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
March 26th, 2014
06:29 PM ET

What I'm reading

By Fareed Zakaria

“Mass arrests and mass trials have become key tools in [Egypt’s] expanding ‘war on terrorism.’ The same court in Minya is hearing another case, which will resume on April 28th, in which more than six hundred Islamists are charged with the murder of two policemen,” writes Ursula Lindsey in the New Yorker. “On Wednesday, Egypt’s chief prosecutor announced two more mass trials, with a total of nine hundred and nineteen defendants. Many activists have been dragged from their homes to face spurious charges, and an unconstitutional law to ban protests has been passed. Journalists working for Al Jazeera English have been charged with membership in a terrorist organization and with fabricating news to blacken Egypt’s reputation; on Monday, they were once again denied bail. Meanwhile, the show trials of two ex-Presidents, Mubarak and Morsi, are ongoing.”

“Amid all these legal proceedings, there has been no proper accounting for the abuses of any of Egypt’s regimes.”

“India’s cities are so insistently provocative that, for a certain class of Indian, to be under-stimulated has become the ultimate luxury,” writes Tunku Varadarajan for the Daily Beast. “For some time now, members of the Indian elite who have no family connection to the place have been quietly buying land in Coorg, building vacation houses in its remote hills and valleys. Once obsessed with gleaming hotel towers and swimming pools in the “foreign” mold, India’s domestic tourists have grown infinitely more sophisticated and, even, jaded. Indians who have “been there, done that” in Sri Lanka, Singapore, and the Swiss Alps want languid escapes from their overscheduled lives. And they are deeply nostalgic for the quiet India – so recently changed – that they remember from childhood vacations.”

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October 30th, 2013
10:12 AM ET

And the best city in the world for food is...?

Fareed speaks with Anthony Bourdain, renowned chef, food critic and host of Parts Unknown, for his take on the world's greatest city to dine out in. Watch the Tokyo edition of Parts Unknown this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CNN.

You go to Tokyo, you have been many times. I think most will be surprised to know that the city that gets the most Michelin three stars is not Paris, is not New York, but Tokyo. Do you agree with that?

Yes.

Tokyo is the great...

If I would ask ten great chefs that I know around the world what city in the world would you like – if you had to be stuck in one city and eat every meal there for the rest of your life, where would that be – nine out of ten would say Tokyo. There’s a level of perfectionism, attention to detail, quality ingredients and tradition and technique that's really unlike any place else.

It's endlessly deep subject and with the show that I did there most recently, we tried to draw a direct line between that excellence and attention to detail – that fetishism, really, for food and quality with the sort of subterranean repressed ids of the Japanese male. So it's probably going to be a parental advisory type show.

Uh-oh.

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Topics: Food • Japan
Who’s bombing Myanmar?
October 30th, 2013
09:57 AM ET

Who’s bombing Myanmar?

By Jonah Blank, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jonah Blank is a senior political scientist at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. He is author of the books Arrow of the Blue-Skinned God and Mullahs on the Mainframe. The views expressed are his own.

The explosion in downtown Yangon blew out a window overlooking the iconic Sule Pagoda, injuring an American tourist and littering the busy street with shards of glass. The attack, on the Traders’ Hotel in the heart of Myanmar’s commercial center, was one of at least nine bombings to rack the nation in a single week earlier this month, leaving three dead, 10 wounded and many thousands of others worried about what the future may hold. But who is behind the attacks? And should Myanmar brace itself for a period of violent chaos?

Throughout the period of military rule in Myanmar (also called Burma), small-scale explosions were a standard tactic among several of the nation’s long-running insurgencies.  Since President Thein Sein started a program of reform and reconciliation in 2011, however, such attacks had essentially ceased. After a half-century of hermetic authoritarianism, Myanmar’s re-entry into the world community has been one of the biggest (and most optimistic) stories in Asia. Yet an upswing in ethnic and religious conflict could put Myanmar’s progress at risk.

On October 18, government authorities blamed rogue elements of the Karen National Union for the attacks, but the Karen rebels deny involvement and no other group has claimed credit. It is not even certain that all of the attacks had the same source.  The list of possible culprits is long.

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Topics: Myanmar
How a Norwegian town will make the sun shine
October 29th, 2013
12:31 PM ET

How a Norwegian town will make the sun shine

By Jessica Gutteridge

Editor’s note: Jessica Gutteridge is an associate producer with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS. The views expressed are her own.

Millions of people across the Middle East and Europe turned back their clocks last weekend, and many Americans will follow suit when Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday.

As winter approaches and the days grow shorter, the idea of darker evenings can be depressing. But before complaining too loudly, imagine if you couldn’t feel the sun on your face for half of the year. That’s how it is for the Norwegian town of Rjukan, where residents have had to get used to long, dark winters. Nestled in a valley of the Gaustatoppen Mountains, the town is shielded from direct sunlight for 5 to 6 months of the year. Or at least it has been until later this week.

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Topics: Environment
October 16th, 2013
01:52 PM ET

What I'm reading: U.S. has a skills problem

By Fareed Zakaria

The average literacy score for Americans ages 16 to 65 in a new OECD study “places the U.S. 18th out of 22 participating countries. In numeracy, the U.S. ranks 20th out of 22. In ‘problem-solving in technology-rich environments’ – a measure of the capacity to interact productively with computers – the U.S. comes in 14th out of 19,” writes Clive Crook on Bloomberg.

“Those results are actually quite good when compared with the performance of adults ages 16 to 24. In literacy, young Americans rank 20th out of 22; in numeracy, 22nd out of 22; and in problem-solving, 19th out of 19.”

“The only glimmer of good news in these figures, if you can call it good news, is that U.S. standards of literacy, numeracy and problem-solving aren’t falling in absolute terms as fast as the poor relative performance of U.S. youngsters might suggest. Young Americans have slid to the bottom of the rankings mainly because young adults in other countries are doing much better than their predecessors did, whereas their American counterparts aren’t. The fact remains, the capacities of the U.S. labor force are consistently well below average, and those of the youngest segment rank (on two out of three measures) dead last.”

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China’s green warriors
October 11th, 2013
09:22 AM ET

China’s green warriors

By Michael Barr and Joy Y. Zhang, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Michael Barr is lecturer in International Politics at Newcastle University. Joy Zhang is lecturer in Sociology at the University of Kent. They are the authors of Green Politics in China: Environmental Governance and State-Society Relations. The views expressed are their own.

Recent images of top golfers and spectators donning protective masks at the LPGA in Beijing has once again raised questions about air quality in China. During the event, pollution reached “hazardous” levels, as determined by the U.S. Embassy and Beijing's own air quality monitors. Such a reading carries the warning that all people should avoid outdoor exertion and that the elderly, children and those with respiratory or heart disease should remain completely indoors.

There is no doubt that China has paid a heavy environmental price for its rapid development. One study determined that in four cities alone (Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi'an, Beijing) in 2012 over 8,500 people died prematurely because of pollution. The report also indicated that those cities suffered a combined economic loss of $1.09 billion.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, as well as the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, there seemed a glimmer of hope that air quality would improve. But one of the sad facts of the LPGA tournament is that beneath the headlines of big name athletes struggling to breathe, there lies over 20 million people who live in Beijing every day and have to endure the suffocating side effects of rapid industrialization, including a heavy reliance on coal power, and a dramatic increase in car ownership.

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Topics: China • Environment
Myanmar must embrace minorities
October 11th, 2013
09:21 AM ET

Myanmar must embrace minorities

By Jim Della-Giacoma, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jim Della-Giacoma is the Asia Program Director of the International Crisis Group. Its report ‘The Dark Side of Transition: Violence against Muslims in Myanmar’ was published on October 1. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

Myanmar’s transition has been remarkable, but it has also been tarnished by violence against its Muslim community. Indeed, these deadly attacks pose a threat to Myanmar’s nascent democracy, as well as its image regionally and internationally.

Visiting Rakhine state, where violence took place this past week, President Thein Sein said: “It is important not to have more riots while we are working very hard to recover the losses we had because of previous incidents. The Rakhine state government needs to cooperate with the people to avoid more conflict by learning from the lessons of previous riots.”

More needs to be done. Improving police capacity with better training and equipment is one important element, and outside expertise and assistance can accelerate the necessary changes.

But the answer to resolving this difficult issue can also be found in each and every town in Myanmar. The country’s Muslim community is diverse and found in all cities, most towns and many villages. In addition, Myanmar’s Muslims have long been intimately entwined with the country’s commercial life, and there is a high and lingering financial cost to violence when part of the commercial district of a town is destroyed. For example, attacks on the Muslim community left Meiktila's markets depleted, kept visitors away and cut access to the informal financial system.

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Topics: Asia • Myanmar
October 9th, 2013
03:19 PM ET

What I'm reading: What default would say about idea of America

By Fareed Zakaria

“Recent threats to shut down the government or, worse, default on the debt represent a revocation of the rules. In its nihilism, the Tea Party is closer in spirit to the nullifiers of the 1830s, who were willing to put the union at risk to defeat a national law,” writes Stephen Mihm for Bloomberg.

“‘Let it never be forgotten,’ Calhoun once said, that ‘where the majority rules, the minority is the subject.’ Perhaps, but nullification and secession, like the Tea Party tactics of today, elevated the minority into a position of terrifying power. One tyranny simply replaces another.

“These tactics have long-term costs. If the U.S. defaults on its debt because a handful of Republican legislators don’t like a law vetted by all branches of government, the damage will go beyond a much lower credit rating. Something else – a sense that the U.S. is, for all its differences, united – will have been lost.”

“Managing the congressional politics around sustaining Afghan forces after the transition was feasible back when Washington assumed that a troop surge before the transition would put the Taliban on a glide path to extinction,” writes Stephen Biddle in Foreign Affairs.

“The United States would still have had to give billions of dollars a year to the ANSF, but the war would have ended relatively quickly. After that, it would have been possible to demobilize large parts of the ANSF and turn the remainder into a peacetime establishment; aid would then have shrunk to lower levels, making congressional funding a much easier sell. But that is not the scenario that will present itself in 2014. With an indefinite stalemate on the horizon instead, the politics of funding the ANSF will be much harder to handle – and without a settlement, that funding will outlast the Taliban’s will to fight only if one assumes heroic patience on the part of Congress.”

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October 9th, 2013
01:15 PM ET

Goldman Sachs chief: Adverse consequences are already being felt

Fareed spoke recently with Lloyd Blankfein, CEO and chairman of Goldman Sachs, about the stalemate in Washington. Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET

What do you think the economic impact of what is happening in the Senate, the position of the House Republicans is, on markets and people’s understanding of the American economy?

Well, I say the confrontation and the way that confrontation is being carried out is, I think, a very bad impact on the markets and it's totally foreseeable.

Wherever you stand on the content, on the specific issues of what's trying to be accomplished, the idea of engaging away from the substantive argument after it's already been decided, and saying, you know, something will blow up the credit rating unless you accede to us, is just a poor policy and, I think, a poor demonstration. And, I think, a poor example of the American political process.

Are you actually worried that we will default?

I think it's very unlikely, because in this situation, sensibility normally prevails. But it's not an on-off switch. We’re already making people insecure. The markets are already responding. And some of the adverse consequences are already being felt. And it will continue to reverberate even if there's an acquiescence.

So it's already bad. If we actually went into a position of default…that would be very, very negative. But we're already getting some negative aspects at the moment.

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Topics: Economy • GPS Show
October 9th, 2013
01:07 PM ET

Zakaria: Something rotten with American system?

By Fareed Zakaria

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

It is the defining moment of a democracy – when an outgoing leader celebrates the election of a new one, from the opposing party. Think of George H.W.  Bush welcoming Bill Clinton, or Jimmy Carter doing the same for Ronald Reagan. Across the world, this is the acid test of a genuine democracy. Mexicans will tell you that they knew that had gotten there when their President, Ernesto Zedillo, after seven decades of one-party rule, allowed free elections and stood with the newly elected successor and affirmed his legitimacy.

The basic and powerful idea behind this ritual is that in a democracy, the process is more important than the outcome. If a genuine democratic process has been followed, we have to accept the results, regardless of how much we dislike them. The ultimate example of this in recent American history might be Al Gore's elegant acceptance of the process – complicated, politicized, but utterly constitutional – that put George W Bush in the White House. It must also have been very difficult for Richard Nixon to report the results of the 1960 election – which John F Kennedy won by a razor thin margin and was marred by voter fraud – but he did. However much you dislike the outcome, you respect the democratic process.

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Topics: GPS Show • Politics
The right to education is under siege
October 9th, 2013
11:31 AM ET

The right to education is under siege

By Diya Nijhowne, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Diya Nijhowne is the director of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack, which was established in 2010 by groups concerned about ongoing attacks on educational institutions, their students, and staff in countries affected by conflict. The views expressed are the author’s own.

One year ago today, Malala Yousefzai and her classmates were on their way home from school in the Swat Valley, Pakistan, when two men stopped their school bus and climbed aboard. Malala described what happened next: “The Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too.”

Although the girls were badly injured, all three thankfully survived. Unfortunately, Malala and her classmates were not the only Pakistani students attacked in the past year. In June, for example, 14 female university students were killed when militants blew up their bus in Quetta, Balochistan, a western province.

Pakistan’s teachers and administrators have also been targeted. Five teachers were killed in January in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. In March, another was shot and killed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.  A principal and six school children died that month during an attack at their school in Karachi.

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Topics: Education • Women • Youth
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