Excerpts From Interview with U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice

From Staff Reports
Tuesday, September 22, 2009; 10:03 AM

Excerpts from an interview with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

On defining U.S. interests at the United Nations:

"We are interested in an effective and productive United Nations because we believe fundamentally that given the nature of the 21st century security challenges we face we need to maximize the effective cooperation of as many states and peoples as can be mustered to deal with these challenges, because they are by definition transnational, the sort that can arise in any part of the planet, spread to any part of the planet, whether I'm talking about terrorism, proliferation or pandemic disease, the effects of climate change, criminal networks.

"No single country, even one as powerful as our own, can deal with these challenges in isolation. So, we are fundamentally living in an era when our security and our well-being is very much linked to the security and well-being of people elsewhere; it's a pretty simple recognition of reality . . . Effective cooperation is about both the will of countries to want to move with us and believe that the things that we care about are worth them caring about, investing in and combating and the capacity to be effective.

"So that gets to the whole challenge of conflict, fragile states, poverty, countries that are hobbled in one form or another by bad governance, lack of democracy in their ability to deliver for their people and thus deliver responsibly in the international system -- are sort of weak links that need to be shored up toward the larger goal of building an effective global cooperation. So that is fundamentally what we're about."

On the role of the United Nations:

The United Nations is the venue in which every country has a voice, which has a unique international legitimacy and an un-paralleled capacity to perform against these critically important challenges. Whether it's the humanitarian assistance, delivery of food, water, emergency care; whether it's the global health networks that is the WHO [the World Health Organization], which is un-paralleled in its ability to track and contain and prevent the spread of disease, whether it's the Security Council in its role in upholding or trying to promote global peace and security, whether it's the infrastructure to deal with non-proliferation and disarmament, which is uniquely again a U.N. aspect. This is the place where we have a real stake in whether we can progress against these 21st-century challenges.

On competing for influence with America's traditional adversaries, including Iran, North Korea and Sudan:

"The fact that there are a handful of countries with which we have profound differences that populate the United Nations doesn't in any way change the calculus that I just outlined: that we have an interest in maximizing effective cooperation with as many people and states as we can to deal with these challenges. It means that there are occasionally countries whose interests diverge from our own and they impose obstacles, but they are a small minority and they are a fact of life and they're going to be there whether we're are trying to utilize [the United Nations] constructively or not. I don't want to suggest that they are inconsequential, but they don't define the nature or lack thereof of our engagement here at the United Nations. They can be speed bumps at best.

"We are working within the [Security] Council, but also in the p-five plus one [the permanent five members of the Security Council plus Germany] and other contexts to make sure Iran has a very stark choice. There are two paths that are out there: one of insuring that there can be no ambiguity about the nature of its nuclear program, its full compliance with its international obligations and then pointedly its full integration back into the community of responsible nations or a path of greater pressure and isolation. And each of the members of the p-five plus one have shared the same goal. We have varied ways of approaching it at times but I think that we are all pretty much conveying that message to Iran."

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