August 4th, 2014
11:58 AM ET

Will Putinism triumph?

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

By Fareed Zakaria

When he first came to power in 2000, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed a smart, tough, competent manager, someone who was determined to bring stability to Russia, which was in free fall at the time, reeling from internal chaos, economic stagnation and a default in 1998. He sought to integrate Russia into the world and wanted good relations with the West, asking Washington for Russian membership in both the World Trade Organization and even in NATO.

Over time, however, Putin established order in the country and control over society. He also presided over a booming economy, as oil prices quadrupled under his watch. So he began creating a repressive system of political, economic and social control to maintain his power.

As he faced opposition, particularly in the parliamentary elections of 2011, Putin recognized that he needed more than just brute force to defeat his opponents – he needed an ideology of power. The crucial elements of Putinism are nationalism, religion, social conservatism, state capitalism, and government domination of the media. They work in tandem to sustain Putin's popularity…

…The success of Putinism ultimately will depend a great deal on the success of Putin and Russia under him. If he triumphs in Ukraine, turning it into a basket case that eventually comes begging to Moscow, he will look like a winner. If, on the other hand, Ukraine succeeds outside of Russia's orbit, leaders like Victor Orban might regret having cast their lot with a globally-isolated Siberian petro-state.

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

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Topics: Fareed's Take • Russia
July 31st, 2014
11:37 PM ET

The rise of Putinism

By Fareed Zakaria

When he came to power in 2000, Putin seemed a tough, smart, competent manager, someone who was determined to bring stability to Russia — which was reeling from internal chaos, economic stagnation and a default in 1998. He sought to integrate Russia into the world and wanted good relations with the West, asking Washington for Russian membership in the World Trade Organization and even NATO. His administration had technocrats who were Western liberals, well versed in free markets and open trade.

Over time, however, Putin established order in the country while presiding over a booming economy as oil prices quadrupled under his watch. He began creating a repressive system of political, economic and social control to maintain his power. As he faced opposition, particularly in the parliamentary elections of 2011, Putin recognized that he needed more than just brute force to defeat his opponents. He needed an ideology of power and began articulating one in speeches, enacting legislation and using his office to convey adherence to a set of values.

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Topics: Fareed's Take
July 28th, 2014
12:24 PM ET

EU the world's great no-show

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

By Fareed Zakaria

On Ukraine, Europe has always been a step behind, internally conflicted, and unwilling to assert itself clearly and quickly. Those same qualities have been on display ever since the shoot-down of Flight 17…

…It's really difficult to have your voice heard and feared when you both speak softly and carry a twig. The problem is now being described by some as European cowardice and appeasement. But it is better explained by an absence of coherence among 28 very different countries, a lack of strategic direction, and a parochial inward orientation that hopes the world's problems will go away.

The result nevertheless is a great vacuum in international life with terrible consequences.

If we look back years from now and wonder why the liberal, open rule-based international order weakened and eroded over the years, we might well note that a crucial problem was that the world's most powerful political and economic unit – the European Union – with a population and economy larger than America's, was the great no-show on the international stage.

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

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Topics: Fareed's Take • GPS Show
July 24th, 2014
09:28 PM ET

The EU is the world’s great no-show

By Fareed Zakaria

If Europe was trying to move Ukraine into its camp, it should have been more generous to Kiev and negotiated seriously with Moscow to assuage its concerns. Instead, Europe seemed to act almost unaware of the strategic consequences of its actions. Then when Russia began a campaign to destabilize Ukraine — which persists to this day — Europe remained a step behind, internally conflicted and unwilling to assert itself clearly and quickly. Those same qualities have been on display following the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

The European Union still has a chance to send a much clearer signal to Ukraine, Russia and the world. It could demand that Russia pressure the separatists to cooperate fully with the investigation of Flight 17 and allow the Ukrainian government — which Moscow recognizes — to take control of its own territory in eastern Ukraine. It could put forward a list of specific sanctions that would be implemented were those conditions not met within, say, two weeks.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take
July 20th, 2014
05:15 PM ET

How West should handle Russia

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

By Fareed Zakaria

The actions of the pro-Russian forces, who it appears shot down a civilian airliner, might seem at first glance to be crude and unsophisticated. But in one sense they're on the cutting edge. They represent something we see all around us these days – the democratization of violence.

Let me explain.

For most of history, the side with the bigger army usually won a conflict. But over the past few decades a different pattern has been emerging – the power of asymmetrical warfare. Look at the pro-Russian separatists, or Hamas or Hezbollah or the insurgents in Afghanistan or Iraq, and you will see attacks that are cheap compared with the massive response then launched by traditional armies.  FULL POST

Topics: Fareed's Take • Russia • Ukraine
July 17th, 2014
11:41 PM ET

No, this isn't the worst of times

By Fareed Zakaria

For all the problems, let’s keep in mind that we live today in a world with considerably fewer dangers. Nuclear war is unimaginable. The Russian-American nuclear arsenals are down to one-fifth their size in 1973 and at a much lower level of readiness. In 1973, Freedom House published its first annual account of political rights around the world. At the time, countries listed as “not free” outnumbered “free” countries. Today that is inverted, with the number of “free” countries having doubled. Open markets, trade and travel have boomed, allowing hundreds of millions to escape poverty and live better lives.

Of course there are crises, problems and tensions around the world. But no one with any sense of history would want to go back in time in search of less turmoil.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take
July 14th, 2014
10:41 AM ET

Is U.S. throwing fuel on Middle East fire?

By Fareed Zakaria

The Obama administration's decision to seek $500 million to train and fund moderate elements of the Syrian opposition has been greeted with bipartisan support in Washington. The general consensus is that if the administration had done three years ago what it is doing now, the situation in Syria would not have turned into a bloody sectarian civil war.

But almost all elements of this conventional wisdom are wrong. The administration is caving in to the classic Washington desire to "do something" in the face of a terrible tragedy without any clear sense as to whether it has the ability to improve things or to make matters worse…

…The complexity of Washington's task can be seen in the American attitude towards ISIS. When the group battles the al-Maliki government in Iraq, it is a deadly foe of the United States and must be ruthlessly attacked. But when it crosses the now non-existent border between Iraq and Syria and battles the al-Assad regime, it’s aligned with America's stated goal of regime change in Damascus.

With this whole history of sectarian conflict in mind, it’s difficult to believe that three years ago a modest American intervention of arms and training, which is all that was being advocated, would have changed the trajectory of events in Syria.

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

 

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Topics: Fareed's Take • Syria
July 10th, 2014
10:29 PM ET

Obama caves to conventional wisdom on Syria

By Fareed Zakaria

Syria has been unstable from its birth. Between its independence in 1946 and Assad’s coup, there were around 10 other coups and attempted coups. By the late 1970s, it was already divided into camps, largely defined by Islamism and sect. Outside powers in the Middle East — Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran — have been funding, arming and training militants on both sides. In 2011, these long-simmering tensions bubbled over.

Today, according to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, there are about 1,500 separate insurgent groups in Syria, with between 75,000 and 115,000 insurgents. In addition, there are 7,500 foreign fighters from neighboring countries. The strongest groups are all radical Islamist — the Islamic State, Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take • Syria
July 7th, 2014
09:52 AM ET

Identity trumping ideology across the globe

By Fareed Zakaria

People are worried that their country is changing beyond recognition, and that they are being ruled by vast, distant forces – whether the European Union in Brussels, the IMF, or the federal government in Washington – forces that are beyond their control and by people who do not share their values.

The rise of the Tea Party fits this pattern.After exhaustive research, the scholars Vanessa Williamson and Theda Skocpol concluded that immigration was a central issue – perhaps the central issue – for Tea Party members, something that has been reinforced by Eric Cantor's loss in his primary election.

In an age of globalization, elites have discussions that are about political ideology – more government, less government, different government. But, as Samuel Huntington noted many years ago, the force that seems to be moving the world these days is not political ideology, but political identity.

Everyone is asking the question: Who are we? And who are we not?

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

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Topics: Fareed's Take
July 1st, 2014
08:22 PM ET

Should Clinton distance herself from Obama?

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

Today the United States is on a slow recovery, and President Obama's approval ratings are low. That might suggest that the best course would be for Hillary Clinton to distance herself from her former boss.

But Obama, Obamacare, and other policies of this president are very popular among many Democratic groups.And remember, the three people in her shoes who have won all ran on continuity.

Now, Mrs. Clinton's recent memoir suggests that she has not yet made up her mind as to what course she will follow.The book is a carefully calibrated mixture of praise and criticism, loyalty and voice, such that she can plausibly go in whatever direction she chooses.

The world today is different, and Hillary Clinton is in a unique position, especially if she can truly mobilize women voters. But history does suggest that choosing change or continuity will truly be her hard choice.

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

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Topics: Fareed's Take
June 27th, 2014
03:14 AM ET

Hillary Clinton’s truly hard choice: Change or continuity?

By Fareed Zakaria

Hillary Clinton’s problem is not her money. Despite the media flurry over a couple of awkward remarks she made, most people will understand her situation pretty quickly — she wasn’t born rich but has become very rich — and are unlikely to hold it against her. Mitt Romney did not lose the last election because of his wealth. Hispanics and Asians did not vote against him in record numbers because he was a successful businessman. Clinton’s great challenge will be to decide whether she represents change or continuity.

Clinton will make history in a big and dramatic way if she is elected — as the first woman president. But she will make history in a smaller, more complicated sense as well. She would join just three other non-incumbents since 1900 to win the White House after their party had been in power for eight years. She would be the first to win who was not the vice president or the clear protégé of the incumbent president.

Read the full Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take
June 20th, 2014
12:52 AM ET

An enclave strategy for Iraq

By Fareed Zakaria

Can Iraq hold together? It’s worth examining what is happening in that country through a broader prism. If you had looked at the Middle East 15 years ago, you would have seen a string of strikingly similar regimes — from Libya and Tunisia in the west to Syria and Iraq in the east. They were all dictatorships. They were all secular, in the sense that they did not derive their legitimacy from religious identity. Historically, they had all been supported by outside powers — first the British and French, then the superpowers — which meant that these rulers worried more about pleasing patrons abroad than currying favor at home. And they had secure borders.

Today, across the region, from Libya to Syria, that structure of authority has collapsed and people are reaching for their older identities — Sunni, Shiite, Kurd. Sectarian groups, often Islamist, have filled the power vacuum, spilling over borders and spreading violence. In Iraq and elsewhere, no amount of U.S. military power can put Humpty Dumpty back together.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take • Iraq
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