Albright: Iran nuclear shift shows Obama's policy is working
An interview with the former US secretary of State, in which she discusses Iran, Afghanistan, and the political statements her choice of jewelry makes.
Global Viewpoint editor Nathan Gardels: As the first woman secretary of State in the US, you engaged in an unprecedented method of conveying messages of state – "pin diplomacy" – as you describe in your new book, "Read My Pins." How did that start? What kind of responses did you elicit?Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Madeleine Albright: Well, of course, I do love jewelry and always wear it. But it never occurred to me to use it as a way to signal a message until I was ambassador to the United Nations and the only woman on the Security Council. After the first Gulf War, when the UN was considering a number of resolutions concerning Iraq, it was my job to get up and say bad things about Saddam Hussein, which he deserved.
In response, a poem appeared in an Iraqi newspaper in which I was called an "unparalleled serpent." I had a snake pin in my jewelry box, so I decided to wear that snake pin whenever Iraq was discussed at the UN. The press noticed.
So, amused, I thought I would carry the practice through in the rest of my diplomatic agenda. The first President Bush had said, "Read my lips." So my motto became, "Read my pins."
I continued the practice when I became secretary of State. When I visited Kim Jong-il in North Korea, I wore an American flag brooch. Though I find it absurd when American politicians are criticized for not wearing a flag pin – we are, after all, a strong and confident country – in this case it seemed appropriate. Once, we found out the Russians had bugged the State Department. So, the next time I met the Russians I wore a huge bug pin. When I was negotiating the antiballistic missile treaty with Igor Ivanov, I wore an arrow pin. He asked, "Is that one of your interceptor missiles?" I said, "Yes, they are very small. It's time to negotiate."
A dicier time involved the Russian denial of the massive violence they fostered in Chechnya. When I went with President Clinton to the US-Russian summit in June 2000, Putin actually said, "We notice what Secretary Albright is wearing." I was wearing a pin of the three "hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil" monkeys. Putin asked, "What does that mean?" I said, "It describes your Chechnya policy." That did not make him very happy.