Question: how does one cautiously express praise and approval, while at the same time scolding and criticizing? Answer: Condi Rice. Here’s an excerpt about Russia from the transcript her talk with a USA Today Editorial Board Roundtable: QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about Mr. Medvedev, the — not just your view of his prospects of what sort of a leader he’d be, but the process by which he was elevated and what that tells you about what’s going on in Russia? SECRETARY RICE: Well, I guess, they’re still going to have an election in March. (Laughter.) QUESTION: They used to have elections in Communist Russia.
SECRETARY RICE: Right. They did. And 99.9 percent. Look, I think we’ve made very clear that we think democratic processes have taken a step backward in Russia. And the elections even for the Duma were not up to international standards. It’s been very difficult for opposition to operate in that country. It’s been very difficult for them to have access to the press, access to assembly. You’ve had people arrested. It’s not an environment in which you can talk about free and fair elections.And — but I do know Dmitri Medvedev. I met him on a number of occasions. And he is a very intelligent person. He is of another generation. And he is somebody who has had responsibility for some kind of interesting programs in Russia, which is essentially trying to diversify the economy and a lot of work with the regions on efforts to wire the country with the internet and a variety of things like that. And so he comes with a certain — having had a certain portfolio that is interesting from the point of view of where Russia might be going on the economic side. He’s also, of course, chairman of Gazprom, which is the other end of the spectrum.But you know, I would hope that the time will come when Russia is going into a presidential election where there is a realistic chance for a really contested election. And I think that, to me, is the biggest problem with this. Look, somebody saying, I have confidence in this person, that happens. But I don’t think that people view this election as being contested and that’s too bad.QUESTION: Was does the fact that he doesn’t have any roots in the KGB tell you about his prospects, and in whether he’ll be independent of Mr. Putin?SECRETARY RICE: I can’t read that. I’m not sure, by the way, anybody can. Events will unfold and he will carry out his responsibilities. I think we’ll just have to watch this space and see how this all plays out.