Full Transcript: Rice On Russia

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice grimaces as she attends an emergency NATO foreign minister meeting in Brussels, Aug. 19, 2008. AP Photo/Yves Logghe

CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan exclusively interviewed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Thursday in Brussels, Belgium. What follows is a transcript of the interview.



Logan: Okay. Can we start with your assessment of the situation currently in Georgia? What is the latest that you're hearing from the ground? And are the Russians withdrawing or are they not?

Rice: Well, we continue to hear of Russian military movements back and forth in Georgia, going into -

(Interruption.)

Logan: What is the latest on the ground from Russia? Are the Russians withdrawing or are they not?

Rice: Well, the Russians are clearly not withdrawing in full as they had promised the President of France, as the presidency of the EU. In fact, there continue to be reports of Russian forces entering cities, holding up at ports, refusing to let people move along the highways, asking for Russian visas from people. And so clearly, the Russian President hasn't kept his promise to abide by the terms of the ceasefire and have Russian forces withdraw.

Logan: So how much time, then, do you give the Russians to keep their word?

Rice: Well, this was supposed to be immediate. And I know very well that when President Saakashvili signed the ceasefire and then President Putin - or President Medvedev did, then the expectation was that Russian forces would withdraw then. Now there is a very clear - there are a very clear set of guidelines about what Russian "peacekeepers," quote/unquote, who were there before the conflict would be prohibited from doing and permitted to do. But the forces that entered after the conflict began, wherever they are in Georgia - they're supposed to be on their way out.

Logan: So how much time do you give the Russians to keep their word?

Rice: Well, I don't think it's a matter of giving them time. I think you're already seeing that they are reaping considerable approbation around the world for not having lived up to the terms of this ceasefire. We have called in - the French are calling for an emergency session of the Security Council. That should take place sometime very soon today, in order to deal with this fact that the ceasefire is not being kept. So I think time is up. The Russian President needs to keep his word.

Logan: If time is up, doesn't it seem that the Russians don't care?

Rice: Well, I do think that the Russians care. This isn't 1968. This is not the Soviet Union, where literally, they didn't care what the rest of the world thought, because Russia has sought to enter political and economic and security institutions of the international community, so to speak, of the West. And what is clearly happening now is that Russia's reputation as a responsible actor in international politics, a Russia, by the way, that is a member of the Security Council, is behaving in wholly irresponsible ways.

And the longer Russian forces are in Georgian cities, they longer they are at Georgian ports, the longer they're blocking Georgian highways, the longer the Russian President isn't keeping his word, that reputation's just going to get worse and worse and worse.

Logan: But what signs are there in Georgia that the Russians are paying attention to what the rest of the world is saying? They've been condemned by NATO, condemned by the U.S., condemned by the EU.

Rice: Yes, yes.

Logan: And yet they're still there.

Rice: Well, unfortunately, so far, they haven't kept their word. But I think that they can see from the very strong NATO statement today, NATO's decision to form a NATO-Georgia commission, NATO's decision to send assessment missions to help the Georgians understand what their military forces have undergone and what is needed there, and that they're getting a very strong signal that this alliance, the NATO alliance, is not going to allow a new line to emerge in Europe between those states that, after the Cold War, were fortunate enough to be in transatlantic structure states like Poland and the Baltic states that are members of NATO, members of the EU - there's not going to be a line between them and the ones that still aspire to those transatlantic structures like Georgia or Ukraine.

Logan: The entire NATO effort and the U.S. effort is diplomatic and political, putting that pressure on Russia, counting on the fact that Russia wants to modernize, counting on the fact that Russia wants to be part of international institutions and be a player on the world's stage, whereas their actions at this point, are not indicating that they care about that.

Rice: Well, it's only been a few days. And Russia is quickly isolating itself. No one is trying to isolate Russia; it's Russia's actions that are isolating it. And so we will see over the next several days whether Russia begins to act in a responsible and appropriate fashion. But right now, the key point that the entire international community has to make is if you make a pledge, you keep your pledge. And Russia made a pledge to withdraw its forces when the ceasefire agreement was signed. President Medvedev first said that he was going to do it some - almost seven or eight days ago, then it was going to be three days ago, then it was going to be yesterday. And it just isn't happening. And so the question for Russia is: Why is the Russian president's word not good?

Logan: Well, in light of the fact that it's not happening, that Russia is not keeping their word, did you discuss at this NATO meeting what action could be taken if they don't keep their word? If the - what if the ceasefire fails?

Rice: Well, I think we won't speculate at this point. It was very clear in the NATO communiqué that - can't be business as usual. I think the NATO Secretary General perhaps said it best when he said it's hard to imagine the NATO-Russia Council meeting while Russia has its forces in a neighboring state.

But we also have to remember that we're denying Russian strategic objectives by doing things for Georgia, because Russia intended to undermine Georgian democracy. They intend and probably still do intend to strangle Georgia and its economy. But the world is responding. I had also a meeting here with members of the European troika, as we call it, the commission and the presidency and the high representative. And people are preparing for reconstruction assistance to Georgia, in addition to the already substantial humanitarian assistance that is being delivered. People are planning to help make certain that the Georgian economy is resilient in terms of its financial picture, that there is investor confidence in the Georgian economy.

So what have the Russians really reaped? They are not going to destabilize and destroy Georgia. And so their use of military force against a small neighbor - does anybody really doubt that Russia could use its overwhelming military advantage to beat up on a small neighbor? Well, that's what they've done - wanton destruction of civilian infrastructure, reports of the use of munitions that should never be used against civilians, the harassment along highways of legitimate comers, the closing of the Port of Poti, which is now starting to effect neighboring states, like Azerbaijan and Armenia. Is this what Russia has reaped? I think this is not a very good picture for Russia's strategic objectives.

Logan: You know it's not a very good picture of Russia's objectives. They're continuing. And nobody seems, at this point, able to make them stop.

Rice: Well, there is an expression that when you are in a hole, you should stop digging. And I think that expression would be completely appropriate for the Russians right now.

Logan: What action can be taken if the Russians don't stop digging that hole?

Rice: Well, I don't think we need to speculate further. Russia is very clearly isolating itself. It's becoming more and more the outlaw in this conflict. It is clearly in violation of a ceasefire agreement that it signed, signed willingly. Its forces are behaving in a wholly inappropriate fashion in a neighboring state. It's been called to account by NATO, called to account by the European Union, and I think this is going to continue. And President Medvedev at one point, just a few weeks ago, laid out a very hopeful vision for Russia's interaction with the rest of the world, one in which Russia would be respected and accepted for its commerce and its technology and its scientific prowess and its culture. This is, after all, a great culture and a great people. And to instead have activities that hearken back to another time, when all that the Soviet Union had was its military power, it's really a sad state of affairs for Russia.

Logan: Do you think there's a danger that Russia will interpret this as weakness, if there are no active sanctions taken against them? That's an opportunity for the Russians.

Rice: Well, I wonder whether or not the steps that Russia is taking aren't out of a certain kind of weakness of its own. After all, this is not 1968. The 40th anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia is in a couple of days, on the 21st of August. And that was a time when the Soviet Union occupied a capital, overthrew a government, didn't care what the world thought. It's not 1968. If you look at NATO, you see, at that very table, the Czechs and the Slovaks; you see the Hungarians who were invaded in 1956; you see a lot of nations that were captive nations that are now a part of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.

The sad thing is that the international community, and especially NATO and the western alliance and the United States, tried to offer Russia a path to be a part of that Europe, whole, free and at peace. That is still what would be our hope for Russia. But the longer this kind of behavior goes on, the more that Russia demonstrates that it's not willing to live up to the rules and the principles that really govern decent international behavior, then Russia is going to completely destroy its case for integration into those institutions and into that promise.

Logan: Okay. Last question, because we're being told to wrap. You said that you were very happy with the statement from the NATO Council. The thrust of the statement was that - and you've mentioned this - it's not going to be business as usual is the message from NATO. It's sort of vague and comes across as kind of weak.

Rice: Well, I don't think so. I'm actually very pleased not just with the statement, but with the actions. The strongest part of this statement is to say to the Russians there will not be a new line between those states that are a part of the Transatlantic Alliance and those that wish to be. And therefore, there will be a Georgia - NATO - a NATO-Georgia Commission. There will be a NATO effort to assess what needs to be done to help rebuild Georgia, as there will be a European effort to do the same. And so Russia is the loser here, because what has Russia done? It has demonstrated that it can use military force against a small neighboring state. Is that really what Russia wants to be understood for and thought of? Is that how Russia wishes to engage the international community? No. I think that this alliance has spoken with strength and with unity. The message is very clear and we will continue to consider what further consequences are appropriate as Russia demonstrates this kind of behavior.

Logan: What does it mean, business is - it won't be business as usual? What does that actually …

Rice: Well, I think the Secretary General said it. He said that he can't imagine, and I certainly can't imagine the NATO-Russia council meeting under these circumstances.

Logan: Okay. Thank you very much.

Rice: Thank you.

Logan: I know we're out of time.

Rice: Thank you.
  • Lara Logan

    Lara Logan's bold, award-winning reporting from war zones has earned her a prominent spot among the world's best foreign correspondents. Logan began contributing to 60 Minutes in 2005.

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