The Washington Post

Susan Rice says Russia should not involve troops in Ukraine

Susan Rice, National Security Adviser, appears on “Meet the Press” in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 23, 2014. (NBC/Via Reuters)

National security adviser Susan E. Rice said Sunday that Russian troop intervention in Ukraine would be a “grave mistake,” arguing that a return to a Cold War posture would not reflect modern realities.

“This is not about the U.S. and Russia,” Rice said Sunday during a wide-ranging interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “This is about whether the people of Ukraine have the opportunity to fulfill their aspirations and be democratic and be part of Europe, which they choose to be.”

On Saturday, the Ukraine parliament voted to oust President Viktor Yanukovych, who defiantly vowed to stay in power in a taped message that day. The exact whereabouts of the former leader have been unknown since Friday evening, but Rice said he has fled the Ukraine capital and appears unlikely to return soon.

“He left Kiev, packed up in an orderly fashion — took his stuff, his furniture, with him,” she said. “This was not fleeing in a very disorderly fashion.”

Ukraine has been bitterly divided since last year when Yanukovych allied his government with Russia instead of the European Union in a trade and political partnership. The Kremlin sweetened the deal with $15 billion in loans and discounts on natural gas.

Rice said recent developments in Ukraine, including a peace agreement signed Friday, reflect the interests of the United States and Europe. “We are going to have a unity government. We are going to have near-term elections. We are going to have constitutional reform,” she said.

Rice also addressed the controversial comments she made in 2012 after the attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador. She acknowledged her statements turned out “not to be 100 percent correct” but said the mistake was not intentional.

Rice, who was then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said during numerous talk-show interviews after the incident that an inflammatory anti-Muslim video appeared to have sparked the violence.

“What I said to you that morning, and what I did every day since, was to share the best information that we had at the time,” she told NBC host David Gregory on Sunday. “The information I provided, which I explained to you, was what we had at the moment. It could change. I commented that this was based on what we knew on that morning, was provided to me and my colleagues, and indeed, to Congress, by the intelligence community. And that’s been well validated in many different ways since.”

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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