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Powell Interview With Ron Insana of CNBC

Interview With Ron Insana of CNBC

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
October 27, 2004

(10:07 a.m. EDT)

MR. INSANA: Mr. Secretary, one could argue that the U.S. financial markets, stock market, to an extent, has been restrained, the energy markets are rising rapidly in part because of what's going on in Iraq today. In a second Bush Administration, what's the strategy going to be to solve some of the problems that exist right now and then ultimately not only extricate ourselves from it but calm down the world energy markets and the domestic financial markets?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the top priority in the next Bush Administration will be, once again, the global war against terror. It's not going to go away, and we have to prosecute this war and get after all of these terrorists. Terror has been on the world stage for many, many decades, frankly, and President Bush has been successful in pulling together a coalition of nations, civilized nations, that recognize we have to go after this terrorist activity and defeat it.

So that will be priority one. Of course, we're going to continue to work on consolidating our gains in Afghanistan. They had a very successful presidential election a few weeks ago. Now we're moving toward parliamentary elections next spring. That's a great success story that people don't talk enough about. Millions of Afghans came out, who wanted to vote, and would not be denied by the Taliban, al-Qaida or other terrorists.

The same thing in Iraq, we have to keep moving forward in Iraq, build up Iraqi security forces, have a successful election and put Iraq on the way to being a democratic nation. So those are some top priorities for the next term of President Bush's Administration. But there are so many other things the President wants to do: reach out to our friends and partners and allies around the world and strengthen our partnerships, do more with respect to development assistance to the rest of the world, do more with respect to fighting HIV/AIDS, opening up trade, free trade, which we think is essential for all of us to benefit from the 21st century globalized world.

I think as we start to get these issues under control and people can see clearly where the President is going, it will settle the financial markets. I am not an expert in financial markets. I'd leave that to my colleagues over at the Treasury Department and in the White House.

MR. INSANA: Now with respect to some recent concerns about missing explosives, the type of thing that creates imponderables, not just for the markets but for everyone, do we have any better indication as to where the 380 tons of conventional explosives are, and when they disappeared?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don't. I'll have to let my colleagues at the Defense Department answer that question, and I believe part of the Iraqi Survey Group Teams will be going back in to take a look at that. I don't know. We have to keep in mind though that tens upon tens of thousands of tons of explosives and munitions were destroyed but I have no additional information with respect to this particular issue.

MR. INSANA: Now with respect to diplomatic relations with Iraq, Prime Minister Allawi criticized multinational forces, including Americans, for the recent massacre of 49 Iraqi police officers. How do you respond to that coming from our presumed ally in-country?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, he is an ally, and it was a shocking event to see the soldiers laid out and executed by these murderers and terrorists, and we have to look into it to see what happened. But let's put the blame where the blame belongs. And that's not on the coalition forces or on Prime Minister Allawi. The blame is squarely on those who did this, these murderers, these terrorists.

Now, we have to look in to see whether or not there were some lapses in security, but I think it's premature to blame anyone for this other than the terrorists who committed the act.

MR. INSANA: Ambassador Bremer, General Shinseki, have all suggested that had the U.S. employed what is commonly described as the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force with a political solution in mind in Iraq that this situation would be far more stable today than it appears to be right now. Would you agree with that assessment?

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't comment on that. I mean, they were in office at the time. I mean, that General Shinseki was the Chief of Staff of the Army and his views made known to the leadership of the Department and Ambassador Bremer, of course, was the individual in charge of the Coalition Provisional Authority and had an opportunity to make his recommendations.

My view has always been, you set a political objective and then you put the forces needed to achieve a decisive result, and this is well known by General Franks and General Myers and all of the other officers who were in charge. And I think it was their judgment at the time that they put in enough forces to do the job. You can always second guess later whether that was enough or whether more should be put in, but at the time, they felt that they had put in place the forces necessary to do the job. And I know that the President stood by and followed this very, very closely and stood by, ready to put more forces in, if more forces had been asked for by the commanders or by Secretary Rumsfeld.

The President always communicated to the chiefs, "Let me know what you need to get the job done," and the President gave them what they said they needed to get the job done.

MR. INSANA: The energy markets clearly have been a central concern here in the United States. Is there anything that the State Department can do to shore up whatever alliances we have with non-Middle Eastern producers, whether it's Russia, whether to even extend it in China, Nigeria, many of these countries that have ample supplies of oil, to ensure a stable supply is here and ultimately to help bring down the price?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're in touch with all of those nations that are oil producers, and we do everything we can to keep the relationships stable but there has been such a demand for oil throughout the world, and especially in places like China, which has gone from being a fairly undeveloped country to a rapidly developing country with a huge requirement for energy.

So it's a constrained situation and there is a bit of uncertainty in the market. But in my case, for example, as Secretary of State, I have been in touch with the Saudis over the months to encourage them to do as much as they could to keep the supplies up and to increase their production, and I do the same in my conversations with Nigerian leaders and others.

MR. INSANA: Have you gotten any indications from the Saudis that they can in some way meaningfully improve their capacity to extract or ultimately to export it as well?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't get into that level of detail because it really is something for the Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham to deal with, you know, how much more can actually be extracted. But as a result of conversations I had with the Saudi leadership earlier in the year, they have done quite a bit to increase their output.

It's going to take a lot of investment and one has to be careful about how much more you try to extract without creating damage to the fields themselves. And it takes time to bring additional capacity online, and I think the Saudis are examining all of that with the Secretary of Energy.

MR. INSANA: Now you just returned from Asia and there were suggestions that there may have been some progress on talks with North Korea, the six nation talks. Are you getting any indication that some sort of aid package for North Korea could derail their nuclear ambitions any time in the near future?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there is a package on the table. The six-party group met in June. The United States put forward a new position at that time which showed quite a bit of flexibility in an attempt to move in the direction that our friends wanted us to move and in the direction that the North Koreans said that they wished to see move. And so we put that package on the table and it included some early assistance from Japan and South Korea to the North Koreans.

The United States has to be a little careful though. We want to see some solid commitments from the North Koreans and we want to see some performance before we get deeply involved in providing assistance because we have seen this movie once before, where the North Koreans receive assistance and say that they're going to behave as they did with the agreed framework only for us to discover that while they were busy signing the agreed framework and celebrating it, they were moving in another direction of enriching uranium to produce nuclear weapons.

So the agreed framework didn't work and we believe we have a much better approach with the six-party framework. Now, our friends in the region that I have just visited with want us to be flexible with respect to our approach. We were flexible in the new position we put down in June. And when the six-party discussions start again, as I believe they will --

MR. INSANA: Any time soon?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I can't predict. It's up to the North Koreans to decide when they wish to do it. The other five members of the six-party framework are all ready to do it right away. We were ready last month. It's the North Koreans that have been holding out. And we will always enter into these discussions with flexibility in mind to see what we can do to move forward, but we have some basic principles that we have to follow, and that is we must have the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. It has to be done in a verifiable way so that we don't run into the problems that we ran into with the agreed framework.

And I'm confident that if the other five members of the six-party group stay together and made clear these principled positions that were just touched on, the North Koreans will eventually find it in their interest to return. But it's up to them to decide when they want to return.

MR. INSANA: You just talked about two other issues in Beijing, one of which is whether or not China and Taiwan will reunify. Where does that stand?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the term of art really is to have a peaceful resolution of the problem. And that's the term of art, and that is our policy and remains our policy.

We're hoping that the two sides will be able to increase the level of dialogue that exists right now, which is at a low level. And I was encouraging our Chinese friends to seek opportunities for dialogue. But at the moment, the Chinese are not enamored of some of the statements that President Chen Shuibian has been making in Taiwan. And so we have been suggesting to the side of leadership and flexibility.

Our One China policy remains very much intact, based on the three communiqués and responsibilities we have in the Taiwan Relations Act. So I had a good, open, candid discussion of all of these issues with the Chinese leadership, President Hu and Premier Wen and my colleague, Foreign Minister Li.

MR. INSANA: Now, what about trade? I mean, I know there's this very small dispute, maybe a looming dispute over socks, but the bigger issue still with respect to the United States and China, is there artificial pressure on the currency to keep it low?

Did you make any progress -- and I know Treasure Secretary Snow has been talking to the Chinese about this for a while -- to get the Chinese to upwardly revalue their currency and eliminate that unfair trade advantage that they have?

SECRETARY POWELL: I got a reaffirmation from the president and from the premier, Premier Wen, that they would continue to move in the direction of market-based, flexible currency. But they're going to have to move at a pace that they find comfortable.

We believe that they have to move more aggressively in this direction, but they are monitoring it and they are following it, but I knew they do have commitment to keep moving in the direction that they have indicated to us and they have indicated especially to Treasury Secretary Snow.

MR. INSANA: The other hot spot, again, not only for the financial markets but for the world, Iran, seems to be approaching a point where we could find ourselves at a critical moment -- the Europeans trying to cut a deal with them to suspend their enriched -- uranium enrichment program. We can't tell if they're willing to agree. And the Israelis presumably are getting very itchy, we are told, some time this winter, to take steps that would eliminate the possibility of Iran having nuclear weapons.

Where are we? How close to a real problem? Would the U.S. support Israeli action to do something in that regard?

SECRETARY POWELL: You know, first of all, Iran is moving in the direction of a nuclear weapon. They are putting together a program that could produce such a weapon. I don't think it's something they can do overnight or in the next several months, as some people suggest. It's going to take them time.

But we have been working with the international community, the IAEA, to report this matter to the Security Council, and we have been working with our friends in the European Union, the EU-3, as they are called, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, to get the Iranians to come into compliance with their IAEA obligations and to do what they said they would do when they came into an agreement with the European Union last year. The European Union has now gone back to the Iranians, and we'll see what the Iranians say.

But I think it's time for this matter to be reserved -- reversed -- excuse me -- referred to the Security Council for it to be considered there. It is not in the interests of the region or the world for Iran to be moving in this direction. And there's a lot of speculation and horror stories and other stories about what this might lead to in the way of crisis, and part of that speculation is that the Israelis might do something or not do something. I have no information on that and I think the whole world, to include Israel, is trying to find a diplomatic and peaceful solution to this problem.

MR. INSANA: Speaking of Israel, Ariel Sharon got his parliament to approve the withdrawal plan from the Gaza Strip and certain portions of the West Bank. Is that a move in the right direction, assuming he can, as Benjamin Netanyahu and others are suggesting, get a national referendum to support him?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, it's definitely a move in the right direction. As you know, the President was clear about this. The elimination of these settlements in Gaza and four settlements in the West Bank, all as part of the roadmap process, with the final status issues to be resolved by direct negotiations between the two parties, it's a step in the right direction.

For decades people have said, let's get these settlements removed. Well, Prime Minister Sharon is now moving in that direction, and I'm pleased that he was able to have a successful outcome in the Knesset.

MR. INSANA: Let me ask you a couple of offbeat questions. Yesterday, something very strange happened on a radio show that involved your son, Michael Powell, the head of the Federal Communications Commission.

Howard Stern called him and accused Michael of censoring him and made the disparaging comment that the only reason Michael Powell is head of the Federal Communications Commission is that Colin Powell is Secretary of State of the United States. What would you say to Mr. Stern?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, first, I have to point out that my son, Michael, of whom I'm enormously proud, became a commissioner of the FCC long before I became Secretary of State. And for all I know, he might have had some influence in getting me to become Secretary of State. But this is all just so much nonsense.

My son is an enormously qualified individual, and I think he has served, if I may say so as a father and as a not entirely distant observer, I think he's served with great distinction both as a commissioner and now, as chairman of the FCC, in doing what the American people want to have done with respect to our airwaves and the use of our public airwaves to benefit our society. And he acts not as an independent player, but he has a commission that he represents and he has laws that he has to implement. And that has always been his approach to public service, to do that which the American people have directed should be done through the passage of laws and the creation of an FCC.

MR. INSANA: As a father, any response directly to Howard Stern?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. We have a rule in our family, and that is: Mike does the FCC, I do the State Department and diplomacy, and the only thing we ever talk about at home are the grandkids.

MR. INSANA: For how much longer will you do the State Department and diplomacy? You know this question's coming. Every magazine writes about it. Everyone talks about whether or not you're going to serve in the second Bush Administration.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, everybody has great fun with this question, and the only answer to the question is, "I serve at the pleasure of the President."

MR. INSANA: A quick question about Russia. Russia has done a lot to roil the world's oil markets with President Putin's dispute with Yukos. How much contact are you having with the Russian Foreign Ministry over the impact that they appear to be having over what is an internal dispute but something that has had worldwide ramifications?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have had regular contact with the Russian Government over this. Of course, our Ambassador, Sandy Vershbow, stays in very close touch with the Russian authorities.

I have discussed it on a number of occasions with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We discussed it in New York at the UN General Assembly meetings in September. And the point we are making to them is that the whole world is watching this, and whatever is done, it's your legal system, but it has to be done with transparency and in a way that is seen as resting on the rule of law, and that's the rule you all should be following and the approach you should be following. I think they understand our position clearly, and they know that this whole issue is under the closest observation by the international community because it reflects, not only on this particular issue, but the general investment and business environment within the Russian Federation.

MR. INSANA: The world has got numerous hot spots, as we have discussed. Is there one area right now or one problem that captures most of your attention insofar as it could stabilize not only the geopolitical situation but also roil the world's financial markets, much in the way September 11th did?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you know, for the first time in half a century or more, we're not facing the prospect of a world war or major regional conflict of the type that was fueled by fascism or communism. What we have to do is keep our eye on the global war on terror; keep moving ahead in the successful manner we are moving now in Afghanistan.

Iraq, I think, is the center of our attention and will be after the election as well as now, before the election. And I think that will settle down once people realize that the Iraqi people want to vote for their own leadership, for new leadership. They want to be a democracy. We've got to defeat this insurgency so that the Iraqi people can have that chance.

And the other area that I'll be watching very closely in the weeks ahead is the Middle East. We always want to see movement there. And hopefully, if we can get the Palestinian Authority to respond to what Mr. Sharon is doing with these settlements by putting in place responsible political leadership in Gaza and security forces in Gaza to secure Gaza so it doesn't become a place in which rockets go flying out, those are the areas I watch: Iraq and the Middle East.

But there are so many good things that are going on around the world in foreign policy that don't get attention and are not going to be a source of disarray within the world: India and Pakistan talking to one another. Two years ago, we were worried about a nuclear war. Our relations with China are very, very good. And we didn't get into it, but we were talking about socks, it was a trade issue having to do with cotton socks.

Well, I'd rather be dealing with a trade issue with China having to do with cotton socks than many of the other kinds of problems that we might have had with China, but we don't have because we're talking about trade disputes and not huge regional disputes. The fact that the United States is investing so much in development assistance in Africa and elsewhere, our Millennium Challenge Account, the most significant increase in assistance to the undeveloped world since the Marshall Plan; what we're doing with opening trade, free trade agreements, all of these are for the purpose of benefiting not just the United States, but those on the other sides of these agreements where we allow them to develop their economies and create jobs for their people.

So there are so many positive and exciting things taking place in foreign policy that we will build on in the next Bush Administration while we deal with these challenging problems that get our daily headlines.

MR. INSANA: Final question. If there's one thing you could have done differently in the last several years as Secretary of State, what would it have been?

SECRETARY POWELL: I never answer this "one thing good, one thing bad" question because, you know, I constantly review what I do as Secretary of State and that you take the good decisions with some that are not so good. But on balance, I think that we have the made right choices over the last four years.

The President saw after 9/11 that we had a new challenge facing us in the form of terrorism, in a way that we did not understand previously. We have gone after that and that was the right thing to do. It was the right thing to help the Afghan people move forward and get rid of the Taliban and to put al-Qaida on the run. It was the right thing to deal with a threat that was coming out of Iraq, a nation that had failed to abide with 12-years' worth of UN resolutions.

Will you make mistakes in the course of dealing with any one of these issues or crises? Sure. Nobody is perfect. And one thing I learned as a soldier many years ago is that no plan survives first contact with an enemy, and you have to constantly change your strategy, adjust your tactics. Audible, do audibles as I tell my staff all the time, to adjust to the changes in the circumstances, and I think that's what we have done over the last four years and what we will continue to do: Adjust to the circumstances, change our tactics and modify our policies as necessary to deal with changes in the environment, but stick with our principles.

That's what I think this President has been so successful at is making clear to the American people where we stand, what our principles are, making clear to the international community what our principles are and where we will not shift from those principles, even as we adjust our policies and tactics to take cognizance of changes in the situation.

MR. INSANA: Mr. Secretary, thanks very much, appreciate your time.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Ron. 2004/1169


Released on October 27, 2004

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