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Interview With Russian Television NTV

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Moscow, Russia
May 14, 2003

INTERVIEWER: Welcome to Russia.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much. It's good to be back.

QUESTION: Well, you were not unanimously welcome to the two countries you came last. There were suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia and Russia, Chechnya. President Putin said that these two series of terrorist attacks actually had the same origins. You agreed with him. In that case, do you suppose, do you think that the Chechen guerillas, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Al Qaida guerillas are all the same?

SECRETARY POWELL: They're all the same in that they are terrorist organizations that that are determined to use violence, the killing of innocent people to achieve an end. They say it is a political end, but very often I think it is nothing but a criminal end. And, so to the extent that we all have to go after terrorists, these are all linked as terrorist organizations, and we have to find a way to direct the anger of people, the anxiety of people, the frustration of people, the hopes of people into a political process and away from any suggestion that criminals who call themselves terrorists have a place in the civilized world.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary. There are two extreme opinions. The Chechen fighters in the mountains say they're fighting for national liberation and say in Moscow, most of the political leaders, I would say absolute majority, are convinced that it's international terrorism. Where is the truth?

SECRETARY POWELL: The truth is for someone else to decide, not me. I know that there are terrorist organizations in Chechnya. We have through our own information and through our own resources identified several of them that we have put on our list of terrorist organizations and have taken sanctions against them. We have to be very careful to make sure that when we identify, at least in our system, organizations that are conducting these kinds of attacks that we can justify with information and intelligence that they are terrorists, that they are using terrorist financing, and that they have no interest in the political process. They have no interest in anything but killing innocent people. Often cloaked in the context of a political objective, but very often not in that cloak. And, as a result, it is important for people to reject this as a way to find a solution. What we saw in Saudi Arabia yesterday when I was there. It wasn't directed at me. I only recently announced my visit, only for a week. They'd been planning it for a long time. They were going after American interests. They were going after a partnership between Saudi Arabia and Americans that benefits both Saudi Arabians and Americans. How dare they? Why should they? Who are they? Where do they get the right to use bombs to kill innocent people sleeping in their beds? They don't have such a right. And, what we are seeing throughout the world now: two attacks in Chechnya in the past two days, attack in Saudi Arabia, attack in Yemen, attacks elsewhere in the world. Is this to be in any way tolerated? Is this to be in any way justified? What kind of world do we become? What sort of future will there be for the civilized world if we don't come together and fight this kind of terrorism where it exists?

QUESTION: Two questions follow from what you have just said. Is why did it take the United States such a long time to list the Chechen guerillas in the terrorists list? It took September 11 to happen so that the United States realize that Chechnya is a place of international terrorism. Why so long?

SECRETARY POWELL: We realize that Chechnya is place where there are terrorist organizations, but we have a system of laws, a system of regulations where we are required under our law to make an examination of information provided to us, intelligence we can gather. And we go through this because we are a nation of law and we apply the laws in a very, very careful way. It is not a matter of just snapping your finger one day and the next day saying I designate you as a terrorist organization. It is because of the record of terrorism and information that I can present to our Congress or to a court that justifies my placing the name of that organization on our terrorist list. It takes time, and in this instance it took some time.

QUESTION: And, the second point. The terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia. Do you think this is a response to American victory in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it is Al Qaida. We can't be absolutely sure, but my judgment it is Al Qaida. And Al Qaida has been targeting American interests for years. They targeted our ship in Yemen when they blew a hole in it and killed a number of our young sailors. They targeted our embassies in Africa. They targeted New York City and Washington and they brought another plane down in the countryside of Pennsylvania, one of our states. And, so the Al Qaida organization has been attacking America across a broad front over many years, and this was a continuation of that attack, not directly linked to what we did in Iraq. They have this view that somehow the Saudi government should not be free to invite the American presence in Saudi Arabia because it serves the interests of both Saudi Arabia and the United States. They do not approve of that, they don't like that, so they've been trying to drive us out Saudi Arabia and out of that part of the world but for a number of years. But, we have friends and we have interests in the Gulf Area, in the Middle East and we will represent our interests and we will defend our friends and to the extent that our friends want our presence in the area, either our political presence, our diplomatic presence or, on occasion, our military presence. We will be there to help our friends. What's interesting is, the Iraq war has now been concluded, the active combat phase, and we have just announced that most of our troops will be leaving Saudi Arabia. So, what basis was there for an attack on that rationale? None whatsoever. It is just part of this terrorist, criminal, murderous organization reaching out, and nobody should try very hard to find some way of justifying their action by saying that, well, Americans shouldn't be in Saudi Arabia. Americans should be doing more here or other nations should be doing more there. And, if you don't do so, then this one organization, Al Qaida, led by we don't know who right now, has the right to go get bombs, to go get guns, to go get all kinds of terrible weapons to kill innocent people who might be sleeping in their bed. Not going after an armed enemy, but going after targets where they know they can get access. In the case of New York City, people who came from 90 different countries, who just went to work in the World Trade Center -- ninety different countries represented in the World Trade Center. Should they have all been sent to their death because this one organization, outside all the rules of law, outside any norm of civilization, decides that they have some misbegotten cause, and they should have the right to do such a thing? No. We must strike back. We must respond. To these kinds of organizations or similar organizations, wherever they appear. And no country is invulnerable. No country is safe from this kind of attack.

QUESTION: When you say you don't know who runs Al Qaida now. You mean that you don't know what the fate of Bin Laden is?

SECRETARY POWELL: I do not know whether he is alive or dead.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary. My colleague journalists describe a rather troublesome situation in Iraq. It's chaos in Baghdad. It's chaos in the countryside. And Basra, for instance, as well. And somebody talks about the possibility of a domino effect, in a sense that we can get this chaos spreading in the Arab world. Now, connecting to that President Putin, before the beginning of the war, always said, "America and us are partners. And because we partners, I must warn them they are making a mistake." After your meeting on Wednesday with President Putin, did you have a feeling that he's changing his mind?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. President Putin felt very strongly that the United States should not undertake military action. He worked both in the UN Security Council to make that position well known and he talked directly to President Bush about it. Foreign Minister Ivanov, my colleague, he and I had the most intense discussions about this issue. We had strong disagreement here. And I would not expect either President Putin or Foreign Minister Ivanov to say that they didn't have that strong view and it's all behind us. We did have a disagreement, but because we are partners we can talk to one another directly. In the most heated way. And now that that matter has been resolved, we did what we felt we had to do, Russia felt the need to criticize our actions, but that does not break up the partnership. There are so many other things that pull us together. The desire now to work together in the United Nations for a new resolution that will help the Iraqi people and not to fight old battles. And the United States and the Russian Federation are pulled together by our economic interests, by our common commitment to democracy, and to the opening up of markets. We want to help Russia with accession to the World Trade Organization. We have delegations going back and forth talking about agricultural issues and commercial issues, trade issues, and investment opportunities. I, earlier this week when I was in Moscow, also here in your city, I also talked to a group of leaders who came together to talk about a new problem, HIV/AIDS. And, we have some experience and we can help Russia with our experience. And so, there are so many things that pull us together, and so many mutual interests that we have, that those things that pull us together will cause us to have a strong partnership. I'm absolutely confident of that and I'm sure that will be demonstrated to the world when our two Presidents meet in St. Petersburg in the near future. And, it was also demonstrated when the Duma ratified the Treaty of Moscow reducing the number of strategic nuclear weapons on both sides.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary. You talked about this a second ago. The resolution to allow to lift sanctions on Iraq. Now, Russia has a different point of view. You have threatened the world, the United States, for a year and a half that there are of mass destruction in Iraq, and so far nobody has found them. So, if the war was carried out because of weapons of mass destruction, so maybe let's let the inspectors go back and make us all sure in the world that there aren't -- or there are, but the fact that they're not found yet, the weapons of mass destruction, isn't it troublesome?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we have started to identify some vehicles that are very suspicious in nature and look quite similar to some of the vehicles that I presented in my speech to the United Nations on the fifth of February. So we'll continue to examine those vehicles to see whether they are mobile biological laboratories. We are going through a great deal of documentation that our troops have picked up, and we have thousands of experts and soldiers who will be examining the entire country and look at suspected sights. Whether or not there is a role for UNMOVIC to play in the absence of the Saddam Hussein regime is an entirely different situation. This is something they'll have to examine. I'm aware that some of our Security Council partners, including the Russian Federation, believe that there is a role for UNMOVIC. We believe that that may not be the case any longer. But it's an area that we'll have to debate. I don't subscribe to the domino theory, that what we have done in Iraq will necessarily bring down regimes all over the area. What we have done in Iraq is get rid of a terrible dictator. A dictator who we know was developing weapons of mass destruction. You tell me why he didn't let the United Nations have full access. You tell me why he didn't turn over the documentation, why he didn't account for all the things he has been doing for the last 12 years. For 12 years, he ignored the UN. We also know that he had such weapons. He has used such weapons in the past. And, on top of that, he terrorized his population, he wasted the revenue of the people on weapons and on building up a military force to threaten his neighbors. He killed people. He murdered people. We're now finding mass graves, full of innocent people who were murdered by this regime. And, so the United States is not going to apologize. Nor are our coalition partners going to apologize for undertaking this military operation which will determine whether there are any remaining weapons of mass destruction and bring the truth out in due course. And also have the effect of bringing down a dictator, and the world will be better off for it, is better off for it, and the people of Iraq will be better off for it. And they now have an opportunity to use their oil wealth to build a better country that will be a democratic country. That's not a domino theory meaning the United States is going to go somewhere else and do the same thing. Not at all. But, what we might have is an example to the region of what can happen when you don't have dictators around and when you're willing to use the wealth that you have in the ground, your oil, for good purposes.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I would like to clarify one detail, which is very Russian. Because on the eve of war, now we know about it, Yevgeniy Primakov, a former Prime Minister and former Foreign Minister had his last mission to Baghdad. He was asked by The Kremlin to go to that mission. He told Mr. Saddam Hussein, that if he wants to save his country from a tragedy, if he wants to avoid a war, he must go. Saddam Hussein did not, as we know, agree, and the war started. Now, did you know about this initiative in the United States?

SECRETARY POWELL: I knew about a number of initiatives to include Mr. Primakov. Mr. Primakov wasn't the only one who was conveying this message to Saddam Hussein. Many of the Arab leaders were conveying this message to him. Others in the world, other leaders in the world were saying to him,"Why are you bringing us to the brink of destruction?" But, Mr. Hussein thought that he could stop the will of the international community. He got certain comfort and certain confidence from debates we were having in the Security Council, where it was clear that some members did not want to support the use of force. But, he misunderstood the determination of a number of the members of the Council and a large, willing coalition led by the United States and the United Kingdom to actually take military action. And, so he had an opportunity to come clean. What was he hiding? What would have been -- if he wasn't hiding something, why didn't he just say, "I'll give you everything, I'll show you everything, you can send in anybody you want, anywhere you want to go. I will no longer stand in the way. I will no longer make these little moves to make it look like I'm cooperating when I'm not really cooperating." He had his chance. He had his opportunity. It was the United States that went to the United Nations last September and presented the case and said to the United Nations, here's a dictator, here's a regime that for 12 years has been ignoring this international body, and what are we going to do about it? And, we worked for seven weeks. We passed a resolution supported by the Russian Federation, 15 to 0. And, everybody said they're guilty. That's what the resolution said. Iraq has been doing this. Now they have to come clean. And, if they don't come clean, and if they don't show the inspectors everything they have then serious consequences must fall. Everybody agreed to that. 15-0. We then had a serious debate as to whether or not they were really cooperating. And we could not resolve that disagreement. Some said give the inspectors more time. The United States and a number of other nations said no. All they are doing is trying to stretch it out and make sure that nothing happens. And so, they are using the United Nations against itself and we did not believe that that could continue. So we used the authority of that Resolution 1441 and earlier UN resolutions to undertake military action.

QUESTION: Secretary. There is a strategic problem now. Because the United States, the West, NATO, and Russia as well in a certain sense have two fronts. Afghanistan and Iraq. There is a threat that -- or danger, if you want -- that Afghanistan is going to be forgotten because Iraq is going to draw more and more resources and needs and Afghanistan will remain overlooked. We know that it is an enormous drug production place and that this narco money is sponsoring international terrorism. So, how to solve this?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not aware of the Afghan government in any way sponsoring international terrorism. .


SECRETARY POWELL: I do know that we have a drug crop problem in Afghanistan.

INTERVIEWER: That's right.

SECRETARY POWELL: And we are working on that. We are trying to find crop substitution measures that we can use to convince Afghan farmers that they ought to invest in something that benefits their country and not grow a crop where all the money flows out of the country. So, it is a major problem and I recognize that. But, we haven't forgotten Afghanistan. There are still American soldiers in Afghanistan. NATO is now getting ready to send a force into Afghanistan and a headquarters into Afghanistan. We're putting hundreds of millions of dollars into Afghanistan. One of the last things I did before leaving Washington to come on this trip, was to meet with our assistance officials to make sure that the construction of the road, a major road that will connect all the major cities, that the paving of that road, the construction of that road is well underway. So, I spend time during my week on Afghanistan, on Iraq, on relations with the Russian Federation and all the other many challenges that face a Secretary of State. So we have not forgotten Afghanistan. We took on a responsibility to help Afghans build a new society, and we are meeting that responsibility. We help put in place a democratic government, women are now back in the workplace, in education, in the health care system. We're building hospitals, we're building schools, we're building a new army that will protect the nation from the warlords, and from outside influence. We are able to do that and at the same time deal with our responsibilities in Iraq. We picked up the same kind of responsibilities when we conducted our military operation in Iraq, and we knew the challenges we would be facing. It's been difficult. We have a lot more work to do with respect to security, stability, rebuilding the infrastructure. But, we understand the challenge and we will meet the challenge as we have in the past.

QUESTION: So, Mr. Secretary, the United States, according to interviews that you gave in the recent past is taking a new responsibility, the Middle East crisis, the Palestinian and Israeli crisis, and you said that its President Bush's priority now, and the roadmap is the road to peace as outlined. Given that the Palestinian side seems to be accepting, at least the new Prime Minister, seems to be accepting the roadmap. On the Israeli side you have conditions and resistance. How far is the United States ready to go to force this peace - this road to peace - on Israel?

SECRETARY POWELL: You can't enforce something on a democratic nation. What we can do is try to create conditions where both sides see it is in their interest to come together and follow a particular path to peace. We have had very candid conversations with the Palestinian side and with the Israeli side this week. We hope that a meeting will be coming up soon between the Israeli side and the Palestinian side. Mr. Sharon will be coming to Washington in the next few days in order to discuss these issues with President Bush. And so this is the beginning of the process. There are strong feelings on both sides. What makes this situation new is that we have an elected Prime Minister of the Palestinian people, not Mr. Arafat, who was not an effective leader. He may still be seen as the leader of his country, but he did not lead his country toward peace or toward a Palestinian state. We now have a Prime Minister with authority, Abu Mazen. And President Bush has been waiting for a responsible interlocutor and Prime Minister Sharon ahs been waiting for a responsible interlocutor. So, we will find a way forward. President Bush is determined to find a way forward.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said that Yassir Arafat is not anymore a leader, that you don't consider him a leader. He is not a partner for peace. You said in previous interviews. Now, is that position of the United States shared by say President Putin? Does he agree with you that Arafat is no more somebody you can have, you can deal with?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I would not presume to speak for President Putin And he can speak for himself . I know that he -- as we -- recognize that Yassir Arafat is the elected president of his people and his people look to him as their leader. What I was saying, what we have said previously, is that he is a failed leader, in that for all these years, that he has been the head of the PLO and the head of the Palestinian people, the leader of the Palestinian people, he has not brought them closer to peace, he has not brought them closer to their dream, which is a Palestinian state. And so we felt strongly that new leadership had to emerge and we now are seeing that new leadership emerge. Not because the United States put in that new leadership but because the Palestinian people through their legislature decided that they needed new leadership and so they created the position of Prime Minister. Not the United States. They brought forth Abu Mazen, named by Mr. Arafat and approved by the Palestinian legislature to be their Prime Minister, and to be given authority as Prime Minister to begin discussions with the Israeli side and with the American side so that we could find a way to move forward to the goal that we all have, and that's a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel.

QUESTION: In Moscow, among the very influential politicians, there is a view that the Quartet, which is working in the Middle East, is a very effective way of solving complicated situations. Now, if you don't say agree on something, like the figure of Arafat, is it not going to make it one plus three instead of four?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. The Quartet agreed on the roadmap. Each member of the quartet has a different view with respect to Chairman Arafat, but the Quartet agreed on the roadmap. We are trying to use the roadmap as a way for Palestinian leaders to emerge and to represent the interests of their people. You can have more than one leader in a movement or in a government. We feel strongly that we have seen Mr. Arafat's leadership over the years. And, I personally have worked with Mr. Arafat for a year and a half before we formed the Quartet. And, frankly, he was not getting the job done or needed to move the peace process along and get closer to the day when the Palestinian people would have a state of their own. The Russian Federation has a different view. The UN, a different view. The European Union, a different view. I respect their views. But, where we found common cause, was the creation of a roadmap that shows the way forward to these two states. One state and one state to be -- the state of Israel and hopefully, a Palestinian state which will emerge -- and they can live side by side in peace. Thank you very much.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you very much.

Released on May 16, 2003

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