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Transcript: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on "Face the Nation," Feb. 26, 2023

Condoleezza Rice on U.S. aid to Ukraine
Condoleezza Rice says "we have to do everything we can to convince" Putin that he is wrong on Ukraine 08:56

The following is a transcript of an interview with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice that aired on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're back with President George W. Bush's Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is the current director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Good morning.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good to have you here. 

FORMER SECRETARY RICE: It's awfully good to be with you, too.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, when you were Secretary of State Bill Burns, CIA director was US Ambassador to Moscow.

FORMER SECRETARY RICE: That's correct and later on Undersecretary for policy at the State Department when I was still at state.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you work together very closely. And I was reading his book recently, where he's talking about your head-to-heads with Vladimir Putin, who didn't like you standing in high heels, apparently taller than he is. But on the serious matter, what do you make of the Biden Administration's policy, the choices it's making and how they're using the CIA director as kind of the tip of the spear here?

FORMER SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think in general, in total, the policy is in the right direction, you have to support Ukraine, you have to do it as much as you can, as a part of a coalition, it's really important that the Europeans are on board. And I've been impressed with what they've been able to achieve with the Europeans in creating that, that unity. And in a sense, NATO has never been in better shape. I do think and look, it's a lot easier out here than it is in there. But I do think we sometimes seem to be a little bit behind in what we provide to the Ukrainians. So we were not going to provide air defenses and then we did tanks and- and armor, and now we have. And so, if I could say one thing, to perhaps just to anticipate a little bit better, what the Ukrainians are going to need, because it takes a long time to supply. And as to Bill Burns' role, he's unique, I think he's walking a very fine line and doing a good job of it. He's an intelligence chief at this point, but he has vast experience in Russia, he knows the Russians, they know him. And so I think the signaling and the sending him to Moscow to talk with Naryshkin, for instance, or with Zelenskyy in Ukraine makes perfectly good sense for this particular Director of the CIA.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you talk about delivering weapons to Ukraine, you wrote an op-ed with former Defense Secretary Bob Gates talking about this, saying have a dramatic increase in military supplies and capability. Does that mean train them yesterday on the F16s they'll need tomorrow? Is that specifically the piece of weapon- weaponry you're focused on? 

FORMER SECRETARY RICE: Well, we weren't talking about a specific set of weapon systems, but I think the idea that you anticipate and therefore perhaps you start the training before it's going to be necessary to send that equipment. The one thing we know, is that this war keeps evolving, and you try to have to- you have to try to evolve a little bit ahead of it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So you think President Biden is being a little too hesitant?

FORMER SECRETARY RICE: Well, I, again, I don't know, internally, we have issues with stockpiles, we have issues with our own- own defense capabilities, because I don't think anybody expected to be fighting a land war in Europe. And so I have some sympathy for that, but to the degree that that can be accelerated, I think it will help because I think we have to get away from the phrase time is on the Ukrainian side. I would be careful about that. Vladimir Putin seems to believe the time is not on the Ukrainian side. He believes if he throws in the Russian way of war, mass at the problem, poor boys from Dagestan, who are just kind of cannon fodder. If he engages in terrorist activities against the Ukrainian population. He'll wear the Ukrainians down, he'll wear us down, he'll wear the Europeans down. I don't think that's right, but we have to do everything that we can to convince him that it is indeed wrong.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Russia invaded Georgia in 2008. At that time, and I was reading these cables recently, you and Bill Burns were going back and forth on Ukraine joining NATO and whether that crosses that red line for Vladimir Putin. Do you think now, after all these years of waiting that Ukraine should be allowed into NATO?

FORMER SECRETARY RICE: Well, that's going to be a hard lift because of the Article Five, an attack on one is an attack upon all, guarantee of NATO–

MARGARET BRENNAN: And no one wants to take that vote now?

FORMER SECRETARY RICE: That's right, but I do think that what we've seen is that Ukraine is de facto now a very strong ally of NATO, and vice versa. And I expect that's going to continue, because I think some form of security arrangements with- with Ukraine will be necessary in the future, and it's probably good to start working on that now. What we do know is that the- that NATO itself is protected, the piece of territory that was not protected was Ukraine. And that tells you something about leaving a vacuum in the center of Europe and so whatever we do, and I doubt it will be Article Five, we need to make sure that that vacuum isn't there in the future.

MARGARET BRENNAN: At this early stage of the 2024 presidential race, foreign policy is already getting talked about a fair amount. Former President Trump criticized the amount of U.S. funding for Ukraine, Florida's governor Ron DeSantis, widely expected to run, said the U.S. cannot provide Ukraine an open-ended blank check. They reject your point of view in many ways by saying the U.S. needs to kind of pull back here?

FORMER SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm not going to put words in the mouth of future presidential candidates, we'll see where they- where they end up–

MARGARET BRENNAN: You mean Ron DeSantis?

FORMER SECRETARY RICE: That's right, but I will- but I will say this, it is really important that whoever runs for president of the United States understands the essence of this conflict, the fact that we are defending not just Ukrainian independence, but we're defecting a rule- we are defending a rules based system that says might doesn't make right, you can't just extinguish your neighbor. And oh, by the way, for those who would say, Oh, we ought to be concentrating on the Indo Pacific, because China is really our adversary. Xi Jinping is telling you what he thinks about that because he is not only watching what is going on in Ukraine, according to our intelligence, apparently, he's even considering getting in on the side of the Russians.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why do you think he would make that judgment? Why is it in his interest?

FORMER SECRETARY RICE: We have- so I think we have to recognize that the Chinese-Russian relationship is perhaps more strategic than many of us had thought. That it really is a relationship that is aimed at the heart of U.S. power in the world. And that would say, then, these two are not divisible. So, if you want to say, let's just concentrate on the Indo Pacific, that's not going to work. And oh, by the way, many of our allies, Australia, Japan, fundamentally understand that. So, I would say to those who are going to run for office, be careful what you say. And I would just make one other point, if the American people see a world in which Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping have won this engagement, this first volley, if you will, in the largest strategic picture, and they see that Ukrainian independence has been extinguished, and they know that the United States could have done something about it, I don't think that's going to be a very good message for a future president to have to deliver. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because that problem will come to his desk? 

FORMER SECRETARY RICE: Because that problem will come to his desk– 


FORMER SECRETARY RICE: Or her desk. And I just say, just remember dates 1914, 1941, 2001, these conflicts always come home.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sobering warning there. You've said, though, for the Republican Party, they need new leadership, a new generation. Do you have a leader in mind, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, for example?

FORMER SECRETARY RICE: I think the Republican Party has a lot of very good prospects. When I say we need leadership, new leadership, I'm not coming back either. So I think it's really time for us to look at those who can- can look at an American future. And there are a lot of very, very good candidates out there. Let's- let's let everybody make their case and see where we- where we end up.

MARGARET BRENNAN: To that question, I asked you earlier about why it would be in Xi Jinping's interest to have destabilization in Europe. Do you think it really is ultimately a long game for Taiwan? Tie up the West in Europe so he can expand in the Pacific?

FORMER SECRETARY RICE: Well, that's pretty precise. I think this is really more about weakening American power in the world. And one way that you do that. I don't think he would have chosen for Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: His intelligence didn't know.

FORMER SECRETARY RICE: And it's become quite a mess, as well. And your relationship without limits is with somebody who's causing all kinds of problems. But I think what we have to convince the Chinese of is this is, first of all, not in their interest, because his primary interest is to grow the Chinese economy against headwinds that include, of course, a demographic disaster that they are having, and strengthen Taiwan so that it's not an easy target. It is not inevitable that- that the Chinese win this battle. In fact, I will bet on American democracy, American innovation, American strengths, but that isn't inevitable either, that they will triumph.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Secretary Rice, thank you for your analysis today. We'll be right back.

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