CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the latest developments in Ukraine, and how the United States should respond. This is an edited version of the interview.
If the U.S. doesn't have much support from some critical European allies like Germany for tough sanctions against Russia, where does it leave the Ukraine crisis?
It's very tough to do sanctions if you don't have the Germans and the British on board. Remember, Europe imports almost 30 percent of its energy from Russia, from Russian natural gas. Sometimes it goes even higher than that. So they are going to be very reluctant to do the kind of comprehensive sanctions which would deprive them of that energy. And as you point out, London's role as a financial center is dependent on, among other things, Russia's capital.
I think we should still push for as comprehensive sanctions as we can get. You're never going to get totally comprehensive sanctions, but they do exact a price. And what we're trying to do here, as I see it, what the United States is trying to do with many members of the international community is to make Russia pay some price, some significant price, isolate it, and send a signal that this is not how we want business to be conducted in the 21st century. You're not going to be able to stop it in its tracks. You're not going to be able to send troops into Crimea. But the fact that we can't get 100 percent leak proof sanctions doesn't mean we shouldn't try to raise the bar and exact some price.
This is what Secretary of State John Kerry said in Kiev today: “Russia, if it wanted to help de-escalate the situation, could return its troops to the barracks, live by the 1997 base agreement and de-escalate rather than expand their invasion. Now, we would prefer that. I come here today at the instruction of President Obama to make it absolutely clear, the United States of America would prefer to see this de-escalating.”
Are you getting any indications that Putin and the Russians are about to deescalate this crisis?
I think John Kerry was, in a sense, hoping that what had worked perhaps inadvertently in Syria is going to work this time, where he put out a wish and the Russians, if you remember, grabbed that wish and said fine, if that's what the plan is in Syria, which is to get those chemical weapons out, we can try and make that happen. In this case, the Russians aren’t trying to deescalate. What they're trying to do is lock in. Lock in the gains they have made by essentially making Crimea outside of the control of the Ukrainian government.
I think what we have to do is to deter Russia from doing anything further in the Ukraine, but also start recognizing that there has to be a political solution here, which will involve the Russians. Whether that involves some kind of referendum on the status of Crimea, special autonomous status – remember, right now, Crimea is essentially part of Russia. It has been taken over. We need to try to find a way to not let that stand as a fact of international life. And that involves dealing with the Russians. So while I'm glad the secretary of state went to Kiev, he probably needs to go to Moscow pretty soon.