Watch"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed Zakaria answers readers’ questions on the U.S. role in the world, whether Iraq would have been more stable if Saddam Hussein hadn’t been removed from power, the NSA’s spying on Germany and whether the borders in the Middle East are outdated.
Do you believe there’s a shift toward isolationism in the United States?
I think there’s a shift toward less involvement and engagement in the world. Some of this is unfortunate. It shows up, for example, in the suspicion towards trade, towards immigrants. But for the most part, I think Americans retain a healthy openness to the world and a healthy openness to America being engaged in the world.
When people shout about isolationism, it’s worth remembering that the United States – with the support of the American people – still maintains thousands of troops in foreign countries, in dozens of bases around the world. We have 60 treaty alliances. In many of them we’re committed to the defense of these countries – from Japan, to South Korea, to Germany. That doesn’t seem to me the story of a country that is isolationist and has withdrawn from the world.
But it’s true that from certain heights, especially after 9/11 – where the United States was, in my view, too engaged, and too engaged in the details and nation building operations in many, many parts of the world – we’re drawing back, and that draw back has some public support.
So, I’m not ready to wave the flag of isolationism, I don’t see it. But I do think in some areas there are some troubling signs. The part that worries me most is about trade and people, because the thing that has historically made the United States so strong has been its ability to open itself up to ideas, to people, and then to adapt and adjust and become stronger from that.
Watch the video for all his responses.
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.
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.
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.”
CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine on Thursday. This is an edited version of the interview.
Obviously, there's the human horror of this, and that, of course, is primary in our minds. But there are also military implications, political implications, strategic implications, which will largely be determined by who may have fired a missile and why.
If this turns out to be what, frankly, many of us suspect it is – a terrible casualty of the Ukrainian-Russian conflict – then this is huge. What might have happened – and again, there are a lot of caveats – but what might have happened is that the Russian government has been supporting, training, arming rebels, separatists in Ukraine. Essentially teaching them how to do this kind of thing. Those forces have, in the past, shot down helicopters of the Ukrainian army, cargo planes – as has been noted. It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine that they thought this was a Ukrainian cargo plane, because they are poorly trained, ill-equipped. They probably don't have the right kind of radar to figure it out, and they probably don't care. These are not people following safety precautions.
In fact, the separatist group, just shortly before this plane went down, had bragged about, on this day, bringing down what they said was a Ukrainian military plane.
Precisely. Which is why, as I say, all the signs suggest that what happened here was that the Russian government has had this strategy of training these rogue elements within Ukraine to make trouble for the Ukrainian government. This thing then went badly awry as a result of that. But frankly, it was in a perfectly predictable way – when you start using these kinds of forces to do your dirty work for you, something like this is bound to happen because these aren’t disciplined forces that are under tight command and control from the Kremlin.
By Benoit Hardy-Chartrand, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Benoit Hardy-Chartrand is a research associate at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, where he contributes to a project on Confidence, Trust and Empathy in Asia-Pacific security. The views expressed are his own.
Japan and South Korea’s bilateral relations are their worst in years. Since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Korean President Park Geun-Hye were elected in December 2012, their only encounter was a trilateral meeting hosted and arranged by U.S. President Barack Obama in March 2014, held on the sidelines of a summit in the Netherlands. The meeting provided for an awkward moment and did little to ease the visible chill between the two leaders.
While a territorial dispute concerning a group of uninhabited islands in the Sea of Japan (or what Koreans prefer to call the East Sea) has contributed to the freeze, the crux of the problem remains Japan’s perceived attempts to whitewash certain aspects of its wartime conduct, particularly with regard to the so-called comfort women. The euphemism refers to the thousands of women, the majority of whom were from Korea, forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. South Koreans feel that Japanese leaders have not properly repented for their country’s past, often contrasting Japan’s handling of history to how Germany dealt with the Nazis’ war crimes.
By Fareed Zakaria
“What if the best way to change minds isn’t to tell people why they’re wrong, but to tell them why they’re right? Scientists tried this recently and discovered that agreeing with people can be a surprisingly powerful way to shake up strongly held beliefs,” writes Julia Rosen in The Los Angeles Times.
“Researchers found that showing people extreme versions of ideas that confirmed – not contradicted – their opinions on a deeply divisive issue actually caused them to reconsider their stance and become more receptive to other points of view. The scientists attribute this to the fact that the new information caused people to see their views as irrational or absurd, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”
“[W]hile many Americans accidentally get caught up in the wide nets tossed out by NSA operatives into chat rooms and Facebook groups, the reporters also found that it is quite easy for the NSA to manipulate Section 702 when it wants to monitor American citizens without first getting a warrant,” writes Sue Halpern in the New York Review of Books. “It does so by using loose criteria to define ‘non-US persons.’ Americans who converse in a foreign language have been classified as ‘non-US persons’ under Section 702, for example, as have Americans who use off-shore proxy servers (that appear to place their computer in a foreign country, a practice often used by people in one country who would like to watch television in another, or want to bypass government firewalls). The implication here is that when the NSA wants to target American citizens without a warrant, Section 702 enables it to find a way.” FULL POST
By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
Beleaguered at home, U.S. President Barack Obama remains beloved in many nations abroad. And he is far more popular than his predecessor George W. Bush. But the bloom is definitely off the Obama rose.
Obama’s election in 2008 was widely approved of around the world, and there were high expectations for the incoming American leader, whose election seemed to promise an end to the anti-Americanism that had plagued Washington’s relations with the rest of the world for the past several years.
And, despite revelations such as National Security Agency spying on foreign leaders and the growing sense in the United States that President Obama is already a lame duck domestically, his continued (if somewhat diminished) favorability abroad suggests he remains a force to be reckoned with in international affairs. But will the president follow the well-trodden path of his predecessors in spending more time on foreign policy in their last years in office as their domestic influence has waned?
His popularity abroad suggests he might.
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?
By Amal Mudallali, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Amal Mudallali is a senior scholar at the Wilson Center. The views expressed are her own.
The conventional wisdom in Washington is that Iraq is heading for partition. The argument is that Iraq is on the cusp of being broken into three states: a Sunni, a Shiite, and a Kurdish state to replace the current state of Iraq. But while many of the proponents of this view contend that the Iraqis themselves want this because they simply cannot live together, I believe nothing could be further from the truth.
Sunni Iraqis do not want to be separate, they want to be equal. And for the Shiite Iraqis, the definition of equal is for Iraq to remain whole, but under a Shiite-dominated government. These views may appear somewhat inconsistent, but a regional and international coalition that sees the dangers of dismembering Iraq two sides should be able to help them walk back from their positions.
I know this is possible because Lebanon, another Arab country that suffered a bloody 15 year civil war, managed to step back from the abyss through a political settlement. Thirty years after the end of that civil war, and despite the suicide bombings that have blighted the country in recent months, Lebanon is still united.
For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Global Public Square staff
We’re sure you heard about the Paris-based bank, BNP Paribas, which fell afoul of Washington's regulators and agreed to plead guilty to a felony and pay a staggering $8.9 billion fine – larger than its annual profits.
So it must have violated a slew of laws, right? Actually, no. It hadn't violated French law, or EU law, or any of its obligations under the WTO or the United Nations. It hadn't even violated a French-American treaty.
What in the world?
BNP Paribas violated a set of unilateral American sanctions, passed by Congress, that were never affirmed or followed by the European Union or France.And neither the buyers nor the sellers in any of the transactions BNP was involved in were Americans.
So what was Washington's hold on BNP? It all centers on the central role that the dollar plays in today's globalized economy. You see, even if two foreign companies want to do a deal, assuming it’s a large transaction, the deal is likely to be denominated in dollars – the currency that everyone has access to, is available in ample supply, is a symbol of stability and, as a result, remains the world's reserve currency.
By Fareed Zakaria
“While calls for full disclosure of surveillance activities are unrealistic, it is now paramount to engage in a continuous intelligence dialogue between the U.S. and Germany to emphasize just how much spying activities can jeopardize the transatlantic relationship,” writes Norbert Rottgen in the Financial Times. “The U.S. policy of non-communication in intelligence matters endangers the transatlantic alliance. Expectations for intelligence co-operation to be shaped transparently among equals cannot easily be met given the global climate of insecurity. However, a strong and trusting relationship at government level is possible if both sides now invest the necessary efforts. In doing so, it is more crucial than ever to include the German public, who are increasingly struggling to see the true value of the German-American relationship.”
“In his long political career, Netanyahu has shown little appetite for ground campaigns and for the right reasons. Gaza is a messy place to wage war, with two million people crammed cheek-by-jowl into a tiny space,” writes Dan Ephron for Reuters.
“But for all his reluctance, the Israeli leader could well find himself ordering an incursion anyway – mainly because there seems to be no effective mediator available to broker a ceasefire.”