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U.S.-Spain Relations

Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Interview With Antonio Cano of El Pais
Washington, DC
May 25, 2007

El Pais: Tell me, first of all, the first visit of the Secretary to Spain: why now and not before?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Secretary Rice has wanted to make this trip for some time. You know what her schedule is like. The why now, why this particular date, the honest answer is because we finally had a day --

El Pais: No, [inaudible].

Assistant Secretary Fried: A scheduling problem. But that's not the whole answer, and you've asked a serious question, so let's discuss it seriously.

We've been through a rough - so over the past year we've wanted to do this. So there has not been any issue other than scheduling. But before that, we went through a rough period in Spanish-American relations.

It's hard to fully understand quite what happened, but I think that we got off to a bad start with President Zapatero's government. There were various issues that got in the way. But the fact is, and the reason for this trip, is that the United States and Spain need to work together on a common agenda. Spain is one of the most successful European states of the last generation in terms of where Spain was in 1965 and where Spain is today. You weren't in 1965 the ninth or tenth largest economy in the world. You weren't a country that was fabulously productive, affluent and a leader in Europe. In 1965 you were some place else. Look at Spain now.

So we look at Spain's transformation as one of the great European success stories of the past generation. We look at Spain as a natural ally, and we have a common agenda, and we'll talk about that a little bit.

So it's not been natural to have a kind of estrangement. It is natural that we're working together.

We don't vote in Spain. Spain doesn't vote in the United States. We Americans will work with whatever Spanish government the Spanish people give us. We also obviously maintain relations with the opposition, just like Spain maintains relations with the opposition here.

El Pais: Close relations, actually.

Assistant Secretary Fried: Hey, I've maintained close relations with my friends in the Democratic Party, and they're all my friends. Most of them. But of course we have close relations with Partido Popular, but like I said, I have close relations with people like Dick Holbrooke and Ron Asmus, who are Democrats. I'm not political anyway. I served four years in the Bush White House; I'm proud of that service. I served four years in the Clinton White House, and I'm proud of that service.

Partisanship is not the point. The point is that we need to work together on issues of common concern, and partisanship gets in the way of clarity. There is an American foreign policy, and the foreign policy between Republicans and Democrats is less different than you'd believe in an election cycle, which is what we're in.

I won't comment about Spanish politics. But in American politics there is a huge debate about Iraq between Republicans and Democrats and within the Democratic and Republican parties, and there should be because it's a difficult issue. But there are other issues on which we have a national consensus. There's a national consensus that the United States and Europe have to work together in the world, and there's a national consensus that we have to work to advance freedom. There are debates about how you do that.

There is also a consensus, I believe, in the United States about making our multilateral alliances work. NATO, the U.S.-EU relationship, the OSCE - Foreign Minister Moratinos is Chairman-in-Office. There is a consensus that we want to work with Russia as much as we can, although we have some problems with Russia.

There is a consensus in the United States about Cuba, which I want to talk about, which is that we should support a democratic future for the Cuban people. There is a debate in the United States about tactics, but much less of one than there was 10 or 20 years ago because the Castro era is coming to an end and everyone in --

El Pais: Let me - If you don't mind, we'll go to specifics later.

Assistant Secretary Fried: Not at all. Whatever you want.

El Pais: Because you were trying to say something about the rough period in the relationship. I feel that you stopped yourself and started talking about the positive things. What happened during that period? Who is responsible? Maybe someone played too much politics in this relationship.

Assistant Secretary Fried: I don't want to dwell on the past. I could do so. But there's no point. Whatever happened and whatever mistakes might have been made are done, and dwelling on them will not make it easier to do what we need to do, which is to work together for a common future.

I have no use for the view you sometimes hear in the United States that we don't have to work with Europe because Europeans are all anti-American or they don't help us out or all they do is criticize. I have no use for that view. It's false and it's harmful.

I don't have much use for European anti-Americanism, either. I don't have much use for the view that the United States is a wicked country or that we're a threat to peace. People who say that don't really mean it. They just like to say it because it makes them feel good.

I think that both views - American anti-Europeanism, European anti-Americanism - are intellectually bankrupt. And not only that, but they are a distraction when we need to be working together.

The United States cannot accomplish what it needs to accomplish in the world acting alone or unilaterally. We can accomplish what we need to when we work with Europe on Iran, in the Middle East, with Russia, North Korea, fighting poverty and AIDS, doing what we need to do to fight climate change and get control over carbon dioxide emissions. We can't do it alone. Unilateralism and sanctimonious posturing doesn't work. Cooperation works.

El Pais: Do you see now the Spanish government as a close and confident ally on the United States?

Assistant Secretary Fried: We work together very well on some issues. I think the Spanish-American relationship can develop more. I think some Spanish officials are knowledgeable and very skilled professionals and we work with them very well. I would like to see Spain active in the world, working through NATO, active in Afghanistan. You're doing a lot in the Middle East because Moratinos knows a lot about it. But Spain is a big country and your economy is huge. I think Spain can be a force for security and peace and freedom in the world. I believe that Spain has that potential, and that's how I would like to see Spanish-American relations developing.

That gets me to the issue of Cuba, where we do have a disagreement on Castro. I think many people in Spain look at Castro and look at Cuba through the prism of ideological categories from the '60s and '70s and '80s. That Castro is somehow a man of the left and he's being attacked by the United States from the right. I don't see Castro as a man particularly of the left, because I don't consider that the best tradition of the left is one of dictatorship. I think he's just a dictator. I think to see Castro in the category of a carrier of the tradition of socialism - of democratic socialism, not communism - is just wrong. I think he's just a dictator.

Spain has enormous influence in Cuba. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans less than a hundred years ago emigrated from Spain to Cuba. You have enormous influence there - direct and indirect and cultural influence. I would hope that influence would be brought to bear for democracy.

I'm not saying that Spain has to agree with all American tactics about Cuba. Forget about American tactics. You can agree with them; you can not agree with them; you can agree with some and not others. Forget about it. Don't look at Cuba through the eyes of how you feel about America or the Bush Administration or anything else. Forget about us. Think about the Cuban people and their right to freedom, and think about your own history.

Look, I'm not an expert on Spain, but I know that a lot of Spanish people think the United States was a little bit too close to Franco and a little bit too hands-off when it came to an authoritarian regime. That view is still heard. Now it's 30 years after Franco and the Spanish say: well, if you believe in democracy, where were you? Okay? I can argue and say that's an exaggerated view, but it's really felt by Spanish people.

Here's a question for you. In 30 years if there's a democratic Cuba, will they look to Spain as a beacon of freedom? Forget about the United States. Are you putting your faith in the Cuban people? And in Cuban freedom?

We've seen authoritarian regimes crumble in the last generation. I don't know much about Spain. I've been there many times, but I don't know it. I do know Eastern Europe. I know the Poles and the Czechs, particularly the Poles, look to Spain as a model. They would say things to me like, my God, we're just alike. In the 16th Century we were great, then we declined, then we had the 20th Century of authoritarianism, and we're back. We will be great in the 21st Century. We'll be fully integrated into Europe, we'll be modern, we'll be wealthy, and the Poles used to say we want to be just like Spain. Catholic countries, sort of rapidly modernizing. I can't tell you, Poles of the left and the right, but all the Poles in Solidarity looked to Spain as a model. And they saw you because they saw a country that had gone from authoritarianism to democracy.

Don't you want the Cubans to look at you the same way? And are you doing everything you can to support a democratic transformation after Castro as opposed to just replacing one communist dictator with another? Think about it.

Okay, you're supposed to ask the questions, not me. I understand. But I'm making a point.

El Pais: It's a very interesting question, but we'll let the readers answer you, if you don't mind.

Assistant Secretary Fried: Fair enough.

El Pais: It's going to be a very interesting question for our readers.

Assistant Secretary Fried: Are there people --

El Pais: I have a personal answer, but you aren't interested in a personal answer. [Laughter].

Assistant Secretary Fried: Maybe I am. [Laughter].

But are there people in Spain who still look at Castro through the prism of the United States and they think we don't like the Bush Administration so we'll support Castro?

Remember I said earlier that excessive partisanship is one of my rules; excessive partisanship makes you stupid. There were people in the United States who were so mad at Bill Clinton that they thought if Bill Clinton is leading NATO in a war against the Serbian armies in Kosovo they would oppose it just because they didn't like Bill Clinton. There were such people. Partisanship can make you stupid.

The people I respect are the ones who transcend partisanship like President Bush who is taking on large elements of his own party in fighting for immigration reform. I applaud that. That's real courage. He's doing something for principle. You see what I'm saying.

El Pais: Let me follow up on Cuba.

Assistant Secretary Fried: Go ahead.

El Pais: Do you think that the recent visit of the Spanish Foreign Minister to Cuba is a step in the direction that you are looking for?

Assistant Secretary Fried: Let me put it this way. When Secretary of State George Shultz in the Reagan administration went to the Soviet Union he always met with dissidents. He also had good meetings with the Soviet officials. We all have to learn how to do both. That's hard. It really is hard. How do you work with a regime that's authoritarian or dictatorial and at the same time reach out to civil society? That's an easy thing to say when we're sitting here and it's a hard thing to do. That's the balance that needs to be kept. But these symbols matter.

I've spent a lot of my career in the communist world and the communist regimes hated it when we saw the dissidents. But we only started winning the Cold War when we understood that this was not a fight of right and left; it was a fight of democracy versus dictatorship. When we reframed that issue and understood this, we started winning. The people who overthrew communism were not all the right and they were not all the left. They were both. They were social democrats, they were Catholic nationalists, they were liberals, and they all recognized that freedom united them. Those are the people we have to reach out to. That's my answer.

I should add that I have enormous respect for Foreign Minister Moratinos. He's a very knowledgeable person and he's done a lot, particularly his support for democracy and the rule of law in the Muslim world, the Arab world, is exemplary. He's been very strong on that.

El Pais: I have been reading the Reagan diaries. It's so funny to read. It's an excellent book. He said so many things about Felipe Gonzalez. He said that he's brilliant, moderate, pragmatic socialist from Spain, that he's conducting Spain to modernization. I felt a little bit sad about how things between the United States and Spain have degraded in recent years.

Assistant Secretary Fried: It's not a question of left and right. Felipe Gonzalez was a modern socialist. Look at Javier Solana. He starts out demonstrating against NATO and he ends up the head of NATO. It was wonderful. He was a wonderful head of NATO and he is a wonderful foreign policy leader of the European Union. He's smart, he's visionary, he's tactically tough, he's a warm person, and his socialist background actually gives him an advantage because he went from being, I don't know, from further on the left to a man of the left but with a broader vision. You saw that Ronald Reagan respected Gonzalez. George Bush worked very well with Polish President Kwasniewski.

El Pais: What happened between these two guys?

Assistant Secretary Fried: I don't want to go back into the past, but I will say this. Kwasniewski had differences, and Blair had differences with Bush about a lot of issues. Global warming, sometimes the Middle East. Kwasniewski was a social democrat, a man basically of the left. But they believed in freedom; they believed in the transatlantic alliance.

Anti-Americanism is an indulgence. Just like anti-Europeanism in the United States. And it's destructive. It's a moral capitulation. Let me explain what I mean by that.

The United States and Spain, the United States and Europe, are centers of wealth and stability and power in the world, and those attributes give us a responsibility to help other parts of the world. I don't know whether that's a left or a right view. I don't think of it as either. But when we spend our time attacking each other or criticizing each other, we are wasting the time and wasting the energy we need to spend making the world a better place.

Our generation didn't make ourselves wealthy. Previous generations did. We just got lucky to get born here instead of being born in Darfur. Okay? That luck gives us a responsibility not to take for granted our power. Is that a left wing view or a right wing view? I don't even know. But we have a responsibility. So when people say we can't trust America. America is a threat to peace. Or we can't trust the Europeans. They hate us and they're no good. I say to myself, what are you talking about?

There is work that needs to be done. Real people are suffering. There are wars that we can stop. There's disease that we can prevent. We have a responsibility to do more together.

I'm sure you're thinking to yourself and your readers will think, well there goes another idealistic American. All right, I plead guilty. But that's what we are as a country. We're genetically encoded, for good and bad, to think in these categories. But if it weren't for that kind of devotion to freedom, would Spain be what it is today? Wasn't it a devotion to democratic ideals that made the King of Spain basically in the 1970s stand up and defend his country? That was a great moment. I still remember it. It was a great moment for freedom when a king could stand up and say the constitution will, democracy will stand. So it's not just an American - idealism and devotion to values is not simply American. I would say Spain has it too. It's a good thing.

El Pais: Do you see any chance of a way to repair the personal relationship between the two presidents?

Assistant Secretary Fried: I would put it this way. We need to work together on a common agenda. If there have been problems in the past, let's see what we can do to work together in the future.

El Pais: In a personal arena.

Assistant Secretary Fried: But that's - President Bush respects people who disagree with him. He wants his interlocutors to be honest and straight-forward. I'm not going to talk about personal relations, but let's work on the relationship between the two countries, and let's work on what we're doing together in the world.

If we have challenges in Afghanistan, helping the Afghan people, what more can we do together to help them? What more can we do in Lebanon?

El Pais: For example, a personal visit is not a personal relation. I mean an official visit, a state visit to the U.S. is not a personal relation. It is something about business and something about general interest.

Assistant Secretary Fried: Look. Secretary Rice is going to Madrid. I know what you're saying. I understand that. Secretary Rice is going to Madrid. Let's take this trip, let's make this a success, and let's build the relationship and not worry about the personalities. But let's focus on what we need to do together and things will work out.

El Pais: There are specifics in this visit to Madrid other than you said Cuba, maybe Afghanistan?

Assistant Secretary Fried: I think issues like Cuba, Afghanistan. Obviously the Middle East will come up. Moratinos knows a lot about it. He cares about it deeply. Of course they'll discuss it. Both Israel, Palestinian issues, Lebanon, Iran will come up. It's possible, depending on where we are next week, that they'll talk about Kosovo.

El Pais: Iraq?

Assistant Secretary Fried: No, Iran. Iraq maybe, but Iran. Spain is a European country. There are things we have to talk about common to Europe. Also because Moratinos is Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE. There are a host of issues that your readers probably don't know much about, or [inaudible] and don't write about much. Things like Georgia, Ukraine, the CFE Treaty, missile defense. These are common issues. I hope that the readers of El Pais, a newspaper famous and venerable and all of those things, the Le Monde of EspanŞa. I hope El Pais readers will look at the United States not through a partisan prism, but take a look at what we actually stand for.

Do your readers know that President Bush has tripled U.S. official development assistance to Africa? I bet they don't.

El Pais: Maybe.

Assistant Secretary Fried: I bet they don't. I bet they don't believe it.

El Pais: A last question about the whole picture in Europe. Do you see the victory of Sarkozy in France as something that will change the general relationship with Europe?

Assistant Secretary Fried: I thought it was terribly wrong to define Europe as an anti-American entity. To seek European unity by being against America was a terrible strategic failing. That doesn't mean America and Europe agree on everything. I'm not saying that. Partners don't agree on everything. But we want a strong Europe as a partner, not a strong Europe as a rival. What a terrible thing that would be.

Sarkozy has made very clear that he believes in an alliance with America, but he will criticize the United States where we disagree. So does Chancellor Merkel. We have disagreements. That's all right. We're democracies. But their strategic purpose is not to criticize or to rally their people with anti-Americanism. Their purpose is to work with the United States on common agendas in the world. That's the kind of Europe we hope to see. And a strong Europe and a strong European Union. And a strong EU doesn't mean a weak NATO. My God, there's work to be done all around. We need strong institutions everywhere.

El Pais: You're not going to miss Chirac anyway.

Assistant Secretary Fried: Look, Jacques Chirac had enormous gifts. On Lebanon he worked very well with President Bush. He was tough and decisive and had a vision of France. It was not all about him, so I have nothing but respectful words to say. I think Sarkozy is a leader of a different generation. I think what Merkel did at the EU-Russia Summit was magnificent. She stood up for a united Europe.

El Pais: Thank you.

Released on May 31, 2007

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