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Text: Richard B. Cheney on ABC's 'This Week'

Sunday, August 27, 2000

Following is the transcript of Republican vice presidential nominee Richard B. Cheney's appearance on ABC's "This Week," hosted by Sam Donaldson with Washington Post columnist George Will. Other guests included U.S. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, Gov. Marc Racicot (R-Mont.) and former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

DONALDSON: Welcome to our program. Cokie Roberts is off today but she'll be back next week.

Well, millions of Americans are taking a vacation this month, but not the political candidates. They are out campaigning. And one of the issues that's emerging is that of U.S. military preparedness. The Republicans say the U.S. military is in decline. The Democrats say that's not true. A few minutes ago, we talked to Dick Cheney, Governor Bush's running mate, who is himself a former secretary of defense, about this matter and some other questions too.

Cheney joined us from Jackson Hole, Wyoming.


DONALDSON: Secretary Cheney, thanks for coming in this morning.

CHENEY: Good morning, Sam.

DONALDSON: It's early out in Wyoming.

CHENEY: It is, about 6 a.m.

DONALDSON: Well, about a month ago, you were chosen to run with Governor Bush. Are you having a good time or would you rather go back and say, hey, let's pick someone else?

CHENEY: No. We've been having a great time. There are a lot of headaches, obviously, connected with getting back into the political arena, but the opportunity to travel across the country, meet with thousands of people and, sort of, get re-engaged, if you will, on the question of selecting national leaders has been a lot of fun.

DONALDSON: All right. You were secretary of defense in the Bush administration. And let's talk about military preparedness.

Governor Bush went before the VFW this week--or this past week--and said that the next president will inherit a military in decline. Where's your evidence?

CHENEY: Well, there's a lot of evidence to support that, Sam. There have been a number of studies, a lot of anecdotal evidence available. But just to give you a couple of quick facts, if you look at air combat units in the U.S. Air Force, at the beginning of this administration, 85 percent of them were combat-ready. Today, it's about 65 percent.

If you look at the report by the Army on its helicopters this past spring, it showed 40 percent of their helicopter fleet simply isn't up to performing the mission.

If you look at recruiting, they're having trouble recruiting. The Army and the Navy are not meeting their quotas with respect to commissioning new officers. They're having trouble on retention. A lot more people are leaving the service now rather than staying.

There was recently a survey by the General Accounting Office that over 1,000 officers and enlisted men, over half of them are getting ready to leave the service at the end of their current term rather than stay and pursue a career in it. So there are serious problems out there with respect to the overall quality of the force.

Now there's no question we've got a great military today, but it's headed in the wrong direction. And it's been headed in the wrong direction for some time now.

DONALDSON: Well, the debate began at the Republican convention when the governor gave his acceptance speech. You'll remember the famous saying about two divisions. And immediately the next day, the chairman of the joint chiefs, General Shelton, rebutted that. Let's listen to what the two men had to say:


GEORGE W. BUSH: If called on by the commander in chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report, "Not ready for duty, sir."

GENERAL SHELTON: As of today, our Army divisions are ready, and ready to carry out the missions that are demanded by our war plans. Last year, as you recall, the joint chiefs testified before the Congress that we did in fact have some readiness shortfalls.


DONALDSON: So the chairman of the joint chiefs says last year there was a problem, but not today. And yet Governor Bush said today. How do you square this?

CHENEY: Well, I think there's no question but what the report, the Army's own readiness report at the end of last year did show, that two of their divisions were not ready, was in fact true. They may have been able to deal with those short-term problems over the last few months. I don't question General Shelton on that, but that is not the sole basis on which to make this judgment. The fact of the matter is that anybody who has dealt with the military, who has family members in the military, knows there are problems out there.

Morale problems. I talked with a Marine lieutenant colonel in California just last week, during the course of my campaign, who's having trouble manning his aviation squadron. I talked with a recently retired senior army officer who'll tell you that there are serious problems at Ft. Erwin in California today. This is where we train our armored formations, our tank crews and our Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. There are problems in terms of spare parts, lack of maintenance, inability to complete exercises because the equipment breaks down. There are problems in the U.S. military today, and anybody who takes an objective look at it knows that.

DONALDSON: Well, all right, you say you don't question General Shelton in his statement that we just heard. Do you question ...

CHENEY: Well, again, you're dealing with a very fine point here. And on the question of those two divisions, I don't know what the latest report shows. I do know their own report, that they put out late last year, did, in fact, show that two divisions weren't ready.

DONALDSON: Well, that's why we--that's why ...

CHENEY: And that's what the governor based his statement on.

DONALDSON: And that's why we made certain to show General Shelton saying what he said, in addition to rebutting what the governor said. But let's move on.

Do you question Secretary of Defense Cohen, a Republican, as you know? And let me just tell you what he said. He said, I think you will see a military on the ascendancy. And he ticked off the following points: $112 billion increase over five years approved; the biggest pay increases for service personnel in 20 years; and the cuts began in the Bush administration after a bipartisan demand for a peace dividend.

Do you question any of that?

CHENEY: I do. I think he's measuring inputs, not results. You can talk about increasing the budget, and it's important to increase the budget, but I'd add that it's the Republican Congress that has increased the budget. They've added $50 billion to defense requests over the last few years.

With respect to this question, when the cuts started, we obviously began reductions as the Cold War ended in 1990-91, in the aftermath of Desert Storm, but we started with a reduction of 25 percent in force structure, and they've gone far beyond that.

The number of divisions in the U.S. Army's gone from 18 to 10. The number of wings in the Air Force has gone from 24 to 13. The number of ships in the Navy has gone from almost 600 now headed to less than 300. So they've cut far deeper, Sam, than anything anticipated during my watch in the Pentagon.

DONALDSON: Well, during your watch, you have--did point out that there was a peace dividend that people were demanding, and you said on the 3rd of November, 1992, and let's take a look at some of the points you ticked off. That you had closed over 800 bases, installations worldwide. That you would have eliminated 1 million positions in the Department of Defense by 1995. That you had canceled 120 different weapon systems and that you had cut $300 million out of our long-range defense budget.

The Democrats say it started, if there is a problem, in the Bush administration and they're right, aren't they?

CHENEY: Well, but Sam, remember what happened here. The Cold War required us to maintain a force that could have 10 divisions in Europe within 10 days of a decision to mobilize. We had to plan on fighting 100 Soviet-led divisions who would invade Western Europe from the inner German border.

We had to be prepared for all-out global nuclear war. That's what we found in 1989 when I became secretary, then we won the Cold War. The Soviet Union collapsed, the Wall came down, the Soviet threat diminished enormously, and we were, in fact, able to significantly cut back on the overall size and cost of the military. Everybody agreed to that; certainly I did, and you've accurately quoted me there.

The point is they've gone far beyond that. When we went for a 25-percent reduction on force structure, they've gone 40-50 percent in many categories, and they are not investing in the future.

The biggest problem is not just readiness--that is a problem--but what a lot of people don't understand, and I don't think the Clinton-Gore administration understands as well either is, that the key to quality forces is that it takes a long time to build them.

It takes about nine years from the time you authorize an aircraft carrier till it's ready to go to sea and go to war, 25 years to train an officer able to command a modern armored division in combat, so the decisions we make now will have a big impact on what the force looks like 10, 15, 20 years down the road, and it's like a huge ship: It takes a long time to turn it and move it in the other direction.

The problem we've had is it's been going down too far, too fast. It's time to stop it and turn it around and rebuild the U.S. military, and that's what Governor Bush and I propose to do.

DONALDSON: Final question on this subject, based on something the vice president said when he went before the VFW. Let's listen now.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: That's not only wrong, in fact it's the wrong message to send our allies and adversaries across the world.


DONALDSON: He's saying, obviously, that what you have said, and what Governor Bush has said, is sending a message that does us harm as a nation. How do you respond?

CHENEY: Well, I think that's hogwash, Sam. The fact of the matter is we know there's a problem; it's important to address that problem; it's a very major issue in this year's campaign. This is exactly the kind of forum where that ought to be discussed.

The conclusion I've come to is one of two possibilities. Either Al Gore doesn't know what's going on in the U.S. military, or he's chosen not to tell the truth about it. Either one of those outcomes I don't think is acceptable.

DONALDSON: All right, Secretary Cheney, let's move on. Your leaving Halliburton has created quite a ruckus, at least your critics who want to make a ruckus out of it, so let's start with a couple of points. The stock options that you have, something like 1.160, that's 1,160,000. What are you going to do with it?

CHENEY: Well, I will cash in those that are exercisable and all of my assets, not just the Halliburton stock options, but everything that I own will go into a blind trust, assuming we win the election, so that I can avoid any conflict of interest once I become vice president.

DONALDSON: Well now, of course, many of those options won't be vested except for a three-year period, over a period of three years, about $400,000, what are you going to do about those?

CHENEY: They'll be about $233,000, I believe, that fall into the category that don't vest until 2001 or 2002.

DONALDSON: What would you do with them if you win the election?

CHENEY: I'll do whatever I have to do, Sam, to avoid a conflict of interest. I've got smart people now looking at it, trying to sort that out. This is not an unusual problem, the sense that they've had variations of it before. Bob Rubin, who owned a major position at Goldman Sachs, was able to serve as Treasury Secretary; they found a way to deal with that.

Don (OFF-MIKE), who was my deputy in the Pentagon during the Bush administration, had to take out an insurance policy against the failure of General Motors to cover his pension.

These kinds of problems come up from time to time. I've got some smart people looking at it trying to find out how to resolve it. And I can assure you that I will not be sworn in on January 20 still having a conflict. I will eliminate the conflict and do whatever we have to do to comply with the requirements of the office of government ethics.

DONALDSON: I accept that you're (OFF-MIKE) Mr. Secretary; I'm just trying to figure out how stock options that haven't vested are something that can be hidden from you. It's not like putting something in a blind trust; you know you have the stock options.

CHENEY: Sure, but...

DONALDSON: You see the price.

CHENEY: ... so what you need to do, Sam, is you need to find a way to insulate the decision maker or the policy position, in this case, me, from having any interest in the price of Halliburton stock.

DONALDSON: How could you do that as vice president? You're in all the national security considerations.

CHENEY: You obviously have to do something with the options in advance. Things that have been suggested that people are looking at are such things as, take any appreciation in the value that would occur after I went into office and give it to charity.

Another possibility is the combination of puts and calls, that in effect would lock in the price of the option before I was sworn in so that I wouldn't have any stake in whether the price of Halliburton stock rises or falls while I'm in office.

So there are various possibilities being looked at by people a lot smarter than I am about these kinds of instruments. We'll see what they come up with, but I can assure you, I've said repeatedly, I will not tolerate or be party to a conflict of interest while I'm vice president. I'll do whatever I have to do to resolve that conflict.

I might point out, Sam, that Al Gore all the time he's been vice president, has been the potential beneficiary of a trust that contains upwards of $1 million worth of Occidental Petroleum stock.

Now, you know, somebody ought to go spend some time on that if you want. I am not going to become vice president and allow a conflict of interest in any way, shape or form. We'll do whatever we have to do to take care of it.

DONALDSON: Mr. Secretary, when you were on our program three weeks ago, we talked about Halliburton's dealings, or non-dealings, with Iraq. And you said some things to us which the Democrats, frankly, say are not true, that you didn't tell the truth. Let me play the requisite section and then have you respond. Here's what you told us.


DONALDSON: I'm told, and correct me if I'm wrong, that Halliburton through subsidiary companies was actually trying to do business with Iraq.

CHENEY: No. No, I had a firm policy that we wouldn't do anything in Iraq, even arrangements that were supposedly legal. What we do with respect to Iran and Libya is done through foreign subsidiaries totally in compliance with U.S. law.

DONALDSON: Make a way around U.S. law?

CHENEY: No, no, it's provided for us specifically with respect to Iran and Libya. Iraq's different, but we've not done any business in Iraq since the sanctions were imposed, and I had a standing policy that I wouldn't do that.


DONALDSON: Mr. Secretary, Halliburton spokesman Guy Marcus apparently has confirmed that two companies that were former joint ventures while you were CEO, Dresserand (ph) and Ingersoll Dresser Pump did business with Iraq. How do you square the statement that you made?

CHENEY: Well, the fact of the matter is, Sam, that when I acquired Dresser Industries, we acquired our interest in those two joint ventures with Ingersoll Rand, and we've sold both of those joint ventures to Ingersoll Rand, so we had no involvement, don't have any involvement to this day. Shortly after we took control of Dresser, we divested ourselves of those two companies.

DONALDSON: But you had the companies, and you knew you had the companies when you made that statement to us three weeks ago?

CHENEY: No, I made the statement, Sam--I made the statement and I meant the statement. I was from time to time, while I was at Halliburton, importuned to go do business in Iraq, in some cases, in perfectly legal and proper fashion, in the oil-for-food program, and I said we would not do that.

DONALDSON: All right, so you continue to say that you had not dealt with Iraq while you were CEO of Halliburton, is that correct?

CHENEY: That's correct. When we took over Dresser, we inherited two joint ventures with Ingersoll Rand that were selling some parts into Iraq ...

DONALDSON: Did you know that?

CHENEY: No, I did not at the time; they were selling legally, but we divested ourselves of those interests.

DONALDSON: All right, let's talk in the short time remaining about another issue: prescription drugs.

The Democrats are going to make a big case this week, they've told us already, that Governor Bush has no prescription drug program, although you're running ads which say, and I quote, "We will make prescription drugs available and affordable for every senior who needs them," end quote. All right, what's the specifics that you're talking about?

CHENEY: Well, the specifics are being worked on right now. The policy's been laid out and we'll have an announcement in the not-too-distant future of exactly what our proposal is with respect to prescription drugs.

DONALDSON: So you don't have any specifics. How can you promise in an ad that all the seniors who need them will get them?

CHENEY: You can make the statement, for example, Sam, that we want to fix the Social Security system and lay out some principles in connection with that, for example, partial privatization of it.

There's still a lot of detail to be flushed out yet, but that's a very solid proposal, it's a sound proposal; same thing with prescription drug. That's a high priority for us, and we will shortly have the details of a proposal to lay out on the campaign.

DONALDSON: Do you say shortly; are we talking about this month, the month of August, when?

CHENEY: Well, I'm not writing policy, I'm busy out campaigning, but I would expect it'll be in the near future.

DONALDSON: Final question has to do with the fires in the West. Now you're from Wyoming, that's where you are today. Over 1 million acres are burning at this moment. Should the Clinton administration have done something more earlier to prevent this, or is the natural fire that has been there, I guess, for hundreds of thousands of years, the way the forest renews itself?

CHENEY: Well, there--without a question, we have fires from time to time; it's that this year appears to be an especially bad one. Resources are overstretched. There's some evidence to indicate that the administration cut the budget for firefighting, the BLM budget, for example, this year. I think part of the difficulty is they've been more focused on trying to build Bill Clinton a legacy, for example, by establishing national monuments, issuing executive orders, than they have been by managing what they've already got.

DONALDSON: Secretary Cheney, thanks very much for being with us today.

CHENEY: Sam, it's a pleasure as always.

DONALDSON: Well, come back.

CHENEY: I'll do it.

DONALDSON: And when we come back, local authorities are up in arms at the government's response to the wildfires burning in the West. We'll talk to both sides right after this.


DONALDSON: Now, let's talk about the fires in the West.

And we are looking at one right now. This is near Hamilton, Montana, just one of the fires burning in the West. Over 1,300,000 acres are currently burning at the moment, Montana a very hard hit state. The governor of Montana has declared a real emergency there, and he joins us this morning from Helena: Governor Marc Racicot.

Governor, welcome.

RACICOT: Good morning to you too, Sam. Thank you very much.

DONALDSON: Well, is what's happening a natural phenomenon? I mean, fires occur. Or is something happening that shouldn't be happening, that the government could've done something about?

RACICOT: Well, the fire process is a part of the natural process in the forests of the West. But, clearly, in this particular instance, in the view of many, I think it's unanimous. Quite frankly, from those of us who live in the West, this is an unnatural process that we could've done something about. And the fact is, that we haven't.

Congress warned in 1995, or began hearings in 1995 on this very topic. The administration--both Secretaries Glickman and Babbitt, testified about the urgent need for us to address these issues in 1997. GAO reported that our forests were subject to catastrophic harm in 1998. The Forest Service agreed--alleged that they would put forward a program to address these issues; in fact, did, but the report was never issued.

And now we have these circumstances presently attending us, where because of the fuel build-ups in our forest we now have conditions that are unnatural. So the fires we have today are not a natural part of the process, in terms of maintaining forest health in the West.

DONALDSON: Fuel build-ups, underbrush, fallen timber, all of that. Are you telling us that the federal government and state government should have gone into all the forests in the West and cleared out all the underbrush? Even Ronald Reagan on his ranch could not have done that, Governor.

RACICOT: Well, there's no question, but that--this is not a responsibility that lies just exclusively at the feet of this particular administration.

But the fact is, when we've gone through a process of suppressing fires so aggressively over a long period of time, where we have drought conditions and weather conditions that we have this year, where we know that the fuels buildup over the course of many, many years has presented a circumstance where this administration, on their watch, should have addressed these issues, that, in fact, them not doing that has left us more vulnerable than we otherwise would've been.

DONALDSON: Let's talk about fighting the fires at the moment. Interior Secretary Babbitt, who will join us in a moment, has said just recently that additional bodies at this point, he thinks, would not help. There aren't trained supervisors to handle them. Do you agree, at this point, it's just wait for the winter snows and pray?

RACICOT: No, it's not waiting for the winter snows and praying. I mean, the fact is, Secretary Babbitt does have a correct understanding in terms of the incendiary, explosive force of these fires sometimes being uncontrollable. But we have people and structures that we have to protect, and we've had very good partnerships with the federal government in this regard, in terms of addressing those particular issues.

But suppressing these fires presently, which is our priority, should not steal away from what we ought to learn in terms of lessons in addressing the issues of forest health. If we would focus upon forest health, Sam, in this country, maintaining that forest health, then everything else would fit into its place.

All of the issues that we're talking about, whether or not it's roadless issues, the maintenance of watershed protections, wildlife habitat, thinning and harvesting where appropriate--if we would focus upon all of those, we would have healthy forests.

What's happened is, with this administration, on their watch, is that they've only focused on a couple of those issues, namely the roadless issues primarily. And, as a consequence, all of the other things that are a natural part of maintaining healthy forests have gone by the way.

DONALDSON: Let's talk about roadless issues. For non-Westerners, what you're talking about is the Clinton administration's proposal to stop building roads in the national forests. You oppose that. Why?

RACICOT: Well, I don't oppose that issue being a part of maintaining forest health. It's a legitimate issue, but it is not the only issue. And what I'm saying is, you cannot take all of the resources that are allocated to the management agencies and dedicate them toward one issue.

There are other issues. Invasive species in our forest, maintenance of wildlife habitat, all of the things I just mentioned, including thinning and harvesting are a part of maintaining healthy forests. Those who want to equate this particular debate about whether or not we should have logging or no logging are missing the point. We're not alleging that out here.

As a matter of fact, Secretary Babbitt acknowledged last week in the "New York Times" that the process that we're describing that we think is appropriate is, in fact, working in Arizona, in his home state. That's what we want to happen forest-wide, throughout 40 million acres in the interior West that are subject to catastrophic fires. That's what the GAO said; that's what the Forest Service agrees with.

DONALDSON: All right. Governor Racicot, thanks very much for joining us from Helena, Montana. Good luck.

RACICOT: Yes, sir. Thank you kindly.

DONALDSON: And, now, joining us here in Washington is Bruce Babbitt, who is the Secretary of Interior. How plead you? Guilty?

BABBITT: Well, the governor seems to be trying to blame the weather on me.

DONALDSON: No, he just said that the Clinton administration hadn't done enough.

BABBITT: It's the worst drought in this century. The reason those fires are burning out there--there's two reasons. One, the drought, an act of God, obviously. The second is fire suppression policies for the last 100 years have caused a tremendous fuel buildup in these forests.

Now, the difference between me and Governor Racicot is he wants to let the timber companies in to start cutting down the big trees, which are not even the problem. What our administration is saying is, in the long run, we can reinstate the natural fire cycle by doing two things.

One is selectively thinning the gasoline rags, as we call them in the fire trade--the thin trees, the small trees that cause the problem, and by getting the natural fire cycle back.

DONALDSON: What about the road-building? You don't want to build roads, and critics say if you don't build roads, you can't get in there to thin out the underbrush.

BABBITT: Sam, I've been out on the fire lines year-in, year-out since I was 18 years old, as a firefighter. And I can tell you one thing. The way we get to fires today is by helicopter. This is rough, tough country. What does building roads have to do with suppressing fires? I'm put on a helicopter when I go to a fire.

DONALDSON: Are you quoted correctly, and I hope I didn't misquote you, by saying "additional bodies, at this point, won't help"? And--you mean we just have to let the fires burn until the snows come?

BABBITT: Well, look, President Clinton yesterday ordered a whole bunch of federal people from the Agriculture Department, the Interior Department, out from behind their desks into these supervisory roles. And we can make some marginal differences.

We've got some more firefighters coming from Australia and New Zealand. The point that I'm making is that we have to have professional people out there, and there are limits. And, in fact, there's a point at which if you just start, you know, taking volunteers off street corners, you can make matters more dangerous, because of the human safety problem.

DONALDSON: All right. You requested money, of course, in the Interior Department budget for fire preparedness, and the White House budgeteers cut it, cut the request from 322 million to 305 million, right?

BABBITT: Well, look, the bottom line is...

DONALDSON: Is that right, sir?

BABBITT: Since 1996, we have had a 40-percent increase in the preparedness line items in the budget. The budgets have been going up. Now we can argue about whether or not in light of this experience they're going to need to go up more, and that's fair enough.

DONALDSON: Do you think they should?

BABBITT: Well, first of all, we have an unlimited draw on the Treasury right now in fire season. Will our budget request next year increase the advance appropriations for preparedness? I think there's a case for that. They've gone up 40 percent in the last six years...

DONALDSON: Well, you've said that, Mr. Secretary, and you clearly must have the grasp of the facts, but I will quote you what the GAO, the Government Accounting Office, says. It says that from 1997 to 1999, the budget contained only 85 percent of the money needed for wildfire preparations.

BABBITT: Well, there's room for differences of opinion there. I think that's something that needs to be revisited. Secretary Glickman and I are going to prepare a report to the president. We'll have it out in a couple weeks, and I think that, obviously, there are lessons to be learned even from the worst drought since the 1930s, and we're certainly going to do that.

DONALDSON: What about the underlying question, and that's the question of whether these natural fires, whether lightning strikes, whether there's drought or not drought, are the way the forest renews itself, and that if you tried to put every one of them out, it would be a fool's errand, number one. It would be wrong, number two.

BABBITT: Look, you're absolutely correct. You're absolutely correct.

DONALDSON: Well, very few people have ever said that to me. Would you elaborate?

BABBITT: I'm kind of shocked at myself actually. Well, the reason we're having this catastrophe out there is two reasons. One, obviously, is the weather. It's the worst since the 1930s, as I've said.

DONALDSON: You've said it four times, Mr. Secretary.

BABBITT: Yes, yes, yes. Look, these forests evolved with fire, and the fire actually contributes to forest health by periodically moving through and reducing the fuel load and thinning out the small trees.

DONALDSON: But, of course, if it burns down Los Alamos, or your home out there, and more and more people are building near the forest...


DONALDSON: ... you don't look at it that way, do you?

BABBITT: Well, that's a problem. See, by suppressing the fires, ironically and paradoxically, we've increased the danger. We've made the forests more dangerous.

Now, the governor of Montana is saying, go out and cut the forests down. I suppose, in theory, you could prevent all fires by eliminating the forests. That doesn't make any sense.

What we've got to do is get that fire cycle, the safe fire cycle, reinstated. It's going to take 10 or 20 years of getting in there and selectively thinning the forests out to get the fuel load down.

DONALDSON: Mr. Secretary, thanks for being with us.

By the way, I think the record will show the governor of Montana did not say, "cut the forests down." But I suppose a little hyperbole is all right on this program.

BABBITT: Well, he's running for a cabinet post in the next--well, in the unlikely event that the administration changes.

DONALDSON: Oh, you caught yourself there, didn't you?

Is Governor Racicot still with us?

RACICOT: Yes, I am.

DONALDSON: Well, Governor Racicot, get in on this. I mean, do you want to cut the forests down?

RACICOT: Well, that's absolutely preposterous. What I'm proposing to do is precisely what Secretary Babbitt has recommended for the state of Arizona and has sung the praises about occurring in Arizona. And anybody that wants to equate this to a political scenario, in my view, is being scandalous in their assessment of what's going on.

DONALDSON: Well, just a moment, Governor, are you telling me that if Governor Bush wins the election and says to you, I want you to be our secretary of interior, you would say absolutely not?

RACICOT: I haven't even spoken with Governor Bush about this particular issue.

DONALDSON: That wasn't my question, sir.

RACICOT: The fact of the matter is, I'm not trying to posture myself for a position. What I want are healthy forests in the United States of America. And Secretary Babbitt has made some allegations here concerning the motivations for addressing this topic that I think are patent nonsense. And we've got to get by that if we want to focus on the right issues.

He and I can work together, along with Secretary Glickman and the other Western governors to make certain that these issues are addressed properly, but not by making those kinds of allegations, which I don't make, in return.

DONALDSON: Thank you, Governor Racicot.

Secretary Babbitt, I--you deserve the last word. This was your segment. So please take it and then we'll go to our round table.

BABBITT: OK. The important thing is to get through this fire season, to do everything we can, get these fires out. And then we can go back to the Congress and, rather than pointing fingers, talk about how it is we work this out over the next 10 or 20 years.

DONALDSON: So you could work with Governor Racicot?

BABBITT: Well, the problem is, he wants to let the timber companies in to cut down the big trees and to go back to this cycle of logging, which actually, in some measure, created the problem in the first place.

DONALDSON: I was simply hoping to get another Sadat-Begin rapprochement going here.

Thank you, Bruce Babbitt, the secretary of the interior, for being with us.

When we come back, another bad week for Vladimir Putin. Will he tighten his grip on Russia or lose it all together? George Will speaks with former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, right after this. Stay with us.


DONALDSON: Joining us now from Northeast Harbor, Maine, is President Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski. And here in the studio to talk to Zbigniew Brzezinski is George Will.

WILL: Mr. Brzezinski, the Russian government responded to the sinking of the submarine Kursk the way the old Soviet used to, first with mendacity, and then with brutality, some of which was captured on film, I believe we're going to show it here, where a woman protesting--she was a survivor of one of the victims--was injected against her will, obviously, with a hypodermic and sedated.

The question is what was changed in the way that Russia is governed?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, George, I think you have made an excellent point when you stress mendacity and brutality, very much characteristic of the response. And that's official Russia. The official Russia hasn't changed very much. Putin is a product of the KGB. Every member of his government could have been in the Soviet government if it existed today. Not a single one was a dissident.

But there is another Russia also, the people's Russia. And that Russia is speaking up and that's a major change; the fact that naval officers, even on television, protested; that families denounced Putin openly; that the press was outraged and published all of their accounts from the West of bureaucratic inefficiency and mendacity. That's also a change.

So we have two faces of Russia showing up after Kursk: the official Russia, which is very much like the Soviet Russia, and the new Russia, that's percolating below and I think over the years, will become evident and dominant.

WILL: Is this percolation, perhaps, sufficient to destabilize the Putin government and his hold on the country?

BRZEZINSKI: In the short run, I don't think so. But I think we would be wiser not to confuse official Russia with the people's Russia. I think over the last several years, we have hailed Russia as a democracy. We have described Putin as the democratic leader. We have supported him. We propitiated him when he has been engaging in genocidal policies in Chechnya.

We didn't lift a finger to discourage Putin from those mass killings. So we shouldn't be concentrating so much on the government. In my view, we should be reaching out to the society, helping the nongovernmental organizations, encouraging the rule of law, et cetera. That's a difference.

WILL: Mr. Brzezinski, the other Russia that you're talking about is, strictly speaking, sick. It is being deindustrialized by the implosion of its economy. Infectious diseases conquered in sub-Saharan Africa are rampant in Russia. Twenty percent of all first-graders are diagnosed with some form of mental retardation, largely, I gather, as the result of environmental problems. Sixty percent of babies are not born fully healthy. I'm taking these numbers, by the way, from your forthcoming article in "The National Interest." Is this a society that can be saved by any government, or is it in a downward spiral?

BRZEZINSKI: Well, it certainly is in a downward spiral. If anybody is going to save it, it will be the Russian people themselves. That's why we ought to have a posture and attitude which is one of openness and closest cooperation with the Russian people to the extent that we can, and the society is now much more open than it used to be, but not support the government. And we have been supporting the government.

The Gorna-Chernomyrden (ph) commission, the hailing of Putin as a democrat, the kind of unmonitored loans we have been giving to the Russians--all of that helps the government; much of it is stolen, incidentally. We should be concentrating more on Russian society and much less on the Russian regime.

WILL: But need we consider Russia a candidate for a large claim on our attention as a great power any more? Their army was defeated by rebels in Chechnya. This was their best submarine that sank, one of their best class of submarine. They're undergoing actually a kind of nuclear disarmament through the decay of their arsenal. In what sense is this a nation with a great claim on our attention?

BRZEZINSKI: You make a very good point. But it does make a claim on our attention, because, after all, it still has nuclear weapons and still is a significant power. But fundamentally, you're right; Russia is not a major modern power.

And Russia, in the long run, in my view, has only one choice it can make. It has to opt for the West because to the East are much more dynamic, much more numerous Chinese who in the long run will put pressure on the eastern provinces of Russia. To the South, you have close to 400 million Muslims whom the Russians are antagonizing through their genocidal policies in Chechnya.

They'll have to turn to the West. And we ought to be open to that, reaching out as much as we can to the Russian people, but not beefing up and supporting the Russian regime, the Putin regime.

WILL: Mr. Brzezinski, thank you, as always.

BRZEZINSKI: Good to be with you, George.

WILL: Sam?

DONALDSON: Thank you, George.

And when we come back, the round table. Our own George Stephanopoulos and political commentator Derek McGinty join us, right after this.



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