Albright Offers Upbeat Assessment of U.S. Foreign Policy in 1997
By Thomas W. Lippman
Reviewing her first year in office, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright yesterday gave herself high marks for the management of foreign policy in 1997 no letter grades, but an average that seemed safely on the honor roll.
"Despite setbacks and frustrations, it was a very good year for our foreign policy," she said in an address to the Center for National Policy, a Democratic-oriented think tank here that she once headed.
"We begin 1998 in a position of strength," she said. "Our economy is humming, our alliances are firm, our military is the best, and the democratic values we cherish are embraced by a greater portion of the world than ever before."
Although an upbeat assessment by a senior government official is hardly a surprise, Albright's self-confident tone about the Clinton administration's performance in international affairs offered a striking contrast to the mood one year into President Clinton's first term.
Four years ago, the administration was tormented by indecision over the war in Bosnia, the catastrophe that overtook the U.S. military mission in Somalia and divisions within the president's foreign policy team. By comparison, Albright could fairly claim that now things are moving in the administration's favor, despite the Asian economic crisis and the continuing defiance by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Among the accomplishments of 1997, she listed Senate ratification of a treaty banning poison gas weapons; agreement to expand NATO by inviting Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to join the alliance; creation of "historic partnerships" between NATO and Russia and NATO and Ukraine; a redoubled effort to enforce the Dayton peace agreement in Bosnia; improved relations with China; and the start of four-party Korea peace talks.
Among "setbacks and frustrations," she cited the failure of Congress to enact legislation to pay off most of the country's United Nations arrears of more than $1 billion and the stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
She did not mention one of her biggest disappointments of the year, the internal coup in Cambodia, which Albright denounced vehemently in June but proved unable to do anything about.
For the failure of the U.N. spending legislation she blasted "a small group of House members" for what she called "legislative blackmail," holding the measure "hostage" over an unrelated abortion issue.
"In 1998 we will insist that the hostage be released so that members be permitted to vote on this issue on its own merits," she said. "I have to say as I reread this part of the speech it is so ludicrous to me that we have done this that I cannot imagine how we can continue to damage America by holding this plan hostage. It is truly ludicrous."
Albright, who spent much of her first three months on the job courting Republican lawmakers, with mixed results the passage of the chemical weapons treaty, defeat of "fast track" trade authority made clear that she is going to be asking Congress for a lot in the coming session.
She cited "four tests of American leadership" that are sure to come up. First, she said, is "whether Congress will support continued implementation of the Dayton accords" by assenting to Clinton's plan to keep U.S. troops stationed in Bosnia indefinitely.
The second test, she said, will be the Senate vote on ratifying the expansion of NATO. The third, she said, "is whether we will pay what we owe to the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund," for which the administration is seeking $3.5 billion in new borrowing authority.
As the fourth major upcoming issue, Albright listed passage of the proposed Africa Growth and Economic Opportunity Act. That measure, endorsed by the administration and a probable centerpiece of Clinton's upcoming trip to Africa, would allow greater U.S. imports of African products, increase U.S. technical assistance, provide debt relief for the poorest countries and encourage U.S. private investment.
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