Interview
Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Sofia, Bulgaria
March 1, 2011


QUESTION: What were the most important issues in your discussions with Bulgarian leaders?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: First, let me say I’m delighted to be here. This is my first official visit to Bulgaria as Assistant Secretary. I wanted to come to see my counterparts for a number of reasons; I wanted to underscore our strong support for what this government is doing on anti-crime and anti-corruption rule of law issues. We know how challenging this is, but it’s critically important for democracy to succeed to tackle these things. We think the government is committed to doing so, and I want to lend whatever support we can to that effort. I wanted to underscore support for Bulgaria as a strong NATO partner, again a difficult challenge. We know how hard it is to send troops abroad but it’s a common mission, one we are very committed to, and Bulgaria is undertaking that vigorously and provides great support to NATO. And I wanted to talk about energy issues which are also critical. The Obama Administration is committed to energy diversity in Europe, and we think that is in the interest of our European partners, and Bulgaria is critical given where it is – at the crossroads of a number of energy issues. So I’ve been consulting here and intend to do so for the rest of the day on those and other regional issues.

QUESTION: How do you evaluate the development of the energy sector in Bulgaria?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think it’s positive. I think overall in Europe, there’s an increased awareness that reliance on single suppliers is not healthy for the energy sector, not healthy for the economy, and is not politically healthy either because countries that are dependent on a sole supplier for the energy are dependent politically as well. Efforts to diversify energy sources are not directed at any particular country. They are simply in the interest of all Europeans and as I say Bulgaria … I think Europeans – as a general rule increasingly understand that – are doing what they can to diversify, including projects to bring energy across the Southern Corridor, and again Bulgaria can be a key partner in that. It’s not just big pipeline issues but interconnectors so that European countries rely increasingly on each other. And my sense is from talks here and previously that this government understands that and is taking the measures that are necessary to achieve those goals.

QUESTION: The world is watching now the developments in Libya. What should be the response of the United States and the international community to the deepening crisis there?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: The first point that I’d make is that the response of the United States and the international community should be the same. As Secretary Clinton said, we should be speaking in one voice on this issue. And, that voice should clearly be saying that the actions taking by the Qaddafi regime over the past week are unacceptable. And as the President has said, when a regime needs to rely on the use of brutal force in order to maintain its grip, it is clearly illegitimate and it’s time for it to go. And we’ve been clear about that, and we are pleased with the support of the European allies and other allies. Russia and China – at the Security Council – came together with all of the other members of the Security Council to pass a very strong resolution referring some of the activities in Libya to the International Criminal Court, putting an asset freeze and a travel ban on Qaddafi and those around him, putting an arms embargo on Libya. And all of these are measures that we think are necessary to send a signal that this regime has lost legitimacy and it needs to go. Secretary Clinton was in Geneva earlier this week at the Human Rights Council and is in very close touch with all of our European partners and others on this issue.

QUESTION: The United States is repositioning naval and air forces close to Libya. Is there a possibility for a military intervention?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We have said that all options are on the table again. Given the gravity of the violation, the situation, the humanitarian situation, we don’t believe that it will be wise to take any option off the table. That said, this really is something that should be resolved by the people of Libya. And NATO has done prudent planning, and we are also prepared for any type of contingency, but I don’t think the focus right now should be on American or NATO military action. The focus should be on what is happening in Libya and by the people of Libya to get rid of this regime.

QUESTION: There are calls to the Obama Administration to support the opposition in Libya through military aid. Is it likely to happen?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We haven’t ruled anything out because the situation is so grave and the regime seems to be willing to resort to violence. We need to be prepared for all contingencies as well, but I would not put the emphasis on what the United States might do or what NATO might do. The emphasis needs to be on what’s happening in Libya, and it should be up to the Libyan people.

QUESTION: And my last question is what will happen in Libya after the end of Qaddafi’s rule? Who will be the partner of the international community?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: We are determined to stand by the Libyan people. Already the United States has set aside 10 million dollars for humanitarian assistance. We know the situation in Libya after Qaddafi goes, and he will go, is going to be very challenging, arguably it’s even more challenging than in some of the other transition cases we’ve seen recently in Tunisia and Egypt where there are strong institutions. In Egypt, you have an army that is still respected by the people. In Libya, for 41 years Qaddafi has managed to eradicate almost all vestiges of civil society, judicial institutions, the military. And so we know that there’s a risk of a vacuum in Libya and we are going to have to – together, as I say, it’s so important – to stand as a single international community and work together. A lot of efforts will be required to help the Libyans after Qaddafi goes. But first things first - we need to ensure that the transition happens.

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