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Condoleezza Rice Interview on CNN With John King

Interview on CNN With John King

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Embassy Moscow
Moscow, Russia
May 9, 2005

(3:40 p.m. Local)

MR. KING: Madame Secretary, thank you for joining us. Let me start by asking you about the meeting you've just left, the meeting of the Quartet here to, I assume, swap notes on the progress or lack thereof in the Middle East. Any new initiatives or is this just the chance to get together?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, we had an opportunity to hear from Jim Wolfensohn, who has agreed to become the Special Envoy for the Gaza Withdrawal for the Quartet, and he has recently been in the region, having meetings. He talked about how he sees the progress between the two sides. I would say that he believes that the two sides are taking this very seriously, that they are developing ties and contacts that will help them get through this withdrawal. But he also is developing, himself, work plans which we will help the Palestinians and the Israelis to implement. In particular, he talked a good deal about some of the needs that the international community will need to fill on reconstruction and economic development.

We also heard from General Ward, who has been in the region and is coordinating security reform with the Palestinians and with other international donors.

MR. KING: Prime Minister Sharon has said in recent days that he will not release any more prisoners because he does not think enough progress is being made on the Palestinian side when it comes to security. Anything the Quartet can do or is this a wait-and-see, do you need to wait, and let the parties do it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we fundamentally believe that this is something the parties should do and we've always said that the international community cannot substitute for the parties. Nonetheless, there are Sharm el-Sheikh agreements, Sharm el-Sheikh commitments and we hope that the parties, both Israel and the Palestinians, will do their utmost to fulfill those obligations because they need to maintain a sense of momentum. It's fine to look over one's shoulder and say what is being done here, what is not being done there, but it is also a time when circumstances are such that they may have a real opportunity to move forward. And so we're going to encourage the parties to do as much as they possibly can.

MR. KING: I want to touch on a few other issues and then come to the dramatic events here on this trip here in Moscow today. First, on the issue of North Korea, there have been reports and suggestions in recent days that the administration has seen some satellite intelligence and other intelligence suggesting the possibility that North Korea is preparing to test a nuclear device. What can you tell us about that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, John, I would just note that the North Koreans very frequently talk about their "deterrent," about what they will or will not do. The best route for the North Koreans is to get back to the six-party framework because anything that they do to escalate the situation is only going to isolate them further. They have been told by their neighbors, all of the neighbors -- China, Japan, the United States, South Korea, Russia -- that their obligation is to dismantle their nuclear weapons program as a means by which to enter the international community and to receive from the international community the benefits that would help them economically and the like. And so any activities that might be aimed at escalation is obviously not going to help their cause.

MR. KING: Any indication they're prepared to come back to the table? I saw a quote from the Foreign Ministry Spokesman from North Korea saying that they wanted to check with the United States on whether the United States is prepared to come to the table and say, "We recognize you as a sovereign state." There seemed to be some openness there to coming back to the talks, but we've also heard things like that before and then seen it collapse.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm not going to try to second-guess what the North Koreans are saying. I'll just restate that the United States, of course, recognizes that North Korea is sovereign. It's obvious. They're a member of the United Nations. We have been in negotiations in a six-party framework before with the North Koreans, and so that and the fact that the United States has stated repeatedly -- President Bush, I've stated it -- that we have no intention to attack or invade North Korea. And furthermore, it should be very clear to the North Koreans that there are many, many things that will be very favorable from a North Korean point of view. The members of the six-party talks, several of them have talked about meeting North Korean energy needs. We've talked about being able to have security assurances on a multilateral basis. And so there is a lot for North Korea in these talks if they wish to take advantage of them.

MR. KING: Let me ask you one more question before moving on to Moscow. The man you want to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, the nomination is held up in the Senate, as you know. There have been some questioning his temperament, but the more serious question seems to be about whether he tried to intimidate intelligence analysts to change their assessments. Have you looked at that? Have you reached an independent judgment of whether that is true? And if that -- it turns out to be true, and I understand that's an if, an accusation right now, an allegation, does that disqualify him, in your view?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I see nothing that suggests that John was anything but an interested consumer of intelligence and asked difficult questions. I don't think there's anything wrong with someone, a policy maker, asking difficult questions of the intelligence community.

What we need to do is to have the Senate finish its deliberative process. We respect that process. But we need an Ambassador at the United Nations. This is an enormously important time for UN reform. Those discussions are going on everywhere around us. Every time I go to some place in the world, you hear the varying hints of discussions that are going on about UN reform. And so we need to complete this, have the vote in the Senate, and John Bolton is eminently qualified to be UN Ambassador. We've tried to cooperate with the Foreign Relations Committee in making available information that would help them in their deliberative process, but I sincerely hope that, as Chairman Lugar plans, that we can have the vote and get a UN representative in New York.

MR. KING: On this trip and in the past 24 hours, we have seen again evidence of the personal friendship between President Bush and President Putin, to the point where President Bush even got to drive around in a great old vintage car.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, sort of a precedent. (Laughter.)

MR. KING: Not so bad. But is there a limit to the President's patience, even if he has a friendship with this man? He was quite pointed in his speech in Latvia talking about great democracies demonstrate the rule of law, they demonstrate human rights, they demonstrate economic fairness, they demonstrate the strength of their democratic institutions. Is there a point at which the President looks naïve, if you will, if he continues a personal bond with someone who occasionally might say the right things but even your successor, Steve Hadley, said last night that he hasn't done any of those things yet.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, clearly, this is a complicated process in Russia. This is a country that has been through an enormous change over the last 15 years. And one of the things the President noted in his speech was that Russia has made progress. I mean, you look around this city. We met this morning with civil society activists. Yes, progress has been made.

We obviously believe that this country can be a great democracy, that it needs to make further steps in order to do that. But President Putin and President Bush's relationship, in fact, enables them to talk about these issues in a way that is so open and so honest that to me, even as an old specialist on the Soviet Union and Russia, is it's really quite remarkable. There aren't issues that are off the table when they talk. They talk about the need for a free press. They talk about civil society. And I would note that in his speech, his State of the State Address, and also what he said today at the Anniversary of the 60th year of the victory over Nazi Germany that President Putin talked about the need for Russia to be a democracy.

But we are going to continue to speak out for these important values, as we do around the world. We're going to continue to have conversations with our Russian counterparts about them. But we also recognize that a Russia that is isolated is not very likely to make progress on democracy, and while it may not always be with the speed that we would like to see, we have a much better chance of seeing a democratic Russia if it is integrated into international institutions that are themselves democratic.

MR. KING: Well, as you know, they don't like the President's itinerary. The Foreign Minister took the step of writing to you, saying why, why would you go to Latvia on the front end of the trip, why do you go to Georgia on the back end of the trip? They view that as meddling. Why would Russia be upset about the President coming into the neighborhood?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me just note that my colleague and I, Sergey Lavrov, exchange correspondence all the time and I fully expect and welcome his views on anything that he'd like to talk about. The fact is that the United States has a good friend in Latvia, a good friend in Georgia. Latvia is a member of NATO, a member of the European Union. I think when the President was there he had an opportunity to acknowledge the painful history that Latvia has been through. Indeed, we are here to appreciate and recognize the lives of the 27 million Russians who died to defeat fascism. And that accomplishment, that achievement, stands on its own. So it was a painful history after that and that also has to be acknowledged.

But the President did something else. He talked about the need for a democracy to integrate all of its people, including its minorities. He talked about the importance of understanding the lessons of history, in particular that tyranny has to be resisted, but of moving on; that Latvia and Russia, who after all are neighbors, should have good relations. And the President will have the same message when he goes to Georgia that while there are painful issues and painful history, this should be a region in which those painful memories do not continue to sow discord, but rather give a basis for moving forward to good, neighborly relations between Russia and the states around it.

MR. KING: Let me ask you lastly your thoughts on this day when you see the President of the United States sitting in the reviewing stand where Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev once stood reviewing the troops at the height of the Cold War, when Russia and the Soviet Union were not considered friends. What do you think watching this today?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, John, I had a couple of reactions. First of all, it is important to remember what we and Russia and others achieved in the victory over Nazi Germany, a victory that came at great cost in this country. And I'm glad that the President had a chance to acknowledge that. And when you saw the faces of those veterans, both men and women, you couldn't help but be touched in remembering that great sacrifice.

But it also says something about the present and the future, as opposed to the past, when you see the President of the United States and the President of Russia sitting side by side to acknowledge this, because, obviously, the Soviet Union is no more. And what has emerged is a complicated Russia, but a Russia that has a chance for democratic development and for full integration into Europe and into the European ideal.

I also noted that this great city has come a long way in terms of its economic development and that side by side with the signs commemorating the victory are a lot of signs that suggest that it's becoming a quite active economy.

Russia is a great culture and its people are a great people, and it was great to have a chance to be here to acknowledge that and to look forward to a future for a more democratic and economically prosperous Russia that can be a real partner for the United States.

MR. KING: Is there any risk in that photo? When you came to office, the criticism was that President Clinton was so close to Boris Yeltsin but got nothing out of the relationship; there was no progress in building democratic institutions; there were economic problems here in Russia. Do you worry at all that people five years from now will say, "What did President Bush get from his relationship with President Putin?"

SECRETARY RICE: I think President Bush believes that America sees historic moments. We're obviously in a big historical transition here in Russia and in the whole region and we have a very constructive relationship with Russia, constructive in the war on terrorism.

In fact, John, the presidents spent more time on the Middle East last night than they probably spent on anything else. They see similarly the need to move forward on support for the Gaza withdrawal and disengagement from the four settlements in the northern territories that the Israelis are embarked on. They see eye-to-eye on the need to support the Palestinians as they move forward.

And so we have a very constructive relationship with Russia that is serving the interests of the United States, serving the interests of Russia and serving the interests of the broader international community.

It doesn't mean that there won't be disagreements. It doesn't mean that there will not be difficult conversations. But you cannot even begin to address the very hopeful future before, unless you're willing to have that kind of engagement. And I think that you see that President Bush and President Putin are willing to have that -- a willingness to have that kind of engagement.

MR. KING: Madame Secretary, thank you for your time.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. 2005/486


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