March 2nd, 2014
01:44 PM ET

How U.S. should respond to Russia

By Fareed Zakaria

In a strange act of historical coincidence, it is 60 years ago this week that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev handed the Crimea over to the Ukraine. It might not have seemed a big deal in those days – everyone was part of one big, unhappy Soviet Union. But that act has created today’s geopolitical crisis.

Russia has now made its move. It has essentially detached Crimea from the Ukrainian government’s control. What remains unclear is what Vladimir Putin wants to do with it. Incorporate it into Russia? Use it as leverage to negotiate a deal with Ukraine? Both?

In any event, Washington’s response should be clear and forceful. Russia has violated all kinds of laws and norms, including most crucially, a treaty that it signed with Ukraine guaranteeing that country’s borders, in return for which Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons.

For Washington, for Americans, for people around the world, it would be a terrible precedent to allow issues like this to be resolved not through diplomacy, but by force. If Russia could detach parts of neighboring countries with impunity, won’t other great powers like China decide that they too can act in such ways?

So what can be done? Well, for starters President Obama should cancel entirely his attendenace at the G-8 summit to be held in Sochi in June. He should try to persuade the other major powers to follow suit. Russia’s membership in the G-8 should be suspended. Remember,  the G-8 was created to recognize that post-Soviet Russia was behaving like an honorable member of the international community, not a rogue state . If the behavior has changed, Russia’s status should also change.

Militarily there is less that can be done. After all, Russia’s military budget is about 18 times that of Ukraine. But NATO should restart talks on providing assurances to countries like Poland – including perhaps building the missile defense system that was abandoned.

In economic terms, Washington and the EU should consider the only sanctions that would be effective: ones targeted specifically at individuals who could be held responsible for these acts of aggression against Ukraine.

Washington cannot do much to stop Vladimir Putin as he creates facts on the ground in Crimea. But step back and consider what a strategic disaster this is for him. Ukraine has slipped out of his orbit and most of the population there is going to be hostile to Russia for generations. Countries like Poland that had eased up relations with Moscow will now view it with great suspicion. All European countries will put their relations with Russia under review. Even China will surely oppose the brazen violation of national sovereignty, something Beijing is always concerned about. Within Russia people have seen that Putin is terrified of a democracy movement and will brutally oppose it, not really the image he wants to present.

So Putin gets Crimea, which is only 60 percent Russian. Parts of it will be deeply hostile to this Russian takeover – including the population of Crimean Tartars, who are Muslim and getting radicalized. Remember, Crimea is in the Northern Caucasus, the area where Russia has been battling a ferocious Muslim insurgency.

So even as he lines up one more piece – or half piece – on his chessboard, Putin will find that the price he has paid for it will be quite high.

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take • Russia • Ukraine

soundoff (1,638 Responses)
  1. AK

    Fareed is a joke. And CNN's propaganda won't go far. If Crimea had been against the Russian forces, the current events would have looked VERY different. Some things western media isn't showing:
    http://rt.com/news/ukraine-crimea-photos-tweets-434/
    http://rt.com/news/navy-chief-ukraine-crimea-485/
    http://rt.com/news/ukraine-military-russia-resign-437/
    http://rt.com/news/kiev-crimea-sort-care-449/

    Crimea is just one of the several regions counting on Russia's support against Kiev's self-proclaimed, illegal government.

    March 2, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Reply
    • George

      You do realize that the sources you are using for you're argument are from a Russian backed English news channel, right? You can't claim one news source isn't showing the complete story, then decide to cite another just as, if not more, biased media outlet.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Reply
      • Luba

        Wouldn't the source that's next door to Ukraine be more accurate then the source that's thousands of mile away?

        March 2, 2014 at 6:02 pm |
      • Director

        George, the point of AK's post was that there's another perspective to the story. You failed to even understand that much.

        March 2, 2014 at 10:33 pm |
    • suppackman

      Wow, the KGB has gained a sophistication not expected of the Ruskies, in that they now blatantly post on Western media outlets disguised as simple posters.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Reply
      • thecorrector

        The KGB doesn't exist anymore.

        March 2, 2014 at 5:55 pm |
      • Director

        Lol how narrow-minded. We do use their rockets for getting to space. Looks like our education system hit a record low level of sophistication.

        March 2, 2014 at 10:41 pm |
    • Luba

      And I wonder how the EU will sanction Russia? Stop importing their good and cut off their gas supply? What a joke.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:56 pm | Reply
      • Johnjo

        To the Corrector the KGB does still exist but under these different initials...FSB.

        March 2, 2014 at 11:29 pm |
      • thecorrector

        Johnjo, as I said the KGB doesn't exist.

        March 3, 2014 at 2:42 pm |
    • John

      @AK: The RT links you posted are from the TV-Novosti, one of the largest Russian news agency. It is part of the KGB's propaganda machine and it operates under the Russian Ministry of Communications and Mass Media. The Russian/soviet government has always been expert in manipulating public opinion, inside and outside their own borders. Now, it has paid lemmings tasked with spreading their lies on CNN's boards.
      Check out the "interesting" and provocative articles commenting on US events and politics. Way to go!

      March 2, 2014 at 7:46 pm | Reply
    • Johnjo

      RT is Putin's own propaganda organ grinder, I'm surprised people go to that site & actually swallow what it tells/shows them. You'd be better going & watching a "Tom & Jerry" cartoon or the like. Or going for a mind detox...

      March 2, 2014 at 11:27 pm | Reply
  2. Solomon Walker

    Let's talk about "incredible acts of aggression," Fred – let's talk about how Barack Obama has political opponents in jail on US domestic soil, more often than not, for the first time in their lives, as a method of calculated oppression for disagreeing with his extreme favor toward the Muslim community, shall we?

    I have a lot to talk about.

    March 2, 2014 at 4:50 pm | Reply
    • ScottCA

      While you are talking fiction, how about reading us one of the harry potter novels?

      March 2, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Reply
    • samwaltpete

      Solomon Walker: I'm sure with all of those delusions in your head, you must have A LOT to talk about. Just do us a favor and spew your nonsense somewhere else.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:31 pm | Reply
    • krivka

      OK, waiting for your evidence to be posted to back-up you claims.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:32 pm | Reply
    • bob

      More Fox News talking points, boring

      March 2, 2014 at 5:39 pm | Reply
  3. DB

    There is a strategy in the Art of War that is not pretty, but would end all of this right now. Those who know what I am talking about knows Mr. Obama must be very brave indeed and let go over the Military to do it's job, and I don't know if he has it in him? In the the Art of War, Sovereignty and the Military are complete separate, and for good reason. Do not be lured into Putin's hand, he has Syria, Iran and other powers in play. One thing needs to happen, and one only. There will be fallout, but the traditional Military can stamp that out.

    March 2, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Reply
    • Knotty Boy

      Spell it out, please.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Reply
    • goalie

      Very mysterious comment DB – therefore I presume very profound. Or possibly meaningless. Only time will tell – unless it doesn't. But I think everyone knows what I mean – or perhaps what I don't mean. But there is only one way to interpret all of this and if you have read The Three Little Pigs you will know what it is I speak of. Or of what I speak. A nod's as good as a wink to blind horse is it not DB?

      March 2, 2014 at 5:06 pm | Reply
      • Leah

        Well we all know what DB stands for. Unless we don't.

        March 2, 2014 at 5:35 pm |
      • Wes

        Well done Goalie, well done.

        March 2, 2014 at 5:43 pm |
    • David Hoffman

      On an issue of global importance you decide to be coy and not state specifically what the President of the United States of America should do. How enlightening. You have some pseudo-secret concepts for ending a bad situation, but only people who have read a certain book in its original language are to know these concepts. You are not being very helpful in supporting your own opinion, whatever that is.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Reply
  4. hurrya1

    The only practical reaction with any teeth is a trade embargo on Russia by the US and EU. The EU should look for alternative Natural Gas and Oil suppliers. Russia main source of revenue is Oil and Gas exports to the EU. Depriving Putin of this revenue will be a big blow to his prestige in Russia and Russia's ability to project power. The Australian LNG exports should come online by 2016 and will fill the void left by the elimination of Russia natural Gas exports. The US should also relax the rules preventing the export of Oil and Natural gas and speed up the projects for LNG export.

    March 2, 2014 at 4:52 pm | Reply
    • barbara

      Agreed. A trade embargo is the way to go and to isolate Russia. This is why it's important for countries to energy independent.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Reply
    • atc333

      An absolute, complete trade and travel embargo, No planes, shipping, or travel, period.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:41 pm | Reply
    • stepan KOPENKIN

      You forgot vodka! Stop drinking it too!

      March 3, 2014 at 12:28 am | Reply
  5. Fantom

    I think the worst thing about the move is that Putin proves, once and for all, that there has been no change in thinking, policy or action since the Soviet Union fell apart. They are not to be trusted, they are interested in one thing only and that is power, and until the people of Russian get to vote in honest and open elections, nothing will change...except the war machine will get bigger!!

    March 2, 2014 at 4:53 pm | Reply
  6. Lawrence

    Fareed, you need a geography lesson: Crimea is not in the Northern Caucasus.

    March 2, 2014 at 4:54 pm | Reply
    • zhoro

      Seriously, why should anything he says here be paid attention to after such an egregious mistake.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Reply
      • WayneC

        Zakaria didn't say Ukraine is in the Northern Caucuses. He said it is in the area of the Northern Caucuses. Which it is - it is right across the Sea of Azov from the Northern Caucuses.

        March 2, 2014 at 5:54 pm |
      • thecorrector

        WayneC. "Remember, Crimea is in the Northern Caucasus," is what he most clearly wrote.

        March 2, 2014 at 6:36 pm |
  7. S. Jones

    Spot on. Ostracize Russia. Oust them from the G-8. Offer Ukraine NATO membership to NATO. Reopen Missile defense talks with Poland. Russia will start singing a different tune. Russia needs the west more than we them need them.

    March 2, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Reply
  8. wolfyb

    This would be like Mexico invading the the US to protect its citizens

    March 2, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Reply
    • Marc Parella

      And in 1915 Pancho Villa did just that at Columbus New Mexico.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Reply
    • Layne

      As long as the invading Mexican armies bring authentic Mexican food with them to pacify us Americans, I'll go for that.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  9. craig mayfield

    It's just Vlad the Impaler tryin to put Humpty back together...

    March 2, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Reply
  10. Snowdog

    Obama and this administration has no credibility at all. We are looked upon as weak and take no action. Obama's threats are laughable and Putin knows it. Ukraine said they will defend themselves??? Why don't they start. They out up no fight for Crimea. They just sat back and let Russia invade.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Reply
    • craig mayfield

      Yea...and suicide is painless too...

      March 2, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Reply
  11. hogarth

    Fareed is exactly right. Putin is already paying a price on the world stage, and the price will continue to rise.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Reply
    • Snowdog

      U think he cares.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Reply
    • cleareye1

      You're right.
      Putin does care but he's willing to pay the price. To him the alternative is to risky.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:29 pm | Reply
  12. craig mayfield

    Where are the hands of the Doomsday Clock now?

    March 2, 2014 at 5:06 pm | Reply
  13. Hypocrits

    Should the same have be done when the US invaded Iraq. That was a lot bigger deal even with America's attempts at sensationalizing this through the media. Should the same be done when America sends drones across sovereign borders to kill in "its interests"?
    Why a different set of rules for the USA?

    March 2, 2014 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  14. weix giekfrink

    its a little complicated

    March 2, 2014 at 5:09 pm | Reply
  15. Tal

    It is unfortunate that the US finds itself with a Democrat for President. History repeats itself. Shades of Jimmy Carter, who was long on rhetoric but short on resolve. Obama is no better. Too bad we do not have a Ronald Regan when we need one. Even a George Bush with Dick Cheney would have been much better.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:09 pm | Reply
    • Snowdog

      Exactly. They would have taken action and not just throw threats out like this administration.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:29 pm | Reply
    • thecorrector

      Ronald Reagan wouldn't be stupid enough to get into a war with Russia over Ukraine. He's the same guy who withdrew from Lebanon immediately after the bombing of our barracks, which killed 140 servicemen.

      March 2, 2014 at 6:41 pm | Reply
  16. Black

    So now sovereignty matters? How about Yugoslavia/Serbia?

    March 2, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  17. zakNOria

    since when should America take YOUR instructions on how to handle it's foreign affrairs?? move on, no one here wants Muslim advice. Go back to the middle east and fix your homeland.. leave ours alone.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  18. marc

    why pick on china in your example of precedent on invading other countries? (they haven't been in a war in 30+ years)

    The WORST precedent setting example of tolerated aggression is when we (the US) invaded Iraq and murdered hundreds of thousands of people and caused chaos and fomented and released sectarian strife. The world basically sat by and watched the US do these things... THAT was a precedent for people like Putin today.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:11 pm | Reply
  19. Vasiliy

    Ah you mad people, you that will not make Russia, at you are not present brains to think.
    Time will tell.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:18 pm | Reply
  20. greg

    Russia loses so little with a truly democratic Ukraine. The Russian minority is too large to be sidelined. Or perhaps Putin fears an embowered population of Russians leaving in a euro-centric country? It's not really Ukraine so much he's concerned about–it's the Russians who might discover the benefits of living in a country without a Czar. After all, they might tell their comrades back in the motherland. Strategically, nothing changed. Russian access to Crimea was not threatened. Russia has to be thinking about something other than security interests. Whatever the thinking, it seems shortsighted. It's just too bad the protests in Ukraine didn't succeed before Sochi (the Olympic Committee really should take care where they host the games; that's twice burned on Russia).

    March 2, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Reply
  21. Kenn Moss

    I don't think we (the USA) have any business in those countries affairs. Stay out! It is a civil war dispute, just like the War Between the States in 1860-65 was....we would not have wanted interference on either side from abroad. If Crimea and the rest of the Ukraine want to separate, let them do so–just as West Virginia and Virginia did in our country.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Reply
    • Leah

      You don't think either side received foreign assistance/interference during the Civil War?

      March 2, 2014 at 5:40 pm | Reply
    • T Trent

      You do understand that the south did want the English to intervene due to the blockade of southern harbors that were affecting the cotton trade with them or did you not take American History in high school.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:50 pm | Reply
  22. Dan

    I have some bad news here. The U.S. is no longer able or should be expected to be the police force for the world. The U.S. needs to take care of domestic issues first and foremost. A bi-lateral non-military response is best right now. The U.S. should not worry about coming off looking weak. Those days are long over. The new world order no longer has the U.S. on top. That spot belongs now to the Chinese with their military and economic might. This has nothing to do with politics either. Republican or Democrat in the White House would not change a thing. (though it might change the response). The heyday of the 1980's are sadly over and everyone must move on.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:21 pm | Reply
  23. Bob

    What about our astronauts on the International Space Station. No ride home except for on the Russian Soyuz
    Shuttles collecting dust in museums while we pay Putin $60 million per seat for each ride given an American astronaut
    The US built the majority of the ISS. Now we must grovel and pay homage to Czar Putin while we have no access to space
    Get with it congress. Fund NASA properly and tell Putin to shove it
    What has happened to the strong America that once was

    March 2, 2014 at 5:21 pm | Reply
  24. Allen Duffis

    It is amazing how little you people know or understand about international politics. Like it or not, President Putin has been an excellent leader – contrary to what many thought of him in the beginning. This man not only knows how to play the game to get what he wants, he knows his adversary. He is up against the weak-willed American president, Barack Obama, who is once again acting the part of the 'deer in the headlights.' Putin has taken his measure and he knows that he is afraid to act against him.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Reply
    • cleareye1

      Zakaria's piece makes you look foolish.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:28 pm | Reply
    • Hmmm

      I think many thought about Hitler the same way in the '30s, that he is a great politician and he gets what he wants. The reaction from other countries were similarly underpowered and we all know where it lead to.
      Being a bully and getting away with it doesn't lead to nowhere good, specially when the leader of the country is not changing in every 4-8 years.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:49 pm | Reply
  25. Robert

    So invading a country like Iraq for "WMD" when there aren't any, when the country was never a part of the U.S., and we can't claim ethnic connection – THAT'S okay. Where's our credibility? That said, we DO actually have to do something, and Fareed is right about what it is.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  26. Parabolid71

    This guy forgot ( ha, ha, ha) just few days ago. Talking about territorial integrity and invasion of sovereign countries from the country that has done ( and still doing it) in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Libya , Somalia, Mali and Central African Republic is beyond hypocrisy it is ridiculous. And remember Kosovo that we insisted could separate from Serbia by military force of NATO. Please, Zakaria, you are a joke.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:25 pm | Reply
    • atc333

      By all means, turn your head, put on your blinders, and let the people in those countries die at the hands of extremists.

      How many Russian speaking people died in Crimea? How many citizens in Syria have died, at the hand of Assad, as well as the various extremists? No comparison.

      March 2, 2014 at 5:45 pm | Reply
  27. cleareye1

    It's encouraging to read a simple straightforward opinion that is informed and sensible. Why is it impossible to find this at Fox?

    March 2, 2014 at 5:26 pm | Reply
  28. Ley

    What we need to do is stay the hell out of there. This isnt Iraq, or Afghanastan, or even North Korea that we can tease and push around if we wanted to, this is 'effin Russia, on Russia's doorstep. The last 3 wars we were in would be nothing compared to this, coming from a vet.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:34 pm | Reply
  29. Hank

    So, there is a very simple solution to all this stupid saber rattling: Let the Crimea rejoin Russia, as most of that region's population would probably prefer anyway. The the rest of Ukraine will be less divided, and perhaps the next election there will result in a pro-EU government, provided, of course, the extreme right wingers can still be kept out of any future government.

    March 2, 2014 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  30. Herwin Ochoa

    China respecting sovereignty of other nations? Come on! What do you think is happening to most parts of the Southeast Asia. China has been slowly setting foot near countries around the Spratlys. If the US doesn't make a move on the Russians in Ukraine, what move will it do against the Dragon of Asia?

    March 2, 2014 at 5:40 pm | Reply
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