Condoleezza Rice On Russian Ukraine War, China And NFL Concussion Controversy

Listen To The Full Interview Below:

Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State of the United States, Tad and Dianne Taube Director of the Hoover Institution and a Senior Fellow on Public Policy joined the Guy Benson Show to discuss a wide range of issues incusing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the rising China threat and the NFL concussion controversy.

Full Transcript:
GUY BENSON, FOX RADIO HOST: Joining me now is Dr. Condoleezza Rice, who served from 2005 to 2009 as the 66th Secretary of State of the United States of America under President Bush. She is now the Director of the Hoover Institution, where we’re broadcasting from, a senior fellow here as well. She’s authored numerous books, most recently, “To Build a Better World: Choices to End the Cold War and Create a Global Commonwealth.”

Madam Secretary, it’s great to see you again.

DR. CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It’s great to see you too. Thanks for having me on.

BENSON: It’s my pleasure. So, we’ve had the privilege of broadcasting from Hoover now three or four times, it’s always great to be back here. Since our last visit, you became Director of Hoover.

If you would just reflect briefly on why this place matters, why it’s special, and what it means to you to be helming this institution.

RICE: It matters a lot to have a place that is dedicated to the mission that Herbert Hoover set up for us. It was to improve the human condition through an understanding of the importance of free markets and private enterprise, limited government and individual liberty. And that’s still at the core of what makes a great democracy.

And so, here at Hoover, we work on the problems that are confronting that great democracy, whether they be problems abroad like how to deal with a rising China, how to leverage a relationship with India, or problems here at home — how to make sure that every child had a K-12 education that is worthy of the name education and, increasingly, issues of state and local governance and, for us, technology and governance. We sit in the Silicon Valley, and we think we have some things to say about that.

But the thing I’m most excited about is that we just created a new center for the revitalization of American institutions. Because these great institutions that we were bequeathed by our founders have served us well, but they’re under attack from people who say that they’re not worthy because they were born of slavery, to people who say they’re not worthy because they only serve elites.

And we believe that, yes, these institutions may need reform, they may need revitalization, but they are precious. And here at Hoover, we want to find a better way to defend them.

BENSON: One of those institutions is the Department of State, which you lead under President Bush. I saw, over the summer, some advertisements for a master class that you taught with a previous secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who passed away earlier this year.

I did want to take the opportunity to ask you just about your relationship with her across party lines and her legacy. Because it’s got to be pretty cool to have forged that relationship as two female secretaries of state, albeit from opposite sides of the political spectrum.

RICE: And that relationship goes back a long time, because Madeleine’s father was the person who saved a failed piano major and taught her international politics at the University of Denver.

BENSON: What a small world.

RICE: A very small world. And I remember when he said, I have this daughter, you have to meet her. Her name’s Madeleine.

And so, we finally did meet. Madeleine was really just a fierce fighter for the values that we espouse, for liberty for all, for standing up to tyranny. She’s maybe best known for her decision that we had to find a way to help intervene in the civil war that was taking place in the Balkans in the ’90s.

But Madeleine was just somebody who believed in these values, she fought for them. She was fierce as they come, and I miss her. She was also a very, very good friend.

BENSON: Let’s talk about Russia and Ukraine. And Russia analysis is sort of in the sweet spot of your wheelhouse. So, where does this go from here? I know nobody has a crystal ball; you can’t possibly predict the future. But you know a fair amount about Vladimir Putin. You’ve been watching this war develop.

A two-part question, what comes next in your view? And secondly, what should the United States government be doing in the West, broadly, and not doing?

RICE: Well, let me go to the last part of that, first. We are doing the right things. I might have done them a little bit earlier, with a little bit more speed. But when a people are willing to stand up for their national heritage, for the values of liberty and for the sovereignty — which, by the way, we helped to guarantee when the Ukrainians gave up their nuclear weapons at the time of the clash with the Soviet Union.

BENSON: Right.

RICE: When we believe in a rules-based international order where large countries don’t simply decide to make smaller countries extinct, which is what Vladimir Putin is doing, we have to support them.

And I fully support the military assistance we’re giving them. We’ve really been helping to train them since the end of the Crimean events in 2014. The military of the Ukraine is turning out to be quite effective and we need to keep supporting them

Now, what should we not do? I hear a lot of people talking about off-ramps for Vladimir Putin. Well, it’s Vladimir Putin who keeps shutting off the off-ramps. You don’t annex your — legally annex your — illegally annex your neighbor’s territory and then want to negotiate.

So Vladimir Putin who got himself into a war that he thought was going to be easy, now has to mobilize young men in Russia to fight this war.

They’re fleeing the country rather than fight. I read that one of the most searched elements — articles on the equivalent Google, is: how do I break my own arm? That says something about who’s willing to fight in this.

And I want to say one thing about the big threat that everybody talks about, the nuclear threat from Vladimir Putin —


BENSON: That was my next question.

RICE: Yes. I can’t say that the chances are zero — I probably would have said that months ago — maybe it’s 10 percent, that’s pretty scary. But you can’t self-deter under these circumstances.

And you just have to keep reminding Vladimir Putin that to use a tactical nuclear weapon, which would have no battlefield value really for him. His military is doing poorly, not because they don’t have tactical nuclear weapons but because they are badly trained, badly equipped, the logistics is terrible, and they have low morale. He’s not going to fix that with a tactical nuclear weapon.

Secondly, I’d say to him, winds blow east, you’re going to contaminate your own country. And finally, you really will be a pariah forever.

And so, I think telling him that there would be catastrophic consequences, not defining them, is the right way to deal with this. And so, don’t try to push the Ukrainians into some kind of negotiation. Give them the upper hand on the ground first. And then, if Putin — realizing that he’s losing this war — wants to negotiate, they go to the table in the strongest position.

BENSON: He has been wielding energy as a weapon. Obviously, trying to leverage Europe and blackmail them, in some ways bully them. On the broader question of energy, OPEC making the announcement earlier that they’re going to curtail the production moving forward here which — of oil, which obviously is a huge deal, has implications abroad geopolitically, also here at home as we look at domestic energy production and consumption.

What do you make of that move? I know everyone’s analyzing it through the very near-term prism of the mid-term elections. Fine, but it goes much broader than that, doesn’t it?

RICE: It does. If ever we had a wake-up call about the need to fully develop the North American platform from Canada to Mexico through the United States, the gift that it is to be able to be energy self-sufficient and oh by the way, to produce enough energy to export to other countries.

If ever we needed a wake-up call, Vladimir Putin has given it to us. And there’s a second jingling of that call by what OPEC has done.

I have to say I’ve always known the Saudis to do what they need to do for their budget, so I wouldn’t read much into this from the point of view of the Ukrainian events. I think this is really the Saudis saying, here’s where the price of oil needs to be for us to do what we need to do.

Do you really want to be dependent on the Saudis in that way? Do you really want to be dependent on the Russians and the Iranians? Or would you rather have U.S. be the source of those hydrocarbons?

I know everybody who believes that climate change is a problem — and I do believe that it’s a problem — wants to get as much as we can to a cleaner set of sources of energy. That would be called natural gas. And it would also say that that transition is going to take some time. You are not going to be able to get rid of hydrocarbons in the near term. I would rather those hydrocarbons come from the United States and stable places like this.

And you can’t send mixed signals to the producers of oil and gas who have long-tail investments. I was a Chevron director in the ’90s. The investments that these companies have to make are long-tail investments. So don’t tell them, well, produce for seven years and then we’re going to move onto renewables. They have to have some predictability. And —

BENSON: And by the way, you’re greedy right now and we want to put you out of business —

RICE: Right.

BENSON: — but produce, produce, produce.

RICE: But produce, produce, produce. And oh, by the way, we’ve given you leases, but not permitting.

So the energy policy is, I think, the core of where we have to go if we want to have both a sensible energy policy and energy security.

BENSON: Madam Secretary, in your first answer you referenced a rising China. Let’s talk about China and that challenge for a moment. I’m sure you get many questions about Iraq, and the legacy of Iraq and the Bush administration, and the decisions made leading up to that war.

I wonder if you get as many questions about the Bush administration’s policy vis-a-vis China. And it’s not really unique only to Bush. It’s numerous administrations across both parties that I think some critics would say now were perhaps too sanguine about China’s intentions and what their designs were.

Based on what you know now, what you’re looking at now, looking back on your time as Secretary of State, what do you think your administration and others got right about China and maybe not right?

RICE: I would just say, what was the alternative? Was the alternative to try and isolate 1.4 billion people with an economy that was growing rapidly? Yes. We and others before us took a chance after Deng Xiaoping. And that was the view that if you could integrate China into the international economy, the international economy would grow as a result — which, by the way, it did —

BENSON: It did.

RICE: And you would begin to change the nature of Chinese policy. I never was one who believed you were going to democratize China as a result of this, but I did expect that they would respect intellectual property. I did expect that they would be — that their markets would be more open.

And we fought for that every single day. I can’t tell you how many conversations I had with Hu Jintao, you’re stealing intellectual property, open your markets.

And so, it’s not as if people were naive about what was going on with China, but that the — I do think there was a change with Xi Jinping, and that was that he is essentially gave up on any sense that China has responsibilities to the international system and began to just take, take, take to enhance China’s growing authority in the international system. And that meant challenging the United States on technology. We’re going to surpass you in A.I. and quantum computing. And oh, by the way we learned that we were way too dependent on supply chains through China for everything from pharmaceuticals to our overdependence on semiconductors.

BENSON: They’re stealing our stuff and then we’re so reliant on them.

RICE: Exactly. And that was maybe we — maybe people were sleeping on that a bit, and I give some credit to the Trump administration for raising and to my friend, Mike Pompeo, for raising that as an issue.

I think we’re now reacting in a better way toward that, and at core it means that we have to get our own act in order. It means we have to make the investments in technology here in the United States because I don’t have authoritarian envy.

The Chinese can lay out their plans. Authoritarians make terrible mistakes because it’s a single point of failure with one man. You know, that zero COVID thing’s not working out so well. That one-child policy didn’t work out so well.

We’re now hearing that their policy to be indigenous in what they do in terms of chip development isn’t working out so well. So if we do what we need to do, I’ll bet on American democracy and I’ll bet on our distributed innovation rather than what China is doing.

BENSON: But are you worried at all about American and western companies becoming, in some ways, addicted to Chinese money and that huge market far from perhaps turning the Chinese government in our direction. It seems like in some ways the Chinese government is able to manipulate American companies because they don’t want to lose access to the market.

Is that an overblown fear?

RICE: Well, I think it depends on what — what companies you’re talking about. I really think — I tell companies all the time, if you have technology and China in the same sentence, don’t go there.

Because whether it’s the Chinese wanting to be more indigenous in their development or the American government rightly being concerned about the transfer of sensitive technologies and then ending up with the PLA.

The technology sector is going to decouple, and I have no problem with that. You know, if — if Chinese young people want to buy iPhones, I don’t really have a problem with that and I will say something about it.

You know those Chinese leaders who have those young princelings who kind of like western goods. When the NBA was in the crosshairs because of what the general manager in Houston had said about Hong Kong, I did tell Adam Silver, I said you know Adam, they’re not going to kick the NBA out, you know why? Because those young princelings, those only children are not going to watch the Chinese national team play the Kasha (ph) national team, they want to watch the NBA.

So I don’t want to cut off an entire generation of Chinese consumers from what America can produce but I don’t want to — to transfer the jewels of technology either.

BENSON: Well, you just mentioned NBA basketball. I think I want to talk NFL football when we come back. Dr. Condoleezza Rice, my guest, here at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, it’s the Guy Benson Show, stay tuned.


BENSON: I’m Guy Benson here with Condoleezza Rice. Madam Secretary, since you invoked sports I would be remise if we did not talk a little football. Tomorrow night Colts, Broncos in Denver; Thursday night football, Amazon Prime game, interesting.

RICE: Got it.

BENSON: You are now in the ownership group of the Denver Broncos. You went to school as an undergrad in Denver. Is it surreal looking back on your life and all the things that you’ve done, you are now an NFL at least partial owner. That is wild.

RICE: Yes. Well, I’m a tiny partial owner.

BENSON: It counts.

RICE: But I am a partial owner, it counts. It counts. It — in some ways it’s full circle. So I was the daughter of a football coach who thought he was going to get a boy and who planned to have this all-American linebacker and I’m an only child. So I jokingly said, I think my father’s probably saying, again he’s gone to the Lord, but finally, she can have an important job. You know she’s a football — she’s an owner of the Denver Broncos.

I actually went to high school in Denver. So my Denver contacts go — Denver connections go back even further than that. I love it. I love the sport. I know it has a lot of challenges from player safety to how to think about the relationship to an intercollegiate framework that’s changing every — every day.

But it’s a really quite American sport. You know we’re impatient, so we want a clock. They’re not that many things that bring the CEO and the shop steward (ph) and the intern together because they’re all wearing that Denver Bronco stuff.

So I love the sport and I’m just grateful to the Walton-Penner group for the opportunity to be a part of the ownership.

BENSON: Is there any tension because of your passion for the game between being now a partial owner of this organization and then a lifelong rapid fan of a different organization in Cleveland. Like, how do you navigate that?

RICE: It’s funny. It’s come quite naturally with the Broncos. Remember, I did live in Denver for all of those years. And so I — I love the Broncos as well. I — I won’t give up on the Cleveland Browns. I hope they win except when they play the Denver Broncos.

BENSON: All right, fair enough. Finally, since you mentioned player safety, if there were a commissioner, which I know has been a long-standing ambition of yours, on a slightly more serious note we saw what happened with the Miami quarterback Tua and the concussion protocols and all of that, what would you recommend the league do? Because that’s something where I think non-fans look in from the outside and say, that’s crazy.

RICE: Well, it is definitely a violent game. We know that. It’s a — it’s a game that is — well, there are risk too (ph) —

BENSON: It (ph) has to be.

RICE: — there are risks. I think the league has done a lot over the last years. I happen to know some neuroscientists who are working with the league on brain injury and how to prevent it. I think teaching people to tackle differently — the rules. These are all important things to do.

But when you have an incident that may or may not be questionable, I think you review it. And I read that the Player’s Association is going to review the circumstances. I think that’s a good thing. I hope the league will review the circumstances because everybody needs to get better at this.

Player safety has to be the highest priority because, without the sense that player safety is (ph) taken seriously, football won’t last. And so, I think we all have an obligation to make sure that it’s right in the forefront.

And I think the league has tried over recent years to do that. You have to keep — it’s one of those things that you have to keep reminding yourself every day.

BENSON: Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Former Secretary of State under the Bush administration and now Director here at the Hoover Institution. Madam Secretary, a real pleasure, it’s great to see you.

RICE: Great to see you. And thanks for being with us here at Hoover, and welcome to California.