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.

FULL POST

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Topics: NATO • Russia • Ukraine
The big winner from Ukraine crisis? China
June 6th, 2014
04:51 PM ET

The big winner from Ukraine crisis? China

By Mark N. Katz, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University and the author of the recent book Leaving Without Losing: The War on Terror After Iraq and Afghanistan. The views expressed are his own.

It’s still not certain how the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is going to be resolved, but there already appears to be one clear winner: China. That, anyway, is the view of several Russian observers I met with last week when I was in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to European talk of reducing natural gas imports from Russia no doubt prompted Putin’s recent trip to Beijing and the signing of a mega-deal under which China has agreed to buy a massive $400 billion of Russian gas over a thirty year period.

But while Putin may believe that Chinese support will help him frustrate what he sees as Western efforts to prevent Russia’s re-emergence as a great power, the view among observers I spoke with wasn’t quite so rosy.

For a start, they interpreted the declaration that what China pays for Russian gas is a “trade secret” as a bad sign for Moscow, suggesting that Putin might have been so desperate for a deal that Beijing was able to get him to accept an extremely low price.

FULL POST

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Topics: China • Russia
How to stop a repeat of Ukraine crisis
June 3rd, 2014
04:15 PM ET

How to stop a repeat of Ukraine crisis

By Kim Davis, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Kim Davis is co-founder and managing director of Charlesbank Capital Partners, a private equity firm. He is also chairman of the Baltic American Freedom Foundation and a member of the board of Freedom House. The views expressed are his own.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea, destabilization of Ukraine and protestations ("threats") about his need to defend Russian speaking populations throughout Eastern Europe have elicited many reactions and analyses.

The most troubling of these reactions have been from observers who believe that NATO's enlargement in the 1990's was wrongheaded and an immediate cause of Putin's belligerent actions. But not only is that suggestion flawed – it also signals a profound misunderstanding of what took place over the past few months. Indeed, any policy based on that kind of thinking will heighten the danger to Russia's non-NATO neighbors and may also increase Putin's adventurism in new NATO countries, especially the Baltics.

Many foreign policy observers favor a tacit, or even explicit, undertaking by the United States and Europe that the West will no longer support further eastward expansion of NATO and the EU as long as Russia agrees to renounce its territorial ambitions. Such a bargain, Finlandization writ large, would be a terrible mistake.

FULL POST

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
What China's latest deals say about its grand strategy
May 29th, 2014
03:58 PM ET

What China's latest deals say about its grand strategy

By Lauren Dickey, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Lauren Dickey is a research associate with the Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are her own.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s trip to China last week was the capstone on weeks of strategic agreements for Beijing. The successes of Putin’s meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Shanghai – most notably a $400 billion gas deal to transport 38 billion cubic meters of gas yearly into China beginning in 2018 – were preceded by equally significant meetings between the Chinese leadership and their counterparts from Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. But while these bilateral meetings point to Beijing’s commitment to the development of the Silk Road economic belt, they also speak to something even more important – China’s interest in bolstering regional security.

In the lead up to the Shanghai Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) the first central Asian leader to signal the strategic depth of central Asia’s ties with China was Turkmenistan’s president, Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. A week before Berdymukhamedov’s mid-May visit to China, China opened a new $600 million processing plant at Bagtyarlyk gas field, the location of a major China-bound pipeline. Turkmenistan’s gas exports to China have increased in recent years, with officials aiming to reach 40 billion cubic meters by 2016 thanks to China’s financial backing of Bagtyarlyk. Upon arriving in China, Berdymukhamedov signed a gamut of deals with Beijing, formalizing Turkmenistan’s ascension as the last central Asian nation to sign onto a “strategic partnership” with Beijing. The two countries agreed to strengthen cooperation in areas ranging from natural gas extraction to cross-border infrastructure development and cultural exchanges.

FULL POST

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Topics: Central Asia • China • Russia
May 15th, 2014
11:20 AM ET

Don't ignore what's happening inside Russia

By Tanya Lokshina, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Tanya Lokshina is the Russia program director at Human Rights Watch. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

As the crisis in Ukraine escalated this spring, the Kremlin’s vicious crackdown on civil society also escalated. Space for independent civic activity in Russia is shrinking dramatically, but international policymakers and the media have been understandably too distracted to do much about it.

Since early spring, it seems as though every week brings a new pernicious law or legislative proposal.

The authorities have blocked or essentially took editorial control over a number of independent news portals and are pushing new laws to stifle freedom of expression. Just a week ago, President Vladimir Putin signed a law requiring Russian bloggers with significant followings to register with the authorities and comply with the same regulations as media outlets without the same protections and privileges. The same law requires blogging services and social networks to store user activity for six months.

Another legislative proposal reportedly prompted by independent media coverage of the crisis in Ukraine would introduce administrative and criminal offenses for editors who publish “false anti-Russian” information or offer media support to “anti-Russian extremist and separatist forces.” Another new draft law introduces a ban on publishing negative information about the Russian government and military.

FULL POST

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Topics: Human Rights • Media • Russia
May 10th, 2014
10:37 PM ET

Kissinger: Putin likely didn't plan to bring Ukraine situation to a head

Fareed speaks with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger about what might be behind Russia’s recent policy toward Ukraine. Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Kissinger: One has to ask oneself this question: He spent $60 billion on the Olympics. They had opening and closing ceremonies, trying to show Russia as a normal progressive state. So it isn't possible that he, three days later, would voluntarily start an assault on Ukraine. There is no doubt that…

So to explain. You're saying you don't think this was a plan.  You think he reacted to events that he saw as spiraling out of his control?

Kissinger: Yes. I think at all times he wanted Ukraine in a subordinate position. And at all times, every senior Russian that I've ever met, including dissidents like Solzhenitsyn and Brodsky, looked at Ukraine as part of the Russian heritage.

But I don't think he had planned to bring it to a head now. I think he had planned a more gradual situation, and this is sort of a response to what he conceived to be an emergency situation. Of course, to explain why he did it doesn't mean one approves of annexing part of another country or crossing of borders. But I think we ought to settle the Ukraine issue first, and then have a discussion about relations with Russia.

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Topics: GPS Show • Russia • Ukraine
Understanding the modern dictator’s playbook
May 8th, 2014
04:34 PM ET

Understanding the modern dictator’s playbook

By Daniel Calingaert, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Daniel Calingaert is executive vice president of Freedom House. The views expressed are his own.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decree honoring more than 300 journalists for their “objective coverage” of events in Crimea recognizes the contributions of these foot-soldiers in his propaganda war. Many Americans belittle Russia’s propaganda but miss the bigger picture – Putin and other modern dictators have created an elaborate playbook to probe their opponents’ weak points with a variety of offensive tactics that throw the democratic defense off-guard. Modern dictators use their playbook masterfully, while the world’s democracies hesitate, repeatedly stumble, and let the dictators make their way bit by bit down the field.

Respect for political and civil rights has declined globally for eight consecutive years, due in large part to the growing sophistication of modern authoritarian rulers and their initiatives to tighten control on power amid rising public demands for political change. They write the narrative of what is going on in their country, delete the evidence that contradicts their stories, and close the space online and on the streets for citizens to have their say.

Putin is drawing on the modern dictator’s playbook to solidify support at home and neutralize criticism abroad of his aggression against Ukraine. He uses his dominance of Russian media to propagate his grossly distorted portrait of fascists trying to take over Ukraine and oppressing ethnic Russians (while in fact, two-thirds of ethnic Russians in Ukraine don’t feel threatened or pressured, according to a recent poll). Western journalists repeat his talking points on the Kremlin-backed RT television network in glossy formats, on-air debates, and on-the-scene reports in eastern Ukraine.

FULL POST

Topics: Egypt • Russia • Ukraine
Zakaria: Sanctions strategy could work against Russia
May 5th, 2014
01:53 PM ET

Zakaria: Sanctions strategy could work against Russia

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the latest developments in Ukraine, tensions between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian militants, and whether sanctions can deter Russian aggression.

There is a fear that Vladimir Putin might look at the violence over the weekend in Ukraine and say “we now see a reason to invade.” Do you see Russia really wanting to invade eastern Ukraine or do you think Putin is just happy with the instability that's already being created within the country right now?

That's the million dollar question – is he doing this to create an atmosphere of instability, which allows him to prove his point, which is that you can't solve Ukraine without him. You can't hold elections there. And this is all about the run-up. We're 20 days away from the elections and he’s trying to prove, it seems to me, that nothing can happen in Ukraine unless he decides it's going to happen.

Now, the West has made several offers of diplomatic meetings and solutions. Right now, he doesn't want to take them, because I think he still wants to continue to prove that he can destabilize the place much more than we think. Now, the danger is that things can get out of control. We don't entirely know what his calculation is. But you know, in the back of everyone's mind, the big question is, could you imagine Russian troops and American troops in some way being locked in a military confrontation? Remember, the entire Cold War that never happened. We seem to be getting a little bit closer to what is still a very unlikely event. But we're getting a little bit closer to it.

My fear about those kind of gestures, military gestures, is you want to do something that would actually work and would make a difference, and where the threat is real. One of my old professors said two things are very dangerous and expensive in international relations – threats when they fail and promises when they succeed. So be very careful when you make threats and promises. I think it would be very hard to muster a military threat that will be meaningful, other than presumably a lot of air power.

FULL POST

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
April 26th, 2014
12:30 PM ET

Donilon: Russia likely 'engaged in a destabilization effort'

Fareed speaks with former U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

Do you believe that Vladimir Putin really could actually, in some way, invade Eastern Ukraine at some point?

Well, the situation in Eastern Ukraine right now is quite volatile, and it's difficult to predict – even from Putin's perspective – as to where this is going to go.

What I do think is happening is this: I think that the Russian government, led by Putin, is engaged in a destabilization effort, currently, in Ukraine. I think that the Russian view here is that a destabilized Ukraine is superior to a stable, successful Ukraine that's oriented to the West. And I think you'll see them continue to use the leverage that they have to try to destabilize the situation.

And I think the job of the United States and the West is support, politically and economically, the Ukrainian government, to have the elections take place in May and to move forward and to build a successful Ukraine. A difficult task given the fact that I think that Putin and his team and the Russians are engaged in an express effort to destabilize, through a variety of covert operations

Anything about this surprise you? You spent a lot of time with President Putin, to then hear him say, you know, bald-faced, there were no Russian troops involved, I don't know who these guys with black masks are?

I think it is unusual for a leader of a country to engage in bald-faced lying. I think it's an unusual thing to do, frankly. And it really does obviously hurt his credibility. And I think that's one of the reasons that you've had some of the surprising tough reactions you've had from Europe, for example.

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Topics: GPS Show • Russia • Ukraine
Is confrontation with Russia inevitable?
April 18th, 2014
01:24 PM ET

Is confrontation with Russia inevitable?

By Fareed Zakaria

Over the past 2 months, we have watched what has looked like a minor version of the Cold War ramp up between the West and Russia. And it has left many people wondering, "How did we get here?" Was this confrontation inevitable or did the West mishandle Russia, from the start?

In the mishandling camp is Jack Matlock, former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, who watched from Spaso House in Moscow as Mikhail Gorbachev presided over the end of the Cold War and then the end of the Communism. He argues, as the title of his recent Washington Post essay puts it, "The United States has treated Russia as a loser since the end of the Cold War."

In the years right after the Cold War ended, several American statesmen and writers urged a more generous policy towards Moscow.

FULL POST

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
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