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Powell Interview on Latvian National Television

Interview on Latvian National Television With Mr. Ansis Bogustovs

Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC April 25, 2003

(11:05 a.m. EDT)

MR. BOGUSTOVS: So, thank you for interview. In a couple of the weeks, the U.S. Congress will vote for NATO a new coming nations, I hope, accessions. So can we expect a positive vote there even if we, as Latvians, have still problems with this NATO confidential information maintenance? So, you're sure?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. I'm quite confident of a satisfactory vote. As we say in America, I think this is a sure thing. The American Congress representing the American people want to see NATO expanded. We are so proud of the fact that nations that were on the other side of the Iron Curtain just 10-12 years ago are now on this side. And there is no side anymore because the Iron Curtain is gone. So we are all now going to be part of a grand transatlantic alliance, an alliance that will link Europe even more firmly with the United States, with North America, United States and Canada.

So Congress recognizes this. It also recognizes that even though Latvia has some problems that have caused us concern, such as the kind you just mentioned with NATO confidential material, the commitment that your government, your president, and your prime minister and others have made to democratic principles, to economic development, to making sure there is no corruption in government and there's full transparency in government, those kinds of commitments have impressed us. And we have also been impressed by the commitment that Latvia has made, frankly, to some of the efforts that were important to the United States with respect to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

So for our Congress, this will be one of the easiest decisions they've made in a long time.

MR. BOGUSTOVS: Now, in our national interests is to have a united and whole Europe,

SECRETARY POWELL: Mm-hmm.

MR. BOGUSTOVS: and NATO, as well. So what you are going, now, to do to diminish this gap which we have in between new Europe, old Europe and indeed, in between the United States, as well?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, new Europe, old Europe, north Europe, south Europe, it's still all Europe. It hasn't gone anywhere. It's still there. And so the United States will work with Europe bilaterally, country-to-country. We'll work in NATO. We'll work with the European Union to make sure that we all pursue that common goal of a Europe whole, free and at peace.

And in a grand alliance of democracies, there will be disagreements. There will be fights. This happens. That's what democracy is all about. Nations that didn't used to fight with each other or the biggest power within that empire, those nations no longer are there. I mean there's no longer a Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union there was very little friction between the nations. But now, everybody is free, everybody is sovereign, everybody has a right to speak its own view.

And from time to time there will be disagreements. What we must not do, though, is let these disagreements split us apart. Let's deal with the disagreements, lets get beyond the disagreements and lets unify again. And that's what we're in the process of doing now.

MR. BOGUSTOVS: What further steps you will -- or coalition partners will take in order to secure stability in the region and to avoid a possible negative any other actions after now Iraqi Freedom operation is more or less completed?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, I, of course, will be spending more time in the region, traveling in Europe. I've already made one trip and will be traveling again in the very near future. But you know, what can pull us all together again is if we all commit ourselves now to helping the Iraqi people. The war is over. The issue of weapons of mass destruction and monitoring and more monitors and all those sorts of issues, that's all behind us now.

We can all now rally behind the need of the Iraqi people for humanitarian aid to rebuild their schools, to rebuild their hospital system, to give them clean water, to make sure that everybody is being fed, to make sure they put in place a democratic form of government so they can begin to look like the members of NATO with respect to believing in democracy and having that kind of government.

So we have something that can unify Europe again and unify the transatlantic alliance again; and that is a common commitment to helping the Iraqi people build a better country and a better life for themselves.

MR. BOGUSTOVS: And do you see here the Latvian possibility or new coming NATO nation possibility --

SECRETARY POWELL: Absolutely.

MR. BOGUSTOVS: -- to react on construction? Maybe some contracts we could get for our economy?

SECRETARY POWELL: Of course. Well, everybody wants -- everybody likes contracts, and there will be many contracts. But Latvia was there when it wasn't clear what the outcome would be, when everybody was worried that this war might be terrible, it might take so long, would it be successful, would the people welcome? When those questions were still unanswered, Latvia understood the importance of supporting us and the United States will not forget that support.

MR. BOGUSTOVS: So do you think we should, or NATO alliance, now, should include the new members and also think about the new face of alliance at the same time because, I mean, how NATO will change at the end? We are joining, actually, the other NATO as we were going to join.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, well NATO will now be expanded to 26 nations. It's getting large -- a little harder to get consensus on an issue when you have more nations that can vote, but NATO has dealt with challenges like this in the past. And so the so-called "differences" between old Europe and new Europe, that won't have any meaning as we move forward. It's one Europe. One Europe again with differences within that Europe. That shouldn't shock or surprise us.

You know, Europe used to argue with itself when it wasn't arguing with the United States. So it is not as if there have not been disagreements before that had to be dealt with.

MR. BOGUSTOVS: You're confident NATO will be still strong alliance --

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.

MR. BOGUSTOVS: -- because those days, you didn't use twice this alliance for any operations in Afghanistan or Iraq. Are you going to use now them for peacekeeping in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: But you know the answer to that. NATO has just agreed to take over the International Security Force in Afghanistan. NATO is going to do that. And at our recent meetings in Brussels, NATO expressed a willingness-in-principle to, perhaps, contribute to our operation in Iraq with peacekeeping forces. Now it's up to the alliance to decide this. But they haven't ruled it out and they said, "Let's consider it. Let's see what the need is."

And so NATO has a role to play. NATO is playing a role. And NATO, I think, is going to continue to be a strong alliance, and the addition of seven new countries that used to be on the other side of an Iron Curtain that no longer is there, will strengthen NATO, not weaken NATO.

MR. BOGUSTOVS: Thank you very much. Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you. [End]

Released on April 25, 2003

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