Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday called out Russian President Vladimir Putin for what she labeled his “absurd” claims touting his country’s nuclear firepower against the United States.
In a bellicose state-of-the-nation speech earlier this week, Putin said his new nuclear weapons have made NATO’s U.S.-led missile defense system “useless,” and are a signal to Western powers that efforts to hold Russia in check have failed.
He also showed a video appearing to depict missiles obliterating Florida.
Despite the blaring headlines that emerged from the address, Rice suggested Friday that Putin’s address did not reflect any new threats.
“He apparently had pictures of being able to hit Florida—they’ve been able to hit Florida since 1980,” Rice countered on “Fox & Friends” Friday. “So sometimes he says really absurd things and we just need to call him on it.”
Rice, who served as secretary of state under former President George W. Bush, also said the U.S. missile defense program is largely intended for other countries.
“Vladimir Putin is out there talking about his nuclear missiles and we should just say, first of all, nobody has ever said American missile defenses could knock down thousands of Russian missiles—I told him that myself, personally, when I was secretary of state,” Rice said Friday. “That missile defense is aimed at Iran or North Korea—not Russia.”
Putin said his new nuclear weapons included a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a nuclear-powered underwater drone that could be armed with a nuclear warhead, and a hypersonic missile.
“I want to tell all those who have fueled the arms race over the last 15 years, sought to win unilateral advantages over Russia, introduced unlawful sanctions aimed to contain our country’s development: all what you wanted to impede with your policies have already happened,” Putin said. “You have failed to contain Russia.”
When asked Friday about the U.S. sanctions strategy, Rice said that they are “very effective.”
“I actually think sanctions against Putin and his inner circle are very effective. Sanctions saying this person can’t travel, this person can’t visit—you have to realize, the reach of the United States is very broad, so when you’re listed by the United States, it really has an effect on what you can and cannot do,” Rice said.
She added, however, to “be careful” about imposing sanctions on aspects of the Russian economy.
“There’s some young Russians there for whom contact with the West is really important,” Rice explained. “We want to isolate Putin and Putinism, but we don’t want to isolate the Russian people.”
Rice also took a swipe at the ongoing congressional probes into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
“The American people are ready to move on,” she said on “Fox & Friends.”
This was after she appeared this week on ABC’s “The View,”, where she discussed with fellow guest, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., his committee’s Russia probe.
Rice told Schiff that she “appreciates” Schiff’s work, but, “I really hope that you can wrap it up.”
“The country needs to get back to business so that’s my greatest hope,” she said Thursday.
Schiff, who sits as the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, has been a leading figure in the congressional investigation into Russian meddling and potential collusion with Trump campaign associates during the 2016 presidential election.
She said Friday that “everybody wants to know what happened” but the committees “need to focus on what the Russians did and how they did it.”
Rice said: “Because the first time, shame on them. The next time, shame on us if they can do it again. And I think there’s too little attention to what they actually did and how we’re going to deal with it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.