'Russia trying to create climate of chaos in Ukraine'
April 9th, 2014
12:30 PM ET

'Russia trying to create climate of chaos in Ukraine'

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about recent developments in Ukraine, what Russia might be planning next, and how the United States should respond. This is an edited version of the transcript.

You've got pro- Russian demonstrators taking over government buildings in eastern Ukraine. You've got this ultimatum being laid out by the Ukrainian government. What do you make of the state of play inside Ukraine right now?

It feels like we're now in phase two of the Russian operation in Ukraine. Remember, Crimea was never the prize. Putin took Crimea because he could, because there was a naval base, because he feared Ukraine was slipping out of his control and he wanted to take that one piece that he knew he could get.

Ukraine was the prize. The whole purpose of Russian policy for the last decade has been to try to dominate Ukraine. So now phase two is, OK, we have Crimea. But Ukraine has become more anti-Russian and wants to move to the West. What do we do?

So, they've done two things. Over the last week or two, they’ve tried to essentially crash the Ukrainian economy. So, they have really essentially cut off supplies, contracts, business dealings. Now what they're trying to do is foment pro-Russian forces in Ukraine so that they create an atmosphere of general chaos.

At that point Putin can say, look, there's general chaos in Ukraine, we need to protect our Russian speakers. We happen to have 40,000 troops right near the border and we can go in. He may not need to go in physically, though he's clearly preparing for that option. But that also allows him to go to the Ukrainian government and say you've got to negotiate on my terms now, and those terms are substantial autonomy for eastern Ukraine, a permanent role for Russia in a kind of special relationship.

So, he's now moved on to the issue that was always his prize, how do I dominate Ukraine?

What is the next move for Ukraine, and for the United States and E.U. and NATO, who are trying to get Russia to stand down? Secretary of State John Kerry in a Senate hearing said very clearly, do not be fooled, this could be very easily viewed as a pretext for moving into Ukraine even further. What can they do?

It's a tough question. The first thing I think is the Ukrainian government is going to have to act well. The Ukrainian government has to be able to assert control over the territory. They did a pretty good job in the last day or two getting rid of some of these demonstrators. But at the end of the day, the Ukrainian government cannot control these protests.

Getting Americans or Europeans in, it's not going to look good or work. Russia just says, ‘you see there are foreigners involved on one side’. First Ukrainians have to get their act together and they're trying.

More from CNN: Turning Crimea into 'Putinland'?

I think secondly, we have to start specifying exactly what would happen if the Russians were to invade. I think that really involves getting the Europeans to take a tougher line. If the Germans were to outline tough sanctions, real sanctions, that might make Moscow have second thoughts.

There's not much we can do. We're not going to fight a war with a nuclear superpower over Ukraine. But the Germans do a lot of trade with the Russians. It would be a body blow to the Russian economy.

It’s pretty interesting that the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia might meet. Isn't that a huge step?

That is actually a bigger step. And it's gotten lost in some of the protests. The Russians, remember, had never accepted the Ukrainian government. They argued this was illegitimate. Now, the Russian foreign minister is meeting with the foreign minister. The Russians have said they would be willing to meet with all parties in the Ukrainian political system, meaning some of the pro-Russian ones. So, Putin is very clever. He's making some very tough moves. He's at the same time making some diplomatic overtures. And he's trying to see which ones work out. I don't believe he's ever had a master plan. He's a master opportunist.

More from CNN: Putin won't stop at Crimea

Part of what he's trying to figure out is how much support does he have in eastern Ukraine? Remember, people say eastern Ukraine is pro-Russian. From my understanding of it and from our good reporting, the younger people in eastern Ukraine, even the younger speakers, are not that pro-Russian. It's an older generation coming out of the Soviet Union that are. So Putin is trying to play all these dynamics and see what he can do.

What we need to do is be a little more specific on what we can do. The reason we're not, of course, is we don't have agreement, particularly with the Europeans.

What do you think about what Senator McCain and other Republican members of the Foreign Relations Committee basically saying that the administration, the U.S., has lost all credibility in foreign policy right now?

I think it's mostly partisan posturing…I would suggest that the way you gain credibility in a situation like Russia is not to have gone around invading other countries. I mean, the idea that if we had only intervened in Syria, we would have more credibility with the Russians. I feel like we tried that experiment in the last administration. We invaded Iraq, we invaded Afghanistan, and Putin still invaded Georgia and he still annexed Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

These situations are sufficiently complicated, that if you decide you want to put a partisan spin on them, you can read almost anything the way you want to. I think that this is a tough period we're going through, and a very serious crisis we're confronting in eastern Ukraine, and I just wish that the United States were able to speak with one voice rather than using this occasion and this crisis to turn it into yet one more partisan slinging match.

You've suggested this may be the most significant crisis involving the U.S. and Russia since the end of the Cold War. Are you still buying that?

Absolutely, because since the Cold War ended, we have had a set of rules of the road that have allowed for an unprecedented level of political stability, the global economy has prospered, the great powers have all been playing by a certain set of rules of the road. And what Russia has been doing over the last few years, but particularly here, is essentially saying, we're going to tear up this order. We are not going to abide by the idea that borders are sacrosanct, because what they are trying to do now in eastern Ukraine is they're trying to foment extreme instability.

The idea, I think, is to create a general climate of chaos, then declaim that the Russian army has to go in as a matter of protecting its own borders, protecting its own Russian speakers…This is stuff that really has not been employed by any major power really since 1945, but certainly since the end of the Cold War. So it's a big deal.

Post by:
Topics: Russia • Ukraine

soundoff (288 Responses)
  1. Greg Yakovlev

    Hey Fareed, don't you remember how US government invaded Iraq to get rid of "weapons of mass destruction" that did not exist, did not USA invade Libya to get rid of "evil dictator Gaddafi", and how about that "humanitarian mission" in Kosovo, did not USA violate territorial ingerity of Serbia, and how about interventions in Latin America or in other places you little weasel did not mention. How about those dead Afghanis and Pakistanis in drone strikes. By the way Fareed, in case of your uhh... demise, remember THERE IS NO DEMOCRACY IN THE EYES OF GOD. The best place in the world is heaven, and there is no democracy there. It is an absolute monarchy of GOD ETERNAL, and he knows your sins, he knows you are a little liar, and he kept track of your little sins.

    April 11, 2014 at 12:45 am | Reply
  2. kaiypov

    pause the war!

    April 11, 2014 at 3:05 am | Reply
    • Igor

      Our media (USA) presents a lot of biased information about what is happening in Ukraine/Russia.

      To make some sense of events one needs to know a bit of history. Ukraine itself was part of Russia since 1654 (when Ukraine asked to become a part of Russia) till 1917 revolution and then part of Soviet Union till 1991. Before 1654, competing leaders (“Batka” – a Ukrainian for a leader; Batka is a word root for one of leading nationalist parties “Batkovshina”) were disrupting any possibility of defense from Poland and Turks. Thus, one of the leaders (Hmelnitsky) facilitated incorporation of some territories that are present day Ukraine into Russia. Thus, there was no independent Ukraine ever until 1991.

      Present upheaval (so called second revolution in 20 something years and multiple changes of government must raise some questions: maybe there is something wrong with “Ukrainian democracy”.
      Benderovtsi (Ukranian nationalists) acted as assistants of Nazis in WW2 and their followers took power in Western Ukraine and now helped overthrow the elected government in Kiev. Western financial aid directed for more than 20 years to support “Ukrainian Democracy” was ending up in the pockets of corrupt politicians. Much of it also ended up with ultra-radical nationalist movements training armed nationalists who helped to capture power in Western Ukraine and Kiev. The Western infusion of money was due to a motivation to build a strong Ukraine to have it as an ally of the West against potential threat from Russia. I can understand that motivation. The problem was that money did not help to build an economically strong Ukraine, but rather helped to build corrupt and/or extremist forces, which were destabilizing Ukraine for years. The present government in Ukraine is no exclusion and billions of dollars coming from us (the tax payers) will end up in the pockets of gangsters.

      Crimea was never part of Ukraine (it was part of Russia for 200 years) until Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine in 1954 (within USSR) to commemorate 300 years anniversary since unification of Ukraine and Russia. This was done within USSR and in reality Crimea was never separate for Russia. Remember times when words USSR / Russia were used interchangeably? I hope the West will sober up and understand that Crimea is part of Russia again per majority will of Crimean population. This is a reality and there is no need to further aggravate the situation. If USA made it so that Kosovo decided its fate, why Crimea (with overwhelming Russian majority) cannot decide its fate as well?

      Why would not USA and NATO offer sending military to defend civil order in Ukraine when Ukrainian nationalists start assault on Russian speaking-population opposing nationalistic regime in Kiev? I think Russia would be interested to discuss with the West involvement of NATO troops to prevent violence and civil war in Ukraine. Since it is unlikely that USA or NATO will send the troops in case violence builds up in Ukraine, there is no other option for Russia other then interfere. It is interesting how USA can justify military operations in other countries without even having a border with those countries (Panama, Iraq, Kosovo, etc) but when Russia states that it will use troops to restore civil order in extreme situation in the area few miles away where Russian population is assaulted, the USA and European governments and Western media start all sorts of accusations and threats

      April 11, 2014 at 10:22 am | Reply
      • Mark Martin

        The assaulting is being done by Pro-Putin Russian thugs, not the Ukrainians. You are a pathetic power hungry crypto-fascist supporting your dictator. We should send 100s of NATO planes to Eastern Europe and mobilize 50,000 combat-ready troops on the Russian border. Lasrov and Putin have no credibility left. While we are at it we should drop bombs on that Syrian despot and send a naval force odd of Venezuela and put serious sanctions on the Russian bear.

        April 13, 2014 at 5:23 pm |
      • Igor

        TO Mark Martin,

        Please see my response to Anna

        April 14, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
  3. Anna

    I would like to let know all of you that some people from the KGB ( like "Igor") still have a job-– writing on american sides like this and spreading the disinformation about the Ukraine situation. Don't forget that today Russia-- agressorr.

    April 11, 2014 at 7:24 am | Reply
    • Steve

      Sorry, Anna...actually SOME of us real US citizens have a brain, and are not too lazy to search out better sources than those such as the one here. I think Mr. Zakaria is way in over his head. I wish I could get paid as much as he does for providing such biased, uniformed information., The simple FACT – hard for the average American or EU person to accept, is ever since the breakup of the USSR, and with Putin's arrival, he has actually worked very hard, and peacefully to try to, GASP! – hang on to the Ukraine as a modern day sphere of influence. That includes if not ever getting to the pipe dream of a functional Commonwealth of Independent States (set up and supposed to include Russia, Ukraine, and Belorussia since the USSR dissolved), than AT LEAST having them participate in the Customs Union and NOT join NATO.

      As for the much vaunted freedom of information, please all be aware the average Russian gets CNN uninterrupted – while here in the US, I can say likely less than 1% either has any access or interest in anything other than our clearly biased media. Thus, those of us from the KGB posting here (NOT!). Also, what is Ukraine so afraid of that they have turned off all Russian TV broadcasts, and now are refusing entry not just to Russian journalists, but also some from the West. All, apparently, part of some warped ideological purity which includes, internally, "vetting" Supreme Court and other judges to ensure they are loyal to the new regime. The West is being totally hoodwinked by a pathetic bunch of losers in a failed state.

      As if that were not bad enough, a HUGE player in the overthrow, the right-wing nut jobs, are TOTALLY opposed to the EU – or ANY other organization that "inteferes" with their "glorious" Ukraine. Funny, until recently, used to be the Russians who suffered from an inferiority complex. No longer- the Ukrainians appear to have taken this over. Amd I for one do not want MY money going to this cesspool, and world peace threatened becuase of all of this.

      April 11, 2014 at 8:33 am | Reply
      • dybo

        @Steve

        You grossly overstate the role of the far right in the Ukrainian government, just as the Russians are doing. You're also way off the mark about Ukraine's alleged "hoodwinking" of the West. No, they're not all good and "pure". The US and Europe have all kinds of media outlets, biased in different directions, some more than others. Russia's media is under heavy government control. THere's no equivalency here: that's you chief mistake. As far as Putin's "peaceful" approach goes, he has used all kinds of threats, leverage, and continuous political manipulation in neighboring for Soviet states. Now this has "degraded" to stirring up Russian ethno-nationalism, massing troops and tanks on the border, and all the rest that we've seen in the past couple of months.

        April 11, 2014 at 10:09 am |
    • ✠RZ✠

      Sure would be nice to see a video for YouTube called "I am a pro-Ukranian" in which it is clearly voiced that being forced to join either Europe or Russia is NOT desirable. Please help by telling your friends. Though if their offers to help require that we must SELL OUT our own country and our very souls, than thanks, but no thanks. No one has the right to ask us that, and furthermore they can all go f!!k themselves.

      April 11, 2014 at 8:55 am | Reply
    • Igor

      Anna,

      If I were KGB agent, my post would not run under the name of Igor. I am US citizen, for about 20 years, originally from Russia and my information is based on what I know first hand and from ordinary people in Russia and Ukraine with whom I still communicate. I am not afraid to of people like you. If you have true information to present in this discussion relevant to the topic at hand, I am ready to continue conversation.-Igor

      April 11, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  4. History

    Our media (USA) presents a lot of biased information about what is happening in Ukraine/Russia.

    To make some sense of events one needs to know a bit of history. Ukraine itself was part of Russia since 1654 (when Ukraine asked to become a part of Russia) till 1917 revolution and then part of Soviet Union till 1991. Before 1654, competing leaders (“Batka” – a Ukrainian for a leader; Batka is a word root for one of leading nationalist parties “Batkovshina”) were disrupting any possibility of defense from Poland and Turks. Thus, one of the leaders (Hmelnitsky) facilitated incorporation of some territories that are present day Ukraine into Russia. Thus, there was no independent Ukraine ever until 1991.

    Present upheaval (so called second revolution in 20 something years and multiple changes of government must raise some questions: maybe there is something wrong with “Ukrainian democracy”.
    Benderovtsi (Ukranian nationalists) acted as assistants of Nazis in WW2 and their followers took power in Western Ukraine and now helped overthrow the elected government in Kiev. Western financial aid directed for more than 20 years to support “Ukrainian Democracy” was ending up in the pockets of corrupt politicians. Much of it also ended up with ultra-radical nationalist movements training armed nationalists who helped to capture power in Western Ukraine and Kiev. The Western infusion of money was due to a motivation to build a strong Ukraine to have it as an ally of the West against potential threat from Russia. I can understand that motivation. The problem was that money did not help to build an economically strong Ukraine, but rather helped to build corrupt and/or extremist forces, which were destabilizing Ukraine for years. The present government in Ukraine is no exclusion and billions of dollars coming from us (the tax payers) will end up in the pockets of gangsters.

    Crimea was never part of Ukraine (it was part of Russia for 200 years) until Nikita Khrushchev gave it to Ukraine in 1954 (within USSR) to commemorate 300 years anniversary since unification of Ukraine and Russia. This was done within USSR and in reality Crimea was never separate for Russia. Remember times when words USSR / Russia were used interchangeably? I hope the West will sober up and understand that Crimea is part of Russia again per majority will of Crimean population. This is a reality and there is no need to further aggravate the situation. If USA made it so that Kosovo decided its fate, why Crimea (with overwhelming Russian majority) cannot decide its fate as well?

    Why would not USA and NATO offer sending military to defend civil order in Ukraine when Ukrainian nationalists start assault on Russian speaking-population opposing nationalistic regime in Kiev? I think Russia would be interested to discuss with the West involvement of NATO troops to prevent violence and civil war in Ukraine. Since it is unlikely that USA or NATO will send the troops in case violence builds up in Ukraine, there is no other option for Russia other then interfere. It is interesting how USA can justify military operations in other countries without even having a border with those countries (Panama, Iraq, Kosovo, etc) but when Russia states that it will use troops to restore civil order in extreme situation in the area few miles away where Russian population is assaulted, the USA and European governments and Western media start all sorts of accusations and threats.

    April 11, 2014 at 10:21 am | Reply
  5. GOP Prayer - GOPers, Read Together and Out Loud With Me

    The GOP Prayer/Mantra/Solution: Dear God...Help us to turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, Female, and Gay people into slaves. Then, with your guidance, we will whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Male, and Straight. Or until they are dead. God...Grant us the knowlege to then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military during the next "unfunded/off-the-books" war. And don't forget the GOP all time favorites........TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!!!..........and........GET RID OF SS AND MEDICARE!!!

    In your name we pray.......Amen.

    April 11, 2014 at 10:22 am | Reply
  6. BOOFBABY

    I agree.

    April 12, 2014 at 8:30 pm | Reply
  7. Mark Martin

    Obama has lost my support on this one and I have been a loyal Democrat. Words are not actions. You must take action. That means mobilizing troops and airplanes. Your NATO commander General Breedlove is correct. We must do more. There must be a real line drawn. Talk is cheap.

    April 13, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  8. Olga Gnip

    Igor seems to be an expert on Ukrainian history. Well then how come, that he fails to mention that every single „ incorporation“ of Ukrainian territories by Russia was preceded by military occupation of this country and the strong opposition from the side of the Ukrainian population? Even in the 17th century when Russia promised to help Ukraine and grand it its independence, Russia took over after a while. Each time the conquerors tried to impose Russian Language and destroy Ukrainian culture, forbid Ukrainian Language and send into exile or death anyone opposing their brutal regime in the country. (Doubt that, dear Igor? Please, check your sources more carefully and don't copy word for word information from the Russian media) For centuries, up to this day Ukraine seems to have been trying to get rid of Russian grip and preserve its culture, language and territory. (Do you, Igor, have any problem with that? Lithuania, for instance did the same; would you call them “nationalistic regime”, too? What about any other country who attempts to preserve its culture, language and territory?)

    Steve and Igor seem to be so sure that (let's quote them) “the Russians who suffered from an inferiority complex“ and “Ukrainian nationalists start assault on Russian speaking-population”, and “where Russian population is assaulted”. I was wondering where this information comes from. If I am not mistaken the only possible source is Russian media, fully controlled by the Russian government (there's no need to dispute on that; that's a fact!). Thus the most astonishing fact is that before Putin decided to gain control over Crimea, claiming that Russian-speaking population there was being attacked, assaulted and so on (allegedly just because they are ethnic Russians)..., there had never been any evidence of that, not even a hint (like an article, a video, a news report or a debate) since the independence of Ukraine in 1991. Please, prove me wrong, if you can (which I doubt). So how come that such an important problem had never been encountered before? Maybe because it had never existed? Just for the record, there have been dozens of reports from the USA and the EU countries stating that Russian media constantly misinform their audience on this topic in attempt to impose their inflammatory propaganda (That's also been proven by official sources. Go ahead and check it.)

    Well, it looks like from the very start Russia has been fulling its own people and the rest of the world trying to make them believe it's been protecting someone. Instead it's been perusing its goals of gaining control over Ukraine, and Crimea in particular.

    July 20, 2014 at 12:56 am | Reply
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