For more on the latest developments in Ukraine, watch a special live edition of "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
By Fareed Zakaria
Inevitably, the crisis in Ukraine is being discussed in Washington largely through the lens of political polarization. It seems like any and every topic is fodder for partisan dispute these days, even the weather – actually, especially the weather.
Many Republicans are arguing that Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened in the Crimea region of Ukraine because of President Barack Obama's weakness. Putin saw that Obama didn't want to go to war in Syria, for example, and this emboldened Putin.
Well, who knows right? It's tough to know what would have happened in an alternative universe. Imagine that we still had Putin around in charge of Russia, but imagine he faced a different president, one who was tough, aggressive, who had no compunctions about invading countries.
Oh wait, we ran that very experiment in 2008! Putin faced George W. Bush, a president who had invaded Afghanistan and Iraq for good measure (and, in the latter case, defying massive international pressure and opposition). And yet, Putin invaded Georgia. And not, as he did this time, in a stealthy way with soldiers who were already there who simply switched their uniforms. He sent in Russian tanks roaring into Georgia and – without any referendums – simply annexed two pieces of that country.
By Farahnaz Ispahani, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Farahnaz Ispahani, a former member of Pakistan’s parliament, is currently a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
International Women’s Day, being marked Saturday, is as good a time as any not just to celebrate how much progress has been made, but also how much farther there is to go on the road toward guaranteeing women’s rights. Sadly, for women in at least one country, the journey is getting increasingly arduous.
For decades, the status and rights of women in Pakistan have been a casualty of concessions made by the state to those clamoring for what they describe as Islamic rule. But with the Taliban’s call for the imposition of Sharia law during current peace talks between the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Pakistani government, there are growing concerns that women’s freedoms will be further eroded.
The reality is that Pakistan’s women have no real voice in the government’s talks with the Taliban – not only is there a lack of representation on the government’s negotiating team, but negotiators from both sides represent a similar conservative religious viewpoint. And despite some changes in the negotiating procedure, and the men who will negotiate, the government remains committed to working with the Taliban instead of fighting them."
By Carl Meacham, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Carl Meacham is director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (@CSIS) in Washington, DC. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
This week, amidst political turmoil that has gripped the country and left more than a dozen dead and hundreds more injured and detained, Venezuela commemorated the passing of President Hugo Chávez.
Chávez was best known for his “Bolivarian Revolution,” through which he pursued aggressive, state-centered approaches to alleviate the social, political, and economic challenges facing Venezuela. And by some metrics he was successful – between 2004 and 2012, the country’s poverty rate halved, and literacy and access to healthcare increased substantially.
But Chávez also left behind a country deeply divided along political and socioeconomic lines, one suffering from skyrocketing crime and violence and bogged down by economic instability. Is his successor, Nicolás Maduro, now reaping the seeds of discontent sown by Chavismo?
CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the latest developments in Ukraine, newly announced sanctions against Russia, and what the United States can and should do moving forward.
The parliament in Crimea voted to join Russia, and they've called for a referendum 10 days from now to let the people there vote. Does this pose a problem for the United States? What if the people there vote to become part of Russia?
Exactly, because if we believe that the people's voice should be heard, the people of Crimea should decide what they want. As has been said, it’s 60 percent Russian majority – there's a large group of people who are historically tied to Russia.
Remember, Crimea was part of Russia until 1954, and it was gifted in a kind of internal transfer, because it was all part of the Soviet Union. Khrushchev, the then-Soviet leader, transferred Crimea from Russia to Ukraine, but all within the one country, the Soviet Union. So, it sort of stayed part of Russia until 1991. This means Ukraine hasn’t really had Crimea that long.
What's likely to happen is a referendum would go in the direction of Russia, and the Ukrainian parliament would not accept that referendum. And so then what you have is two different legal realities, but the political and military reality, of course, is that Russia will have taken over Crimea.
By Fareed Zakaria
There are those who are still trapped by history and geography. Think of Pakistan’s generals, still trying to establish “strategic depth” in their backyard while their country collapses. Or think of Putin, who is, as Secretary of State John Kerry said, playing a 19th century game in the 21st century. He may get Crimea. But what has he achieved? Ukraine has slipped out of Russia’s grasp, its people deeply suspicious of Moscow. Even in Crimea, the 40 percent who are non-Russian are probably restive and resentful. Moscow’s neighbors are alarmed, and once-warming relations with Poland will be set back. Trade and investment with Europe and the U.S. will surely suffer, whether there are sanctions or not.
Meanwhile, Russia continues along its path as an oil-dependent state with an increasingly authoritarian regime that has failed to develop its economy or civil society or to foster political pluralism. But no matter–Moscow controls Crimea. In today’s world, is that really a victory?
By Fareed Zakaria
“The stark fact is that even if Russian military intervention stops with the establishment of a pro-Russian vassal state in Crimea, Russia will have enormous leverage over the new government in Ukraine,” writes Edward Walker in the Los Angeles Times. “It can cut back on crucial gas deliveries, raise the price of gas and other commodities it is selling to an economically prostrate Ukraine, impose painful tariff and nontariff barriers on trade, and, above all, it can stir up endless trouble for Kiev, not just in Crimea but also in other Russian-speaking regions of the country.”
“In the longer term, the crisis in Ukraine suggests that it is time to reconsider NATO expansion and to explore alternative institutional arrangements for European security in the 21st century. Ukraine, for example, would be much better served by a NATO-Russian-Ukrainian treaty that provided for its military neutrality and some kind of a common customs regime for trade with the EU and Russia (or a Russian-led customs union). It is in no one's interest, least of all Ukraine's, to see a continuation of the dogfight between Russia and the West over Ukraine's external orientation.”
By Olga Oliker, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Olga Oliker is associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. The views expressed are her own.
Russian troops appear in control of Crimea. Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly said “the possibility still exists” that Russian forces could be sent deeper into Ukraine to defend the rights of protesting ethnic Russians. Russia’s much-voiced belief in principles of sovereignty, it seems, have been trumped by its long-held view that ethnic Russians must be protected, wherever they may live.
Two competing narratives are at work. In the narrative heard in the United States and Europe, democracy-seeking protesters forced Russia’s puppet president from office and are building a new government, which represents Ukraine’s Western values. In Russia’s narrative, a freely elected government was illegally deposed as a result of street violence encouraged by the United States and EU. Ukraine is in chaos, with ultra-nationalists threatening ethnic Russians throughout the country. Washington and Brussels saw Russia invade Ukraine. Looking from Moscow, Russian troops are trying to bring peace and stability to a neighboring state on the verge of civil war.
CNN speaks with Fareed about the latest developments in Ukraine, the U.S. and EU efforts to find an "off ramp" for Vladimir Putin, and why a political solution is essential. This is an edited version of the transcript.
What do you make of the U.S. talk about deescalating the crisis and reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is working to try to figure out a way off, a kind of a ramp-off for Vladimir Putin?
The way the Russians have handled this is brutish and thuggish. Men in ski masks coming in taking over an area using military force – obviously, that is totally unacceptable. It has to be deterred. But there is a political crisis in Crimea and in Ukraine that requires some kind of solution where Russia is going to be involved.
In Kiev, you had an elected president who was deposed by a kind of mass movement against him. Now, it has to be figured out how that country moves forward since it's still living in the shadow of Russia. Crimea has a 60 percent Russian population. Historically part of Russia, it was gifted to Ukraine in 1954 and is the home of the Russian Black Sea fleet.
So, how are those things going to be resolved? There's no way to keep Russia out of it, so what I think President Obama is trying to figure is that although the way in which Russia handled this – militarily and stealthy and frankly in violation of international law – has to be condemned and opposed, you get to the question of how do you politically resolve this in a lasting fashion, as Russia is going to have to be involved.
For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Take a look at the remarkable development in renewable energy in the video. It’s said to be the world's largest solar thermal power plant – 347,000 mirrors covering around 5.5 square miles, moves with the sun as it crosses the sky, reflecting solar heat to three towers, each taller than the Statute of Liberty.
The towers have boilers filled with water that turns to steam, spinning a turbine that then produces electricity. It’s a clean tech version of the Lord of the Rings as one reporter put it. What's notable here is that this contraption is not located in China or Germany or in any other traditional solar power house – the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating system, as it's called, sits in the Mojave Desert in California, and it's expected to power 140,000 American homes.
The economics of the installation have been questioned, but the project caps what many are calling a banner year for American solar power, 2013. The U.S. installed more solar capacity than Germany the world leader, marking the first time in over 15 years according to GTM research. More solar capacity has been installed in the last 18 months in America according to the industry than in the previous 30 years.
Of course, American solar power has still a long way to go – it still provides less than one percent of the nation's electricity according to the government.
CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the latest developments in Ukraine, and how the United States should respond. This is an edited version of the interview.
If the U.S. doesn't have much support from some critical European allies like Germany for tough sanctions against Russia, where does it leave the Ukraine crisis?
It's very tough to do sanctions if you don't have the Germans and the British on board. Remember, Europe imports almost 30 percent of its energy from Russia, from Russian natural gas. Sometimes it goes even higher than that. So they are going to be very reluctant to do the kind of comprehensive sanctions which would deprive them of that energy. And as you point out, London's role as a financial center is dependent on, among other things, Russia's capital.
I think we should still push for as comprehensive sanctions as we can get. You're never going to get totally comprehensive sanctions, but they do exact a price. And what we're trying to do here, as I see it, what the United States is trying to do with many members of the international community is to make Russia pay some price, some significant price, isolate it, and send a signal that this is not how we want business to be conducted in the 21st century. You're not going to be able to stop it in its tracks. You're not going to be able to send troops into Crimea. But the fact that we can't get 100 percent leak proof sanctions doesn't mean we shouldn't try to raise the bar and exact some price.
CNN’s Piers Morgan speaks with Fareed about the latest developments in Ukraine, Russia’s deployment of troops and how the West should respond. Watch the video for more.
Vladimir Putin is clearly pretty paranoid about what he perceives has gone on here. He probably thinks the West has ganged up, and has been pretty duplicitous over this whole issue and therefore is perfectly justified in taking this action. What is your reaction to that if that is indeed what he is thinking?
I think that’s exactly right. But here’s Putin’s problem: Whether in Georgia or Ukraine, the West has not been particularly provocative in regard to Putin. They have been trying to deal with him. George W. Bush said he looked into his eyes and saw someone he could trust. Obama tried to reset the relationship with him…
…But the point is this – the people of Ukraine, the large majority of them, have wanted to move West, to have their destiny to be with Europe. They have wanted a modern future in the 21st century. It’s similar to what happened in Georgia. And that is the dynamic on the ground that Putin doesn’t know what to deal with. What you have in Ukraine surprised the West as much as it surprised Vladimir Putin.
…I readily admit it’s a complicated situation. But surely the way to respond to that is not to send in thuggish paramilitary troops who don’t have markings because you don’t even have the courage to admit that you have effectively invaded Crimea, and so you are doing it in this surreptitious way with gangs and paramilitary forces.
The best way to have dealt with this, I think, would have been to have negotiations, diplomacy, perhaps ask for a referendum in Crimea to see what the people there want. And if they want a special autonomous status, or even if they wanted secession, then maybe that’s possible. But surely no one would argue that this is a good principle of international life to argue that anytime the country next door is acting up then they go and gobble a piece of it up. If China were to do that with its neighbors, how would we feel? If other countries were to do that.
That is the principle that is at stake, not the fact that Ukraine is divided and complicated – that’s true. But surely the answer is not the men in ski masks.
By Andrew C. Kuchins, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Andrew C. Kuchins is a senior fellow and director of the CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program. You can follow the Center for Strategic and International Studies @CSIS. The views expressed are his own.
Vladimir Putin has dramatically raised the stakes with what amounts to a stealth annexation of Crimea this weekend, securing in the process a unanimous vote from the Russian parliament allowing for the deployment of Russian military forces in Ukraine.
To date, the Obama administration's response, including Friday's vague warning about "costs," has amounted to little more than a threat to boycott the G8 meeting taking place in Sochi in June. Did the president's team forget that Putin did not even show up when Obama hosted the G8 in 2012? Was that not a crystal clear message about what Putin really thinks about the G8 in general, and Obama in particular?
Regardless, the administration has clearly been caught flat-footed again by Putin. It is less clear, though, how the United States will respond.
What has taken place over the past two days merely underscores in the most urgent way that we must, together with our European allies, immediately step up with economic and security assistance to bolster the capacity and credibility of the interim government in Kiev. And in doing so, the Obama administration must abandon its oxymoronic inclination to "lead from behind" because the imminent danger is that of a broader use of military and quasi-military tools to effectively separate other eastern regions of Ukraine from the rest of the country. This would have disastrous consequences for Ukrainians and U.S. credibility around the world. Just imagine, for example, the takeaway for Japanese and Chinese leaders about U.S. commitment as they spar in their own territorial dispute.
Yes, Crimea may already be gone. But we have to make absolutely clear – and in the most credible way possible – that Russian military intervention in other regions of Ukraine is a red line that will mean war with Ukrainian and NATO military forces if it is crossed. U.S. and NATO naval forces need to be deployed to the Black Sea in close proximity to the Ukrainian Coast. Military forces of neighboring NATO member countries, meanwhile, should be deployed closer to the Ukrainian border.
This all presupposes that the government in Kiev will request such support, and that Ukrainian military forces, which have been largely absent for the past two days, also need to be ready to be deployed. If Ukraine's military and/or NATO is not prepared to take such measures, then we are simply letting ourselves look foolish with empty threats. But doing nothing would be a terrible misjudgment. Putin has proven agile in asserting Russian interests, and for the West to be effective in its response will require immediate, focused, and forceful action to make Putin recalculate his risk/reward equation.
In addition, the U.S. should work with its European allies to flesh out a package of economic assistance for the interim Ukrainian government. Significant commitments of money must be made immediately available to demonstrate a commitment to Ukrainians. Of course, Moscow and Kiev both have enough historical experience to be highly skeptical that we are ready to make significant financial commitments to Ukraine – that is the core factor that ignited this crisis back in November of last year. And Washington and the EU also have plenty of reason to doubt that any Ukrainian government can sustain its commitment to deep and sustained economic reforms that will get to the root of the endemic corruption among Ukrainian elites that has left its economy so weak and vulnerable.
But while such doubts are understandable, we must force ourselves to make the leap of faith that this time Ukraine will get it right, and the West should hope that the very real threat of the fragmentation of the country creates the sense of crisis necessary to break down the old patterns of behavior.
Ultimately, time is of the essence. And although the reality is that many Americans might feel perfectly able to live with a Ukraine without Crimea, any further fragmentation could be catastrophic not just for those living in Ukraine, but also for European security and the credibility of the U.S. commitment to it. Even if Ukraine is not at the center of Europe, it is still a part of it, and our failure to defend its sovereignty in this time of need could prove to be the final blow for a NATO that has in recent years struggled to find its place in the world.
Directly confronting Putin would not be as risky as many fear – Putin is, after all, a calculating opportunist who will take advantage of weakness where he sees it. He is extremely unlikely, therefore, to risk war if he clearly understands the "cost" of crossing a real red line. The question is whether he has any belief that the United States and its allies will step up.
I hope, for the sake of Europe’s security, that President Obama proves him wrong.