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MARGARET WARNER: Condoleezza Rice, welcome.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Nice to be with you, Margaret.
MARGARET WARNER: NATO’s statement today on Iraq, how should we read that statement in terms of what NATO members are committing themselves to support and to do?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: The statement was a very strong affirmation of the importance of the UN Security Council Resolution and a very strong message to Iraq and to the Iraqi regime that it must comply. The allies said with one voice that the Iraqi regime really now needs to take this one final opportunity that has been given to it to cooperate fully and to do so with dispatch and unconditionally. And that’s really what this statement was about.
MARGARET WARNER: The statement, however, does say that the members “stand united in their commitment to take effective action to assist and support the efforts of the UN” It doesn’t say – there’s no commitment there – at least as I read it – to support military action unless the UN calls for it. Do you read it that way?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: It’s premature, Margaret, to talk about what might happen with military action. As the president has said, his goal now is to have the world united and to get Saddam Hussein to comply. We are skeptical that he will but he has an opportunity, and he should take that opportunity. The military part of this at this point the president has made very clear that if Saddam Hussein will not disarm voluntarily, then we will have to disarm him, but it is premature to talk about what kind of military action or what kind of support might be needed.
MARGARET WARNER: As I understand it, both at this meeting and at the same time in other capitals, the US – your administration is asking different nations whether they would take part and what they could contribute if military action was called for.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well, we’re certainly consulting and we’re certainly taking an audit of what might be available, if necessary. But, again, we are in a process here begun by the president on September 12th, which has resulted in a fifteen to zero resolution by the UN Security Council and now by a unanimous statement of NATO that it is time for Saddam Hussein to disarm. And it’s a very clear message. The allies were very clear that they did not want to send mixed signals to him that the best chance for peace here is that if he gets the message – and that’s what they did today – they sent a very strong message.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, there was a French – senior French official briefing reporters, and he took issue with something that the president suggested yesterday, which was President Bush did – which was if Saddam Hussein declared in that declaration on December 8th that he has no weapons of mass destruction, that’s essentially de facto evidence that he’s lying.
French officials said we don’t see it that way; we think the inspectors would still have to confirm that. Did President Chirac and the president discuss this in terms of what would constitute a material breach?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: They did not have a discussion, no, because the UN resolution is actually very clear, and that is that the next time that he violates the compliance that is required of him, the next time that he tries to impede the inspectors or anything of that kind, he is in material breach. It doesn’t say he may be in material breach; it says he “will” be in material breach.
Now, as to precisely what happens if he launches – lodges a false declaration – and clearly, after all that we know about Iraq’s activities, after all that UNSCOM and UNMOVIC know about his activities, or knew about his activities prior to 1998, a declaration that says, well, I have nothing, I think everybody is going to view that with a lot of skepticism, if not with outright scorn.
And so we will see what he does, and we will see whether or not this declaration is a signal that he intends to cooperate and comply, or whether it is a signal that yet again he intends to try to lead the world down the primrose path that he’s been leading it along for the last 11 years. That’s what the declaration is going to tell us: Is he prepared now to cooperate?
MARGARET WARNER: Just to clear this up, so as far as the United States is concerned, though, a declaration that he had nothing would be evidence that he’s in breach?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: It would certainly be evidence that he does not intend to be serious about this effort. We will see what he says in the declaration, and I think it’s probably best not to try to pre-judge how we’re going to look at that declaration until we see it, but clearly this is an opportunity for Saddam Hussein to demonstrate that he is ready to comply, that he’s ready to cooperate, and a declaration that is not full and complete is going to be a signal that he’s not ready to cooperate.
MARGARET WARNER: Let’s go to the other big announcement today from NATO, which was the commitment to establish this rapid response force. How firm a commitment was that? I mean, the president said yesterday it is hard to get a huge alliance or even a country to change its military strategy and its military mission. Most of these countries in Europe have dramatically cut their defense budget since the end of the Cold War, have resisted entreaties from the US to increase them again. Is this – do you have practical hopes that this will really happen?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: We do believe that this will happen. This is a very firm commitment, and it was a firm commitment because the allies recognize that if NATO is to remain current and capable of dealing with the threats of the 21st century, then it’s going to have to make a transformation of its capabilities.
NATO was an alliance that was founded first and foremost to unite democracies, and it continues to do that with the expansion to new democracies in seven states today. But it was also an alliance that was meant to contain the Soviet Union, to face off against the Warsaw Pact, to face off against Soviet tanks coming across the German plains.
Well, that clearly is not the scenario for conflict any long, and those capabilities are going to have to be transformed. I think after September 11, there was even a degree of frustration within the alliance that there were not the kinds of capabilities that could be deployed rapidly to help with the war in Afghanistan and with the fight against terrorism; that states did contribute but they did so really as individual states. The alliance wasn’t able to act as it wanted to, and that has been a spur to the alliance to think about this rapid reaction force.
And as to whether the alliance can act quickly, it’s quite remarkable that this only came onto the agenda, this rapid reaction force, in September, when Secretary Rumsfeld came to Warsaw, presented the concept, and here some two months later, the alliance has adopted the concept, so it can act quickly, and I think it will continue to.
MARGARET WARNER: But it’s fair to say that this could never be operational in time for any kind of action in Iraq.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: The concept is there. It is expected to be operational in a number of years, but the war on terrorism is going to be a long war. And we expect that NATO will be an effective instrument for operating in this new environment.
MARGARET WARNER: When I listened to the president’s speech yesterday, it struck me that in a way he was challenging NATO as he challenged the UN in September to be relevant in this new age. Is that the right way to read it, that he was essentially saying, if you don’t transform yourself, you will become irrelevant?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Well, he was challenging the alliance to get capabilities that are relevant to the new age, but so has Lord Robertson challenged the alliance, so have members of the alliance challenged each other to do this, because this is – the NATO alliance has been a tremendous success.
When you think about its beginnings and at the end of – in 1949 – when you think about where it is now, all the people who said that it would have no relevance after the end of the Cold War, and yet it admitted seven new members today and it still has a waiting list.
This is an alliance that has been successful and is going to be successful in the future, but American leadership has always been important to the alliance. It has always been important to meeting new challenges for the alliance, and that’s what the president was doing yesterday. He was exercising that leadership.
MARGARET WARNER: But, as you know, many critics point to the growing size of NATO to say that in a way it could make it less relevant, more cumbersome, less able to act quickly. For example, in this rapid reaction force, if just one of the twenty-six countries vetoed the use of it, it couldn’t go anywhere, could it?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: NATO has operated by consensus and that is the rule. It is an alliance though that has been able to act, and we expect it to be able to act in the future.But if it were not to expand to the new democracies, it would not be being true to one of its most important principles.
We have to remember that NATO was founded to confront the Soviet Union and later the Warsaw Pact, but it was also founded to bring reconciliation among Europe’s democracies, and today, with the addition of the seven new allies, as well as with the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland earlier, it is fulfilling that important principle of consolidating democracy in Europe. It had to expand. It could not have done so and stayed true to what it is.As it expands, it is important that we have a focus about what the smaller states in particular can do to add to military capability.
One of the concepts that’s been very important and very popular with the new states, as well as with many of the smaller states that have long been part of the alliance, is specialization. They are talking about the ability to perhaps pool resources to get greater airlift capability for NATO, or some of the states that are coming in from the Warsaw Pact have excellent capability to detect and to protect against weapons of mass destruction.
There’s a lot that these states can do to act on the military capability of NATO, and by paying attention to the transformation of the military capabilities, NATO is ensuring that the enlargement will not degrade the military capabilities of NATO but rather make them stronger.
MARGARET WARNER: When the president said yesterday that the world needs Europe – and again I’ll read it – “to be active in the defense of freedom, not inward-looking or isolated by indifference “- and he said, “Ignoring dangers or excusing aggression may temporarily avert conflict, but they don’t bring true peace.” And that was widely interpreted that he was speaking about some of the older members of NATO, particularly the Germans, perhaps even the French, is that right?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: The president was speaking to a broad audience here. It’s no secret that from time to time because we are an old alliance of democracy, that is now refreshing itself with new blood, we sometimes forget or sometimes dwell on small differences between us to the detriment of thinking about the large values and the large missions that unite us.
And all that the president was doing there was to say let’s keep focused on the fact that this great alliance has had a tremendous victory in the end of Communism in Europe, a tremendous victory in the birth of a democratic Russia, a tremendous victory in the creation of a Europe that is whole and free and at peace. But in doing that, we can recognize that we have new challenges ahead of us.
There are hostile states acquiring weapons of mass destruction that will certainly threaten all freedom-loving people. There are terrorists and extremists, who have not just the United States in their sights but all freedom loving countries. So the president was calling again NATO to arms to be as effective in the 21st century as it was in the 20th century;
MARGARET WARNER: Dr. Condoleezza Rice, thanks so much.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE: Thank you.