Responding to President Barack Obama's statement Friday on the crisis in Ukraine, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Europe needs to step up sanctions against Russia.
Clinton's comments on MPR News' The Daily Circuit:
The president is right to stress the importance of the international investigation because we've already seen in the last months how effective the Russian propaganda efforts are to try to deflect or hide responsibility...
I also believe that now is the time for Europe to step up. They have gone along with sanctions, but in my opinion the sanctions are inadequate to the task of trying to change Putin's calculation. The president announced new sanctions this week from the United States, but the Europeans need to be much more vigorous in making it clear that what the Russians are instigating and supporting within Ukraine -- violating their sovereignty and territorial integrity and in effect trying to turn the clock back to the Soviet era -- is absolutely unacceptable and steps will be taken to tighten sanctions on major players and institutions within Russia.
Clinton will be in St. Paul Sunday during her tour for her new book, "Hard Choices."
An edited transcript of the conversation
Tom Weber: I am joined now by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will be in Minnesota on Sunday to sign copies of her new memoir, which is called Hard Choices. She'll be there Sunday afternoon at Common Good Books in St. Paul. But Secretary Clinton joins us also as these news events have been unfolding and I thank you for your time this morning, Secretary.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Thank you very much, Tom. You're right, there's a lot going on in the world and as we just heard President Obama addressing two crises, the shooting down of the plane over Russian sympathizers' areas in Ukraine and then of course ground invasion into Gaza. So there's a lot going on.
Weber: On the Ukraine situation, the president outlined a moment ago his demands that there be an international investigation, that these conversations be facilitated that evidence not be mishandled or tampered and that he warned of misinformation. But I'm curious, beyond that, Secretary, what can or should the U.S. response be in this plane crash?
Clinton: Well Tom, I think the president is right to stress the importance of the international investigation, because we've already seen in the last month how effective the Russian propaganda efforts are to try to deflect or hide responsibility. So we need to press very hard, and it obviously should be international, Europeans should take the lead on it. I know that a couple of countries have already stepped forward along with the international authorities who investigate such terrible events. But I also believe that now is the time for Europe to step up. They have gone along with sanctions but in my opinion the sanctions are inadequate to the task of trying to change Putin's calculation. The president announced new sanctions this week from the United States but the Europeans need to be much more vigorous in making it clear that what the Russians are instigating and supporting within Ukraine, violating their sovereignty and territorial integrity and in effect trying to turn the clock back to the Soviet era is absolutely unacceptable and steps will be taken to tighten sanctions on major players and institutions within Russia. Now, I have also suggested, and this is something I actually write about in my book, because it goes back to March of 2009, and it seems like ancient history, but in January before President Obama was sworn in and I took office as Secretary, the Russians cut off gas to Ukraine. They had done it before in 2006. They use it as a tool of intimidation, and I worked hard to create a US-EU energy council to help support the Europeans in diversifying their energy supplies. And I would very much like to see Europe with a united voice --- make it clear to Russia they're going to accelerate efforts, because Russia's economy is nearly totally dependent on their natural resources. They haven't diversified it, and if Europe, which is still their main customer base, said that we may not get it done this year, but we're going to start moving as quickly as we can, because we cannot be dependent on the political machinations for our energy supplies.
And then finally, Tom, what I would be doing, and I believe the administration along with the Europeans are beginning to do this, is we have to help the Ukrainians control their border. It's thought that if it is proven if many of us believe that the plane was shot down by Russian insurgents, that the equipment or at least some of the support for actions like that came across the border from Russia, into Ukraine. Even apart from this one incident, we know very well that the Russians have been sending other material, other weaponry, other advisers, other intell agents into Ukraine, south and east Ukraine, on a regular basis. And the Ukrainians don't have the ability to plug those border holes, and Europe and the United States could be of great help there, as well as helping to upgrade the training and equipment of the Ukrainian military.
Weber: You also emphatically endorse in your book, Secretary, the idea that the United States, for all the talk of its decline, can lead the world again. But the statement a moment ago included the idea that Europe needs to lead on part of this issue. Are those conflicting statements?
Clinton: No, they aren't. Because what I have found, and certainly what I saw first-hand from my position in the Senate in most recent years from the Secretary of State job is that nothing happens of any consequence to promote American values and interests without American leadership. People are quick to jump to the conclusion: "Well that means it must always be American resources, including potentially American military resources." That's just not the case. But we know very well that Europe is largely peaceful, but for this unfortunate situation in Ukraine, in large measure because of American leadership, but it required close cooperation with our European allies in NATO and on a bilateral basis. There is no doubt in my mind that United States alone cannot solve all the problems we face in the world, but I cannot think of a problem that we face that cannot be solved without American leadership. So it's a constant balancing act that I write about in the book, that I label: smart power. How do we bring people together to pursue what are not just American values and interests, but universal values and interests, and often times very much in the direct interest of individual countries or regions.
Weber: I have a slight tangent but I am coming back to Russia and even the situation in Israel with this question: You were asked during your book tour with the BBC about forgiving your husband for his infidelity and you said forgiveness is a choice. And you gave homage to this idea that people who forgive are liberated maybe even more than the person who is forgiven. And I'm not trying to be head in the clouds here or pollyannaish, but there doesn't seem, Secretary, to be much of a way to transfer those personal choices of forgiveness into a global diplomatic way when we look at these two news stories.
Clinton: That's a really interesting twist on that question, Tom. I appreciate it, because this book Hard Choices is a very personal book. I think people face hard choices in their personal lives. I don't know anybody in my life who hasn't, but I also think nations face hard choices. And there is a linkage. I believe I brought to my experience as Secretary a lifetime of making my own hard choices. And I see the results of people who are in leadership positions who can't bring themselves to move on. To leave the past behind. To forgive. To reconcile. The primary example of the 20th century is that I personally knew of course is Nelson Mandela. He understood in a profound way that if he couldn't forgive, if he couldn't move on, if he couldn't elevate the need for reconciliation between the victims of apartheid and the perpetrators of it, he would himself remain imprisoned. And his country would not move forward. And I do think it's not naive, it's not pollyannaish at all to inject what are very personal values and experiences into foreign relations. Now that doesn't mean you're always going to be successful. I brought Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas together three times, and we had very substantive conversations about the difficult, hard choices that they faced. But here we are, with Hamas being the outlier, refusing to engage in peaceful efforts to resolve the conflicts there, and the result being that Israel has to defend itself, which it has every right to do.
But as I look across the world, I see leaders and I see people in various settings who really try to apply what we often think of as personal values, to international relations. They look for ways to resolve conflicts, to bring people together. I did that as a small part of the peace process in northern Ireland, bringing the women on both sides of the divide together. Honestly, they'd never been in the same room before. And all of a sudden, after a very uncomfortable, long, silence, one woman said, "You know, every time that my son leaves to go out at night, I worry that he won't come home alive." And then another woman on the opposite side of the divide from the other community looks at her surprised, and she says, "I worry about my husband when he goes to work." And slowly, the ability to identify with, to empathize with, took hold. That doesn't mean they love each other, that doesn't mean they still don't have grievances, it doesn't mean there's still hard choices ahead, but I really believe that we need more of that kind of understanding and it's not in my view soft, it's smart to pursue that.
Weber: You talked about your role in helping the parties negotiate a cease fire in 2012, to avoid a ground invasion in Gaza, between Israel and the Gaza Strip, can we say now that the cease fire no longer exists and there is a ground invasion that you are just delaying the inevitable in being a part of that? That this was always going to happen at some point, maybe not 2012?
Clinton: I don't think so. In fact, as I was listening to the president before I got on with you, and he was talking about his call with Prime Minister Netanyahu, he said we need to go back to the cease fire that was negotiated in 2012. This is another example of the importance of the role of the United States. I was in Cambodia with President Obama when the rockets at that time were raining down on Israel and the government in Israel was contemplating having to invade, and in fact were about 48 hours away from mustering up the national reserve, and you know, a lot of people at that time said, "Well, you know, there's really nothing that the United States could do, and we don't want to risk our prestige," but I thought very differently. I think you always have to be caught trying. To try to stop conflicts, end conflicts, bring adversaries together. And the president agreed with me. And so I flew all day to get to Israel and immediately went to Jerusalem to start meeting. So there was a cease fire, and it did hold until recently, so lives were saved. That doesn't unfortunately resolve the crisis that exists between the Israelis and the Palestinians, particularly between Hamas and the Israelis, because Hamas feels cornered. They lost their protector in Damascus which is where they'd been stationed or where they'd had headquarters for a long time, they lost their link to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, although President Morsi was my partner in negotiating a cease fire along with the Israelis, and I think they see that they have nothing really to offer the people of Gaza other than hatred and a deep sense that one can only win by conflict. So from my perspective, the cease fire held longer than people thought, as I say in the book, I got on the plane after leaving the presidential palace, I said, "Is it still holding?" Because we knew it was going to take a lot of effort, but it did hold, and now unfortunately Hamas has decided to stock up on rockets again, even more advanced rockets, drones, other weaponry they are still able to smuggle in to Gaza, and the Israelis have taken a very necessary but obviously regrettable position having to go into Gaza to try to clean up those storehouses of weaponry again. They should, you know obviously the president said and I fully endorse that they should try to get to a cease fire as soon as possible, and see what can be done from that. But it's never a mistake to try to end any kind of violence. It's never a mistake to try to save innocent lives, and it's never a mistake to try to continue to create circumstances for adversaries to reach a longer-lasting agreement.
Weber: But if I'm a regular Joe or Jane in Minnesota, looking at the situation in Israel, and I scoff at the inability of leaders to fix it, I say that sentence with an eye toward a permanent fix, and I wonder if this displays a disconnect between my expectations of what my leaders will do, permanently fix something, and the exercise of diplomacy, as, say, a Secretary of State, where maybe the real answer is not to fix the fighting, it's to fix the fighting today.
Clinton: Well I think you've got to try both. I mean obviously you try to aim for a more lasting solution, as we did successfully in northern Ireland, as we did in standing up to Serbian aggression in the Balkans, as we have throughout our history. But it doesn't mean you're always going to be successful. And I do think, and your question really implies this, that in today's world, where we expect a lot to happen quickly and we perhaps become disappointed when it doesn't, that makes the slow, grinding work of diplomacy perhaps seen as either inconsequential or ineffectual, and indeed it's just the opposite. That in a time where we know much more than we ever did in any point in history, it's even more important to show up. That was one of the lessons I learned quickly as Secretary. I could have a video conference or speak on the telephone with anybody in the world. There was no problem with that. But it was more important for the U.S. to show that we were paying attention and that we actually cared about not just the diplomacy, but the people in places. If we expected to rebuild our influence and project our leadership. So, yes, it is frustrating, and it's probably more frustrating today. I often kid Henry Kissinger and I wrote this in the book, he could never have snuck away from Pakistan to China to bring about the big surprise opening to China, because everybody in the world with a cell phone camera could have taken a picture of him. So it's very different to operate doing diplomacy now with so much more openness and communications being so readily available. But it's even more important that we show how committed we are. Which is why you know I and John Kerry and my predecessors, we spend a lot of time on airplanes. And to somebody looking at that from our country or elsewhere, it's like, "Why is this person still on an airplane? They just seem to be there constantly." And I went to 112 countries. Because relationships matter. And the United States cannot assume that we're going to be able to work with people unless we show them the respect and listen to them that is required and that is brought about only by showing up.
Weber: Secretary Clinton, you're heading to Minnesota on Sunday, you haven't said yet in all these interviews for the book tour whether you're going to run for president yet. My final brief question to you is, what could you possibly have to still figure out as far as that decision goes?
Clinton: Well, Tom, I'm first very excited about coming to Minnesota and going to come in (Common) Good Books in St. Paul. I'm really excited about being there Sunday afternoon and hope to see a lot of old friends. I'm going to stop by the governor's mansion and see Governor Dayton with whom I served with in the Senate, of course I feel a great sense of affinity and friendship toward both of your senators, both Al and Amy are good friends. So, I'm thrilled to be coming back. And I may even get to meet Garrison Keillor which would be an extra special event. I've met him before, but haven't seen him in a long time. So this is going to be fun. But as to the question you asked, you know it's a totally personal issue for me. I'm going to be a grandmother for the first time this fall, I cannot tell you how excited I am about it, in fact I've done, oh my gosh, so many thousands of book signing encounters with people across the country over the last five, six weeks, and it's the most common thing people say to me, surprisingly, it's not, "Are you going to run for president?" It's, "Oh I'm so excited that you're going to be a grandmother!" And I really feel that myself. So I'm going to do what I can to just make sure that whatever decision I make is the right decision, number one for me, because I know how hard the job is, and I know how demanding it is on anybody, both to run but then even more so to serve. So it's a personal decision and it's one that I'm going to make toward the end of the year or early next year.
Weber: Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, thanks so much for your time here this morning.
Clinton: Great, I look forward to being there Sunday. Thanks a lot.