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.

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
Why Ukraine crisis has China in a bind
April 15th, 2014
02:31 PM ET

Why Ukraine crisis has China in a bind

By Christopher S. Chivvis and Bonny Lin, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Christopher S. Chivvis is a senior political scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and expert in European and Eurasian security issues. You can follow him @cchivvis. Bonny Lin is an associate political scientist at RAND and an expert on Asia-Pacific security issues. The views expressed are their own.

At Sunday night's emergency U.N. Security Council meeting, Western countries denounced Russian efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine. Depending on your reading of its statement, China either refused to do the same, or refused to back Russia. Either way, the meeting was just the latest example of how the Ukraine crisis has put China in a bind.

Russia has tried to parry U.S. threats of isolation by talking up the possibility of a closer Sino-Russian alliance. But while there is some concern that Chinese hardliners could seek to use Crimea as a precedent for moves against disputed territories in the Asia-Pacific has others worried, Sunday's meeting suggests concerns should not be overplayed.

To be sure, it will be hard for China to take a tough position against Russia for several reasons. Geopolitically, China shares a long border with Russia, which it views as a key trading and strategic partner. President Xi Jinping's first foreign visit as head of state was to Russia and Xi made developing closer relations with Russia a foreign policy priority. In the event of a U.S.-China confrontation, Beijing would likely hope to be able to rely on Moscow for neutrality, and, if necessary, a supply of energy and other war essential resources.

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Zakaria: Ukraine needs to get tougher
April 15th, 2014
08:50 AM ET

Zakaria: Ukraine needs to get tougher

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about recent developments in Ukraine, and whether Kiev has lost control of the east of the country. This is an edited version of the transcript.

A Russian air force plane reportedly made 12 passes near a U.S. Navy warship in the Black Sea over the weekend, a move the Navy is calling provocative and unprofessional. Something like that doesn't just happen. Is Vladimir Putin sending a clear message here or are we reading too much into it?

No, these things don't happen by accident. But I think that rather than a clear message, the way we should think about this is that Putin really is playing a game where he's pressing and pushing and trying to see what reaction he gets. It's almost like a wrestler that is trying to throw you with a couple of fancy moves and scattering them around.This is really how things seemed to happen during the Cold War, and it was routine and there was an almost agreed upon pattern of behavior. But for 20 years, this has not really happened at all.

The most important set of moves are the ones in eastern Ukraine, where he is trying to figure out how much trouble he can foment there. In the eastern part of Ukraine, where there are lots of pro-Russians, lots of ethnic Russians, he’s trying to see how much chaos he can cause. What will the government of Ukraine do? Will they be able to get control over that place? Or can he then step in and say, we need to look after Russians because, in the Ukraine, they're being discriminated against, they're being persecuted? And so maybe the Russian army moves in. Maybe he tries to negotiate some kind of separate autonomy. All of these are sort of moves to create chaos, which he can then say the Russian army is the solution to.

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
April 14th, 2014
12:14 AM ET

Next decade key to establishing global norms

By Fareed Zakaria

[There are] those who believe that Israel can forge a special relationship with Moscow, fueled by the connection between the hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews who emigrated to Israel and have been gaining political power there. When Lieberman meets with Putin or Foreign Minister Lavrov, they speak in Russian, which is Lieberman's first language.

China, perhaps less surprisingly, was also unwilling to condemn or sanction Russia.But its position has been more nuanced, refusing to endorse Russia's actions in any way and emphasizing its support for the "independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity" of Ukraine.

Now, one could argue that in all three cases, the countries are misreading what is actually in their national interests. China shares a long border with Russia and should not want to support Moscow in efforts to "adjust" these border by force. It would be foolish for Israel to compromise its relations with its closest ally, the United States, for delusions of an alliance with Moscow.

The fact that Avigdor Lieberman speaks Russian has not stopped Moscow from shipping arms to Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah (through Syria).India, for its part, should want to forge a much closer relationship with Washington as it confronts a rising China in its neighborhood.

But beyond these narrow considerations is a larger one. Do these countries want to live in a world entirely ruled by the interplay of national interests?

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

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Topics: Ukraine
April 10th, 2014
11:13 PM ET

The tension between global norms and national interests

By Fareed Zakaria

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has unified Western democracies, at least in their robust condemnation of the action. But farther afield, one sees a variety of responses that foreshadow the great emerging tension in 21st-century international life: between global norms and national interests.

Consider the response of India, the world’s most populous democracy. New Delhi was mostly silent through the events of February and early March; it refused to support any sanctions against Russia, and its national security adviser declared that Russia had “legitimate” interests in Ukraine — all of which led Vladimir Putin to place a thank-you phone call to India’s prime minister.

India’s reaction can be explained by its deep ties with Russia.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: India • Russia • Ukraine
'Russia trying to create climate of chaos in Ukraine'
April 9th, 2014
12:30 PM ET

'Russia trying to create climate of chaos in Ukraine'

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

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about recent developments in Ukraine, what Russia might be planning next, and how the United States should respond. This is an edited version of the transcript.

You've got pro- Russian demonstrators taking over government buildings in eastern Ukraine. You've got this ultimatum being laid out by the Ukrainian government. What do you make of the state of play inside Ukraine right now?

It feels like we're now in phase two of the Russian operation in Ukraine. Remember, Crimea was never the prize. Putin took Crimea because he could, because there was a naval base, because he feared Ukraine was slipping out of his control and he wanted to take that one piece that he knew he could get.

Ukraine was the prize. The whole purpose of Russian policy for the last decade has been to try to dominate Ukraine. So now phase two is, OK, we have Crimea. But Ukraine has become more anti-Russian and wants to move to the West. What do we do?

So, they've done two things. Over the last week or two, they’ve tried to essentially crash the Ukrainian economy. So, they have really essentially cut off supplies, contracts, business dealings. Now what they're trying to do is foment pro-Russian forces in Ukraine so that they create an atmosphere of general chaos.

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Zakaria: Ukraine crisis very, very significant
April 8th, 2014
04:19 PM ET

Zakaria: Ukraine crisis very, very significant

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the latest developments in Ukraine, talk of a civil war, and whether Russia is likely to invade eastern Ukraine. This is an edited version of the transcript.

Russia's foreign ministry is now using words like civil war when talking about the possible outcome in eastern Ukraine. So what's going on right now? Are the Russians looking for an excuse to move in?

It certainly looks like they're looking for an excuse to further destabilize Ukraine so that they can reassert their domination of their relationship with Ukraine.

Remember, Crimea was never the prize. Ukraine was the prize. They took Crimea because they realized the situation was spiraling out of control. You remember what was happening in the Maidan – suddenly they found Ukraine moving very rapidly toward the West.

And Putin decided [on that] really as a last-minute maneuver, I believe, because he had been stymied during the Olympics – the minute the Olympics got done, he initiated that KGB-style operation to take Crimea. But the prize, the thing he has always cared about, was Ukraine and dominating Ukraine, influencing it. So now we move to phase two of the operation and that is, how does Russia assert some kind of control over Ukraine?

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
April 7th, 2014
12:38 PM ET

Ukraine crisis underscores need for renewables push

By Russ Carnahan and Michael Shank, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Russ Carnahan was a U.S. Representative from Missouri and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is now a partner at Carnahan Global Consulting, a consultancy that also advises firms in the energy sector. Michael Shank is associate director for legislative affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the advocacy arm of Friends (Quakers) in the U.S. The views expressed are their own.

At the heart of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is the question of energy independence and energy security. We’ve witnessed this before in previous violent conflicts – whether in the Middle East, Central Asia or North Africa. Energy wars are real and they will continue to dominate our geopolitical agenda for the coming years unless the United States and its allies decide to act.

In discussions with our European Union counterparts in Berlin and Warsaw in the past month – as part of a U.S.-E.U. transatlantic dialogue on, among other salient topics, the annexation of Crimea – energy was very clearly at the core of this conflict. There was also consensus that the present moment couldn’t be a more historic opportunity to ensure an energy transition happens – and soon – lest more wars be fought, more territories acquired, or more people literally left out in the cold. The urgency of this effort cannot be overstated.

To be clear, when it comes to energy security and energy independence, anything that’s got a valve on it and has to be transported thousands of miles across borders decreases a country’s capacity for stability. That pipe – whether carrying oil or gas – is a target for acts of sabotage, political and physical. In 2009, for example, Russia turned off the spigot to gas exports to Ukraine, leaving the country out in the cold in the dead of winter. The Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. is proving similar in serving as a political target, whether erroneously or accurately.

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Topics: Energy • Environment • Ukraine
To hold Ukraine together, it needs to pull together
March 28th, 2014
11:44 AM ET

To hold Ukraine together, it needs to pull together

By Viola Gienger, Dominik Tolksdorf and William B. Taylor, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Viola Gienger is a senior writer; Dominik Tolksdorf is a Transatlantic Post-Doctoral Fellow for International Relations and Security; and William B. Taylor is vice president for Middle East and Africa programs, at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Taylor is a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. The views expressed are their own.

As Russian troops gather along the border, and with Ukrainian soldiers having been forced from their bases in Crimea, Ukraine’s leaders, civic activists and armed forces are facing a severe test – one that has global implications.

After all, the response of the country’s interim leadership will determine not only the future of their own country, but also that of Russia's entire periphery, as well as the U.S. and European security arrangements at the heart of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It is therefore important that the country’s leaders keep their eyes on the ultimate prize – a unified Ukraine with a democratic, transparent and effective government.

To make this goal a reality, the country can take concrete steps toward disarming internal cultural fears and tensions, broadening political power, stemming graft and securing economic reform. Encouragingly, Ukraine’s leaders already are demonstrating that they are more respectful of the rights of ethnic Russians than Vladimir Putin, at least judging by the Russian president’s poor record on protecting the civic rights of his own citizens.

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March 27th, 2014
11:30 PM ET

Obama’s 21st-century power politics

By Fareed Zakaria

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 displaced. Yet the response was essentially nothing. This time, it has been much more serious. Some of this difference is in the nature of the stakes, but it might also 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.

You can see a similar pattern with Iran. The Bush administration largely pressured that country bilaterally. The Obama administration was able to get much more effective pressure because it presented Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to global norms of nonproliferation, persuaded the other major powers to support sanctions, enacted them through the United Nations and thus ensured that they were comprehensive and tight. This is what leadership looks like in the 21st century.

There is an evolving international order with new global norms making war and conquest increasingly rare. We should strengthen, not ridicule, it.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: History • Russia • Ukraine
Is history really repeating itself over Crimea?
March 25th, 2014
03:29 PM ET

Is history really repeating itself over Crimea?

By Frida Ghitis, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer and correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." Follow her @FridaGhitis. The views expressed are her own.

History, as we know, echoes loudly in the present. Some version of what we see unfolding in Ukraine, and more specifically in the Crimean Peninsula, has occurred before. Indeed, today’s headlines recall countless events and bring to mind long-ago read chapters in history books; brittle, yellowed newspapers carefully preserved in libraries; and old black and white newsreels.

But as world leaders try to chart a response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, hoping to learn from the successes and failures of the past, it isn’t quite clear precisely which chapter – or even which era – the current crisis is replaying. Are we back in the Cold War? Are we about to step into a new Crimean War? Or should we go further back, perhaps to Catherine the Great’s conquests on the shores of the Black Sea?

When the U.N. Security Council met last week to discuss Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the British ambassador pointed to what is arguably the most troubling of all possibilities.

“We are witnessing the illegal behavior of a large country bullying its neighbors, disregarding international law, and unilaterally adjusting international borders to its advantage,” he said. “One only has to think back to the 1930s to recognize the dangers of a complacent international response.”

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Topics: History • Ukraine
March 20th, 2014
04:12 PM ET

How Putin lost Ukraine

By Fareed Zakaria

Ukraine is the most important country in the post-Soviet space that Russia seeks to dominate politically. If Europe wanted to help Ukraine move west, it should have planned a bold, generous and swift strategy of attraction.

Instead, the EU conducted lengthy, meandering negotiations with Kiev.

But let us not persist in believing that Moscow's moves have been strategically brilliant. Vladimir Putin must have watched events unfold in Ukraine in February with deep frustration – as a pro-Russian government was swept out of power – because the Sochi Olympics were underway, which limited what he could do.

When the Olympics ended, he acted quickly, essentially annexing Crimea. But it was a blunder. In taking over Crimea, Putin has lost Ukraine.

Read the Washington Post column

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