Interview on Fox News Sunday with Chris WallaceSecretary Condoleezza Rice
August 17, 2008
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, what is the latest on the ground in Georgia right now? Are Russian troops leaving the country? Are they complying fully with the ceasefire?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, there is a ceasefire and Russia is currently not in compliance with that ceasefire, although they have just this morning announced that their troops will begin to withdraw, and withdraw fully and completely back to the lines prior to this conflict tomorrow, on Monday. This is a promise that the Russian President has given to the French President. I’ve just been on the phone with the French. I hope this time, he’ll keep his word.
QUESTION: I was going to say, given the fact that they signed the peace agreement earlier this weekend and have not observed it so far, how much confidence do you have? And is there any explanation for the delay?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I don’t have an explanation, because I would think that when the Russian President says that a signed ceasefire accord will mean the withdrawal of Russian forces, that Russian forces would then withdraw. They did not. However, yet again, the Russian President has given his word. And this time, I hope he’ll honor it.
QUESTION: Has President Bush been in direct contact with the Russians himself, or has he let French President Sarkozy, as – in his lead role for the Europeans deal primarily with the Kremlin?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, earlier on, President Bush was in touch with the Russian President. He has been in touch with the French. But I have been in touch with my counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on a number of occasions over the last couple of days. This is an EU mediation, but obviously, the United States has been very involved in it. The President talked to President Sarkozy and sent me to France to be involved in this before I went to Tbilisi.
QUESTION: Now I understand -- and you’ve established the fact that the Russians say they’re going to start the pullout tomorrow, but as we understand, as we speak right now, Russian troops are within 25 miles of the capital of Tbilisi, they’re inside populated areas like Gori, they have control of the east-west highway. Is that acceptable, the status quo right now?
SECRETARY RICE: It’s not acceptable. In fact, the fact that Russian troops are in Georgian cities, the fact that they are at the port of Poti back and forth in that port along the east-west highway is simply not acceptable. And it has nothing to do, obviously, with the conflict that began in South Ossetia. That’s why Russian troops need to withdraw fully, completely, back to their August 6/7 lines.
It is also why we sought very clear clarification of what Russian peacekeepers, those who were there before the conflict began, can do in the zone of conflict and around it. So it was very important to make sure that the Russians know the rules of the game here. And the French assure us that they have been assured that Russia is now going to live up to the terms of the ceasefire. And Sergey Lavrov has personally given me that assurance as well.
QUESTION: Clear up some confusion if you will for us, Secretary Rice. Under the ceasefire, what will the Russians be allowed to do inside Georgia proper, and will they be allowed to keep peacekeepers in the so-called breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, let’s remember that there were Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia – in South Ossetia, which is really the zone of conflict that we’re talking about here. They were there as – in an agreement that goes all the way back to 1992.
Those peacekeepers will be permitted to stay. The Russians also had talked about some special security measures that their peacekeepers could take in a very limited area outside of the zone of conflict. They will be permitted to do that for a limited period of time in a very prescribed way. They’re not to go into urban centers. They’re not to tie up the east-west highway. That’s the clarification, Chris, that President Sarkozy gave to President Saakashvili when I went from France to Tbilisi. But even that Russian activity outside of the zone of conflict is only until there are monitors in, international monitors.
The other thing the Russians said to the French is they are now prepared to let the monitors from the OSCE enter the zone of conflict. That should be about 100 additional monitors and that should happen also within days.
QUESTION: Let’s turn, if we can, Secretary Rice, to the bigger issue. There’s been a lot of tough talk this week from President Bush and other top officials, including yourself, about viewing the whole range of U.S.-Russia relations. Let’s take a look at what Secretary Gates – Defense Secretary Gates had to say this week.
SECRETARY GATES: My personal view is that there need to be some consequences for the actions that Russia has taken against a sovereign state.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, if Russia complies with the ceasefire, do relations go back to normal? Or, as Secretary Gates says, do there have to be consequences for the action that Russia has already taken in the last 10 days?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think there’s no doubt that there will be further consequences. I would note that there have already been significant consequences for Russia. You know, any notion that Russia was the kind of responsible state ready to integrate into international institutions of the political, diplomatic, security, economic kind, that this was a different Russia – a Russia, by the way, that President Medvedev himself described about a month ago, this forward-leaning, modern Russia – well, you know, that reputation’s frankly in tatters. And so that in itself is a significant consequence.
And also, by the way, if the Russians intended this as intimidation, they’ve done nothing but harden the attitudes of the small states around them, as witnessed by Ukraine’s defiance in going to Georgia; Poland, the fact that we are moving forward on missile defense. I think the Russians have made a significant mistake here.
QUESTION: Do you – just following up directly on that, does the U.S. still want to see Georgia and Ukraine as part of NATO? And are we prepared, if they become part of NATO, to defend their territorial sovereignty with American troops?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, the NATO Alliance has made clear in the Bucharest declaration that Georgia and Ukraine will be members of NATO. What the United States is advocating for right now with others is they – the Georgians and Ukrainians would become part of something called the Membership Action Plan, which is not membership, but it is an umbrella under which numerous states of Eastern and Central Europe have been able to resolve their differences, have been able to make important domestic reforms, civil military relations, reform their militaries. That’s what we’re advocating. We continue to believe that that would be important for Georgia and Ukraine.
QUESTION: I want to go back to this question of consequences, and you said there will be consequences for Russian actions. On Friday, President Bush made a very interesting statement. He talked about the G-7 -- the G-7, the leading industrial nations. Does that mean that the West is kicking Russia out of the Group of Eight? It was part of the G-7, making it the G-8, the eight leading industrial countries.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we’re going to take our time and assess what further consequences there should be to the relationship. I would just note that I have been meeting by phone, telephonically, with my G-7 foreign minister colleagues because Russia is a party to the conflict. And this has been a useful forum for doing that. But we’re not going to do anything hasty. I think Russia is already paying a significant price. I just want to reiterate, this is not 1968. They’re not sitting in the capital of Georgia. They’re not overthrowing its democratically elected government. And they are receiving the criticism of the world for what they’re doing.
I’m going to the NATO Council on Tuesday to talk with our allies about what further messages we may wish to send, in what form. But I think that the real cost here right now to Russia is that the kind of forward-leaning, forward-looking Russia that President Medvedev himself described just about a month ago – the reputation for that, the possibility for that has been seriously diminished by these Russian actions that look like they do belong to the Soviet Union, not to Russia.
QUESTION: Ever since his first meeting back in 2001 with Vladimir Putin where he famously said he got a sense of his soul, President Bush has put a great deal of stock in his personal relationship with Vladimir Putin. Does he feel over the last 10 days that Putin has deceived him? And has that personal relationship been damaged?
SECRETARY RICE: What the President has done is to open a path for Russia that would have been different than the path of the Soviet Union and, frankly, different than the path of Russia for many hundreds of years. It was a path of openness to the West, to the institutions, integration, a more democratic path both inside Russia and outside Russia, relations with its neighbors on the basis of respect. It was the right thing to do and it is still the right path for Russia.
But it is Russia that has misjudged what would happen if it did not take that path. And I think you will see that over the next months ahead of us, that will play out. Russia has seriously damaged its own efforts to integrate into the West.
QUESTION: When you say that will play out, as the Administration and its allies review possible reprisals against Russia, is everything on the table?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we have to look at the relationship as a whole. But again, I don’t think we want to get ahead of ourselves. Right now, Russian forces need to get out of Georgia. We are doing everything that we can help – do to help the Georgian people in a humanitarian way through the effort that Secretary Gates is leading, with the military leading. We are also going to help rebuild Georgia into a strong Georgian state. The Russians will have failed in their effort to undermine Georgia. And we will be looking at what we can do with the states around that region as well. I’m going to Poland to sign a missile defense agreement in the next couple of days after the NATO meeting.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice --
SECRETARY RICE: We’ll get soon enough to the question of the longer-term relationship with Russia.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, we have a couple of minutes left. I want to get to two more issues with you. Turning to another trouble spot, would it be in the best interest of Pakistan for President Musharraf to step down and avoid a long and bitter impeachment trial?
SECRETARY RICE: This is a matter for the Pakistanis to resolve. And we have been supportive of the democratic elections that took place in Pakistan; in fact, advocated for them. We have been supportive of their new democratic government, as witnessed by the President’s meetings with Prime Minister Gillani. So this is a matter for Pakistan to determine.
QUESTION: Will the U.S. consider granting Musharraf asylum to help settle the crisis?
SECRETARY RICE: Look, President Musharraf has been a good ally. And I – everyone knows that we disagreed with his decision in terms of the state of emergency that he declared. But he was to – he kept to his word, he took off the uniform, it’s now a democratic government in Pakistan. Pakistan and the United States have a joint interest in fighting terror, because these terrorists are not just after the United States and after Afghanistan. They’re also after Pakistan as demonstrated by the fact that they killed Mrs. Bhutto. That’s what we’re concentrating on, that and helping Pakistan to sustain its economy, to build its schools, its health. We have a broad Pakistan policy.
QUESTION: But Secretary, are you prepared to say whether or not the U.S. would grant Musharraf asylum in this country?
SECRETARY RICE: This is – this is an issue that is not on the table and I’m -- just want to keep our focus on what we must do with the democratic Government of Pakistan.
QUESTION: And finally, Secretary Rice, do you support John McCain over Barack Obama for president?
SECRETARY RICE: Look, I’m the Secretary of State, and as Secretary of State, I think it’s a tradition that I’ll take a nonpartisan role here. Everybody knows that I’m a Republican. Everybody also knows that I have great respect for our political system, for the choices the American people will make. And I, as an American, will make my choice like all Americans at the ballot box.
QUESTION: You didn’t really think you were going to get through this interview without me asking a political question, did you, Secretary?
SECRETARY RICE: (Laughter.) No, I didn’t. No, I didn’t, Chris.
QUESTION: Well, I don’t want to disappoint you. Secretary Rice, we want to thank you so much for talking with us. I know you’re off today to Europe to meet with our allies there, and safe travels.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.
Released on August 17, 2008