working together to deal with this problem in a far away place that in another time we might just have ignored.

More demands are being made on democratic governments. Because free peoples who share first principles and accept responsibility for each other within their societies are more likely to take responsibility for those who are in trouble away, far away, abroad. Decades ago it wouldn't have been so clear that a disease like HIV/AIDS was a threat to international security. We didn't understand clearly that failing states in remote regions could constitute truly core threats to international security, increasingly our security. We didn't take the full measure of the reality that the repression of women and minorities within the borders of states, or the crimes of trafficking in persons across international boundaries, were everyone's national security problem. We thought we could stand back from these sorts of problems, that we could be simply contained and satisfied within the boundaries of our own nation state. But increasingly we all come to realize that is not the case. All of this was obscured once upon a time when more traditional political-military threats faced us, nuclear arsenals and the like. But today we recognize more clearly the relationship between repression, bad government, violations of human rights and the violence that invariably results from such value systems, such broken poor value systems. We understand better the connection between justice, democracy and freedom to the one side, peace and prosperity to the other. We see that, in the end, global security cannot be separated from global ethics. Nations cannot be safe when millions upon millions of people fear the next sunset.

That's why President Bush has devised the most generous and creative development policies since the Marshall plan, to help people in undeveloped nations. And it is epitomized by the Millennium Challenge Account program, which we have just now begun to implement. In the last month or so, a new corporation, a quasi-governmental corporation that I chair, has awarded almost a billion dollars in monies to 16 developing nations -- nations that are committed to democracy, nations that are committed to open markets, nations that are committed to the rights of its citizens -- will receive this funding to assist them in infrastructure development to keep them on the path of democracy. We are asking our Congress for another two and a half billion dollars for this program this year and by next year we hope we'll get five billion dollars a year, every year, in order to invest in these countries. And the simple reason is that the United States believes it has an obligation on the world stage to assist those nations that want to move forward along the proper path, the path that Hungary has taken. We should have an obligation, just as you know you have an obligation, with the development of your fund inside the Foreign Ministry to assist other nations in need.

Similarly the United States, under President Bush, has led the fight against the biggest weapon of mass destruction on the face of the earth today and that's HIV/AIDS. Recently we announced a $15 billion emergency plan in addition to all of the other funds that we are spending on HIV/AIDS. It would be easy for the United States to say, "this is just a problem here in the United States, let's just worry about the United States," but we no longer have that luxury. None of us have that luxury. We all live on one earth. We are all ultimately all one people. And that's why it's so important that increasingly we reach out and deal with these trans-national problems. It's also why we have participated in other coalitions that don't get the same kind of attention as the coalition in Iraq and Afghanistan gets, but we are working with other coalitions to help in Liberia, to help in Haiti, to help in other places in the world where there is regional havoc. None of these efforts fall into the traditional definition of a great power vital interest. But they are vital, all of them: to international security and to American interests in our increasingly democratized diplomatic environment.

So, yes, these complications make our lives as diplomats much more complicated, but these are complications worth having. I enjoy the complications of my life. As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as a soldier for so many years, when I dealt with Europe there was a Europe that was to the left of the Iron Curtain. I called it the blue side of the map. And there was a Europe that was to the right of the Iron Curtain, and I called it the red side of the map. And it was very easy to understand the rules of the road at that time. All I had to worry about was defeating the Russian Army on the North German plain. That was my life and my mission for so many years. And now, the Iron Curtain is gone. All those landmarks I used to know so well, and knew how to defend, are gone. And instead I have to deal with so many countries that are now free and engaged in the European Union, in NATO, engaged in bilateral relations with the United States. My life is far more complicated. International relations are far more complicated.

But, I say to you here today, "I love it and I would have it no other way." And it is a blessing for the peoples who are now free: free, free nations; free nations working together; free nations that don't harbor or support mass murderers and terrorists; free nations that will never produce concentration camps, gulags; free nations that don't go in for mass graves; free nations that don't tyrannize their own people; democratic publics; military establishments bound to society and the rule of law under civilian leadership; free judicial systems that stand above it all and make sure that everything is done according to constitutional rules and regulations. The new demands of our age are difficult but they pale before the benefits that the trend toward freedom and democracy offers us.

That's why Hungary and its neighbors must continue to build up their partnerships, their partnerships with each other, with all of Europe, and with the United States. We must be full partners in building a free and secure global future. Every nation in this region has special talents that can be brought to bear on the problems that we face and that can be taught to others. We want to help you do that as you reach out.

Hungary has strong comparative advantages in political reform, market reform, education, water resource management, technological skills and agricultural innovation. These are skills that other people who yearn to be free and prosperous need to learn. Hungary's innovative approach to building civil society, with its 1% NGO tax set-aside, is an idea with a future for those countries who need to do such building. The Hungarian model has already been adopted in Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, and many Middle Eastern countries might benefit from a similar financing instrument. Hungary can teach and help others.

Slovakia has shown how to fight corruption, how to attract foreign investment, how to modernize a security force. Slovakia can teach others. The Czech republic is a leader in promoting civil liberties and human rights. It has special skills in using the arts -- theater, film, the fine arts -- to advance social development. The Czechs have developed special medical expertise, as well, and have applied that expertise in Iraq. Poles are expert at revitalizing labor policy and reforming unemployment systems -- and Poland has special expertise in Iraq, as well. Marek Belka, Poland's new Prime Minister, spent most of last year as Director of Economic Policy for the Coalition Provisional Authority. Poland has plenty to teach others.

Clearly, the needs are great, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in much of the broader Middle East. Courage is required to deal with the challenges we face. And America's partners in central Europe know what courage is. It took courage to endure nearly a half century of oppression and not give in to despair. It's taken courage of another kind, but courage nonetheless, to face the unrelenting demands of change in recent years. Therefore, you recognize and you esteem courage in others. You know that it takes courage for a woman in Afghanistan to face danger to register to vote. It takes courage for an Iraqi interpreter to work alongside an international humanitarian organization uncovering mass graves, while some of those who helped fill those graves still lurk in the shadows trying to bring the past back to the present.

Isn't it, therefore, remarkable that notwithstanding these kinds of challenges seven million Afghans have demonstrated the courage needed to vote -- 39% of them women. It is remarkable, too, that 1,800 Iraqis were nominated for just eight positions of the National Election Commission. And despite the fact that bombs are still going off outside of police stations in Iraq, Iraqis still form long lines to become policemen, to protect their people, to protect their country. They know what they want, they know what the future holds for them and they're prepared to fight for that future, and they welcome those of us who have been prepared to stand alongside them in the battle. It's hard to find clearer testimony to the fact that the people of Iraq and of Afghanistan, and so many other people throughout the broader Middle East, want today what you wanted only yesterday. They are truly displaying a remarkable courage and they deserve our help, just as Hungary and its neighbors deserved help in the past.

The west as a whole did not yield to fear or faithlessness. We stood by Hungary and its neighbors behind the Iron Curtain, never losing either our nerve or our confidence in the eventual outcome. And now, Hungary and its neighbors are helping those destined to ride the next wave of freedom and democracy. That wave will come. It will come because we will labor to deepen the peace and prosperity of Europe, and of the world. We need you. You need us. Vast stretches of our planet need us both, working together.

My friends, let me close by again expressing my gratitude to everyone in this room for all you do. All you do, not just for Hungary, not just for Europe, but for the future of people everywhere. For the future of freedom everywhere.

Hungary is the herald of a new age, a better age -- for some, an unexpected herald. Your experience with democracy was brief and mixed before World War II. After World War II, an external force pressed down hard against a democratic future here. But that was a pessimism undeserved. Look what's happened, and in so short a period of time. Hungary: free and democratic. So are the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, and Poland. So are Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. You have all shown the world that the spirit of freedom and democracy, and of justice and compassion, will triumph whenever and wherever people are given a real choice.

So, ambassadors spread the word, my battalion commanders. Share your experience. Lend your courage and your encouragement, for you are the ambassadors of freedom. You bear witness to what is possible. The loans that you give to others in terms of encouragement, in terms of courage, those loans will be repaid manyfold. That has been America's reward from central Europe, and that will be central Europe's reward to the world. So, I congratulate you for all you are doing for the cause of peace and freedom throughout the world and I wish you continued success.

Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER KOVACS: Thank you, Colin, very much for your views which you shared with us. I want to make three short remarks or comments: first, I do agree with you that the world based on bi-polarity was much more simple. It gave more jobs to the soldiers and much less jobs to the diplomats. Now it's just the other way around, but it's much better, much cheaper, and it brings us much better future. The second remark I want to make is that your address clearly demonstrated to all of us that you do understand not only the current issues of Hungary and the region, but you do understand the history, the historic background; it certainly helps you to make a more profound vision for the region, and thank you for that. And, third, your kind words about our contribution to the stabilization in Iraq or in Afghanistan encourages me to say that we are going to continue that our soldiers are there in Iraq, 300 troops, and our soldiers are now there in Afghanistan participating in the NATO mission and the extension of the NATO mission. But, we are eager to see the next phase of our contribution, to participate in the economic reconstruction of these two countries, but also to building democracy. And that encourages me to raise one issue with you in front of the heads of our diplomatic missions. I think we could discuss a project to establish in Budapest a kind of international institution for democracy. In order to project democracy, based on our experiences, not only the experiences of Hungary that you praise, but also the experiences of other countries in the region, because we have rich experiences in the political and economic transition. And I think we would all be eager to share it with those countries that are still lagging behind. And I think that could be a very fair contribution to a more stable, more democratic world.

Thank you very much for your work, Colin, and I understand you are ready to receive a few questions and I do encourage my colleagues to take the floor. So, those who want to take the floor please raise your hand. Who will be the first one?

Ambassador Attish, a former envoy, a former Ambassador to the UN and now the Ambassador to Paris.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary of State, I am asking this question, not because I'm the commander of the Hungarian contingent deployed in France...that's important to understand. You spoke about the trans-Atlantic relationship and my question relates to that issue. Let's admit it has not been an easy story. For the last one and a half years we've gone through a lot of difficulties, problems, divisions. And Europe today does a lot of soul searching and because the United States plays such a tremendous role in the life of this world, my question to you is this: are you confident, Mr. Secretary of State, that the United States will be able to draw the right conclusions, the right necessary lessons from what happened in the recent period of time? Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: We are not unmindful that some of the actions that we have taken in recent years were not publicly applauded in Europe. I can read the polls as well as anyone and here I mean polls small 'p.' P-O-L-L-S. But, I believe we can learn from recent lessons. I think we have to demonstrate more publicly the fact that we are committed to multilateralism. That if you look at what we have done over the last three years, you will see more of a multilateralist bent to U.S. policy than a unilateralist bent to U.S. policy. I know there was unhappiness over Kyoto, there was unhappiness over the ICC. I don't think anybody would disagree with what we had to do in Afghanistan, but there was unhappiness over the manner in which we dealt with Iraq. At the same time, we worked hard for the expansion of NATO; we supported the expansion of the European Union; we are working with the IAEA, with the European Union and, in particular, three Foreign Ministers of the European Union to deal with the nuclear problem in Iran. There is no American army on the march, we are working that problem diplomatically.

We worked with the United Kingdom and then ultimately with the International Atomic Energy Agency to deal with Libya when Libya decided that it was no longer worth having these weapons of mass destruction and they wanted to make a strategic change. There was no invasion. There was a diplomatic solution and now one less country is moving down the path of developing weapons of mass destruction.

When you look at North Korea, there is no American army on the march. What did we do? We mobilized North Korea's neighbors [Russia, China, South Korea, Japan] to join the United States and to join with North Korea in finding a peaceful solution. When you look at what we have done with respect to trade -- bilateral trade agreements, expansion of the Doha Round, working to reduce trade barriers around the world, not to protect ours, but to reduce trade barriers; extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act to give African nations more access to U.S. markets -- these are not the actions of a nation trying to shut someone out, the actions of a nation trying to bring more people in to the international community. When you look at what we have done with respect to our aid programs, you see a nation that is not unilateral and isolationist, but a nation that is reaching out. We want to help more and more nations on to a path of democracy. When you look at, as I mentioned, what we've done with HIV/AIDS, it's another area where we have reached out.

So, when you look at what we have actually been doing over the last three years, you make a balance sheet analysis of it, while there has been some disappointment and we have garnered quite a bit of negative reaction in, among European publics for our policies, if you look at our policies across the board you will see a nation, an Administration, a President, a Secretary of State, that believes in international organizations, that works with the United Nations, that works with the EU, works within NATO, works with other regional organizations -- the Organization of American States and so many others -- to try to solve problems. You also see a nation, however, that when it believes it has a duty to protect its people or to protect its interest or the interest of its friends around the world, and you cannot garner an international blessing for that, but nevertheless, the danger is so real that we have to act, we are prepared to act. And we're prepared to act when we think we are doing the right thing in the interest of peace and in the security of our people and the security for our people.

I believe that the attitudes that we're seeing in Europe now will be dealt with and will dissipate in due course when the insurgency is brought under control in Iraq. And when this insurgency is brought under control in Iraq you will see that the political process moves ahead rapidly. The United States has no interest in staying in Iraq. We do not demand sovereignty over Iraq. We do not want Iraq's oil. Iraq's oil belongs to the Iraqi people for them to use as they see fit, to build a better life for the Iraqi people. Saddam Hussein used that oil revenue to build weapons and to destroy his own society, and to build palaces. We're going to give the Iraqi people an opportunity to use that oil and the revenue from that oil for good.

So, what we are doing we are not apologetic about. What we have done is remove a regime that was filling mass graves, that was just destroying a country, that was a threat to the region and a threat to the world. And what we are doing is putting into place, when this insurgency is dealt with, is a nation that is on the path to democracy and freedom, a path a little bit dissimilar from the path you followed, but going toward the same goals. And so, we will continue to take our case to the international community and to international public opinion, but we have no doubt that what we did was right and what our coalition partners did was right and that standing together, we are doing the right thing for the people of Iraq. And just image the alternative. Because these old elements of the former regime want to go back to totalitarian times, want to destroy their country again -- we're supposed to let them? We're supposed to get weak-kneed and walk away from the challenge? We can't do that. We won't do that. We won't do that because it's inconsistent with our beliefs and inconsistent with doing what's right and it would be unfair to the Iraqi people to deny them this chance they have for peace and freedom.

The road ahead will be challenging and difficult. Your road ahead, when you looked at it years ago, looked challenging and difficult. You succeeded and we as a coalition will succeed with the Iraqi people in the months and years ahead. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER KOVACS: The next one is Ambassador Molnar, the head of our UN Mission.

QUESTION: My question, really it's pretty close with the previous one. It's almost the other side of the coin. As the Permanent Representative of Hungary to the United Nations in New York, I cannot resist the temptation to ask you this question. How you would envisage the ideal role the United Nations can play in the future? In other more concrete terms, what would it take for the organization to serve the interests of the international community, to serve the interests of the free and democratic world in a more effective way? Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: How to improve the effectiveness of the United Nations? How much time do we have? As you know, the Secretary General, concerned about this issue, has commissioned a group of people to look at the question of effectiveness of the United Nations and some changes needed to its method of operation and its organization. Is the Security Council organized properly? Is an organization that was created and structured in the period l945-46 to ‘49 still have a relevant organization to the challenges we are dealing with today?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't have answers yet. I want to wait and see all of the results of all the work that is being done. I still find the United Nations to be a very useful and effective organization. But it is a large organization: 192 countries in the General Assembly and the 15 that are in the Security Council. So, it can be a difficult organization within which to work in order to find consensus, but not impossible. Every resolution with respect to Iraq, except for the famous second resolution which we didn't take to a vote, every other resolution -- 1441, 1483, 1500, 1551, I think it was, and 1546 -- all passed unanimously, with a lot of work, a lot of debate and a lot of compromise back and forth.

So, I think the U.N. is still a vital organization that is playing an important role and all of its various organizations playing an important role on the world stage, but this is a good time to see whether or not its organization and its processes are in need of updating, to deal with the challenges that we now face -- different challenges than the kind of challenges that existed at the time the United Nations was formed. But I'm not prepared at this time to tell you who should be added to the Security Council or not added to the Security Council or what specific organizational changes should take place.

FOREIGN MINISTER KOVACS: Thank you. I very much regret to say, friends, that as we are lagging behind our schedule there is no time for any further questions. So, maybe next time when the Secretary will again accept our invitation. Thank you, Colin, very much for your address and the answers.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Lazlo.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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