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Editors-In-Chief Club Roundtable Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland Wednesday, January 21, 2009 Rixos Hotel, Shanyrak Room Astana, Kazakhstan

Ambassador Hoagland:  Thank you so much for the kind words and for the many good suggestions and good ideas.  Thank you for the invitation to come to meet with your club today.  It’s really an honor for me.
 
As a government official, I have to say something a little unusual, which is I have always enjoyed working with journalists.  In fact, when I was in university, I was the editor-in-chief of our university newspaper.  When I began my diplomatic career, I was an information officer in various embassies, and my very best diplomatic job until now was press spokesman for the American embassy in Moscow.
 
If I look a little tired today, it’s because I stayed up very late to watch the inauguration of the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama.  I know journalists like to have short phrases for reactions, so I can tell you that the inauguration of President Obama means we are not just turning a page in our history, we are not just starting a new chapter in our history, we’re starting an entirely new book in our history.
 
Here in Kazakhstan, of course, I continue to be very interested in mass media issues.  As part of its preparation for chairmanship of OSCE in 2010, Kazakhstan has been amending some of its laws, including the law on mass media.  So I will be eager to hear your views on the new amendments and also more broadly your views on mass media in Kazakhstan when we have our conversation.
 
Now just a little bit about U.S. interests in Kazakhstan, diplomatic interests.  The United States has three broad areas of interest, and we work hard to give equal emphasis to all three areas.  These three areas are 1)promoting political and economic progress; 2)cooperating on issues of regional security and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and 3) working with Kazakhstan as it develops its rich energy resources and establishes various routes to trade those resources on the world market.  In every one of those three areas, Kazakhstan has made significant progress in 17 years of independence.
 
In some of these areas, such as economic progress and energy development, Kazakhstan has clearly become a regional leader and increasingly an international leader.  For me, this is a most interesting time to represent my country as the United States ambassador and to work to enhance and improve our already strong bilateral relationship.
Since you are all mass media professionals, let me tell you just a little about the United States Embassy’s Public Affairs Section.  We work closely with Kazakhstani media, journalists, to provide information, to answer inquiries, and to nominate journalists to participate in U.S. government professional exchange programs. 
 
If you don’t know them already, I want to introduce my embassy press colleagues so that you can work with them very closely at any time.  The American information officer is Tom Tanner, and our information specialist is Mariana Kournossova.  I encourage every journalist here, and all journalists, to call our embassy press section when you have questions or if you want information or if you want official comments from the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. government on stories that you are working on.
We also provide every day by e-mail what we call the Washington File.  It is press and information stories from the United States in the Russian language.  So if you do not receive that, and you would like to receive it, please leave your e-mail addresses with us.  Of course, we also have a U.S. Embassy internet web site where you can find both in English and in Russian much more information and press articles.
 
That’s my prepared remarks.  I hope that you will have lots of questions for me.  If you don’t have very many questions, then I might ask you some questions.  I’ll tell you one question that I will ask immediately, and I would hope to hear some answers.  The question is, what is your advice to the American ambassador?  So the word is yours.
 
Mirbulat Kunbayev, President of Editors-In-Chief Club:  Just a short remark on your question on media amendments.  Those amendments that were initiated by the government, they are not conservative, and they are judged positively, and they lead to the improvement of the law.
Another issue is that some media organizations who criticize the government for this package of amendments, they do not say that those amendments were bad.  They say there were few good amendments.  That it could have been better. 
 
The [inaudible] club’s opinion is that progress always keeps moving.  We still have a lot of time ahead of us, and there will be many more new amendments.  But those five amendments that were recently made improve media legislation in the country a great deal, and they improve conditions for the work of journalists in our country.
 
As you know, electronic media outlets do not have to pass government registration now.  They only have to get licenses.  This is an improvement in regulations that will sort for a long time.
 
Under the previous law, under the old law, all media had to pass government registration, and the failure to register with the government could result in suspension for up to three months.  And in a case of a repeated failure to register, suspension could last for half a year.  Now this obstacle has been removed.
 
Other amendments also bring positive changes.  We made a general assessment, and we assess them as positive. 
 
Of course, some controversial issues in media regulation areas still remain.  For example, decriminalization of libel.  But in this case, we have to make amendments not in the media law only, but also to the criminal code of our country.  That issue has been raised not only by media activists but by human rights activists as well because it refers not to journalists only.  And if we relieve journalists from criminal liability for libel, how about other people who fall under the same punishment for libel?  So it’s a much broader issue than just a journalist’s right.
 
Another example is proposed amendment on relieving liability of a journalist in case he or she fails to check the accuracy of information that is being publicized.  This amendment was initiated a [dual force] on government organizations, and we cannot agree with them completely because we think the first and foremost responsibility of a reporter is to bring truthful information to his readers.  Otherwise, reporters will feel free to provide any false and fabricated information using this protection in the law, and that will not provide a good service to our society.
I would like to give the floor to Dr. Bashimov, who was our representative in the working group that drafted amendments to the media law.
 
Marat Bashimov, “Chelovek I Zakon” newspaper:  Mr. Ambassador, I would like to use this opportunity of speaking very informally because that’s the way we hold our meetings here and speak about things that we cannot present in some other, more formal meetings.
 
First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the inauguration of your first president.  I was lucky to travel to the United States and stay there in 1988-1989 when Mr. Dukakis ran as a president, and I remember that we students all had T-shirts with his picture, and I remember all that euphoria that reigned in the country.  I remembered all this watching the inauguration yesterday.
 
America is a country that really elects a leader.  The whole country elects its leader.
 
If any one of us paid attention yesterday, it is that when taking his oath, the new president repeats the words that are pronounced by the chief justice of the country, which is very symbolic.  It symbolizes the rule of law in the country.
 
My third point is the serious problems that Russia and other countries now face—the heritage of our past, unfortunately.  It’s a legacy in which the public consciousness, public opinion is criminalized, and this hinders recognition of the priority of the rule of law in our countries.  And it also hindered the process of working on draft amendments to the media law.  Whereas all we needed was to check the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Constitution of the country.  Only those two basic documents should have been considered.
 
Unfortunately, we had very few lawyers, and that also hindered the process.
 
From the very beginning, as a representative of our club in the working group, I collected opinions of our rank and file club members and then propagated or brought those ideas to the working group.
It is a very --
 
Dana Rysmukhamedova, Channel 31:  Not just a question but some advice and a few comments on the situation.  I’ve been a member of this club from the very beginning, and you are the first foreign ambassador to come to our meeting.
 
Today, everybody congratulates you on the inauguration of your president, but for Americans, it’s a normal thing because it’s something that you’ve had many, many times.
 
Advice, you asked for advice.  Well, maybe I can say that we would like to see the diplomat Richard Hoagland be a little gentler a person, a human being.  Because we journalists are interested in human beings and personalities more than in government officials.
 
As for the situation, everything is on the surface.  I don’t think anything is hidden because you watch our TV and read newspapers and get a more or less relatively complete picture of what’s going on—the newspapers and propaganda that we have.
 
I will be very sincere with you, and your colleagues can confirm that I never praised the government too much, not more than it deserved, but I should say that the level of our professional journalism has risen significantly recently.  We have a number of media outlets that have good coverage, maybe more economic, more political, but good professional coverage of different issues, economic issues mainly.  But the economy is the area that people are really interested now.
 
Another piece of advice I would like to give to our journalists maybe.  They have to make sure there is a balance of opinions, a variety of opinions and pluralism in their media stories.  Of course, the government policy has its impact on how media develops.  An example is this recent media law, which I cannot say that I am too happy with.  Although it is correct that a number of very severe restrictions have been removed under this law—restrictions that our opposition called just stupid things, for example, duplicative registration, or a requirement to re-register when editorial staff changed their addresses, and things like that.
 
When people argue that we are too young, our democracy is only 15 years old, whereas Western democracy is 200, I think it’s a lame excuse that gives people a pretext to relax.  If we go on this way, then in 200 years we can say, well, we are only 215 years old, whereas the West is 400 years old, and I cannot agree with that.  I think that steps need to be taken.  The steps that we need to take must be taken, and we have to do it gradually.  It’s too bad that a representative of the Ministry of Information did not come to our meeting today.
 
I agree with Dr. Bashimov.  I was in the United States also.  I traveled to the United States, and I agree with him that we are different.  We have different problems that we encounter.  We have these pains that we are experiencing now, and we know them very well, and we are coping; we’re handling them.
 
If I may ask a question, unfortunately Samuel P. Huntington left us, but the things that he wrote about still remain.  The so-called clash of civilizations.  I would like to ask what is your opinion on the correlation of forces after the end [of the global financial crisis]?  Will the relation of forces, the ratio of forces remain the same in the world?  How will this issue of the clashes of civilization continue?  Will there be any change in the world order?
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  Thank you very much.  Thanks to all of you.  I will answer your question, but first I would like to make several comments about the various things that I have heard so far, if that’s okay with you.
 
I heard that law is necessary sometimes to prevent journalists from publishing wrong information, but I’m not sure that law can prevent that kind of thing, and I want to tell you a short anecdote. 
 
When my government nominated me to become the U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan and long before I arrived here, there was an article about me in a Kazakhstani newspaper.  I think the source must have been from the Internet, someone used Google.  Because if you put my name into the Google search, “Richard Hoagland,” there are two Richard Hoaglands that appear on Google.  One is me, Richard Hoagland, the diplomat.  The other Richard Hoagland is a former National Space Administration official who has some very unusual ideas because he believes that extraterrestrials live on Mars.  So the headline of the article in this Kazakhstani newspaper was, “New American Ambassador Believes in Extraterrestrials.”  Let me assure you, that’s the other Richard Hoagland.  [Laughter]. 
 
About the media law amendments and the good comments that I heard.  I agree that moving toward international standards is a process.  There have been some improvements with these amendments, but as has already been noted, there can be more improvements in the future.
 
I would also like to note before I answer your question that there really is a difference between libel and legitimate criticism based on investigative reporting.  Libel is when mass media, whether television or newspaper, publish wrong information and wrong information that harms the profession or the reputation of a public person.  But if a journalist exposes real corruption by an official, that’s not libel, and yet some people like to use this law against journalists to protect their own corruption.  But it does take a long time in a democratic society to develop strong laws that accord with international standards.
 
For example, in the early 19th century in the United States, we had laws against insulting public officials, and people went to prison for publishing insults in newspapers against a president or a governor.  Our current libel laws really did not take shape until the middle of the 20th century.
 
I appreciate your comment that sometimes people say, “be careful, you can’t go too fast.”  And I appreciate the comment that you are coming from a specific cultural heritage during the Soviet period.  But immediately after independence, Kazakhstan considered economic reform and political reform, and it started economic reform very quickly.  The economic reform has led very quickly to some very important results.
 
If by chance Kazakhstan had started political reform at the same pace and at the same time as economic reform, it would be interesting to see what the differences would be today.
 
Now your question.  After the international economic crisis is over, will there be a change in the power structure of the world.  Will there be a change in the rankings of the countries.
 
I don’t have a crystal ball, so I can’t tell you what will happen in five years or 10n years or 15 years.  But I do suspect that there will be new financial structures in the world for regulating financial and banking practices, and I think that the countries that develop those new structures and adopt those new structures will emerge as strong countries.  If we look at countries that have been growing economically very fast in recent years, such as China, Brazil, India, I think in the future they will continue to grow fast after the economic crisis.  So I can’t answer more than that because I don’t know any more than that.

Natalya Absalyamova, Ekspress K:  We learned a new thing about you today.  We knew that you were a teacher before joining the diplomatic service, but we didn’t know that you were our colleague.  In this regard, we would like to ask you if you ever have any desire to begin writing because you said that you enjoyed being press officer the most of all the jobs that you did.
 
My second question is whether there is any very tentative preliminary information on the possible visit of the president of the United States to Kazakhstan.
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  Thank you very much for the question. 

Have I ever thought about writing?  Well, when I was younger, I wrote two books but never published them.  Maybe some day, they will be published.  But let me tell you, the work of a journalist and the work of a diplomat are surprisingly similar, and I’ll explain why.
 
My job is to try to understand the situation or an issue and to have as many sources as possible and then to write as honestly as possible a report about that issue.  Because my government receives literally thousands of diplomatic reports from around the world every day, if I want someone to read my report, it has to be well written.  So you asked do I think about writing?  Honestly, I write every day.
 
A possible visit, early visit by President Obama?  I don’t make his schedule, but I can tell you that I think it is a good sign that one of his first telephone calls after he was elected president in November was to President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan.  So I do hope that he will visit Kazakhstan soon, and I will recommend to him that he visit Kazakhstan soon.  I would be very proud to be the American ambassador who hosts my president here in Kazakhstan, even if it would make a huge amount of work for my staff.
 
Megapolis newspaper:  You asked advice.  My advice is to be closer to us and if possible to answer as many of our questions as you can.
 
My question is from the political area.  It is related to a comment, a statement.  I ask if you could comment on the statement made by a military officer who was here last week regarding placement of American military bases in Kazakhstan.  We would like to hear your comments on the statement that he made.
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  I would hope to be as open and close to journalists as you would like, so you ask and give invitations to me, and I will respond.  I will answer your questions.
 
The military officer, U.S. military officer who was here last week was one of our most important generals.  His name is General David Patraeus. 
When he met with the president, the minister of defense, the deputy minister of defense, and other very important officials he thanked the Kazakhstani officials for the over-flight rights that we have in order to continue our operations in Afghanistan, and he thanked them for what we call a “divert agreement.”  If one of our planes is in trouble, it has the right to land at Kazakhstani airports.  And he thanked them for the most recent decision to allow the United States to ship non-lethal cargo, mostly food and construction material, through Kazakhstan for our troops in Afghanistan.  In fact, that will be of real benefit for Kazakhstan because we will be buying a lot of those supplies in Kazakhstan, so it’s financially positive.  It’s a commercial agreement, not a military agreement.
 
The one thing General Patraeus did not ask for is the possibility of a United States military base in Kazakhstan.  And he didn’t ask because there’s no plan for a U.S. military base in Kazakhstan.
 
However, when General Patraeus was here in Astana, I noticed that one newspaper published a report that American specialists were at the airport in Almaty measuring the buildings, measuring the runways, to get ready to establish a military base. 
 
So the question I have is how do you prevent wrong information, or how do you prevent negative propaganda? 
 
Megapolis newspaper:  I [inaudible] your question.  It’s impossible to prevent negative propaganda because each media outlet has the right to express its opinion, and it has its opinion, and here we exercise freedom of speech.  There is no way to prevent any media outlet from publication of negative information, whereas libel can be prevented and shall be prevented.
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  Let me add to that.  Of course there’s freedom of speech and of course everyone has a right to their own opinion.  And in American journalism, we of course have what we call editorials or opinion articles.  But those are separate from news articles because news articles are objective reality.  So when a journalist writes that there are American military experts at Almaty airport preparing for a military base, that’s not opinion because there were no experts there.
 
Megapolis newspaper:  I think in that case, the press service of the American Embassy should reach the editorial staff of that newspaper and express its dissatisfaction with the [inaudible].
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  That’s a good idea, thank you.
 
Turan-Eksperess Newspaper:   Mr. Solakov, he represents [inaudible] newspaper and international human rights organization.  His question is about the United Nations organization, which is located in the territory of the United States, and it was established after World War II on the initiative of a number of countries, including the United States, but has recently been declining in significance and respect.
 
Some countries, including the United States, do not observe the charter of this organization or avoid following its guidance.  Small countries have always looked at the United Nations as a point where they can get justice, where they can get their issues resolved fairly, because those small countries cannot defend themselves.  But we’ve seen a number of occasions where some countries ignored resolutions of the United Nations.  For example, recently some four resolutions on expansion of 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s land by Armenia were not implemented and nobody reacted to this fact.
 
I would like to ask you a question.  Is there a way to revive this organization?  Make it a strong organization again?
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  That’s an interesting comment, and I know very well the situation of Nagorno-Karabakh.  Countries, like human beings, aren’t always perfect.  The great value of the United Nations is that it is an organization of consensus where people come together, but the resolutions of the Security Council don’t really have, they are not enforceable by force of law.  They are followed by consensus in international law.
 
I think what will in the future improve the United Nations is all the countries of the United Nations and especially the Security Council countries respecting the United Nations more and giving it a bigger role to play in international affairs.  I suspect you will see in the administration of President Obama with Secretary of State Clinton a much bigger role in American foreign policy for the United Nations.  But again, that means we have to be better diplomats because we cannot enforce, we can only convince in the United Nations.
 
Svoboda Slova Newspaper:  First I would like to comment on the amendments made into those laws that were mentioned, the media party election law, that were recently approved by the Senate and were forwarded to the president for his signature.  I agree that the democratic community views these amendments as cosmetic, not substantive, amendments.  These amendments just rule out the norms that did not work, that did not have any force at all, and did not bring anything new, anything revolutionary in a good sense of this word.  And they were passed during Kazakhstan’s preparation for the OSCE chairmanship so that nobody criticizes the country for not preparing properly.
 
With the Bush administration, particularly during the last two years, there was a lot of disappointment in opposition circles of Kazakhstan because that’s what I am familiar with, and I work for an opposition newspaper.  There was a lot of disappointment that the United States had forgotten about Kazakhstan, left it out as an insignificant country.  And in this regard, two opinions were formed. 
 
The first opinion was that the United States is not interested in Kazakhstan because in its democratic progress it can never integrate into Western democracy.  It can never become a Western-level country because Kazakhs as people are not capable of standing up for their rights, going out to streets and protesting and fighting.
 
The second opinion was that Kazakhstan is an energy alternative to Russia, and in this regard, the U.S. administration prefers not to break relations with Nazarbayev’s administration.  It’s not in their interest.
What do you think about these two opinions?  And do you think with the new president, a young, ambitious president, the United States policy in Kazakhstan will change?  Because expectations of radical changes in the foreign policy of the United States and the whole world are very high.  Do you think we will see these changes in Kazakhstan?  And will the new administration use any levers that it has to influence reform of legislation, real reform of legislation, not cosmetic changes that we see in preparation of the country for the OSCE chairmanship?
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  First of all, I really don’t think that the United States forgot about Kazakhstan during the last few years, but I do admit that the United States was obsessed with Iraq, and then internally, we were rather obsessed with the direction, or the controversy, about the government of the now former president.
 
Your first thesis, we might not be interested because we think Kazakhs will not stand up for their rights and go into the streets to express their rights.  That’s not true.  And besides that, the best democratic process is not a process necessarily in the streets, it’s a political process.  It’s in elections.  It’s in law.  It’s a very responsible process.
 
The other thesis that we don’t break our relations with Kazakhstan because we are interested in Kazakhstan’s oil.  I think very little oil from Kazakhstan ever goes to the United States.  That’s the first response on that.
 
But more importantly, we have many many common interests that we need to continue to work on together.  As I said, economic reform, political reform, security issues, including counternarcotics, non-proliferation, all of these areas.  We have lots of work to do together.  If we break relations, what do we gain?  And what do you gain?  No country can force democracy on another country.  No country can impose democracy on another country.  But we will always look for strong democratic partners, meaning organizations, mass media, parties, that we can work together with and by continuing to stay engaged with the country, that gives us the opportunity to stay engaged with the democratic forces in a country also.
 
So will the new administration, the Obama administration, pay more attention to Kazakhstan?  I think so. 
 
Makhat Sadyk, Kazakhstan TV:  Under the former Soviet Union, Kazakhs were the only ethnicity that spoke, where 100 percent of Kazakhs spoke the Russian language.  Now we have about 20 percent of our Kazakh people who speak English now that we have closer relations with the United States.  It’s just a comment.
 
My question is about Kazakhstan’s role as a country that gave it its nuclear potential, the first country to sacrifice its nuclear potential. In this area, we have a number of documentary films, very good films, showing this very important historic process.
 
The question is how the United States Embassy contributes to delivering this image of Kazakhstan in the United States by showing or familiarizing American audience with such films and documentaries and other sources?
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  You know, we have many, many, many television channels in the United States, most of which are available on cable TV—for example, the National Geographic Channel, the Discovery Channel.  These are the kinds of channels that would be interested in material like that.  I think you have an excellent idea that some of these channels really should do documentaries about this fundamental historic role and decision of Kazakhstan.  But these are all private channels.  We don’t have government channels in the United States, and the government can’t pick up the telephone and call the editor and say I want you to do this.  So you need to establish commercial contact with these really good documentary channels.
 
Makhat Sadyk, Kazakhstan TV:  Can we do it through the embassy?  Can we get embassy support?
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  We can help you find the contacts so that you can make these kinds of proposals.  Sure.  Of course.
 
Togzhan Gani, Info-Tsess Newspaper:  The first question is whether you agree that democracy is more vulnerable to economic crisis than autocratic countries.  For example, China, where the government participates significantly in management of the economy.  It handles the crisis better than other countries.
 
The second question is what you think about the U.S. dollar.  Will there be a new world currency established?  Many analysts think that the reason of this crisis is that the dollar does not have any material value, the gold value.

Ambassador Hoagland:  On the first question, I honestly don’t believe that democratic countries are more vulnerable to economic crises than other countries.  Democratic countries tend to have highly advanced market economies, that’s true, and so you see a lot of the democratic countries suffering the effects of the economic crisis.  But democratic countries are also generally very resilient, and I think that they will recover quite fast once the economic crisis is over.  And the economic crisis in the world is really beginning to affect China now, too.  Its growth rate is falling dramatically and because of the economic crisis its exports are falling dramatically.
 
Non-democratic countries that have not had economic reform are not at this moment very much affected by the crisis.  I could even name some countries in the region that are not very affected by the crisis.  But I think it’s much better to be a country like Kazakhstan that really has become part of the global economy because of everything that you have achieved because of those economic developments.
 
Yes, sometimes there will be crises, sometimes there will be setbacks, but that happens in world history.  Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not so good.
 
On your second question, the economic crisis has nothing to do with the fact that the dollar does not have a gold standard.  It seems that what happened to cause the economic crisis was that a parallel system of ways to invest developed in the West, in the United States and in Europe.  This parallel system really did not have any government regulations, and so it got out of control.
 
So when the economic crisis is over, I don’t think there will be a new world currency.  You could never get every government to accept that.  But I am certain there will be new, strong regulatory systems in place.
Marat Bashimov, “Chelovek I Zakon” newspaper:  What do you think about mentality of Kazakhstani people.   Some foreigners say that Kazakhstanis are closer to Europeans in their thoughts and deeds than their neighbors and they are very comfortable for emphasizing such things.  What’s your impression?
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  That’s a dangerous question, isn’t it? 
[Laughter].  Every country in the world has its own national character, its own culture, its own history.  Do I think that Kazakhstanis are more European than the citizens of other countries in the region?  Well, I think what makes Kazakhstan seem closer to Europe is mainly the high level of education in Kazakhstan and access to international information.  I think it has nothing to do with national character.
 
Delovoy Mir magazine:  Kazakhstan joined the Troika beginning January 2009, and in 2010 it will chair the OSCE.  What are the expectations of the United States government in Kazakhstan’s chairmanship?
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  There are two ways to answer that, okay?  First, the chairman in office, which in 2010 will be Kazakhstan, establishes its own priorities and the priorities of the OSCE during that year.  So we would not have priorities for Kazakhstan.  We would have expectations of Kazakhstan.  We believe that Kazakhstan will be a strong chairman for that year.  We believe that Kazakhstan will respect the entire mission of the OSCE, including the protection of the democratic aspects of human rights and elections.  And we look forward to working very closely with Kazakhstan to make this a successful chairmanship.
 
Voice:  Welcome to Kazakhstan.  We spoke a lot about democracy.  You saw here different journalists from different media outlets with a wide variety of opinions.  At first, of course, we shed tears about our not perfect legislation, but who will cope with it?  Who will fix it?  But the reason for this meeting was—the  topic of the meeting was—the new president stepping into his office.  And I wanted to get an answer, get your opinion on some information that was publicized in the media recently that President Obama promised that there would be a war and crisis in the coming years.
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  Where was that information published?
 
Yelizaveta Zhazetova, “Utro Stolitsy” newspaper:  He said it in his statement.  It was a statement made by him some couple of days ago, not the inauguration.
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  Okay.
 
Yelizaveta Zhazetova, “Utro Stolitsy” newspaper:  The headline was, “Obama promises war and crisis.”
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  I think this is very much out --

Yelizaveta Zhazetova, “Utro Stolitsy” newspaper:  -- that he will continue the same policy as the previous president.  How true is this information?

Ambassador Hoagland:  Well, it’s not true, and I think the information that you saw is very much out of context.  I think what President Obama said is that inevitably there will be new wars and new crises in the world.  He was recognizing objective reality.  But I don’t think he was promising to start new wars and new crises.  In fact, one reason he was elected by the American people was that he opposed the war in Iraq from the very beginning, and he has promised to take American troops out of Iraq.
 
The real basis of the new foreign policy of this administration will be diplomacy, not military intervention.  Inevitably there will be times when military force is required, but under Obama and Clinton, diplomacy will always come first.

A follow-up question.

Yelizaveta Zhazetova, “Utro Stolitsy” newspaper: My question is whether a democratic country is a country that does not wage any wars.  If we take Kazakhstan, it does not have any wars, any hostilities, whereas the United States is always in a war.
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  I don’t think there’s any connection.  Democratic countries sometimes do participate in wars.  For example, think of Great patriotic war.  The United Kingdom, a democratic country.  France was a democratic country.  Germany was a relatively democratic country until it moved into fascism.  So I don’t think its right to say that democratic countries are always involved in starting wars.  It’s just historically not true.
 
I will be the first to admit that the United States has made a large number of mistakes in its history, especially in its recent history.
I think if you go back to my opening statement, where I said we’re starting a new book, I think you will see a very different world view emerge from this new administration.
 
Tom Tanner, Information Officer:  Ambassador Hoagland mentioned before that we send out information on American policy and transcripts of statements by American officials.  If any of you would like to receive that, either bring your business card to me or come to me and we’ll put your name on the list so we can make sure that we’re getting it out to all of you.
 
Voice:  You are always welcome to come or even join our club.
 
Ambassador Hoagland:  Thank you very much.  Thank you to all of you.  Thank you for your interesting questions that made me think really hard.  I enjoy this kind of thing.  I look forward to the next opportunity with you.

Ambassador's Remarks