Why Europe is wary over Russia sanctions
July 24th, 2014
12:18 PM ET

Why Europe is wary over Russia sanctions

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the U.S. and European responses to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. This is an edited version of the transcript.

President Obama is facing pressure, from Democrats and Republicans, to really up the ante. But the United States can only do so much because it's not one of the main trading partners with Russia. Germany, as you know, is the biggest European trading partner with Russia – 36 percent of its natural gas and almost 40 percent of its oil comes from Russia. If you're German and you put tough sanctions on Russia and they retaliate, your people are going to be really upset this winter.

It’s not only Germany – that’s just one perfect example. So Germany, as you say, would literally not be able to heat its homes. Remember, Chancellor Angela Merkel just said no nuclear – after Fukushima, she said the country was going off nuclear. So that means an even greater dependence on natural gas.

The Netherlands is another major Russian trade partner – Rotterdam is a place that imports more Russian oil than any place else in the world. They import it, they refine it, and then they sell it. Shell, the big Dutch company – a kind of iconic company – has huge investments in Russia.

So the Europeans have over the last decade, as Russia has grown as an oil country, gotten themselves so intermeshed that it's very tough for them to do it. FULL POST

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Topics: Europe • Russia
July 22nd, 2014
10:36 PM ET

Zakaria: Why Europe isn't getting tougher on Russia

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about Europe's response to the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. This is an edited version of the transcript.

The French continuing with the sale of an advanced warship to Russia. Where is the outrage? Because the responses so far, you're talking about incremental increases in sanctions, still negotiating access to the site – this doesn’t seem to match the enormity of this crime.

You’re right. We’ve seen pretty strong rhetoric coming out of U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and President Obama. We've seen some of it coming out of the British prime minister, finally, and the Australian prime minister. Very little you notice out of continental Europe, the big powers – Germany, France, even the Dutch – have been remarkably restrained given the enormity of the tragedy here.

And I think that part of the problem here is that Europe has very deep economic ties, very deep energy dependence, on Russia. In the French case in particular, France has always prided itself in being a kind of bridge to Russia. They've always prided themselves on being a big military exporter. The way they think about it, if they didn't do this stuff, the Americans would be dominating the arms industry.

So, there are a lot of national interests that are coming in the way of what you rightly said should be a kind of international response. There should be a sense that the international community is acting, but instead what you're seeing is separate national interests – the French national interests, the German national interests – trumping what should be an international humanitarian interest.

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Topics: Europe • Russia • Ukraine
Russia on defensive over MH17 tragedy
July 22nd, 2014
01:56 PM ET

Russia on defensive over MH17 tragedy

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 politics of the Malaysia Airlines crash, the state of the investigation, and why Russia looks to be on the defensive. This is an edited version of the transcript.

Senator John McCain has told us that the United States needs to do more, the United States needs to lead more, that the president hasn’t done enough in terms of leading and the European allies will follow. He also thinks that the United States and allies need to offer arms, offer weapons to Ukraine in order to regain control of the situation on the ground. What do you make of it?

I listened to the interview closely. I thought it was unfortunate…What struck me about what Senator McCain was saying is that it seemed needlessly partisan. By which I mean he said President Obama should lead, he said he should name Putin specifically and hold him responsible.

President Obama stood outside the White House yesterday and said Putin has a responsibility. He's the person with the most direct control. He and Russia can do something about this. He said the United States should lead with sanctions and Europe will follow. The United States has led with sanctions – the United States has many more sanctions on Russia than any European country, and it has prompted Europeans to do more, as perhaps it will this week.

So, yes, there are areas where the United States could do better. But you know it would help in our dealings with our allies, and with the Russians, if the president seemed to be speaking for the country and had the backing of Congress behind him. And instead, what struck me about this was it was turned into just one more of the kind of unending series of partisan wrangles in Washington. FULL POST

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
Putin 'getting more isolated internationally'
July 21st, 2014
06:02 PM ET

Putin 'getting more isolated internationally'

CNN speaks with Fareed about the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 and how the West should respond to Russia’s alleged role in assisting pro-Russian militants in Ukraine.

Is Russian President Vladimir Putin getting increasingly isolated, do you think, at this point?

He is getting isolated internationally, though you will notice that many European countries have still been very, very reluctant to confront him directly and to publicly demand that Russia do things. The Malaysian government has not done it. Russia is a big country, it has a United Nations veto, and most importantly, he still has a great deal of support at home.

Remember, the version of events that Russians are hearing is a kind of alternate reality in which they charge that the Ukrainian government is responsible, even though the Ukrainian government doesn't actually control the territory from which the rockets were launched. They claim that the Ukrainian government might have been trying to shoot down President Putin's plane and missed. So, there's a whole fabricated alternate reality, and Putin remains popular in Russia.

So, while he's getting more isolated internationally, it isn't clear that the domestic pressure, which is what he worries about, has risen at all. FULL POST

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
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. FULL POST

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
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
Zakaria: Ukraine government needs control of its own territory
July 18th, 2014
09:02 AM ET

Zakaria: Ukraine government needs control of its own territory

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the alleged shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine on Thursday. This is an edited version of the transcript.

The conflict in Ukraine had generally slipped out of the headlines in the United States, but Thursday’s incident was a very shocking reminder that if anything it as intense as ever.

I think it's also a reminder of something else – that the government of Ukraine doesn’t actually control all of the territory of Ukraine – this happened in a part of Ukraine that the government of Ukraine doesn’t control. It’s largely controlled by these pro-Russian rebel forces. Some are Ukrainians, but there was a lot of reporting as you know that says there were a lot of Russians and Russian special ops people who've been in there.

Actually, Ukraine’s government accuses the separatists and Russia of being linked in that way.

Precisely. And a lot of the equipment that those separatists have got they almost certainly got from Russia. This should be an opportunity for the entire world for the West, for the United States, to say, let's end this farce once and for all. The government of Ukraine has to have control over its own territory. The Ukrainian army should go in there, clean this out, and the Russian government at this point I think is on the back foot and won’t be able to try mounting any spirited defense.

But you've got to allow the government in Kiev to actually control the country…

Since a new president was elected in Kiev we’ve seen advances by Ukrainian forces against separatists. Early on, when Ukraine's military was trying to move into some of these regions in eastern Ukraine, they basically got turned around by mobs of people. But there have been some advances by the Ukrainian military there in the last several weeks.

Exactly, and part of that is they're getting their act together. Part of it, remember, is the Ukrainian military and intelligence services are riddled with Russian spies, so that has made it very difficult. But this is all an opportunity to clean that up, to allow the government of Ukraine to have control over its territory, to sweep out some of those Russian forces. This would be an opportunity, particularly if the Europeans really lay it on the line, because Putin is going to feel on the defensive here. This wouldn’t be a time to mount a Russian counter offense.

A U.S. official told CNN that the Obama administration doesn’t think the government of Ukraine has air defenses in the region where Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot and crashed. The official also told CNN that we'll see the Obama administration attempting to internationalize this, and there will be pressure to allow others from outside to see this site. What do you make of that?

I think it's actually very important because we forget that in Russia that what people are hearing is a completely different narrative. You heard Putin basically saying “Look, if the Ukrainian military wasn't trying to take control of their own country, none of this would happen because this area wouldn't be a war zone.” And there are reports in Russia that say that this was the Ukrainian military that shot down the plane because it was trying to shoot down Vladimir Putin's plane and that they missed and that these two planes just happened to be in the sky at the same time.

The Russians have had this extraordinary propaganda offensive throughout this Ukrainian crisis – there have been some bald faced lies, they’ve made stuff up and just put it out there.

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
Will Malaysia Airlines crash be traced to a Russian-made missile?
July 17th, 2014
09:29 PM ET

Will Malaysia Airlines crash be traced to a Russian-made missile?

By Leon Aron, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Leon Aron is resident scholar and director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed are his own.

In the thick fog of war hanging over eastern Ukraine it is only possible at this point to establish the perimeter of the known and then to evaluate the potential culpability on a more-likely to less-likely scale.

We know that Russia and its proxies have tried to establish a de-facto no-fly zone over the rebel-controlled territory in east-south Ukraine. And while initially only low-flying helicopters and planes reachable by shoulder-fired missiles were downed, the targetable range seems to have increased to an altitude that can only be reached by sophisticated surface-to-air missiles, as evidenced by the Ukrainian military AN-26 cargo aircraft that was brought down on Monday.

The self-proclaimed military commander of the pro-Russian separatists Col. Igor Strelkov allegedly alluded to the no-fly zone when, following the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, he appears to have written on the Russian equivalent of Facebook, Vkontakte, that “we have just shot down an AN-26 airplane…Haven’t we warned them – don't fly in our sky.”

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
July 16th, 2014
12:20 PM ET

Apollo too risqué for Russia?

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

The image in the video shows the world famous Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. A statue of Apollo, the Greek god of music, riding his chariot has sat atop the Bolshoi's portico for more than 150 years. In the 1990s, the statue joined the ranks of princes and emperors when it was added to the nation's currency. It now decorates the front of the 100 Ruble note.

This month, Russian lawmaker Roman Khudyakov requested that the Central Bank remove this iconic image.  It seems he is offended by the Greek god's clothing – or lack thereof. You see, following a recent theater restoration, a more modest version of the Bolshoi statue was unveiled with a strategically placed fig leaf. Khudyakov noted that the bills don’t match the restored statue and finds them unsuitable for children.

This request, unusual as it may be, echoes a growing conservatism in the Russian government. The parliament unanimously passed anti-gay legislation last year banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to youth. Who knows what the law means? But what we do know is that the fine for a person breaking it is steep – up to 100,000 rubles. That's about $3000 dollars.

President Putin has strongly supported this anti-gay legislation. Something tells us, however, that Mr. Putin won’t be as offended by the lack of clothes. Remember the famous image of the bare-chested macho man of the Urals?

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Topics: Last Look • Russia
July 14th, 2014
02:43 PM ET

Is Russia's Crimea move akin to annexation of Kuwait?

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

Fareed speaks with former Swedish Prime Minster Carl Bildt, now the country’s foreign minister, about the recent tensions between Europe and Russia over Ukraine.

You gave a very tough speech at the Atlantic Council in which you said that Russia's annexation of Crimea has only one parallel in modern history, in the last 30, 40 years, and that was Iraq – Saddam Hussein's annexation of Kuwait. That was, of course, met with a massive international coalition that repulsed that intervention. What is one to conclude from the fact that there’s no such forceful counter-measure in this case?

Well, I mean in the case of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait, of course, there was a resolution by the U.N. Security Council. Now, Russia is a member of the Security Council, so that's never going to happen. I mean they're going to block everything that is related to this.

But I think it’s important that we are extremely firm on how grave the violation of international law is that Russia has undertaken in the case of Crimea, and that we make very clear to Russia that the invasion, the occupation and the annexation of Crimea will have consequences. We will never accept it. And it will be a burden on our bilateral relationship for as long as it lasts.

We’re not going to undo the occupation immediately, but we must be very clear that it isn’t acceptable – it wasn’t acceptable in the Kuwait case, it's not acceptable in the Crimea case. It is not acceptable in any future other cases, either.

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Topics: GPS Show • Russia • Ukraine
July 12th, 2014
03:56 PM ET

Bildt: EU, NATO expansion not reason for Ukraine tensions

Fareed speaks with former Swedish Prime Minster Carl Bildt, now the country’s foreign minister, about the recent tensions between Europe and Russia over Ukraine. Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

You don’t buy the argument, I notice from your speech, that the Europeans in some way are responsible – or NATO is responsible – because over the last 20 years the European Union and NATO have expanded to Russia's borders. This is, of course the Russian claim, made by Putin in various speeches.

I don't buy anything of that. I mean the reality of it is that Ukraine, for all of its problems – and they are fairly massive – has been throughout its period of independence, has been a democratic country. And it has itself expressed the wish to have free trade and closer cooperation with the rest of the European countries, notably in the European Union. And we have answered that particular call. It would have been very difficult to refuse the Ukrainians. We have, perhaps, done less than they wanted – they want a much clearer European perspective from us.

They have free trade with Russia. We have no objections to that. And we’re now giving them free trade with the European Union. So we have answered the wishes of the Ukrainian people and the Moldovans and the Georgians and others. And that’s the thing you do in order to try to help a democracy that is trying to build a better future. FULL POST

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Topics: GPS Show • Russia • Ukraine
Why expanding NATO would deter Russia, stabilize Europe  
June 25th, 2014
03:15 PM ET

Why expanding NATO would deter Russia, stabilize Europe  

By Tomas Valasek and Damon Wilson, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Tomáš Valášek is the permanent representative of Slovakia to NATO. Damon Wilson is executive vice president at the Atlantic Council and former NATO official. The views expressed are their own.

In the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Europe’s east, NATO has reaffirmed the alliance’s commitment to defend “every inch” of its members’ territory. Right now, it must also make clear that it will respond to any Russian measures to undermine stability in Europe as a whole, especially the security of countries waiting to get into NATO. The cost of not doing so is to invite more Russian aggression.

While NATO membership for Ukraine is not on the table in Brussels or Kiev, Ukraine’s sovereignty may be impacted by what the alliance decides about what to offer Montenegro and Georgia, the two most prepared candidates for membership. NATO foreign ministers have started talks in Brussels on Wednesday that will pave the way for a decision on enlargement at NATO’s September summit in Wales. Unfortunately, some key NATO members are not yet convinced about the benefits of enlargement.

That decision will be based mostly on whether candidates are prepared to meet the responsibilities of membership. But allies also need to consider whether accession of additional countries contributes to NATO’s security. Enlargement is not a favor to aspiring members. Any next round must strengthen the security of the Alliance and the stability of Europe.

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Topics: NATO • Russia • Ukraine
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