THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: MICHAEL BARONE, ELEANOR CLIFT,
ANDREI SITOV OF THE ITAR-TASS NEWS AGENCY,
AND DANIELLE SREMAC OF THE INSTITUTE FOR BALKAN AFFAIRS
TAPED FRIDAY, MARCH 26, 1999
AIRED THE WEEKEND OF MARCH 27-28, 1999
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Clinton makes his case.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) We've seen innocent people taken from their homes, forced to kneel in the dirt, and sprayed with bullets; Kosovar men dragged from their families, fathers and sons together, lined up and shot in cold blood. Ending this tragedy is a moral imperative.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Commander in Chief Clinton justifies the punishing NATO airstrikes on Yugoslavia by citing moral duty. But many are asking whether these humanitarian crimes, horrible as they are, justify the kind of military brutality Clinton is currently inflicting. In other corners of the world, more heinous crimes, in volume if not in kind, cry out for military intervention, and that cry is unheard.
REP. DOUG BEREUTER (R-NE): (From videotape.) Why not in the Caucasus? Why not in Central Asia? Why not in Rwanda or Congo or Eritrea?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In Rwanda 1 million Tutsis and Hutus were killed in the '94 genocide, 500 times more than the 2,000 dead in Kosovo, and we did nothing in Rwanda.
Question: What's the real reason for Mr. Clinton's stated humanitarian reason for launching this campaign against Yugoslavia, Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: Well, John, I think there is a genuine humanitarian argument for this campaign. You're correct in saying, as you have, that there's always some problems in the application of the use of force, and you have to weigh the moral arguments very carefully.
The other real -- a serious argument for what Mr. Clinton has done is holding the NATO alliance together. I mean, we've seen a series -- it's been over a year since Milosevic had sent some of these troops into Kosovo. We've seen various kinds of human rights violations going on there, and horrific circumstances. But that time -- the fact is that Clinton has dithered. He's gone back and forth. He's made threats he didn't follow through on. And there's a risk there of the NATO alliance flying apart if we didn't have -- so that's a Realpolitik reason, as well as the humanitarian reason, for what he's doing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Have you heard, any of you, that the Brits are quite concerned about the international legal aspects of this undertaking, and they see as their claim to legitimacy in doing so the argument that it is a humanitarian matter, and that is the claim that they are making to stay within international law? I ask you, Danielle Sremac.
MS. SREMAC: Oh, well, John, Clinton is using this humanitarian argument basically to justify a U.S. aggression. I mean, he got on national television yet again, lied to the people about what's really happening in Kosovo. Kosovo is part of Serbia. The Yugoslav government is trying to disarm the KLA, a terrorist group, so-called even by the State Department. This is what's really going on. The real aggressor, unfortunately, at this point, is the U.S., and Clinton has dragged the U.S. into this. We all know what an aggression is; the U.N. Charter says what an aggression is. This is becoming a case where Clinton is defining aggression like he's defining "sexual relations." I mean, we can't do this at this point.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Well, there is a genuine humanitarian crisis, and I think that's where the president's heart is, and certainly Americans respond to that. But that's not what compelled this action.
We didn't go into Rwanda and we all -- our hearts bled over that. We didn't go into Rwanda because there was no danger there of triggering a wider war that could bring in powers with serious weapons capabilities. And the strategic reason for intervening here is to prevent a wider war that could draw in NATO allies like Greece and Turkey and bring a conflagration in Europe which is a strategic matter of importance to this country.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Andrei Sitov, do you have comments on the humanitarian reason offered by President Clinton for taking this action with NATO?
MR. SITOV: Well, I can only add to what has already been said, that I agree with the assessment of this operation as aggression, and that means that when the first bombs fell down on Kosovo, Clinton lost this argument. He does not have any moral authority to argue this case on moral grounds.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Will NATO action deter further bloodshed? A second question, a distinct one, also relates to this humanitarian issue: What is the goal of the ongoing military punishment of these humanitarian crimes?
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) To deter President Milosevic from continuing and escalating his attacks on helpless civilians by imposing a price for those attacks.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Apparently Mr. Clinton expects Serbs to forget about the hundreds of air- and sea-launched cruise missiles, thousand-pound smart bombs, plus the B-52s with their massive payloads, and the newly deployed B-2 stealth bombers that have pummeled Serbia. Will not these devastating strikes trigger, enforce and perpetuate a deeper Serbian rage against the Kosovar Albanians, not repress it. And when Serbs wreak their vengeance on the Kosovar Albanians for the NATO strikes, will that in turn not ignite a reciprocal rage in the Kosovars against the Serbs, spiraling the bloodbath forward for years to come, indeed, institutionalizing the conflict.
Question: Will the NATO airstrikes alleviate or elevate Serbian aggression?
I ask you, Andrei Sitov.
MR. SITOV: I think that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you follow that logic in the last brilliant introduction? Do you get television like that over in Russia, those wonderful setups?
MR. SITOV: I think they try to copy everything American, and so they certainly will --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about this program? Do they copy this program?
MR. SITOV: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay, good.
MR. SITOV: There's lots of talking heads on Russian television. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. And I should make it clear that you are not a spokesman for the Russian government, even though you are on the payroll of the Russian government. Correct?
MR. SITOV: I am on the payroll. I am not a spokesman. The views I present are my own.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Please continue.
MR. SITOV: Well, where were we? (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I was saying that, instead of the argument of President Clinton that this is going to stop the bloodshed, it is going to enhance it, it is going to perpetuate it, and it is going to make it more intense.
MR. SITOV: I think that that is quite possible and even probable. But still, this is a situation where a civil war is going on. And I do not think that bombing resolves anything, especially in a situation of a civil war.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The pope agrees with you by the way. I hope that does not offend you.
MR. SITOV: Well, I read the Bible. (Laughter.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Good
MS. CLIFT: Well, for the moment, it has brought everything to a head.
And are Kosovar Albanians dying now because of these bombs? Yes. But the question is, "Would more of them have died or be dying if this action wasn't taken?" And in fact, there were 30,000 Serbian troops massed on the border. Every evidence is that they were preparing an offensive to ethnically clean Kosovo.
And it is entirely appropriate for NATO to act. It is a defensive alliance. This is the redefining moment for NATO, as they look ahead to the next century, when these sort of tinhorn Hitlers are probably going to be more of them out there, and we have to figure out a way to stop these --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have a quick comment?
MS. SREMAC: Yeah. This is a typically, you know, liberal interventionist argument. You know, the last person that bombed Serbia was Hitler, and now it is Clinton. He is using this idea of demonizing the Serbian president to justify the failed policy, to justify U.S. intervention against a sovereign nation that the U.S. should not be doing. This is a failed policy. I think it is going to cause disaster.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You want to make clear that you are not yourself a supporter of Mr. Milosevic?
MS. SREMAC: No. And it's completely irrelevant because, just as in Russia, all Serbs, whether they are opposition party or whatever they are, are united in the fact that Kosovo is part of Serbia for centuries, just as California is part of the United States. You would see any political party going out to California, if Mexico took over California; it doesn't matter if they are Democrats or Republicans.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this is a civil action -- a civil war in effect -- on the part of the Serbs and the Albanian Kosovars?
MS. SREMAC: Absolutely. It's their national interest not to allow the KLA --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. And you, therefore, regard this as an act of aggression, do you not?
MS. SREMAC: It is under international law by any --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is the international law that you quote? Is it the U.N. Resolution 3314, which does define "aggression"?
MS. SREMAC: It defines aggression. It says that also any regional organization, such at the NATO, cannot take action without authorization of the Security Council. And Clinton has purposely not seeking authorization.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I didn't -- I don't see that, but I am not arguing that it is not there.
MS. SREMAC: Article -- (inaudible) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But what I see is the invasion or attack by the armed forces of a State of the territory of another State --
MS. CLIFT: You know --
MS. SREMAC: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- or any military occupation, however temporary, is an act of aggression?
MS. SREMAC: Absolutely. And that is what he has done against Yugoslavia.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he is in violation of international law?
MS. SREMAC: Absolutely. And he has dragged the U.S. --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But the Brits say the exception to that is to impede or to interrupt a humanitarian -- (word inaudible).
MS. SREMAC: There has never been a precedent in international law, where that actually took place. This is not international law.
MR. BARONE: Although we can think of some cases where we might wish that there had been --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, quickly!
MS. CLIFT: A leader who massacres --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What was your point? Excuse me, Eleanor.
What was your point?
MR. BARONE: That we can think of some occasions in history where we wish there had been such an intervention.
MS. CLIFT: A leader who massacres his own people forfeits some of the rights to sovereignty. And citing the history of Kosovo I think is an historical excuse to masquerade these barbarous acts.
MS. SREMAC: Well the KLA are killing their own people, they're terrorists, and any Albanians who oppose them, they're killing them. Why doesn't the U.S. attack the KLA?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Is the American public being manipulated by emotional claims that bombing Serbia is the only way to prevent mass atrocities? Or is that Clinton -- Clinton's argument a legitimate justification for war against Serbia?
MR. BARONE: I think -- I think you can answer yes to both of those questions, John.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's manipulation and it's --
MR. BARONE: And it's -- he's trying to get support from that basis. Of course in the short run, if we don't follow up this with real military action, you may just end up making things worse.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: After Milosevic's history over the last year since he came into power and the way he stripped the Kosovos of the autonomy they enjoyed, the president can win support for the emotional argument. But the real reason is strategic. This is in the American national interest.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think, Danielle?
MS. SREMAC: Look, Kosovo is part of Serbian history, culture, like Jerusalem is to the Jews. That's number one. Number two, nobody, no Serb can allow a terrorist organization like the KLA -- the State Department called them a terrorist organization -- to exist in Kosovo. Albanians lived in peace until last year when the KLA launched this attack against the sovereign Yugoslav government.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Danielle, are you a U.S. national?
MS. SREMAC: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you get any of the money that supports your foundation or institute from the government of Serbia?
MS. SREMAC: Absolutely not. The Institute for Balkans Affairs has been organized by people like Serbian Americans, Russians, Bulgarians, Macedonians, Greek who fear that Washington has really gotten out of control in the Balkans, they don't know what's going on there. The sound-bite foreign policy is a failed policy primarily by the Clinton-Albright team who are obsessed with destroying the Serbs.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No foreign money?
MS. SREMAC: Absolutely not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Andrei?
MR. SITOV: The United States calls Milosevic a war criminal. I must say that in Moscow today the Russian foreign minister called the organizers of these air raids war criminals that should be put to justice and should be put to the court of international justice.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think what's happening in the United States is predominantly manipulation.
When we come back, NATO came into existence 50 years ago to contain a now defunct Soviet Union. Today NATO needs a "raison d'etre" -- a reason for its existence. How much of what NATO is doing today in Serbia is to manufacture that reason for its existence?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Clinton's recipe for stabilizing Europe.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: (From videotape.) If we've learned anything from the century drawing to a close, it is that if America is going to be prosperous and secure, we need a Europe that is prosperous, secure, undivided, and free.
Now what are the challenges to that vision of a peaceful, secure, united, stable Europe? The challenge of strengthening a partnership with a democratic Russia --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does President Clinton really believe that bombing Serbia is strengthening our U.S. partnership with a democratic Russia? If he does, what does he say to Mr. Yeltsin's response to our U.S.-led NATO courtship? "An attack on Yugoslavia is a blow to the entire international community. Russia will never agree to it. This means war in Europe and perhaps even more. Let us stop Clinton along this path."
Besides this stern, public, head-of-state-to-head-of-state rebuke, the Russian president also showed his outrage at the NATO airstrikes by severing relations with NATO and recalling Moscow's military representative to NATO, and putting off negotiations on opening a NATO military mission to Moscow, and calling for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
The U.S. rift with Russia is now clearly serious, and made all the more so by Russia's present condition, now slipping into chaos, burdened by a gravely ill absentee president, a plunging economy, systemic lawlessness, and an unstable government, indeed collapsing into what may be called a failed state.
And here's the fresh worry: Because Russia is at present so humiliated, so weak, its elites yearn for a show of Russia's former greatness on the world stage. "Russia should provide arms to Yugoslavia to aid its fight, and step up its own nuclear missile programs." So says Gennadi Zyuganov, the Communist leader of the Communist Party that dominates Russia's parliament.
Question: How seriously should we take Gennadi Zyuganov when he says -- will Russia provide arms to Serbia? Will Russia step up its own nuclear programs in response to what NATO is now doing against Serbia? I ask you, Andrei.
MR. SITOV: I think the important thing to understand here is that it's not Gennadi Zyuganov, it's the whole country that is united against NATO in this and against the United States. I do not know specifically what measures they may take, whether they will put nuclear arms into Belarus --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where? Belarus?
MR. SITOV: -- in Belarus, whether Ukraine might regain its nuclear status, because the Ukrainian parliament has just voted to regain its nuclear status. It's a symbolic gesture, but --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Symbolic. Is it also symbolic what Belarus is saying, that it's going to put tactical nukes back in?
MR. SITOV: It may. It may.
MR. BARONE: Belarus is just a puppet of Moscow, though, isn't? I mean --
MR. SITOV: It may. Well, I apologize -- (inaudible due to cross talk) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, isn't it also -- it's also true, however, that Russia needs IMF funding. And Primakov was on his way over here when he had to make the U-turn in his plane, to collect $4 billion as the latest tranche from the IMF. Isn't that true? So you're --
MR. SITOV: I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Russia is really irrelevant in all of this.
MR. SITOV: No, it is true that Russia needs money from the IMF to pay the IMF.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So they will shut up about what NATO is doing?
MR. SITOV: No, they won't.
MR. BARONE: Look, John --
MR. SITOV: No, they won't, because not everything is bought with money. Not everything is bought --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What can they do? What can they do? You just told me that they will not use their nukes. Will they?
MR. SITOV: Look -- well, the Russian president actually said that we will stay above this; we will not go as low as the Americans have in this argument and use force --
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. To go to your original question on how seriously we should take Mr. Zyuganov, about as seriously as we should take David Duke, who's running for Congress here. Mr. Primakov will be back here in a couple of weeks, hat in hand. The Russians are going to act in their self-interest. And privately their officials are not all that comfortable standing shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Milosevic. They don't feel as comfortable with -- (inaudible due to cross talk).
MR. SITOV: I do not agree with that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it fair to say that you don't think that NATO is the proper forum for this conflict to be resolved, it belongs in the United Nations?
MR. SITOV: Yes, it is fair to say that. And I do not agree with the argument made before me by Eleanor. I think that what will happen is that Mr. Camdessus of the IMF will go to Moscow --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, give me --
MR. SITOV: -- and they will negotiate and they will resolve the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I mean, this is your subject, so --
MR. BARONE: We're not going to see nuclear weapons go on there, John.
MS. CLIFT: Right.
MR. BARONE: We're not going to see additional nuclear weapons there, and we're not going to see major supplies of arms to Serbia by Russia.
MS. SREMAC: But Yugoslavia has the right to self-defense. They might ask for those weapons under that law --
MR. BARONE: Yeah, but The Russian army -- the Russian army --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't have any doubt that munitions are traveling from Russia today into Serbia?
MS. SREMAC: Not necessarily.
MR. BARONE: The Russians had a hard time fielding an army in Chechnya, which was inside their own borders. So I don't think they're going to be able to field one in Serbia.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (To Mr. Sitov.) Okay, one quick question to you: You heard my statements about how far Russia has collapsed, in the introduction to this segment. Do you think it was overstated, understated, or on the mark?
MR. SITOV: I think that it was mostly correct. But what happened was the Primakov government came in after the recent crisis, and the Primakov government has stabilized the situation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit: What impact will the U.S.-led NATO offensive against Serbia have on the upcoming Russian presidential election? Not quite upcoming; it's in 2000, unless something biological happens to --
MR. BARONE: Boris Yeltsin.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the esteemed president.
MR. BARONE: I don't think it's going to have a lot of effect. It will be a problem if anybody's seen as too close to the U.S., but I don't think that's going to happen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MS. CLIFT: By June 2000, zero.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MS. SREMAC: I think the Russian people will want their government to stand behind the Serbs, their traditional allies, and it's going to be a major issue.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think? Is it possible that a demagogic leader might emerge, who will try to -- who -- the elites over there, is it not true, they are trying to feel the sense of Russian pride again, and this might move them in the direction of away from Europe.
MR. SITOV: I certainly hope that does not happen. But again, I want to stress that what is important here is that real transition takes place and that it takes place peacefully. And I do hope that a --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think this NATO action is contributing to that?
MR. SITOV: No, definitely not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it damaging it?
MR. SITOV: You know what? I want to qualify my earlier statement. If I was anti-American I would probably welcome the NATO action because it does bring some of these peoples together -- the Ukrainians, the Belarussians. The Ukrainians have actually sent their foreign minister --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue three -- issue three -- we have to march on. Phony flashpoint?
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: (From videotape.) Kosovo is a province of Serbia in the middle of southeastern Europe, and only about 70 miles north of Greece. Let a fire burn here in this area and the flames will spread.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clinton says he wants to prevent a conflagration in Europe starting in Greece versus Turkey. But these two alleged belligerents have dismissed this fear out of hand. Greek Foreign Minister, George Papandreou says: "Tensions between Greece and Turkey are not a recent phenomenon and cannot be connected to the crisis." The Prime Minister of Greece, Kostis Simitis, speaking to European Union heads of state at a seminar on Wednesday, was even more emphatic: "Mr. Clinton's view is not justified by any means."
As for Turkey, its foreign minister said this: "A war can only be possible between Turkey and Greece over Kosovo if Greece leaves NATO and begins fighting NATO, having joined ranks with the Serbs. I do not expect such a move."
Question: Is the notion of the Balkans as the powder keg of Europe legitimate?
I ask you, Danielle Sremac.
MS. SREMAC: History says if you intervene in the Balkans you're going to have a powder keg. Clinton is intervening. He's making the U.S. Air Force an air force of the KLA and he's actually going to escalate the conflict.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it is a powder keg?
MS. SREMAC: It's a powder keg if you intervene and meddle in somebody else's affairs, absolutely, and that's what Clinton is doing.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you see an analogy between World War I and World War II, which the president has indicated exists?
MR. BARONE: No, I think --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think the Balkans were pretty much extraneous to that situation, notwithstanding his reading of --
MR. BARONE: Not in 1914 --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let's go back to that.
MR. BARONE: No, I think this is not a powder keg and the Russians are now playing the part -- (inaudible) --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What prompted World War II was Hitler's march into Poland to take corridor right over to Danzig.
MR. BARONE: I think we're not looking at a kind of breakout here. I think Bill Clinton is painting up delusional things that are not going to happen, as your comments from Greece and Turkey show. The argument --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you think his history is also -- is his history also delusional?
MR. BARONE: It was not delusional in 1914, 1939. These are --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's go back to that. We don't have today empires trying to gobble up empire or states trying to gobble states.
MR. BARONE: Right. I agree.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is totally unrelated.
MS. CLIFT: No, no.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Balkans are not related to anything today -- anything.
MS. CLIFT: No, we just had Milosevic try to gobble up provinces. President Bush is the one who said --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Milosevic has lost his provinces.
MS. CLIFT: He didn't go into Bosnia? He didn't go --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He lost Valla da Vito (sp) -- what is the name of that one?
MS. CLIFT: He says he drew the line in Kosovo. This is a commitment made by a previous U.S. president --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What is the point you want to make, quickly?
MR. SITOV: No, I --
MS. CLIFT: -- delivered on by this president, appropriately.
MS. SITOV: I want to make just one brief point. It is a power (sic) keg, if you bomb it. And I wanted to make the point that when it last happened under Hitler and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He lost, what, 70,000 Nazis trying to take it over?
MS. SITOV: -- yes -- Yugoslavs and the Soviets beat the Nazis.
MS. CLIFT: Well --
MS. SREMAC: That's right. Hitler --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We'll be right back with predictions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Michael Barone?
MR. BARONE: With Romano Prodi, new head of the European Union, there will be a face-off between Massimo D'Alema and Silvio Berlusconi in Italy. Berlusconi will win.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really? And become what?
MR. BARONE: Prime Minister.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?
MS. CLIFT: Two high-profile defendants, Dr. Kevorkian and Susan McDougal, neither will be convicted. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Danielle?
MS. SREMAC: This is going to be Clinton's Vietnam in Kosovo. He dodged one Vietnam; he is getting Americans involved in another.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Andrei?
MS. SITOV: Same thing here. My president has made the prediction for me: America will live to see the day when it will deeply regret the day it bombed Kosovo.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S.-led NATO action against Serbia will derail the Russian parliamentary ratification of the START II Nuclear Missile Reduction Treaty.
Next week: If you think today's warfare is high tech, wait till you see tomorrow's.
Happy Passover. Bye-bye.
®FC¯END REGULAR SEGMENT
BEGIN PBS SEGMENT
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: Baseball.
SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: (From videotape.) Our goal is to encourage the development in Cuba of peaceful civic activities that are independent of the government.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba has been in place for 37 years. But in January, Secretary of State Albright opened very limited U.S. involvement with Cuba. This weekend, the Baltimore Orioles traveled to Havana for an exhibition game with the Cuban National Team. And if everything goes well in Havana, the Cuban team will fly north to Baltimore a month later, May 3rd, for a second game.
The baseball game follows on the heels of another similar cultural exchange allowed by the January relaxation. This weekend, 48 American musicians, including Bonnie Raitt, Gladys Knight, Burt Bacharach and Jimmy Buffett are performing in Cuba with 45 of their Cuban counterparts. But this policy relaxation has not had a positive effect on Cuba. In fact, Castro has cracked down over the past two months, imprisoning dissidents and enforcing his will with a Stalinist iron fist.
Question: Will baseball diplomacy ease U.S.-Cuban relations? Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: Well, I think the Clinton administration is looking for ways to open up avenues to the Cuban people. But the real question is, when is this government going to do something to end this nightmare policy? And the answer is --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the Cuba government.
MR. CLIFT: No, the American government. End the embargo. End the embargo. And the answer is that if George W. Bush wins the Republican nomination, and Al Gore -- presumably, he's the Democratic nominee -- has no chance of carrying Florida, maybe Bill Clinton will have the courage to do for Cuba what he did with Vietnam, and that is normalize relations.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Please convey to your dear friend, Bill Clinton, that the best thing he can do for his legacy is lift that embargo.
MS. CLIFT: I agree.
MR. BARONE: Oh, now, just a minute. It seems to me a lot of otherwise hard-headed people go down to Cuba, they're charmed by Castro or they get this idea in their head that this totalitarian, this Stalinist, is some kind of a liberal Democrat, and they think if we just do business with him, he will change. We should know by now that he's not going to change, that our goal should be to get rid of his regime, not make nice to them. We don't have any strategic reason that we have to be pleasant to them, that regime. We ought to stand witness to its totalitarian character and bring it down.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Danielle, do you ever hear any Serbian Americans talking about the preposterous position of this government? Here we are sponsoring China into the World Trade Organization, when China has a human rights record far worse than Fidel Castro --
MR. BARONE: But they've got campaign contributions.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and -- let me finish, please, excuse me -- and we are maintaining this rigorous trade embargo against Cuba.
MS. SREMAC: Absolutely. They're confused why Clinton is doing this. And, you know, the U.S. did not go into Turkey fighting with Kurds. Serbian Americans and others are wondering why Clinton is making the U.S. an aggressor here.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you play baseball in Russia? (Laughter.)
MR. SITOV: I don't even know the rules, the rules of the game! But one thing I can say, and that is looking at what happened to the Russian hockey, I do hope that baseball and baseball players remain in Cuba and create some international competition for the Americans. I will be rooting for the Cubans.