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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

October 15, 2001
Author: Yevgeny Bai
An interview with US Presidential Security Advisor Ms. Condoleezza Rice


Question: George W. Bush cut down his stay in Shanghai to two days. Does this mean changes have been made to the agenda of his negotiations with President Vladimir Putin? Do you expect anything new from the negotiations?

Condoleezza Rice: President Bush attaches considerable importance to his meeting with Mr. Putin. I expect it to expand what we call "the spirit of Ljubljana and Genoa". It goes without saying that the two leaders will discuss the prime matters of our bilateral relations. As I see it, they mean business when they talk about construction of a new concept of relations between our countries. We were moving in this direction before September 11 as well and as I see it, the tragic events of that day gave a new impetus to facilitation of bilateral contacts. Both our countries are worried over the common threat of international terrorism. This subject will become a priority at the Shanghai meeting.

The presidents will also discuss development of economic contacts, situation in various regions of the world, and non- proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I'm convinced that our bilateral relations are changing for the better in all these matters. The President's decision to cut short his sty in Shanghai will have no effect whatsoever on the agenda of his dialogue with the Russian leader.

Question: President Putin will visit the United States in the wake of the Shanghai summit. Are there any changes in the schedule of his stay in America? In the wake of the terrorist acts in the United States, some observers doubt that the two leaders will ever get to Bush's ranch in Crowford, Texas.

Condoleezza Rice: We have already discussed the matter with our Russian colleagues. Everything will be as initially planned. I do not think we should change anything. So far as I know, President Bush is eager to show his ranch to the guest.

Question: Will Putin address both houses of the congress?

Condoleezza Rice: That's a question to the Capitol Hill more than it is to the White House. I can only assure you that a great deal of interesting and important meetings await Mr. Putin in Washington.

Question: Addressing the American-Russian Business Council the other day, you said Moscow and Washington were moving towards wholly new relations that could not have been hoped for only a few years ago. What do you mean by this novelty?

Condoleezza Rice: Russia is changing fast these years. It is hardly surprising therefore that America's attitude towards it and the basis itself of our relations is changing too. Special emphasis is made on economic relations now. President Bush is impressed by the effort Mr. Putin made to facilitate economic reforms and ensure supremacy of the law in Russia.

Cooperation in the security sphere is another important indicator of progress in our bilateral relations. Until recently, all our contacts in all spheres were more or less based on the Cold War clichęs. It was beclouded by the fear of a nuclear exchange. This fear is not what we expect from countries we do not view as enemies and Russia is not an enemy. Reduction of nuclear arsenals, offensive and defensive, is a prime objective today.

Question: Bush called Putin his friend several days ago. He said it in response to the of question whether or not the United States intended to amend its standing on the issue of anti-ballistic missile defense, the irritant in bilateral relations, because of Moscow's positive stand on other matters. Do you perhaps expect Bush and Putin to discuss the subject in Shanghai in a slightly different key now?

Condoleezza Rice: We have always insisted that the new mode of strategic relations should include both reduction of offensive nuclear arms and introduction of new defensive arms against what we call "limited threats". Just imagine what would have happened if the terrorists used ballistic missiles on September 11. Imagine the damage and the loss of life! This tragedy merely reinforced our confidence that a national anti-ballistic missile defense system is a must. The president intends to continue his dialogue with Mr. Putin in this key.

Question: Do you think Russia and the United States within the framework of the counter-terrorism campaign may cooperate in spheres other than those listed by Putin? Something like joint military operations, for example?

Condoleezza Rice: We understand that contributions into counter- terrorism effort may differ.

We cannot ask for more from your country at this point. I do not rule out the possibility, however, that as the war on international terrorism broadens, some new spheres may appear where our countries will find cooperation mutually beneficial.

Question: How would you gauge political and military results of the first week of strikes at Afghanistan?

Condoleezza Rice: We think we did a lot towards lowering the Taliban's military potential and destroyed a number of Al-Qaida's training camps. Leaders of this criminal organization are hiding now. We made it clear to the Taliban that it was a mistake on its part to hide Bin Laden. We know on the other hand that the war will be lengthy.

Question: FBI warned the Americans that new terrorist acts might follow. Not all American politicians agree. Senator Joseph Byden, for example, says that speaking about abstract threats is but sowing panic...

Condoleezza Rice: Better safe than sorry, you know. We'd rather warn the people that the threat is still present. We do not know, of course, what else the enemy may pull off but Americans should remain on guard. Nobody is implying that Americans should abandon their way of life. I watched TV last night and saw a baseball match. The stadium was full. It means that the people are coming to. The people are gradually overcoming their fear of flights.

Question: Would you say that in the wake of the September 11 events official Washington understands somewhat better what it is that the Kremlin encountered in Chechnya?

Condoleezza Rice: We have always said that a political solution is needed in Chechnya. We like President Putin's statements now. It seems he really wants to initiate negotiations with the Chechen leaders. We also maintain - the way we maintained it - that human rights are an important issue in Chechnya. We know that there are terrorists in and around Chechnya and we urge Chechen leaders to disassociate themselves from the criminals who might be found in their ranks. We cannot fight international terrorism in Afghanistan and welcome it in Chechnya.

Question: Some Russian analysts are worried by the growth of American military presence in Central Asian states. Does the United States plan to retain its military potential there?

Condoleezza Rice: We do not plan squeezing Russia out of there. We understand that Russia has its own interests in the region. The United States has always maintained in its dialogue with Moscow that Central Asian states should wield respect as independent states. As we see it, modern relations (trade, economic and political cooperation) are the best way of showing this respect, not pressure. We are trying to introduce this model in our relations with Moscow.

Question: Has your own life changed after September 11?

Condoleezza Rice: My working hours used to be long. Well, they are even longer now. I work seven days a week now, and only a month and a half ago I took a day-off on Sunday. A great deal has changed for officials of the US Administration. Functions within it are changing, new important posts appear. Some priorities in our contacts with the world are changing as well.

Question: An expert in Russia and Russian problems, you returned into big-time politics only ten months ago. Has your attitude towards Russia changed?

Condoleezza Rice: We have always looked for realistic solutions with regard to Russia and for common interests with it. It has never been easy. Perhaps, something is changing indeed. We used to talk of new chances, sometimes of the chances missed. And now... it is very important for us that President Putin was the first one to call the White House after the September 11 tragedy. I was with the president then and saw how moved he was then, how he appreciated the gesture. This call meant a great deal for me too. That's how we perceive our relations with Russia now.

(Translated by A. Ignatkin)

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