U.S. credibility at stake in Ukraine
March 2nd, 2014
06:58 PM ET

U.S. credibility at stake in Ukraine

By Andrew C. Kuchins, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Andrew CKuchins is a senior fellow and director of the CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program. You can follow the Center for Strategic and International Studies @CSISThe views expressed are his own.

Vladimir Putin has dramatically raised the stakes with what amounts to a stealth annexation of Crimea this weekend, securing in the process a unanimous vote from the Russian parliament allowing for the deployment of Russian military forces in Ukraine.

To date, the Obama administration's response, including Friday's vague warning about "costs," has amounted to little more than a threat to boycott the G8 meeting taking place in Sochi in June. Did the president's team forget that Putin did not even show up when Obama hosted the G8 in 2012? Was that not a crystal clear message about what Putin really thinks about the G8 in general, and Obama in particular?

Regardless, the administration has clearly been caught flat-footed again by Putin. It is less clear, though, how the United States will respond.

What has taken place over the past two days merely underscores in the most urgent way that we must, together with our European allies, immediately step up with economic and security assistance to bolster the capacity and credibility of the interim government in Kiev. And in doing so, the Obama administration must abandon its oxymoronic inclination to "lead from behind" because the imminent danger is that of a broader use of military and quasi-military tools to effectively separate other eastern regions of Ukraine from the rest of the country. This would have disastrous consequences for Ukrainians and U.S. credibility around the world. Just imagine, for example, the takeaway for Japanese and Chinese leaders about U.S. commitment as they spar in their own territorial dispute.

Yes, Crimea may already be gone. But we have to make absolutely clear – and in the most credible way possible – that Russian military intervention in other regions of Ukraine is a red line that will mean war with Ukrainian and NATO military forces if it is crossed. U.S. and NATO naval forces need to be deployed to the Black Sea in close proximity to the Ukrainian Coast. Military forces of neighboring NATO member countries, meanwhile, should be deployed closer to the Ukrainian border.

This all presupposes that the government in Kiev will request such support, and that Ukrainian military forces, which have been largely absent for the past two days, also need to be ready to be deployed. If Ukraine's military and/or NATO is not prepared to take such measures, then we are simply letting ourselves look foolish with empty threats. But doing nothing would be a terrible misjudgment. Putin has proven agile in asserting Russian interests, and for the West to be effective in its response will require immediate, focused, and forceful action to make Putin recalculate his risk/reward equation.

In addition, the U.S. should work with its European allies to flesh out a package of economic assistance for the interim Ukrainian government. Significant commitments of money must be made immediately available to demonstrate a commitment to Ukrainians. Of course, Moscow and Kiev both have enough historical experience to be highly skeptical that we are ready to make significant financial commitments to Ukraine – that is the core factor that ignited this crisis back in November of last year. And Washington and the EU also have plenty of reason to doubt that any Ukrainian government can sustain its commitment to deep and sustained economic reforms that will get to the root of the endemic corruption among Ukrainian elites that has left its economy so weak and vulnerable.

But while such doubts are understandable, we must force ourselves to make the leap of faith that this time Ukraine will get it right, and the West should hope that the very real threat of the fragmentation of the country creates the sense of crisis necessary to break down the old patterns of behavior.

Ultimately, time is of the essence. And although the reality is that many Americans might feel perfectly able to live with a Ukraine without Crimea, any further fragmentation could be catastrophic not just for those living in Ukraine, but also for European security and the credibility of the U.S. commitment to it. Even if Ukraine is not at the center of Europe, it is still a part of it, and our failure to defend its sovereignty in this time of need could prove to be the final blow for a NATO that has in recent years struggled to find its place in the world.

Directly confronting Putin would not be as risky as many fear – Putin is, after all, a calculating opportunist who will take advantage of weakness where he sees it. He is extremely unlikely, therefore, to risk war if he clearly understands the "cost" of crossing a real red line. The question is whether he has any belief that the United States and its allies will step up.

I hope, for the sake of Europe’s security, that President Obama proves him wrong.

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Topics: Europe • NATO • Russia • Ukraine • United States
Why transatlantic ties are so complicated
February 28th, 2014
12:53 PM ET

Why transatlantic ties are so complicated

By Gregory F. Treverton, Special to CNN

​Editor’s note: Gregory F. Treverton directs the RAND Corporation’s Center for Global Risk and Security.  He is a former vice chair of the National Intelligence Council and co-author of 'Beyond the Great Divide: Relevance and Uncertainty in National Intelligence and Science for Policy'. The views expressed are his own.

The uproar earlier this month over U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland’s profane remark about how the European Union is handling the Ukraine crisis shouldn’t distract from a simple fact – frustration with U.S. allies is often part and parcel of the job. Indeed, years ago, when I was a National Security Council staffer, we used to quip that the only thing worse than not consulting with Japan was…consulting with Japan. So it should be little surprise that frustration is bubbling to the surface now.

Nuland’s comments, for which she has apologized, were prompted by the slow European response to unfolding events in Ukraine. And while her words – secretly recorded as part of a conversation with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt – were less than diplomatic, they reflected the deepening reality that Europe does not always do exactly what the United States wants it to.

Of course, it never has. But the end of the Cold War, the expansion of the EU and Washington’s forced reliance on coalition building have made trans-Atlantic relations more of a two-way proposition.


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Topics: Europe • United States
Zakaria: How Russia trumped West over Ukraine
February 21st, 2014
12:15 AM ET

Zakaria: How Russia trumped West over Ukraine

CNN speaks with Fareed about the ongoing unrest in Ukraine, why it matters to the West, and why there is little the United States can do.

You have followed this crisis very closely, but many may not. What is this fight about in the Ukraine, and why does it matter so much to the United States and Russia?

If you think of Ukraine, we think of it as a country, we assume it's always been the country with the same borders and the same people. But Ukraine is really divided, and historically has been divided between a western half and eastern half, roughly speaking. The western half of what is now Ukraine used to be part of Poland. So it was only joined after World War II. So that point is in a sense longing to reunite with its European history and heritage.

The eastern part, on the other hand, has long been attached to Russia. So this is a struggle between east and west for the soul of Ukraine. And of course, naturally, Russians feel a natural affinity to the eastern part, and westerners, including in Europe and in the United States, feel that the western part of Ukraine deserves to be in Europe. So it's really a struggle for the soul of Ukraine. As you say, it involves the rest of the world because each side is searching for an identity.

At the beginning of this, we do know that protestors were calling for a close relationship with Europe. But now, we're hearing protestors call for really the overthrow of the Ukrainian government, calling for President Yanukovych to resign and step down. Is that at all a possibility here?

It seems unlikely. It really depends which way the Ukrainian army goes.


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Topics: Europe • Protests • Ukraine
Zakaria: Very little the U.S. can do on Ukraine
February 20th, 2014
09:47 AM ET

Zakaria: Very little the U.S. can do on Ukraine

CNN speaks with Fareed about the unrest in Ukraine and what, if anything, the United States should do. This is an edited version of the transcript.

Earlier this month, a phone conversation was leaked between a high-ranking State Department official, Victoria Nuland, and the current U.S. ambassador in Ukraine. Nuland had some embarrassing comments about the E.U. on what is going on in Ukraine now. Is it your sense that this was leaked by the Russians or the pro-Russian Ukrainians to embarrass the United States?

My guess is it was leaked by the Russians because they do have the capacity to overhear that kind of conversation. The basic point Victoria Nuland was trying to make, I think, is that the European Union has been playing a kind of slow economic game here, whereas the Russians have been playing a fast geopolitical game.

By which I mean the European Union has been offering the Ukrainians a deal and association, but as long as they make certain kinds of structural economic reforms and get rid of subsidies on various industries. In other words, it's a kind of almost like a regular trade negotiation where they're trying to get the Ukrainian economy to become more market friendly.

The Russians, on the other hand, are playing a geopolitical game, and they first offered Ukraine essentially a $15 billion bribe, subsidized fuel and such, and then just recently, another $2 billion. So, Putin is basically saying here's cash, no conditions asked, you be part of my sphere of influence.

The Europeans, however, are playing this much longer-term game to try to turn Ukraine into a kind of middle class, you know, liberal democratic, capitalist society, and the two timetables are completely off. So, the Europeans have badly misplayed this hand. They should have, if they were going to step in there and try to wean Ukraine away from Russia, they needed to do something fast. They needed to do something that was overwhelming and that made it very difficult for the president to turn them down.


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Topics: Europe • Protests
Can world prevent more Lampedusas?
December 30th, 2013
01:24 PM ET

Can world prevent more Lampedusas?

By Kevin Duffy, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Kevin Duffy is a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Coast Guard and a member of the Atlantic Council’s Young Atlanticist Working Group. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. government.

At the conclusion of a summit of European leaders earlier this month, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso called the plight of migrants crossing the Mediterranean an “urgent and complex situation.” He went on to say that the European Union planned to address that situation through a 50-million euro emergency fund, an effort to work with countries of origin in the Middle East and Africa in addressing the causes of migrant flows at their source, increased security patrols, and a comprehensive migrant resettlement policy.

Europe’s policymakers appear now to be recognizing just how much the solution to the “urgent and complex” migrant situation will require a coordinated international effort, rather than reliance on individual countries to respond on their own.

In explaining the urgent tone of his remarks, President Barroso directly referenced Lampedusa, a rocky outcrop that is much closer to North Africa than it is to mainland Italy. The waters around that island were the scene of repeated, massive maritime disasters and rescue efforts in October: on the third of that month, more than 350 people died in a single shipwreck, with 150 more being rescued; a week later, more than 30 people perished and over 200 were saved when their boat capsized; on October 17, a U.S. Navy ship picked up over 120 imperiled migrants; in a remarkable single night at the end of the month, Italian and Maltese boats saved 700 people from five separate vessels.


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Topics: Europe • Immigration
December 7th, 2013
05:05 PM ET

Switzerland: Gun lover's paradise?

Watch Global Lessons on Guns, a Fareed Zakaria GPS primetime special, this Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on CNN

Switzerland is, by many measures, a gun lover's paradise. According to one estimate, the Swiss rank third in the world with 46 guns per 100 people – trailing only Yemen and, of course, the United States.

Why is Switzerland armed to the teeth? Well, thanks to a tradition that dates back to the dawn of the nation. It’s citizen-militia that forms its army. All able-bodied men, from farmers to financiers, serve at least 260 days in the militia. They’re all trained to shoot and most of them keep their guns at home. Militiamen can hone their skills at their local shooting clubs – gun appreciation societies that boast hundreds of thousands of members, offering classes, competition and camaraderie.

Pistol-packing Ursula Lutz in the video has been shooting for most of her life. On this day at her club, she hits the bulls eye 18 out of twenty times. Not bad for a 70 year-old.

Even the youngsters are expert marksmen. Dave Hah-Bairt is all of 10 years-old and started training two years ago. His advice for the inexperienced? Don’t fidget while shooting.

Watch Global Lessons on Guns for more on this issue.

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Topics: Europe • Gun Control
November 2nd, 2013
02:47 PM ET

Law of the jungle not good enough

By Fareed Zakaria

The revelations about the U.S. National Security Agency and its spying on foreign – even allied leaders – has been embarrassing for the Obama administration at a time when it hardly needs more bad news. Last week, European leaders reacted angrily to claims that the United States had been eavesdropping on calls, including listening in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone.

The revelations prompted Merkel to warn relations with the U.S. had been severely shaken. But is all this more than just an embarrassment? And should it raise alarms abroad and at home?

At first glance, this is a story that is less about ethics and more about power – the great power gap between the United States and other countries, even rich European ones. The most illuminating response to the revelations came from Bernard Kouchner, formerly the foreign minister of France. He said in a radio interview: "Let's be honest, we eavesdrop too. Everyone is listening to everyone else." Kouchner went on to add "we don't have the same means as the United States, which makes us jealous."


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Topics: Europe • Spying • United States
Zakaria: Intelligence oversight situation unacceptable for democratic society
October 30th, 2013
12:01 PM ET

Zakaria: Intelligence oversight situation unacceptable for democratic society

CNN speaks with Fareed about the controversy over National Security Agency spying activities in Europe – and what it means for ties between the U.S. and its European allies. This is an edited version of the transcript.

Intelligence chiefs were very unapologetic in their answers in the House committee hearings yesterday, defending the NSA spying programs. Is that enough to satisfy European allies?

Well, they've got two problems on their hands. The one is the European public. And the other is European leaders. So much of what they defended was the kind of metadata or using leads to follow up and figure out if there are terrorists. And that kind of thing, what you're doing is you're looking at patterns, you're seeing a bunch of phone calls from Saudi Arabia to Hamburg, Germany. Who are these people in Hamburg? Why are they being called?

I think people understand that the European public is very disquieted by the idea that they're being spied on by the American spy agency. That's one piece of it. The other piece, which they didn't defend, was the spying on Angela Merkel, the leader, the eavesdropping on phone conversations.

Now, that's always gone on to a certain extent. The key difference is, as the French foreign minister said, the Americans do it so much better than any of us that we're all somewhat jealous.


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Topics: Europe • Spying • United States
How West sees Iran's nuclear program
October 16th, 2013
08:51 AM ET

How West sees Iran's nuclear program

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

As American, European, Russian, Chinese and Iranian negotiators jockey in Geneva over ending the West’s economic sanctions on Tehran in return for a dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, European and U.S. publics are sending negotiators on both sides a clear message: they oppose Iran having nuclear armaments. They agree on the current imposition of economic sanctions. And they generally support the use of military force if sanctions fail. The Chinese and Russian publics, though, dissent.

At a time when people on both sides of the Atlantic have turned critical of the Afghan War and have recoiled from involvement in Syria’s civil war, there is relative cohesion on Iran in both Europe and the United States. Indeed, there are some signs such solidarity may be strengthening. Yet although Iranian negotiators in Geneva will find little daylight between the American and European publics that they can exploit, differences between transatlantic views and those held by the Chinese and Russian publics may yet prove critical in the talks.


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Topics: Europe • Iran • Nuclear • United States
Could Britain see a baby boom?
July 31st, 2013
10:36 AM ET

Could Britain see a baby boom?

By Stijn Hoorens, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Stijn Hoorens is associate director and head of the Brussels office of RAND Europe. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

Prince George, the first child of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, arrived last week, an event watched with king-sized anticipation across the globe. The royal birth comes at a time when fertility in Britain is increasing after decades of decline. Today, the U.K.’s total fertility rate, a proxy for the average number of children per women in a given year, is the third highest in Europe behind only France and Ireland. Is Britain on the cusp of a baby boom?

Fertility rates across Europe declined year-on-year between the post-war baby boom and the end of the 1990s. Europe’s total fertility rates dropped in most countries below the threshold needed to maintain a stable population, the so-called “replacement level” of 2.1 children per woman. But the dawn of the new century saw the declines cease and birth rates actually began to trend upwards in many countries, including the U.K.

And, while fertility rates in some European countries have resumed their downward trajectory in the last couple of years, Britain stands out as an exception, a place where a baby boom may well be taking shape.


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Topics: Demographics • Europe • United Kingdom
Actually, drones worry Europe more than spying
July 17th, 2013
10:31 AM ET

Actually, drones worry Europe more than spying

By Anthony Dworkin, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Anthony Dworkin is a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are his own.

Relations between the United States and Europe hit a low point following revelations that Washington was spying on European Union buildings and harvesting foreign email messages.

Behind the scenes, though, it is not data protection and surveillance that produces the most complications for the transatlantic intelligence relationship, but rather America's use of armed drones to kill terrorist suspects away from the battlefield. Incidents such as the recent killing of at least 17 people in Pakistan are therefore only likely to heighten European unease.

In public, European governments have displayed a curiously passive approach to American drone strikes, even as their number has escalated under Barack Obama’s presidency. Many Europeans believe that the majority of these strikes are unlawful, but their governments have maintained an uneasy silence on the issue. This is partly because of the uncomfortable fact that information provided by European intelligence services may have been used to identify some targets. It is also because of a reluctance to accuse a close ally of having violated international law. And it is partly because European countries have not worked out exactly what they think about the use of drones and how far they agree within the European Union on the question. Now, however, Europe’s muted stance on drone strikes looks likely to change.


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Topics: Conflict • Europe • Terrorism • United States
July 15th, 2013
10:18 AM ET

How the NSA scandal hurts the economy

By Arvind Ganesan, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Arvind Ganesan is director of business and human rights at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are his own.

The National Security Agency surveillance scandal has been devastating to the U.S. government’s credibility as an advocate for Internet freedom. But the impact on U.S. technology companies and a fragile American economy may be even greater.

Every new revelation suggests far more surveillance than imagined and more involvement by telephone and Internet companies, with much still unknown. One of the most troubling aspects of this spying is that foreign nationals abroad have no privacy rights under U.S. law. Foreigners using the services of global companies are fair game. (There is also a certain irony to the revelations, considering that some European governments such as Germany and the Netherlands are strong U.S. allies on Internet freedom but may simultaneously be targets of U.S. surveillance online.)

A July 1 report by Der Spiegel on the NSA spying on European officials infuriated governments a week before negotiations started on a massive U.S.-European Union trade agreement that could be worth almost $272 billion for their economies and 2 million new jobs. Officials throughout Europe, most notably French President Francois Hollande, said that NSA spying threatens trade talks.


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Topics: Economy • Europe • Security • United States
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