'Russia trying to create climate of chaos in Ukraine'
April 9th, 2014
12:30 PM ET

'Russia trying to create climate of chaos in Ukraine'

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

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about recent developments in Ukraine, what Russia might be planning next, and how the United States should respond. This is an edited version of the transcript.

You've got pro- Russian demonstrators taking over government buildings in eastern Ukraine. You've got this ultimatum being laid out by the Ukrainian government. What do you make of the state of play inside Ukraine right now?

It feels like we're now in phase two of the Russian operation in Ukraine. Remember, Crimea was never the prize. Putin took Crimea because he could, because there was a naval base, because he feared Ukraine was slipping out of his control and he wanted to take that one piece that he knew he could get.

Ukraine was the prize. The whole purpose of Russian policy for the last decade has been to try to dominate Ukraine. So now phase two is, OK, we have Crimea. But Ukraine has become more anti-Russian and wants to move to the West. What do we do?

So, they've done two things. Over the last week or two, they’ve tried to essentially crash the Ukrainian economy. So, they have really essentially cut off supplies, contracts, business dealings. Now what they're trying to do is foment pro-Russian forces in Ukraine so that they create an atmosphere of general chaos.

At that point Putin can say, look, there's general chaos in Ukraine, we need to protect our Russian speakers. We happen to have 40,000 troops right near the border and we can go in. He may not need to go in physically, though he's clearly preparing for that option. But that also allows him to go to the Ukrainian government and say you've got to negotiate on my terms now, and those terms are substantial autonomy for eastern Ukraine, a permanent role for Russia in a kind of special relationship.

So, he's now moved on to the issue that was always his prize, how do I dominate Ukraine?

What is the next move for Ukraine, and for the United States and E.U. and NATO, who are trying to get Russia to stand down? Secretary of State John Kerry in a Senate hearing said very clearly, do not be fooled, this could be very easily viewed as a pretext for moving into Ukraine even further. What can they do?

It's a tough question. The first thing I think is the Ukrainian government is going to have to act well. The Ukrainian government has to be able to assert control over the territory. They did a pretty good job in the last day or two getting rid of some of these demonstrators. But at the end of the day, the Ukrainian government cannot control these protests.

Getting Americans or Europeans in, it's not going to look good or work. Russia just says, ‘you see there are foreigners involved on one side’. First Ukrainians have to get their act together and they're trying.

More from CNN: Turning Crimea into 'Putinland'?

I think secondly, we have to start specifying exactly what would happen if the Russians were to invade. I think that really involves getting the Europeans to take a tougher line. If the Germans were to outline tough sanctions, real sanctions, that might make Moscow have second thoughts.

There's not much we can do. We're not going to fight a war with a nuclear superpower over Ukraine. But the Germans do a lot of trade with the Russians. It would be a body blow to the Russian economy.

It’s pretty interesting that the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia might meet. Isn't that a huge step?

That is actually a bigger step. And it's gotten lost in some of the protests. The Russians, remember, had never accepted the Ukrainian government. They argued this was illegitimate. Now, the Russian foreign minister is meeting with the foreign minister. The Russians have said they would be willing to meet with all parties in the Ukrainian political system, meaning some of the pro-Russian ones. So, Putin is very clever. He's making some very tough moves. He's at the same time making some diplomatic overtures. And he's trying to see which ones work out. I don't believe he's ever had a master plan. He's a master opportunist.

More from CNN: Putin won't stop at Crimea

Part of what he's trying to figure out is how much support does he have in eastern Ukraine? Remember, people say eastern Ukraine is pro-Russian. From my understanding of it and from our good reporting, the younger people in eastern Ukraine, even the younger speakers, are not that pro-Russian. It's an older generation coming out of the Soviet Union that are. So Putin is trying to play all these dynamics and see what he can do.

What we need to do is be a little more specific on what we can do. The reason we're not, of course, is we don't have agreement, particularly with the Europeans.

What do you think about what Senator McCain and other Republican members of the Foreign Relations Committee basically saying that the administration, the U.S., has lost all credibility in foreign policy right now?

I think it's mostly partisan posturing…I would suggest that the way you gain credibility in a situation like Russia is not to have gone around invading other countries. I mean, the idea that if we had only intervened in Syria, we would have more credibility with the Russians. I feel like we tried that experiment in the last administration. We invaded Iraq, we invaded Afghanistan, and Putin still invaded Georgia and he still annexed Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

These situations are sufficiently complicated, that if you decide you want to put a partisan spin on them, you can read almost anything the way you want to. I think that this is a tough period we're going through, and a very serious crisis we're confronting in eastern Ukraine, and I just wish that the United States were able to speak with one voice rather than using this occasion and this crisis to turn it into yet one more partisan slinging match.

You've suggested this may be the most significant crisis involving the U.S. and Russia since the end of the Cold War. Are you still buying that?

Absolutely, because since the Cold War ended, we have had a set of rules of the road that have allowed for an unprecedented level of political stability, the global economy has prospered, the great powers have all been playing by a certain set of rules of the road. And what Russia has been doing over the last few years, but particularly here, is essentially saying, we're going to tear up this order. We are not going to abide by the idea that borders are sacrosanct, because what they are trying to do now in eastern Ukraine is they're trying to foment extreme instability.

The idea, I think, is to create a general climate of chaos, then declaim that the Russian army has to go in as a matter of protecting its own borders, protecting its own Russian speakers…This is stuff that really has not been employed by any major power really since 1945, but certainly since the end of the Cold War. So it's a big deal.

Post by:
Topics: Russia • Ukraine

soundoff (289 Responses)
  1. Randy Sturgill

    The press in the US won't remind people that when the current government of Ukraine was engaging in a cout to take over from the previous government, that protesters in the WESTERN region of Lviv declared independence. When that happened, the governments in the US and Europe cheered. When violent protesters stormed government buildings in Kiev and took them by force the governments in the west cheered. Now the same thing is happening in Eastern Ukraine and the governments in the West are looking for a crackdown on "protesters". The pro-Russian protesters are merely engaging in the same practices that the western backed protesters used successfully. Live by the sword, die by the sword. The US government backed the violent overthrown of a democratically elected government in Ukraine. There are now protests against an unelected government. The US sewed the seeds of this disorder by supporting the violent cout to topple the democratically elected government of Ukraine. Russia is acting in the only way possible.

    God Bless Russia.

    April 9, 2014 at 4:57 pm |
    • tim

      You mean coup?

      April 9, 2014 at 5:02 pm |
      • FrmrMrine

        No. He means cout.

        April 9, 2014 at 5:15 pm |
    • John Smith

      America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
      In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
      During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
      In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
      Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

      April 9, 2014 at 7:02 pm |
      • Obama Is a Joke

        Can you please give me some of what you are smoking, moron? America is the root of all evil? And what country(s) are you proposing are better? American is the most benevolent country in world history, without exception – go back to your cave...

        April 9, 2014 at 7:55 pm |
      • PJ

        It is funny that Russians now post comments pretending to be Americans. John Smith is a Russian – the dropped articles are the clue. Most Russians, even if they speak English reasonably well, have troubles with articles. So John Smith is likely a Russian, living comfortably in the west (probably the US) enjoying all the liberties but has no sense of loyalty toward his hosts. No wonder the Ukrainians want to get rid of the Russians.

        April 9, 2014 at 7:57 pm |
    • Dennis

      Don't you realize the difference here,Randy? The demonstrations in Ukraine were by the people of that country.The takeover of Crimea and the subsequent demonstrations now going on in Eastern Ukraine are being done by a foreign invading force or agitators linked to Russia.Huge difference.Took bad you are not bright enough to notice the obvious.

      April 9, 2014 at 7:08 pm |
    • SonOfPerdition

      I wish somebody, and this is a thinly veiled request to Fareed Zakaria, would create a platform where average citizens could verify their residence in "average society" and write open letters to the peoples who reside in countries/regions/territories torn by strife or opposed to real or supposed American positions. I wish I had a platform where I could tell Iraqis, Iranians, and Afghanis that I'm sorry for all my country's eff-ups and don't have a problem with you, and I bet if you knew me you wouldn't have a problem with me. I bet if any people in any country could agree on one thing, they would agree that all they/we really want is a life lived in peace, and a better life for their/our children.

      April 9, 2014 at 9:05 pm |
  2. Jesse

    Zakaria trying to sound like he knows what he is talking about. Russia does not want to cause chaos. CNN make room for some real talent. George Friedman, Fred Burton, Bob Baer anyone that actually knows the subject material first hand.

    April 9, 2014 at 5:00 pm |
  3. qqq

    What is Zakaria's special expertise on this subject? Listen to Stephen Cohen on Russian affairs. He seems to know what he's talking about.

    April 9, 2014 at 5:04 pm |
  4. Thinker

    An American Pipe-Dream. Change name Ukraine to Ukrainistan. The new baby will be kicking in the belly of Russia. Russia will not be able to challenge US in world affairs. Make Russia pregnant woman.

    April 9, 2014 at 5:08 pm |
  5. FrmrMrine

    Don't worry. Many Russians like to vacation on the Black Sea. These are just people getting ready for their holiday.

    April 9, 2014 at 5:14 pm |
    • Dennis

      Yes,drunks like all the rest of that region.

      April 9, 2014 at 7:11 pm |
  6. Scott

    "Over the last week or two, they’ve tried to essentially crash the Ukrainian economy. So, they have really essentially cut off supplies, contracts, business dealings."

    Zakaria failed to mention Ukraine made the first move by cutting electricity to Crimea by 50%. But in other areas it's business as usual. Russia continues to pump gas to Ukraine, and Ukraine still fails to pay for it ($2 billion in arrears).

    "If the Germans were to outline tough sanctions, real sanctions, that might make Moscow have second thoughts.

    There's not much we can do. We're not going to fight a war with a nuclear superpower over Ukraine. But the Germans do a lot of trade with the Russians. It would be a body blow to the Russian economy."

    And a body blow to the German economy. I guess the Germans are supposed to take one for the team.

    April 9, 2014 at 5:32 pm |
    • PJ

      Scott, the Russian Economy is as large as the Italian Economy. The German economy is much bigger. Yes,
      it would be a serious blow to the German economy of they stopped buying natural gas and oil from the Russians – but it would be the kiss of death for the Russian economy. It may be just enough for Merkel to post that threat – to help the Russians coming back to the negotiating table.

      April 9, 2014 at 8:06 pm |
  7. Andrey

    Obviously Zakaria has some illusions about situation in Ukraine: like there is some kind of order there right now.
    Is there somebody in CNN who could explain him how delusional he is? I guess CNN is his only information source, he can not watch any other news channels or use any other information resources without the risk of being accused of plagiarism or even worse not being congruent with CNN's political line.

    April 9, 2014 at 5:34 pm |
  8. Big_D

    Russia is a free country, they are free to do anything that Putin tells them to do.

    April 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm |
  9. Maxim Moroz

    Russia does not want chaos on its border. And they don't need millions of refugees fleeing ethnic cleansin in Ukraine. It was US (Nuland and McCain) who have encouraged the rioters in Kiev to keep going. Ukraine had elections in less than a year. If people wanted a change they could have wited a few weeks. This chaos is the result of neo-Nazi rioters in Kiev being promised support by US.

    April 9, 2014 at 5:46 pm |
    • entilzha

      Exactly what "ethnic cleansing" has been occurring in Ukraine? Answer: exactly none. The whole "Russian citizens in danger' excuse is purely manufactured by Putin as an excuse to invade.

      This is merely the latest chapter in Russian territorial desires. The whole 19th century saw Russian Tsars using the "danger to Russian citizens" excuse as a reason to invade small independent states and city/states. Khiva. Bokhara. Samarkand. All were gobbled up by the Russian bear pushing South in search of new markets and access to warm water ports. Read the history.

      April 9, 2014 at 6:36 pm |
      • truthteller

        Lets continue your question line:
        What was the danger for US citizens in Grenada? Answer: none. Us just did not like the government.
        What were the "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq? Answer: there were none. Us just did not like the government.
        What was wrong in Livia? Answer: a lot of things, but it got much worse after invasion.
        Who trained, sponsored and supplied weapons to Ben Laden in 80-s? Answer: US did. Because he said that he will fight against Russians.
        Did US crackdown on drug production and trade in Iraq during last 5 years? Answer: nope! Areas under weeds actually increased more than 10 times!
        So, which country is still behaving like in 19-th century?

        And yes, you continue to think you are a saint.

        April 9, 2014 at 7:49 pm |
  10. Gregory

    "We invaded Iraq, we invaded Afghanistan, and Putin still invaded Georgia and he still annexed Abkhazia and South Ossetia."

    Technically, Georgia shot first.

    April 9, 2014 at 5:47 pm |
    • James

      @Gregory, technically, correct, but that's just semantics and you know it. Russia manipulated them perfectly into doing so. Unfortunately, Georgia wasn't smarter.

      April 9, 2014 at 5:51 pm |
  11. Maxim Moroz

    "We are not going to abide by the idea that borders are sacrosanct"

    US never cared about borders when they wanted to destroy a country. Kosovo is a prime exmaple of US not respecting another countrys' borders.

    April 9, 2014 at 5:47 pm |
    • Dennis

      And has the U.S.actually annexed Kosovo? Maxim,it is time for you to sober up and grow up.Your immaturity is showing.

      April 9, 2014 at 7:15 pm |
  12. Maxim Moroz

    Violent overthrow of a legitimate elected government is what destabilized the country.

    April 9, 2014 at 5:49 pm |
    • entilzha

      You mean the government that got itself elected through rigged elections, and by throwing the opposition leader into jail? Yeah, perfectly legitimate...pull the other one mate, it's got bells on.

      April 9, 2014 at 6:50 pm |
      • Vas

        Buddy, but the whole world recognized that elections and dealt with the guy. He was good as long as he was going to sign the proposed association with the EU, but once he tried to pull back from it, he immediately became bad and dictatorial, right?

        April 9, 2014 at 8:34 pm |
  13. James

    Just goes to show you, never turn your back on Russia. They can't be trusted. As much as I hate to agree with the old war-mongerers like McCain, force is apparently the only thing Russia understands. The only way to fight a bully is to smack them so hard they think twice about ever doing anything again. Regardless of the internal politics, Ukraine was a soverign nation, and Russia had no business at all going into Crimea. All of you Russians on this board seem to dismiss that fact. If the tables were turned, and you were the ones being invaded by a larger, more powerful country (ie. China, one day in the future) you would not defend Putin's actions.

    April 9, 2014 at 5:49 pm |
    • tupperhouse

      And how is any of this America's business? We all gave America a pass when they invaded Panama and Grenada as it was in there realm, but Ukraine is none of America's business. They are on tape as paying billions to instigate the neo Nazis in Kiev to revolt and using their aid system to have people compose propaganda on the social media and pretend it was from Cuba.

      April 9, 2014 at 6:30 pm |
      • Dennis

        Invaded and then withdrew their forces.Their is a big differenced between that and the annexation of a sovereign state.Apparently you are not intelligent enough to know the difference.Grenada and Panama now have their own govts.don't they?

        April 9, 2014 at 7:21 pm |
  14. star69

    Russia destabilizing ukraine is their payback for the US destabilizing syria

    April 9, 2014 at 5:51 pm |
  15. rasPutin

    Zakaria is playing the CNN strategy of telling the American people what they think they want to hear. Instead of doing a proper analysis of the situation, he is beating the US drum as jingoistically as possible.
    The US has no economic ties with Russia, but Europe and Asia certainly do. Russia is Europe's largest market for automobiles, and Germany, Czech Republic, France and Italy are dependent on that market for solvency. The rest of Asia is wary of US power (military and economic) and will quietly come to the aid of the Russians, though not through open declaration.

    April 9, 2014 at 5:52 pm |
  16. moksuk

    Do you see any similarities between what Russians are doing in Ukraine today and what Americans did in Texas, Mexico, Panama or Hawaii?

    April 9, 2014 at 5:58 pm |
    • rasPutin

      No. None of those territories were annexed with a vote of the people being annexed.

      April 9, 2014 at 6:01 pm |
    • Dennis

      None whatsoever.Those actions took place over one hundred years ago.That is not the norm nowadays in international relations.

      April 9, 2014 at 7:23 pm |
  17. Alex279

    Dear Fareed Zakharia,

    Please go Wikipedia and familiarize yourself about Stepan Bandera, Roman Shukhevich, special polizei "Nachtigall" Battalion, Waffen SS Grenadier division "Galitchina", OUN(b), UPA and their glorious acts of exterminating Poles, Jews, and fellow Ukrainians. Then rethink what you are writing.

    April 9, 2014 at 5:58 pm |
    • Maxim Moroz

      Bandera's troops killed 200,000 Poles under German occupation. It was not an order from Germans. It was on their own initiative. And now West Ukrainians are naming streets after Bandera and putting up monuments to him.

      April 9, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
      • Dennis

        That occurred over 70 years ago.How the hell is that relevant today?

        April 9, 2014 at 7:25 pm |
      • Tatyana

        On June 30, 1941 Bandera gave an order: “Poles, Jews, Communists exterminate without mercy”

        April 9, 2014 at 7:32 pm |
      • Alex279

        How relevant this is today? 100% relevant because VO Svoboda and Right Sector officially have exactly the same evil ideology, scream exactly the same slogans, and heil exactly the same heroes, whose portraits are all over the place in Kiiv right now.

        April 9, 2014 at 7:33 pm |
  18. Maxim Moroz

    East Ukraine is being invaded by armed neo-Nazis from West Ukraine. West Ukrainians are conduction mass arrests of East Ukrainians and are not supported by local population. If Russians come in, they will be liberators, not ivaders.

    April 9, 2014 at 6:05 pm |
    • Dennis

      No,Eastern Ukraine is currently being invaded by Russian Nazis.Putin's SS troops.

      April 9, 2014 at 7:26 pm |
      • Tatyana

        Putin would not be able to bring back Crimea if Ukraine was a nice country for live for Russians – but Ukrainian' government & Ukraine nationalists did all to help Putin to complete his mission

        April 9, 2014 at 8:56 pm |
  19. Shoot 'em dpwn

    Maybe the U.S. and it's European allies should restart plans to put the missile defense system in Poland like they planned to do until Obama blinked. As long as we're talking cold war, we may as well act on it.

    April 9, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
    • ✠RZ✠

      And maybe there's a few Russian and Chinese subs each with a few nukes just lurking off our coasts? Or how about a couple more nukes orbiting around in satellites here and there? Or maybe we should all just make thousands upon thousands of them but never really know who's got how many or where? Can a country be damaged by nukes ? Yes, physically when used and financially when not. Go to Brookings.edu to look at some old numbers.

      April 9, 2014 at 7:38 pm |
  20. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    April 9, 2014 at 6:57 pm |
    • Vladmir Dehovich

      Actually not is true, Russia only wants best for good friend Ukraine, well take care them under Russia and Putin

      April 9, 2014 at 9:19 pm |
  21. Tim

    McCain ripping anybody for "having no credibility" is beyond hilarious considering he picked Palin, the dumbest person in America, to be his VP.

    April 9, 2014 at 7:00 pm |
  22. tupperhouse

    That means nothing. Russia is not going to hit the US from Russia. They alternate nuclear subs off the coast. You better not be the 12-24 targets they will hit first.

    April 9, 2014 at 7:07 pm |
    • Dennis

      Let's hope the retaliation is not as bad for you idiots but unfortunately it will be.It will be the end of Russian civilization as you know it,what little it ever consisted of.

      April 9, 2014 at 7:28 pm |
  23. Reuven

    Ukraine is Russia backyard. There are a great many ethnic Russians in Ukraine. Ukrainians hate Russians. Putin has to take care of his own. America has nothing to do with Ukraine. Stay out. Only people whom have lived there no what is happening. You idiots have no idea.

    April 9, 2014 at 7:14 pm |
    • Dennis

      And we should listen to some idiot like you for advice? Why don't you just kindly find your way to hell? You may already live in it now.

      April 9, 2014 at 7:31 pm |
  24. gahh

    Putin's going to get even with the US, for the ugly picture Bush painted of him. Putin didn't appreciate having his soul, painted by a moron.

    April 9, 2014 at 7:25 pm |
  25. Ivan

    What are you talking about, Putin doesnt want war or take any other parts of ukraine, Vladimir Putin does everything to help ukraine and its economy

    April 9, 2014 at 7:26 pm |
    • Dennis

      Ivan,Putin is lucky to have low I.Q. citizens like you to believe his propaganda.

      April 9, 2014 at 7:39 pm |
      • Sergey

        You are a very interesting talk about that live in Russia mentally retarded people. Sounds like second-class people?

        April 10, 2014 at 3:39 am |
      • Sergey

        And we bears ride and vodka in the cold drink.

        April 10, 2014 at 4:49 am |
  26. The Mayor of Medinah

    maybe it is the Chechen rebels that are attempting to stir the pot.. they certainly have an ax to grind with russia

    April 9, 2014 at 7:27 pm |
  27. Ivan

    CNN is another Yellow press that knows nothing about news that happens in russia or ukraine, all what they want to do is to make americans think that Putin is a bad guy when he really not and how comes its american business to get involved in ukraine situation? All ukraine protest people wanted from the begining is to remove ukranian corrupted goverment

    April 9, 2014 at 7:40 pm |
  28. Name*shawn

    Russia is getting desperate to enter Ukraine. I think it's possible Russia could order there snipers to injure some of there Russian speaking citizens to make it look like Kiev is responsible, this would help them build support at home to send in there troops. I think it's imperative we have the UN observers present to eliminate the possibility of finger pointing and false blame.
    When something unexpected happens.

    April 9, 2014 at 8:15 pm |
  29. jasonedwin23

    Reblogged this on News Around The World.

    April 9, 2014 at 8:17 pm |
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