'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. Ted Striker

    Putin's Anschluss continues into the next phase!

    April 9, 2014 at 8:33 pm |
    • johnnycourtney

      Gulf of Tonkin? 911? Iraq? Afghanistan? Havent created or exploited chaos since 1942? Sheeeeet

      April 10, 2014 at 12:07 am |
  2. who123

    I have a question:

    When will the Ukraine run out of fuel? Not talking about the military, I am sure they have some stored away. I mean the people to drive, heat the house, cook food, run a store. That will be a bad day. Or do they get fuel from other countries other than Russia?

    April 9, 2014 at 8:49 pm |
  3. Ipploit

    Obama: The reset button has worked.

    Putin: [flexing his pecs] You don't need to see verification of the chemical weapons declaration.

    Obama: We don't need to see verification of the chemical weapons declaration.

    Obi-Wan: These aren't the Chem Weapons you're looking for.

    Stormtrooper: These aren't the Chem Weapons we're looking for.

    Putin: Syria can go about its business.

    Obama: Syria can go about its business.

    Putin: After your election you will have more flexibility.

    Stormtrooper: After my election I have more flexibility.

    April 9, 2014 at 9:22 pm |
  4. Zakareah

    Hello Johnny obvious Farooooq!!

    April 9, 2014 at 9:42 pm |
  5. JanardhanName*

    Lies lies lies why is illegitimate govt in Kiev ready to use military on protestors it's the same reason earlier president was removed right ... Shame on west to support these and shame on American private terrorists to operate in their

    April 9, 2014 at 9:45 pm |
  6. Robin Jones

    Zakaria provides an interesting academic discussion, but, as usual, is short on any practical advice.

    April 9, 2014 at 9:48 pm |
    • Don Stump

      Ok, Robin, maybe you can supply us with a solution.

      April 9, 2014 at 10:53 pm |
  7. Coco

    They did a pretty good job in the last day or two getting rid of some of these demonstrators(c)
    What would you call it if that would happen at maidan 2 month ago?

    April 9, 2014 at 9:56 pm |
    • eswinson

      There is a vast difference between armed terrorist holding hostages and demanding secession and protestors demanding the government follow the laws and respect human rights.

      April 10, 2014 at 12:49 am |
  8. Glen

    Putin is plating chess while Obama is playing checkers. When Romney was running he said this would happen.

    April 9, 2014 at 10:06 pm |
  9. syberstorm

    Guys, if Putin takes Ukraine he is going to have all Maidan activist at Red Square in Moscow the very next week frying BBQ and burning tires, and nobody would say them NO, since they would have all rights of Russian citizens, so I think he is smart enough not to take them home.
    Russian government used Ukraine to laundry gas monopoly money, Russians could say "NO" to discounted gas prices for Ukrainian brothers who badly needed them. Now it is western governments turn to use Ukraine. It has no financial control over budget expenses. If you give credit to Germany they would report about every penny they spent, but if you give them to Ukraine you would never learn what happened to them. The maximum result you can expect virtual government dept, which is not going to be paid off in foreseeable future. Ukraine is like North Korea – 55 million of poor citizens who want to work and live according to European norms, but Europe itself has long running economical decline and cannot export workplaces to Ukraine or take another 8 million work immigrants.

    April 9, 2014 at 10:16 pm |
  10. Kumaran

    Lot of Countries that preach Democracy are blocking Democracy in UN Security Council. The countries that are Rich and Powerful with Veto power are going to do these kind of things at some or other time. None of the countries with Veto power can never be expected to do good for smaller countries without taking benefit for them.

    April 9, 2014 at 10:19 pm |
  11. Matt Ford

    We have enough problems here in the U.S. with Obama creating chaos.

    April 9, 2014 at 10:26 pm |
  12. alexis texas

    I don't think at all that the author of this article truly understands all this Ukrainian crap. In short, some bunch of gangs with support of the West took power in Kiev without any agreements with the Eastern Ukraine. Now Eastern Ukrainians basically do the same (with a support of Russia) and those who is in Kiev now don't like it because they don't want to give up on their power now. Russia will act adequate because they don't want to see stinky Yankees by their boarder. Ukraine will collapse, it's just a manner of time. EU and the US can sanction Russia of course, but the problem is that their economic situation is really crappy, so Russia basically doesn't get a F. about these sanctions. There is no such a thing as democracy, basically we have corporations -> US government –> EU (Americans ass kissers); this is basically the diagram of the world structure. So besides this schema, Russia and China play their own games and they don't want to invite any third party.

    April 9, 2014 at 10:28 pm |
  13. dmitri kozlowsky

    Get Ukraine into NATO. Then get NATO into Ukraine.

    April 9, 2014 at 10:58 pm |
  14. iouri

    waiting for shooting in Lugansk to begin!!!!!!

    April 9, 2014 at 10:59 pm |
  15. JC

    Farheed is a very smart man, but his biggest downfall is he's a huge Obama fan. He gives him a pass on everything , and has yet to hold Obamas hand to the flame. The comments about Syria were a huge example. If you compare every situation to Iraq and Afghanistan, then you're just posturing yourself. What bothers me is that progressives like him dismiss the invasion of Afghanistan as if 9/11 never happened. Afghanistan had to happen. Any president, no matter the party, would have been considered the worst and weakest president in history. And involvement in Syria never once meant sending troops. The GOP wanted assets to be given to moderate groups that wanted democracy, and to assist them with air strikes if necessary. That's in no way similar to invading a country. And yes, Obama has lost any chance of respect from Russia. Putin invaded Georgia because US assets were tied up in the Middle East. Farheed answered his own question. Putin is an opportunist. He knew he could get away with it because our hands were tied. Had we not been fighting in the sand Putin knew we would have tossed around the idea of sending special forces. That would have changed the game enormously. Putin knows Obama won't even consider stopping him, so the sky's the limit.

    April 9, 2014 at 11:14 pm |
  16. Anna

    In my opinion Russia is a terrorist state and all russians should be treated as terrorists. They are simply barbarians. They are laughing at the western countries in their faces! They know that the West are bunch of cowards who will not do anything about Ukraine! The only country that they may be scared is US. The West must use the same tactics to defit Putin, who is the new Hitler of Europe. Western countries must destabilize Russia and change topple Russian government! Russia is an evil country!!!!

    April 9, 2014 at 11:14 pm |
    • Clint

      I totally agree.

      April 9, 2014 at 11:39 pm |
    • iouri

      might be a bit too expensive; don't you think?

      April 9, 2014 at 11:48 pm |
    • Ryan

      You forget the fact that Russia is a nuclear power. To suggest that we should destabilize that country borders on insanity.

      April 10, 2014 at 12:44 am |
    • Nikolai

      Ну и дура же ты.. Скучно на кухне, повоевать захотелось? Так соберитесь всей семьей и вперед, на баррикады

      April 10, 2014 at 1:08 am |
    • nardus

      Anna you are as dumb as a brick.

      April 10, 2014 at 1:12 am |
    • josh12

      ТП

      April 10, 2014 at 1:28 am |
    • Sergey

      Anna please do not confuse Russia with Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, if God forbid there will be a war, then you not only on the TV to see her , she will come to your house, you agree to be at war at home-at home? (Do not take it as a threat, I have children and I want that they had not seen wars)

      April 10, 2014 at 4:32 am |
  17. kaiypov

    ____________Pause the WAR____________ My name is Emil Kaiypov. I am a citizen of the Kyrgyz Republic, a lawyer, and a father of two children. The proposal for which I am asking your kind support is the suspension of all currently existing hostilities on Earth.

    The main goal of my entire project is to save and improve the lives of children who are suffering from the present conflicts and violence.

    The challenge is to create a moment of "pause" [a technical term from video language] in hostilities now and in the future, as well as to refusal to restart them at all. I believe that in this context, such "pause" in the war action seems do-able and practical, much more effective than the idealistic and utopian pressing of an imaginary "stop" button. In the future the first action will equate to the second: "pause" will become "stop". In order to alert the international community and potential supporters, I made a demonstration of my own at 18 October 2013 on the territory of Syrian embassy in Beirut, with poster "pause the war".

    The purpose of this demonstration, is to show through an example that:

    1) one person has the power to perform an action directed to the benefit of all mankind.

    2) no one should be indifferent, when war is concerned.

    3) war requires us to drop everything else, in order to stop it. Daily activities, against the background of war, look meaningless and empty.

    I believe, that this idea will resonate and supporters will wish to join it. The age of information technologies, will help to spread it around the globe. Definitely there will be supporters among the world's famous celebrities. In the event that a large number of ordinary people and celebrities join this campaign, the dream to stop all military actions on the planet will be realized. This will serve as an occasion to announce the call for volunteers in the "international army of peace". It will consist of unarmed "soldiers" who are ready at any time, to go to the hot spot to "pause" the hostilities with the fact of their presence and to encourage the warring parties to engage in dialogue. Ideally, this army should consist of a world-famous and beloved celebrities from all spheres of human activities.

    I suggest that countries be ready to support my initiative, in solidarity, by placing on the cloth of their national flags, the well-known pause symbol "II". I believe that in the course of implementation of this anti-war action, the reasons for which the suspended armed conflict began, will be resolved or continued in a civilized manner. This anti-war action will bring about a new peaceful reality, when there will be no state left, which "international army of peace" had not visited.

    The termination of all hostilities, will become the point of departure for further continuous progress in all directions.

    We are able to bring about the time, when the world will be fairly managed by a workable international organization which will be trusted by all citizens of the earth. When this happens, all kinds of weapons will be transferred to international United Nations control, the purpose of which, will be the preservation of peace and sustainable development of mankind.

    We live in a world, when the collective effort makes possible the colonizing of other planets in the foreseeable future. I believe, that we have enough strength and resources for the child born tomorrow to see a world, where uniform international standards of education, labor, pension and medical care, will be established everywhere. A world, where the primary human needs will be satisfied for free.

    A world, where nobody talks about freedom, because absolute freedom will accompany each person from the moment of birth, to his last breath. A world, where the happiness and freedom of the individual, will not happen in isolation but will include freedom and happiness of all of humanity. A world without war.

    A world without war is undisputed goal, that sooner or later humanity will definitely reach. It is the primary duty of every adult to fulfill a "world in peace"– everyone’s childhood dream. Every child surrounded by the horrors of war dreams that one day somebody will come and say "It is enough!" and by saying it bring war to an end. Then war will stop. That day has come! It's time to combine our efforts in order to make that dream come true.

    April 9, 2014 at 11:16 pm |
  18. Zakaria is a sold out

    Zaky, I know your smarter than that, know it is obvious from a long shot that you are writing what your boss is telling you. You are not researching. What was Fat head McCain (loser) doing there before and during the crisis with the neo nazi? What about the "Nulan" phone call leak, what about the other phone call leak with Yulia Tymoshenko saying that she wants to nuke all the russian speaking ukrainians?. Why did you make the Ukrainian choose between Europe or Russia? why not both? This time russian is not on their knees like in 90's this time putin is a bit more of a chess player than your MCcain (neocon hungry for war). Russia did not shot a single bullet and 97.2% of creamean have chosen to go with russia. Now the rest will follow and why? because under the IMF the pension will go from 160$ a month to 80$, the gas will double. Under russian the crimean the pension will go from 160$ to 800$ per month. Putin dont need to shoot anyone, they will all beg for him. The red line was done in syria and now you must accept that russia is not a wimp. Actually with them selling 100billion of american bonds made your dollars fall 5% this week. China now will sell 39billion this month. Other will follow. This time you miss calculated. Please speak the truth instead of lies. No one in this world kills the way you do. and if you would speak the truth your people would vote for change. a powerful country like yours should have gave the world peace, cures and prosperity, a god loving country like yours should be a good example of good and not evil. killing millions of Iraki and found no WMD should be crying every day for their families. I know you know it Mr Zakaria, Dont selll out your viewers and speak the truth.

    April 9, 2014 at 11:22 pm |
    • brnj

      Exactly. He does not have a shred of conscience. There are East Ukrainian people in Donetsk trying to stop tanks and army carriers with their bare hands, and CNN calls them 'terrorists'! Where did you see the terrorists to act like that?

      April 10, 2014 at 12:41 am |
  19. iouri

    If you have nukes you have independence. No nukes-no independence. Ukranian rulers were too greedy when they exchange them for money eh-too bad.

    April 9, 2014 at 11:37 pm |
  20. iouri

    look at N. Korea poor but independent; look at S. Africa, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine-very much dependent

    April 9, 2014 at 11:40 pm |
  21. Quarant

    Honestly...I really do not care what the Fareed Zakarias of this World think – and we are NOT supposed to. People, this man is paid to do the thinking that you are supposed to do. To make matters worse, few people seem to care...they just re-gurgitate whatever the Great Zakaria has to say and go on pretending to be tough, watching trivia, sports, nonsense. If you say boo about any of this........you are a "conspiracy theorist".

    April 9, 2014 at 11:46 pm |
  22. Joe

    If NATO wants to send Putin a message, it should surround the Kaliningrad Oblast (formerly known as Koenigsberg in East Prussia) on its land side and blockade the port with naval forces. Kaliningrad is Russia's home port for its Baltic Sea Fleet. The west could use the status of Kaliningrad as a bargaining chip to put pressure on Putin and show him that Russia has something very important to lose if he continues his aggression against Ukraine.

    April 9, 2014 at 11:55 pm |
  23. Wulf

    Russia will make it move by mid-summer. Watch for terrorist style attacks within the Ukraine that affects the pipelines. It will look like its internal strife on its face, but its Moscow pulling the puppet strings. This is all about strategic positioning for ports and pipelines. This is a 10 yr. plan for Moscow to reinstate its satellite buffers. The world see's America as a paper tiger; a meager barking dog of hollow threats. China and India will watch from a distance and savor the moment as the U.S. melts its treasure on playing another Cold War scheme with Russia. The Defense industry will blossom while China and India's economies grow and America transitions from treading water to drowning in debt. Then the world will pull the plug on the American dollar's status as the World Currency Reserve – and Poof! America falls into the status of a Banana Republic. The generation of phones into their faces who know noting of accountability or responsibility transition into the meager labor force for the other growing world economies. America is on the decline and our current leadership is being lead directly into the abyss of an ambush. Our leaders are playing Kick the Can while the Russians are playing Chess...

    April 10, 2014 at 12:06 am |
  24. mvb

    so, lemme get this right. it's russia that's tearing up the new post-cold-war orderly world, not respecting borders, sending its army in other countries, right? so, it was russia that bombed serbia

    April 10, 2014 at 12:33 am |
  25. Comrade

    The western media has been blasting Russia ever since this whole situation started in Ukraine. The problem is they only seem to want to tell a story that supports America's agenda which is to strengthen their perceived dominance as the one true world leader and to lesson Russia's role as a superpower in the world. The initial claims of the US about the referendum in Crimea was that Russia was behind it, forcing the people (over overwhelmingly Russian) living in Crimea to vote to succeed from Ukraine and once again be re-united with Russia. Nothing was further from the truth. I personally know people from Crimea and they were very glad to have Russian troops in Crimea there to protect them and they were more than ready to re-unite with Russia.

    Also, the western media doesn't want Americans to know just what kind of people the US government is backing in Ukraine. One of the people wanting to run for the President of Ukraine came out and said she wanted to kill all Russians with nuclear weapons. Since the U.S. government sees Russia as a threat, I guess someone saying they want to kill all Russians is alright. Personally, I find it offensive.

    After the protesters in Kiev took over the government, the first amendment they tried to pass was outlawing the Russian language to be spoken in public places. (By the way, when Crimea passed their referendum, they said one was welcome to speak whatever language they wanted). The protesters also shut down all Russian TV stations in Ukraine and even attacked one TV reporter. But, again, I guess that's OK for the U.S. and something that western media outlets didn't feel was necessary for them to cover.

    Personally, I find the latest claims from the US rather appalling; the U.S is accusing Russia of financially backing the protesters in Eastern Ukraine as if my Russian comrades needed any encouragement whatsoever from Russia. Supposedly the Russians are doing this so that they have an excuse to invade Ukraine. First of all, if Russia wanted to do that, they could have easily done it by now. Why would Russia wait until NATO, the EU and the U.S. have a chance to move their troops into the area? Secondly, it's more likely that, in fact, the U.S. did exactly what they are now accusing Russia of doing, financially backing the protesters in Kiev from last November. Why? Well once they realized that Ukraine was about to be bailed out by Russia with a $15 billion dollar deal the U.S. feared that would increase Russia's power in Europe and that was something the U.S couldn't (nor wouldn't) allow to happen. It wouldn't be the first time that the U.S. went into another country and got the country's people to revolt against their own government.

    Finally, I seriously doubt that most Americans care all that much about what is going on in Ukraine; they're more concerned about "Obamacare". Most had probably never even heard of Crimea let alone have any idea where it's located on a map before the crisis started over there. Let, the U.S. government leaders say that "America' is behind Ukraine. Really, It seems to me that it's only U.S. politicians and their military leaders. And, if things continue down the current path, and I sincerely hope they do not, these same people will be more than willing to send the son's and daughter's of American citizens to war where many will die and for what reason, so that the U.S. can maintained it's perceived dominance over the world?

    April 10, 2014 at 12:37 am |
  26. mvb

    OK, so lemme get this right. It’s Russia that started tearing up existing borders, sending troops into other countries, and generally destroying the post-cold-war orderly world, right? So, it was Russia that bombed Serbia and forced it to give up control over its Kosovo province (thereby nullifying the much-quoted principle of international law that you can’t change the borders of a country without that country’s consent), under the pretext of protecting a minority population there? That was Russia, right?

    April 10, 2014 at 12:43 am |
  27. IdiotsAbroad

    Why blame Russia? Ukraine was fine until the neonazis decided to overthrow the democratically elected government.

    April 10, 2014 at 12:48 am |
  28. Adam

    So many Russian trolls on these sites, Russia doesn't have money for feeding its people, but it has bags of gold for propaganda, and they our using our media savvy right now to undermine us and impose another Russian evil empire on an unsuspecting world. The Russian anti-christ is even using Christianity to promote its evil agenda. I have nothing against the Russian people and have immense sympathy for their endless suffering, but Russia has done nothing good for its people and anyone ever, a big cancer on the earth, devouring healthy countries, most of immigrants who came to US and Canada came to flee Russian/Soviet oppression.

    April 10, 2014 at 12:53 am |
    • mvb

      wow. i mean, just, wow. this is your world, we just live in it.

      April 10, 2014 at 12:58 am |
      • IdiotsAbroad

        He's probably a Polish troll himself

        April 10, 2014 at 1:05 am |
    • Nikolai

      Don't worry about immigrants from Russia, save your big heart, honey. And mind your own business, it will help you in life

      April 10, 2014 at 1:18 am |
  29. IdiotsAbroad

    LOL @ CNN looks like "Danny the Syrian" started a great awareness in Americans that CNN is full of BS

    April 10, 2014 at 1:04 am |
  30. IdiotsAbroad

    How is Danny the Syrian these days anyway, is he in Ukraine now fighting for freedom and rock n roll music?

    April 10, 2014 at 1:04 am |
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