Interview With Martin Reznicek, Czech TVSecretary Condoleezza Rice
Prague, Czech Republic
July 8, 2008
QUESTION: Ms. Secretary, thank you very much for your time.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.
QUESTION: Today, you signed an agreement and you called it a landmark agreement, which has no clear support in the Czech parliament at the moment. If -- actually, if it were to vote now, the agreement wouldn’t be approved. Are you confident that this agreement will be approved by the Czech house and the Czech parliament?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, we respect the ratification process that must take place here. And obviously, it has to be debated. There has to be some convincing.
But I think that this is an agreement that will stand on its merits. It will stand on its merits because it is the strongest signal of the deepening relationship between the United States and the Czech Republic, the deepening defense and cooperation for securing ourselves and our allies. This is an agreement that NATO supports. And it will have great benefits in terms of research and development and technology. These will be the highest levels of technology. And to be able to take advantage of those for companies, for universities, I think this is an agreement that will stand on its own merits.
QUESTION: But on the other hand, there are two-thirds of the Czech population that are against the radar base – being based in the Czech Republic. Have you really done everything you could to explain why this is so important?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we certainly hope to continue to do that. And I know that the Ambassador and our people here are doing so, but that’s one reason that I’m here. I’m here not just to sign a paper, but to --
QUESTION: And to (inaudible) the people?
SECRETARY RICE: But to – no, to bring life to that paper. To say that from the point of the United States, this is an agreement that is critical to our security and defense, but it’s also at the center now of a great alliance relationship that has defended freedom, that has done so for many years.
I was saying earlier, this agreement would not have been possible 20 years ago, of course. And if you look at the history of this country and you look at how it has come to freedom, it has been because it has been strong in its insistence on its freedom, and because it has had friends who were willing to defend that freedom.
QUESTION: Last night, you had a meeting with Radek Sikorski, the Polish Foreign Secretary.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: It appears that there is no major breakthrough at the moment in regards to the American-Polish Missile Defense Agreement. Is it a major setback, a major trouble for you? Does it worry you?
SECRETARY RICE: No. In fact, Radek and I had a very good meeting, constructive meeting. They have some new ideas. We’ll look at those new ideas. This is really --
QUESTION: What are these new ideas?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’m not going to talk about the diplomatic negotiations that are going on here. But let’s remember that what the Poles have said is that they want defense modernization. They want to look at upgrading certain of their systems. And we want to see that happen too, because – just as here in the Czech Republic – we want to see our allies as modern and as strong as possible. But the radar itself is a way to increase the modernization not of Czech – just Czech forces and Czech defense forces, but also of Czech commercial and private activities.
QUESTION: How far have you got with Lithuania, on the potential interceptor silo placements? And isn’t it just an instrument how to compel the Poles to follow suit?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I had a very good meeting with the Prime Minister of Lithuania. Lithuania is very interested and we are talking with those who are interested. I believe that there will be multiple states that will ultimately be involved in -- one way or another, in this missile defense system. Because remember, it is to have several layers, it will need different facilities.
QUESTION: Why don’t we talk about the interceptor silo?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we’re talking to the Lithuanians because they’re interested. But of course, primarily, we continue to talk to the Poles about this. But there will be others who are involved in missile defense. This is going to have many elements.
QUESTION: Even if the agreements with Poles and Czechs are approved, it will be up to the American Congress to decide whether it’s going to support it by -- by money.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, yes. But we have had very little difficulty in recent years in terms of funding for missile defense. This is not the 1980s. This is not a period in which we’re talking about Star Wars. The United States has already seen the benefits of missile defense when we had initial operating capability at the time of the North Korean missile test. And so I think you will see support in the American Congress for missile defense.
QUESTION: But there is a big debate in the Congress on the budget cuts, on the testing of the interceptors, and so on. Do you think that the Congress will say yes, ultimately yes, to the missile defense system?
SECRETARY RICE: Debate is normal in any democracy, and certainly in any congress. But it is going to be, I think, difficult to make the case that the United States should not have a capability and its allies should not have a capability to deal defensively with what is clearly an emerging threat from Iran of ever longer missile ranges; that we should not be able to defend ourselves against this. I think that’s going to be a hard argument to make.
And also, so many of the technologies that have been spinoffs from missile defense, whether it is in sensor technology or communications technology or information technology, it’s a very valuable program.
QUESTION: On a different subject, if I may.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: The Visa Waiver Program; can you guarantee that the Czechs will be able to travel to the U.S. by the end of the year with no visas in their hands?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I can tell you that the President of the United States himself has been active in this, because he has felt very strongly that our allies need to be able to travel to the United States without a visa. That is why he sought and received and got a change in the legislation. We’re now working. We’ve signed one agreement with the Czech Republic; we have another in the works. I believe that the Czech Republic, which has been at the forefront of the visa waiver discussions with the United States – that we certainly hope to be able to do this by the end of the year.
QUESTION: Ms. Secretary, thank you very much for your time. Thank you.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.
Released on July 8, 2008