Susan Rice: ‘A Pandemic Flu, Frankly, Is a Major Concern’

By Susan Jones | January 19, 2017 | 5:59am EST
Outgoing National Security Adviser Susan Rice includes "pandemic flu" in the list of her biggest nightmares. (AP File Photo)

( - Outgoing National Security Adviser Susan Rice includes "pandemic flu" in the list of her biggest nightmares.

In a lengthy interview earlier this week, NPR’s Charlie Rose asked Rice, “What’s your biggest nightmare? What has kept you up of late?”

Rice said she has “a number of worries,” and she listed them:

“I think anybody in my position would worry about a catastrophic attack on the homeland or on American personnel abroad. So that's nightmare number one. And particularly if it were, God-forbid, to be combined with some form of weapon of mass destruction.”

Second, Rice said she worries about the potential for Russia to “miscalculate” and provoke a conflict in Europe.

“And then there are the less probable but catastrophic scenarios,” Rice continued. “A pandemic flu, frankly, is a major concern. North Korea continuing to advance and perfect its nuclear missile program, or even an unforeseen conflict between India and Pakistan, both nuclear armed nations that are constantly skirmishing in Kashmir.”

At the end of the interview, Charlie Rose returned to the topic of world instability and threats facing the United States. And Rice once again mentioned pandemic flu:

“We have threats that we knew of in 2008, but they could arise at any moment like pandemic flu, which we've also discussed. That's not new, but is persistent and the risk remains.”

“How serious do you see that?” Rose asked Rice.

“I think it's a real risk,” Rice said. “It's a fact. It will happen. We have seen it historically over periods of years going back -- the most grave instance was in 1918, where, you know, many, many people died. Hundreds of thousands, millions had the potential to die from something like this because now our world is that much more interconnected through trade, through commerce, through air connectivity.

“And therefore, what happens in one part of the world can quickly spread to another. One of the things that this administration has done which is little known, and we did this frankly -- we started this before the Ebola epidemic, was to work with countries around the world to put in place in the weakest links, the poorest, weakest countries of the world, much improved global health infrastructure so they can detect and surveil disease, they can contain it before it spreads.

“We have called this the global health security agenda and we got 50 countries or so that are actively part of this. And that's the kind of long-term effort that we're going to need to build and sustain around the world to diminish the risk of pandemic, but we're not going to eliminate it.”

Rice said most of the threat facing the U.S. “are going to require effective collective action.

“That means that the United States has to lead. We have to rally other countries to work with us. They need to see it as in their interest to act whether it's to combat the Ebola epidemic where we brought the world together to do that, whether it's to confront aggression through sanctions on Russia when in Annex Crimea, or whether it is dealing with a new emergent terror threat like ISIL.”

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