OTR Interviews

Rumsfeld: Terrible US diplomacy forced Karzai to side with Putin, Russia's annexation of Crimea

Former defense secretary on Afghan President Karzai, joining Syria and Venezuela in backing Russia's annexation of Crimea


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 24, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Afghan President Hamid Karzai snubbing President Obama again and doing it very publicly. Afghanistan announcing it is siding with Russia supporting its annexation of Crimea. So, why is Karzai breaking with the West and how could it impact the United States? Former Secretary of State - - Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld joins us. Good evening, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: What can that statement by President Karzai, that he recognizes that the annexation of Crimea, what do you make of him doing that?

RUMSFELD: Well, I think it's important, particularly for the young men and women who served in Afghanistan to appreciate the fact that Karzai originally was selected to become president by the Loya Jirga, the conference, because he didn't have a militia. He was weaker than most of the tribal leaders. And he, therefore -- the country was not really used to a strong central government.

And what happened is the United States government and I realize these are tough jobs being president or secretary of state. But, by golly, they have trashed Karzai publicly over and over and over, Holbrooke, the special envoy did, Vice President Biden did, Secretary Hillary Clinton has. The president has been unpleasant to him.

And it seems to me they pushed him in a political box where he really has very little choice. I think there is probably not a politician in the world who dealing with the United States, instead of having the United States deal with him privately through private diplomacy, came out repeatedly, publicly, in an abusive, unpleasant, manner. And I personally sympathize with him to some extent. Nobody, likes to hear a foreign leader side with Putin on the Crimea that way he had. But, I really think it's understandable, given the terrible, terrible diplomacy that the United States has conducted with Afghanistan over the last several years.

VAN SUSTEREN: When do you think better of just been South. I mean he cited with the only two other countries has been Venezuela and Syria as far as I know who had publicly stated that -- I mean, this is a real sort of poke in the eye of President Obama and I guess United States, in many ways, man and woman who we all serve there lost there live there.

RUMSFELD: No, I think it's not a poke in the eye to them, quite the contrary. In fact, Karzai has been quoted as saying that "he did not get the attention when he spoke behind closed doors to the United States in the Obama administration." And he was forced to yell. He also said to the American people give them my best wishes and my gratitude, but to the United States government give them my anger, my extreme anger. I think the United States diplomacy has been so bad, so embarrassing may I add, that I'm not least surprised that he felt cornered and is feeling he has to defend himself in some way or he is not president of that country.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there a way sort of out of this. I mean, now I'm expanding the whole question to the problems that we're having with Afghanistan right now.

RUMSFELD: I beg your pardon?

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there sort of a way out of this? We are having this problem now where there is going to be an election soon. I guess that's you know the best option for the United States, that the United States get someone that is friendlier?

RUMSFELD: He was friendly. Our relationship with Karzai and with Afghanistan was absolutely first great in the Bush administration. It has gone down hill like a toboggan ever since the Obama administration came in. Now, take for example, the fact that we have status of forces agreement, probably with 100 -- 125 countries in the world.

This administration, the White House and the statement department have failed to get a status of forces agreement. A trained ape can get a status of forces agreement. It does not take a genius. And we have so mismanaged that relationship. And I think that he has tried to separate his harshness against the White House and the administration from the American people and the people that he appreciates that served in that country.

VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Secretary, thank you, sir, for joining us.

RUMSFELD: You bet.