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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

14 June 2005

Rice Sees Iraqi Reconstruction as Important Cause

Secretary discusses Iraq, North Korea, Russia with MSNBC

The effort to rebuild Iraq is a “tough fight,” says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but it has a worthy  goal.

“It is to have in the center of the Middle East a different kind of regime that can be at peace with its neighbors, that can be a model for democratic development in the region worldwide, that as the President said, ?can be … an answer to the ideologies of hatred that caused people to fly airplanes into buildings on a fine September day,’” Rice told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews June 13.

The secretary said that many nations are uniting in support of the newly elected Iraqi government.  She mentioned Jordan, which is training Iraqi security forces, as well as the 80 countries that will gather in Brussels, Belgium, June 22 to discuss ways to coordinate international support for Iraqi reconstruction.

Rice raised concerns about the attitudes of Syria and Iran with regard to Iraq.    She acknowledged that the Syrian-Iraqi border is long and permeable but said that the Syrian government could do more to ensure that terrorists are not using its territory to stage attacks on innocent Iraqis.

The secretary also said Iran’s behavior toward Iraq has been “mixed.”  She welcomed good neighborly relations between the two countries but underscored her hope that those relations would be transparent and free of efforts to destabilize Iraq.

Rice said that Iraq is currently witnessing a political struggle between different ethnic and sectarian groups, but she said progress is being made because all parties are engaging in the process with good will and an inclusive spirit.

The secretary also spoke about the importance of training Iraqi security forces to take charge of security operations and the U.S. administration’s desire to bring American troops home as soon as possible.

“Our forces are not going to be the ones who bring security ultimately to Iraq; it's going to be Iraqis who bring security to Iraq.  So this day is coming and it's going to have to come because the Iraqis themselves have to have a responsibility for their future,” she said.

The interview also covered issues outside the Middle East.  Rice spoke about the unfortunate circumstances in which the North Korean population finds itself under the regime of Kim Jong-Il.

“The sad thing is that while the North Korean regime seeks nuclear weapons, its population is still totally dependent on food aid to try and deal with its malnutrition,” she said.  She added that if the North Korean regime returned to the Six-Party Talks aimed at establishing a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, it would find many partners willing to help it confront its domestic problems.

The secretary also spoke at some length about political and economic developments in Russia.  She said that the recent concentration of power in the Kremlin is a natural reaction to the somewhat chaotic years of the 1990s, but she cautioned that this concentration should not come at the expense of an independent press and judiciary.

Rice said that Russia has a wealth of talented human resources and a growing middle class that should provide fuel for economic growth.

“They have the knowledge base, the intellectual base to be a quite remarkable society and to build entrepreneurship.  But they need a legal structure and a political structure that will allow that to happen,” she said.

She added, “[T]he need for rule of law, is not just to attract big Western investment, but also so you can create a culture in which Russians themselves will found small businesses and take the country forward.”

Following is the transcript of Rice’s interview:

(begin transcript)

Office of the Spokesman
June 13, 2005


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
With Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball

June 13, 2005
Washington, D.C.

QUESTION:  Madame Secretary, there's a lot of concern in this country, as you know, about the strength and the violence of the insurgency.  We just got these two memos in the last couple of weeks that -- they're called the "Downing Street Memos" -- one of them is a memo from now British Ambassador to the United States David Manning, in his capacity as advisor to British Prime Minister Blair, where he said that in March of 2002 he met with you and among the big questions that were still out there, in your mind, was having to do with what we're going to be like -- what's it going to be like in Iraq the morning after.  Do you recall those meetings?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, of course David Manning is a fine public servant, and an extraordinary foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Blair, and we had a number of conversations -- I don't remember this one in particular -- but I would just note, Chris, that was a year before the actual invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime.  We had not yet gone to the United Nations to try and resolve the issue through diplomatic means.  But a lot of planning went on between March of 2002 and March 2003.

QUESTION:  When the President made the decision or began to make the decision to topple Saddam Hussein, whatever it took, whatever means, whether it be multilateral -- basically, the coalition forces.  Was he calculating then the strength and violence of the current insurgency?  Did you have a fix then on the size of this opposition we've faced at this point?

SECRETARY RICE:  I think it's fair to say that we knew that there were a lot of unknowables about Iraq.  The strength of the institutions -- we were concerned, for instance that whether or not the ministries would be strong enough to stand up once you had taken away the kind of Baathist leadership that was supporting Saddam Hussein.  We were certainly concerned about what to do about the armed forces, but it was our view -- we thought at the time that the army would stand and fight.  You could then demobilize that part of the army that was associated with Saddam Hussein and the remainder of the army could be brought for a transitional government in Iraq.  But we were looking at all of these imponderables, all of these unknowns, in that period of time.  I think we had, when we went to war, having tried everything diplomatically to avoid war, I think when we went to war, we had a plan for how to deal with the aftermath.  There were a number of things that surprised us, including the fact that the army, in a sense, kind of melted away in those last days after Saddam Hussein was overthrown.

QUESTION:  Were you surprised that the army was able to slink away into the cities of Iraq and still maintain the power of its ordinance and its fighting ability?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, it's not clear, to this day, the degree to which this is the structure of the old army.  There are clearly a number of old Baathists, people who want to return the Saddam Hussein-like forces to power.  There's also a significant number of people who've come in as foreign terrorists, who recognize the importance of Iraq to the war on terrorism.  Therefore, fighting as if this is, in a sense, their last stand to make certain that democracy can't take hold in the Middle East.  So I would never claim that the exact nature of this insurgency was understood at the time that we went to war.  But that there might be forces after Saddam Hussein was overthrown -- yes, that was understood.

QUESTION:  Before we go on, that second memorandum that has been talked about, the one that was originally dubbed the "Downing Street Memo," said that the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy.  What do you make of that word "fixed"?  Is that an assertion that we were "fixing" the argument, making a case for intel that said there was a connection with al-Qaida, a connection with WMD, just to get the war started?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, I don't understand.  I can't go back and judge what was said.

QUESTION:  What happened with that word "fixed", which is like "fix the World - fix the World Series"--


QUESTION:  There's a British sense, which means just put things together.

SECRETARY RICE:  Put things together.  And I know the people who were involved in this.  And someone like the head at that time of the British Intelligence Services was very much involved in the discussions we were having on intelligence.  A lot of the intelligence was from Great Britain -- from British sources.  And the entire world thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  I think if the world had not thought that he had weapons of mass destruction, we wouldn't have had him under sanctions for 12 years, trying to deal with his weapons of mass destruction.  And there's good reason to have thought that he did, given that he used them before, that in 1991, he had been much closer to a nuclear weapon that anyone thought.  The important thing is that I think we've all taken a look at the intelligence problems of the time.  We've made steps to try and improve the capability of the United States.  And I think the British have, too, for intelligence on weapons of mass destruction.  It's always going to be hard when you're dealing with very secretive regimes, when you're dealing with the dual-use capabilities that are usually involved in weapons of mass destruction.  You know, Chris, the same chlorine that can be used in a swimming pool can be used in chemical weapons development.  And so it's not easy, but the improvements that we've made to intelligence -- the creation of a new Director of National Intelligence, the sharing of information, the changes in the way that sourcing is reported to policymakers -- I think those are all things that we'll -- we've learned those lessons from the Iraq experience.

QUESTION:  The interesting contradiction you just point to is the fact that the President in his State of the Union in 2003, used that reference to British Intelligence about the African -- turned out not to be the case, apparently, or that's still murky -- the purchase of the uranium from Niger, right?


QUESTION:  And at the same time, British Intelligence is saying, "well, we don't have our act together."  And yet we're trusting them.

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, in fact, the British Intelligence Services are fine services.  I don't think there's anyone in the world who would say they aren't one of the best services in the world.  But the nature of the intelligence around Iraq was always hard.  We were focused on a long pattern of engagement with weapons of mass destruction of Saddam Hussein.  And, it's interesting, the report that Charles Duelfer did at the end, when the Iraq survey group reported, showed that this was somebody who was never going to lose his connection to weapons of mass destruction, who continued to harbor ambitions, continued to try to keep certain capabilities in place.  Sooner or later, it was going to be necessary to deal with the unique circumstances of Iraq.  A state that was linked to weapons of mass destruction, so linked that there had been 17 Security Council resolutions against him; who had used weapons of mass destruction before; who had invaded his neighbors twice; who had caused massive deaths of his own people, somewhere in the nature of 300,000 or more, people found in mass graves; and who was, by the way, still in a state of suspended war with the United States and with Great Britain.  As we tried to fly these no-fly zones, to try to keep his forces under control, he's shooting as us.  So this is a pretty unique set of circumstances that led to war against Iraq.  And that -- we had to, sooner or later, deal with this terrible tyrant in the middle of the Middle East.

QUESTION:  You mentioned the fact that not all the insurgents are domestic.  Let me ask you about Syria.  Bashir Asad -- is he supporting the movement of jihadists into Iraq?

SECRETARY RICE:  We believe that there is substantial activity of the terrorists on Syrian territory.  Now, the degree to which the Syrian Government is or is not witting of that, I think no one would want to judge.

QUESTION:  Are they trying to stop?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, they're not doing enough to stop it.  And we understand that this is a long and permeable border, but there are many efforts that could be made, many steps that they could take, to improve the security on that border.  And the problem with the Syrian Government is that they're out of step with the entire region.  They're still supporting Palestinian rejectionists who are frustrating the efforts of people like Mahmoud Abbas to bring about a Palestinian state.  They are still trying through, we believe, their surreptitious means in Lebanon to continue to have an affect on Lebanese elections there.  And in Iraq, with the Iraqi people trying to get a better life, trying to get a democratic government, they continue to do very little about the people who are gathering on their territory, despite the fact that those terrorists are coming to Iraq and killing, not just coalition forces, but innocent Iraqis as well.

QUESTION:  Do we support the opposition in Syria, like the Democratic Party of Syria?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, obviously, the Syrian people deserve to have the same freedoms that we've talked about everywhere else.  But how that comes about, I think is yet to be seen.  We have had diplomatic relations with the Syrian Government, we still do.  But we just want to see a change in Syrian behavior.  That's the important thing at this point.

QUESTION:  What do you make of Bashir?  I mean, there's all this new generation coming into the Arab world.  King Abdullah seems to have done well.  Muhammad VI is a moderate leader.  You've got Seif Qadhafi coming down the line, maybe a new Mubarak.  But Bashir, has he been a disappointment?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, the Syrian regime has been a disappointment.  And it's just -- we've tried many times, including trips that my predecessor Colin Powell took, that Rich Armitage took, to say to the Syrian Government, "do these things if you want to be in step with changes in the Middle East and if you want to be -- if you want to have better relations with the United States."  In Iraq, for example, yes, this is a very, very tough fight.  But it is for a good cause.  It is to have in the center of the Middle East a different kind of regime that can be at peace with its neighbors, that can be a model for democratic development in the region worldwide, that as the President said, "can be an example of -- an answer to the ideologies of hatred that caused people to fly airplanes into buildings on a fine September day."

QUESTION:  But who's rooting for that?  You go through Syria, they don't seem to be rooting for it.


QUESTION:  Iran -- you know, Congressman Kurt Weldon just got back and I can't -- and you understand this -- is Iran supportive over the Shia-dominated new government or are they undermining it through support for insurgency?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, Iran's behavior, I would say, vis-à-vis, Iraq has been somewhat mixed.  On the one hand, I would have to say that the Iranians, apparently, with the Iraqis, are trying to develop neighborly relations.  We want that to happen.  It is Iraq's neighbor.  They need to have good relations.  But we would hope that those relations would be transparent, that there would not be efforts in any way to destabilize there.  But the Iraqis do have people in the neighborhood who want them to succeed.  You mentioned the King of Jordan, King Abdullah, who is training Iraqi policemen and military people on his territory.  We're going to have a conference in Brussels on June the 22nd, where the European Union, the United States and the Iraqis will host many, many countries.  I think it's now about 80 countries, from around the world, that are going to say to the Iraqis, "We are ready to support a unified, inclusive, democratic Iraq that can be at peace with its neighbors."  Think, Chris, what a tremendous change that will be for the Middle East to have that kind of Iraq, not Saddam Hussein in the center of the Middle East.

QUESTION:  What about Iran?  Do you have a favorite in this race coming up in five days?

SECRETARY RICE:  I have to say --

QUESTION:  Rafsanjani's a familiar name in this.

SECRETARY RICE:  No.  I know there are a lot of familiar names.  But I have to say that a process by which the candidates were pre-selected by the mullahs before they could run doesn't really fit my definition of a free and democratic election.

QUESTION:  Let me ask you about the poll that just came out, USA Today front cover.  Six out of ten Americans, 58 percent, now want our troops to begin coming home in portions or else totally.  Can we win this war if we reduce the number of troops?

SECRETARY RICE:  There is no doubt that we all want our forces to begin to come home and they're going to do so, Chris, because there is both a political track and a security track that turns, eventually, and really not too long into the future, the management of Iraqi Affairs back to Iraqis.  When you think about political track, they've had -- we did transfer sovereignty.  It's not even a year ago.  They've had elections.  They are now going to write a constitution.  They're going to have elections again in December.  At that point, you have a completely freely elected legitimate Iraqi Government.  Their security forces are being trained.  And I'm told, by our commanders in the field and others, that increasingly these are capable security forces that take on the challenges before them.  Our forces are not going to be the ones who bring security ultimately to Iraq; it's going to be Iraqis who bring security to Iraq.  So this day is coming and it's going to have to come because the Iraqis themselves have to have a responsibility for their future.

QUESTION:  Did you find the front page story in The New York Times today frustrating?  The top-of-the-fold story that said it was pathetic?  They point to anecdotal cases of where, sent out on missions, the Iraqi security force don't even know what the mission was.  They don't even pick up the hostage.  They leave the hostage when there's an attempt to try to grab somebody.  They seem to be missing the point of what they're being trained to do.

SECRETARY RICE:  I'm quite sure, Chris, that there are bad stories in Iraq and there are a lot of good stories in Iraq with the training of these security forces.  These are new forces.  But they're not being asked to confront a huge conventional army that is going to come after them.  They're learning to engage in counterterrorism training.  They are learning to engage in anti-insurgency training.  That's a different kind of mission.  It takes a little while to train, but it also doesn't require them to look exactly like the American armed forces before they're capable.  I would just note that at the time of the elections, for instance, they did very well on their own.  General Casey told me that he didn't have a single case where the coalition had to intervene in the protection of those elections.  And I -- when I was in Iraq, I went to visit wounded soldiers at our hospital there.  And I met among the people there a young woman -- 21-year-old woman named Sabrina who had lost her leg because she had thrown herself toward an IED.  She was a part of the Prime Minister's protective detail.  She knew what her mission was.  And she sacrificed greatly for it.  There are many stories of Iraqis who are doing that.  And that's going to hasten the day when coalition forces can begin to withdraw, can bring down our numbers, so that Iraqis can take on those tasks.  And I just want to repeat -- we're not talking about them having to face off against a large conventional army. We're talking about them having to do relatively limited counterterrorism missions.  And in some ways, I think, you can argue that Iraqis are going to be better at those missions than coalition, because they're going to know who the good folks are and who, indeed, are not.

QUESTION:  Any fear that they might have to confront a war, a civil war, that they might have to fight a resurgent Baathist effort once we leave or begin to leave?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, as far as we can tell, there's no organized army supporting this Baathist element.  Their best method, their best strategy at this point is suicide bombings and blowing up innocents.  And that's different than if there were a large army.  Rather, what is happening is that the only true, armed force in the region is pretty soon going to be the army of a united Iraq.  Now, the ethnic tensions, the sectarian differences, have to be confronted on the political frame -- political playing field.  That's why it's been so important to encourage the Iraqis to be broad and inclusive, to have Sunnis involved in what they're doing.  There's a struggle, politically, but they are making a lot of progress.  And if they do have this inclusive process for writing their constitution and their elections, that is going to be the path that I think Iraqis are going to choose; not one that depends on people blowing up innocent schoolchildren.

QUESTION:  Did you read the story today, there was someone on the Sunni side openly said, if we don't get our 25 seats out of 55, the violence will continue?

SECRETARY RICE:  I did see that.  And I also know that it's important to realize that people are negotiating and discussing and trying to come to a solution at this point.  There does seem to me to be a lot of good will to include everybody in this political outcome.  And it's not easy because the Sunnis, for a variety of reasons, didn't participate in large numbers in the last elections.  I think they now know that that was a mistake and they're trying to find a way now into the political process.  The good news is I really do believe that the Kurds and the Shia want them in the political process.

QUESTION:  Why do we have to go to other countries to encourage more Sunni inclusion?  The Steve Weisman piece this weekend said that we are using -- and a lot of people are speaking off the record on background -- saying because of sensitivity towards Jaafari from our side.  Why do we have to go to other countries?  Have we lost our influence with Jaafari that we have to use other national governments to try to encourage him to include the Sunnis?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, I think it's always good to have an international consensus about this.  And we do have an international consensus.  No, I've found him quite responsive to the notion that they have to include the Sunnis.  The problem is that it's a complicated issue of which Sunnis, there isn't terribly great coherence on the Sunni side.  And so it's a complicated process.  But it's always better to have as many voices as possible speaking from the same script and everybody is saying to this Iraqi Government, it's time to have a really inclusive process so that you can write a constitution in which all Iraqis have confidence and then have elections.

QUESTION:  Let me ask you some questions about Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State.  Tonight, the United States Senate is going to pass a resolution.  After all these years of opposing any action on lynching laws, to apologize for historic -- an historic failure.  Having grown up in Alabama, what's your reaction to that?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, I'm delighted that they're going to do it.  And I know that people like Senator Allen have been involved in it, a number of southern senators.  It's a really good thing.

QUESTION:  A little late.

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, better late than never with something like this.  I remember as a kid the stories about lynchings.  Everybody's family had at least one story in that regard.  You know, my grandfather who ran away from home at thirteen because he'd gotten into an altercation with all white men over something that happened with his sister.  And he was pretty sure that if he hung around, that's what was going to happen to him.

QUESTION:  So it was real?

SECRETARY RICE:  Yeah, it was absolutely real.  And it -- you know what it shows, Chris?  It shows that the great thing about democracy and about American democracy is that even though it has taken us a long time to fully realize the principles and the values that were outlined in the founding fathers' documents, that those very institutions allow you to overcome these conflicts, these historical problems, within the context.  So in that sense, it is a remarkable and wonderful thing that this is has been done in the U.S. Senate.

QUESTION:  I was amazed to hear that Janet Langhart's relative was one of the people lynched.


QUESTION:  Amazing.  Let me ask you about this civil rights case -- we grew up with it, you more than I did, Philadelphia, Mississippi -- the three northern civil rights workers were maybe buried alive, they were killed, it was brutal.  They're finally re-opening that case.  What do you feel about that tonight?  That was just today.

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, I -- yes.  I'm not going to comment on the case.  You know, I hope -- I'm sure justice will be done.  We now -- again, the institutions have matured to the point that whatever the outcome, I really do believe people will trust it because we now tend to trust in the court system.

QUESTION:  Let's talk Africa.  Senator Brownback attacks our program with regard to malaria, which I had a few years ago, and said that it's -- we're spending too much money on consultancies and not enough on bed nets and basic materials.

SECRETARY RICE:  Yeah.  Well, this is a broad program.  It's HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis.  And we are using -- trying to make sure that the programs work very well, but we also are using direct means, direct action, if you will, to try to help these countries deal with these problems.  I'll give you an example, we have now more than 200,000 people under treatment for HIV/AIDS, just since the President's program began.

QUESTION:  In Africa?

SECRETARY RICE:  In Africa.  Well, in Africa and the countries that are hardest-hit, a couple of them in the Caribbean.  But this is a remarkable step toward putting two million people under treatment in the next several years.  And a lot of this has to be done working, which is the good thing, working with the countries themselves to improve their health care delivery system, because when I was in Uganda, I was noting -- learning about how they put people on bicycles and have them go out into the villages because the villages can't get all the way into the cities for treatment.  So there are a lot of very clear, direct-action things that are being undertaken here.  And well, you know, we're always looking at the balance of planning and consulting versus direct action.  But I have to say we're doing an awful lot that's direct action.

QUESTION:  What do you think about it?  I mean, I was in the Peace Corps over there and we've been over there a lot and I think my son's going to be involved over there at some point and you have a leadership class -- a generation of people in their sexually active 20s to 50 years old, they're the ones getting killed --


QUESTION:  By this disease.  So you have kids and grandkids aren't surviving -- what's that going to do to the leadership hopes -- well-educated people, the best educated, in this sense, the best and the brightest of Africa, are getting hit by this thing?

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, it's one of the reasons that I think the President felt he had to act.  He had the feeling or a sense that you're going to lose a whole generation, if you weren't very careful here.  You know, in some places, you're looking at infection rates going toward 40, 45 percent.  And so that's why this program is so important.  But you know, it also takes leadership in Africa.  Today, the President was with five democratically elected presidents in Africa from places like Ghana and Mozambique and Botswana, places that have had recent democratic elections, where they've had peaceful transfers of power a couple of times.  And those are the leaders that are accountable to their people because of democracy.  Those are the leaders that are speaking out clearly about what has to be done.  Those are the leaders that are embracing the strategy of abstinence and education, recognizing that this is something that you can't sweep under the rug.  There are still too many places in Africa and in other places where it is not considered a part of one's leadership to speak out about this because it's a sort of taboo subject.  Well, if it's a taboo subject, you're going to continue to lose lives.  And so the President's program, which he discussed again with these leaders here, who were here for the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a little mini-summit on that, but he discussed with them again the importance of real leadership.  And we're starting to get it in Africa.  And I think it's going to make a difference.

QUESTION:  Do you like the program where in Uganda, where they say: "Abstinence, first; have a partner, second; condom, third -- A, B, C?"


QUESTION:  That's the order.

SECRETARY RICE:  Absolutely.  Because there is no reason to be shy about teaching, particularly young people, about the behaviors that are going to stop the spread of AIDS.  We know what those behaviors are.  And so you have to be honest about them.

QUESTION:  Okay, let's go East to West.  Now, to North Asia, to Korea, it's been said that you're moving toward the diplomatic approach, more like Colin Powell, your predecessor.  Is that accurate?

SECRETARY RICE:  Gee, I thought I was, until...  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  The rest of the hard line -- whatever, if there is a hard line --


QUESTION:  I'm not sure what it is.  Do you think Kim Jong-Il is a sane man?

SECRETARY RICE:  I don't know.  I've never met the man.

QUESTION:  Is he is a responsible leader?

SECRETARY RICE:  I have to say that anyone has to say that the people of North Korea have not prospered under this regime.  They've suffered under this regime.  You're talking about malnutrition rates that have led to literal height and weight differentials that are dramatic between the South Korean population, which is well-nourished, and North Korean population that is not.  The sad thing is that while the North Korean regime seeks nuclear weapons, its population is still totally dependent on food aid to try and deal with its malnutrition.  The good thing is that if the North Koreans chose to come back to the six-party talks, they could significantly improve the well-being of their people because there are all of the states of the six-party talks willing and ready to help them on this score.  Even without that, the United States has been a huge provider of food assistance to North Korea.  So there are ways for North Korea to take advantage of what is being offered, they just have to give up their nuclear weapons program.

QUESTION:  The last two questions and they're related:  Russia and the piano.  Again.

SECRETARY RICE:  Russia and the piano, okay.

QUESTION:  First of all, you're a Russian expert.  Somebody said to me recently that -- I think it was my wife -- that the word in the world is that if you are a desperate people, times are bad economically, this may be human nature, you go to the tyrant, you go to the strong man.  Is that the appeal of Putin, that he will bring back that nostalgic sense of the greater Russia, the greater empire and therefore - in the end it's being driven by this terrible dichotomy to be rich and poor in that country?

SECRETARY RICE:  Right.  Well, first of all, a lot has changed in 15 years --15-plus years -- in Russia.  This is not the Soviet Union.  And so even when we talk about trends of consolidation of power in the Kremlin that we think are troubling, we're not talking about anything remotely like what it was before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

QUESTION:  No Brezhnev.

SECRETARY RICE:  There's no Brezhnev, there's no Khrushchev. In that since there's not even a Gorbachev, there is a much freer society for individual rights and the like than there has ever been, I think, in Russian history.  But there is a trend toward the consolidation of power.  And I think you have to understand that in terms of the Russian people's views, I think in the '90s, there was a since that it became a bit chaotic.  And I think there was a sense that Russia's sense of being a great power was diminished.  Now, some of that has been rebuilt and some of that is good.  But what you don't want to do is to have an overreaction to the point that the concentration of power in the Kremlin, at the expense of an independent press, at the expense of a strong and independent judiciary, begins to swing completely the other way.  And I do think that the income distribution differences in Russia need to be addressed.  They've got an opportunity to address them.  They've got extraordinarily high oil prices.  But they're not going to do it on the basis of an energy-only economy.

QUESTION:  What's wrong with Russia because we've been pretty good in this country, obviously not great, but pretty good at creating a middle class, Roosevelt had a lot to do with it, the GI bill, things like that, Social Security.  The Russians went from the Czarist period, which was horrendously unfair, where there's just a few very rich people, and now it seems like they're going back to that horrendous dichotomy of...  People tell me about Moscow, there's these people all driving around in Mercedes with incredible wealth and prostitution and huge money. And five miles out of town or less than that, everybody's impoverished.

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, I do think it's gotten better in the last several years.  There is a middle class that's developing in Russia.

QUESTION:  Really?

SECRETARY RICE:  It's beginning to develop.  It's developing in the cities.  When you go out to the countryside, it is quite a different -- quite a different matter.  And the Russians, even the Russian leadership, will be quite honest with you about that.  That the villages and the smaller cities are still very impoverished.  If you go to St. Petersburg or, you know, Moscow, you do have a growing middle class.  I'll tell you, the longest lines, Chris, are at furniture stores.  And why is that?  It's because people are actually buying apartments, they're buying places to live, they're fixing them up.  So there is a nascent middle class.  But what you need is entrepreneurship in Russia because one of the great secrets of the United States, of course, is small business.  It's not big business, it's small business that employs tens of people or, at most, hundreds of people.  And until you have firm foundation of rule of law and people believe they can recoup their investment and they are going to be fair tax laws and all of those things, you're not going to have that entrepreneurship.  So the kinds of issues that we talked with the Russians about, the need for rule of law, is not just to attract big western investment, but also so you can create a culture in which Russians themselves will found small businesses and take the country forward.

QUESTION:  Why -- last question -- why are the Russians so good at writing novels, at ballet, at chess, at the piano, anything that requires intense, almost lifelong dedication?  They're -- even their national anthem was beautiful, the Soviet National Anthem was beautiful.

SECRETARY RICE:  Yeah, it is beautiful.

QUESTION:  The Internationale was beautiful.


QUESTION:  But they haven't been good at society building.

SECRETARY RICE:  Well, I -- but that comes down, I think, to political structures.  I don't -- I fundamentally don't believe that there are any people on the earth who don't have the DNA somehow for democratic development.  I just don't believe it.


SECRETARY RICE:  I just don't believe it.


SECRETARY RICE:  Everybody in the world is capable of democratic development.  Some people in the world are unlucky enough to get stuck with really bad political leadership and with really bad political institutions.  Now, the Russians are -- and as I said, a lot has changed in 15 years -- that has improved.  And you notice, too, that this is a people that also have some of the best software engineers in the world because they're brilliant at mathematics.  They have the knowledge base, the intellectual base to be a quite remarkable society and to build entrepreneurship.  But they need a legal structure and a political structure that will allow that to happen.  When I think about what we got so fortunate about in the United States, it was really that from our founding those political institutions and that sense of what values mattered were there in the first founding documents.  Now to be sure, you know, my predecessor on the wall here --

QUESTION:  Yeah, I --

SECRETARY RICE:  Thomas Jefferson.

QUESTION:  -- Jefferson's running around Moscow these days.

SECRETARY RICE:  And I know -- Thomas Jefferson, you know, my favorite quote from him, Chris, is you know, "The God who gave us life gave us liberty," at the same time when he was a slave owner.  But these institutions, while they weren't perfect at the time, did allow people to prosper and to continue to struggle and build toward them.  That's what you need is good institutions and I think people will eventually live up to them.

QUESTION:  And when you get home at night after trying to deal with the world, and you play the piano for yourself, what do you like?  Do you like Rachmaninov?


QUESTION:  Okay, you don't like Rachmaninov.  Do you like Kern?

SECRETARY RICE:  I like Brahms.

QUESTION:  Really?

SECRETARY RICE:  Yeah.  I'm a huge Brahms fan.  And I tend to like Brahms, Beethoven, you know, I'm pretty traditionalist in my musical taste.

QUESTION:  Classic stuff.

SECRETARY RICE:  Classic -- very classical.

QUESTION:  How many years did you study?

SECRETARY RICE:  From age three and a half.

QUESTION:  You're the greatest.  Thank you very much the time you've had here.


QUESTION:  Thank you very much, Madame Secretary.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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