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Madeleine Albright (Photo by © Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

1st female US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright dies

March 23rd, 2022
Madeleine Albright, the 64th Secretary of State, was the first female to hold the office and is the highest ranking female government official in the history of the United States. (Photo by © Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

(CNN) — Madeleine Albright, the first woman US secretary of state, who helped steer Western foreign policy in the aftermath of the Cold War, has died of cancer. She was 84 years old.

Albright’s family announced her death in a statement Wednesday.

Albright was a central figure in President Bill Clinton’s administration, first serving as US ambassador to the United Nations before becoming the nation’s top diplomat in his second term. She championed the expansion of NATO, pushed for the alliance to intervene in the Balkans to stop genocide and ethnic cleansing, sought to reduce the spread of nuclear weapons, and championed human rights and democracy across the globe.

In a New York Times op-ed written last month just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Albright argued that Russian leader Vladimir Putin would be making “a historic error” in invading Ukraine and warned of devastating costs to his country.

“Instead of paving Russia’s path to greatness, invading Ukraine would ensure Mr. Putin’s infamy by leaving his country diplomatically isolated, economically crippled and strategically vulnerable in the face of a stronger, more united Western alliance,” Albright wrote.

She was a face of US foreign policy in the decade between the end of the Cold War and the war on terror triggered by the September 11, 2001, attacks, an era heralded by President George H.W. Bush as a “new world order.” The US, particularly in Iraq and the Balkans, built international coalitions and occasionally intervened militarily to roll back autocratic regimes, and Albright — a self-identified “pragmatic idealist” who coined the term “assertive multilateralism” to describe the Clinton administration’s foreign policy — drew from her experience growing up in a family that fled the Nazis and communists in mid-20th century Europe to shape her worldview.

She saw the US as the “indispensable nation” when it came to using diplomacy backed by the use of force to defend democratic values around the world.

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