Blair interview - transcript
For the record, this is a complete transcript of my interview with Tony Blair (more on that here).
NR Prime Minister, there is one topic that not on the G8's agenda - shouldn't it be - and that is Russia's increasingly erratic behaviour?
TB I think behind the scenes at the G8 there will be the opportunity for people to have a frank conversation about Russia, with Russia, because people want a good relationship with Russia but it is a relationship that can only prosper if it is clear that we share certain values and principles that certainly for all of us in our part of the world we think are important as principles by which we guide the policy of our country.
NR And in that frank conversation will you be saying that you want the person accused of Litvinenko's murder to be extradited here to Britain?
TB We have got to try and resolve it. We know what issues the Russians have there but we can't have someone murdered on British soil in that way and nothing happen, so it is a discussion we will have to have.
NR And do you worry about what looks like a Cold War climate re-emerging and perhaps overshadowing these talks?
TB I think Russia has got to make the choice about this. I don't think the danger is that you get a fresh Cold War, but I think if Russia wants the right relationship with Europe and with America and so on, then it has got to be on the basis of certain shared values and principles and that means that there is a certain way in which you raise concerns and issues and there is a certain way that obviously makes people feel concerned and worried. And I think over the past couple of years or so there are people in Europe who have become concerned about the direction Russia is heading. I think it would be very sensible for the Russians to give reassurance on that.
NR Are you saying in a sense it is legitimate for them to have anxieties about say the missile shield, but it isn't legitimate to go out and warn about another Cold War and an arms race ?
TB It all depends what the concerns are - this is not something new - the Americans have said to the Russians that they will share the technology, they will be completely transparent about it. The fact is this has always been about the danger of rogue states, the truth of the matter is that for all sorts of reasons it is not something that is really about Russia at all and yet suddenly it is put up by Russia in this way, in quite a confrontational way. Now I think the sensible thing and this is what I'll do certainly when I meet President Putin is just to have a frank conversation about the state of the relationship, between not simply Britain, but Europe and Russia.
NR You befriended him, you've defended him over many years, do you sit now and wonder what you've helped to create?
TB Of course he came in as a result of election by the Russian people but of course I have always been very clear that on something like Chechnya and his problems with extremism I am very sympathetic to him, but when it comes to issues to do with democracy and how Russia relates to the outside world well I think our position is very clear and I think it is important as I say that we have a frank conversation about it, but in the end what will happen is not that there is some great confrontation is that - and this is the problem for Russia I think - in the end people will start making their calculations, constructing their policy on the basis that there is a difficulty in the russian relationship. And therefore I don't really think that in the end it will be in the long-term interest of Russia to have a relationship with Europe or with the western world that is scratchy and difficult.
NR Now at the top of the public agenda at least is climate change, how will you avoid the charge that this is the most expensive talking shop in the world?
TB Well I don't think ever since the Gleneagles summit of a couple of years ago people can really say that. We put them at the top of the agenda; Africa and climate change, and in a sense that was a different type of G8, this will be the same - you've had big commitments given of 15bn dollars from America on HIV aids and big extra recommitment on aid from Germany, a recommitment to the Gleneagles programme on Africa and there is the possibility at this G8 for the first time to get agreement that there should be a global agreement including the USA and China and at the heart of that a global target for a substantial reduction in emissions.
NR Now President Bush has said that he does want to see some kind of limit. The great fear though is that he is trying to bypass the UN process and repalce it with a voluntary deal on US terms.
TB We can't have a bypassing of the UN process but if a process that is led by the USA or USA participates in, if that can contribute to an eventual global deal under the auspices of the UN then that is a good thing. People can't say we want America to give leadership on this issue, we want them to step up to the mark and then complain when they do so, but it's important that one, this is a truly global deal, two, it does have at the heart of it a substantial reductions in emissions. In other words there has to be real action that follows, and three, of course, that its part of the UN process
NR Now are you clear yet that President Bush is serious about having that as part of the UN process?
TB I believe he is clear about that yes all the way through and iIve discussed this with him many times over the past couple of years, and even before Gleneagles because Gleneagles was the start of getting an agreement where you got the main people together. Look I always say to people there is no point getting 100 people round the table agreeing on climate change if they account for 20% of the emissions. In the G8 countries plus the other five which include China and India you have over 70% of the world's emissions represented around that table, if you will. You've got to get an agreement that includes all those people and the two political realities - and people can say whatever they like about this - the two realities are these: one, America will not agree to a deal that doesn't not have China in it, and two, China will not agree to a deal that impedes its econoimic growth.
NR The reality that people fear is that America will use the words that they will sign up to the process but that nothing in reality will change. Now, what can you do to make sure that isnt the case?
TB Because if you end up with one, a consensus really for the first time that the climate is changing seriously as a result of human activity, two, that there has to be a comprehensive deal with America and China both in it, and three, at the heart of that is an agreement for a substantial reduction in emissions then of course you've still got to go further and say how it's done and how the technology is transferred and so on but for goodness sake that is a huge step forward from where were a short time ago.
NR And are you hoping in the next few days to set the target or just say that one day you will have it?
TB Personally I think it is better if we set the target, but I think the key question will be - is there, in principle, objection to a very substanital target like a 50% reduction in emmisions, or is it merely a process point that people want to make sure that how you're going to that is also part of the discussion. I think that is one thing that we are going to explore over the next few days. But you know, part of the trouble sometimes in politics is that people, even when they start to win the argument, they talk as if they are still losing it. For the first time everyone is now saying we need this global agreement on climate change and everyone is prepared to be part of it and everyone knows that the substantial essence of it is a substantial reduction in emissions. Now we need then to go far further but that is the core of a new global deal and that's what we've been working for.
NR But are you saying that someone in the rare position of understanding President Bush's mind, you think he has changed?
TB I think America is prepared to play its part in it now and give a lead in it. Now, since that is what people have been saying they want they should welcome it, we should then make sure that is properly implemented.
NR Do you understand that the reason people get concerned about commitments made and not delivered is that even on the success of Gleneagles - a whole series of commitments made by countries that you obliged them to make to increase aid to Africa simply have not been delivered? Even the host country Germany has not delivered the promise it gave.
TB Hang on a minute, this is what is so important, that people get their facts right on it. Gleneagles on Africa had a series of commitments that were to be done over time. The announcement, just in the last week, of America by a doubling of its HIV aid so that America's aid to Africa will have quadrupled over the next few years, Germany's announcement of an extra 3bn euros over the next four years. Those are substanital ways of fulfilling the Gleneagles agreement, on top of 38bn dollars' worth of debt relief, massive extension of HIV Aids treatment and millions of kids into primary education. Now again, we need to go further, we need to recommit and recommit again, but there's been a lot of progress made.
NR Even Micahel Jay, who was the civil servant who did so much work for you at the Gleneagles G8, he himself has said publicly that it is disappointing what has happened since.
TB Well I think what Michael would say as a result of the last week is that we are once again showing the value of having the g8. If you go back a few months there were real worries that having made these commitments at Gleneagles and having increased aid and debt relief so on, then people were slipping back, but the benefit of having this international meeting is that it provides the focus so that for the first time in the last week you've got these substantial increases in aid to Africa and action on HIV Aids and of course youve got the big steps forward on climate change so the value of the summit is that it becomes the context, if you like, or even the pretext for people making substantial commitments.
NR One other topic that I know will feature on the G8 agenda is Darfur. Some years ago you gave a speech in which you said never again - never again another Rwanda. As you are older and wiser at these meetings do you now accept or have to say to the world there are limits to what we can do in terrible tragedies?
TB No I dont think there are limits - Darfur is not Rwanda, Darfur can be prevented from slipping into being Rwanda and it must be so. The fact is we need to make it clear to the government of Sudan they have to act, we need to bring in the rebel groups that are still holding back from the peace accords and we need in particular to fund and put in place the right african force and UN force that will keep the peace. It is the result of the action we have taken in the last couple of years that Darfur has not yet slid into being Rwanda but nonetheless there is a risk that it does so unless we take the action further and get the deal done.
NR Just finally, this is your final G8 summit, you will be saying farewell to some world leaders who won't see again as world leader - has it sunk in yet?
TB It doesnt affect me like that because the important thing is to get something positive out of the G8 and if we get a recommitment to Gleneagles and substantial commitments to Africa and what I have been working on for the last two years since Gleneagles which is the essence of a new climate change deal - I mean that is better than any valedictory you can get with nice words.
NR You wouldn't be human though if you didn't think that the next time there is a G8 you'll be watching it on the telly?
TB That's life isn't it. You move on.