March 5th, 2014
09:51 AM ET

What a solution to Ukraine crisis might look like

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.

More from CNN: Russia warns over U.S. assets

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.

If look at the geography, no matter what the United States and European Union promise Ukraine – right now it's a billion dollars in loan guarantees – the geography guarantees that Ukraine has to deal with Russia. It's where they get their gas from, where the exports go. That's something that is unavoidable.

It goes even deeper than that. We think about Russia and how the Soviet Union has crumbled, and all these countries have gone free. And we put Ukraine in that category. Ukraine was not just part of the Soviet Union, which is a 75-year period. Ukraine is part of the Russian empire for 300 years. Crimea has been part of the Russian empire for 200 years.

More from CNN: Watch Russian anchor blast 'occupation'

And as you say, the gas lines crisscross through Ukraine. All Ukraine's industry is, to put it crudely, in the pro-Russian eastern half of Ukraine. So, were there to be trouble, secessionist movements, Ukraine would not be viable as a state without Russia's encouragement. And also, we don't want to rush Ukraine out of Russian control and make it have to live in a hostile relationship with its neighbor. We want Russia invested in Ukraine's success. And by the way, there's a $15 billion tab that someone's going to have to pay, and so it might as well be all parties involved here.

What should we make about the reality of Putin and how we should deal with it?

Well he is, I think as Bill Clinton said, a tough guy. I've had a few chances to meet with him in very small groups. And he is, when it comes to process, very intelligent, very tough, and has a deep sense of a Russian nationalism, a deep sense of the greatness of Russia if you will – Russian exceptionalism.

So I think that you're dealing with somebody with whom you cannot make appeals to international norms and laws – that these things are not going to be as important. It’s brutal understanding of Russia's interest. And I think that the "off ramp" that we might find lies in what Putin said in his press conference. The most important thing he said in that long, rambling press conference was that he does not intend to annex Crimea. He said that after the final question was, is Crimea going to become part of Russia? And he said no, we want to leave it up to the people of Crimea to determine their future. So what that suggests is he's thinking some kind of referendum. Now, the Ukrainians may have some ideas. The Ukrainian constitution only allows for a referendum for the whole country. So, all Ukrainians would have to decide whether Crimea can be either independent or part of Russia or autonomous within Ukraine. But it’s there you'll begin to see the possibility of some kind of political solution.

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If Putin dismisses the notion of force, then you can have a serious conversation about the political future because it is a complicated situation. As I said, Crimea was historically part of Russia. From all accounts, the majority would rather be in Russia, or at least are not particularly happy with Ukraine. So, all those things can be discussed. But I think that the key is the trust that there is a serious negotiation in which nobody is going to use force to create facts on the ground that cannot be changed.

Look, all nations have interests and they have interests outside their borders. But the fundamental problem Putin is facing, which we did not face in incidents like Panama, is that the people of Ukraine by in large don't want to be dominated by Russia. And the real movers, the real actors in the story are not Washington and Obama, or not Putin who has done some kind of power play. This is the way we describe it all. The heroes of the story are the Ukrainian people who took to the streets, overturned the government which they thought had become a vassal of Russia's, and are trying to make a modern democratic, liberal future for themselves. That's the problem here. And what Putin is trying to do is to arrest that course of history. It’s very different from going in temporarily to secure the Panama Canal, or to get rid of a bad guy like Noriega. Panama is today a thriving democracy, and has had anti-American politicians run it.

More from GPS: U.S. credibility at stake

Look at Nicaragua. I would hope that the lesson of the 20th century, surely, is that holding on to little pieces of land and warm-water ports is not how you make a great nation. The way you make a great nation is to raise the standards of living of your people. Putin is presiding over an oil kleptocracy in Russia that has ruined the lives of his people, but he's got Crimea through force. And remember in Crimea it’s still only 60 percent of the population that is Russian – 15 percent are Muslims, the so called Crimean Tatars. I don't think they're looking at the prospect of Russian domination with any great joy.

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine

soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. DP

    > The heroes of the story are the Ukrainian people who took to the streets, overturned the government which they thought had become a vassal of Russia's, and are trying to make a modern democratic, liberal future for themselves.

    thugs who decided to overthrow the democratically elected president (remember – the elections were under the pro Western president, Yushenko, with western observers and were acknowledged)... Farid is as usual forgetting that the unhappy part of population had a chance to cast a democratic vote and lost, they 'd have the chance during next elections instead as usual, as US always does, they decided that democracy is only what suits them

    March 5, 2014 at 11:40 am |
    • USMC1369

      Well put, DP.

      March 5, 2014 at 4:51 pm |
      • j. von hettlingen

        There's a right of revolution, or rebellion in the history of political philosophy. It is the right or duty of the people of a nation to overthrow a government that acts against their common interests.
        Belief in this right dates back to ancient China, and it has been used throughout history to justify various rebellions, including the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

        March 6, 2014 at 9:56 am |
    • Kizbert

      Estonian foreign ministry has confirmed the recording of his conversation with EU foreign policy chief is authentic. Urmas Paet said that snipers who shot at protesters and police in Kiev were hired by Maidan leaders.

      March 5, 2014 at 5:02 pm |
      • Mike

        "Urmas Paet said that snipers who shot at protesters and police in Kiev were hired by Maidan leaders." no, he didn't. He said that a Doctor he spoke to in Kiev told him that. Estonia has since made a statement making it clear he was repeating a story he was told, not expressing his own opinion.

        March 6, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
      • inna

        What a stupid thing to repeat over and over again. Tell me, how does thed Estonian foreign ministry know this? Where were they exactly that they could record these events? Oh! That's right in Estonia, 800 miles away. Stop spouting cheap Putin propaganda. Do you think the world is stupid??? Is Estonia really a country??? Or did the Russians, who were sent there to undermine the Estonians by the Soviet Russians and Putin, already take over that country too??
        What Mr. Putin should be doing is looking for a place to hide before the Dagestanis get him and his gang.

        March 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm |
    • Fareak

      CNN losing cred with nutjobs like Zak reporting on these issues.

      March 5, 2014 at 5:52 pm |
      • Lone wolf

        Apparently he does not meet the standards you get on Faux News!

        March 5, 2014 at 6:06 pm |
    • chrisrapier

      So when the people of East Germany rose up, en masse, against their lawful government and eventually tore down the Berlin wall were they just a bunch of thugs? If a popular movement ends up toppling a government that has, in the eyes of the people, lost it's legitimacy, are they always thugs? Or are they only thugs because you support the Russian agenda?

      March 5, 2014 at 6:11 pm |
      • calripson

        There was no legitimate vote for the government of East Germany. Nobody denies the Yanukovich won the last election. Big difference. It would be like the Tea party staging a coup and throwing out Obama and then claiming they had to do it to save America – with Chia backing them and financing the whole thing.

        March 5, 2014 at 6:28 pm |
      • DP

        > eventually tore down the Berlin wall were they just a bunch of thugs?

        dear, you forget what was written just above – there were elections in Ukraine under pro Western president, with western observers and they were recognised by West – Yanukovich was elected.. this was totally not similar to DDR situation... no "Berlin" walls in Ukraine, dear... anybody can go to West... oh wait... West does not need those laborers, so instead they are going to earn money to Russia :-).

        March 5, 2014 at 6:54 pm |
    • Albert

      There are times when the seemingly most complex situations are quite simple to solve. Since Putin says there are no Russian troops in the Ukraine, they must be terrorists. Therefore, drones with missiles should be sent to take the terrorists out and the mobs that join them to terrorize the Ukrainian people. Then, Obama, backed by many world leaders should appear on world TV and ask Putin if he wishes to end the world right now. If so, send the first nuke. If not, remove all troops immediately, or face immediate military action. It's his choice. Albert.

      March 9, 2014 at 12:41 am |
  2. DP

    On the Telephone Conversation between Foreign Minister Paet and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton

    The recording of a telephone conversation between Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and High Representative Catherine Ashton that has been leaked online is authentic.

    The conversation between Paet and Ashton took place on 26 February after the Estonian Foreign Minister’s return from his visit to Ukraine. His visit took place last week, soon after the end of street violence in Kiev.

    Foreign Minister Paet was giving an overview of what he had heard the previous day in Kiev and expressed concern over the situation on the ground. We reject the claim that Paet was giving an assessment of the opposition’s involvement in the violence.

    `It is extremely regrettable that phone calls are being intercepted,’ said Paet. ’The fact that this phone call has been leaked is not a coincidence,’ added Paet.

    Dear journalists!

    Today, at 5 pm Foreign Minister Urmas Paet is answering journalist´s questions in the Foreign Ministry.

    Please enter through the guest entrance, Lauteri 2.

    637 7654
    533 66 159

    March 5, 2014 at 12:42 pm |
    • sdansker

      DP: you are such a dunce! This tactic has been tried before extremely successfully. How do i know? I wrote the book, that's how. Here's an excerpt: Rule #4–"put out a fake conversation from a respected high official of another country that will prove your point. By the time it's refuted, it will have done the damage intended". Taken from my book: "Ten easy ways to start a revolt" You are soooo naive.

      March 5, 2014 at 7:04 pm |
  3. Jerry Okamura

    The end justifies the means. Time will tell, who wins.

    March 5, 2014 at 1:18 pm |
    • DP

      > The only solution for the Ukrainian crisis is more democracy.

      that starts with return of the democratically elected president back to his seat, don't you think so ?

      March 5, 2014 at 6:56 pm |
      • sdansker


        March 5, 2014 at 7:05 pm |
      • Joe Balderrama

        I do, DP. Failing that, the best solution may be to split Ukraine between the pro-Russians in the East and the right-wing, pro-Westerners in the West. Back in 1993, when Czechoslavakia split in two, everybody remained silent while Obama and his henchmen are going ballistic today over Ukraine! This makes no sense!

        March 6, 2014 at 11:55 pm |
  4. Gonzomann

    "Men in ski masks coming in taking over an area using military force – obviously, that is totally unacceptable"

    Yes, A few days of aerial/tomahawk bombing is a far more proper way to start an invasion. The wrap-around googles and tan-tinted shemags are sooo much fashion than ski masks or balaclavas.

    March 5, 2014 at 1:52 pm |
  5. sly

    One look at Crimea on a map explains why Russia and Ukraine will always fight over what really should be an independant nation. Ukraine will certainly lose it someday, as it really doesn't belong there.

    Russia didn't do anything illegal – they have the right to send troops in.
    Ukraine did do something illegal – stage a coup to throw out a democratically elected President.

    A mess. That peninsula always has been, and always will be. Certainly none of America's business.

    March 5, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
    • sdansker

      Sly: you obviously are not a Ukrainian, nor a student of history. Read how most democratic countries were formed: by overthrowing corrupt leaders. Russia itself was one.

      March 5, 2014 at 6:18 pm |
      • sly

        We're not all as smart as you think you are obviously, but my remedial knowledge of history tells me that Ukraine already is a democratic country, so I don't know that the coup will make it more democratic.

        Anyhow – there was a coup, and Russia did the right thing and moved in to protect it's folks.

        None of our business – whoever runs those countries, we need to do business with them, so help them resolve their little dispute, and we can move on to bigger issues.

        March 5, 2014 at 6:23 pm |
      • ELMO

        I think Sly is 100% correct. This isn't an American issue. The United States is not a Democracy we are a Republic. Kill all of your leaders that you want to kill, they will only be replaced by the next mob favorite. The Ukraine hasn't had any representation for its people since it left the USSR. Worry not the technical advisors will be there soon and fix everything for you. Not to mention take your tax money just like the last group for the same reasons and uses. Oh welcome to the club.

        March 5, 2014 at 7:37 pm |
    • john

      Good call sly.

      March 6, 2014 at 8:18 am |
  6. sdansker

    What is missing here is that the "Elected" president was a crook who stole billions from his country while they wallowed in the shadow of Russia. The "elected" president was a puppet, and the free Ukrainians, both eastern & western, were fed up with him & his overreach for power consolidation. THAT is real story. To blame the people who came out on the Maiden to protest is to blame any group of citizens who are fed up with their corrupt leaders. I include the United States of America. The English subjects who revolted against the British were surely not authorized to do so, and I hope you are glad they did. Think about that in the context of Ukraine.

    March 5, 2014 at 6:13 pm |
    • sdansker

      sly, I say again: a coup is how America was formed and how Russia was too. Remedial history? You said that right!

      March 5, 2014 at 7:09 pm |
      • neweu

        ok then ,now the eastern ukrainers are making a coup , that's democratic as you insisted , pls support them

        March 7, 2014 at 4:05 am |
  7. JAL

    I could go for some flapjacks right now...

    March 5, 2014 at 6:28 pm |
  8. stefstoik

    Ukraine is in deep crisis, with political, economic, social and ethnic problems. The revolutionary government cannot control the country. The squares are currently controlling by nationalists and neo-Nazis groups, governmental buildings in the southern region occupied by pro-Russian civilians, Russian armed forces have invaded in Crimea and most of the government officials belonging to the former regime.

    It is obvious that with the current status, the country will be unstable for a long time or will be dissolved soon or later – as within the coming weeks, will follow, minority problems – human right issues, poverty, financial deregulation due to the economic austerity measures from IMF -EU and all these together will increase the local nationalism (Russian – Ukrainian).

    I believe that, we are at the beginning of a long term crisis – which may affect the entire global economy.

    The only solution for the Ukrainian crisis is more democracy. Means, a new government with all parties and nationalities included. Protection of Crimea’s current status, respect to the existing minorities (Russians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Romanians, Tartars) and religious (Orthodox, Jews, Muslims) and the most important, must be explained to the people, the current reality and the path to stability and progress, because the road to recovery will be long and painful and both Russia together with EC is part of this recovery path.

    March 5, 2014 at 6:43 pm |
  9. Bust

    What is the chance of Crimea becoming an Islamist state?

    March 5, 2014 at 6:58 pm |
  10. chrissy

    Obviously Ukrainians have realised that Democracy is NOT a spectator sport as many people here believe! I applaud their efforts however, the US needs to stay out of this. Out side of humanitarian support that is!

    March 5, 2014 at 7:02 pm |
  11. Semper Cogitatus

    There are two possible solutions here. Either Crimea becomes Russia territory, or Ukraine becomes a Russian client state. Russia going home and leaving Ukraine to Ukrainians is just not on the table.

    March 5, 2014 at 7:08 pm |
  12. kaz

    Americans need to read this. Journalism is dead in the U.S

    The Ukraine crisis through the whimsy of international law
    Money and hard power count, and that's that
    By Neil Macdonald, CBC News Posted: Mar 05, 2014 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 05, 2014 2:56 PM ET

    March 5, 2014 at 7:15 pm |
  13. Tony

    There are no more editors tor edit this? Seriously?

    March 5, 2014 at 7:49 pm |
  14. EB

    "The heroes of the story are the Ukrainian people who took to the streets, overturned the government which they thought had become a vassal of Russia's, and are trying to make a modern democratic, liberal future for themselves" So sad that CNN fell so low to call outraged extremists responsible for killings on Maidan "heroes". When did it become a heroic act to overturn the democratically elected president? Shame on you, Fareed!

    March 6, 2014 at 2:34 am |
  15. Pablo

    I do not have much sympathy for Putin. But America, I thinck, is a huge cancerous tumor on the body of the world. America has a huge national debt, America is organizing wars and revolutions where wish. America does not take into account national peculiarities. Americans believe that the government has the right to such behavior. I do not love America.That's why America brings suffering to the peoples of other countries. America's main product is the "greenbacks". I do not love America. America is an empire in the phase of dying (I hope). Also think many Russian people, who have higher education and their own independent opinion. I wish for Americans to concentrate on solving its domestic problems and to work hard in the real sector of the industry to reduce the national debt. Do not climb in Russia and Ukraine.

    March 6, 2014 at 4:40 am |
  16. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    I posted this several days ago, and with every passing day, Mr. Zakaria proves that to be true.

    Here's what I said:

    This guy, our COVERT ISLAMIST Mr.Fareed Zakaria will now start RAINING articles against Putin and Russia, simply b'coz he hates both, and the reason Putin's heavy handed treatment of Mr.Zakaria's brethren – The Chechan Islamic Terr orists.

    It's also a god sent opportunity for Mr. Zakaria to bash up America & Europe (while PRETENDING to be an Ardent Patriot!).

    Why would he do that?

    Simply b'coz Mr. Zakaria ha tes the US & EU nearly as much as Russia in view of our Global war on Islamic Ter ror, incl. the wars in Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran etc.

    March 6, 2014 at 8:36 am |
  17. chrissy

    Perhaps because you've said it SO MUCH people are tuning you out! Regular racist ranting is quite the turn off if you hadnt guessed that already!

    March 6, 2014 at 9:51 am |
  18. Fire

    When was the last time you bought or even found any manufactured product from one of our allies that receives foreign aid (tax payer money)? We just gave Ukraine 1 billion dollars, for what? How about the 1.5 billion dollars we gave Egypt, find any vacuum cleaners built or made in Egypt? What about any of the European countries, find any products from these countries? Yet whenever theirs a problem they cry where's the U.S. and don't forget that big fat check. Americans, get out and vote these fools out of office through special elections or at the polls this next election. We need our military to protect us from all the incompetency from our fearless leaders. Here's one of the problems, Both democrat and republican parties are turning the people against each other and while were fighting each other these same lawmakers are screwing us. Wake up People!

    March 6, 2014 at 10:07 am |
  19. Fire

    You can't announce to the World that your going to down size your military to pre World War II levels and expect everyone else to fall in line. It just doesn't work that way. Just think if George Washington would have given everyone food stamps and government healthcare then laid his guns down and went back to the house, where you would be today.

    March 6, 2014 at 10:25 am |
  20. Ted award

    What would a solution look like? How about Russia out of Crimea except for ports as per treaty. Let the Ukrainians work it out for themselves. The Russians in Crimea are just old Soviets who don't know what democracy is and are so stupid they'd rather live under the thumb Moscow instead of take responsibility for themselves. They are like Stalin's abused children who miss being abused and are longing to return to their abuser.

    March 6, 2014 at 9:57 pm |
    • Joe Balderrama

      Another ignorant comment above from another jerk who apparently never finished grade school. Until I started reading these comments here, I never knew that there were so many grade school dropouts here in America!

      March 6, 2014 at 11:47 pm |
  21. Matt

    There is enough energy to supplement a Russian cut off. Between the US, Australia, fast track Israel field, a little more Iranian energy let on the market to keep dialog going and extend the interim agreement. It is not a problem and will hurt Russia more than Europe.

    March 7, 2014 at 1:56 am |
  22. neweu

    The heroes of the story are the Ukrainian people who took to the streets, overturned the government which they thought had become a vassal of Russia's, and are trying to make a modern democratic, liberal future for themselves.
    well then , now the crimean people taking to the streets are heros too, ouverturned the government which they thought had become a vassal of America's,

    March 7, 2014 at 4:11 am |
  23. Mark

    I see this as an ugly moment for the American media with its complete lack of objectivity and outright bias. It is even more sad to see jornos with the stature of Mr. Zakaria fall to such lows.

    I think Russia's action is completely logical and justifiable -projecting its influence in its backyard and maintaining its strategic interests. I believe Russia will come out as the winner in this crisis.

    March 7, 2014 at 6:47 am |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Well said, Mark. Let's all hope that you're right about Russia coming out on top. I'm sick and tired of seeing the right-wing thugs in Washington having things their way!

      March 7, 2014 at 9:35 am |
  24. Viva Ukrain

    Cannot believe some of the comments I've seen above. Really, there are people here who support Putin and his actions? This smart and powerful dictator who is using the situation to invade sovereign country? Putin's estimated net worth is $70 billion (This puts him in the top 3 richest people in the world! Next to the Bill Gates. Care to find out how he made his fortune?). I guess the lack of knowledge of the situation and the Ukraine as a country explains some of it, but common, open your eyes, read a little more different news sources! You don't trust CNN and US government? Yes, Obama is a weak president, especially when it comes to the foreign policies, but the statements he has been making are true! I wish he would not try to scare Putin with sanction when he can't really do much.
    First and foremost, I am from Ukraine, I lived through this uprising with my friends and family in different parts of the country, including Crimea and Kiev. This article for the most part is correct. And there is no diplomatic solution here-Putin does what he wants, he made a plan and we are witnessing an execution of it. He wants to take a part of Ukraine – he takes it. He did it several times before in Georgia, in Moldova, now is Ukraine. Same scenario: Gives out Russian passports, create a provocation, invades to "protect" Russian citizens and leave military installations. Fast and effective. Have you heard of any casualties in Crimea? That's right, no, because there is no one needs protection there. He is former KGB, he knows how to play this. Buses loaded with provocateurs to stir up the crowd comes from Russia. It is true, my brother witnessed it himself. And yes, information war, this is a big part of it – Putin can bluntly lie to the international community and to his people through completely controlled media sources. The lies are unbelievable. I speak both Russian and Ukrainian, and have international channels from each country. I have never seen in my life so many lies, no wonder anchor Liz Wahl quit on air. But it takes time for people to find truth, that what Ukraine does not have. 9 days until the "referendum" in Crimea and on the ballot only 2 choices – Join Russia or Become independent and join Russia! Only Yes and Yes, two choices.
    Please support new independent Ukraine! Ultra right party did help this revolution, but there are so few of them that they will never make a difference in government. They are ready to die for the freedom of the country, but let's not call them fascists, they are not. There is a hope that the new generation will take Ukraine to the better democratic future with EU through painful reforms and mistakes... Ukrainian people don't want to be a part of the new USSR built by Putin.

    March 7, 2014 at 4:45 pm |
  25. jerald anthony

    Dear World leaders and those of you of influence while in your temporal state of this eternal being on this Blue-Green and precious planet we call Gaia in the small and beautiful Milky-Way Galaxy, PLEASE In PEACE come together.

    Thank you Dearly

    March 8, 2014 at 1:37 pm |
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