[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents Volume 38, Number 47 (Monday, November 25, 2002)]
[Pages 2067-2069]
[Online from the Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]

<R04>
Interview With Russia's NTV

November 18, 2002

Chechnya

    Q. Mr. President, did the October hostage crisis in Moscow change 
the U.S. position on Chechnya?
    The President. No, our position on Chechnya is, we hope this can get 
solved peacefully, that this is an issue within Russia,

[[Page 2068]]

and that I will continue to work with Vladimir Putin as best as I can to 
encourage him for there to be a peaceful resolution with the Chechnyan 
issue, the larger issue.
    On the other hand, I recognize that anytime terrorists come to take 
life, a leader must step forward. And the fact that 800 citizens could 
have been killed by terrorists put my friend Vladimir Putin in a very 
difficult situation. And he handled it as best he could. He did what he 
had to do to save life. And people--I heard somebody the other day blame 
Russia. No, the people to blame are the terrorists. They need to be held 
account. I believe you can do both. I believe you can hold terrorists to 
account, killers to account, and at the same time solve difficult 
situations in a peaceful way.

Former President Aslan Maskhadov of Chechnya

    Q. Mr. President, you say the leader has to come forward. So 
President Putin said that the leader of the Chechen group that took 
hostages, he was linked with former President Maskhadov of Chechnya, and 
that actually Maskhadov was aware of it. And therefore, President Putin 
said Maskhadov is an international terrorist.
    The President. Well, I haven't had a chance to talk to Vladimir 
Putin about these connections. But I am aware of the fact that there are 
killers moving around the world interested in holding people hostage, 
Governments hostage, and that we must work together to bring people to 
justice. It's one of the reasons why I'm working very closely with the 
Georgians, and I'm pleased to see Vladimir Putin is working with Mr. 
Shevardnadze to come up with a common strategy to route out the killers, 
the Al-Qaida-type killers, which may be hiding in the Pankisi Gorge with 
one thing in mind, to bring instability to Russia. And so we're working 
together as best as we possibly can to bring people to justice.
    Q. But in the West people very often, in the United States in 
particular, say that one of the partners is Mr. Maskhadov in that 
political solution. After the October crisis, is that still an issue?
    The President. Well, I haven't had a chance to talk to Vladimir and 
see the facts that he's talking about. He obviously knows--you know, has 
got some information that we can talk about in St. Petersburg, and I 
look forward to discussing it with him.

Pankisi Gorge Terrorists/Russia-U.S. Cooperation in the War on Terror

    Q. Well, Mr. President, you mentioned Georgia. President Putin 
immediately after the October crisis said that, from now on Russia is 
going to hit every terrorist target wherever it is; that means even 
abroad. Is that all right?
    The President. Well, it depends on what you mean by ``hit every 
target''--depending abroad. I mean, you know, I think what he's saying 
is, we're going to redouble our efforts to work together to bring people 
to justice. And that's what we're doing in Georgia. I have told Mr. 
Shevardnadze that if--you know, it's very important for him to be 
collaborative and to be prepared to bring people to justice if there are 
killers hiding in the Pankisi Gorge with the intent upon bringing--
wreaking havoc in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter. They must be 
brought to justice. And slowly but surely, we're finding these people 
around the world.
    This is a different kind of war, see; that's what's unique. In the 
old days, we would fight armies that had tanks and airplanes and ships. 
These people are the kind of people that hide in caves and send people 
to their suicidal deaths. And so it requires a different kind of effort. 
It requires sharing of intelligence, cutting off money, having specially 
trained troops to go into dark caves or the dark corners of the world 
and bring these people to justice. You speak in the language of the old 
war. This is a war that requires a precise understanding of where these 
people hide, and the willingness to discuss intelligence like we've 
never discussed before to hunt them down.
    And that's what we're doing with Russia. I mean, our intelligence 
sharing is much better than it ever has been before. And it's going to 
be good for both our peoples. And I keep reminding the American people 
that Russia is our friend and we're working in collaboration to hunt 
down those who would kind of hide in the shadowy corners and bring them 
to justice.

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Russian Interests in Iraq

    Q. Mr. President, one question on Iraq----
    The President. Sure.
    Q. ----which is now very sort of hot issue. If push comes to shove 
and a military solution is necessary, and if the current regime, Saddam 
Hussein's regime, is going to be toppled, are Russian economic interests 
going to be considered?
    The President. Well, first, I hope that all the ifs don't happen. I 
mean, I hope that Mr. Saddam Hussein disarms, like he said he would do. 
But the problem is, he said he would do it for 11 years, and he hasn't 
done anything for 11 years. I mean, in the name of peace he should 
disarm. And so we're working with Russia and other members of the United 
Nations Security Council to send a clear message to Mr. Saddam Hussein 
that we expect you to disarm.
    If he doesn't disarm, then we'll disarm him in the name of peace. 
And of course, we'll be interested in all interests. We have no desire 
to run the show, to run the country. We will work to encourage the 
development of new leadership, should this happen, that will recognize 
the rights of all citizens that live in this country, that will keep the 
territorial integrity of Iraq intact. And we understand Russia has got 
interests there, as do other countries. And of course, those interests 
will be honored.
    Q. Thank you very much, Mr. President.
    The President. I'm glad you're here.

Note: The interview was taped at 1:25 p.m. in the Library at the White 
House. In his remarks, the President referred to President Vladimir 
Putin of Russia; President Eduard Shevardnadze of the Republic of 
Georgia; and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The transcript of this 
interview was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on November 
21. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this 
interview.