Remarks En Route Prague, Czech RepublicSecretary Condoleezza Rice
En Route Prague, Czech Republic
July 8, 2008
SECRETARY RICE: All right. We’re going to make three stops, one in the Czech Republic where – sign a missile defense agreement with the Czechs and talk about other bilateral matters. I’ll go to Bulgaria, where I’ve not been yet as Secretary, and so I’m looking forward to that. We have a lot of bilateral issues also with Bulgaria, and of course, other NATO member. And we will then go on to Tbilisi. And in going to Georgia, it’s principally because I think the Georgians, who are very good allies – I’ve not been there. I wanted to go. I know that there have been a lot of incidents that have called into question people’s commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity. And I want to make very clear that the United States’ commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity is strong.
So those will be the purposes. I’m sure we’ll also have an opportunity to talk about other issues. The Georgians are, of course, deployed with us and – in both Iraq and have work in Afghanistan. And so this will be a rather quick trip, but I’m looking forward to it.
QUESTION: Quick clarification. Haven’t you been to both Sofia and to Tbilisi once --
SECRETARY RICE: I’ve – not as Secretary, though I went with the President to –
QUESTION: Oh, okay, all right.
SECRETARY RICE: I’ve been to Tbilisi. I did not go into Bulgaria.
QUESTION: Okay. But I remember being in Bulgaria, but I guess maybe that was part of a presidential trip, but --
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, I went to Bulgaria, I think, as national security advisor, but not as – I’ve not been as Secretary.
QUESTION: Okay. And --
SECRETARY RICE: I’m pretty sure, (inaudible.)
QUESTION: I think it was 2005. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY RICE: (Inaudible), I think you’re right.
QUESTION: We stayed overnight and --
SECRETARY RICE: I know it seems like a hundred years ago.
QUESTION: It pretty much was, I think.
SECRETARY RICE: Okay.
QUESTION: But on missile defense, what did you make of your meeting this morning, or yesterday morning with the Polish Foreign Minister in Washington? Do you see that the Polish trajectory is going basically the way the Czech did – trajectory going the way the Czech did? You know, a little stop and start here and there, but eventually, they come around to signing a deal? Or are you not that optimistic?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, there are remaining issues, but the United States has made a very generous offer concerning the Czech – the Poles want to improve their air defenses. They want to make a general improvement to their defenses; we think – to the defense modernization – we think this is a good thing, because we want our allies’ forces to be modern, and so we’ve told them what we can do. And there are still some issues, so I can’t say for certain what the trajectory is. But I think it was a constructive meeting yesterday.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, can you – if you were to resolve all the remaining issues with Poland in the next 24 hours, is there any possibility that we might actually stop in Warsaw to try to sign this, or can you rule that out? And on --
SECRETARY RICE: I’m sorry (inaudible)?
QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. Can you – if you were to resolve all the remaining issues within the next, you know, five hours, is there any possibility that we might stop in Warsaw on this trip? Or is that simply not, sort of, possible at this point?
SECRETARY RICE: I had a good meeting with Sikorski. He was in the United States, and so it made sense for us to meet there. I think this is really now a matter for others to go back and take a look at some of the issues that are there. But look, I believe strongly that we are at a place where these negotiations need to come to conclusion. I don’t think that it really makes sense for me to go to Poland, because we’ve had the meeting in Washington and now, we’re going to have to see if we can close the remaining gaps. So I think the meeting in Washington sufficed.
QUESTION: Were those gaps what the U.S. is willing to give on the long-range and short-range missile issues?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’m not going to talk about the internal deliberations, just to say the United States was asked by the Poles about defense modernization. And that is the work that we’ve been doing, is to look at what the Poles may need on defense modernization and what the United States, given all of its obligations, which are many, can do on defense modernization.
QUESTION: Yeah, can you tell us a little bit what you allowed the Russians to do in the Czech Republic? Will they be allowed to monitor the site? Can you give us any more details about the agreement and how much you’ve really allayed their concerns?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’ll let the Russians speak for themselves. But we have made arrangements or will – would make arrangements to carry through on the kinds of obligations that Bob Gates and I talked about when we’re in Moscow. We want the systems to be transparent to the Russians. We want them to be transparent all the time to the Russians. We want them to have a way of absolutely seeing for themselves what we know to be true, which is that these systems are in no way aimed at Russia.
Now the Russians will also -- and we’ve made clear about this -- will also need to talk to the host countries. We’re not going to just do this by remote. So there will need to be discussions with the host countries, but I think that the arrangements can be made that can carry out the obligations that Bob Gates and I talked about.
QUESTION: Sorry, just to follow up, I thought before the deal was signed, you had pretty much got principles in place for --
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, there are – the principles are in place, but I just want to be clear that we are going to make certain that the host countries are also a part of the implementation of any principles. This is, after all, their territory and we’re going to respect their sovereignty. We’ve been very clear to the – with the Russians about that. But I think that the arrangements that would be made are arrangements that will clearly give the Russians – should give the Russians confidence that this system is for the purposes that it’s been said to be. And as to their comfort level, I think you’ll have to speak to the Russians about that.
QUESTION: Between the missile defense issues at the beginning of the trip and the Georgia-Abkhazia-South Ossetia issues at the end, I mean, it’s sort of one long poke in the Russians’ eye from their perspective. I mean, what can you say to them sort of thematically about what you’re doing here in their backyard that might make them feel a little more sanguine about it?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it’s a very different world, and this isn’t the world of the Soviet Union and the United States where every – everything was either a victory for the Soviet Union or a victory for the United States and nothing could be both. And so the notion that somehow, because the United States has friendly relations, even allied relations in Central Europe or friendly relations with a young, emerging democracy like Georgia, that’s no reason to put that in the lens, even, of a U.S.-Russia – to put even in the lens of a U.S.-Russia relationship. This – the United States has relationships around the world with different countries.
And with Georgia, our concerns, and we’ve been very clear about this, have been that Georgia is an independent state. It has to be treated like one. We have said that both Georgia and Russia need to avoid provocative behavior. But frankly, some of the things that the Russians did over the last couple of months added to tensions in the region. And so we’ve now had a meeting of the Friends of Georgia, which includes Russia -- it’s a multilateral group, it includes the Germans, includes the Russians – to see if we can get a de-escalation of the tensions around Abkhazia in particular.
But let me just go back to the premise, Anne. We have had some differences with the Russians. But we have also had, from the time that we got out of the ABM Treaty, the Moscow Treaty, which has brought down, significantly, American and Russian-deployed nuclear warheads. We have had very good – we’ve had the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council. We’ve had very good interactions and relationships on North Korea, on Iran, on the Middle East. We are working well together on issues of global nuclear terrorism, on counterterrorism issues, on proliferation issues. I think the President and President Putin, for instance, had a very similar view of how to deal with the issue of the fuel cycle.
So it’s not been a relationship over the last seven and a half years of unrelenting conflict. It’s been a relationship of considerable cooperation, significant cooperation with some areas of difference, even on the Russian domestic situation, where we’ve made our concerns known. We’ve continued to have dialogue about that and, for instance, on energy, have established an energy dialogue. The United States has been a proponent – has already done a bilateral WTO understanding with the Russians. We’ve been a strong proponent of Russia’s accession to the WTO. We’ve been proponents of Russia’s accession to the OECD. So it would just be wrong to characterize it as a relationship that’s been unremittingly hostile.
QUESTION: What – if you could be specific, what are the things that the Russians have done over the last few months in Georgia that have been particularly concerning to you?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the issue of the presidential order six weeks ago or so, maybe two months ago, which seemed to suggest that the – that Abkhazia could have certain direct relations with Russia. I think that the – while the Russian explanation of the deployment of railway troops, unarmed railway troops was, in some sense, a logical explanation, it certainly would have been better had it been done with the consultation with the Georgians.
QUESTION: Is the word you’re looking for “consent”?
SECRETARY RICE: Sorry, yes, even consent. I think even consultation would have been a good thing.
SECRETARY RICE: And it goes on and on in that way. But the Georgians have a proposal out there for – that could be the basis for talks between Georgians and Abkhaz. We’ve been very much encouraging direct talks between the Abkhaz and the Georgians and I hope those will take place.
We’re going to have the last question (inaudible).
MR. CASEY: Guys, we’re starting to go down.
QUESTION: The trouble with Abkhazia and Ossetia -- the Russians seem to be trying to undermine Georgia’s eventual membership of NATO. Does that mean you’re going to tread lightly on the NATO issue, and do you see the two linked?
SECRETARY RICE: I don’t see the two linked. In fact, I think the NATO MAP would be a very good status from which Georgians could move to resolve their frozen conflicts, in much the way that we’ve seen the MAP work to help any number of countries deal with difficult issues. Now, the American position on MAP stands and we were pretty clear in Bucharest that we thought that MAP, which is not membership, would be a very good status for both Georgia and Ukraine. And we’ll continue to pursue that.
QUESTION: So you will discuss the MAP again?
SECRETARY RICE: I’ll absolutely discuss the MAP again.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, what did you do to help the Bulgarian nurses get out? Did you arrange it directly with the Libyan Foreign Minister?
SECRETARY RICE: I raised it repeatedly with the Libyan Foreign Minister. I also worked very closely with the European Union, with Benita Ferrero-Waldner in particular, and with a number of other countries that had influence with Libya. Yeah, and we sent private messages to Libya at lots of levels concerning this.
MR. CASEY: Thanks, guys.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
Released on July 8, 2008