March 31st, 2014
09:20 AM ET

Zakaria: Russia endangering global order

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

By Fareed Zakaria

The best way to deal with Russia's aggression in Crimea is not to present it as routine national interest-based foreign policy that would be countered by Washington in a contest between two great powers. It is to point out, as Obama did eloquently last week in Brussels, that Russia is grossly endangering a global order that has benefited the entire world. Compare what the Obama administration has managed to organize in the wake of this latest Russian aggression, to the Bush administration's response to Putin's actions in Georgia in 2008.

That was a blatant invasion. Moscow sent in tanks and heavy artillery. Hundreds were killed. Nearly 200,000 people were displaced. Yet the response from the West was essentially nothing. This time the response has been much more serious. Some of this difference is the nature of the stakes. But it also might have to do with the fact that the Obama administration has taken pains to present Russia's actions in a broader context and get other countries to see them as such.

This is what leadership looks like in the 21st Century. There is in fact an evolving international order with new global norms making war and conquest increasingly rare. We should strengthen, not ridicule it. Yes, there are some places that stand in opposition to this trend: North Korea, Syria, Russia. The people running these countries believe that they're charting a path to greatness and glory. But they are the ones living in a fantasy world.

Watch the video for the full take or read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take
March 25th, 2014
08:37 AM ET

Putin trapped by history

By Fareed Zakaria

Whatever happens in Ukraine over the next few months and years, the crisis has reminded me that there are really two kinds of rulers around the world: those who think about the past and those who think about the future. And if it weren’t abundantly clear already, it is now – Vladimir Putin is in the first group. And his country will be the poorer for it...

...Think of Pakistan's generals, still trying to establish "strategic depth" in their backyard while their country collapses. Or think of Vladimir Putin, who is, as Secretary of State John Kerry said, playing a 19th century game in the 21st century. What has he achieved? Ukraine has slipped out of his grasp, its people deeply suspicious of Moscow. Even in Crimea, the 40 percent who are non-Russian are probably restive and resentful. Moscow's neighbors are alarmed, and once-warming relations with Poland will be set back. Trade and investment with Europe and the United States will surely suffer, whether there are sanctions or not.

Meanwhile, Russia continues along its path as an oil-dependent state with an increasingly authoritarian regime that has failed to develop its economy or civil society or foster political pluralism. But no matter – Moscow controls Crimea. In today's world, is that really a victory?

Watch the video for the full Take or read the TIME column

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Topics: Fareed's Take
March 2nd, 2014
01:44 PM ET

How U.S. should respond to Russia

By Fareed Zakaria

In a strange act of historical coincidence, it is 60 years ago this week that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev handed the Crimea over to the Ukraine. It might not have seemed a big deal in those days – everyone was part of one big, unhappy Soviet Union. But that act has created today’s geopolitical crisis.

Russia has now made its move. It has essentially detached Crimea from the Ukrainian government’s control. What remains unclear is what Vladimir Putin wants to do with it. Incorporate it into Russia? Use it as leverage to negotiate a deal with Ukraine? Both?

In any event, Washington’s response should be clear and forceful. Russia has violated all kinds of laws and norms, including most crucially, a treaty that it signed with Ukraine guaranteeing that country’s borders, in return for which Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons.

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Topics: Fareed's Take • Russia • Ukraine
February 17th, 2014
02:28 PM ET

Zakaria: Both sides not equally at fault in Washington

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

By Fareed Zakaria

Watching the machinations in Washington over the last two weeks, it is now impossible to talk about how both political parties are to blame for the country's gridlock.

Consider what just happened on immigration. Now a majority of Americans support granting citizenship to illegal immigrants – by 81 percent in the most recent CNN poll – as well as enhanced border controls. The leadership of the Republican Party in both houses of Congress talked about a comprehensive reform package that would create a lengthy waiting time for citizenship – 13 years – and couple this with tougher enforcement.

Immigration was supposed to be ripe for common-sense reform. The public is for a compromise solution, policy wonks have proposed ways to make it work, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports it, the country's leading technology firms have been clamoring for it, senior Democrats and Republicans are all in favor. And yet it couldn't get past the central problem in Washington today - the extreme and obstructionist faction within the Republican Party - that cannot take yes for an answer.

The next time someone blames "both sides" for Washington's paralysis or issues a bland call for "leadership" to get us out of it, remember the case of immigration.

Watch the video for the full Take or read the Washington Post column.

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Topics: Fareed's Take • Politics
February 10th, 2014
10:34 AM ET

Behind Karzai's outbursts

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

By Fareed Zakaria

The U.S. has tired of its longest war, debating only the size of the small force it will leave behind, mostly for training purposes. The Taliban continues to have many strongholds in significant parts of the country. And Pakistan continues to support the Taliban from across the border-support that is likely to expand as America withdraws and Islamabad seeks to fill that power vacuum.

So Karzai might be playing an erratic game of brinkmanship in his negotiations with Washington, but he might also be trying to navigate a post-American Afghanistan. While American troops might well remain and some American aid will continue, Afghanistan is going to look very different in 2015 than it does today.​

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Topics: Afghanistan • Fareed's Take • GPS Show
February 3rd, 2014
02:46 PM ET

Washington, Iran need to face realities

By Fareed Zakaria

After Iran and the major powers signed onto a deal on Tehran's nuclear program, expectations were high. Over the last week, they have fallen sharply as Iranian officials have made tough public comments, Israel's Prime Minister has reaffirmed his opposition to almost any conceivable deal, and several influential U.S. senators have threatened new sanctions.

Now, this does not mean a final deal with Tehran is impossible but it does mean that both sides, Tehran and the West, need to start thinking creatively about how to bridge what is clearly a wide divide and they also have to think about how to get around the main obstacle they will face – which will be opposition at home, in Iran and the United States.

Watch the video for the full Take or read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take • Iran
January 11th, 2014
08:00 AM ET

Why Iraq is in turmoil

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

By Fareed Zakaria

Here's a startling statistic: more than 8,000 Iraqis were killed in violent attacks in 2013. That makes it the second most violent country in the world, after its neighbor Syria.

As violence has spread and militants have gained ground in several Middle Eastern countries, people have been wondering how much this has to do with the Obama administration and its lack of an active intervention in the region. The Wall Street Journal and a Commentary magazine opinion piece have both argued this past week that the Obama administration's decision to withdraw troops from Iraq is directly responsible for the renewed violence in that country. They and others have also argued that because it has stayed out of Syria, things there have spiraled downward.

Let me suggest that the single greatest burden for the violence and tensions across the Arab world lies with a president – though not President Obama – and it lies with an American foreign policy that was not too passive but rather too active and interventionist in the Middle East. The invasion and occupation of Iraq triggered what has become a regional religious war in the Middle East. Let me explain how, specifically.

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Topics: Fareed's Take • Iraq • Middle East • Religion
January 4th, 2014
11:48 PM ET

Can China reform in time?

By Fareed Zakaria

I know, it's seems odd to speak of problems and the need for reform in the world's fastest growing big economy. But China has built up imbalances in that economy for some years now and they are not sustainable for much longer. Even before the financial crisis, China's top officials were aware that the economy was, in Premier Wen Jiabao's own words, "unstable, unbalanced, uncoordinated, and unsustainable." It needed to wean itself off cheap credit and undergo market reforms.

Since then, in response to the global economic slowdown, China pumped even more easy money into its economy. The result, according to Morgan Stanley's Ruchir Sharma, is that China's total public and private debt is more than 200 percent of GDP, an unprecedented level for any developing country. Sharma points out that while it used to take one dollar of debt to produce one dollar of Chinese GDP growth, today it takes $4 to produce that same dollar of growth. Businesses and local governments have piled on debt. The property boom has accelerated. Without serious policy changes relatively soon, this is a bubble that is going to burst.

I'm not ready to bet against China. Its leadership has shown itself to be capable of difficult decisions and smart execution. And if the leaders do manage this transition well, China will emerge stronger, and of course become the largest economy in the world. If they don't, they will likely face a slump and perhaps political tensions that bubble up in the wake of a slowing economy.

For more on this, watch the video or read the TIME column

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Topics: China • Fareed's Take
January 2nd, 2014
09:01 AM ET

2014 is a make or break year for China

By Fareed Zakaria

Beijing faces other serious challenges. Chinese people almost anywhere in the country experience serious air and water pollution, and they have begun to complain vocally. They are also increasingly outraged by something almost as ubiquitous: corruption. China's corruption is masked because of the state's tight control of the media, but the Communist Party is well aware of the problem and has pledged to revamp its systems of promotion and party discipline to ensure that officials are less corrupt and more focused on ecological damage, not just growth.

Any such changes are bound to face political resistance and backlash from within the Communist Party and from some powerful sectors of society. President Xi Jinping has launched an anticorruption campaign, though many in China believe enforcement has been selective. He has also sought to stabilize the party's power by tightening the noose on any critics in the media and universities and even those who are private businesspeople. Xi has created a national security council focused largely on internal security, a sign of not only where his priorities lie but also where he sees his greatest challenges.

I'm not ready to bet against China.

Read the TIME column

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Topics: China • Fareed's Take
December 23rd, 2013
09:14 AM ET

Zakaria: Focus on America's forgotten 46 million

By Fareed Zakaria

Is income inequality the “defining challenge” of our time? President Obama's speech earlier this month on the topic has provoked a lively debate on this subject.

I think part of the confusion that some people have is that when we talk about inequality we’re often talking about three different things. First, the astonishing rise of the very rich. Second, the stagnant wages and poor prospects of the American middle class. And third, the large number of people at the very bottom of the ladder.

These are distinct phenomena. They may be related – the rise of the rich might be causing the stagnation of the middle class – but the research on that is mixed.

Of the three problems, the easiest to fix is the one we spend the least time talking about: the fate of the poor, who now number 46 million. Since the poor tend not to vote nor lobby nor petition politicians, they don't get much attention. And as a result, government does not devote much energy or resources to their problems, especially those of poor children who suffer from malnutrition, bad health, and poor education, which cripple their chances of escaping poverty. The resources needed to change this would be a fraction of what we spend on the middle class in this country.

We don't have all the answers but if you're looking for the policy that would likely have the biggest effect on raising social mobility and reducing inequality, let’s shift the attention from the rich and the middle class and focus for once on the 46 million Americans who are often forgotten.

Read the Washington Post column for more

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Topics: Fareed's Take
December 14th, 2013
01:26 AM ET

Give capitalism a chance to change Cuba

By Fareed Zakaria

In the midst of the extraordinary spectacle of Nelson Mandela's funeral – in a stadium with some 90,000 mourners, including more than 90 heads of government – a small gesture caught the world's attention. President Barack Obama moved to greet Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil. On his way, he shook hands with the person to Rousseff’s right. The photograph of that handshake ricocheted around the world. Understandably, because the man Obama shook hands with was Raul Castro, president of Cuba.

Remember, the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Cuba, and has a tight trade embargo in place against the island nation. So, many wondered whether this handshake was the beginning of a great shift in policy.

I hope so. Let's begin by asking whether the existing policy is working. In 1960, the United States enacted an embargo against Cuba. Its purpose was simple and explicit: regime change. Did it work? Well, until he retired from the presidency in 2008, Fidel Castro was the longest serving head of government in the world. Surely that's about as powerful evidence as one can get that the policy did not work and is not working.

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Topics: Cuba • Fareed's Take
November 18th, 2013
10:19 AM ET

Tehran not only Iran deal obstacle

By Fareed Zakaria

Saudi Arabia is not going to accept any deal on Iran's nuclear program, no matter what is in it. Saudi objections to the Islamic Republic of Iran are existential. The Saudis regard Tehran as a heretical, Shiite, Persian enemy that must be opposed. Its antipathy predates Iran's nuclear program and will persist whatever the resolution of it.

And then the Republicans in the U.S., some of whom have serious objections and others who see this as an easy avenue to outflank President Obama on the right, placing him in the familiar spot of a liberal Democrat who is soft on America's foes.

Many of us have assumed that the greatest obstacle to a deal would come from Tehran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards remain deeply anti-American, and they may well oppose the concessions that President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif would have to make to get a deal. But it’s now clear that greater obstacles might lie in the path of the negotiators on the other side. The minute any deal is announced, Saudi Arabia and Israel will denounce it, and many Republicans will join in. Given that Congress would have to pass laws to lift any of the major sanctions against Iran, this could prove to be an obstacle that cannot be overcome.

So Obama faces two major challenges. First he has to get a deal that the hard-liners in Tehran can live with. Then he has to get one that the hard-liners in Washington and Jerusalem and Riyadh can abide. If he can do both, maybe he will deserve his Nobel Peace Prize after all.

Watch the video for the full Take or read the TIME column

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Topics: Fareed's Take • Iran
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