ZALTZMAN In your opinion, what should the central policy aims or goals of American foreign policy be in the twenty-first century?
RICE First, we need to make certain that the international system remains stable and secure from a military point of view so that no hegemon can rise to threaten stability. Second, we should promote an open international economic system, including trade and the development of markets. And third, we should work to extend and expand the values that really do support democracy—whether they be human rights or political rights—and to try to promote their spread.
ZALTZMAN If you were in a policy-making position, which specific “challenges” to American foreign policy would you focus on?
RICE I would certainly focus on the impact of globalization on economic stability in important countries. If I worry about anything it is that there will be big winners and big losers in economic globalization and, if they are important countries, that the impact could be very destabilizing. Therefore, the international economic order is probably the most important challenge. The second thing I think about are the challenges from what political scientists call failed states, such as Iraq or North Korea, or a failing state like Russia. The United States has to figure out how it’s going to deal with such states. Third, rising states such as China pose a challenge.
ZALTZMAN What do you foresee in Russia’s political and economic future?
(San Francisco Examiner/Penni Gladstone)
RICE The situation is very chaotic right now, so it is really crazy to try and predict, but I think that in the short term we are likely to see the continued disintegration of Russia. We are going to continue to see Moscow as incapable of managing relations with its periphery, largely incapable of collecting taxes, and increasingly irrelevant in its own people’s lives because its leaders play these political games that don’t connect in any way with the lives of ordinary Russians. In the long run that can’t go on. Right now they seem to be ignoring this disintegration, which raises the possibility of two long-term scenarios: first, that this disintegration continues and that someone strong tries to come along and organize the masses; second, that they continue along this path and wake up one day and no one is really in control of the territories that used to be Russian. I think that the best that Russia has going for it is the patience of the Russian people, and I’m hopeful that in the June 2000 presidential elections they can find a leader who is capable and not corrupt.
ZALTZMAN Who do you foresee winning the presidential election next year in Russia and who, from an American perspective, would an American foreign policymaker prefer to win?
RICE I can’t really predict who is going to win. I think that for a while it seemed like it might be [retired army general] Alexander Lebed, but he seems to be sinking like a stone in the polls because his job as governor of Krasnayorsk has not been going so well. And [Moscow mayor] Yuri Luzhkov still seems to be a possibility, as is [former prime minister] Yevgeny Primakov, but I don’t know who is likely to win. I also don’t think that an American policymaker ought to be asking the question of who would be best for us. I think, from an American policymaker’s viewpoint, that the best thing is to get somebody who would stabilize the situation and who could once again push Russia toward market and democratic development. That requires someone who is not corrupt. The most important thing from my point of view is to get somebody who is not corrupt.
In the short term, we are likely to see Russia continue to disintegrate.
ZALTZMAN Given that America’s relations with Russia seem to be at a low right now, how do you think that the relationship is likely to develop and what specific policy initiatives would you recommend to improve it?
RICE It is important to recognize that U.S.-Russian relations are not going to be good for a while. We have to focus on somehow promoting Russian domestic development. We need to get back to the table to talk about things that are of common interest, such as the spread of ballistic missile technology and weapons of mass destruction and concerns about the safety of Russian nuclear weapons and dismantlement. I think a fairly limited agenda is probably the way to go right now.
ZALTZMAN Do you foresee a bright future in regard to the Middle East peace accords, or is the process likely to get bogged down yet again?
RICE The Middle East peace process goes through fits and starts, which has been the history for a long time. But if you look at the long term, things have gotten better as more Arab states have signed peace treaties and established relations with Israel. I think you have to keep on hammering on it day in and day out and recognize that more and more of the pieces are coming into place, even though sometimes it seems that we are taking a step backward.
ZALTZMAN In regards to another region of the world, do you believe that a continued American military presence in the Pacific Rim is necessary in the post–Cold War era?
RICE I think that an American military presence in the Pacific is critical. The Pacific is a region that still has a lot of unsettled vital interests. For instance, China has vital interests in Taiwan and the subcontinent. The Japanese would obviously need to recalculate their security policy if the United States were to withdraw, which would have a destabilizing impact on the region. So, yes, I think that an American military presence is critical.
ZALTZMAN First, do you think that Japan will be able to implement the substantial economic reforms that most American economists feel are necessary for its long-term economic recovery? Second, speaking of China, what role do you believe American policy should have in China’s development?
RICE Well, I’m hopeful that Japan can restructure because I don’t think, as [U.S. treasury secretary] Larry Summers has said, “that the world can fly on one engine.” The world economy needs the Japanese economy to recover and the European economy to grow. I don’t think anyone should underestimate the difficulties that Japan is having with its political struggles.
In terms of China, I think that it would be a mistake to prematurely declare China an enemy, but China is a problem for American foreign policy. China is not a strategic partner of the United States. We have huge differences. The most clear, overarching difference is that the Chinese object to the American military presence in the Pacific, which I believe is so important. This alone lets you understand that this is not an easy relationship. You can go down the list of issues, including the way the Chinese have attempted to intimidate Taiwan in recent years. I think that there is a great deal of evidence that the Chinese have spread sophisticated military technology to states that the United States abhors. So it’s not a good relationship on many levels. But in the final analysis, as China develops economically and liberalizes economically, I do believe that it will liberalize politically, which could be a good start to better relations. You have to play both halves of this game at the same time—which is difficult because people would like to have a clear answer about whether China is good or bad for the United States.
ZALTZMAN Do you believe that China is likely to liberalize in the same way that the former Soviet Union did? Do you think that the Chinese communist leadership would ever relinquish power peacefully?
RICE I think that the Chinese leadership is living on borrowed time if it believes that it can control political events while liberalizing economically. I think that some of the crackdowns we’ve seen in the last year show that political pressures are rising in China. I don’t know how things are going to play out. I certainly hope that China will go through a peaceful liberalization. Whatever you want to say about Russia, it has gone through political liberalization without a great deal of bloodshed. We have to hope that that’s also going to be the situation in China. However, I am worried that the Chinese leadership does not recognize that it’s going to have to loosen its grip.
The world economy cannot fly on one engine—the booming American economy. We need the Japanese economy to recover and the European economies to grow.
ZALTZMAN What should the United States do to take advantage of the new international economy?
RICE The first thing is to make sure that its population is educated and capable of performing the jobs that are going to be available in the new world economy. I don’t think it’s going to be possible to hold onto unskilled, high-paying jobs. This reality fuels much of the fear regarding the globalization of the international economy. So paying attention to the skill sets of the American workers is probably the most important thing.
The United States also needs to continue to be the beacon of free trade. I know that it’s sometimes frustrating because other countries have more trade barriers than we do, but the United States benefits from free trade. Also, we must be prepared to intervene when other countries are in need of support as they try to liberalize their economies. This means not simply propping up economies that are failing but actually supporting economic transformation and liberalization.
ZALTZMAN How would you assess the role of the International Monetary Fund in recent years?
RICE The IMF has slipped into a role that it was not intended to play. The IMF was tremendously important and worked extremely well in Poland’s transition to democracy. The IMF works best when it promotes programs that have domestic support. It can’t be very helpful when a country signs onto an IMF program but does not do anything to reform its economy. So it’s not fair to blame the IMF for all of its failed programs. In the past couple of years, however, the IMF has promoted some policies that were probably not beneficial for the countries that it was trying to help. So the IMF is probably an overextended program.
ZALTZMAN What is the global impact of the rapid developments in information technology?
RICE The information age has affected the international system in all kinds of ways, including the liquidity of global markets and the movement in global funds. The ability to move information globally has a downside as well as an upside, however, particularly in regard to weapons of mass destruction and the organization of terrorist networks on the Internet. I don’t think you can stop this phenomenon or interfere with it, but you need to be ready for its effects. Also, rapid communication in the media has also made a difference in international relations. Looking at pictures from here or there can easily become a focal point of foreign policy—which is a danger. What happens today should not necessarily be the focal point of our foreign policy.
ZALTZMAN How can the United States minimize the security threats of the information technology revolution?
RICE We must do everything we can to try to minimize the potentially negative impacts of information technology. We obviously need to make computers so that no one can break into them. But as a law enforcement officer once told me, the whole history of law enforcement is that criminals get technology so law enforcement gets better technology. It is a continuous cycle. The information technology issue is a little bit like this. It’s a constant battle, and I don’t think that there is an easy solution.
ZALTZMAN How long is the United States likely to remain a unipolar power in the international political arena? Are there any states that could conceivably challenge American dominance in the short term?
RICE There is no doubt that the United States is the dominant power right now. I don’t know if it is unipolar because, even though it sometimes appears that most states revolve around the United States, we live in the United States and may have a distorted perspective. It is clearly the dominant power, however, and I don’t think that there has been a power this dominant in terms of its entire range of assets since Britain in the nineteenth century. The question is whether the United States will remain constrained by both its domestic system, which seems to make it difficult to have a coherent policy, and its ambivalence in using its power. I don’t see a state on the horizon that can rise to challenge the United States globally. The United States presents itself with its own biggest challenge—can it organize its power? The United States often gets itself into situations where there is a power asymmetry and a weaker power has more at stake and therefore will risk more and do more. So it’s not so clear that being the dominant power always means that you will win in every encounter.
ZALTZMAN Where are such asymmetric conflicts most likely to occur?
RICE The places I look to most warily include China, North Korea—a paranoid state that no one really knows much about—and the subcontinent with India and Pakistan. These regions are highly prone to potential conflicts.
ZALTZMAN Turning to the NATO alliance, what should the goals of the alliance be in the upcoming ten to fifteen years?
RICE I’m rather old-fashioned about NATO and not much for a grand new strategy. Clearly, NATO should remain a mostly defensive alliance that attempts to unify democratic states in their collective security interests. I do think that the move to expand to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic—which I supported—has brought NATO closer to a part of Europe that is unstable. Given the proximity of the Balkans, I don’t think it is right to consider the Balkans “out of area” for NATO because we now have a fairly unsettled part of Europe on NATO’s eastern flank. Unfortunately, in the debates on NATO’s expansion that point never came up. We made it seem a little bit like everyone was joining a gardening club for peaceful democracies. But, in fact, when NATO started accepting responsibility for the power vacuum that communist power had left behind when it exited, it was predictable that NATO would need to accept responsibility for dealing with regional instability.
ZALTZMAN How do you expect Russia and other states in the former Soviet Union to react to NATO’s eastward expansion?
RICE The Russians are humiliated and furious, and there is probably no way to avoid that. They have not yet come to terms with what happened to them in 1991, particularly the elite. It appears to me that the Russian government is trying not to give in to strong passions inside the country, but it is under tremendous pressure. If you watched that leaky intelligence ship they sent to the Mediterranean this spring, it was a remarkable symbol of the lack of Russian power. This is hard for the Russians to accept, and I don’t know in the long run what they will do.
ZALTZMAN I have one final question. How would you categorize the central difference between the likely foreign policies of Al Gore and George W. Bush?
RICE It is too early to tell. I think Governor Bush should have an opportunity to talk about his own foreign policy. Let me just address the challenges that will face anyone who wants to be president. We have now been in the post–Cold War era for eight years, and the fact that our discussions still revolve around the way the world used to be demonstrates that we have yet to prepare ourselves for this period. The questions that still remain for the United States as the only military superpower are how we are going to use our forces, where, under what conditions, and why. I think questions about how to prevent the collapse of major economies that then become real sources of instability are also critically important. Dealing with the continued “bad guys” in the international system—those that seem to be impossible to defeat but need to be constantly contained—is also essential. These are our greatest challenges.