By Fareed Zakaria
“There are signs of disapproval by the ruling elite in Kazakhstan regarding the Russian military involvement in Ukraine,” write Peter Elstov and Klaus Larres in the New Republic. “Putin’s longtime supporter President Nursultan Nazarbayev is cautiously silent, but spontaneous protests in front of the Russian Consulate in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan, have not been disbanded by the police. This should not be surprising: Russians in Kazakhstan constitute about 24 percent of the population – more than 3 million people. In northern Kazakhstan, almost 50 percent of the population is Russian, with some areas having a majority of Russians. It is not inconceivable – following the logic behind the annexation of Crimea by the Russian army – that Putin may, at some point, want to return parts of northern Kazakhstan to the Russian orbit, particularly if this country becomes politically unstable.”
“Only when the 2004 Orange Revolution, the 2008 Russia-Georgia war and gas disputes with Russia in 2006 and 2009 kept dragging it on to the west’s foreign-policy radar did Brussels and Washington start to see Ukraine’s significance as a buffer between Europe and Russia,” writes Julian Evans in The New Statesman. “Yet even then they viewed it as no more than a commodity: a strategic chess piece, a prize of influence, a resource-rich target of western expansionism.”
“The result of this psychically toxic mixture of abuse, neglect, condescension and exploitation? The Ukrainian people, ethnic Ukrainians (78 percent), ethnic Russians (17 percent) and others, had a nation but did not – until 31 November last – start to have the confidence of nationhood.”
By Ilya Lozovsky, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Program Officer for Eurasia on Freedom House's Emergency Assistance Program. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
During a complex, fast-moving crisis such as the one now unfolding in Ukraine, it is tempting for some commentators to advocate taking the “long view.” This school of thought, which carries more than a whiff of Cold War nostalgia, reduces the struggle for Ukraine to a geopolitical game in which the various competing actors – the United States, the European Union and Russia – become featureless billiard balls ricocheting off each other. Ukraine becomes Russia’s “historical backyard,” or even worse, a subordinate part of its “legitimate sphere of influence” which we are urged to respect. Approaching the unfolding Ukrainian crisis in this way has the advantage of appearing sober, practical, and dispassionate. It is also dead wrong.
It is wrong because it treats Putin’s Russia, the European Union, and the United States as equivalent actors on the world stage – opposites, but equally legitimate – when in actual fact, these countries’ systems of government are profoundly different. Russia is undemocratic, authoritarian, and endemically corrupt, its natural resources and immense human capital plundered by Putin and his regime.
CNN speaks with Fareed about the latest developments in Ukraine and what might be motivating Russia’s policy in Crimea. This is an edited version of the interview.
The general feeling over the weekend appeared to be that Crimea is pretty well lost and that Russian President Vladimir Putin has won the day with this. Is that your take, and what happens then with regard to Ukraine?
There's no question that Russia has created these facts on the ground. They've taken over Crimea, they've sealed off the borders – right now flights out of Crimea into Kiev are now taking place from the international terminal, no longer the domestic terminal.
So they've almost created their own new country, Crimea. The question, though, is what does Putin want to do with the rest of Ukraine? Because Russia has long wanted to have Ukraine as part of its protector and sphere of influence. And the real game is going to be whether Russia tries to continue in some way to influence it. They've done it in the past for money – huge amounts of cash – and they've done it informally throughout, by the use of low price gas.
But I'm not sure that this has all been thought through. There’s this theory out there that Putin is this genius strategically playing this game. Here's what I actually think happened. I think he was watching events in Ukraine slip out of control, this country that Russia has dominated for 300 years, but couldn't do anything about it because it was happening during the Sochi Olympics. And so Putin is sitting there seething, watching this country escape his grasp.
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By Global Public Square staff
Much has been made of how China recently eased restrictions on having children. Under the old rules, if a couple wanted to have a second child, both husband and wife needed to be the only offspring of their parents.
Under the new rules, a second child could be allowed if just one of its potential parents was an only-child. The change impacts about 20 million Chinese. You'd imagine after decades of restrictions, many of them would jump at the chance to have a second child, right?
An article in The New York Times recently reports that as many as half of the families impacted by the new rules are balking at the idea of a second child. Parents quoted in the article say that children simply cost too much.
Why is this attitude surprising? And what went wrong?
By Anna Borshchevskaya, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Anna Borshchevskaya is a fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy. You can follow her @annaborsh. The views expressed are her own.
The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has captured the attention of the world, including the Middle East, where many see parallels between the struggle for democracy in Kiev and their own countries. But the unrest in Ukraine has a particularly special meaning for Syria, where peaceful protests against Bashar al-Assad eventually turned violent in the absence of Western support. Ukrainian protesters in Kiev last month, for their part, flew the Syrian revolutionary flag alongside the Ukrainian flag. The big question, though, is whether the West will see the connections that the protesters see – and draw some vital lessons.
From the U.S.-Russia reset, to Syria, to Iran, there has been ample opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to perceive weakness from the West. And in the absence of decisive Western leadership, the post-Soviet space and the Middle East have seen a resurgent Russia, under Putin’s leadership, work to create what amounts to a Soviet Union 2.0, propping up authoritarian regimes, creating areas of influence, and stifling freedom and democracy.
Such moves have prompted some analysts to note what they see as a revival of the Cold War struggle between Russia and the U.S., whether it be the ongoing crisis in Ukraine or the Middle East/North Africa region.
By Fareed Zakaria
“That tacit decision to accept all Russian money at face value has come home to roost in the past week,” writes Anne Applebaum in Slate. “Some of the general European reluctance to apply economic sanctions to Russia is of course directly related to the Russian investments, interests, and clients of European companies and banks. But in fact, the laundering of Russian money into acceptability, in both Europe and the United States, has had far more important consequences in Russia itself.”
“Many Venezuelans are still unable to connect the dots between Chavez's policies and the economic difficulties they face every day,” writes Raul Gallegos for Bloomberg. “Enough people continue to believe that their former leader’s benevolent redistribution plans were somehow only botched by state inefficiency.”
“Chavez’s version of social inclusion set a low bar. It never gave the poor the tools to achieve sustainable development through viable long-term employment in a thriving private sector. But nurturing people’s ambition has never been the Chavista way.”
For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Over the past week, images of troops massing in Crimea have been broadcast to millions around the globe. It so happens that the first ever official war photographs were from the very same region.
In 1853, the Russian Empire fought the allied armies of the Ottoman Empire, France and Great Britain in the short but brutal Crimean War that claimed the lives of three quarters of a million soldiers. And for the first time, photographers were able to give people a glimpse of what war was like.
The most famous image perhaps is Roger Fenton's "The Valley of the Shadow of Death," which showed cannonballs strewn throughout a valley. (Some say it was the first staged war photo, that he moved the cannonballs into the road). The technology didn't allow for action shots, but the images captured the moments between battles.
By John Cookson
Fareed’s ‘Book of the Week’ is Angela Stent's The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century. Stent is the director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian & East European Studies at Georgetown University. GPS's John Cookson spoke with her about the ongoing crisis in Crimea and the numerous attempts to reset relations between the United States and Russia.
You say in the book that there has been far more continuity in Russia policy since the end of the Cold War than many would publicly admit. Why is that?
We obviously like in our system to think that there’s a big difference between Republicans and Democrats, but the issue with Russia is that the presidential inbox has remained largely the same for the last twenty-two years. In the book, I go into six sets of issues with which we’ve constantly had to deal with the Russians, starting off with the nuclear legacy, with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, disagreements with Russia over the post-Soviet space (which is obviously very much on display today in Ukraine), the question of Euro-Atlantic security architecture (NATO and EU enlargement and the Russian response to that), then domestic Russian politics and more recently with all the upheaval in the Arab world.
These have been constant problems. Sometimes the approaches have varied a little bit, obviously. In the George W. Bush administration the arms control issues were downplayed, and in the Obama administration they were more important. But in general, many of these issues, including Iran which has been a constant for the past 22 years, haven’t really changed. Most of the people that I interviewed for the book – officials who were in the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations – admit the same thing, that there really isn’t that much difference.
By Frederic Grare, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Frederic Grare is a senior associate and director of the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
Pakistan’s military is set to launch a major military operation in North Waziristan, AP reported this week, after weeks of hesitation over its strategy of negotiating with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Yet although the expected operation follows the killing of 23 Pakistani soldiers last month by a Taliban faction, it seems likely to have been motivated by something more than a desire to retaliate and coerce the TTP into talks.
Whatever the motivation, it will have a significant impact on the country’s relationship with its weaker neighbor: Afghanistan.
In early 2012, Pakistan’s Foreign Office publicly declared a “strategic shift” in its thinking on Afghanistan, and began promoting its own version of an inclusive reconciliation process, as well as actively reaching out to elements of the Northern Alliance. Islamabad adopted this new policy after concluding that its strategy of supporting the Taliban alone was unlikely to produce a “friendly” Afghanistan (in other words, one under close Pakistani influence) because the Taliban is, for now at least, simply not capable of taking the reins of power on its own.
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
On GPS this Sunday: A special live edition of the show analyzing the latest developments in Ukraine. Fareed speaks with former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon before convening a panel of analysts including New York University’s Stephen Cohen, Canadian politician and journalist Chrystia Freeland and Princeton University’s Stephen Kotkin.
Also on the show, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu finally came out for Secretary of State John Kerry's Middle East peace efforts this week. But he faces intense opposition even from within his own cabinet – Fareed speaks with Israel’s economics minister, Naftali Bennett, who explains why he believes Netanyahu is wrong.
And, is failure actually good for you? That's what a new book suggests, and Fareed will be speaking with the author.
You can now follow GPS on Flipboard at: Flip.it/FareedZakaria
By Aakanksha Tangri
GPS intern Aakanksha Tangri speaks with Robert Oxnam, President Emeritus of the Asia Society, about the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to the United States, and what it could mean for relations with China.
What are the likely short-term and long-term impacts on U.S.-China relations after President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama?
It’s important to note that every U.S. president from Reagan onward has had meetings in the White House with the Dalai Lama. Clinton had four meetings with His Holiness during his presidency. Both Clinton and Bush have had post-presidency meetings as well. Indeed the Dalai Lama recently said “I love George Bush.” So, in 2009, when President Obama did not meet with the Dalai Lama, he was breaking a well-established precedent; and thus his 2014 meeting simply reverted to an older pattern. It’s worth noting that Obama has now had three meetings with the Dalai Lama.
Of course, the Chinese always protest loudly on these occasions because they have a strong interest in asserting Chinese sovereignty over what they call the Tibetan Autonomous Region. But since Obama explicitly said that neither the United States, nor even the Dalai Lama, wants full independence for Tibet, the sovereignty issue was sidestepped.
I think that Obama was quite correct in asserting his support for Tibetan human rights issues and also properly calling the Dalai Lama “an internationally respected religious and cultural leader.” By contrast, the Chinese leadership calls His Holiness a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and head of the “Dalai Clique.”