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US Department of State
Interview With The USA Today Editorial Board
Secretary Colin L. Powell

Washington, DC
October 18, 2004

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to the Eurasian land mass, if I can put it that way, we have developed a very good and strong relationship with the Russian Federation, and we had some concerns about some of the things that are happening inside of Moscow, and when we have these concerns, we don't hide them. We talk to them about it. The President talked to President Putin about it. I've been to Russia. I've written letters to the editor in Izvestia, which are not always received with delight. Nevertheless, our policy towards Russia is to work with them in areas where we cooperate and have mutual interest in, and where there are disagreements, let's work through these disagreements, let's not hide them.

Something that's seldom written about is that for the last 50 years, the whole southern belt of Eurasia, the Caucasus and Central Asia; that was always the Near Abroad for the old Soviet Union, yet the United States has got a presence in almost every one of those Stans, and we're also working with Armenia and Azerbaijan to do something about Nagorno-Karabakh, and all of those nations now are in some kind of relationship with the United States that would have been unimaginable 15 or 20 years ago, and what is even more interesting is that it is with the understanding, for the most part, and with cooperation and collaboration with the Russian Federation.

It isn't that they don't sometimes get nervous and we have to discuss it. But the fact of the matter is we're there, and as my former colleague Igor Ivanov once said in response to a question he received, why are the Americans over there? Aren't they the enemy? And his answer was, "No, the enemy is now terrorism, the enemy is illegal immigration, the enemy is drugs, the enemy is radicalism, and the United States and Russia are working together."

And we demonstrated that, I think, very vividly in Georgia last November when Shevardnadze became in a very difficult position, an untenable position, and it was clear that there was going to be a revolution in Tbilisi unless something was done. And over the course of a weekend, between what we did, in my direct conversations with the Russian Foreign, Igor Ivanov, and Ivanov going to Tbilisi and I'm talking to Igor as he landed in Tbilisi and talked to him as he went in to see Shevardnadze, and Shevardnadze realized it was best for him to step aside. And then in two months' time, working with the Russians and the Georgians, we had a free, open, fair election that by January, first week in January, brought into place the new president, Saakashvili, what is now known as the Rose -- movement of the Rose Revolution, that was good, solid diplomacy on their part....

In the case of Russia, I think this is a case where the Russian people came out of the post-Soviet Union era in a state of total chaos -- a great deal of freedom, but it was freedom to steal from the state and President Putin took over and restored a sense of order in the country and moved in a democratic way.

And the Russian people are enormously supportive of his efforts. We have expressed our concerns about some of the actions he's taken with respect to the election of governors, the ability of a free press to operate, some of the aspects of his election and the election of the Duma. And so he has heard us. It's not as if we are being silent. But at the same time, he has to make his judgment as to what his people want and how to move.

I do not see Russia sliding back down into the abyss of the Soviet Union. But they may not be moving as quickly or in as steadied a manner as we might like to see toward all (inaudible) of democracy, but I think they are still moving in the correct direction.