(Washington, DC/Prague, Czech Republic--November 18, 2002) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was granted an exclusive 10-minute interview today with U.S. President George W. Bush, on the eve of Bush's trip to Europe to take part in the NATO Prague Summit. The wide-ranging interview focused on several issues of interest to RFE/RL's broadcast audience, including NATO enlargement, Russia, Chechnya, human rights, Iraq and Central Asia.
During the interview, conducted by RFE/RL Washington correspondent Jeffrey Donovan, Bush said Russia has nothing to fear about NATO expanding to its borders because the alliance will create greater stability for the entire region. Bush said he does not now envision formal Russian membership in NATO but added that the alliance values existing ties with Russia. As for eventual Russian membership in NATO, Bush said that only time would tell.
Bush also spoke about his determination to disarm Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Russia's war on Chechnya and U.S. ties to Central Asia. On Iraq, Bush said he would prefer to disarm Saddam peacefully but said if necessary he would lead a coalition force against Iraq. On Chechnya, the president said Russian President Vladimir Putin has a right to protect his people against terrorism, but should respect the rights of national minorities. Bush also expressed the hope that America's emerging ties with Central Asian states would help them to adopt democratic values.
The interview may be heard in its entirety on RFE/RL's website, at the following address: http://www.rferl.org/specials/GBush/audio/ram/GbushInterview.ram
. RFE/RL will also provide audio, video and text coverage of today's interview on its special NATO summit website, located at http://www.rferl.org/specials/nato/.