Zakaria: Russian news in alternate universe
July 21st, 2014
01:45 PM ET

Zakaria: Russian news in alternate universe

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

CNN's New Day speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, Ukraine’s response and what we might be able to expect from Russian President Vladimir Putin. This an edited version of the transcript.

You’re well aware of what is going on with the politics and the violence in this country right now. As you heard us report, there are reports of civilian casualties as Ukraine says it's trying to take back checkpoints on the outside of Donetsk. Curious timing for them, don't you think, in the middle of trying to deal with MH17. What do you think the strategy is there?

What it could suggest is that the government of Ukraine, the government in Kiev, has begun an offensive to try to take control of this part of Ukraine. This part of Ukraine is not under the control of the government in Kiev. It is under the control of the pro-Russian separatists.

One of the things that the Kiev government has kept insisting on is that they need to get control of their own country. They may have seen this as an opportune moment because the rebels are on the defensive, they understand that the world is watching them and perhaps most importantly their patron, Vladimir Putin, is on the defensive. So this would not be a moment where you would imagine Russia would be sending in advisers, streaming across the border at night, sending in heavy equipment, heavy machinery.

So it may well be that the Ukrainian government decided this is the moment to act, and as you say, these thugs have fled the crime scene, which suggests that they're going to reinforce their comrades in Donetsk itself.

Two questions. If Russia is so in control, why would Vladimir Putin allow this shameful act to go on? And the other question is, a lot of talk from the Western world about how now is the time, now we must press. But there are no representatives from the Western world except the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is an international monitoring group. Nobody is on the ground. Where is everybody if they care so much?

Great questions. On the second one, as you know, the problem is the place is dangerous, as you have been pointing out. It has been very dangerous until really a few hours ago and my guess is people are trying to figure out exactly when they can go without creating an incident or some kind of violence.

But to your broader question, I think it’s very important for us to try to figure out what is going on, why did Putin let this happen? This strikes me as a special op gone awry. If you think of Crimea, Putin seemed like a genius because what he did was he got these special operations forces – without uniforms, with no discernible trace to Russia – to wrest Crimea away from Ukraine. And he can then say I don't know what you're talking about, I had nothing to do with this, we had nothing to do with this, these were locals.

Well, that looked great. Here you see the dark side to that, those kind of KGB operations. You're using rogues, mercenaries, thugs, you're using people with limited training and my guess is what happened is this operation went awry. The Russians may not have had as much control and direction over it, though they clearly trained these forces, and now, everyone is scrambling and perhaps these locals aren’t listening to their Russian handlers or masters as carefully as we think.

But it's a predictable consequence of trying to do this kind of special ops foreign policy, where your goal is to produce chaos on the cheap.

So, what's the game now for the Russian president? Because I think that's what it might take, to stand up and say, yes, these were the pro-Russian separatists there. Can he do that?

I don't think he can. He's locked himself into a corner. If you watch Russian TV, and I've done it a little bit with people who can help guide me through the language, they're in an alternate universe. The Russians are hearing a story about how the Ukrainian military is responsible because this happened in Ukraine, omitting the fact that the part of Ukraine it happened in is not controlled by the Ukrainian military.

They are hearing the Ukrainian military was trying to assassinate Vladimir Putin, trying to shoot his plane and missed and hit the civilian jetliner. So, that's the context in which those statements that Putin made have to be considered. He’s defending Russia against the “evil” West, defending Russia against this “evil” Ukrainian government.

We often talked about, throughout this Ukrainian crisis, how you often said he maintained plausible deniability in all of the machinations of Russian involvement in Ukraine. At this point, you say he's kind of backed into a corner. The, he's got two options – double down on the path he's been taking, or turn the corner and help. Which one is going to choose? And how does the U.S. influence that at all at this point?

I don't think there is any evidence he's turning around, because domestically, he remains very popular. And as I've said, they've created this alternative narrative of Russian nationalism, which is not based in reality. You would be surprised – Russia is a big country, television is the only method that connects the country together. So there are newspapers in Russia that are saying different things, but not on TV since it’s all state controlled.

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Where

    Where did you think Faux News came up with their idea for a news (propaganda) station?

    July 21, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Ordinary Russians, who don't understand a foreign language depend on state-own media to get themselves informed. Yet in other European countries, people have the choice to find media which is respected and unbiased, if they don't want to be brain-washed. Unfortunately they are too lazy or gullible that they just believe in what they are hearing or reading, although it's total crap!

      July 22, 2014 at 4:14 pm | Reply
  2. HeyHey

    More fallout from the Democrats reckless politicization of Iraq. For political gain they civilized US efforts in Iraq and damaged the oral standing of the US in the process. Now in every instance an enemy will reference the "mistakes in Iraq" as justification for anything.

    July 21, 2014 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  3. george argiriou

    what does it takes 2 chanche the essens of a man?

    July 21, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  4. wycliffewy

    Russians are very cynical and generally believe nothing that is reported on TV news. Much Russian television exploits this fact, makes fun of it. They don't have the concept of "reality tv", the format simply doesn't work there, conceptually. They don't believe anything they get from TV news. They see it as a total joke, at best.

    July 21, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Reply
    • Sounds like

      Faux News!

      July 21, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Reply
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Is Vladimir Putin less credible than Obama or Cameron? Somehow, I don't think so!

    July 21, 2014 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  6. chri§§y

    Lol @ fake Joey hes certainly more credible than you. As they all are, all those you mentioned...because they DONT hide behind a STOLEN name ya fraud!

    July 21, 2014 at 6:24 pm | Reply
  7. dr. abdu halakamir harper M.D. E.

    IN THIS UNIVERSE THERE IS MANY ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSE YES ALTERNATIVE RUSDIA
    SO FOR PLANETS SO FOR PROPLES SOME WHERE THERE IS A OTHER EARTH WITH A OTHER AMERICA THAT IS OPPOSTE OF HERE.
    HERE IS VRRY BAD AMERICA HAS LOSS ALL CREDETABELITY. NO GOOD
    WASHINTON AND OBAMA NO CREDETABILITY.

    July 21, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Reply
    • Are you

      Are you from Alabama?

      July 22, 2014 at 9:21 am | Reply
  8. dr. abdu halakamir harper M.D. E.

    EAT MORE POESIN YOU AMERICANS MORE SUGAR IN CEREOL AND GIVE TO YOUR KIDS SO THEY SLOWLY DIE
    EAT THE BUFFET AND DROP DEAD TONIGHT YOU ALL FST BIGS
    GLUTNEY IS A SIN
    GO DIE UNDER A ROCK VOMIT TO

    July 21, 2014 at 6:43 pm | Reply
    • Are you

      Are you from Alabama?

      July 22, 2014 at 9:21 am | Reply
  9. dr. abdu halakamir harper M.D. E.

    O YES YOU SAY BUT YOU ONLY EAT A LITTLE ONE AT MCDONOLDS WELL THEN ANOTHER LITTLE ONE AND POTATOS AND YOUR SOFT DRINKS AND ANOTHER ONE IT IS A LITTLE BURGER THEN ICE CREAM GOOD SLOWLY DIE EVEN THE COMPANY TOLD ITS WORKETS NOT TO EAT THE POISON. SO GO AHEAD AND YOU EAT IT
    HAVE A SAFE TRIP TO SATAN I CANNOT HELP YOU

    July 21, 2014 at 6:47 pm | Reply
    • My Picture Of The Holy Mohammad

      8=>(_|_)

      July 22, 2014 at 9:22 am | Reply
  10. chri§§y

    @ Dr. Harper...PLEASE take your meds and go to sleep! And NO alcohol...it only makes you look like a babbling lunatic! Of course maybe you really are!

    July 21, 2014 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  11. svpyadav

    Dear Jason Miks Garu, Airliner shot and violation going on. These all are from U S, because U S is a World's Terrorist. They blamed Russia in front of World community. Respected Mr. Puthin Garu is a Democratic person and he followed U N O rules and regulations and now World community support he having much more, Actually in Ukraine 82% people support to Mr. Putin. Now new Country formed name is CRIMEA these people also likes Mr. Puthin Adminisrtation. these all are minus points to U S that's why U S blaming to Russia. Actually these violations came from U S.

    July 22, 2014 at 2:45 am | Reply
    • George patton

      Good post, svpyadav. It's nice to see someone here who knows something instead of all the ignorant anti-Russian, Tea Partying nitwits!!!

      July 22, 2014 at 8:28 am | Reply
  12. apartymember

    America reminds me of a rabid female dog that seriously needs put down

    July 24, 2014 at 10:08 pm | Reply
  13. chri§§y

    Lol @ apartymember, rabid female dogs act different than rabid male dogs?????

    July 24, 2014 at 11:15 pm | Reply
  14. alan

    Watching Hilary Clinton on your show this morning, she is further out in an alternate universe than the Russian media.
    Time for a major change in US foreign policy but all we hear is "same old, same old". It's as they define 'indsanity' as " hitting your head off a wall many times but expecting the outcome to change".
    Hilary is about 30 years behind the times and is likely to be unelectable in the present climate of conflicts that appear to be unresolvable.

    July 27, 2014 at 3:03 pm | Reply

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