“In the past, we were afraid of nuclear bombs. Today, we do not know what we fear. I think, it is more complicated than before,” this is how Madeleine Albright, former US secretary of state between 1997 and 2001, compared the Cold War world with today’s situation. Interview with her was conducted at the 11th annual security conference Globsec held in Bratislava and was first published in the Slovak newspaper Pravda.
When comparing the world during the Cold War with the one we have today, was it safer before because the dividing lines were drawn more clearly or, on the contrary, are we better off today?
At the time of the Cold War, the Soviets and the other part of the world were the rivals. Now it is less clear. We do not know who is who, what works and what does not. I see that people are afraid of terrorism but also because they do not understand what the governments and politicians are doing. Globalization and technology development shows us two sides of the same coin. It is good that people know each other better, they can travel. And they can also help each other. But we can also see that people do not know who they are, so to speak. It leads to nationalism. It makes me a little scared. People close themselves in their own identity, they want to be just with their own kind. And then they do not like those who live next door. It creates problems. In a sense, the world of today is therefore not safer.
In the past, we were afraid of nuclear bombs. Today, we do not know what we fear. I think, therefore, it is more complicated than before.
You mentioned nationalism, with which we have historical experience in Europe. Is it also for you the biggest security problem?
I see it also in this way. Look at what is happening with migrants. They are fleeing from something terrible. But people are afraid of those who are a little different. It is a terrible mistake. We should work together in the world. With the growth of strong nationalism, we suddenly hear that there are people with whom we do not want to be. Such an approach complicates things even more.
Are you afraid of the possibility of a major conflict between the superpowers? Perhaps a war with Russia or China?
I hope not. I am not afraid of it. The Russians, however, are biting around. What Moscow did in Ukraine was illegal. We must be careful so that they do not do it somewhere else. Russia seeks to divide Europe. Therefore, we must do things together. We must understand what needs to be done. The European Union and NATO should work better. As far as China, it presents for the USA one of the most important relationships of the 21st century. Of course, it is very difficult when we look at the approach of Beijing in the South China Sea. China wants more. Being an American is interesting. Everybody wants to work with the United States in a way, but it’s a little difficult. Americans are also already tired of all they must do.
Is there any decision in your career which would you change if you can and why?
When Bill Clinton was President in the 1990s we felt certain hope that everything can be a little different, that we can all work together. Especially, when we look at the region where we are. We were solving the problems in the Balkans, yet at that time we believed in hope. But now we have to live in a world that we have. We cannot look at the past, indulging in nostalgia. We must better understand each other and work together.
Madeleine Albright was born on 15 May 1937 in Prague. Her family left Czechoslovakia before the Nazis and her father diplomat Josef Korbel worked during World War II for the Czechoslovak government in London exile. After the Communists took power in Czechoslovakia, Korbel sent his family to the United States. Albright focused on foreign policy, she was an advisor for the Democrats, in February 1993 she became the US ambassador to the UN. During 1997-2001, she was the first woman at the head of the US State Department. She is currently active in the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. At the conference Globsec, she was awarded the Czech and Slovak Transatlantic Award.