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Interview With Josef Joffe of Die Zeit Newspaper

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
December 20, 2007

QUESTION: Here's number one. Zbig Brzezinski has formulated the central paradox of American foreign policy; never has American power been that high, never its authority and legitimacy so low. Do you agree?


QUESTION: Why not?

SECRETARY RICE: Because I see --

QUESTION: He was a predecessor.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah -- no, he wasn't my predecessor -- oh, at the NSC.

QUESTION: At -- one of the predecessors.

SECRETARY RICE: I think that you have a situation in which the United States is standing for a set of values and principles that have served us very, very well in other parts of the world in one of the most difficult parts of the world, which is the Middle East, which was -- the status quo was not stable in the Middle East. Al-Qaida was only the most virulent manifestation of the instability underneath in the Middle East. And we've had to do some very difficult things and sometimes in leadership, very difficult things are not popular, but they are understood to be important.

And when I look at the degree to which the American decision, for instance, to launch an initiative at Annapolis is not just welcomed, but rallied around, I see both the influence of the United States and people's respect for America's authority.

QUESTION: This is true. America has a lot of convening power.

SECRETARY RICE: It's not just convening power, Joe. It's the power to get things done. We have liberated 50 million people. We have unraveled a black market network of nuclear entrepreneurs called A.Q. Kahn.


SECRETARY RICE: We have ended the Libyan nuclear program. We are convening the Northeast Asian powers to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.


SECRETARY RICE: We have changed the status -- are working to change the status of the Indian relationship to the nuclear nonproliferation regime. We are working with our allies to deal with the last problem in the Balkans, the Kosovo problem. We are convening the international community to try and deal with the Iranian nuclear program, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

QUESTION: Okay. So why in the world would your predecessor at the White House say that there's this vast gap between physical power and legitimacy?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I just gave you the list.

QUESTION: So he was wrong?

SECRETARY RICE: I just gave you the list.


SECRETARY RICE: And it's only a partial list, by the way, because again, you know, the Annapolis process is now launched. This is not easy because I assume if somebody had been able to do it, they would have done it before, so it's not easy. And let me just speak to the transatlantic relationship.

QUESTION: Okay, wonderful.

SECRETARY RICE: Outstanding relations with France, extraordinary relations with Germany, really good relations that continue with Great Britain, NATO fighting alongside us in Afghanistan. I can go on and on and on.

QUESTION: Yeah, but various countries are trying to peel off in Afghanistan as they have in Iraq.

SECRETARY RICE: Look, it is extremely difficult to maintain military operations for armies, many of whom did not invest in their defense capacity for a long time.

QUESTION: Let's take a moment with the transatlantic relationship. Exaggerating a bit, you know, I would say that from Merkel's predecessor, Schroeder, was almost persona non grata in Washington and she -- the new chancellor seems to be one of his best friends. I mean, she was even invited to Crawford. What has changed the relationship from coldness to warmth?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, we've moved -- you know, we've moved past the 2003-2004 period to a period where I think everybody understands the importance of Iraq and Afghanistan, to a different kind of broader Middle East, and so we're working very effectively. I think they have a good personal relationship and I think Chancellor Merkel has stood for -- very firmly for a set of principles and values that served us awfully well, by the way, in sustaining German democracy until the Cold War could end and Germany could be unified. And of course, she has personal experience with what it was like to be on the other side of the divide.

QUESTION: So this time, the United States is going to support the German bid for a permanent seat in the Security Council?

SECRETARY RICE: You know, we've said to all of the interested states -- Japan, we've talked to Brazil, we talked to India and others that are interested -- you know, this is complicated, the Security Council ought to look different than it looks now. There is a need for reform. And we've said we will listen to any good idea, we'll work with people on good ideas. The President made that statement at the UNGA this year. And we're doing that, but we don't underestimate the difficulty of finding the right formula given regional, shall we say, rivalries for these seats.

QUESTION: Yes. Okay. Well thought answer. But let's go back to the issue of change in a more conceptual way. I mean, when you came to the White House, Bush came to the presidency, there were three pillars of U.S. foreign policy: There was preemption rather than deterrence and containment; there was the idea of the democratic peace, democratization and regime change; and there was -- let's call it unilateralism, which, for instance, like -- we'll go with others if we can, but we will go alone if we can't. Have any of these pillars changed or are they still in place: preemption, democratization, unilateralism?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, preemption is not a pillar; it's a means. It is --

QUESTION: It's a national security strategy.

SECRETARY RICE: It's a national security means.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay.

SECRETARY RICE: If you don't want to wait for threats to come to you, then you have no choice to go after them before they come to you.


SECRETARY RICE: I remember sitting before the 9/11 Commission, as did my predecessor, as well as the predecessor of Colin Powell and others and having people say, "Why didn't you do something about Afghanistan, why didn't you do something in '98 or '99 about Afghanistan?"

QUESTION: Well, that was the Clinton Administration.

SECRETARY RICE: Right -- no, but I'm saying they were -- this was a question that people pressed on because there was an emerging threat, there was a growing threat, "Why didn't you do something?" I understand very well why we didn't do something, because you didn't --

QUESTION: Why not?

SECRETARY RICE: Because you didn't have the kind of critical mass of understanding of how bad that threat was becoming. And what 9/11 showed us is that you can't allow threats to simply grow and mature.

QUESTION: Yeah, I understand that.

SECRETARY RICE: All right. So it's -- secondly, democratization, absolutely. The efforts to -- it's not as if anybody believes that democratization is going to take place on our watch throughout the world.

QUESTION: Yes, but this Administration believed in a conscience doctrine that only despots make war and democracy is inherently peaceful; therefore, we will transform regimes in order to gain peace.

SECRETARY RICE: It's as a component of peace, but also as a component of a moral responsibility of not to leave anybody living in tyranny if you can avoid it.

QUESTION: So are we going to do regime change in China and Russia?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's not a matter -- it's not a matter of regime change. What you stand for is the inalienable right of everyone to live in freedom. And there are obviously different strategies for helping indigenous forces to do that. If you have a combination of a security threat and a tyranny as you had in Iraq --

QUESTION: Then you --

SECRETARY RICE: You have an obligation, once you have overthrown that threat, to have a democratic path ahead. I actually, Joe, often use the example of Germany. We didn't go to war against Hitler to democratize Germany.

QUESTION: Of course not.

SECRETARY RICE: We went because of the security threat. But once the security threat was taken over, it was the United States that stood for democratic principles.

QUESTION: So it's realpolitik first, idealpolitik later?

SECRETARY RICE: It is understanding that the two are inherently linked because this binary notion that there are -- there's a balance of power in their ideals is patently false. The balance of power mattered between the Soviet Union and the United States. In the place where the Soviet Union dominated the balance of power, there was communism. Where the United States was the strongest power there was a collection -- an alliance of democratic states. Does anybody doubt that if the balance of power between the Soviet Union and the United States had been resolved differently in favor of the Soviet Union, that we would have been talking about an Eastern Europe that was democratic, so the two are linked.

QUESTION: But it was 40 years of containment and deterrence in the Kennan way, rather than active regime change.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, sometimes there is an opportunity when conditions are such that things are so bad that a regime has become a security threat as in the case of Afghanistan or Iraq, that it is a matter, as you called it, active regime change. And sometimes it's a matter of trying to sustain and support democratic forces within --

QUESTION: What if you do -- if by doing so, we get Hamas?

SECRETARY RICE: You know, I'm one who does not think that conditions have been made worse by the Palestinian people having had a chance to send a message through their elections that they were tired of corruption and tired of a status quo that was not serving them well.

QUESTION: But Gaza has not become more peaceful, has become more democratic.

SECRETARY RICE: No. But you have a democratic government and a presidency that is the legitimate authority of the Palestinian people and you have Hamas unable to deliver and therefore stripped of some of the -- stripped of some of the romance of the resistance without responsibility.

QUESTION: And now we're giving them $5.4 billion?

SECRETARY RICE: The world is going to give them --



QUESTION: $7.4 billion.


QUESTION: Allowing them to deliver.

SECRETARY RICE: Allowing them to build institutions and structures for a democratic Palestinian state to live side by side with Israel. And it's one of the reasons I think we've got a better chance now than we've ever had to have a two-state solution.

QUESTION: The third pillar, unilateralism versus a military foreign policy, that has been the biggest indictment on the part of the Europeans.

SECRETARY RICE: But I've never understood what it means. You know, let me give you an example -- but let me give you a very good example. Let me give you an example that’s not a European example.


SECRETARY RICE: We've built a multilateral approach -- regional multilateral approach to the North Korean problem.

QUESTION: The six-party talks.

SECRETARY RICE: Everybody told us, go talk to them bilaterally. So that would have been unilateral. But instead --

QUESTION: Not if they tell you you could do it.

SECRETARY RICE: -- we don't -- instead and -- oh, I see. So the difference is you have to be told that you can do it.

QUESTION: I see. Yes.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, but this is a -- we have a multilateral approach to Iran.


SECRETARY RICE: I will be the first to say that I was personally surprised when I first became Secretary and I went to Europe on that first trip, and I remember it was the press conference with Jack Straw in London was my first -- you know. And I was surprised the degree to which people had somehow come to think that we were the problem not Iran, and that we were -- that we were --

QUESTION: But that was exactly the issue.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, but we were between --

QUESTION: That America was a bigger problem than Saddam.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, not then Saddam then Iran. This was the --

QUESTION: Oh, this --

SECRETARY RICE: -- issue about Iran. It's first of all, on the face of it ludicrous. But that said, we did come back and we took a look at the strategy and we removed any excuses that the Iranians might have had.

QUESTION: Explain.

SECRETARY RICE: For instance, joining the consensus on the EU-3 negotiations in an active way, offering to engage the Iranians if they were prepared to live up to the demand that not the United States have made of them, but that all that we've been negotiating made of them, which is the suspension of their enrichment and reprocessing activities. But I don't see that as a -- you know, it was somehow a radical break. I see it as -- in that case, a recognition that, yeah, I think perhaps the policies toward Iran were being -- were not being read properly. And if in fact what we needed to do was to more clearly put ourselves on the side of the negotiating strategy that our allies were following, make ourselves a part of that, expand that then into the six parties to deal with Iran, then that was the right thing to do.

QUESTION: Well, we now have the NIE that says Iran is no longer a problem. They’ve stopped building nuclear weapons.

SECRETARY RICE: That is most certainly not what the NIE says. The NIE says that --

QUESTION: I read it very carefully.

SECRETARY RICE: -- there are three elements to having a nuclear weapons program. There's weaponization. That is what they halted in 2003. There is fissile material. That is what continues the pace -- enrichment and reprocessing, because once you solve the engineering problem of enriching at what lower levels, you can do it at higher levels. That's why the world, through the two Security Council resolutions has been focused on enrichment and reprocessing. The third is to be able to deliver and that's the missile threat, which continues.

QUESTION: Which they're building quite actively.

SECRETARY RICE: Very actively. So the question that the NIE raises for me is what were they doing before 2003? What is the status of that program? They've always said they didn't have a covert program. I assume that since they've embraced the NIE, that it means that they do have a -- did have a covert program. So the NIE says to me that we have the right strategy --

QUESTION: Which is?

SECRETARY RICE: -- which is try to stop them from enriching and reprocessing by a diplomatic strategy that gives them on the other hand a way out if they're prepared to do it, negotiations, including with the United States. And on the other hand, continued isolation through sanctions and financial measures if they don't.

QUESTION: So there's an offer for -- an American offer to negotiate with Iran directly?

SECRETARY RICE: I have said that if they will stop their enrichment and reprocessing, I will meet my counterpart anywhere, anytime, anyplace to talk about anything.

QUESTION: Okay. Let's go back to some of the more conceptual issues again. Everybody's now touting the rise of China and India and the resurgence of Russia. So is the unipolar moment over? Is the last remaining superpower a thing of the past? Is the world in which -- is the American century over? Is the world becoming multipolar?

SECRETARY RICE: First of all, I've never thought that any of those were --

QUESTION: Correct?

SECRETARY RICE: -- were correct. The unipolar --

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

SECRETARY RICE: -- et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I mean, just from the point of view of global power and all of the assets of national power, the United States is the strongest country in the world, no doubt about it. But the United States has always needed and worked with allies. The United States has always needed and -- needed to work with other great powers to get things done. The relationship with China is a complex one. There are many things about which we disagree: human rights in China, religious freedom in China. But we work about -- also about some aspects of Chinese economic development and a kind of statism -- continued statism. But you couldn't have a stronger working relationship on North Korea through the six-party talks. I think we have very -- we've worked effectively with the Chinese on Iran. We've always been able to talk with other great (inaudible).

QUESTION: So the United States is still number one and it is socializing the rising powers into the American system?

SECRETARY RICE: It's not an American system. The question is, is it going to be a system that affirms democratic values at the core of the peace. And that's why at core, at base, the relationship with Europe and with the transatlantic powers and the relationship with Japan and Australia and South Korea is so core to American interest. It's why the turn in Russia away from those democratic values is troubling. Because even though I think we have a perfectly workable relationship with Russia, we don't agree on everything, we also don't disagree on everything. The hope had been -- and it wasn't just in America, it was a transatlantic hope, that as Russia became more -- the democratic values became more embedded in Russia's evolution, that the relationship would be something more than just either coincidence or a conflict of interest.

QUESTION: But let me describe the relationship as I see it. It is a resurgent Russia which is opposing the U.S. and perhaps even the west across the board and which is using its pipelines a lot more effectively than Brezhnev used his missiles and tanks.


QUESTION: Would you have a -- do you have a Russian policy?

SECRETARY RICE: Of course we have a Russian policy. And as I said, it's a -- these big relationships are complex. They have some good elements and some not good elements. I think that we have cooperated well on Iran. We have tactical differences from time to time; when, how deep a resolution, but we've passed two resolutions. We are doing very well in global nuclear issues. We have virtually no difference between us on issues in the war on terrorism. You know, across the board, we have a lot of things that are going very well.

The Middle East is another area in which we have some tactical differences, but not really. They've been very supportive of the Annapolis process through the Quartet. Yes, the closer you get to Russia's periphery, the harder things get because I think there's still a kind of zero-sum thinking about U.S. engagement with Ukraine or Georgia or the Central Asian states. But those are just the complexities of a very big relationship. Yes, I'm concerned and we've made clear that we're concerned about any efforts to use energy as anything more than a resource for the development of economies in the market. But frankly, to the degree that Europe finds a way to diversify, both with energy and source and its energy suppliers, that is a strategy that will work.

QUESTION: You just said the closer you get to the periphery, the more difficult a relationship becomes, which brings us automatically to the most difficult or just the most dramatic issue, which is the placement of an anti -- parts of an anti-missile system in the Czech and Poland. And the Russians seem to be fighting this tooth and nail and not yielding an inch or a millimeter as they would say.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the -- we've thus far been unable to convince the Russians that 10 interceptors in Poland and some radars in the Czech Republic are no match for the Russian nuclear deterrent. Now, I used to do this for a living. It's not a very hard argument, frankly. But we've gone out of our way to engage the Russians at the highest levels; President Putin, Bob Gates and myself going to Moscow. We've made proposals. What I've said to the Russians is if you don't like those proposals, why don't you come back with proposals. And we're continuing those discussions. But ultimately, the kinds of missile defenses that we're talking about now are aimed at small threats, not large threats.

QUESTION: But they're playing this for everything it's worth. They're mobilizing Eastern Europe and Western Europe against the United States. So another question --

SECRETARY RICE: I've sat in NATO. They haven't done very well at mobilizing Western Europe, because they look -- it looks to everyone. You know, when -- before Russia tells us what they think of a proposal, they go to the press.


SECRETARY RICE: It's pretty transparent. And so I think that -- I hope that they'll reconsider their ways.

QUESTION: But isn't it -- is it worth it because the tiny parts of a non-existent system to kind of give them -- not only rile them, but give them a good way of manipulating opinion against the United States?

SECRETARY RICE: I don't think they have a good way of manipulating opinion. I think that -- do you think that most Europeans really like the Russia they're seeing?

QUESTION: No, but I see that in Western Europe, that the opposition to the missile system reaches way into the -- over to the right of the Christian democrat, conservative parties.

SECRETARY RICE: I think that you will see over time that as it becomes clearer and clearer that there were many ways for this to be shared -- a cooperative system with Russia, that people will see that all the United States is trying to do is to protect itself and to protect its allies from potential small missile threats. Now again, I don't really read Europe as being very favorably disposed to the Russia that they're seeing. For instance, on CFE, if -- the interests of the United States, of course, linked it to CFE because it is an important part of the architecture. But there are states in Europe that have far deeper interests in CFE. And the Russian unilateralism on CFE, I think, has troubled people.

QUESTION: But they're getting out of it.

SECRETARY RICE: I don't know that they'll get out of it.

QUESTION: Haven't they said that they will --

SECRETARY RICE: Look, I understand that they -- well, they said they'd suspend it, whatever that means. But I think they want to see the adapted CFE come into being. And frankly, I understand why. The CFE Treaty of 1990 doesn't represent current realities.

QUESTION: Okay. Last question to address the coming year. Is -- are we moving into a more peaceful year, as opposed to the last five or six years or are we just exhausted after wars and revolutions and resurgence? And what is -- as you peer ahead into '08, what do you see there?


QUESTION: More problems or --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the world is always going to have its problems. And this is a big generational change that's taking place, particularly in the Middle East, where I think these extremist forces were not confronted for a long time. And they either -- either there was no healthy political space for moderate forces to organize and so politics was going on, but it was going on in the radical madrasas and in the radical mosques and --

QUESTION: Which were financed by our good friends, the Saudis.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the Saudis, I think, understand some of the implications of what is happening, because these are threats to the kingdom as well. You now have those forces being challenged. They've been challenged militarily in some places. They're being challenged economically. They're being challenged politically. And that's why I said that it's one thing to allow those forces to sit outside of politics and claim the mantle of the resistance. It's another to make them compete and to see whether or not that vision is actually one that people will adopt.

QUESTION: So the most radical force like Hamas and Hezbollah are going to join the political mainstream?

SECRETARY RICE: No, I'm just saying that when -- that when they have to compete and they have to deliver, they turn out not to be very good at it. And I'll give you another example. I think what you've seen in Iraq is really quite important. In Anbar, where -- when people got an up-close look at al-Qaida and what al-Qaida really stood for and the violent, brutal, barbaric nature of what their rule would look like in the -- in places like Anbar, they mobilize to reject them.

QUESTION: So '08 is going to be a better year than '07?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I can't predict, but I think that '08 will be a year in which we will pursue aggressively and actively the Annapolis process. It will be a year in which we will stand with the Lebanese people as they try to take the next step from -- towards sovereignty. We have to remember that in 2005, they had Syrian troops on its soil. And so there are -- it's turbulent, but they're trying to take that step. I think in which, hopefully, the Iraqi people will take advantage of the improved security situation, fragile though it is, to work at issues of governance, both at the national level and at the provincial and local level, in which the people of Afghanistan will continue to see the writ of their government extend. It's -- you know, it's a busy year in which hopefully the North Koreans are going to make the strategic choice. They've already done some remarkable things. The nuclear programs are -- the plutonium program, I think, is disabled.

QUESTION: Disabled, whatever that means.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah. Whatever it -- well, it means that it would be very hard to start it again.




Released on December 26, 2007

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