Russia on defensive over MH17 tragedy
July 22nd, 2014
01:56 PM ET

Russia on defensive over MH17 tragedy

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

CNN’s New Day speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the politics of the Malaysia Airlines crash, the state of the investigation, and why Russia looks to be on the defensive. This is an edited version of the transcript.

Senator John McCain has told us that the United States needs to do more, the United States needs to lead more, that the president hasn’t done enough in terms of leading and the European allies will follow. He also thinks that the United States and allies need to offer arms, offer weapons to Ukraine in order to regain control of the situation on the ground. What do you make of it?

I listened to the interview closely. I thought it was unfortunate…What struck me about what Senator McCain was saying is that it seemed needlessly partisan. By which I mean he said President Obama should lead, he said he should name Putin specifically and hold him responsible.

President Obama stood outside the White House yesterday and said Putin has a responsibility. He's the person with the most direct control. He and Russia can do something about this. He said the United States should lead with sanctions and Europe will follow. The United States has led with sanctions – the United States has many more sanctions on Russia than any European country, and it has prompted Europeans to do more, as perhaps it will this week.

So, yes, there are areas where the United States could do better. But you know it would help in our dealings with our allies, and with the Russians, if the president seemed to be speaking for the country and had the backing of Congress behind him. And instead, what struck me about this was it was turned into just one more of the kind of unending series of partisan wrangles in Washington.

The black boxes have been turned over from the pro-Russian rebels, the bodies now moved out of the crash site region, investigators allowed on site. And then you have statements from Vladimir Putin himself to his national security team, reported by Reuters, saying the world has been pressuring him to force the pro-Russian rebels to allow investigators on the scene. Is this what it looks like when Putin is conciliatory? Is this the extent that he might ever do, caving just a little bit?

There's no question he's on the defensive. He has already made concessions I'm sure that he was reluctant to make – the black boxes were turned over, the bodies were turned over. The pro-Russian rebels in the eastern Ukraine have clearly given the ground. They've allowed the site to be under international supervision and inspection. And, most importantly, what you notice here is that the Ukrainian government is taking this opportunity to try to seize control of many of the areas of the country that they have lost control in.

And Putin isn’t fighting back. He's not resupplying the rebels as far as we can tell.

There have been reports of shelling near the crash site. Is that smart for Ukraine to be taking this opportunity, while they are still trying to move the bodies out of there to then be shelling to try to regain control of the area?

I think they're feeling probably that this is a moment where Russia is defensive, this is when Putin will not do something and they’ve been trying to take control of this area.

Look, Putin has had his bizarre position, which is he won’t allow the Ukrainian government to take control of this part of eastern Ukraine, but then he blames the Ukrainian government for the airliner crash because he says it's their territory. They are supposed to technically be the government in charge. Well, if they are technically the government in charge, let them be in charge.

I have a lot of sympathy for the Kiev government. I think if they were to wait a month, who knows what Mr. Putin's reaction would be? But you're seeing not a conciliatory Putin, but a Putin who is on the defensive.

And you watch the videotaped message he sent and he looks very different. When I met with Putin, I was struck by the fact that he's an aggressive, intense guy. He sort of leans forward. He's almost punching you verbally.

This was a very different guy. He was a little dazed, he's pasty-faced, he seemed different. But you know, you still have the same chip on his shoulder. You always have a chip on his shoulder. He always feels like the West is out to get Russia. That plays well in Russia. He's tapping into a sense of Russian, call it inferiority, call it encirclement. And that's part of the reason with all that's going on – his popularity hasn't gone down in Russia.

Don't we have to lock down the situation and get an investigation before it's too late, so we have real proof of innocents being killed in a conflict and there being accountability?

If there’s going to be a change of heart in Europe, if there’s going to be a sense of seriousness on Europe's part that they have to do something, it will probably be spurred by the humanitarian nature of this crisis, which is to say, when the European public sees and understands what happened to these innocents, so many of them come from one country.

If that moves the Dutch to take a tougher position, if it moves them to go into the councils of NATO and the European Union and ask for a stronger response, we might begin to see a turning of the tide. And in a longer term sense, if it makes them ask themselves, do we really want to be satellites so energy dependent on a willful and aggressive and expansion in this country?

That is where you’ll begin to see a lasting change. It will not come from the high politics of Obama’s showing leadership, but from the sense of the European public that this had been a wake-up call. The investigation becomes crucial because it will establish without a shadow of doubt what happened.

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine

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soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Joseph McCarthy

    It makes me sick to see people here caught up in this right-wing lynch-mob mentality. Before condemning Russia, we need to learn the truth of what truly happened. As Jesus once said, let him who has not sinned, cast the first stone. Enough said.

    July 22, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
    • Silly you

      Silly you. Republicans don't believe in Jesus and his teachings. The republican Jesus has horns, hooves, and a pointed tail.

      July 22, 2014 at 5:21 pm |
  2. Gordon Peiper


    July 22, 2014 at 4:12 pm |
  3. The GOP Solution

    The GOP Prayer/Mantra/Solution: Dear God...With your loving kindness, help us to turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, Female, and Gay people into slaves. Then, with your guidance and compassion, we will whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Male, and Straight. Or until they are dead. God...Grant us the knowledge to then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military during the next "unfunded/off-the-books" war. God...Give us the strength during our speeches to repeatedly yell........TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!!!..........and........GET RID OF SS AND MEDICARE!!!
    In your name we prey (purposely misspelled, or is it?)..........Amen

    July 22, 2014 at 5:03 pm |
  4. chri§§y

    Ive never been responsible for the death of another human being have you @ Joseph?

    July 22, 2014 at 5:35 pm |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Of course not, chrissy! Do you remember the 1991 bombing of the Amriya air raid shelter in Baghdad, Iraq, killing well over 414 innocent civilians by two American pilots? I do!

      July 22, 2014 at 5:43 pm |
  5. chri§§y

    Yea i do. Weve had this conversation before. They were wrong...just as Russia is wrong now! They didnt have any right or cause to shoot down a civilian plane. And no one thought those pilots had the right or cause to do so either!

    July 22, 2014 at 7:43 pm |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      You're right, chrissy. The Russians didn't have that right and they never shot down flight MH17. Don't fall for all that right-wing blah-blah-blah coming out of Washington D.C..!

      July 22, 2014 at 8:03 pm |
  6. chri§§y

    And HOW do you know they didnt???

    July 22, 2014 at 8:42 pm |
  7. chri§§y

    And it doesnt matter if they personally did it or they coerced the seperatists to do it! They have supplied them with the means AND orchestrated this whole battle from the very beginning! And in the beginning Putin was publicly proud of what they (seperatists) were accomplishing! Hes toned down his public approval of their actions since the world became outraged, and especially since the sanctions! When you GIVE somebody something it is no longer yours! You cant take it back just because youve discovered its now valuable! He has no right to take Ukraine back now and if he tries its called stealing which is illegal!

    July 22, 2014 at 8:50 pm |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Vladimir Putin could have taken over Ukraine the same way George W. Bush took Iraq back in 2003, but didn't. Like I said before, Vladimir Putin is getting a bad rapp.

      July 22, 2014 at 11:00 pm |
      • Ros

        Nope he could of NOT taken over Ukraine...not in the long run...and Putnik knows it. Your giving Russians to much power.

        July 23, 2014 at 1:18 pm |
  8. Joe

    We have a dysfunctional government trying to govern what's become a ungovernable country. Let's face it, Obama does not have the ability to lead this country. He speaks only for himself.

    July 22, 2014 at 11:00 pm |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini

      I fully agree, Joe. Barack Obama reneged on almost all of his 2008 campaign promises and now he's trying to run Europe!

      July 22, 2014 at 11:08 pm |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        No, @ My Troll, I do not agree that we have a dysfunctional government.
        Barack Obama has been a great president.

        July 23, 2014 at 8:35 am |
  9. chri§§y

    Lol @ Joseph, i never said he was stupid. Hes a helluva lot smarter than GWB and he does think before he acts! He knows how the rest of the world would react which is precisely why he created his fall guys, the seperatists!

    July 22, 2014 at 11:30 pm |
  10. Allan Kinsman©

    I just don't agree with Senator McCain. The whole committment of our professional military has done them a tremendous disservice. And who declared the cold war over? I saw an interview with the Chinese minister of trade on a late night talk show ten or twelve years ago. They were coming after the jobs. I wonder how the NSA has managed to spy on most Americans but is ignorant about corporate and government theft by real threats. It would appear to me we are so distracted by situations of our design the store is being stolen right out from under us by a real war unannounced.

    July 23, 2014 at 2:27 am |
  11. PEACE - no sanctions, no weapons

    The region needs PEACE negotiations – no new weapons, no arms deals. No new bloodshed. America does not necessarily needs Russia for energy (oil, gas, ...), but America does also not need s.koreans (hyundai, kia, ...) and not .j.a.p.a.n.e.s.e. (honda, suzuki, mazda, ...) – they are the bad choice with one bad compass.

    July 23, 2014 at 4:13 am |
  12. Shadow

    You fools and your religion .
    Where your religions when these things happen .
    There is a higher power .
    There a lower power .
    Then there us .
    Your god will step on you with out thinking twice if he has to .
    God don't have feelings .
    That's what made human so special .
    Stop being stupid and start seeing the bigger picture .
    There a war going on in earth and a war going on in the heavens .
    Pick a side and stop being so gullible .

    July 23, 2014 at 10:45 am |
  13. bobcat2u

    "Sen. John McCain says"
    Those few words have been quite common of late. And have you noticed that everything he says eventually comes around to arming one faction or another as to influence the outcome of a situation ? It just seems like he get's really excited over the prospect of being able to sit back and watch as people kill each other. Vicarious living wish perhaps ?!

    July 23, 2014 at 11:27 am |
  14. Ros

    "And Putin isn’t fighting back. He's not resupplying the rebels as far as we can tell." This sentence in article is Ukrainian news media Putnik is currently resupplying terrorists with EVERYTHING!

    July 23, 2014 at 1:15 pm |
  15. chri§§y

    Spot on @ Allan @ 2:27am!

    July 23, 2014 at 1:33 pm |
  16. j. von hettlingen

    Fareed, for the moment there's a sense of outrage in Europe towards Putin. Yet European leaders may look beyond grief and anger, when it comes to realpolitik. They will try to avoid a fallout with Russia, which is their biggest business partner and energy supplier. Their political future will be at stake, if economy stalls and temperature falls.

    July 24, 2014 at 11:22 am |
  17. chri§§y

    @ j von theres still firewood and candles! Human lives should be worth that much at least wouldnt you think? I understand what youre saying dont get me wrong...i just think it would and should be a little discomfort! Mainly because if you give him an inch, soon he will want a mile ya know!

    July 24, 2014 at 6:07 pm |
  18. chri§§y

    Meant to say it should be "worth" a little discomfort.

    July 24, 2014 at 6:34 pm |
  19. Horseman

    Souls are mine thanks to the stupidity of man,the life of the average person is nothing to these people, you can scream and shout all you like, nothing will be done, report all you like, nothing can be done. You are all scared of big power countries, horseman war

    July 25, 2014 at 2:24 am |
  20. steven Fazekas

    How can you expect McCain t give a balanced view on any world wide intervention. If the right wing of the Rep.Party were in charge, only Canada might be safe!

    July 25, 2014 at 5:09 pm |
  21. chri§§y

    Lol @ Steven, you are absolutely right!! War is his answer to everything!

    July 25, 2014 at 8:12 pm |
  22. fun board games

    Thank you for sharing with us, I think this website genuinely stands out :D.

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