March 20th, 2014
04:12 PM ET

How Putin lost Ukraine

By Fareed Zakaria

Ukraine is the most important country in the post-Soviet space that Russia seeks to dominate politically. If Europe wanted to help Ukraine move west, it should have planned a bold, generous and swift strategy of attraction.

Instead, the EU conducted lengthy, meandering negotiations with Kiev.

But let us not persist in believing that Moscow's moves have been strategically brilliant. Vladimir Putin must have watched events unfold in Ukraine in February with deep frustration – as a pro-Russian government was swept out of power – because the Sochi Olympics were underway, which limited what he could do.

When the Olympics ended, he acted quickly, essentially annexing Crimea. But it was a blunder. In taking over Crimea, Putin has lost Ukraine.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Ukraine

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soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Joseph McCarthy

    This time Fareed Zakaria has it 110% wrong! It's the right-wing thugs in Washington through their crony European "allies" who want to dominate Ukraine, not Russia. This is why the right-wingers in Washington shelled out over $5B the have this illegal uprising staged by home grown, right-wing Ukrainian fanatics who are now endeavoring to sell that country out to the West!

    March 20, 2014 at 5:08 pm | Reply
  2. häggström

    TSAR VLADIMIR VLADIMIROVITSH PUTIN, HAS ALWAYS DONE WHAT HE WANTS, I AM SO VERY SORRY, BUT WHATEVER ANYONE SAYS OR THINKS, IT WILL NOT CHANGE ANYTHING!!. BY THE WAY, I AM A FINN, HAVING A LITTLE BIT OVER 1280 KM. BORDER TO OUR "GOOD FRIEND", IN THE EAST. YOU PROPABLY DO NOT ENVY MY "POSITION" OR DO YOU ???????. RALF.

    March 20, 2014 at 9:26 pm | Reply
  3. Ernest Baah

    That's move was wrong move that's not far because Russia think they have power someone must help them

    March 20, 2014 at 11:51 pm | Reply
  4. Ferhat Balkan

    Corporations rule political decisions and those decisions carve out geopolitics. Banks in the US have $37 Billion lended to Russian bussiness, France $51B, Germany $24B, Italy $29B, UK $19B. This is why Putin stole a huge chunk out of Ukraine and all the West could do was watch and propose weak sanctions. Why would they go to war with so much vested interest? Imperialist Putin knew this and he took full advantage of it. Now you have to wonder.. What if China invades Taiwan? Will anyone raise a finger? Of course not!! This is the measure of morality today. It all comes down to money.

    March 21, 2014 at 1:36 am | Reply
    • Alexander Hagen

      They didnt steal Crimea. Crimea was Russian for 200 years and was randomly transferred to Ukraine when they were basically states – like moving a piece of California to Oregon. The Crimeans rebeled when Neo Nazis were appointed to all the jobs in defense and internal security. This is a fact. Also we brokered an agreement with the opposition and the Ukrainian Government – and it was broken the next day by the neo fascists. Russia lost more people to fascism than any other country. Can you imagine a coup in Washington where the KKK were given control of the FBI CIA and Dept of Defense? Wouldnt you vote to join Canada?

      March 22, 2014 at 3:46 am | Reply
  5. Peteras

    Very good Speech from Gregor Gysi of the german Opposition at the Bundestag from yesterday:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-C7K4SJ60U&w=640&h=390]

    Talks about Svoboda, Putin, Ukraine etc.
    Not the common Black/White-Thinking.
    Worth wachting.

    March 21, 2014 at 1:52 am | Reply
    • Eugene S

      So the top guy in Germany's "LINKE" party - an amalgam of East German stalinists and West German ultra-extremist leftists - defends Vladimir Putin and attacks the German government? Wow, I never saw that coming.

      March 22, 2014 at 7:36 am | Reply
      • ✠RZ✠

        No Eugene, he clearly points out it's wrong. It's all wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. And he's right.

        March 23, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
    • ✠RZ✠

      BRAVO !!! DAMN GOOD POST PETERAS ! FINALLY SOMEONE WHO SPEAKS SENSE ABOUT MAKING SENSE !!! Gregor Gysi is the man!!

      March 23, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Reply
  6. Alejandro Fernandez

    I think much of Putin's power comes from the gas he sells to Europe, why doesn't Ukraine shut down the pipe that runs through its territory? Wouldn't that be a much more bigger sanction than anything the US can do?

    March 21, 2014 at 3:14 am | Reply
  7. Putin the Great President

    USA does not understand, neither Mr.Obama, that European Union – EU – needs Russia for oil, gas, business, natural resources, and last but not least PEACE and stability. USA needs STOP collaborating with Asia, especially China and S.Korea (meaning: no hyundai, no samsung, no kia, no huawei, ... in US market). Instead USA needs importing Lada and VOLGA cars (http://www.ladacars.org/, http://www.volga-america.com/) in the hope for great business with RUSSIA.

    March 21, 2014 at 7:00 am | Reply
    • thomas conboy

      I will buy a Volga when Putin turns into a rational word leader instead of an arrogant, power hungry oaf. Meaning never. Are you possibly not OK in the head?

      March 22, 2014 at 9:10 am | Reply
      • Joseph McCarthy

        thomas, the only reason I drive a Ford is the simple fact that I cannot buy a Volga or a Lada for that matter. They're not available in this country!

        March 23, 2014 at 12:47 am |
  8. Matthew Slater

    as the leader of a foreign superpower, Putin, is necessarily both mad and bad.

    March 21, 2014 at 12:03 pm | Reply
    • Zach

      Gee whiz Matthew, what a stupid comment yours is! At least Vladimir Putin is neither half as bad nor mad as Barack Obama and his right-wing European cronies! Get real, will you?

      March 21, 2014 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  9. vintel7

    What Putin did is no different than Hitler and he needs to be stopped.

    March 21, 2014 at 1:12 pm | Reply
    • Russians are Americans

      No, no, no, ... no Hitler. Our American roots go deep into Russia. Americans are more Russians than Asians (neither Chinese, nor Koreans).

      March 22, 2014 at 7:09 am | Reply
  10. John Savard

    How the hell could Vladimir Putin have lost Ukraine when he never had it in the first place? What a stupid post this is! We Americans need to stay out of other peoples' business as this is only counterproductive.

    March 21, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  11. chrissy

    Lmao agreed @ John Savard. Reminds me of a line in a song "you cant even run your own life, ill be damned if you'll run mine!" The US needs to clean up its own backyard cuz right now we are a freaking hot mess!

    March 21, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Reply
  12. Olga

    Despite lying media people understand: America is putting pressure on EU to oppose Russia, America is an aggressor...and was for the past 20+ years... Mingling with foreign countries, establishing pro-American governments, just to name few: South Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Panama and so on and so forth... US government (not American people) hates Russia, and is trying to move NATO forces closer and closer to the Russian borders... who would like this? They don't care about Ukraine, as long as they can use it's grounds for the NATO troops! Russian "aggression" is US media propaganda by people with not conscience and no fear of God... Soviet Union is gone 25 years ago, Russians hate communism more than Americans. AMERICA is building up a new cold war right now. Putin is a smart, reasonable leader, peacemaker (recent example Syria, another example Yugoslavia), not a single bullet was shot in Crimea's "intervention"... have you seen "peaceful interventions?"

    March 21, 2014 at 10:45 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Nicely posted, Olga. Thank you.

      March 22, 2014 at 9:11 am | Reply
    • Danro

      Actually its countries like Poland, Estonia, Lavia and Lithuania who is putting a lot of pressure n the EU and America because they are very worried. In the same way the Russians see NATO as a threat to Russia other countries see Russia as a threat to them, especially Poland. See Katyn massacre.

      March 22, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Reply
  13. Alexander Hagen

    Putin did not lose the Ukraine. He polarized the Ukraine. He also made himself immensely popular, and for the first time in post Soviet times, pushed back on NATO territorially. The Russian Ukrainians will by 2/3 still support Russia. There are two Putins. One a domestic autocrat with definite human rights problems (which we also have here – see Bradley Manning, Barret Brown, Aaron Schwartz, Libya, Iraq, etc). There is one Putin who is standing up for redressing former wrongs. Beware the man angry with former wrongs! But Putin is not Hitler. I think his foreign policy is pretty solid.

    March 22, 2014 at 3:40 am | Reply
  14. Chris

    Putin doesn't need Ukraine to capture Turkey, He needs Crimea, Ukraine will fall afterwards.... DUH !!!

    March 22, 2014 at 7:20 am | Reply
  15. Bob

    The real question is why did Putin invade Ukraine? Does anyone really think that he is so concerned about the Russian population in Ukraine that he just had to invade just to right a wrong. Nonsense , this is the beginning of the Soviet Empire rebuilding itself , plain and simple. Putin will continue to find any excuse to keep invading other territories. It isn't the USA that needs to worry but the EU certainly had better watch their back yard. This guy wants the former Soviet Union back and he is going to move swiftly to conquer that goal while every other country keeps drawing fake red lines in the sand. Russia can turn off the oil and gas to the EU however it won't be long before Putin's own country turns on him due to the massive financial collapse he would cause. The EU needs to act now and they need to be aggressive .Turn the money off to Russia.

    March 23, 2014 at 6:28 am | Reply
  16. TheGuru

    Fareed,
    I am incredibly disappointed in you. You were my hero for being factual impartial and succinctly analytical. Since the Russian crisis you have shown a bias and lack of ability to be balanced. Certainly Putin's actions are questionable but what we expect from you is not a negative tirade but more analytical reporting. You body language and extreme language shows some kind of personal emotion I had never seen.

    Take a deep breath and answer these questions. What makes the current Ukraine government legal when the elected government was overthrown by a coup. Compare the American vicious invasion of Iraq that to this day has left a once might historical and cultural nation turned to ashes. Today people are being killed even more than before the USA went. What gave the right to the USA reason for this criminal invasion. when you answer these questions I will continue with my own analysis.

    March 23, 2014 at 10:15 am | Reply
  17. chrissy

    Hey now @ Joseph dont be puttin down them Fords. My 1992 F150 is still running strong and looks pretty damn good in spite of all the salt used on the roads here in the winter!!!!!!

    March 23, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  18. Deff

    "Bob
    The real question is why did Putin invade Ukraine? Does anyone really think that he is so concerned about the Russian population in Ukraine that he just had to invade just to right a wrong. Nonsense , this is the beginning of the Soviet Empire rebuilding itself , plain and simple. Putin will continue to find any excuse to keep invading other territories. It isn't the USA that needs to worry but the EU certainly had better watch their back yard. This guy wants the former Soviet Union back and he is going to move swiftly to conquer that goal while every other country keeps drawing fake red lines in the sand. Russia can turn off the oil and gas to the EU however it won't be long before Putin's own country turns on him due to the massive financial collapse he would cause. The EU needs to act now and they need to be aggressive .Turn the money off to Russia."

    I can tell you in English from Google.
    70 years we have lived as two brotherly peoples ,
    Ukraine was one of the states as well as Russia .
    Then two governors : Yeltsin and Kravchuk divided the territory ,
    Since Yeltsin could not manage the whole former Soviet Union.
    They did not care as historically true divide the land.
    Ukraine later , through a series of changes in the government , with the active intervention by the West and the U.S. ( we can assume , for 23 years ) .
    To protect the borders of NATO presence Putin ( February 2013 ) has signed an agreement with Yanukovych.

    Strongly do not satisfy the other side ( the U.S. and the EU) , and they initiate a coup against the government.
    Putin responded arranged a referendum in the Crimea.

    March 25, 2014 at 1:24 pm | Reply
  19. Vlav

    So many times sold Russia that the next treachery of the Ukrainian hetmen already at all didn't surprise. We were always too generous to them and are indulgent to the enemies. It is time for Russia to change. This world prefers a whip, and we climb with gingerbread. Among wolves to live, it is necessary to learn on-wolves to howl.

    April 10, 2014 at 8:40 am | Reply
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    April 13, 2014 at 9:19 am | Reply

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