Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group LLC; Former U.S. Secretary of State (1997–2001)
President, Council on Foreign Relations; Former Special Assistant to President George H.W. Bush (1989–1993)
Coanchor, Nightline, ABC News
In CFR’s final forum of the Election 2020 series, Secretary Albright and Dr. Haass discuss the foreign policy challenges awaiting the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
This project was made possible in part by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
CHANG: Hello, everyone, I want to welcome you to today's Council on Foreign Relations virtual Election 2020 Foreign Policy Forum. I'm glad you could make it and join us in the Zoom discussion. I'm Juju Chang, I am the co-anchor of ABC News' Nightline and I will be presiding over today's discussion. And we're going to look at the foreign policy challenges that are going to be facing the next president following next week's presidential election. As you know, with regard to the Council on Foreign Relations, it's an independent membership organization. It's also a think tank, it's a publisher, and CFR serves as a nonpartisan source of information and analysis and perspective to advance the understanding of global affairs and foreign policy. As with prior Election 2020 Forums, the goal of the conversation is not just to raise your awareness and to broaden your perspective but also to help you make informed decisions at the ballot box. We may not get to every issue today, but we are very prompt and in the next ninety minutes I suspect we're going to cover a lot of ground with Madam Secretary and with Richard Haass. In the lead up to the 2020 elections, one more week away, we encourage you to check out CFR's award-winning website, CFR.org. It includes a tracker of the candidates’ positions on international policies. You can find articles, you can find Task Force Reports, and you can find all of the depth and breadth of experts that CFR brings to bear on these issues. I also want to take a minute and thank the Carnegie Corporation of New York for their generous support and that's what makes this conversation possible because today's conversation isn't just CFR members but also open to the public and our participants number in the thousands. So we're very happy at the enthusiasm around this.
I'm going to introduce now our two distinguished panelists who frankly don't really need much of an introduction, but I'm going to start with a Madam Secretary Madeleine Albright. As you know, Dr. Albright is a diplomat, a scholar, an immigrant, her family were Czech diplomats in Czechoslovakia. She's a Wellesley grad and a PhD from Columbia, for those of you who are curious about those kinds of pedigrees. Currently, she's chair of the Albright Stonebridge Group, which is a global strategy firm, and also chair of Albright Capital Management, which is an investment advisory firm. As you know, she served as secretary of state for the Clinton administration. She also served as the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations and was a member of the president's cabinet in that capacity. She was before that very much a policy guru, a president of the Center for National Policy. She served as on Jimmy Carter's National Security Council, and President Obama awarded her the highest civilian honor, you should note, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She has for many, many years been a professor in the practice of diplomacy at Georgetown. For many years, she was known for holding a salon in DC on foreign policy, and she serves on the board here at the Council on Foreign Relations as well. And there are a number of parts of her life that we should note, she's a seven-time New York Times bestselling author as well.
We're very excited to get to the discussion, so we'll move towards Richard Haass's pedigree, which I'm sure everyone in the Council knows. But for those of you outside, I just want to point out the fact that he's an ambassador, an author, a doctor, a scholar. We refer to him sometimes as Mr. President and the Morning Joe regular. He is most definitely a thought leader in the world of foreign policy. Dr. Haass served as chair of the multiparty negotiations on Northern Ireland. He has been president of the Council on Foreign Relations for, I cannot believe, an eighteenth year, it seems indescribable to me every time I say that. But he's also served both Bush 41 and Bush 43 in a variety of capacities, was principal advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Just to give you an overview, a very prolific author that his most recent book, The World: A Brief Introduction, was released just this year. And CFR, as you know, has become this sort of hub of policy and public enrichment and that's why we're here today.
So with that, I'm going to introduce a poll that I'm going to ask you to take part in at the beginning and at the end of this conversation, and we'll see if the needle moves at all in any way. So the first question of the poll is how should the U.S. approach international affairs? Pretty straightforward question. A) rejoin international organizations, B) the U.S. is better off acting on its own, or C) the U.S. should focus on domestic issues. That's question number one. Question number two, what topic is of greatest concern in the 2020 election—climate change, COVID, the economy, immigration, terrorism, or U.S. military involvement abroad? And three, which country poses the most significant foreign policy challenge to the United States? A) China, B) Iran, C) North Korea, D) Russia, E) Venezuela. Of course, if you watched 60 Minutes, you know that President Trump said China, and Joe Biden said Russia. So we'll see how your thoughts align on that.
All right, so I thanked the Carnegie Corporation, so I think we can get our conversation underway. I want to start with, you know, the last presidential debate was billed as a foreign policy debate. And Richard and I were talking about how, once they got past COVID, and attacks and counterattacks on corruption, there wasn't a lot of foreign policy in that debate discussed. So I want the first question to be sort of why that seems to be the case this year, and what, as Dr. Haass likes to say, will be in the next president's inbox? What are the priorities in foreign policy moving forward? Madam Secretary, let me begin with you.
ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, thank you. I'm delighted to be a part of this and have the opportunity to answer some difficult questions and have good discussions with you, Juju, and my very, very good friend, Richard Haass. So I'm looking forward to this. I do think that—I was surprised that there weren't questions really about foreign policy, even though there was some thought that there would be, but it is an example of the fact that people are totally consumed by the domestic aspects of what is going on here, which is COVID, and the economy, and health care. I do think, for those of us that are foreign policy junkies, I think they all have an international context. And it's important and I do think that one of the things that is going to be in the next president's inbox is the connection between domestic and foreign policy. And it's something that I have focused on my whole life of how to make foreign policy less foreign by making very clear the implications for this country of various things that are happening abroad. And so obviously, the issue of the virus has very deep foreign policy implications—how it started, where it came from, and how it's going to have to be dealt with in the future. And so I see it as sometimes there was this word invented "intermestic"—international and domestic together. So I do think that that is a foreign policy issue. Obviously, the economy is also, I think, in terms of issues that have to do with supply chains, relationships with countries, those that we are sanctioning, those that are competing with us, those that are cooperating with us. And so I see that also as an “intermestic” issue and it will be in the president's inbox along with what is clearly a combination of domestic and foreign policy, which is climate change. So those are the big ones. There are ancillary ones that go with that, but that's the way that I would see it.
CHANG: Richard, if you were advising the next president on their foreign policy priorities, what would you say?
HAASS: Thanks Juju, thank both you and Secretary Albright for doing this with me and with us. Our goal here is to give some of these issues an airing that quite honestly didn't get much in either the presidential debates, the vice-presidential debate, or the town halls. Building on what Madeleine said, I think part of it is, even though we don't think of it as a foreign policy inbox, it is to deal with COVID successfully. If we do not get this virus and the pandemic under control, we're not going to have the bandwidth as a society, economically, politically, you name it, to focus on the world. So I think this issue began internationally, it obviously is all too real domestically. But I don't think essentially any president will be able to sustain American involvement in the world unless we get this under control. I also don't think we're going to set an example to the world that the world will respect unless we get it under control. So I just put that aside. I think more broadly in the inbox, one is sort of the traditional stuff that people like Secretary Albright and I have dealt with our whole life, you've covered for decades, which is a rising China, a much more assertive China, more repressive at home, more assertive abroad—Russia obviously. That set of issues, there's nothing new, a Middle East that’s turbulent and so forth. And I think on top of that climate change is an example. COVID is an example. We've got this whole set of global issues where there's a pretty large gap between the importance of the issue and the willingness and ability of the world to come together to deal with it. And in every one of these issues, from proliferation to disease to dealing with the internet, there really is this large gap. And the basic truth is we can't resolve these issues, we can't contend with them effectively on our own. So it's going to be fashioning some sort of a global or multilateral approaches to dealing with these challenges, obviously climate change and infectious disease, though, at the top of the list, but also this president is going to—he inherited some difficult problems, and he's going to hand off an inbox via to himself or to Joe Biden. That's going to be even more difficult with things like North Korea, or Iran, and any number of other issues there as well.
CHANG: I just want to flag to the audience that in about 10-15 minutes we're going to transition to questions from the audience. So get them ready. I'm going to ask a couple more though. With regard to multilateral organizations, as Dr. Haass was stating, Madam Secretary, you, in 2009, were asked by the then NATO SG [secretary general], Rasmussen, to chair a group to develop NATO strategy moving forward. Lay out for me how important that alliance is and other multilateral organizations that we have as a nation withdrawn from a bit, whether it's the World Health Organization, or even, you know, treaties like the Paris accords.
ALBRIGHT: Well, I have been known to my students and friends as "Multilateral Madeleine." The bottom line, though, is that Americans don't like the word multilateralism. It has too many syllables, and it ends in -ism. But it is basically just partnerships and trying to deal with some of the issues that Richard mentioned and I did with the help of our partners. I have been a great believer in the United Nations. I very much enjoyed working there. And by the way, when I was a sophomore in high school, I won the United Nations contest for the whole Rocky Mountain empire, which is like Colorado, Wyoming, Nevada, because I could at that stage name the fifty-one countries of the UN in alphabetical order. But I do think it is an organization that, cliche, works. If it didn't exist, we'd invent it, but it needs fixing—there's no question. And I believe that it's important for the U.S. to be there, because if you're not at the table then you don't have a way of participating in the various issues that really do need fixing.
On NATO, I have been a great believer in NATO. You mentioned that my family was from Czechoslovakia, and for the immediate post-World War II world, the West wasn't paying much attention to what was going on as the Soviet Union was practicing salami tactics and really putting its arms around Central and Eastern Europe. But after the coup in Czechoslovakia in February 1948, that really gave the impetus to get NATO started. What I find interesting, because you asked about specifically the thing I was asked to do on the 60th anniversary of NATO, which is that at that stage, one of the questions was for a strategic concept. What happened when NATO operated out of area, i.e., in countries that were not members of NATO? That was the biggest issue. And all of a sudden, we are now, as they work on the current new strategic concept, NATO is back in countries in Central and Eastern Europe given the kinds of things that the Russians have been doing. And we, when we were in office during the Clinton administration, were really trying to show that NATO was not an alliance against Russia, that there were ways for Russia to be a part of a new system. So I do think that one of the issues that's important to think about is we need a variety of multilateral partnership organizations, but they also have to adapt to whatever the needs are of that particular time. And you need to be at the table and paying your bills or your dues in order to really have a voice in reform, which is necessary.
CHANG: Richard, I want you to pick up on that. But also, I just want to toss a second question at you, which is President Trump is known as the "America First" president, and yet he does—where does he get credit in foreign policy wins? And where has he dropped the ball?
HAASS: I'll come to the new question in a second. But the great advantage of American foreign policy, or one of the great advantages, is we wake up every day with literally dozens of partners and allies around the world who are predisposed to work with us either on immediate security questions in their part of the world, in Europe or in Asia, or potentially to work with us on tackling global challenges. China doesn't have that, the Soviet Union didn't have that during the Cold War, and that is the great structural advantage of American foreign policy. And as we were both saying, we're living in an era when many of the most difficult challenges, from how to contend with a rising China to how to deal with climate change, we can't succeed on our own. So the one way to think about American foreign policy is how do we take the structural advantage of having natural partners and allies and put it to good work—to help persuade China to act with greater restraint, or to deal with climate, or to deal with infectious disease. So rather than leaving the WHO, we might want to stay in it and work with others and basically say, hey, how do we improve it? How do we make it better? Or how do we supplement it with something else? I think that is the way to think about it.
It's obviously not the approach of the incumbent, as "America First" suggests, it is a kind of a quasi-unilateralist, at times somewhat isolationist approach. I've been quite critical of his foreign policy, as any reader of Foreign Affairs would know. But there are some things that I think he deserves credit for. One is a trade agreement that actually got formal support in Congress, bipartisan support with Mexico and Canada. To me the fact that the agreement got the support in some ways is more significant than the actual content because it wasn't all that much different than NAFTA. I think the decision to provide Ukraine with arms for self-defense was a step in the right direction. Continued improvement of relations with the country like India. I think a more sober approach to China. I think a lot of the specifics I would take issue with, what we've done and haven't done, but essentially saying a lot of our approach to China wasn't panning out. China was not acting with greater openness at home, was not acting with greater restraint abroad—we needed a reboot of the relationship with China. I think that made some sense. So there are some things that I would say I think this administration got it right, even though Juju, I would say in the large that it's going to lead both the world in a condition of reduced stability and will leave the United States considerably worse off in the way we're more vulnerable. And I think our influence is going down significantly.
CHANG: Madam Secretary, I'd be curious how you assess the two candidates' worldviews and compare and contrast the foreign policy, just sort of, you know, from thirty thousand feet, but specifically on the topic of North Korea, because I know that in 2000, you traveled to North Korea, met with Kim Jong-il. At the time you were the highest-ranking U.S. official ever to visit that country. And how do you therefore regard President Trump's summit with Kim Jong-un and the letters between the two that have now since gone public in Bob Woodruff's book, and overall, you know, that relationship?
ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I can't imagine two people that have a more different view of foreign policy and America's role in the world. I do think, Richard has already said in some ways of the "America First" part that President Trump practices, and, you know, basically, I think is going it alone, and which to some extent has been translated into us being AWOL at a number of very important international meetings and other times kind of just seeing it from our perspective. I do and I want to be on record on this, President Trump has had some successes in foreign policy. I think some of the aspects that have been going on vis-a-vis the agreements of some of the Arab countries with Israel. We can talk more about that, but on the whole, he basically does not have a quote "worldview.” In total contrast to Vice President Biden, who is somebody that has dealt with foreign policy and America's position his whole life, interestingly enough, a lot of it from the role of Congress. And you mentioned that I teach, and one of the things I love to teach about are our executive legislative relations, generally, but especially in foreign policy, and so understanding how the Senate and the House play a very important role in determining and funding our foreign policy. I think that Joe Biden's knowledge about that is important and then obviously his eight years as vice president. And he does see America as benefiting from partnerships and understanding how to put himself into the other countries' shoes so that we are all on the same boat. So it couldn't be more different.
I do think that the North Korea issue is one that is incredibly difficult. It is just now that we are looking at having ended the Korean War in 1953, and so there is no peace treaty or that was never arranged. And I'm sure that many of the people here have been to the Demilitarized Zone, which is the weirdest thing in the world. Between the two countries, there's this space and there's some Quonset huts and in one of them is a table that has a string down the middle of it, which is where the 38th parallel is, which is the division between the two. When I was there, it was just about this time twenty years ago, and it really was something that we had begun to have some kind of talks with the North Koreans. The truly strange part was that the decision on that election came just in the middle as we were really going, beginning on the talks, which had to do with missile limits. And while I hold no brief for the North Koreans, Americans are the ones that broke off those talks. I do think that our view, and I think that there is an attempt to have some kind of a way of dealing with them, but not with the kind of drama that the Trump administration all of a sudden had and kind of pretending the love letters were written, and in the meantime not getting anywhere with it while the North Koreans are able to acquire more fissile material for nuclear weapons. So I do think that is one of the major issues on the table that does require diplomacy, and it requires the cooperation and input from the South Koreans and the Chinese, frankly. So I think that there's an awful lot that has to be done because it is getting out of control in terms of what the North Koreans are doing. While theoretically there are some kind of summits that are planned, the one that did happen didn't bring anything.
CHANG: Richard, let's stay on the topic of nuclear containment while we're at it. You know, put your brain on North Korea but then transfer, if you can, to the Iran deal, because I know that you have a lot of thoughts on the way the Trump administration has dealt with Iran.
HAASS: Yes, and they're very different in the sense that, obviously, North Korea is an actual proliferate. They've got nuclear weapons, they've got long range missiles, and the question there is how do we cap it and reduce it? And that's one type of foreign policy challenge, and I think, Madeleine's right, we've got to bring in others, including South Korea, but also China, since virtually all of North Korea's trade transits in and out through China. If there is a degree of effectiveness of pressure to put on them, China's going to have to participate. As well Russia, well, they will just help North Korea evade sanctions. So I think that's one reality.
Iran's a different case. We had a framework, again, with other countries. We unilaterally got out of it. We can debate whether the framework was ideal. My own view, it wasn't, but it was the only framework that was negotiated at the time. It's a good example of "America First," because in some ways, Juju, we've isolated ourselves more than we have isolated Iran. And the fact is today that Iran has begun to inch closer to putting into place the precursors of a nuclear weapons capability. They're not there, but the amount of warning time we now have available to ourselves, if Iran were to decide to make something of a sprint towards nuclear capabilities, we have reduced warning time now. So I think whoever's in the Oval Office, come January, is going to have to decide what to do about it. Regime change, which seems to be the preferred approach of this administration is not, I believe, something that is in the cards. It's certainly not a strategy we can count on. So to me the question is can we use the leverage we've gotten from the sanctions to persuade Iran to enter into, not just the previous agreement, but to accept longer-term restraints? So I think there's a larger point there. Many of the arrangements that this administration inherited, from the Paris agreement to the Iran agreement, and so forth, were not perfect. They were inadequate. So I think any new administration, even if it's a Biden administration, can't think that the answer is simply to wind the clock back, that if only we could go back to what we had, we've got solutions. Rather, it's to take what we had and build on it with something like climate, with Iran is a good example. And essentially going around the world thinking about the various challenges we face, because—trade would be the same thing, the World Trade Organization—these are these are fluid institutions. Now the answer is not to jump them particularly when we have nothing better to put into place, but it is to reform them and again, to work with others to work with our natural partners in that process.
CHANG: Madam Secretary, I want to shift your focus a little bit on the foreign policy apparatus at large—the State Department, NSC, DNI, all of it. What advice would you give to the new secretary of state to perhaps facilitate some return? There have been a lot of career diplomats, a lot of career State Department officials, according to, actually a Council on Foreign Relations Task Force Report, an alarming percentage of institutional memory has walked out the door. What advice would you give to try to restore the foreign policy apparatus?
ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I do think that when one talks about the tools that a country has, diplomacy is kind of the basic tool. You can't have diplomacy if you don't have any diplomats. And what has happened is the State Department has been denuded, in many ways, of people that, either were incorrectly suspected of not being team players and were kind of dismissed, or those that really felt that they were not being used in any appropriate way. And so there, I think, has to be a very active recruitment process—one, to get some of those incredible diplomats back who had served their country happily, and willingly, and proudly, and who need to come back kind of laterally. And then, I do teach at the School of Foreign Service, many of whose students have often gone into the Foreign Service, and I think that there needs to be a new generation, that is, that takes the Foreign Service exam and comes in and that they be part of it. The State Department also needs more diversity in terms of gender, as well as a variety of people with different backgrounds and different parts of the United States. And so I think it is very, very important to get the diplomatic and the State Department back to life.
By the way, one of the things that's necessary, and I think most people don't really know it, if you look at the United States budget, I am a full believer in the armed services and the role that our military plays, but the budget for the Defense Department is somewhere around $780 billion. The budget for foreign programs, the State Department, is more somewhere between $40 and $50 billion. That is ridiculous. And as former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said, if there was not a buildup of our diplomacy, he'd have to buy more ammunition. And I think for the most part, secretaries of defense have understood the important partnership between the State Department and the Defense Department. I also believe, and this is something that I argued for, there are an awful lot of very dedicated civil servants that come and work in the State Department because they have very special expertise in a number of issues—science and a variety of technical issues—and so that partnership between civil servants and Foreign Service officers is very important.
CHANG: Richard, I want to direct your attention to the Middle East. We talked earlier about Syria and abandonment of Kurds. You even addressed abandonment of Afghans. I want to dovetail though with a question that's getting the most thumbs up in our question boards, so I don't want to, you know, sort of revisit it later. It's a question from Otto Zingg of Ohio, and he wants to know, "How do you evaluate the new initiatives in the Middle East re Arab alliances with Israel? Are these real advances in cooperation or are they largely smoke and mirrors?" So if you could just take the whole region in one answer.
HAASS: Two things to say about the Middle East straight up. One is it has absorbed the lion's share of American attention in the world over the last three decades. And I think historians will one day ask how did that happen. We're talking about what, 4 or 5 percent of the world's population? And it just seems in some ways we've over committed to the Middle East. The Middle East, despite that, some might say because of that, has been the least successful part of the world by virtually every measure, in some ways, the most violent. Right now you've got at least three failed states: Yemen, Syria, and Libya. By virtually every measure of development, the UN comes in at the bottom of the scale compared to other parts of the world. We've already discussed the Iran nuclear challenge and so forth. So no matter how you slice and dice it, it is unsuccessful.
There has been one area of progress of late, Secretary Albright mentioned it correctly, which is the normalization agreements between Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, most recently Sudan and Israel. That is welcome. I think it was motivated by lots of things, including a shared concern, in several cases about the Iranian strategic threat. I think the UAE was very interested in some advanced military hardware. Lots of countries are interested in economic cooperation with Israel for obvious reasons. But I don't think we should kid ourselves that, in any way does that equate to, Juju, something that's called quote-unquote, "peace or stability in the Middle East." You still have the Palestinian dispute out there. It still raises fundamental questions, not just for Palestinians, but for Israelis. How will Israel remain a Jewish democratic state, if it continues to occupy millions of Palestinians? At some point it's going to have to choose between its Jewishness and its democratic-ness, unless there is a Palestinian state living alongside Israel.
And you still have, again, lots of other challenges within the region. And I think most pressing, you have Iran and increasingly the emergence of Turkey, which is putting its finger into lots of Middle Eastern areas and in some cases making them worse. So I don't see any of the prerequisites of stability in the Middle East. And again, compared to say Europe, for all of its problems, or Asia, it's hard to be bullish about the Middle East. One last thing, a lot of these countries are also going to have to, over the next generation or two, are going to have to get ready for a post-oil world where their economies cannot simply be based upon oil and gas exports. And I don't see many of them taking serious steps in that direction.
CHANG: You mean transitioning away from the oil industry?
HAASS: I get where you're coming from.
CHANG: As Biden has said, yes. So Madam Secretary, before we switch fully to audience questions, just as a moderator prerogative, I'd like to ask you about the pin that you're wearing because you are known for wearing pins. In fact, you wrote a book about your pins. And I'm curious because I know that there has been a development with regard to your collection.
ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say, you know, the whole thing started when I was Ambassador at the UN and the first Gulf War ceasefire had been translated into a series of sanctions resolutions. And I was an instructed ambassador, and my instructions were to make sure the sanctions stayed on. So I said perfectly terrible things about Saddam Hussein every day—he deserved it, he’d invaded Kuwait. So all of a sudden, a poem appeared in the papers in Baghdad that called me many things, compared me to many things, but among them an unparalleled serpent. So I had a snake pin, and I started wearing it when we talked about what was going on with the sanctions with Iraq. So what happened was, the press picked it up and said, why are you doing this, and so I explained. And since I was living in New York, where the shopping was good, I went and I bought a lot of custom jewelry to reflect whatever I thought we were going to do on any given day. So on good days, I wore flowers and butterflies and balloons. And on bad days, a lot of carnivorous animals and spiders and things. And people began to pick it up. And so even when I met with the Russian foreign minister—by the way the Russians had been bugging the State Department when I was Secretary of State, and we found the guy sitting outside listening and we did what diplomats do, which is demarche Moscow. But then the next time I met with Yevgeny Primakov, the foreign minister, I wore this huge bug and he knew exactly what I was saying. So today—
CHANG: Nothing like subliminal messaging.
ALBRIGHT: Right. So today it’s an owl—wisdom—and I knew that this particular discussion, especially with my good friend, Richard, I'm hoping will impart some wisdom, so that's why I decided to wear it. I do have a whole collection that's been traveling around the United States and all the pins in that collection have foreign policy stories in what I said earlier, trying to make foreign policy less foreign. And the State Department has just created a diplomacy museum, and I've decided to give that collection to the diplomacy museum because they really do have great stories.
CHANG: That's outstanding. I'm so glad to hear it. All right, we're going to transition now to audience questions. But before we do, I wanted to give the results to our poll again to see, wow, okay, clearly this is an enthusiastic crowd. 95 percent of you said we should rejoin international organizations. COVID-19 seems to have the most heat in the second question, and the third is China with 63 percent. Russia is behind that with 29 percent. Very interesting results to the poll, we'll see how they measure up afterwards. I'm going to have to try to keep a screenshot of that. So our audience has so many brilliant questions, but I'm going to try to combine two just to get in as many as we can.
One is from James Gilchrist, it got fifteen thumbs up: "Do you think of Trump's 'America First' emphasis reflects a general decline in interest in foreign affairs on the part of the American people, generally in recent years? And if so, what might cause that level of interest to grow again?" And I'm going to pair that like a fine wine to Craig Patterson's question, which got thirty-three thumbs up and that is, "Are we in the throes of the fall of the American Empire?" Discuss.
HAASS: Well, why don't I start, then Secretary Albright can correct me. And hopefully not greatly. Look, I think the former, is there a falling off of interest? Sure. For lots of reasons, some disillusionment with what happened in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. With very few exceptions, Juju, don't take this personally, our media does not cover the world in a serious or systematic way. The reason I wrote my most recent book is you can graduate from virtually any two- or four-year college in the United States, and while on virtually every campus courses are offered, on virtually none of them are courses about the world, about international relations required as a condition for graduation. Secretary Albright spoke in the beginning about how people are obviously consumed with things domestic— jobs, getting by, dealing with COVID, race issues, what have you—so I understand it. The irony is it's happening at a time, and look, we've got COVID-19, which began in China, these fires in California, these floods around the country are clearly linked to climate change, we just marked the 19th anniversary of 9/11, which began with terrorists who received their training in Afghanistan, we're busy getting ready for an election and the Russians, and apparently the Iranians and others, are using the internet to interfere and try to undermine American democracy. So the irony is we're less interested in the world at a time that the world seems to be more interested in us than ever before. And I think the challenge for our society is to close that gap. Or what's going to happen is, I worry that this gap feeds isolationism. This lack of attention also makes it harder to hold people to account. And I would hope that some of the people going to the polls next week, one, they not only go to the polls and vote, but two, that these issues would matter. And then after the election, whether it's with Congress or a president, these issues would continue to be raised. Because I think again, the lesson is what we do in the world and don't do in the world, this gets to your second question, the world is not going to organize itself by itself. Secretary Albright was famous for describing the United States as an indispensable country. It didn't mean that we could do things by ourselves, or we should do them by ourselves. But it did mean that basically good things in the world tended not to happen without us. And we need to do it. It's not a form of philanthropy, it's a form of self-interest. So to me, the question of America's role in the world is still an open book. And I think this election actually matters a great deal for it. But the lesson I take from history is the world will begin to unravel without the United States playing a large, consistent role. And if it unravels, in part because of what we don't do, we will be ones who will pay an enormous price for it.
CHANG: I just want to get to the next question, because we have 113 questions in the chat box and twenty raised hands. So let's get a raised hand in here quickly.
STAFF: We'll make the next question from Heather Wild. We're having technical difficulties, so we'll go to John Chane.
Q: Yes, I'd like to go back to some comments that Richard had made. And I'm going to go back to May 18, 2018, which was the day that JCPOA was terminated by President Trump. And there was a lot there about Obama, Obama's deal and so on and so forth. But I remember being in Iran in 2014 and had dinner with Javad Zarif, who I've known when he was in New York City at the United Nations. And he was very clear talking about the buildup to this agreement that it was really not going to be something that everybody on both sides could agree upon, but it was a starting point and it was to initiate ongoing negotiations between the United States and Iran. And it did give some guarantee over a fifteen-year period that some things would change and would be overseen by the IAEA. So the question, though is, what would the next president have to do? I mean, Richard did talk a little bit about it, but that's a really big deal in terms of proxies and turbulence in the region. What should the next president do, whether it's Trump or Biden?
CHANG: John, can you give us your affiliation?
Q: Yes, Washington National Cathedral. I used to be the bishop of Washington and now I'm living in fire country in California as a retired.
CHANG: Got it—thank you.
HAASS: Juju, I’ll start. Okay look, I think what we can't afford is a Middle East where Iran continues to get closer to nuclear weapons, much less acquires them. Two things will either happen, either that itself would trigger a war in the region to prevent it, or other countries would follow suit. And if you think the Middle East is bad now, imagine a Middle East where Saudi Arabia or Egypt or Turkey and others all decide they need nuclear weapons in order to deter or square off against Iran. It's a nightmare. It is a strategic nightmare for all of them, for Israel. So that needs to be prevented. Let's just say that full stop. I would like to see an agreement that constrained Iran significantly, that was verifiable and essentially was open ended or had very, very long durations, decades or longer. I think in order to get there we're going to have to work with others, particularly the Europeans, negotiate it, and I think we're going to have to offer Iran a degree of sanctions relief, essentially saying, if you are to do this, here's what we require of you, here's what we're prepared to do for you. I think given that this administration unilaterally got out of the 2015 agreement, you probably have to put it through Congress. You might have to send the message that future presidents couldn't reverse the terms of it. So you'd probably need to lock it in. And I think a big question, I'd be curious what Madeline thinks about this, was the same kind of question we often ask ourselves during the Cold War with the Soviets. Should we sign an agreement with Iran that deals with some aspects of the Iranian challenge, in this case, its nuclear, maybe it's missile challenge, without necessarily having that agreement also deal with other aspects of Iranian behavior that give us real concern—the support for Hezbollah, its support for terrorism, its human rights situation. And I think that'll be an issue that a future administration has got to deal with as well. But I would say the priority needs to be to make sure Iran does not continue this movement in the direction of nuclear weapons, because I think it would have truly destabilizing consequences or worse for the Middle East.
CHANG: Madam Secretary, just if you want to extend on this, there's a question from Arif Hasan asking how likely is it do you think that a President-elect Biden would rejoin the Iran deal? And now I've lost the question, sorry, but feel free to answer about that. I also want to get to a climate question. There are many, many questions about climate change. Go on.
ALBRIGHT: Well, I do think that there's no agreement that deals with everything. And I do think this was maybe not perfect, but it certainly was a very important step forward. I can give you a history and a very complex one of our relationship with Iran that started going south with the hostage crisis. And then a time when I was in office where there was some thought when Khamenei had been elected that we could do something different and we've been, as a result, lots of mixed signals with Iran. I think we have given a terrible signal by walking away from a multilateral agreement in terms of what it means for are we a responsible power. Do we live up to the things that we've done? Can we build on them? And so I hope that the next administration will pick up a lot of the pieces that are there with Iran being very aware of what the problems are, that they are in a position to rebuild. And this is where we depend on international organizations—the IAEA being able to verify a lot of the things that either are going on or not going on. And so I think it's very important for us to figure out how to pick up the pieces and then understand that nuclear proliferation is one of the major issues that we are going to have to deal with. I think there's nothing worse that when a country doesn't keep its word, and we have done something very significant by moving away from this multilateral agreement.
CHANG: I want to get to climate change because there are a number of questions about that. I'm going to combine two questions. One is from Peter [inaudible], who says that, "Given that millions of people who will be displaced by climate change, how do we establish obligations for each host country to accommodate stateless populations under the current format of international community that places high value in nation-state sovereignty?", along with Laura Alexander's question, who then pivots towards, "Is there hope for global cooperation with the Global Compact for Migration and some of the gestures Europe has made, at least with internal cooperation? How can the U.S. engage and lead on finding ways to promote safe orderly migration that enhances the security of migrant receiving countries and protects human rights?"
ALBRIGHT: Well, as an immigrant, I will speak to this. I do think that the issues of there are more displaced and immigration people than ever in the world as a result of issues that our military and then those now that are related to climate. And I think that we have to figure out some kind of ways to operate with, not just a regional, but smaller groupings that can make a variety of agreements. I mean, there were a lot of problems in Europe initially in terms of a lot of the people coming across the Mediterranean on rafts and ending up in Greece, and then where were they going to go. And so it is not just a matter—it is a sovereign right to make immigration laws, but I also do think that these are issues that need to be dealt with by more than one country. And I was amazed at how little the European Union had done on this issue. I'm definitely amazed how little the United States has done on this and recognizing that migrants, most people prefer to live in the country where they were born if they can do that and have a decent life and either not suffer because they can't use their agriculture in any way and they don't have enough water. Or in fact, they are really victims of various military activities that also come about as a result of changes in the climate. So this is more than a national issue, it is an international issue that is going to require very active cooperation among a lot of different countries, and one specifically, that is the one that crosses the boundary between domestic and foreign policy. They definitely go together how a country has sovereign rights, but at the same time has a responsibility to those that come from other countries.
HAASS: Juju, if I could just add one thing there. I think the pairing of climate with refugees is exactly spot on. I think in the future it's quite likely that climate change could be a—if not the—principal driver of the growth in either internally displaced persons or refugees once they cross an international boundary. I think on climate, let me just say, that we have a Paris framework. The problem is the framework, even if everyone participate in it and met their requirements, is woefully inadequate. The whole structure of Paris is everyone gets to set their own ambitions. Needless to say, countries often set fairly modest targets for themselves. So, I think we're going to have to supplement it. Obviously, there's areas of technology which are going to have to be developed and then shared. We're going to need mechanisms for sharing of certain types of green technologies. I also think we may have to look to trade agreements, to regional trade agreements, and basically say, if you want to export to us, we're going to require that you meet certain climate standards, or if you don't meet those standards, you might have to pay this or that penalty or face a tariff. So I think we're going to need multiple tools. I don't think the answer to climate change is necessarily going to be one big global superpowers-like agreement. We tried it at Copenhagen, we're trying it there. I think we may need regional agreements, technology sharing, we're going to need financial help to deal with the effects of climate change that are already happening, so-called resilience or adaptations agreements. So I think we're going to have to make it both a national priority, but consistent with a lot of what both of us have been saying here, it's going to also have to be an international priority. And by the way, it's not just a future priority. I think the lesson has got to be it is now, that there's got to be an immediacy to this, an urgency to this as well.
CHANG: It is now, it is past due. Okay, Irina, let's get to a raised hand if we can.
STAFF: The next question will come from Geetika Jerath.
CHANG: And feel free to identify yourself and your affiliation.
STAFF: If you could unmute yourself.
Q: Hi, my name is Geetika Jerath, and I'm an attorney at Norton Rose Fulbright in Texas. Thank you so much for speaking with us Secretary Albright, you're truly an inspiration. I'm also a part of the CFR Young Professionals Briefing series, and I was wondering what advice you have for young professionals as we begin our careers and hope to be involved in shaping foreign policy now and in the future?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that you need to keep not only voicing your interest but getting involved with a variety of groups that are spending their time discussing the issues and understanding them. And then also those that are having some kind of a role frankly in influencing policy by speaking to your members of Congress, particularly, and explaining the importance. And it's exactly what we've been talking about of how to translate domestic issues into international issues and vice versa. But I also have to say, now I'm not a very good example because it took me a very long time to find my voice, but you can't expect immediate results that you are going to be making policy immediately. There are kind of apprentice times that one has to have in terms of going up the ladder and doing things locally that then get magnified and continuing to have an interest in exploring other parts of the world where we can understand the connection in terms of what is going on internationally and nationally so that you're not viewed as somebody who doesn't care about American domestic problems. Because as we've been trying to explain, that is the way to link it and get some influence politically I think on this.
CHANG: Richard, your thoughts on the subject? You have a lot of foreign policy superstars at the Council.
HAASS: The best thing is to get involved. There's so many career paths. We talked before about the Foreign Service. We haven't talked about the military as a career path, there's intelligence, you can do it as an academic and government is one way, and often there is extraordinary opportunities for young people. You can do it, it must come as a real shock to Juju, as a journalist. You can join a non-governmental organization, a group like Doctors Without Borders or the International Rescue Committee. You can make a real difference on the ground in some area. You can become an academic expert and write papers and have influence that way, and so you can do it as a career. But I think for young people, I don't think they have to make the decision to, is this going to be my career? I'd say get smarter, get involved. After that you can decide, you can become a doctor, you can become a lawyer, you can become an engineer. This could be something—a hobby or an interest—you're an informed citizen. So I think the best thing I would say is get knowledgeable about it, have an experience in government or on the ground, and then you can decide what's right for you.
CHANG: There are a lot of questions I'm seeing in the chat on China. So let me just ask a broad question on China that encompasses a number of the questions that come up, one from Lesley [inaudible],"Former Vice President Biden took an attitude shift towards China during the campaign, what will his strategy be dealing with a growing China? Will the new administration continue to contain China's economic and political expansion? Or will it incorporate China's new global position?" Another question on China has from Max, excuse me Max, I think your last name is pronounced [inaudible]. And he's asking, "In the eventuality of Chinese military action against Taiwan, do you see the United States engaging China militarily over this? And if so, do you see our Western allies aiding in that effort?" And then finally, a Uyghurs question that I lost track of, oh, from Kenza Kettani, a student at Penn State School of International Affairs. "Canada recently recognized China's treatment of the Uyghurs as genocide, what will it take for the U.S. to do same?"
HAASS: So do you want to go first or you want me to go first, Madeleine?
ALBRIGHT: Go ahead, Richard.
HAASS: Let me give us just a—look, I think the relationship between the United States and China will prove critical to this century conceivably as the relationship, say between the United States and the Soviet Union proved during the last half of the twentieth century. This is critical. And I think the challenge for us is going to be to push back against China using a full set of tools wherever we believe we must, be it critical and public and private, using sanctions in some areas conceivably, helping countries so they're not vulnerable. At the same time, we try to carve out areas where the United States and China can cooperate when it's in our common interest. We talked before about North Korea, doing something to limit its proliferation, doing something on climate, doing something on global health. So there's, it seems to me that's the challenge. It's probably not going to be a relationship with simply a single personality. And we're going to have to try to figure out, again, how we push back in some areas, compete in others, and still cooperate yet in others. I think we're much more likely to succeed with this, if we do it with others. We've got all sorts of partners and allies in the region—South Korea, Japan, Australia, India, and others—who I think are willing to work with us. Europeans could conceivably willing to work with us, as well, on certain issues. Certain things we have to do also do for ourselves.
If we don't want China to dominate the world of technology, then let's compete. We have Silicon Valley, we have some of the great universities in the world, we need to be competitive. The federal government needs to spend the resources on basic research that it could and should. So there's certain things we have to do for ourselves. Seems to me, the goal is to present China with a set of choices that encourage certain types of actions at home and abroad and discourage others. That's the stuff of foreign policy. I don't think we're going to transform it. I think that's up to the Chinese people. So when I hear American officials essentially calling for regime change to oust the Communist Party, that seems to me that's not serious diplomacy.
Lastly, on Taiwan, I do think the United States needs to make it clear to China that it cannot act with impunity. I think if it were to do so and to get away with it, I think it would potentially lead to the unraveling of the American alliance structure in that part of the world that has done so much for three-quarters of a century to keep the peace. So yes, I do think we need to figure out ways to push back against China, to deter any action on impart to coerce essentially the future of its relationship with Taiwan.
ALBRIGHT: Just to build on what Richard said, I think that it is obviously the issue that is foremost on people's minds. I can't tell you how many meetings we have all been to in which China is the main subject of discussion from a number of different angles. I do think that it is going to require the practice of statecraft, which is not being just one way, deciding that we're going to yell and scream at them, but in fact, recognize that there are issues on which we have to cooperate. And one of them actually is climate change, you know, those kinds of issues that know no borders. I do think that they bear a responsibility for not having shared information on COVID, but we do need to deal on issues where we are all involved in them in some form. Then I do think we are going to compete, there's no question, in technology and a number of things to do with intellectual property, a variety of ways. Then there's been a third element, I think added, which is they are also an adversary. And we need to recognize that that there are areas where they have totally different ways of looking at things. And one is Taiwan, and I agree fully with what Richard said. And on the human rights issues, one of the things that Vice President Biden has been talking about is restoring our moral leadership. And I think that, I never went to China or had a discussion with any Chinese official without bringing up a human rights issue. It is what we stand for. And the lack of discussion about the Uyghurs has been quite stunning, frankly, given what has been going on. Also, the not very strong reaction on what happened in Hong Kong. And what has happened is that the Chinese read the tea leaves to see, you know, what are we signaling if we aren't doing anything. And we have in many facts, there is no question that our absence has allowed the Chinese to fill the vacuum. Their Belt and Road Initiative, I've been saying the Chinese must be getting very fat because the belt keeps getting larger and larger. They are everywhere. And they are using their economic tool in order to spread their influence. And so it is the most complex relationship. It's going to require a number of very smart, dedicated officials and a president who understands that it isn't all a zero-sum game.
HAASS: Juju, can I say thirty seconds more? Trade has got to be part of that, and I think the administration strategically erred in its first week when it decided to not allow the United States to join what was the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would have created this grouping of what, 40-45 percent of the world's economy. And I would have told China, you want to trade to us, here's the standard you have to meet. You have to raise your game if you want to have access. So I'm hoping that whoever wins this election, we revisit that decision. I think that was both a strategic and an economic error. And what we want is ultimately a trade relationship with China where we have normal types of trade, but and it's a big, but we obviously have to carve out certain areas of sensitive technologies that have intelligence and military implications. As Madeleine said, we have to recognize the fact that in some areas we're clear competitors, and some areas more than competitors, where we just flat out disagree on our adversary. So again, it's not going to be one dimensional. But we are going to need that kind of relationship.
CHANG: I know it's merely a parlor game question, but who do you see as the bigger adversary—China or Russia?
HAASS: I think they're fundamentally different kinds of adversaries. What's so dangerous about Russia, is it's so apart from much of the modern world still, it's a narrow economy, it's not integrated. It's willing to be an outlier. It's a spoiler, using military force, using the internet for the purposes it does. China is much more complex, because it's so economically integrated. It's a competitor in all sorts of economic and technology ways. On one hand, that gives it an element of a stake in the system, which is to some extent, the restraining influence. On the other hand, it's a much more, how to put, its competition, the challenge it poses is much broader than anything posed by Russia, which is another way of saying, we can't use the same tools for the two countries. And we can't think of that what necessarily worked against the Soviets in a Cold War, is how we want to think about this.
CHANG: Dr. Haass, that's a brilliant non-answer, by the way. Madam Secretary?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that the Russians are a threat in a very specific way, which is they are deliberately undermining our democracy with a whole bunch of new tools. And they are trying to separate us from our allies by doing the same thing. So they are undercutting us in a very specific way. They are being run by a KGB agent who knows how to do this. And they are using some of our very aspects of the strength of our society to threaten us and to undermine democracy, there's no question. I think in many ways though, the Chinese really are a much longer term and complicated threat in terms of their plans. And we've gotten the Chinese wrong a number of times. I think we have to admit that, that we thought that there was a period where if they developed a middle class, they would in fact have a different approach. It was kind of thinking the way the South Koreans had gone from a dictatorship to a democracy by having a middle class that had a stake in democracy. And the Chinese are not interested in that. They are living off of an anger at the way that they were treated by the West for centuries when they had been the Middle Kingdom. They are motivating nationalism and they are, I think, a danger to us. But the Russians at the moment are a very specific threat in terms of undermining our democracy.
CHANG: I'm going to pick up on that thought and—
HAASS: Juju, I'm going to interrupt you for one second. I think you asked the wrong question.
CHANG: Thank you. Oh, sure, just because I dissed your answer.
HAASS: Exactly. Which is, there are different kinds of threats, obviously. I actually think the bigger threat is not either one of them. I think the biggest challenge facing the American national security is us. And the question is whether we can come together as a country domestically, and whether we can continue to build or maintain a consensus for the United States to remain active in the world. If we can do that history suggests to me, we can deal with the very different kinds of threats posed by this Russia and this China. But that means, again, that we come together as a country domestically that deal with all of our domestic shortfalls, and that we stay involved in the world working with our natural partners. If we do all that we can handle the threats and challenges posed by these two countries.
CHANG: I just want to pick up on something that was another brilliant answer. Thank you, Richard. Madam Secretary, the issue that you referred to earlier as "intermestic," right? Picking up on disinformation, there's a question in our chat from Gurnoor Tucker, who asks, "How do we tackle state-sponsored rogue disinformation campaigns that have interfered in elections and violently target marginalized communities globally? I mean, we can point to areas like Myanmar, what does an international response look like to control information social media ecosystems and discipline governments who take advantage of them?”
ALBRIGHT: Talk about a non-answer. I mean I think this is one of the very difficult issues because it penetrates in a number of different ways. We do need cooperation in terms of some of the rules. My whole interest in life has been the role of information and political change. And I do think that at the moment, information has turned into a tool that is multi-placed and goes differently into different places and we are not working well enough with our allies that also believe in freedom of speech, but at the same time, do not wish to have systems that are totally penetrable by those who have malign interest. But this is going to require, I hate to say, but some kind of a conference or meeting of those that, in fact, can figure out what the tools are to stop this because they are coming from all kinds of directions. And technology has been a boon and at the same time has been our undoing in the way that different forms of technology are used in order to disperse and dispense a lot of false information through cracks that exist in our systems because we believe in free speech. And so this is going to take a lot of work and some kind of an organization that is dealing with this specifically. In the meantime, thanks to this administration, they have disassembled all the ways that we are able to use our public diplomacy in terms of the way that the Voice of America and Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe—all those various aspects that we use have been neutered.
HAASS: I think we have to play defense, but also offense. And defense is to make ourselves less vulnerable and there's technical aspects of that and regulatory aspects of that. There's obviously sanctions which we've employed, but I think we ought to be on the—think of this is a battlefield of public diplomacy and information, and why aren't we playing on it? And I think people like Putin should understand they can't do what they're doing to interfere with another country's democracy with impunity. They can't do it cost-free. You know, it's so funny, even this administration, particularly this administration, constantly talks about sovereignty. Well, here's an example where our sovereignty is being violated regularly. Let's do something about it. And that, to me, is a legitimate foreign policy pursuit, and one way to do something about it is to let the Russians and others know that if they're going to interfere in our politics, two can play that game.
CHANG: Let's go to a hand raised, please.
STAFF: Next question will come from Youssef Eldesouky. Please also indicate your affiliation and state.
HAASS: Probably unmute yourself.
Q: Hello. Okay, so my name is Youssef Eldesouky. I'm a master of international affairs candidate from Penn State University. My question is for Madam Secretary Albright. So out of your own experience, like how do you think the American foreign policy and interest in the Middle East like change it from the Clinton administration to the current one, and how possible this may like change again if Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate, get to the office in terms of like, [inaudible] alliance pattern in the Middle East? I mean, back again to the Middle East, you know, the Arab, some of the Arab states, like have a normalization relationship right now with Israel. It's definitely like a good point for the current administration in terms of like not only being pro-Israel, but for like this alliance against Iran. So what do you think about like this shift in like maybe the foreign policy strategies of the coming administration [inaudible]? Thank you.
ALBRIGHT: Well, I do think—by the way, I worked for a president who read a lot and assigned us books and one book that President Clinton assigned to me was, The Peace to End All Piece, written by an American historian David Fromkin, who goes back to what the Middle East was like at the end of World War I. And it was created to some extent by the, the short version of the book, of the British and French bureaucracies lying to each other. And there were some artificial states that were created and then some others with undisclosed boundaries and a variety of different issues. And to this day, we are dealing with a lot of those issues and a lack of understanding. By the way, most Americans know very little about Islam itself, but certainly not enough about the differences between the Shia and Sunni and then also the long-term rivalries between the Persians and the Arabs, i.e., the Iranians and the Arabs, and so those are things that are there—plus I do think the influence, attempted influence of the region by the Russians and also the Turks. So there's an awful lot that is going on.
I do think that a Biden presidency, again, has an understanding of the various issues that have taken place there. I think that there is going to be interest there and trying to deal with the various issues. But I do think trying to sort out how we deal with the issues that are incredibly complicated in terms of the role of the Kurds, how they have been treated, issues in terms of how—and this to go back on something, Americans really are tired of being at war in the Middle East. And yet at the same time, we are needed in a variety of different ways, and therefore, I think, to customize the military aspects to not having huge forces but to have particular kinds of forces, to be concerned about the issues that are also happening in the Eastern Mediterranean where all of a sudden the Greeks and the Turks are arguing over water, which is really over oil. And so there are issues that are going on there that are going to require the attention not just to the United States, but of the international community. The problem and I do think—Richard and I actually first met when I was doing transition for the Clinton administration and he had been doing issues in the Middle East. Richard, you left it in not bad shape, but the bottom line is, and there's no other way to put it, but it sucks up an incredible amount of time of American diplomats. And sometimes we can manage things and sometimes it just becomes a kind of a rotation, and we need to understand the importance of it. And then, as Richard mentioned earlier, it can't be the only thing that we're interested in.
HAASS: I remember that conversation. I think over the last twenty or thirty years, historians will say we overreached, we tried to do too much in the Middle East, in particular, in Iraq. We tried to transform things to some extent in Afghanistan, which is not quite the Middle East, but the same argument holds. I think the danger of going forward now might be more underreach, that we think we can safely turn our backs in the Middle East. It's been expensive and frustrating, and almost like the virus, we may get tired of it, but it may not get tired of us. And I think the challenge is how to rightsize our policy in the Middle East, including in Afghanistan, including in Iraq, what to do about Iran. And it seems to me, there's got to be something about heavy military forces and diplomacy trying to transform the region and simply walking away from it. And I think we can have some real, but still limited aims, with some limited resource commitments. And I think that's probably the beginning of a sustainable policy in this part of the world.
CHANG: You know, I want to sort of pick up on the last question because it was based on the question of transition from previous foreign policy regimes to now in the Middle East. There's a question from L. Daniels, that asks about, "What stands out to you as the differing in a Biden foreign policy compared to an Obama foreign policy?" You know, in this last debate, he said, I will no longer be the vice president. I'll be the president. Where is the daylight between Joe Biden and what would the Biden doctrine look like?
ALBRIGHT: I do think that, first of all, given his background, that a President Biden is very good at assessing what is going on. And the situation, frankly, has changed quite a lot from the Obama policy. And one of the things that has happened, and I can tell you I have been transitioned into and I've done the transitioning—the latter is more fun. Bottom line is that no president gets, when he takes over, a clean slate. There really isn't. And the question is, how do you shift from a previous policy, where there really has been a very active and some good, but some not good, policy by the Trump administration? I think, for instance, selling arms to the Saudis that then are used in Yemen is something that if we're going to sell arms, we need to figure out what countries do with them, how they are used. If we are going to have some military forces there, they have to be more specialized as to what they're supposed to do. And I do think that there has to be some line, and Richard, I think, you've been right in terms of us trying to do too much and that there has to be some way that there is a measured approach to it. But I think that the things that will make a Biden policy different is the intervening period from what Obama was dealing with, because Obama was trying to also deal with what had happened in the previous administration because Iraq was, I believe, a war of choice. And so then trying to deal with that was an issue. So he was trying to figure out how to extricate Americans. And I think that what a Biden policy will be is carefully attuned to the things that need to be done where the United States can play a role. I think there will be concern about what is happening with the Palestinians, because that is a totally unresolved issue. And some of the questions about a two-state policy, how is that going to work? I think there will be an attempt, and this is more a prediction, is to try to keep some of these relationships, the Abraham Agreements, in some way in terms of there always was an attempt to get Arab support for the state of Israel. And I think that that is an important aspect of it but hard to predict, because it's a totally evolving situation. And it's going to take analysis and an understanding of what we can do along with others and trying not to have the whole area be under influence of the Russians and the Turks.
CHANG: Richard, I have a question that got eighteen likes, by far, the most, "What, if any, are the United States' national interest in the current Armenian territorial dispute? What should be our role in resolving this conflict?"
HAASS: The Nagorno-Karabakh, look, the United States has a general dispute that we don't want to see issues like this decided by force. Turkey's increasing involvement is a matter of real concern. I think there's a human rights issue about—it's a largely Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh. The problem is, I think, for American foreign policy, Juju, is our interests are real, you know, I wouldn't say they rise to the level of being vital. And obviously there's limits to what we can and should do on their behalf. But this is where also, you know, it's one of the reasons you want to have a State Department. It's one of the reasons you want to have diplomats in all these places who are expert, is we ought to be involved in this and there are tools we can use to strengthen, if we need to look at ways to strengthen Armenia, if we need to look at ways to discourage Turkey and Azerbaijan and so forth, in [Kyrgyzstan]. I think there's things we can do there, obviously, to influence what Russia does. So I think we have tools. I guess I'd make an analytical point more than a prescriptive point—this is part of what happens when the United States pulls back from the world, that we create to some extent, local geopolitical-type vacuums. I think we see elements of it in Yemen, we see elements over here, obviously in Syria, is that things are getting too loose out there. And I think people feel they can do dangerous things without paying a price from us. Madeleine mentioned before in China and Hong Kong. I think all of this to some extent is a reading of the United States that's pulled back.
CHANG: And Madam Secretary, just to layer another question from Lauren Homer who's asking about Turkey with regard to NATO membership, the threats to Greece, for example. People fear she says, "Kicking Turkey out of NATO will push it into the arms of Russia, but Turkey and Russia are at odds on many issues, including President Erdogan stated aim of expanding Turkey's borders, etcetera, etcetera. Do either of you think it's realistic that Turkey can align with Russia?"
ALBRIGHT: I have to tell you, I spent a lot of time on Turkey and I was in the Carter White House when we lifted the Turkish embargo, and I was interested in what was happening in Turkey. I happen to believe, and was told to mind my own business, that the Europeans should have been more welcoming to Turkey and not keep moving the goalposts for them coming in because it pushed them in terms of looking more to the East. And Turkey, I think geographically and in so many ways, is very important both to Europe and to Asia. I am concerned about their relationship with the Russians. I am concerned about them using Russian air for air materiel and various defense things. And I think that Erdogan is right up there in terms of the authoritarian dictators, but I think we have to be very careful not to permanently alienate our relationship with the Turks. And I think that is also going to take a lot of diplomacy and Turkey is clearly trying to expand, or Erdogan, is very specifically trying to expand his reach both into North Africa, and then also in just to be on a different side from what the Egyptians are doing. And so there are an awful lot of local activities going on. I think we need to pay attention. We need to make sure that—I would not kick them out of NATO. And I would be very careful in terms of dealing with them with the hope that they will turn in a different direction than they are now because their behavior at the moment is really very damaging to our interests and to the people in the region.
CHANG: Richard, let's multitask for a second. I'm going to put the poll back up just to finish off and if you want to add to that question feel free. Let's put the poll back up. Go ahead.
HAASS: On Turkey, I would actually distance ourselves from Turkey. There's no mechanism for kicking them out of NATO or anybody else, but I would distance ourselves. Turkey is technically an ally, but I think the reality is they are not a partner. They're too close to the Russians on air defense, their human rights situation is terrible. What they're doing in various parts of the world, including in the Nagorno-Karabakh, is wrong. What they're doing in Eastern Med is dangerous. So I think we should distance ourselves and make ourselves less dependent on Turkey. Hopefully the day will come when you've got a different leadership, Turkey and all that. But for the moment, I think, Erdogan is tricky, almost like Putin's Russia. There's no partner, I think, in a realistic way there, Juju.
CHANG: So I'm going to encourage everyone to revote in the poll. We'll see if anything has shifted. I want to give the last five minutes, some closing thoughts from both of our participants. But Madam Secretary, if I could take another moderator's privilege moment and ask you to expand on your television career a little bit, because I know that you helped consult on Madame Secretary and what I didn't realize was just, you know, the culmination of a very auspicious television career.
ALBRIGHT: Well, the thing that really happened when I left office, by the way, I do watch television, and I can always rationalize what I'm watching. So I used to watch Army Wives, so I could figure out, you know, what it was like for the spouses. And I did watch a program called Gilmore Girls, which was about a mother-daughter relationship. So then I get a phone call from the producers of Gilmore Girls saying would I mind if somebody played me? And I said, “Yes, I mind, I want to play myself.” So I did an episode on Gilmore Girls. And because the daughter, Rory, actually reminds me of my youngest daughter, and my youngest daughter said, “Mom, you weren't acting, you were playing yourself.” So then the next phone call I got was from Amy Poehler and Parks and Recreation. And if anybody watches that, then the truth is that she has a photograph of me, you know, right by her desk. And there was an episode where some young man comes in and wants to go out with her. And he says to her, “Is that your grandmother?” And she says, “Anybody who doesn't know who Madeleine Albright is I'm not going out with.” So I did do an episode of Parks and Recreation at the Waffle House down across from Ford's Theater. And so then what happens is, I get a phone call from the producers of the new show, Madam Secretary, and they wanted me to have a meeting with Téa Leoni to talk about what it was like to be secretary of state. So we're having this meeting, and I thought, I'm spending this much time trying to figure out, you know, to explain what it's like to be secretary of state and then the writers got interested. And so it was terrific, and I helped them in terms of some of the episodes. By the way, you all know about the White House Correspondents' Dinner. So one year, they asked me to go with them and every time Téa Leoni and I walked in, somebody would say, “Madam Secretary,” and she would turn around. So then what happened most recently was that they wanted to have me and Secretary Clinton and General Powell on the show, and we all accepted, and the whole thing was totally scripted. And it was about some horrible event had taken place in the White House, and she as secretary of state calls her predecessors in and it was all scripted, but I got an unscripted line in. As we're about to sit down, I say, “Madam Secretary, it so great when the current secretary of state calls her predecessors into consult. We used to do that all the time.” And they left it in.
CHANG: So that's an excellent ad lib. I just want to know, Dr. Haass, does Tina Fey have a photo of you on her desk?
HAASS: Angelina Jolie.
CHANG: Uh huh, that I think might actually be true. Okay, so let's show the poll results. Hopefully they're up. 96 percent, we ticked up by 1 percent, think that we should rejoin international organizations. 65 percent, that ticked up by three, still think COVID is our biggest challenge. And China ticked up to 74 percent. Wow, that was quite a shift actually, it went from 63 percent to 74 percent. So everyone was listening with both ears. I cannot believe how much ground we covered in ninety minutes and Madam Albright, you're so charming and so brilliant, and it really a pleasure to listen to you think. Doctor Haass, I won't, I won't—
ALBRIGHT: You are so charming. Can I say the following thing, if I might? I use Richard Haass's books in my course, because they really [inaudible] explain, one, The World in Disarray, and now, The World. So I am a great admirer of his.
HAASS: Thank you, Madam Secretary.
CHANG: That's an excellent to end our session because as you know, the Council on Foreign Relations, if nothing else, ends their meeting on time. Obviously, today goes a long way in helping raise awareness on foreign policy. Richard, do you want to say goodbye?
HAASS: I just want to thank both of you. And I want to thank all those who participated. Again, to see this kind of interest in these issues, at this or any time, is fantastic. And I hope people will continue to use us as a resource. That's really, you know, our whole goal is to basically, we begin from the premise the world matters, and as Thomas Jefferson said, alas Mr. Jefferson couldn't be with us today, but a democracy requires an informed citizenry. So we are trying to do our bit.
CHANG: Well said. Madam Secretary, final thought?
ALBRIGHT: Well, and this really was terrific and I thought the questions were great and really did show a wide interest in the kinds of things and proves the theory of the case that Richard just raised is that people do want to know more. And as an avid member of the Council on Foreign Relations myself, I think that it is a great resource. And I applaud what is being done. And I have to say, Juju, thank you so much. You represent the press at its very best.
CHANG: Thank you so much. Well said both of you. Good afternoon, everyone.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
HAASS: Thank you.