February 24th, 2014
09:06 AM ET

2014 not looking so good for Putin

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

By Fareed Zakaria

Last year seemed in many ways to be the year of Vladimir Putin. The Russian president had consolidated power in his country, crushed any possible opposition, kept his ally in Syria from being toppled and brokered a deal to remove Syria's chemical weapons.

This year was also going pretty well for Putin. The Sochi Olympics was not the disaster many had suggested it might be and, above all, Putin had maintained Russia's historic relationship with Ukraine, outmaneuvering the European Union, which had made Ukraine a complicated and conditional offer that Ukraine's president turned down in return for cold Russian cash.

That's what it had looked like until just a few days ago. But now, on the central issue of Ukraine, Russia does not look so triumphant.

Ukraine's President Yanukovych, who is now its former president, overplayed his hand. Putin assumed that force would solve the problem and disperse the protests. Western observers were despairing and assigning blame for all that had happened from Washington to the European Union.

And then things started to change. President Yanukovych and the opposition made a deal, brokered by the Europeans, calling for a coalition government, national elections and a new constitution. But even that was not enough for the protesters, who have managed to achieve change much faster, ousting the president and beginning the process of transformation right away. In this long and complex situation, it is the people on the street who have shown determination, courage and persistence.

Now, one has to be cautious; everything we know about these kinds of revolutions is that this is the thrilling moment that is often followed by turmoil, tension, violence and chaos. Destroying the old order is a lot easier than building a new one.

This is going to be particularly true in Ukraine, which is riddled with corruption and, in many ways, is on the brink of economic collapse. The opposition will have to act with wisdom and include those whom it despises, including the supporters of former President Yanukovych.

And Russia will not allow Ukraine to slip completely from its grasp. One of its main fleets is based in the Black Sea in Ukraine. Russian pipelines crisscross the country, carrying natural gas to Europe. Russia will demand a say in what happens there as it has for 300 years. That's why the Ukrainian opposition turned government needs to approach things with caution and a sense of national unity.

But Russia, too, will have to be careful – as the last few weeks have shown, it has created a deep sense of opposition among tens of millions of people in Ukraine, and their hostility to Russian domination might well grow.

For now at least, let's just marvel at the spirit of the Ukrainian people, let's keep our fingers crossed for their future and let's note that 2014 is not looking quite as good for Vladimir Putin as it did a week ago.

Post by:
Topics: Russia • Ukraine

soundoff (172 Responses)
  1. an eye for an eye until the whole world is blind

    Basic facts about Putin: he crawled out of a gutter in St. Petersburg, worked for the KGB, where he learned how to be a thug. History has shown us that when thugs get into power, they strut around in the limelight for awhile, but when they eventually get ousted or killed, their nation suffers tremendously, and sinks into an even lower state of poverty and chaos than ever before. Thugs can only rule through fear and murder. Period.

    February 26, 2014 at 1:41 am |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Is Vladimir Putin any worse than the right-wing thugs in Washington? Somehow I don't think so. In fact, the rotten politicians in Washington need to be indicted and jailed for stating all these useless and unnecessary wars overseas!

      February 26, 2014 at 9:57 am |
  2. kommy

    It isn't question of triumph. It is a question of money. After spending 5 bln. dollars on supporting democracy in Ukraine, aka neo-Nazy mob in Kiev, who is going to spend another 150 bln over 5 next years to keep this country afloat.

    Russia doesn't, but it will gladly come in to pick the pieces when Ukrainian economy will collapse say within 2-3 months.

    February 26, 2014 at 2:52 am |
    • Free ukraine

      We label all the nations that don't want to be under Russian communist regime a Nazi ?!?
      Look at Latvia; Litva; Estonia; Ukraine; Georgia !!! Are all of these nations NAZI's because they don't want to be oppressed by Putin & Co ???

      February 26, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
      • Andrey

        How about BBC independently confirming that Ukrainian Nazi have indeed the control over Kiev now?

        March 3, 2014 at 11:50 am |
    • Oleg

      The question is how to stop a paranoid state, which will hurt everybody.

      March 3, 2014 at 8:08 am |
  3. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Dear Friend @an eye for an eye......

    Today's Russia (& the World) needs a strong man like Putin.

    Let me be candid, yes we Americans are just being JEALOUS of a newly ascendant Russia (plush with money from vast natural resources mainly Petroleum & gas), when the US itself is on a downward track.

    We also can't stomach the fact of a renewed Russia challenging US actions in the ME and elsewhere given that we had convinced ourselves that Russia was long dead with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Having said that:

    In many ways a RENEWED RUSSIA IS GOOD FOR AMERICANS, Here's why:

    a) Particularly for those Americans who are greatly concerned about an OBAMA ADMIN. feverishly re-writing the map of the ME by enabling RADICAL, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD led govts. capture power, after being misled by COVERT ISLAMISTS such as CNN/Time's Mr. FAREED ZAKARIA, HUMA ABEDIN, RASHAD HASSAN, IMAM RAUF etc. who have been instrumental in us throwing secular leaders (Mubarak, Gadaffi Ver 2.0, Syria's Assad, etc.) as also the MINORITIES (COPTIC CHRISTIANS, Moderate Muslims etc.) under the bus.

    On the contrary, Russia is taking a more guarded approach knowing fully well the dangers posed by these radicals in Russia's own backyard (Chechnya, Dagestan, Kazakhstan, Abhkazia, etc.).

    b) Russia is also indirectly doing a great service to Americans deeply concerned about OUR BURGEONING DEBT by weaning America away from UNILATERAL ADVENTURES such as in Syria, Iran, Africa by enforcing broad-based MULTI-NATIONAL / MULTI-LATERAL approach to world problems.

    Had this not been the case, in addition to the debacles in Iraq, and Afghanistan which have already cost us TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS (money we never had, but borrowed from the CHINESE!) we would have been stuck in a new war in Syria.....an internecine civil war between the Saudi led, Al-Qaeda inspired SUNNI WAHABIS against the comparatively more reasonable IRANIAN inspired SHIA MUSLIMS.......a war that we NEVER had any business to be in, in the first place!

    c) Thanks to RUSSIAN HELP, America is being forced to abandon our DON-QUIXOTic approach to world problems, when AMERICA NO LONGER HAS THE TEETH or the MUSCLE to unilaterally take on all world problems. Even assuming (falsely) that we do have such capabilities being the strongest power in the world........WHY SHOULD WE GO IT ALONE wasting our money & resources, even as the entire world sits by as mere by-standers?


    February 26, 2014 at 9:36 am |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Well said, Amit. Thank you.

      February 26, 2014 at 9:59 am |
    • an eye for an eye until the whole world is blind

      Thanks for educating me Amit. Yes, I agree, in a manner of speaking, America has been the biggest "thug" on the planet, since WWII. Many of us don't know what it is like to be on the receiving end of American bombs. Just ask any Vietnamese person, over 60, who possibly may be your neighbor. My old Vietnamese neighbor (in California) told me that America dropped over 2 million bombs on his country and murdered 1.7 million Vietnamese people, from 1964-1975. Just an unspeakably horrific crime huh??? And all because they supposedly wanted to keep Chinese Communism out of South Vietnam.... what a sick joke!!! We now know that Vietnam was just the "patsy" or excuse, for the US military industrial complex to make lots and lots of money. LBJ, who started the whole thing, died a miserable, sad, loser.

      Given the facts, that human existence on planet earth is unfortunately centered around "thugs", who grab the power and control on this planet, I would much rather live in USA than Russia! I happen to know the history of Russia and the former USSR. Unspeakable crimes against their neighbors and their own people. Stalin even surpassed Hitler and Pol Pot of Cambodia, with his heinous crimes against everybody! The fact that it took a thug, Putin, to lead a nation that was known for thug behavior, is not surprising. It is still sickening to me. But you are right in that it takes a thug to balance out another thug.

      I don't think Fareed is the bad guy you are making him out to be. I think a lot of your paranoia is based on your upbringing, probably from India, and probably Hindu based, and therefore rather biased towards muslims, and this is primarily why you are unfairly targeting Fareed. I have learned a LOT from Fareed, and his awesome GPS show! I don't even bother to watch too much of the other nonsense on the media these days. I have also been reading Businessweek magazine for over 15 years. Please give Fareed a break. He is brilliant, very well read, and incredibly good interviewer, very knowledgeable, and did I say very smart? I think you can only dare to stand in judgement of him if you are of similar caliber as him. Anybody can point the finger at somebody. When you get invited to give the commencement address at Harvard, when you have written 10 books, when you have your own superb show on CNN, when you are as brilliant and well read, then and only then may you judge him. Until then, back off and stop being a biased ignorant Hindu! Sorry I had to be so frank. But I think I have helped you by facing you with your own bigotry......

      February 26, 2014 at 11:25 pm |
    • DamienVryce


      Hey, neighbor: your soviet saint just violated another nation's national sovereignty. Welcome to March 12, 1938. History repeats.

      March 2, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
      • Jimmy the Bean Counter

        Hey there patriot! How many nations sovereignty has God-Fearing US o' A violated in the last 20 years? Russia has Georgia and Ukraine. And you know what I'm sure if some country say oh I don't know Qatar or Bahrain started experiencing civil unrest, you would beat the war drums to send American men and women over with guns to protect our bases over there.

        Ohhhh, wait, that's exactly what Putin is doing in Crimea. So incorrect History is not repeating itself. What is repeating itself is the classic American hypocrisy where we're the only nation allowed to protect national interest.

        March 2, 2014 at 11:34 pm |
      • Andrey

        Yes, this Ukrainian crisis has got a significant Nazi component to it this time, and that's YOU who side with the bad guys.... again!
        Check out BBC independently verifying that US and EU in fact support a Nazi government in Ukraine:
        So who is on the wrong side of history now!

        March 3, 2014 at 11:59 am |
  4. realintell

    I think it's way too early to judge how good this year will be for Putin. We're finally seeing a reaction from the west to Moscow's meddling in the Middle East. I think the last straw was Russia's recent 3 billion arms deal to Egypt. That, on top of Syria, on top of Snowden...the west needed to hit back.

    It's definitely a critical time for Russia. The U.S. is currently planning meetings with Georgia and Moldova to capitalize on the steam that Ukraine has provided. How Russia responds to all this activity in her periphery will define Putin's 2014. Remember the last time Putin was backed into this corner he responded by invading Georgia. My guess is he won't be as bold...but time will tell.

    Regardless, the Obama administration must be pleased. Putin now has to take his eyes off the Middle East and refocus on his own region. This was probably the goal all along.


    February 26, 2014 at 11:38 am |
    • Lazee boy

      How can an AMERICAN prattle on about Russia's meddling in the Middle East???????? My! You are so hypocritical it just ain't true!
      The sad thing is – you actually BELIEVE your own drivel! Phtttt!

      February 26, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
  5. Edward M Roche

    Russia likely will annex the Crimea. It is not really a bad year for Putin if this happens, as the Russian military will welcomed as "liberators" by the Russian-speaking population. No one will lift a finger to stop this. This same solution was found in Georgia. It is a silly delusion to underestimate the influence and power of Russia in this area, when one of its most strategic naval stations is in Sevastopol.

    February 26, 2014 at 2:25 pm |
    • the ignorance continues

      very good comment! Putin the THUG will grab Crimea. But the facts are that 3/4 of Ukraine is very pro western and wants desperately to be free, democratic and like us! Putin the thug can put that in his pipe and smoke on it for a long while, as he ponders on the fact that the former USSR can never be regained..... ever.........

      March 2, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
  6. Free ukraine

    Russia will not separate Crimea from Ukraine ! It will start a World War 3. And trust me we Ukrainians have fought for our freedom for over millennia and will stand up. If Putin thinks Chechnya was bad; wait till he starts this invasion. Many Ukrainians as well as Russians and other nations are tired of his rule and will start turmoil within Russian boarders; right under his nose. Chaos will be created. Ukraine has never been occupied completely by any nation not it will ever be !

    February 26, 2014 at 3:49 pm |
    • Patrick

      Spoken like another weak minded, hateful Tea Partier. Aren't you kind of ashamed of your ignorance, Free Ukraine? One more thing, how does one go about "freeing" a democratic country anyway? Viktor Yanukovitch was legitametly elected to office as Prime Minister just like David Cameron was.

      February 26, 2014 at 4:29 pm |
      • StanCalif

        But David Cameron did not rob his own country of $70 billion like Yanukovych supposedly has done! Putin's oligarchs stole all their new wealth from the people of Russia, Yanukovych tried to do the same.

        February 28, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
    • Milan Jovanovic

      Sorry to say but WW3 became 26 March 1999, just few weeks after love affair Lewinski Clinton when American administartion I mean company Albright, Clinton, Halbrook decided to bomb Serbia against international law, against Security Council UN. with two vetos in Security Council. Nato and American administration called this bombardment "Angel of mercy" and killed 10000 citizens of Serbia, Serbs and Albanians and formed so called state of Kosovo . Today is 2014 and Kosovo isnt member of UN. So Im sorry but you missed 15 years of begining WW3

      March 2, 2014 at 8:56 am |
    • kevin

      Non sense! Read Steven Cohen in The Nation for some sanity on the Ukraine. Are Americans so politically illiterate that Russia is following in the US footsteps re violating international law. Have you forgotten Iraq already? And your support for Israeli's violations of international law as well as overthrowing democratically elected governments in Iran and Chile. Also pay close attention to covert US support for another democratic government in Venezuela. Such utter egregious hypocrisy!

      March 2, 2014 at 10:47 am |
  7. Free ukraine

    Patrick wake up if you think Ukraine was free and not influenced by Russia and its oligarchs !
    Yanukovich never won any elections but was actually placed to power by kremlin.

    February 26, 2014 at 5:08 pm |
  8. Free ukraine

    Legitimate presidents do not run and hide ; only fake, corrupted criminals do !

    February 26, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Back in 1973 in Chile, Free ukraine, Pres. Salvador Allende should have ran and hid but got murdered by a bunch of right-wing thugs backed and orchestrated by the C.I.A instead. He was the most honest President Chile ever had and not all the right-wing bla-bla-bla in the world is going to change that!

      February 28, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
  9. Alexander

    let us all start to wave nazi flags to support new ukrainian government

    February 27, 2014 at 2:11 pm |
  10. Free ukraine

    Alexander the only NAZI here is you here !
    Look how easily Russian Tsar paints all countries that want sovereignty NAZI's.
    LATVIA; ESTONIA; LITVA; UKRAINE; GERGIA are all NAZI's because people there want to be free and not depend on Putin's regime.

    February 27, 2014 at 3:40 pm |
    • Ashok Bhagat

      The fact is that during WWII lot of people from Ukraine and baltic countries sides with Nazis and were specially cruel towards other Ukrainians and people in Latvia/Estonia/Lithuania who did not support Nazis. You must try to read history and goo deep in it. Only then you will see the reality.

      March 2, 2014 at 12:08 pm |
    • Andrey

      What about this Ukrainian Nazi that BBC says control Kiev now: do you say BBC has made them up?


      March 3, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
  11. Alexander

    in my country here no bandits marching across streets, humiliating both – former "berkut" and civilians and yelling what they soon expel all russians from ukraine. So what it is you – nazi. Poverty made you feel oppressed by Russia and Putin.

    February 28, 2014 at 4:11 am |
  12. Jadestar

    Zakaria IS the establishment, more than anyone else. Whatever he's against, I'm for. I have faith in Putin; he'll secure self-determination for the Crimean people and crush the State Department-created regime of ex-cons hoisted upon the largely nationalist protestors in Kiev.

    February 28, 2014 at 6:28 pm |
  13. Abbey

    Zakaria your ratings won't be to good in 2104 when compare to Putin. Where and what credentials do you have when covering international affairs? This real news, not pandering to the social media generation who can't think for themselves now.

    March 1, 2014 at 11:39 am |
    • the ignorance continues

      Are you kidding us Abbey? Fareed Zakaria is at least 1000 times more intelligent and well-read than Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama COMBINED!!!!!!!!!! Putin is just a KGB thug, plain and simple. Which part of that sentence do you not understand???? Putin wants to solve the Ukraine problem exactly like he solved the Chechnya problem. Like a thug!!!!! Have you watched the GPS show since its inception, like I have???? Fareed is awesome and the whole entire world LOVES his show on CNN. It is politicians like Vladimir Putin who pander to social media by baring his chest in public and by trying to be macho for the TV cameras.

      March 1, 2014 at 5:48 pm |
      • thetruthhurts

        Are you kidding? You're fast to point out Putin flaws which you half right on but you fail to point out obama human rights abuses. obama uses dromes to kill women and children, he has continued to detain people for decades without a trial or a charge and supplied illegal weapons to mexico that killed a federal agent. Let's talk about thugs I love to teach you how many you have in the US political field. Putin is half the animal some of your leader are

        March 1, 2014 at 11:46 pm |
      • the ignorance continues

        I have never said the American system of power and control over this planet is innocent. Far from it, in fact. Over the last 100 years, both Russia and USA have done some pretty awful things. Facts are, life in USA is far better than life in Russia. The communist approach, by definition, rules its people thru fear. KGB is always listening secretly. Even after the fall of USSR, and the fact that corruption and Oligarchy took over, Russia still is a horrible place to live. That's why 2 million Russians migrated to Europe and 2 million migrated to USA, over last 20 years. Only less than 2000 Americans went to do business in Russia, and they are hating it, because of the sickening bureaucracy, corruption, thug mentality of the government etc. facts are facts. face it.

        March 2, 2014 at 1:48 am |
      • Ashok Bhagat

        I really dislike use of word THUG in your comment. I admit that Fareed Zakaria is a well read and balance journalist, normally. But your comment is plain bad. I do not think your can compare Putin and Obama with Zakaria. they are also very knowledgeable and smart. From your standards if anyone who can be called Thug it is various US administrations, right from 1950 till date. Look up the history. It is very surprising that US journalist always act as the drum beaters of US government policy

        March 2, 2014 at 12:03 pm |
      • Putin is a thug, plain and simple

        You may dislike the word THUG, but a thug is a thug is a thug.......... plain and simple. I have read the history of this entire planet. Yes, the history of Russia is rife with thugs. Peter the Great, Czar of Russia was one of the biggest thugs who ever lived in this planet, expanding the small kingdom of Russia into an empire 5 times its original size. USSR fell part for a simple reason, a gentleman named Gorbachev ruled for a few years, and all the pent up anger in those former Soviet republics came out and bubbled over into a demand for freedom. Freedom from Soviet troops who had been murdering and thieving in those "republics" for 70 years!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        March 2, 2014 at 3:25 pm |
  14. Ukraine will be free

    Putin is Hitler today

    March 2, 2014 at 4:40 am |
    • Jimmy the Bean Counter

      We need proof as to how he is like that. As far as I'm concerned saying he's like Hitler is nationalistic dogma, kinda like how tea-partiers in the US liked to call Obama Hitler.

      So your comparison really adds zip, nada, zilch to the conversation.

      March 2, 2014 at 11:42 pm |
    • Andrey

      Then why Ukrainian Nazi are on the opposite side? BBC is reporting Nazi are in control of Kiev and a part of the new Ukrainian government:


      March 3, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
  15. Parabolid71

    I think that our so called expert Fareed is eating his words. He was celebrating little bit too soon.

    March 2, 2014 at 9:10 am |
  16. Ashok Bhagat

    You have Madeleine Albright and Zbigniew Brzezinski on your show. Both of them are known Russia baiter and hawks. What a waste of time. Both will say the same thing. It would have been nicer and more journalisticly appropriate if you had someone with a different voice as your guest. It is quite clear that a legally elected government was overthrown by radicals of all shapes and colors and aided and abetted by Western countries. All US politicians and journalists alike seem to gloss over this fact.

    March 2, 2014 at 11:51 am |
    • oleg grytsak

      oleg grytsak
      WW2 !!!! wake up its been over 50 years !!! those people are long gone !!! we are the new generation and we want our freedom !!! people are sick and tired of Putins way to dictate and placing his crooks in power !!!

      March 2, 2014 at 9:20 pm |
  17. Cruzador

    Ukrain will be free from whom?who has been supreswing you for decades turning into a real crap of a nation? You as ukrainians have passed yhrough 2 revolutions none o each did you any good. I5 is mainly because working make nation prosperous not rioting...

    March 2, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
  18. Putin is a thug, plain and simple

    Guys, I have chatted with many former Soviet citizens, who now live in California, because they fled Russia to come in live in the much better USA! One of my closest friends fled from Soviet Armenia. You see guys, he is Russian, and during the 1917 revolution, his father was part of the Soviet Army that occupied Armenia, just like it did in over 26 neighboring states, to form the USSR. So after Gorbachev freed the Soviet Satellite States, in 1991, many Russians occupying those States had to flee for their lives. The natives living in all those "republics" had been murdered and thieved from for 70 years, by Soviet troops!!!!!!!! That's why all those former Soviet Republics broke away!!!! So now, Putin the thug wants to get back the old glory of the USSR......... good luck......... he can only do it by murdering over 10 million people!!!!!!!!!!!!! How sick are we humans????????????

    March 2, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
  19. denverboy1

    We shall see...
    Russian might in the Ukraine might just be the catalyst needed to bring about a final farewell to Mother Russia from the Independent Nation of Ukraine .. People will see Russian for what Putin wants it be . A Empire held together by fear and intimidation . Stalin would be so proud of Putin ... and Putin may end up with the same blood on his hands as Stalin ... We can only pray that is NOT the case . Europe and America need to be very careful here as does Russia . Because the other EU Nations are watching this very closely .. There militaries I'm sure a bit edger than say a week ago ...and Putin's military moves have brought Russia and the EU face to face .. in a way that is not going to be productive for either side . Russia's vast pipelines that cross the Ukraine and its port are vulnerable to attack by democratic forces and with spring approaching this could be a real bad time for the Russian Bear to try and stomp a potential EU member into the Russian mold ... what's worse is everyone has nukes...and vast armies that are so close together ... It could be a real problem for Europe and Russia and the USA ...The fact Russian soldiers are not wearing ANY identification on there uniforms means Russia is hoping for plausible deniability up until the very end .. What kills me is Russia actually believe that particular tactic will be some form political exit if things go south for Russia .. It makes Russia appear unwilling to take responsibility for it's own actions which means they want the world to believe the troops there are UNCOMMITTED to any Nation ... Be careful what you wish for Putin ....you may get a uncommitted Army ..one without a face that hides behind masks to do it's DIRTY WORK for the glory of Mother Russia....For the glory of Putin .....

    March 2, 2014 at 4:57 pm |
    • oleg grytsak

      WW2 !!!! wake up its been over 50 years !!! those people are long gone !!! we are the new generation and we want our freedom !!!

      March 2, 2014 at 9:19 pm |
  20. RIPayne

    I see the beginning of the end for Putin.

    How many leaders are in power for so long they start feeling invincible and then they overstep....

    March 2, 2014 at 6:11 pm |
    • Andrey

      I see a lot of wishful thinking in your post.
      Do you remember something like "Assad is done, a couple of weeks is all that he has got!", what you post is as useless as that!

      March 3, 2014 at 11:53 am |
  21. oleg grytsak

    well said Payne !!!

    March 2, 2014 at 9:26 pm |
  22. Yuck

    Those that ears let them hear,those that have eyes let them see,what the evil Edomites are doing.

    March 2, 2014 at 9:43 pm |
  23. Yuck

    Correction (those that have ears let them hear,)those that have eyes let them see.

    March 2, 2014 at 9:53 pm |
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