Fox News' Tony Snow interviews Secretary of State Colin Powell:
SNOW: President Bush returned late last night from his first extended trip overseas, a journey on which he met with European heads of state and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Joining us to discuss the mission, Secretary of State Colin Powell.
General Powell, Vladimir Putin says he wants to join NATO. Under what conditions would Russia be able to join NATO?
POWELL: Well, I don't think he quite said he wanted to join NATO. I think what he wanted to convey was that he understood that Russia is a European nation and Russia's future lies to the West. And that's my judgment; it's the president's judgment as well.
Russia is a nation that is coming out of a thousand years of history where you had a czar in charge, and now it is a democratic nation trying to embed those democratic principles throughout its society. And as the president tried to convey to President Putin, Europe welcomes Russia, and he wants to do everything he can to encourage Russia to become a part of a broader Europe.
SNOW: Including becoming part of NATO?
POWELL: I think it's premature to even suggest something like that. It is not one of the aspirant countries, and, as you know, the Russians have some concern about the aspirant countries, those who've applied to join NATO, getting membership.
What President Bush made clear is that NATO is going to enlarge again. And what's interesting is that the three nations that joined NATO a few years ago are all doing very, very well, and all of them have better relations with Russia now than they did before they became members of NATO.
So we hope we can persuade the Russian leadership over time that there is nothing threatening about NATO enlarging, whether it's enlarging in the south, whether it's enlarging in the middle or whether it's enlarging in the north. And Russia's future does lie to the West, and we welcome the opportunity to create new linkages with Russia. And what the president says...
SNOW: What new linkages?
POWELL: Trade, commerce, businessmen going over there, cultural exchanges, and a new strategic framework where we can look at reduction in offensive nuclear weapons and begin the progress toward missile defense, which will not threaten Russia, not take away Russia's deterrent posture, but defend against the new threats that are out there, as the president explained.
SNOW: Pick apart a couple of the things you just mentioned. First, when it comes to dealing with nuclear weapons, can we trust Russia to help us track down any of the -- destroy or inventory nuclear materials that have left Russia and are now unaccounted for?
POWELL: We are anxious to engage with the Russians on subjects such as that. The president and Mr. Putin talked about this kind of proliferation, especially proliferation activities related to Iran, a country that we're concerned about.
And so, we have set up working groups that will be formed with members of the State Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Defense Department and their ministry of defense to examine all of these issues, including proliferation issues and tracking down proliferation activities and materials and equipment, and even as important as that, knowledge -- people who have knowledge of these kinds of weapons and these kinds of systems to ensure that we control this, so they don't go out to these states of concern, these states that are irresponsible.
SNOW: So we really don't know where these materials or even scientists are right now?
POWELL: Well, no, we don't exactly have a social security system that captures every Russian scientist, but this is something that is of concern to us and should be of concern to Russia as well.
Russia should see that it is even more in their interest than our interest not to have this kind of knowledge leave Russia. And you keep that knowledge from leaving by finding alternative sources of employment for these scientists, and we have had programs with Russia that accomplishes this purpose. We can do more of that.
Russian scientists want to stay in Russia. They don't want to go to some foreign country to practice their trade or use their knowledge for these kinds of purposes, but we have to make sure there's a reason for them to stay in Russia so they don't share this knowledge elsewhere.
SNOW: Do we have reason to believe that any of those scientists are now working in Iran?
POWELL: I can't account for every Russian scientist who may have knowledge, but...
SNOW: I'm not asking you to account for every one.
POWELL: Well, I can't account for any particular group or one. I don't know.
SNOW: When it comes to Iran, we've been concerned about nuclear proliferation. Russia has sold some very high-strength aluminum to Iran. This has been something that everybody up the food chain, including, I presume, the president, has talked to President Putin about. He says that they merely sold this high-strength aluminum, normally used for nuclear weapons, for aircraft. Do you buy that?
POWELL: That's what they say. We have a slightly different view. We have discussed it with them on a number of occasions, and it was a subject, not that particular case. But the whole issue of what's being sold and transferred to Iran was the subject of discussion between the two presidents and between me and my colleague, Foreign Minister Ivanov.
They have communicated to us in various ways that they understand the danger in selling various kinds of technologies and weapons and that they have no interest in seeing Iran develop the kind of capability that we are worried about.
But we have to keep talking about this to make sure that we are of a common mind on this and we have a unified approach to this. They sell for the purpose of generating hard currency, and we are troubled by some of the sales that have taken place in the past.
SNOW: Of course, Congress several years ago passed the Iran Non- Proliferation Act that said for Russian companies that do such trade, we're going to cut them off. Does this administration plan to enforce that law?
POWELL: This administration enforces every law on the books of the Congress.
SNOW: Including that one?
POWELL: We enforce the law.
SNOW: OK. Mr. Putin also -- the Russian administration just last week held talks with China in which they agreed to work together against nuclear missile defense, particularly the plan that this administration's been advancing. Do you see any signs that he's going to back away from that?
POWELL: Well, their defense ministers, after this meeting in Shanghai, or in China, issued a statement saying that they are all supporting the 1972 ABM Treaty. And Mr. Putin made it clear yesterday at the press conference that he still holds that treaty to the centerpiece of the strategic framework. We have said that it's time to move beyond that.
And I think what we saw yesterday -- what I saw yesterday from the conversation between our presidents and my conversation with Mr. Ivanov is that they want to talk about it, they want to hear, they want to listen, they want to see more, they want to know about what we have in mind. And so I think there are opportunities to move forward.
But are they holding to their position? Yes. Are we holding to our position that it's time to move forward? Yes. And now we have to begin the dialogue between these two nations.
SNOW: Does that mean that we are not going to abrogate, that is, get out of the treaty right away?
POWELL: We will get out of the constraints of the treaty when those constraints do not allow us to move forward with our technology. The exact timing and how we would actually get out of the constraints of that treaty remains to be determined.
And Secretary Rumsfeld is hard at work with the technology, and at some point he will come forward to the president and say, I can't go forward unless certain constraints in the treaty are removed. And at that point, we'll have a decision to make.
SNOW: Well, it sounds as if the decisions been made. At that point we will say the treaty no longer binds us.
POWELL: The president has made it clear that he is going to move forward with missile defense. And he believes that it's so important for the future strategic stability of the world to move forward, that we can't allow ourselves to be stopped by the constraints of a treaty that is almost 30 years old, was designed for a different strategic situation in a different world.
SNOW: Several weeks ago after a bombing in Tel Aviv, you publicly admonished Yasser Arafat to do several things including to push for a total cease-fire and to take every effort to bring the people responsible to justice. Has he done either of those?
POWELL: I said to Mr. Arafat and to Mr. Sharon at that time that we had to take advantage of the Mitchell Committee report, which gives us a way out of this terrible situation. And I asked both sides at that time to do everything they could to bring the violence down, and I specifically spoke to Mr. Arafat about bringing the violence down.
Over the last several weeks, we have seen some progress, when we were able to send George Tenet over, our CIA director, who did a great job in bringing the two sides together at the security level, and say, let's start working again.
Now, the violence has come down. It hasn't come down as much as either side would like to see it, and there are still differences of opinion with respect to arresting potential terrorists or known terrorist. The person who perpetrated that terrible crime died in the process of the bombing itself, so that person is gone.
And we've seen some progress, but we need a lot more progress. And I'm very pleased that Kofi Annan, the secretary general, was in the region yesterday and reinforced that point.
SNOW: But there were...
POWELL: And we're constantly reinforcing the point that we've got to get on to the Mitchell report game plan, otherwise this situation will just continue to be a bombing every few days, a retaliation, and the cycle of violence will continue. The cycle of violence has to be broken, and that's what all of our attention is focused on.
Once that's done, then we can start the cooling-off period; we can get into confidence-building measures. And all of that will lead us ultimately to the resumption of negotiations for a political settlement.
SNOW: The clear implication is, the violence hasn't stopped.
POWELL: The violence has gone down. It hasn't stopped.
SNOW: All right.
And Yasser Arafat is accusing the Israelis of not holding to their part of the bargain on the cease-fire. Is he right?
POWELL: Well, we have both sides accusing each other of not doing as much as they can, and this is part of my daily conversations with both of them. But the Israelis have backed off somewhat with respect to closures and restricted movement of people going back and forth.
The Palestinians, of course, would like to see much less of that kind of restriction, and the Israelis at the same time would like to see more arrests, and they would like to see the violence go down to zero.
We will reach a point where we'll have to a make a judgment whether or not we have seen enough to move forward. Right now we're not there yet, but I hope we're getting closer. And efforts such as Mr. Annan's and the efforts I'm trying to make, and other leaders, are moving both sides in the direction of getting the violence down.
The good news right now is that the entire international community is united behind the Mitchell report as a solution to this problem.
SNOW: Is the Kyoto Protocol a dead letter?
POWELL: The Kyoto Protocol, as far as the United States is concerned, is a dead letter. The Kyoto process is not a dead letter.
As the president said, he understands that there is a global warming problem, although the science is not complete in its defining exactly the extent and magnitude and timing of that problem, but it is a problem.
And he also said he wants to be part of a process. He just believes that the process produced a bad product in the 1997 protocol. And he's explained the reasoning for that: It didn't include undeveloped nations; the requirements placed on the United States were far too severe for us to be able to accommodate within our economic system; and the Europeans, frankly, didn't have the same burdens placed on them that we had placed on us.
So the process produced a product that was flawed, and now we need to use the process to produce a product that will be successful, will be more comprehensive, make maximum use of developing technologies, and be equitable for all the nations of the world, and deal with the specific problem.
SNOW: You talk about a process. European heads of state were openly hostile with the president. Here's what the prime minister of Japan said: "I find it truly deplorable that the U.S. government said the pact was fatally flawed."
POWELL: He did.
SNOW: What kind of process can you have?
POWELL: Well, he may find it deplorable, but nevertheless it was flawed.
And the process will continue. There will be conferences in Bonn in about six weeks' time, and the president has told his colleagues in Europe and elsewhere -- and I'll be speaking to the foreign minister of Japan tomorrow, Mrs. Tanaka, and describe to her and to others that we are moving forward to see what else might be done with technology improvements, with ways of keeping emissions from going up into the sky in the first place.
And this is just the beginning of a long process of studying and examination on the part of the United States. So we're going to play a leadership role in showing the world that there is a better product that can come out of this process than was the Kyoto Protocol.
SNOW: Mrs. Tanaka comes out at a time when some members of Congress are advocating reparations for American POWs who were used as slave labor during World War II.
Now, the State Department position is, in 1951, we agreed not to seek such reparations. But also buried in the same laws, language that indicates if other countries get a better deal, then we can revisit it. Well, at least 11 other countries are getting a better deal.
Why should not American POWs be given the same sort of consideration that Holocaust victims are getting, in terms of reparations for World War II?
POWELL: This is a terrible human tragedy. And it all happened when I was a young lad, but I remember vividly over those years and in the years since the horrible stories that came out of the Bataan death march. So this is a deep, personal tragedy for these veterans.
But the facts are that the 1951 treaty did deal with these claims. And as a result, the United States -- the State Department, on behalf of the United States, finds itself obliged to stay within the terms of the treaty. All the courts that have looked at this so far have upheld the correctness of that position.
The specific issue about another clause that says, if anybody else gets a better deal, then it makes the clause that we're resting our case on not in effect any longer, that has not, obviously, been upheld by the courts over time. But it is certainly something I am going to look into again tomorrow.
SNOW: The president has agreed to stop doing bombing exercises and military exercises in Vieques Island primarily because, he says, people there don't like it, they've been harmed. Does that set a precedent for people in such places as Okinawa and elsewhere where American military forces conduct exercises to say, we don't like it either, you get out? And will we do it?
POWELL: I don't think it sets a precedent. Vieques was a very unique situation, and I think the way the Secretary of the Navy has handled it this week is a very correct way of going about this problem. Understanding that there is this deep resentment over bombing and live fire exercise in Vieques, and he has now tasked Navy authorities to find alternatives.
The issue is not whether people are protesting or whether people like it or not or the political standpoint or the political perspective, but how do we train our forces to go to combat, to go to war?
And what the Secretary of the Navy has directed his people to come up with is a new way to train our forces that will not require that same use of Vieques in two year's time. And as he said, we're looking at simulations, we're looking at other things. And we're looking at other places to do live firing, because at the end of the day you do need live firing.
And so, I think it was a combination of issues that came together to resolve this contentious Vieques problem that's been there for years. But I don't think it necessarily sets a precedent for other places.
SNOW: John Negroponte, is he going to make it?
POWELL: John Negroponte is one of the most distinguished foreign service officers and American public servants I have ever known. And as you know from your question, he is the president's nominee to be the ambassador to the United Nations.
There are some questions about John's activities when he was ambassador to Honduras back in the '80s. We have provided to the Congress every piece of information they have asked for, unredacted -- "Here, take a look at it." And I'm quite confident that when they have examined it, they will confirm John Negroponte to be the U.N. ambassador.
He has been confirmed twice since those days as ambassador to Mexico and as ambassador to the Philippines. And he has just served with the greatest distinction, and he will serve with the distinction when the Senate gives its advice and consent to his appointment as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
SNOW: Secretary of State Colin Powell, thanks for joining us this morning.
We're going to take a break. Up next, Senator Tom Daschle talks about his new role as the big dog in town.