War in Ukraine: airstrikes, drones and a looming counteroffensive
This week saw heightened tensions in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. A wave of drone strikes hit the Russian capital Tuesday morning, bringing the war to Moscow for the first…
In a speech yesterday at The Hague, President Barack Obama pointedly denounced Russia’s annexation of Crimea. He said he doesn’t see events between Russia and the West as signaling the start of a new Cold War. The speech ended the president’s week in Brussels, where Western countries sought ways to punish Russia and to prepare for any next step Russian President Vladimir Putin might take. But there was also an acknowledgement that even measures like tougher sanctions moving forward would not force Russia to backtrack on Crimea. Diane and her guests discuss Obama’s week in Europe and Russia’s next possible moves.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Yesterday in The Hague, President Obama had these words for Russia and the international community.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMAUnderstand as well, this is not another Cold War that we're entering into. After all, unlike the Soviet Union, Russia leads no block of nations, no global ideology. The United States and NATO do not seek any conflict with Russia. In fact, for more than 60 years, we have come together in NATO not to claim other lands but to keep nations free.
REHMThis speech marked the end of the president's week in Brussels where he and other Western allies discuss tougher sanctions against Russia. Here with me for a look at the president's week in Europe and possible next moves from Putin, Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Christian Caryl, senior fellow at the Legatum Institute. Joining us by phone from Snow Mass, Colo., Ian Brzezinski, senior fellow at The Atlantic Council.
REHMI'll be interested to hear your questions and comments. Join us by phone at 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to all of you.
AMB. RICHARD HAASSGood morning.
MR. CHRISTIAN CARYLGood morning.
MR. IAN BRZEZINSKIMorning.
REHMGood to have you all with us. Richard Haass, we heard the president give his speech at The Hague yesterday. Your reaction.
HAASSWell, Diane, I thought the speech was accurate or good, if you will, in the sense of saying that we're not talking about a new Cold War. And I thought the critique, if you will, of the logic of what Russia and Mr. Putin have engineered was also on the mark. Where I think the speech was a little bit thinner, if you will, was on the nature of the response.
HAASSThere was a certain disconnect, if you will, between the scale of the problem that Russia has given the world and the nature of the response. And I also thought the president missed an opportunity to speak more directly to the Russian people, to make clear that they will pay a price for their leadership. And the reason he should do that is, at the end of the day, what I believe Mr. Putin is most about is not Ukraine for strategic reasons, but I believe he did what he did in Crimea in order to respond to Mr. Yanukovych being chased out of power.
HAASSAnd Mr. Putin, needless to say, was rather uncomfortable with that precedent. The last thing he wants is anyone in Moscow to get the idea that that's the way to bring about political change in Russia. So I believe that he is most concerned about his political base. So if I were Mr. Obama, I would've spoken a little bit more over his head to the Russian people, and that would be a way of sending a message to Mr. Putin that what he cares about most, which is his own political future, is potentially endangered by what he had done in Crimea.
REHMChristian Caryl, how do you see it?
CARYLWell, I certainly agree with everything that Richard just said. I was struck by the extent to which President Obama and the European leaders were talking about energy issues because, of course, one of the big problems here is that Europe is extremely dependent on Russian natural gas and petroleum to keep going. And President Obama and the European leaders talked a lot about ways that America could help to counter this dependence.
CARYLThey also talked quite a bit about a trade pact that has long been in the works that would enable the United States and Europe to integrate their economies a little more closely and perhaps also offset that dependence on Russian energy supplies. So we're going to be hearing a lot more about the energy front in the next few months and years to come.
REHMAnd, Ian Brzezinski, I gather you wanted to see a far stronger military commitment to the Ukraine.
BRZEZINSKIWell, Diane, I agree basically with my colleagues' points, but you're right. I was hoping that Obama's visit to Europe would've precipitated two things: one, an accelerated application of far more vigorous economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation. I was also hoping that they would introduce a more robust military dimension to their West response to Russia's invasion of Crimea and its very forbidding buildup of military forces on Ukraine's eastern frontiers.
BRZEZINSKII'm worried that this trip and his speech have actually reinforced a red line that the West, that NATO, that Washington has drawn in Europe along NATO's eastern frontier, a red line that leaves Ukraine militarily isolated, fending for its own. I was struck by the president's statement that Russia will not be deterred from further escalation by military force. So you've moved the military dimension off the table as Russia continues to build up its forces, basically almost giving Russia a green light for further operations in Ukraine if not elsewhere.
REHMHow do you react to that point of view, Richard Haass?
HAASSI think the consensus just broke down slightly here.
HAASSLook, the president faces a certain reality which limits what he can say, which is that the Europeans are not prepared to go beyond where they went in terms of military responses or sanctions. If Mr. Putin is essentially satisfied with Crimea -- and there's a big difference, if you will, between a Crimea-only and a Crimea-first scenario. And the Europeans have basically said, we want to keep most of our powder dry when it comes, in particular, to economic sanctions.
HAASSWe want to deter Mr. Putin from going beyond Crimea, and then we want to respond to him in the event that he does. So, in the meantime, the British are going to continue accepting deposits in their banks from Russians. The French are probably going to continue contemplating arm sales, and the Germans are going to continue importing energy. Nothing much is going to change 'cause, again, with the -- essentially, the Europeans are most concerned not about what's happened but about what might happen.
HAASSAnd I think that limits Mr. Obama. And the only other thing I'd add to that is I don't believe it's realistic for the United States to militarize, if you will, the competition over Ukraine. I think we ought to use this as an opportunity to make NATO more robust, but I believe that the principle tools when it comes to Ukraine have got to be bolstering Ukraine to make it more stable economically and politically and to threaten Russia with economic sanctions if it moves.
REHMAnd yet there was a report this morning, U.S. intelligence saying that Mr. Putin does have plans to move on Ukraine. Christian.
CARYLWell, we don't know for sure, Diane, but, of course, as you say, that report suggested that there were a lot of indications pointing in that direction, that the buildup is indeed very threatening and very ominous. I'm editor at Foreign Policy magazine. We recently ran a very fine piece by Pavel Felgenhauer who's a Moscow military analyst, and he pointed out that if Putin does want to stage an incursion into eastern Ukraine, he has a fairly narrow window of opportunity to do that because of weather conditions and the rhythm of the draft in Russia and a variety of other factors.
CARYLSo the fact that these forces are building up in the way that they are is, indeed, very ominous because it could point to some kind of action. But I understand totally where Ian is coming from. I'd like to hear him talk a little more specifically, though, about what kind of military measures he has in mind because one of the problems here is precisely that NATO, as we were sort of alluding to earlier, is a very, very weak force now.
CARYLUkraine is not a NATO member. Ukraine's own military forces are in a complete mess. So how we can offer some kind of realistic military deterrent, I think, is a big question. But I'd love to hear Ian talk about specifics 'cause there might be some very good points that we can make there.
BRZEZINSKIWell, as a practical matter, Richard is right. There's not consensus within the alliance to do anything forceful and robust, even purely on a defensive manner to assist Ukraine. But the three options I'm going to outline for you could be done by coalitions of the willing. The first the United States could definitely do on its own is provide lethal security systems to Ukraine, provide anti-tank weapons, surface to air missiles, ammunition.
BRZEZINSKIWe have prepositioned supplies in Norway that could be immediately applied and given to the Ukrainians. This would complicate Russian military planning. It would certainly bring back memories of Russia's experience, the Soviet Union's experience, when they last dealt with American weaponry in Afghanistan. Second thing that the West could do is provide intelligence platforms, deploy them in Ukraine to provide greater situational awareness to the Ukrainian military.
BRZEZINSKIWe could deploy military trainers to help upgrade Ukrainian military capabilities, enable them to better utilize that assistance. That is a tactic that we used to reinforce Georgia after Russia invaded Georgia in 2008. And then, third we could accelerate our military exercises in Ukraine. In fact, we have one planned in the summer called Rapid Trident. We should do one sooner, perhaps leveraging the NATO response force or elements of the NATO response force that could be deployed within days into Ukraine to do an exercise.
BRZEZINSKIAll of these would complicate Russian military planning. It would force Moscow to consider the prospects of a longer protracted and costly war should it further its aggression against Ukraine.
REHMPretty scary sounding to me, Richard Haass.
HAASSWell, again, I wouldn't go down this path, for the most part. Intelligence support is OK, even some limited training. I'm less comfortable with the idea of exercising. I'm most uncomfortable with idea of arming. Arming would take time for the weapons to actually be absorbed, but symbolically if Mr. Putin is looking for reasons to act, this would, seems to me, reinforce his instincts to do just that. I would, instead, again militarily, focus on NATO and for Ukraine, I would focus on two things.
HAASSOne is making clear to the Russians about what would be the economic cost they would pay and it ought to be substantially greater than the cost they have paid by now, an order of magnitude more than they've paid. And I think the Europeans might be willing to sign onto that. The other is to make sure Ukraine itself is less vulnerable. I'm much less worried about 20,000 Russian troops than I am about Ukraine's own pattern of political and economic dysfunction.
REHMRichard Haass, he's president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Short break here, we'll be right back.
REHMAnd we're talking in this hour about the president's trip to Europe as well as the current potentially dangerous situation since President Putin has moved to take over Crimea. There are great concerns that he might go further and move toward taking over Ukraine itself. Here is an email from Jim in McLean. He says, "If Europe and the U.S. do not impose more sanctions right now, all right. But they should publish to the world and to Putin the list of things they will do if a single Russian soldier wearing Russian insignia or not crosses the Ukraine border," Christian.
CARYLYeah, well, I think he's absolutely right. I think that's a great idea. You know, the question at this point is what the next round of sanctions should be. Richard, I believe, mentioned, you know, the Europeans, something keeping their powder dry. I think America has as well. There are still a few big things that Obama could do.
CARYLConspicuously absent from the list of people sanctioned in the most recent round were the leaders of the two biggest corporations in Russia, Gazprom, which is the natural gas monopoly and Rosneft, which is the state oil company. Those are the behemoths of the Russian economy. And the men who run those companies are close confidants of Putin, very, very powerful people. And I found it quite striking that they were off the lists that we've seen so far.
CARYLGoing after those guys would send a very, very powerful signal, I think. Another possible sanction escalation might involve targeting Russian state-owned companies, specifically the companies, not just the people like the ones that I've just named, so sanctions against those individuals and the companies that they run. The problem here is, of course, that those companies -- a lot of Russian companies are very intertwined with the global economy. So there are going to be some costs for people in the west.
REHMIan Brzezinski, if we were to go further than sanctions as you suggest, wouldn't that draw the U.S. far more deeply into a direct military confrontation with Moscow?
BRZEZINSKIWell, yes. I mean, if you follow some of the steps that I recommended, which I think are prudent defensive measures, none of which threaten Russia, at least its territory, that only would complicate their plans and execution of further aggression against Ukraine, there is, of course, a risk that we'd be drawn into it.
BRZEZINSKIBut I'm operating on the assumption that we don't want Russia to invade Ukraine, that it would be a threat to European security if Putin were allowed to continue his aggression and territorial acquisition in Europe creating a greater risk for even wider and more destructive war. Because if we're passive in our reactions to what Putin's doing in Ukraine, we're going to invite him to do the same thing against Moldova, against Georgia, maybe even the Baltics. And there's signals coming from Russia to that effect.
REHMRichard Haass, you seem skeptical.
HAASSWell, certainly I'm not worried about Russian moves against the Baltics given that that does involve NATO then directly. So that seems to me to be qualitatively different. Georgia, we've already seen. Crimea, we've already seen. There is the possibility of something with Moldova or other parts of Ukraine.
HAASSThe real question is whether we want to, in some ways, increase the odds that this becomes a military trajectory or dynamic or whether we prefer to compete with what the Russians might do using those tools which we think are to our advantage, which are among other things economic above all, both penalties as well as help for our friends. We can do things to bolster the rest of NATO on energy.
HAASSSomething I also think we ought to be doing is not just changing U.S. energy export policy to make it more possible for us to export oil and gas. We ought to be looking at ways of accelerating the transfer of shale drilling technology so Europeans themselves can more quickly get weaned from their dependence on Russia.
HAASSTaking a step back, Russia's basically got one-and-a-half dimensions of power. Its principle dimension now is energy. And its second dimension is it's got a limited military reach. I think we then ought to take steps now over the next couple of years to dramatically dilute the leverage Russia derives from its energy exports. And we ought to basically try to minimize, if you will, the significance of their military (word?).
REHMGo ahead, Christian.
CARYLAnd by the way, just to build on that, one of the most interesting suggestions I've seen floated is the idea of selling off oil in the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve. And the idea is to...
CARYL...reduce the oil price. Because every percentage point the oil price goes down, it's painful for Russia.
HAASSThat'd also be painful for Iran and a few others.
BRZEZINSKIYeah, you know, I agree with my colleagues in terms of these steps that should be taken, but they're all very long-term steps. And we, right now, have a very immediate crisis. We have 20,000, 30,000 Russian troops in Crimea. We have 20- to 35,000 troops massed on its border, backed up by armor and air power, and signals coming from Moscow that they may take additional steps.
BRZEZINSKISo if we're going to deter further aggression against Ukraine for the deeper incursion in Ukraine, we need to look at steps that will immediately change Putin's calculus today. And I would add, you know, his worldview is very different from ours. I don't think he's swayed, as much as we'd like him to be, by economic sanctions.
BRZEZINSKIRussia's a country with a history of great suffering, of great -- you know, enduring great economic travesty and military invasions. They can play the long game. And they're probably thinking that -- and Putin's probably thinking they can wait us out on the economic side. In the meantime, he's taking military action. And the west is shoring up its defenses on its own frontiers. But those frontiers leave Ukraine on the outside and vulnerable and we're not sufficiently addressing that reality.
REHMNow, do you, Richard Haass, think President Obama has taken a stronger stand? His position, has it evolved over the last month?
HAASSIt's a good question. Not a whole lot. Indeed, initially some of the administration rhetoric was almost too robust to start calling something unacceptable. When I was in government, that was a word you would use sparingly. You would only use the word unacceptable when...
REHMAnd red lines, you used only...
HAASSIndeed. And here again we've used words like that. And, quite honestly, what's happened in Crimea is not unacceptable. It's -- lots of ways, it's unfortunate. It's bad, both locally as well as in the precedent it sets. But at the end of the day, the world will live with it. The question of Russian incursions into eastern Ukraine raise the stakes more. But, again, I don't think the thrust of what we do ought to be to try to counter it militarily. I do think we ought to use other tools.
HAASSAnd here I probably disagree a bit with Ian. The Russian economy has essentially grown minimally the last couple years. It's barely growing. I actually do think Mr. Putin is quite vulnerable there. This is a country which is not a super power. The president was right the other day. Russia is a regional power. It was a nice putdown. It's a reminder, this is a country that shrunk to, what, 143 million people. It's a one-dimensional economy. Basically it's got a cash crop called oil and gas.
HAASSLarge parts of its territory are depopulated. Mr. Putin has no positive vision. What we heard though in his -- the only word I can think that's wildly undiplomatic, Diane, is rant or vent the other day, that speech he gave. This was a man frustrated by the humiliations of the last quarter century. And he was opening up this vision of kind of reclaiming Russian space. And he was appealing to this rather primitive sense of nationalism.
HAASSBut we ought to try to, as much as we can, make the competition for, can he provide Russians a better future? He has no vision. He has no means to doing it. He can never allow a real economy to grow up because that would mean people would have political independence. This is anathema to what he wants.
REHMHere's an email from John in Ann Arbor, Mich.: "In reacting to the current Russian situation, our traditional responses are surely as dysfunctional as western responses were to another crisis 100 years ago. If we are not to face serious problems again in five, 10 or 20 years, isn't it time to think about different approaches to Russia and the former Soviet Union than we are currently pursuing? And what could they be?" Christian?
CARYLYeah, well, that's a good question. I don't know. I just -- I wanted to mention on the economic front, that Russia's already taken quite a hit here. I mean, that's something that we tend to neglect in the discussion. The Russian stock market is down 10 percent since the beginning of the year. Capital flight of the first quarter of this year is going to be equivalent to all the capital flight they endured last year. That was, I think, $63 billion last year.
CARYLAnd this is just from the expectation of sanctions, right. If, as we discussed earlier, the president presented a very clear raft of sanctions said -- telegraphed to the Russians very clearly what he intends to do in case they do dare to make an incursion into eastern Ukraine. I do think that hits Putin where he lives, as Richard said. And the Russian economy -- some analysts say that the Russian economy's not going to grow at all this year.
REHMBut Ian, you don't think that goes far enough.
BRZEZINSKII don't think it goes far enough, and I think it also misses a reality that we're dealing with a Russian leader whose worldview is fundamentally different from ours and thinks in different terms. And while we would like to think he's a rational economic actor and will think about the well-being of his citizens, the fact is he's a leader who came to power feeling very grieved about how Russia was treated by the new order.
BRZEZINSKINow, it's remarkably similar to what happened to Germany after World War I. You know, 10 years after World War I, you had Hitler come to power angry about how Germany had been treated and determined to correct history and territorially redraw the maps of Europe, you know, to bring back justice to Germany.
BRZEZINSKIHere, 10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Putin comes to power feeling very much the same way, that Russia had been mistreated by this new order. Its influence and its prestige had been wrongfully undermined. They had been lied to and deceived by the West, and he's determined to correct the map.
REHMDo you see an analogy, Richard Haass?
HAASSIn this case, no. I used to teach at the Kennedy School of government the course on the use and misuse of history. And the analogy to World War I, which not just Ian but the question you just raised, seems to me is it doesn't apply here. Because, Mr. Putin, unlike Nazi Germany, doesn't have either the means or the ideology to do that. He's not after global domination. He's always talking about -- not that it's acceptable, don't get me wrong -- it's something in his so-called near or abroad.
HAASSHe doesn't represent an ideological alternative and he will be limited. Efficient analogy to World War I, I think it's much more likely to be in Asia. And that's where the growing jockeying and nationalist competition between the major powers of Japan and China worries me. And I think it's interesting that this week the president has met with the head of China, with the president of Korea.
HAASSThat's the part of the world right now where you're seeing dangerous competition and a lack of political military and diplomatic circuits. So if there's a World War I analogy, I think it's much more likely to be found in Asia than in Europe.
CARYLWell, I actually do agree with Ian about the sense of grievance and the nationalist resurgence in Russia. I do agree with him about that. I think it's very hard to under -- overestimate the power of that in the present Russian psyche. On the other hand, Putin, for many of his first years in power, was successful precisely because he promised Russians, and to some extent delivered, a kind of economic stability that they hadn't had during the '90s. Russia's economy now is on the brink of some serious problems. And I think Putin is actually quite aware of that.
REHMChristian Caryl, he's senior fellow at the Legatum Institute. He's contributing editor to Foreign Policy magazine, author of "Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Richard Haass, what does it look like we can realistically expect from our NATO allies?
HAASSWell, the truth is not a whole lot. The goal is that they spend, what, 2 percent of their GDP on defense and only three or four of them do. And even those are not really so much, in many cases, NATO-like spending but because of their own peculiar local disputes.
REHMSo if we were to follow Ian's prescriptions, it would be pretty much the U.S. going it alone?
HAASSOr as he incorrectly said, you know, with coalitions of the willing. What you'd have to do is essentially form subsets of NATO, which in some ways has become the pattern of NATO. NATO does very little, if you will, as everybody. Thanks to footnotes and ways of opting out, increasingly NATO is an a la carte relationship. And what we would do is put together an a la carte policy, whether it was for something in Ukraine or something more broadly. But NATO as a collective is more fiction than fact.
REHMIan, do you agree with that assessment?
BRZEZINSKII completely concur. I would add the fact though, you know, NATO will do only as much as the United States is willing to do. And if President Obama is unwilling to undertake some of the steps that I recommended or other efforts to kind of provide greater military reassurance to Ukraine, the Europeans will do no more. It's going to take strong U.S. leadership to kind of galvanize a coalition willing. And you can galvanize a coalition of willing, you often find that NATO follows behind.
REHMChristian, I wonder whether you were surprised to hear President Obama bring Iraq into his speech yesterday.
CARYLI was. I was, indeed. And it's a thorny issue. Yeah, I think I'd prefer that he didn't go there actually because...
REHMWhy do you think he did?
HAASSI was bemused by it. It -- along with NSA in Europe, Iraq is the other really toxic issue when it comes to anti-Americas. And I think he did it just for that reason. It was basically granting one of the two biggest critiques against the United States in trying to take it off the board and show the lack of parallelism. I thought it was an interesting move.
REHMAnd it was Putin who was trying to create that kind of parallelism.
HAASSYeah, Mr. Putin is citing all sorts of precedent. And I think, you know, the president could have cited this or any number of various -- what Russia has done, if you will, lacks any legitimacy. The Russian people of Crimea, the Russian ethnics were not under siege. It would've been one thing if Mr. Putin could've credibly made a case that he was launching something of a humanitarian intervention when all else had failed. It was anything but the case. He fomented the situation he then dealt with.
REHMIs Putin rational in his thinking?
HAASSI'll be honest with you, Diane. I'm worried -- it's the one part of this that worries me. During the Cold War you had a degree of predictability. And the Soviets, whatever else they were, were sclerotic. They were bureaucratic. They were organizational. What worries me now about this crisis is so -- it's the degree of concentration of Russian power. And it's the power that Mr. Putin has over this state. And as a result, there's less safeguards and less predictability. And as a result, this is more worrisome than what we're used to.
REHMRichard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He's the author of "Foreign Policy Begins at Home: The Case for Putting America's House in Order." Short break, right back.
REHMAnd welcome back as we talk about what's happening in Russia, in Crimea and possibly in Ukraine, as well as the president's recent trip to Europe. Let's open the phones now first to Michael in Kingston, R.I. Hi, you're on the air. Go right ahead.
MICHAELGood morning, Diane. Thank you. Mr. Haass, with respect to NATO, you were in President Bush's administration, George H.W. Bush. You know more than anyone in this country the question I'm about to ask. Was there nuanced reason or a specific reason why the Western powers, specifically NATO, did not, after the fall of the Soviet Union -- why didn't we specifically extend an invitation to Russia to become a part of NATO? And if we had, would we be looking at a Crimea crisis today?
HAASSLook, it's a great question. The issue did come up at various times. I, at one point, to be honest, advocated it. I wrote a memo when I was the head of policy planning -- so this was not under H.W. Bush, but George W. Bush, the 43rd president -- suggesting that this was something that we could for two reasons.
HAASSOne is I didn't think it would really impair the functioning of NATO, as we just discussed. I think NATO had already become, if you will, what I described as an a la carte relationship. So it wasn't all or nothing. Coalitions of the willing had increasingly become the norm. And, second of all, I thought it would take some of the sting out of NATO enlargement and it would remove the argument that the post-war order was somehow built against Russia. So it would take away the kind of humiliation or rant we heard the other day from France and Putin.
REHMAnd why was the suggestion denied?
HAASSThose who doubted the wisdom of it, besides the possibility that Russia might not accept, which was a side argument, worried that it would impair the continuing military effectiveness of NATO, that Russia, essentially as an insider, would become obstructive and would work against NATO's continuing viability.
REHMIan, do you think it would have been a good idea?
BRZEZINSKINo. I would have argued against at that point. But I think the general prospect of saying that one day one could consider Russia being part of NATO is something you wouldn't want to take off the table. You know, to be a NATO member, you have to meet standards of democracy. You have to demonstrate a consistency of a shared-world view, shared interests. You have to demonstrate those commitments to those common interests.
BRZEZINSKIAnd if there's a point in time -- which I think will be quite far down the road -- that Russia meets that criteria, then it's something we should address. But one would also want to think carefully about how it would affect the balance of power within NATO. Because right now you have an alliance really that features one predominate power and then a group of smaller powers that enables a certain amount of cohesion that might be undermined if you had two great powers sitting at the table.
REHMBut now, what about the decision by the G8 countries to disinvite Russia? That made headlines. How symbolic?
HAASSIt's symbolic. One should not exaggerate the significance of the G8. It's very lack of significance that the G20 was created. My hunch is Mr. Putin is not drowning himself in his sorrows in vodka over the fact that he's been disinvited from the G8 for a time. That is, as you said correctly, largely symbolic.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Jay, in DeKalb, Ill. Hi, you're on the air.
JAYHi, Diane. Thanks for taking my call.
JAYJust a question. The question I have for everyone is, you know, we are a very war weary country right now. And, you know, to help Ukraine militarily right now, you know, that's just like dipping our feet in the water. How are you going to justify this when really this is a European problem? You know, Merkel just said that she's not going to increase any sanctions against Russia. Why do we feel like it's our responsibility to get involved here, when I don't think we have a dog in this fight?
CARYLWell, I think actually one of the reasons why President Obama has been pursuing the policies that he has is because he's very aware of the sentiment that our caller just discussed. I've been looking at the polls. I can see no groundswell of support for military action in favor of Ukraine. And this is a fact that the president has to deal with. Of course, one of the problems of American foreign policy is that Americans generally don't care about foreign policy very much.
CARYLAnd if the president were always to allow himself to be dictated to by poll figures, we wouldn't have any foreign policy at all, perhaps. So, you know, President Obama shouldn't just let his foreign policy be dictated by popular sentiment. But again, as we've discussed, there are probably a lot of things that we can do that could be effective that wouldn't entail actual military action.
REHMAll right. And to Wes in Lakeland, Fla. Hi, there. You're on the air.
WESYes. I've heard some talk recently about preventing Russian aristocrats from sending their children to schools in other European countries. And I was wondering if that was actually being pursued. And I'd like to add that there's a new web series out that everyone should check out called "Tales from the Kraka Tower." Thank you.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling. Ian, what do you think about preventing Russian students from going to school abroad?
BRZEZINSKII actually think that would be counterproductive. I think we want to maintain that kind of cultural, educational relationship, particularly with the younger generation of Russians. We want them to better understand United States, better understand the West, feel -- comment in community with the West. So that's something I would sustain.
BRZEZINSKII would add, I think, that, you know, sanctioning individuals in Russia -- I think it's 31 now, a bunch of oligarchs -- is really a pinprick against -- in Putin's view. If we're going to sway him on economic terms, we're going to have to be far more aggressive in our economic sanctions, rather than just going against a couple of his buddies, we need to hit a couple of his sectors really hard. That will have far more impact on his mindset and his approach to Ukraine and other regions of the Russian periphery.
REHMLooks as though there's some agreement around the table?
HAASSAbsolutely. With two just points to add. One is that the Europeans aren't there. So the question is how we fashion as large a response as possible. And, secondly, and I hear this a lot in New York where I live, from the people in the financial sector, Russia is now sufficiently integrated into the world economy, so that the good news is such sanctions would actually hurt Russia significantly.
HAASSThe less good news is that there would be some blowback that would hurt us. And it's -- this is, in some ways, one of the first international crises to be played out against this backdrop of significant economic integration. And it's a learning experience, if you will, because what we're seeing is there is a boomerang effect of some of these sanctions. So the more pain they inflict, we also then incur some pain.
REHMHow much could it hurt us?
HAASSWell, I can't give you a quantitative answer, but if you add up all the assets the Russians keep in Western financial institutions, it's significant. And even as late as yesterday afternoon, you saw the Dow take a precipitous drop. It's always hard to analyze the markets, but one of the arguments out there was that because people are worried about the blowback effect or boomerang effect, if you will, of sanctions.
HAASSAnd given where Western economies are the recovery, shall we say, is quite fragile and incomplete. There are people who are quite worried. Look, I've had friends in the hedge fund world use some very dramatic parallels to what this could mean. The short answer is we don't know, but people are worried.
BRZEZINSKIYou know, and an important point is, is that the way the West is rolling out these sanctions communicates to Putin that we're more afraid of a blowback than he probably is of the economic effect it'll have on his own economy. And that's the problem with this slow escalation. It communicates weakness on our part, rather than decisiveness and determination.
CARYLWell, there may be some truth to that. Again, as Richard was saying, you know, the nature of the world economy is such that it makes this very complicated. I mean, look at London, right? The U.K. was talking quite tough in the early stages of this whole thing. And then it was revealed that actually the prime minister's office had a memorandum that said we can't really hit the Russians very hard because it will effect London's status as a financial marketplace.
CARYLBecause there's so much Russian money sloshing around there. That's where they, you know, invest their money. So if you impose very harsh economic sanctions on them, you know, the Brits are worried that that will hurt their own status as a financial center. So, I mean, you know, this is a problem and we've got to figure out some way to develop a unified policy on this for the sanctions to be effective.
REHMAll right. To Luba, in Naples, Fla. You're on the air.
LUBAGood morning. And thank you. I'd like to ask your panel to please comment on the U.S. and U.K. commitment to Ukraine's removal of the world's third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons under the Budapest Memorandum of 1994. And if we allow Putin to get away with not holding to Russia's part of the bargain, what example is set for other countries like Syria and Iran to amass nuclear weapons?
HAASSI think the caller is on to something big. This is not happening in isolation. It happened after the invasion and regime change in Libya, after Mr. Gadhafi gave up his nuclear weapons, it happened after the 2003 intervention in Iraq, after Saddam Hussein was forced to give up his nuclear materials. On the other hand, you see North Korea not being intact. So it's quite possible that a lot of people out there are going, hmm, there's a pattern here.
HAASSCountries that give up their nuclear weapons are becoming vulnerable. Countries that hang on to them or develop them are less so. So it's ironic. What happened this week? You had the Nuclear Summit. That was the ostensible reason for the president's trip to Europe. The whole underlying purpose of that is to discourage the spread of nuclear weapons and materials. Yet the larger strategic message of this entire crisis may be that keeping nuclear weapons may make you safer. It works exactly against one of the major aims of American foreign policy.
CARYLOh, well, I'd just like to add -- maybe it's a small thing -- but the other country that gave up its nuclear weapons after the breakup of the Soviet Union was Kazakhstan. And within the past few days, the president of Kazakhstan, who is actually a very close ally of Russia, sent a signal saying that actually they may start doing nuclear research again. And I think he probably doesn't have the resources to do that very effectively, but it was kind of interesting to hear him say that. He was clearly trying to send a message to Moscow.
REHMAnd of course you've got Iran continuing to move forward. Ian, what are your thoughts?
BRZEZINSKII think my colleagues put it quite well. I mean, we're setting a terrible precedent here by allowing this 1994 agreement to basically get trampled with no real firm response from the West against Russia. And this is going to -- we're going to have dynamics that contribute to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, rather than curbing and, you know, restraining that kind of proliferation because of what I think is a very weak Western response to Russia's violation of this agreement to its invasion of Ukrainian territory.
REHMHere's an email from Ron in Dallas, Texas. "How many trillions are we willing to spend to shore up a failing economy thousands of miles from our borders while our Congress considers universal healthcare too expensive to implement?" Richard Haass, people are worried.
HAASSPeople are worried, but the good news is we can actually have the guns and the butter we need without bankrupting the United States. Almost always, the case is not how much you spend. It's how you spend it. So we can have what we need at home domestically, and we can have what we need abroad in terms of our national security. And we can do both. And indeed we need to do both. If you think of them as two sides of national security, we've got to get them both right.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And here's an email from Brian, in Jackson, N.H. "Does anyone believe Putin will leave office when he reaches the end of his constitutionally-permitted limit, and how might this affect his motivations?" Ian?
BRZEZINSKII think it's doubtful. I think Putin's going to stay in power as long as possible. And I think that's unfortunate because he is a person who's committed to reconstituting some sort of entity akin to the Soviet Union, perhaps a Russian-dominated sphere of influence, encompassing, you know, the states of Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and such. As long as he's in power, I think we're going to have a kind of a long-term confrontational relationship with him. We're naive to think that he'll be a partner in the future.
REHMDo we have any idea of how Putin's speech was received in Russia, Christian?
CARYLI haven't actually seen the Russian reactions to his speech, but I've been watching a lot of Russian TV lately and I can easily imagine the sort of response that they would have. You know, generally, since the sanctions were introduced the Russian strategy has been to make fun of them. Right? There have been a lot of TV programs and personalities making jokes about the sanctions.
CARYLYou know, Vladislav Surkov, who is one of Putin's main ideologists, said, I don't have any assets in the United States, except the Tupac CD that I forgot there when I was there a couple of years ago. You know, that's kind of par for the course. Right now, Russian state media are in the habit of basically ridiculing whatever the United States says.
HAASSIn the short run, this is good for Mr. Putin. In the medium and long run, my sense is it's not. Our challenge is, if you will, is to get to the medium and long run.
REHMNow, here's a final email from John in St. Louis. "Will Germany consider restarting its nuclear power plants to reduce reliance on Russian energy? What other options does Europe have?"
HAASSUnlikely, given the domestic politics of Germany. I simply don't see it happening. Again, what you could you see is greater European production of energy, greater American export of energy. I think it's going to have to come from that.
REHMDo you agree, Ian?
BRZEZINSKII think Richard is right. I mean, there's very little support for nuclear power in Germany. It's future going to lie tapping into European shell gas reserves, tapping into a global market for LNG. And I would hope that there's one, you know, positive factor from this crisis, it'll help foster a more integrated Trans-Atlantic energy market, largely built probably around U.S. LNG exports and maybe a little bit of crude oil.
REHMIan Brzezinski, he's senior fellow at The Atlantic Council. He was deputy assistant secretary of dense for European and NATO policy from 2001 to 2005. He currently leads the Brzezinski Group. Christian Caryl, senior fellow at the Legatum Institute, contributing editor to Foreign Policy magazine, author of "Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century." And Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, author of "Foreign Policy Begins At Home." Thank you all so much.
HAASSThank you, Diane.
CARYLThank you, Diane.
BRZEZINSKIThank you, Diane.
REHMGood to be with you. And thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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