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Colin Powell Interview at Ekho Moskvy Radio

Interview with Vladimir Varfalomeyev at Ekho Moskvy Radio

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Moscow, Russia
January 27, 2004

QUESTION: It is 9:22 a.m. in Moscow. Good morning. Here is Vladimir Varfolomeyev. I am glad to greet our guest from the United States, the Secretary of the State, Collin Powell. Hello, Mister Secretary.
SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning. It is good to be back.

QUESTION: We are glad to great you at this station again. It has become a good tradition to have you here during your visits to Moscow. You do not only have official negotiations but answer our questions and the questions of listeners. Taking into account that you came to Moscow from Tbilisi, our first questions are about Georgia. We know that yesterday you discussed this issue with President Putin and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ivanov. Is it possible to tell now when the Russian military bases will be transferred from Georgia? As far as we know, this is one of the most serious questions. .

SECRETARY POWELL: I can’t answer that question. That is a matter for Russian authorities and the Georgian authorities to work out through discussions and negotiations over time.

The U.S. position is that those forces should come out in accordance with the Istanbul commitments that the Russian Federation entered into in 1999.

But I was impressed by the open attitude that President Putin had toward this question yesterday when we discussed it and I know that he and Foreign Minister Ivanov will be working with the new leadership of Georgia to come up with a solution to the situation.

We wish the Georgian people all the best under their new leadership and the United States looks forward to cooperating with the Russian Federation in helping the Georgian people put in place a stable democracy.

QUESTION: “To help” -- does this mean in the first place with funding, doesn’t it? There was information in the media, referring to a representative of the State Department, that the United States is ready to provide a certain amount of money to speed up the process of Russian troop withdrawal. How much money are we talking about? .

SECRETARY POWELL: So Georgia has many needs and we will be providing something in the neighborhood of $166 million in this fiscal year for the Georgians. And we have had some conversations with the Russian Federation about providing some financial assistance to assist in the transit of the forces out of the bases in Georgia and back into the Russian Federation, but there are no specific numbers that I could give you right now.

QUESTION: There are many “hot” points in the world, and in some regions Russia and the United States cooperate. However, this does not apply to Iraq. As it is well known, our country did not send its troops to Iraq. But, as far as I understand from your yesterday’s meetings in Moscow, both Putin and Ivanov appear to approve of the current mission of the United States in Iraq. Is it so?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, we had a positive discussion about Iraq. There is no question that last year we had a serious disagreement. Russia did not support our military campaign in Iraq, but now we are cooperating to help the Iraqis build a democracy for themselves. Russia joined us in getting passage of U.N. Resolution 1511 which brought the International community back together.

Russian firms are not working in Iraq under direct contracts with Iraqi companies and Iraq authorities. And we have had discussions with Russia about debt relief for Iraq. And I think there will be further contracting opportunities and sub-contracting opportunities for Russian firms in Iraq.

QUESTION: Does this means, Mr. Secretary, that Russian oil companies will be allowed to work with Iraqi oil, to refining and selling? There was information that countries that did not support military operation, such as Russia, France and Germany, will get nothing in Iraq.

SECRETARY POWELL: After we have transferred sovereignty back to the Ira q people, it will be up to the Iraqi government to determine what relations they will have with France, Germany and Russia, what economic opportunities those countries will have and what opportunities will exist for exploring for more oil or assisting the Iraqis in rebuilding their oil infrastructure. We are trying to look to the future and not the past.

QUESTION: Concerning this, what is the American Government going to advise to the new powers in Iraq regarding the Russian companies?

SECRETARY POWELL: America would always be available to provide advice to them, but we are waiting to put in place a transitional government next June. And then within a year after that, we would hope that the Iraqis would have had full elections for a new government, and we will wait for that new government to come into place and then discuss with them what positions they would like to take with respect to Russia or any other country. But it would be premature before that government is formed for me to suggest what they might decide or what they may agree to do.

QUESTION: Have you discussed another difficult topic during the meeting that you had in Moscow – Iran and cooperation between Moscow and Teheran on nuclear issues. Were you able to reach a new point on this issue?

SECRETARY POWELL: We had good discussions on the Russian civilian power plant program in Iran at Bushir. Both Russia and the United States are concerned about nuclear proliferation, and this is the area where we have been able to work with each other and with the International Atomic Agency—International Atomic Energy Agency- in order to get Iran to sign an additional protocol to the NPT. So I am pleased with the discussions we have had, and we have a mutual concern with respect to any proliferation activity anywhere in the world.

QUESTION: I remind you that we have Secretary Colin Powell as our guest today. If you have a question, send them to our pager. I already have several of your questions that we got through Internet. Another issue, which is related to fighting against terrorism. They say that Osama Bin Laden is already captured, but will be shown to public only later, before the presidential elections. Is it true?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we do not have custody of Osama bin Laden. We are not holding him for an election surprise. [Laughter] If we had him, I can assure you, he would be shown to the world and he would be prosecuted.

QUESTION: A question from one of our listeners, Kristina from Moscow. The obvious terror that Saddam Hussein supported in his country stopped only because of interference of other countries, and the United States in the first place. Now Moscow is destroying Chechnya with a silent agreement of the world community and the United States. Why you are not involved in this, asks Kristina.

SECRETARY POWELL: Chechnya is a part of the Russian Federation and they are dealing with a difficult situation there. There are terrorists in Chechnya and we have said to our Russian colleagues that it is a problem they have to deal with. But we hope that they will work toward finding a political solution and that they will conduct their efforts in Chechnya in full consideration of their human rights and international obligations for the protection of human rights. But it is an internal matter for the Russian Federation to deal with.

QUESTION: But what was happening in Iraq was its internal matter of Saddam Hussein, as well, wasn’t it? Why did the United States interfere?

SECRETARY POWELL: No because Iraq was subject to U.N. resolutions. Resolution after resolution that was passed over a period of twelve years demanding that Iraq come clean with respect to its weapons of mass destruction programs, that it stop abusing its people and to take other actions and Iraq continuously ignored the demands of the international community. And we were concerned about the weapons of mass destruction because they had used them against other nations and had used these weapons against their own people.

QUESTION: But in the end, there was no weapons of mass destruction.

SECRETARY POWELL: There were programs that were clearly intended to produce weapons of mass destruction. They had the intention to produce weapons of mass destruction. And we knew they had previously stockpiles.

What we are now looking at to see whether there are still stockpiles and that is an open question. But that is why we have sent back a new Chief Inspector, Mr. Duelfer, who will be working with our experts in the area to completely look at all the sites that were there as well as examine all the documents and interview individuals to finally answer the question as to whether or not they had stockpiles.

SECRETARY POWELL: There’s also no doubt in my mind that what Hussein was trying to do was to get the international community to stop looking at him, to get relief from all the sanctions so he could go back to his programs and develop these weapons. He never lost the intention to develop even more deadly weapons. But he is gone and the world doesn’t have to worry about this anymore.

QUESTION: Now, about some of our internal political problems. It is interesting to know your point of view. In yesterday’s Izvestiya, you wrote about your first visit to the USSR many years ago the following: “awful skills of the soviet regime to scare its own people and suppress any appearance of having a human spirit.” Today, some people here say that those almost Stalin’s days are returning, and President Putting is slowly “tightening the screws.” (Literally: ‘bolts’) Do you agree with this?

SECRETARY POWELL: No those days are not coming back, and I don’t have the least concern about that, frankly. The Russian people now vote freely for who their leaders will be.

We have expressed some concern to President Putin and Russian leaders that we believe that more open media, greater access to the media for people who are running for office and certain other actions that the Russian government has taken causes some concern and as friends we express that concern to our Russian colleagues.

But when I think back over the thirty years I have been coming to Russia, what we have seen over the last fifteen years is a remarkable transformation to a democratic system of government where the people are able to vote and vote freely. But we think that more can be done here so that they have access to the information through a free media in order to make an informed choice. So I am not concerned about Russia returning to the old days from the Soviet Union, far from it. Russia has accomplished a great deal in recent years and the United States views Russia as a friend and a partner and wants to be helpful.

SECRETARY POWELL: Most of my article in Izvestiya praised Russia for what it has accomplished, but as a friend we pointed out some area that is causing us some concern. This is how friends talk to one another. To show you how things have changed, in my own neighborhood back in the United States, the local gas station is owned by LUK Oil. Something that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

QUESTION: You most likely won’t see Yukos gas stations near your home, taking into account what is going on around this oil company, and its head, Mikhail Khodorkovskiy. They say in Kremlin, that it is a singular case and is not that important. Do you agree with that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well we are watching the case carefully and in my conversation with President Putin yesterday we talked about the need for full transparency and for those who have been accused of crimes to be dealt with in accordance with the law and acceptable rules of evidence and President Putin assured me that this case would be tried in that manner.

QUESTION: I have several short questions. Several U.S. Congressmen suggested that Russia no longer be invited to G-8 summits. Taking into account that the U.S is going to host the summit this year, has the decision made about inviting President Putin to the summit.

SECRETARY POWELL: Of course we would expect President Putin to be at the G8 Summit in the United States and to represent the Russian Federation.

But the views expressed by those Congressmen reflect some of the concerns that I discussed with President Putin yesterday and were reflected in my Izvestiya article and that is why I felt it was important to raise these issues with the President.

QUESTION: One other question which many of our listeners ask, for example, Svetlana by pager, what is the attitude of U. S. administration of weakening rate of the dollar? The dollar is not only a matter of paying but is a very serious factor of politics, not just internal politics but also external politics. Why is the value of the dollar falling?

SECRETARY POWELL: The dollar is responding to financial market conditions and that is all I think I can say about it. As the Secretary of State, I have a very hard and fast rule, that I let the Secretary of Treasury make any comments that are going to be made about the position of the dollar. But I would say to your listeners - because I know it is a concern to them - that I consider the dollar to still be a good investment, but be patient.

QUESTION: Do I understand correctly? That there are definitely meetings in the White House were this issue is discussed? That the U.S. administration is concerned that your currency’s rate – and our ruble, not the European Euro – but yours is falling in value?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well there are always conversations about how the exchange rate is moving and it either has the aspect of assisting exports or assisting imports, but let the markets do their work and the dollar tends to find its real value over time.

QUESTION: Have you tried to exchange dollars to rubles here in Moscow?

SECRETARY POWELL: I haven’t had the opportunity to do that or go shopping. I wish I did. [Laughter]

QUESTION: Several more questions, in particular from Internet. Giorgi, from Tartamishin, but he states that he is from the United States. Is the U.S. going to return the base in Guantanamo to its legal owner, that is, to Cuba? And if so, when?

SECRETARY POWELL: The base at Guantanamo is still under U.S. control and will remain so under arrangements previously entered into with Cuba.

QUESTION: Does U.S. policy in general intend to widen its international, including military, presence? Recently, many in Moscow, among them diplomats, heard that there was information that the new U.S. base is going to be created very close to our borders, in Poland. You come to Moscow, and have conversations with President Putin as friends, but at the same time you encircle our country with new bases.

SECRETARY POWELL: Let me start by saying that the number of troops that will be deployed in Europe will be going down, not up. And so we are trying to rearrange our presence in Europe to rationalize it in a better way.

As part of that effort we may want to put some temporary facilities in some of the countries that used to be part of the Warsaw Pack, but these would not be big bases of the kind we had in Germany during the days of the Cold War. These might be small places where we could go and train for brief period of time or use air bases as access to get to dangerous places, crisis places, in Central Asia, Persian Gulf, Middle East. But it is not essentially moving our army closer to the Russian Federation and people should not see it in that light. The number of troops overall will be going down. Therefore, we are not trying to surround anyone.

Let me put this in context because I hear this question all the time. Twelve years ago when I was head of the American Armed Forces, we had 315,000 troops in Europe. We started to draw down right after the end of the Cold War and we are going to well below 100,000. So nobody should be concerned that somehow the United States is building up its forces to be a threat to anyone or to surround any one.

The Cold War is over. The Iron Curtain is down. Russia and the United States are now friends, not competitors or potential enemies and we should not see such things in old Cold War terms.

QUESTION: Our time is almost over – last question. We know that yesterday, you discussed with Putin a joint space project, maybe about Mars. It is well know that the financial situation in our country is not really well. Can the United States help us with money? We have enough brains for it.

SECRETARY POWELL: You do have an enormous technical capability to bring to the space program and as you know, we have cooperated in space and President Putin and I discussed this yesterday. I think there are new areas for cooperation, perhaps even in the new initiative that President Bush announced with respect to going to the moon and to Mars. But we are just beginning those discussions. I am confident that Russia will have a role to play.

QUESTION: You are not going to give us any money, aren’t you?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I cannot predict how much money might be available or how the money will be allocated.

And the Budget Director gets very unhappy when I start to give away his money [laughter].

QUESTION: Thank you very much. This was the Secretary of State of the United States Collin Powell alive on Echo Moskvy. We are always glad to see you in Moscow and here in our station Ekho Moskvy.

SECRETARY POWELL: It’s always a pleasure.


Released on January 27, 2004

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