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Interview With Andrey Cherkasov of NTV

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Moscow, Russia
May 15, 2007

QUESTION: Thank you very much for the chance to talk, Madame Secretary. My first question: During your talks with the Russian President today, with Russian officials, did you manage to convince them and what kind of reason did you say as -- that there's a necessity for the new system of (inaudible) in Eastern Europe? And can we talk about the change in the attitudes on the Russian side on this issue?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I would not presume to say how my Russian counterparts now see this issue, but we're continuing to talk about it. We believe very strongly that the United States and Europe, Russia, must meet the threats of the 21st century. And those are not the threats that we knew in the Cold War when the United States and the Soviet Union were enemies. We are no longer Russia's adversary. In fact, we've been partners on a number of things.

And so we need to have missile defenses against missiles from countries like Iran or North Korea. We're going to continue to talk about it. We've offered missile defense cooperation. We would like very much to cooperate with Russia on missile defense and we'll continue our discussions (inaudible).

QUESTION: Just last week, U.S. Congress committee refused to fully support your Administration initiative on the new system by budget cuts. Also, they said that they don't want a new military base to be built in Poland and they also appealed to your Administration to consider the reaction from Moscow. If your own congressmen don't fully support this initiative, why Russia should agree to it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we will see what the final numbers are on missile defense. Missile defense in the United States among the American people is understood and people want to be defended. These are defensive systems; these are not systems that harm anyone. But if we were to face a missile launch from a country, I would think the American people would want us to be defended.

Now the budget discussions and budget fights in Congress are always there about any system that is in its early stages, but I believe that we will get appropriate funding for this system. And of course, we do take into consideration Russia's views and the views of our allies, but ultimately, the President of the United States has to try and help secure the people of the United States and that's what this system will do.

QUESTION: Kosovo, another major disagreement. Russia is about to use its veto in the UN. Is there a breakthrough in this issue?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we will see what Russia decides to do. We have talked about why it is important to go forward now with the Ahtisaari plan. The Security Council resolution, by the way, does not insist on independence. It makes it possible for independence to take place. There's no line in the resolution that says Kosovo shall be independent. It makes it possible, though, for Kosovo to be independent.

It is time for Kosovo to move on with a future for Serbia, which should have a place in Europe and should be moving forward on its relationships with European institutions. It's time for all of them to move forward. Now the European Union, the countries of the European Union, and the United States are united in the view that the time has come to act on the Ahtisaari proposal and to vote a resolution. But we look forward to working with Russia to make certain that there are specific and concrete and strong guarantees for the Serbian minority. We look forward to working with all to make certain that people understand that Kosovo is a special circumstance, that it doesn't have implications for other cases around the world, and to make certain that Kosovars do live up to their obligations to -- that would come with being an independent state.

QUESTION: The plan to use -- the European plan on Kosovo basically proclaims that Kosovo (inaudible) of Serbia and did you ask the opinion of the Serbians on this matter? And when we talk about Kosovo and Russia, everyone draws a parallel to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Do you see this parallel being justified?

SECRETARY RICE: I believe that -- and more importantly, most of the international community, the Europeans, for instance, we believe that these circumstances are very different, that Kosovo comes out of a specific set of circumstances. Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are part of Georgia, and we believe in Georgia's territorial integrity, they're different circumstances.

The key here, as it was before the international community, is Kosovo; what do we do about the fact that Kosovo will never again be able to live inside Serbia and to flourish. And as long as this issue is unsettled, Serbia will not be able to move forward either. And so it is our view that it is time to resolve this. We want to do it in a way that the concerns of all are met. Mr. Ahtisaari negotiated for a long time between the Serbs and the Kosovars. They could not come to full agreement, but this is a way that moves forward and protects everyone's interests.

QUESTION: On Iran, on the 24th, the deadline runs out. Basically, if Tehran will not comply with the obligations from the international community, what will happen? And in your opinion, does the -- Iran as a sovereign state has the right to develop peaceful nuclear energy? And now there are states in the world that don't have that right.

SECRETARY RICE: Iran certainly has the right. And I believe they should develop -- the right to develop and I think that they should develop civil-nuclear power. This is why we have said many times to the Iranians it's not an issue of civil-nuclear power; it is an issue of the technology, enrichment and reprocessing that could lead to a nuclear weapon because Iran is not in good standing with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA cannot get answers about certain aspects of the Iranian program. Iran enriched and reprocessed for 18 years without the IAEA knowing, so of course Iran can have civil-nuclear power if it is prepared to forego enrichment and reprocessing.

The United States and Russia are working very well together on this with the European-3, Germany, France and Great Britain, and with China. We have, all six of us, put forward a proposal for Iran that if Iran will cease its enrichment and reprocessing, Iran could have trade benefits, integration into the international community, civil-nuclear power, technical cooperation. We and Russia -- the United States and Russia have worked very well together on this issue and we will consult about what to do if Iran continues to defy the international community.

QUESTION: You -- where we move back to Europe -- the impact on the international forces in Europe, you would agree that the Europe of '91, when the document was signed, and 2007 are totally different worlds. You putting your own new anti-missile system in Eastern Europe, you putting ground troops, Bulgaria and Romania being the latest examples, basically, you're following the policies according to your political and institutional interest in this region. Why should Russia limit herself to this treaty and not follow your example?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the CFE Treaty was an important treaty. It was a breakthrough treaty and it (inaudible) international obligations. But we're about to have a conference, an observer's conference on the CFE. I would suggest that that might be a place that we could raise any questions that Russia has about CFE. We're prepared, as Secretary Gates said when he was here, to discuss concerns that Russia might have. It is a different world than 1990 and 1991. But we have to remember that there is a certain framework in place, a certain architecture in place as a result of the CFE Treaty. But any concerns that Russia has, we should address them and we should do so in the context of the conference that will be coming up very soon.

QUESTION: General Henry Obering a few months ago mentioned one of the countries in the caucuses that might participate in your program of anti-missile system by putting another radar there. He didn't name the country, but everyone assumed it was Georgia. Is it so, and how close are Ukraine and Georgia in joining NATO?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, for the joining of NATO, NATO is an organization that welcomes all democratic members. Thus, there are certain performance standards that have to be met for NATO and there are a lot of obligations, a lot of commitments, a lot of reforms that have to be taken and it is ultimately up to the people of those countries, if they choose to, to seek NATO membership. But NATO also has a long list of commitments that have to be met.

As to other sites for missile defense, the United States is pursuing the sites that everyone knows about, Poland and the Czech Republic. We're having those discussions. If anything further develops, we will do what we did on these, which is to consult with our NATO allies, but also to consult with Russia. We began consultations with Russia on missile defense in June of 2006. Those consultations continue to this day. We just determined that there should be a new forum for consultation. The two -- the foreign and defense minister of Russia and myself and Secretary Gates will meet together so that we can plan ahead and look ahead so that there are no surprises in our strategic relationship.

QUESTION: In the last State Department report, your ministry openly admits that it's about to financially support the NGOs and programs to influence the parliament and presidential elections in this country. Can you explain what it means and should Russia be worried that the U.S. interferes in our own domestic agenda?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the United States wants to have nothing to do with how these elections come out. It's not our place. It's for Russians to decide who's in the Russian parliament; it's for Russians to decide who their president will be. What we have tried to do is to help Russian civil society to develop, to help nongovernmental organizations that want to organize to help pursue their interests in this country. We help organizations that support the disabled. We help organizations that support the environment. But the elections will be Russia's to have and you will not find the United States commenting on who should run, who should win, or trying to influence those elections. That's for the Russians to do.

QUESTION: All right. And the last question if I may, last week, tensions between Estonia and Russia; U.S. and EU supported Estonian Government decision (inaudible) Russia. Now we hear from Ukraine, especially in the western part of the country, and from Poland, intentions of breaking down historic monuments and rewriting history. We don't see any problems with historical monuments in the U.S.; General Lee's monument is safe and sound, Cromwell stands in front of the (inaudible). No problems with certain monuments in Berlin and Vienna. So in your opinion, is it right to break down the historical monuments and rewrite the history of World War II?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, no one can rewrite their history and no one can rewrite the sacrifice that Russia -- the Soviet Union endured in World War II. I myself am a specialist of that period and I know the terrible sacrifice. And no one can ever take away the great bravery and courage that the people of the Soviet Union, the Russian people, showed in that time. President Bush came here in May of 2005 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.

You have now, around here, independent states that are making their own decisions about how to deal with history. But my view is that one acknowledges history, both good and bad, and then moves on. And the important thing is that history not be used to fuel tensions between people. I come from a country, the United States, that has its own difficult history. You mentioned General Lee. Of course, if General Lee had been victorious, my ancestors and I had still -- would have been enslaved.

And so I understand how hard it is to overcome history. But the important thing is that it not be used to fuel current passions, that it not be used to fuel current conflict. And so I'm quite certain that the people who live in Europe together, Russia and her neighbors, can come to an understanding that history has its place, but history's place is in the past and really to look to the future of good relations between Russia and Estonia or Russia and Ukraine. It would be only natural for there to be good relations between those two countries.

QUESTION: And the last question. It concern the next elections in the U.S. -- on the Democratic side, Mrs. Clintons has been (inaudible). Everyone talks about that this campaign might have a lady's face. You know that you are a very good candidate on the Republican side. Today, do you have any intentions?

SECRETARY RICE: No intentions, no plans, and I won't do it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So you would give a Sherman's oath?

SECRETARY RICE: Even better than Sherman. No, I know what I do and like to do. I love being Secretary of State. I hope that in the last 18 months of this President's term that we will be able to achieve and help others to achieve, for instance, after spending a great deal of time on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- it's a hard situation, hard today with the deaths of people in the Palestinian territories. But I hope that we can make progress toward a two-state solution and that's an area in which Russia and the United States work well together in the Quartet.

I'm hopeful that we can continue to help the people of Iraq and Afghanistan to stabilize their (inaudible). I'm hopeful that we and -- Russia and the United States will make great progress to put, really, an institutional basis on all the work that we've done on nonproliferation and global terrorism and the nuclear threat. In other words, I have a busy 18 months ahead of me and then I'll go back to Stanford where I came from and --

QUESTION: So you see yourself teaching again?

SECRETARY RICE: I do. I see myself teaching again. I see myself writing again and maybe I'll have a chance again, as I used to in the old days, to spend some time in Russia.

QUESTION: All right. Great, thank you very much. Thank you for your time.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Thank you very much.


Released on May 20, 2007

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