An airstrike on a hospital in Syria kills dozens. A report condemns Mexico's investigation into the massacre of college students. And Donald Trump's "America First" speech concerns U.S. allies. A panel of journalists joins guest host Susan Page for analysis of the week's top international news stories.
Guest Host: Tom Gjelten
Moscow’s foreign minister today vowed Russian troops would remain in Ukraine until the political situation normalizes. Major world powers condemned Russia’s occupation over the weekend of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to be in Kiev tomorrow as a show of support for Ukraine’s embattled interim government. U.S. and E.U. leaders are discussing sanctions and other options to pressure Russia to withdraw. U.S. officials say military intervention is not one of the options under consideration. Guest host Tom Gjelten and a panel of experts discuss the latest developments.
- Christian Caryl senior fellow, Legatum Institute; contributing editor, Foreign Policy magazine; senior fellow, MIT Center for International Studies; author of "Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century."
- Edward Lozansky president, American University in Moscow; professor, Moscow State University and National Research Nuclear University.
- William Booth reporter, The Washington Post.
- Nadia Diuk vice president at the National Endowment for Democracy; her most recent book is "The Next Generation in Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan: Youth, Politics, Identity and Change."
MR. TOM GJELTENThanks for joining us. I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR sitting in today for Diane Rehm. She's having a voice treatment. Russia is tightening its military control over Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, ignoring international condemnation and demands that it withdraw. U.S. and European officials are holding emergency meetings. Secretary of State Kerry will be in Kiev tomorrow to meet with Ukraine's interim government.
MR. TOM GJELTENJoining me in the studio to talk about the standoff in Ukraine and options for diffusing the crisis: Nadia Diuk of the National Endowment for Democracy, Christian Caryl, a journalist with the Legatum Institute and Foreign Policy magazine, and Edward Lozansky of the American University in Moscow. If you've been following the dramatic events in Ukraine and Crimea in particular, you've no doubt have your own comments and questions.
MR. TOM GJELTENYou can join our conversation. Call us at 1-800-433-8850. You can email us, email@example.com. You can reach us via Facebook or Twitter. Good morning, folks.
MS. NADIA DIUKGood morning.
MR. CHRISTIAN CARYLGood morning.
DR. EDWARD LOZANSKYGood morning.
GJELTENAnd listeners outside the D.C. area may not know that we are basically snowed in here today, so a special thank you to Nadia, Christian, and Edward for coming into the studio this morning under these adverse conditions. But before we get to you, we're going to get a firsthand update from Ukraine. Joining us by phone from Sevastopol, Ukraine, is William Booth. He's a reporter for The Washington Post. Good day, William.
MR. WILLIAM BOOTHHello, Tom.
GJELTENAnd what's the latest this morning, Bill? What has changed? What have you seen in the last 24 hours there in Crimea? Right now, I'm at the port in Sevastopol on a hill. We're looking down at the harbor. The Russian Navy right now is negotiating and prodding the Ukrainian Navy to swear allegiance to the Crimean government and move away from the new government in Kiev.
BOOTHWe're looking at a couple of Russian boats in the harbor moving back and forth and a lot of guys with guns on the Ukrainian vessel running back and forth. But it's still flying Ukrainian colors right now.
GJELTENWell, I guess that's the best indication, isn't it, Bill, that turnover hasn't happened yet. Is that your view?
BOOTHIt hasn't happened on this vessel yet, but apparently they're under pressure. This is throughout Crimea. We saw another naval installation a few kilometers from here that had put up a Russian flag over its front gate, so it might be either unit by unit or base by base. I know they're negotiating for the whole shooting match, but, right now, this ship that I'm staring at still has a Ukrainian flag.
GJELTENNow, at that base where they're flying a Russian flag, do you have any idea whether it was Ukrainian troops themselves who put it up, or did Russian troops actually come in and take over the base and put up a Russian flag?
BOOTHI don't know the answer to that, and the guys at the gate, we asked, are you Ukrainian, are you Russian? And he pointed at the flag, and he said, it's obvious what's happened here.
GJELTENRight. There've been reports, Bill, that the commander of the -- the naval chief of the Ukrainian navy has gone over to the Russian side. Can you confirm that and do you know what's around that story?
BOOTHYes. That happened yesterday. He was a rear admiral who was appointed head of the Ukraine navy just a day or two before, and then he appeared on a video yesterday with the new prime minister of Crimea at his elbow, swearing his allegiance to the Crimean people and the regional government of Crimea. We don't know whether he was pressured to do it, did it under duress. But he did do it, and today he was apparently trying to convince some of his fellow officers, his senior staff to go the same way. And there were statements from the government in Kiev that they were resisting.
GJELTENBill, are you able to tell whether the Russian commanders there on the ground are willing to just try to persuade their Ukrainian counterparts to defect, or have you seen any evidence of actually sort of physically moving on Ukrainian-controlled installations and bases?
BOOTHIt's been very much of kind of like a soft invasion or intravasion. I mean, the Russian troops show up and surround a base, but they don't point guns at the Ukrainian soldiers. And the Ukrainian soldiers don't point guns at them. They either negotiated or understood. And you'll sometimes see officers going through the gate going back and forth, but there's been no shots fired. And there's been no hostility or aggression manifested as far as we can see.
GJELTENOK. Now, that's referring to the Ukrainian troops on one side and the Russian troops on the other side or alleged -- supposedly Russian troops. What about the civilian population? And we've seen reports of militia groups, of armed civilians, et cetera. Are any of these sort of non-military forces making their presence and feelings known in Crimea?
BOOTHYeah. In Crimea, there's these self-defense militias which are kind of middle aged guys, military wannabe guys. Some of them may be veterans also, and they appear in public and guard buildings and go to the demonstrations. But they don't have arms. Generally, you'll see a guy dressed in a Cossack outfit with a bullwhip. And once or twice we've seen guys with some bats. But they aren't armed, and they don't seem to be aggressive.
BOOTHSometimes those guys, the pro-Russian militia guys will be in front of, as they were yesterday, a Ukrainian army installation base and be shouting at the young soldiers, young Ukrainian guys, hey, come on, guys, give it up. Give it up. It's over. You know it's over. Just give open the gate. Open the gate for the Russians. It's over.
GJELTENAnd what about the non-Russian Ukrainians? I realize they're certainly a minority in the Crimean peninsula. But are they sort of staying home, or what do you see of them?
BOOTHYeah. They have gone to ground. I mean, it's not like they're hiding out at home, but at the protests, you don't see, like, much give and take, shouting back and forth between sort of pro-Russian and anti-Russian sides. Earlier today, an hour or so ago, there was a lady and her husband who were at a Ukrainian naval base, and they were at the gate milling around with the protesters. And the lady there was shouting, what are you guys doing? You want to get on your knees for the Russians.
BOOTHYou're making a big mistake. We're going to lose our homes and business. We're going to lose Europe. You have to stop and think. So she was sort of arguing with them. And people shouted back at her, but there was not fists thrown or anything. She was a voice that you don't usually see in public saying that out loud.
GJELTENOne final question, Bill. You know, Russia's foreign minister has defended this operation saying it was necessary to protect the lives of Russian-speaking Ukrainians in that region. Based on what you've seen, have the Russian-speaking residents, the ethnic Russians there, been under any threat or facing any difficulty in the last week or so?
BOOTHFrom what I've seen, no. I think that's baloney.
GJELTENOK. Very good. Bill Booth is a reporter for The Washington Post. He's joined us just now from Sevastopol in Crimea. Thanks very much, Bill. You can go back to reporting now.
BOOTHOK, thanks a lot.
GJELTENGood. Thank you. Ed, I wanted to read to you what Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday, Ed Lozansky. He says that what has already happened is a brazen act of aggression in violation of international law, in violation of the U.N. charter, in violation of the Helsinki Final Act, in violation of the 1997 Ukraine/Russia Basing Agreement. Is there another way to view this, you know, given these explicit texts in international law?
LOZANSKYWell, I think that in America, you should say, what's voice of people?
GJELTENWhat's the voice of the people?
LOZANSKYOf the people. And no one -- or I actually don't doubt -- I don't think anyone in this room or in the world doubts that overwhelming majority of people in Crimea welcome this. So people have spoken, and this is the way it is. Perhaps Secretary Kerry is right, and some of the laws were violated, but what, I think, happened on Feb. 21 was first step in the whole thing. Actually, it even started earlier because the whole concept of East European partnership, but it's another -- it's not well beyond that.
LOZANSKYWe can talk about this later on. But on February 21, three ministers, foreign ministers of important European countries signed a deal with Yanukovych. Of course, he's probably crook or bad guy, whatever. But they signed a deal with him, and this deal was violated. Couple hours later, and Yanukovych had to flee. And the whole thing became kind of just out of control. So Kerry can say that. Maybe he's under pressure to say, maybe he believes what he is saying, but it started on Feb. 21 and I think U.S. and European have to take some blame for what's going on.
GJELTENNadia, do you have any thought on that analysis of events?
DIUKWell, considering that the will of the Ukrainian people in Kiev was mainly being expressed by the people (unintelligible) for the three months prior to this Feb. 21 deal. You could tell that the political opposition was actually under a lot of pressure even when they were signing that agreement with Yanukovych to be more radical because by that point, many people in Ukraine were wanting to be rid of Yanukovych and not just in the Western regions, but also in the east because of all of the corruption and the killings that then ensued after that.
DIUKSo and the fact that Yanukovych fled gave the parliament the opportunity to actually carry through a sort of a constitutional process to deprive him -- well, to name him the ex-president and also to appoint an interim government and an acting president. Elections have been called for May 25 and the fact that Secretary Kerry is going to tomorrow shows that the United States appears to be supporting this interim government and as it should.
GJELTENWell, if we're talking about the will of the people justifying extraordinary actions, it gets to be a very complicated situation certainly from a legal point of view, and that's what we're trying to figure out today, the future of Ukraine. We're going to be taking a short break now. We'll be going to your calls in a little while. Please stay tuned. I'm Tom Gjelten.
GJELTENAnd welcome back. I'm Tom Gjelten sitting in today for Diane Rehm. And if you're just joining us, we're discussing the very dramatic situation in the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine where Russian forces have essentially occupied the entire peninsula. And of course there's a lot of concern around the world about what could happen next.
GJELTENMy guests here in the studio are Nadia Diuk. She's vice-president at the National Endowment for Democracy. And her most recent book is "The Next Generation in Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan: Youth, Politics, Identity and Change." Also Christian Caryl. He's a senior fellow Legatum Institute, a contributing editor to Foreign Policy magazine. And he is the author of "Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century." Finally Edward Lozansky, president of the American University in Moscow and professor at Moscow State University and the National Research Nuclear University.
GJELTENChristian, I want to go to you next. You've covered the former Soviet Union for many, many years going back more than 20 years. When you look at these events unfolding in Crimea, what other situations does it bring to mind for you?
CARYLWell, it very clearly brings to mind the situations in two other former Soviet Republics in Georgia and in Moldova. In Moldova, there is the breakaway region of Transnistria which has actually been a separatist region since 1992 when -- right after the Soviet Union broke up. And a lot of people who were nostalgic for the old Soviet Union and basically pro-Russian in their orientation, set up a kind of mini republic there, a mini statelet which has basically received no international recognition from anyone except Russia.
CARYLAnd of course then in Georgia itself, there are the two separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia that have their own grudges against the Georgian government and had been supported in that by Russia. And basically what we're seeing now in Crimea is a repetition of those scenarios because Russia has always -- is already talking about issuing passports to people in Crimea and a kind of simplified regime which is exactly what it did in some of these other breakaway regions. It's a very effective way of undermining the control of the central government in these countries.
GJELTENAnd bring us up to date on what the situation is in those regions. I mean, you're talking about events six years ago, you know. Are those stable places now, and have they just sort of found a way of coexisting?
CARYLWell, I think they're stable in the sense that, you know, they're static, and not really much has changed because there are -- you know, there's a lot of Russian support for them. In some cases, there are Russian troops that are stationed there. So it's very hard to change the status quo. I wouldn't say any of those regions are thriving. Actually, Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia are all kind of in an economic deep freeze. When we speak of these as frozen conflicts because they're in this kind of deep stasis, but nothing every really changes.
GJELTENEd Lozansky, you talked before about the Feb. 21 agreement which actually set out a kind of a roadmap for where to proceed. And you pointed out correctly that that's been thrown out the window now. So basically what that means is that we're operating now without a roadmap, and it just seems to be force that is ruling the day. Without asking you to justify or explain the Russian moves, what do you see happening next? What do you predict, what do you suspect will be the next move or sort of the goal here of the Russian forces?
LOZANSKYWell, in Crimea, it's pretty obvious. On March (unintelligible) referendum. There's no doubt in my mind or anyone's mind that overwhelming majority of Crimean citizens will vote for independence from Ukraine and create their own state. It's interesting that a famous Russian writer Vassily Aksyonov who predicted this 30 years ago. He wrote a novel called "The Island -- Crimea Island." (sic) And in his mind, he was talking about something resembling to Taiwan who separated from China. And he suggests that Crimea will separate from Soviet Union.
LOZANSKYSo always sometimes writers, they see 30 years and/or even more. So Crimea will become independent. I'm not sure they will join Russia at this point, but definitely they will become independent. And unless the U.S. decides to move militarily, this was going to happen.
GJELTENBut we've been down this road before. We went down this road in Kosovo. We've been down this road in Bosnia. And just because a particular region declares independence doesn't mean that it gets to be independent.
LOZANSKYWell, Kosovo is independent, and, yes, there might be if it's going to happen.
GJELTENOver great objections from Russia.
LOZANSKYYeah, well, Crimea will be independent despite the objections from U.S.
DIUKBut take a look at who the population is in Crimea. There are -- 60 percent of the population is in fact Russian and Russian speakers, by the way. We have to distinguish between Russian citizens and Russian speakers. And in fact if they're living on the territory of Ukraine and are Ukrainian citizens, they should not, by law -- by Ukrainian law actually have Russian passports.
DIUKThen the other 40 percent are Ukrainians. And let's not forget the Crimean Tatars. They are now right about 15 percent of the population. This is their ancestral homeland. They don't have anywhere else to go unlike Ukrainians and Russians in fact. And if the -- the Crimean Tatars have in fact been very wary of this particular scenario for the last couple of months because they've seen what happened in Chechnya when the moderate Chechens were dispersed and their moderate leader was killed.
DIUKAnd now you have Ramzan Kadyrov of the Kremlin strongman that has taken over Chechnya. And the Crimean Tatars, who have always stood with the Ukrainians for many, many years, even during Soviet times, are very concerned that the same may happen to them.
GJELTENWell, Christian Caryl, we actually had an email from someone who wanted to have a little background on the Crimean Tatars. "Yesterday," she says, "was the first I've heard of them." Can you fill us in a little bit more in addition to what Nadia just said...
GJELTEN...I mean, where they came from and what they're doing in Crimea?
CARYLWell, they're actually descendants of the original Mongol Hordes, you know, of Genghis Khan. And in the Middle Ages, they set up their own state on what is now Crimea. They're Turkic-speaking people. And they lived there more or less peacefully even after they were assimilated into the Russian Empire. They lived quite peacefully, I would say, with the Russians, the Ukrainians, the other nationalities that were on the peninsula.
CARYLAnd during the Second World War, Joseph Stalin accused them of collaborating with the Germans. And in 1944, I believe it was, he deported the entire population to central Asia as you know happened with a number of other small nationalities and the Soviet Union at the time. And a very large number of people died on the way.
CARYLThey died of hunger. They died in the transports. And only when the Soviet Union began to break up -- or actually a little earlier than that when Mikhail Gorbachev introduced Perestroika, they gradually began to trickle back to their homeland and lay claim to their ancestral territory.
CARYLI think, by the way, one of the things -- I saw an interview with the leader of the Crimean Tatars today, and he pointed out that one reason why they haven't been demonstrating and haven't been opposing the Russian takeover is precisely because they've decided as a group not to give the Russian forces a pretext for trouble. So they purposely stayed home. It doesn't mean that they're acceding to what's happening, but it's a conscious decision that they've made.
GJELTENEd Lozansky, you mentioned before that you see the next step here as one leading to the independence of Crimea. Do you think it's going to stop at Crimea? Because there's a lot of concern. I mean, if you look at eastern Ukraine, the Russian speakers there, they would probably favor some kind of closer links to Moscow. What are the chances that Russia will not be satisfied with Crimea?
LOZANSKYI think that it all depends on the U.S.
GJELTENOn the U.S.?
LOZANSKYOf course, and E.U. I think, instead of threatening with all kinds of sanctions, and thank god not military -- you don't want World War III on this -- I think they have immediate conference with E.U., U.S. and Russia and Ukraine to talk how to improve situation and moreover how to correct what E.U. has done. E.U. did a horrible thing. I, of course not -- I'm not going to repeat what (unintelligible) said, but instead of -- first word she used, I would use blame. In whole thing which happens, blame E.U. And I can explain why. If you let me do it, I can explain.
LOZANSKYBecause E.U. tried to separate those six states -- former Soviet Union states. And it tried -- and the Russians saw it as isolation -- continued isolation on the world stage as the political weakening of its stance instead of bringing Russia instead of six countries, you should invite seven countries, including Russia. They wanted to separate Russia and this cause trouble.
GJELTENBut, Ed, it was clear people were willing to fight and die in Maidan Square for what they were believing in. I mean, isn't it a little farfetched to sort of explain all these vents as the machinations of great power? I mean, you seem to be discounting what the people were demanding themselves. Nadia, you work with the National Endowment for Democracy. What -- to what extent are these events driven by these kind of geopolitical moves verses what the people in Kiev in particular were demanding?
DIUKThe Maidan events of the last three months were very much driven from the ground up. And also they were, in fact, the leading -- the political leaders, as I mentioned, to be a little bit more radical. So this is very much a grassroots movement in Ukraine. But actually let's get back to the reason that the Russian -- the pretext the Russian government has used to invade Crimea in the first place was to protect the rights and to protect the livelihood and lives presumably of the Russian speakers in Crimea.
GJELTENAnd Bill Booth said he thought it was boloney that their interests were even threatened.
DIUKYes, absolutely. If you look at the east of Ukraine -- also it would be very hard to see how the rights of the Russian speakers there are being threatened. I think the effect finding mission that has been proposed by the Europeans is a very good idea but I don't think they're going to find very much.
GJELTENChristian, can -- what will happen to Ukraine if Crimea does in fact go the route of independence as Ed Lozansky is suggesting? Would that be a destabilizing situation? I mean, we've seen wars fought around these issues before. What would happen in Ukraine if Crimea were to go that direction?
CARYLWell, look, I think actually, you know, Edward is very measured about all this. I find it hard to be quite so calm. Just -- it may very well be true that the majority of Russians -- that the Russian-speaking population in Crimea is in favor of this takeover. That's all fine and good, but I'm not sure that it really provides the legal justification for a military takeover of Crimea. I think actually Secretary Kerry was quite right in saying that there is no basis for this kind of action in international law.
CARYLAnd I fear that we're on a very slippery dangerous slope because one of the things that the Kremlin has cited -- and it's rationales for making this move -- was to protect the interest of the Russian-speaking population in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, they said specifically. Now, Vladimir Putin is a tough guy. His toughness is very popular among Russians. Now today we have the situation where a bunch of pro-Russians have taken over the local government in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine and have even started talking about secession.
CARYLNow, what does Putin do then...
CARYL...when these folks start demanding breaking away from Ukraine? Well, supposedly to keep up his reputation as a tough guy, he's got to move in and do that. So I think we're on a very slippery slope. I think we've really got to stop for a moment here and think about how we get the situation under control.
GJELTENChristian Caryl is senior fellow at the Legatum Institute and a contributing editor of Foreign Policy magazine. I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Going to this last point, Ed Lozansky, as Christian says, one of the justifications for these Russian actions was the need to protect the interest of Russian citizens.
GJELTENIs that not in fact -- as Christian says, is that not in fact a slippery slope? I mean, look at where you have Russian-speaking citizens. You have Russians in Lithuania. Could Moscow justify some kind of intervention in Lithuania if it felt that the Russian interests there were being threatened?
LOZANSKYI don't think so. First of all, Lithuania's part of NATO, and so I don't think that is going to happen. But when we talk about Ukrainian people, I'm talking about Ukrainian as a whole country. Usually, if old polls indicate that approximately 50/50 split even on the question of NATO, majority of Ukrainians were against doing that. So when E.U. and the U.S. is talking about Maidan, they're talking only about the western part of Ukrainians. The eastern part is completely different. They are pro-Russian.
LOZANSKYAnd this is a fact of life. This happened because historically, you know, Ukraine as a state was formed by actually Soviet rulers. On the east, some parts of Ukraine were attached through Lenin and Trotsky decrees, and in the west, Stalin and Hitler through Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. So it's a very unique country in this sense. So U.S. has to be very careful dealing with that and just say that people in Maidan are the good people who want democracy and freedom. And people in the east are bad guys, barbarians. This is not going to solve the whole thing.
GJELTENNadia Diuk, there has been a lot of propaganda in this conflict, hasn't there?
DIUKYes, I was just going to say -- yes. Timothy Snyder actually -- a professor at Yale University wrote a very good article called the haze of propaganda. In fact, it seems that the Russian government has been preparing for this -- for events in Crimea and possibly in eastern Ukraine for a while now. You only have to turn to the TV station Russia today to see what the line is, that somehow the people on the Maidan, the people in western Ukraine, some have extremists, ultranationalists.
DIUKThey've even fabricated some ultranationalist Ukrainian groups that are currently in Crimea, which I very much doubt. And, unfortunately, because many western media outlets don't have folks on the ground in Kiev for most of the time, they pick up this news in Moscow. And then it does penetrate into western airspace without any critical assessment.
GJELTENI should point out that the Russian news agency Interfax is reporting now that Ukraine is facing a 3:00 a.m. GMT deadline for the navy in Crimea to surrender or face "a real assault." Can you imagine that, Christian, that the Russian troops would actually assault the Ukrainian Navy if they don't surrender to Russian control?
CARYLWell, let's see what happens. Again, you know, to return to the notion of this slippery slope and, you know, this may be a somewhat overblown comparison but, you know, we've seen in the history of the 20th century, you know, for example in August 1914 that when powers start issuing ultimatums and demand -- setting deadlines and, you know, you have to do this by such and such, you create a train of events.
CARYLYou set a sort of mechanism in motion that becomes very, very hard to stop, right. So I find all of this extremely ominous. So far, the various sides on Crimea have managed to restrain from overt force against each other, but I fear that really could change, particularly because there are Ukrainian units which are not surrendering to the Russians.
GJELTENNadia, you talked about the role of propaganda largely on the Russian side. But isn't it true that Russian has been sort of demoted as an official language in eastern Ukraine or Ukraine as a whole? And what kind of conciliatory move is that at this very tense time?
DIUKWell, you're talking about the law that was actually put -- adopted last year that did elevate Russia to the level of almost to a state language. Of course, in Ukraine, Ukrainian is the state language but the law passed last year gave the Russian language extra rights and almost to the same level. One of the first things that the interim government did was to suspend this law. Although the...
GJELTENTo suspend the law.
DIUK...the acting president did -- actually vetoed that suspension.
GJELTENOK. Nadia Diuk is vice president at the National Endowment for Democracy. Her most recent book is "The Next Generation in Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan." After this break we're going to be going to the phones. There are a lot of callers wanting to weigh in on this conversation. Please stay tuned. I'm Tom Gjelten.
GJELTENWelcome back. I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR sitting in today for Diane Rehm. And we're talking about the situation in Ukraine, which gets more worrisome by the moment. Just before the break, we reported that the Russian news agency, Interfax, is saying Ukraine faces a 3:00 a.m. GMT deadline for the Navy in Crimea to surrender or face a real assault. So this possibly is moving more in the direction of a military standoff and not just, as it has been up till now, a kind of a war of nerves.
GJELTENI have--we have a lot of callers. And I should start out with a couple of emails, interestingly, making basically the same point. "Russia's intent so far is to protect their strategic military interest in that area. The U.S. would undoubtedly do the same thing if one of our foreign military installations was being threatened." Also several emails along this theme: "A preemptive war based on false information. What about Iraq? What about 12 years in Afghanistan, the 52-year-old embargo in Cuba, the invasion of Grenada and Panama? Are we not the pot calling the kettle black?"
GJELTENSo there are, of course, different views on what is going on in Ukraine and who is to blame. I want to go now to Marta, who is on the line from West Bloomfield, Mich. Marta, can you hear us?
MARTAYes, I can hear you. Thank you so much for taking my call.
MARTAI am Ukrainian born, and I did live in the United States since 1995. And my whole family lives in Western Ukraine. And I've been watching news. And I know what's happening. I was talking to my family, to my cousin, to my nieces. And my question is to anybody. If you see similarity of what's happening right now in Ukraine and what would happen in 1930s in Germany, Hitler, he holds the Olympics in 1936. In 1938, he invaded Austria because he was saving German-speaking people there. And 1938, he invades Austria and Auschwitz, I think it's called.
MARTAThen he invaded Poland in 1939.
GJELTENEd Lozansky, that's true, isn't it, that Hitler sided the interests of the German population in Austria, when he annexed Austria?
LOZANSKYThat's probably true. But I think in the Crimea, it's a little different. Crimea was never part of Ukraine. It was given to Ukraine as a gift of a drunken general Communist Party secretary, Nikita Khrushchev, who wanted to appease his kind of a colleagues -- Communists in Ukraine. So if this was absolutely crazy, you think, at that time, it didn't matter because Ukraine and Russia didn't have any borders, and all -- that was the same state. So, now, I think it's completely different from the story that this lady is talking about.
DIUKI think comparisons with Hitler are kind of interesting to make. But...
DIUKDangerous to make. However, you have to say that there is a sort of internal dynamism that dictators and dictatorships take. First of all, you know, all of the internal elements of a state are controlled by the person at the top. And, in the case of Russia, Vladimir Putin now has -- controls the media, the political parties, most of the industries. And the next step usually is the dynamic that there's an external element to this push, either to occupy states or to declare wars. We've seen it any number of times with any number of dictators. And it's a very dangerous, slippery slope.
GJELTENLet's go now to Jason, who is on the line from Charlotte, N.C. Good morning, Jason. Thanks for calling "The Diane Rehm Show." And, are you there?
JASONYes, I'm here.
GJELTENYeah. Thanks for calling "The Diane Rehm Show."
GJELTENThanks so much for taking my call. My question is, the activity that we're seeing, does that pose a direct threat to the United States, whether it be foreign policy or domestic? And if it doesn't, could action on the part of the U.S. be simply us just trying to police the world? Or is there a substantial risk that this can have world kind of devastational, you know, problems?
GJELTENThank you, Jason. Christian Caryl, do you think that what is happening in Ukraine right now threatens U.S. strategic interests?
CARYLI think it does. I think it especially affects European strategic interests, because I don't think that Europe will be very happy in case a full-fledged war breaks out on its eastern border. And if that happens, I think the U.S. interests are naturally also affected. I wanted to return to one of the remarks that one of the other--one of the people made in their email about U.S., you know, past cases of U.S. intervention overseas. Yeah, you know, that's a tricky issue. You know, let's take Afghanistan. You know, the caller--the writer mentioned a whole bunch of separate cases.
CARYLAfghanistan, well, actually Russia supported that intervention in Afghanistan because it felt that its own national interests were also affected by the rise of a terrorist state there. The United States was directly attacked on its own territory and suffered a large number of casualties. And the United Nations gave full sanction and legal coverage to that intervention. Now, that looks very different from what's happening in Ukraine today. I mean, we can argue about all those other cases the person mentioned, but just to take that example, that's very different from what's happening in Ukraine today.
CARYLIn fact, Russia is meeting with almost universal condemnation for doing this, because it really is quite over the top. Not even the Chinese are actively supporting Russia in this, although Russia claims that they are. The Chinese are actually being quite standoffish about the whole thing because they clearly don't like what's happening. They don't want to give Russia a pass for doing this. So I think those comparisons -- I understand where they're coming from, and there may be some valid comparisons there.
CARYLBut I think we need to take a step back and, you know, for example, return to this issue. Have any Russian citizens actually been attacked or have their livelihoods been threatened? We see no evidence of that.
GJELTENEd Lozansky, Christian mentioned that the European Union has interests at stake in Ukraine. Let's talk for a minute about Russian interests, and not just the political or cultural interests, but also economic interests. I'm reading here an article from the Wall Street Journal this morning, an analyst, Egor Fedorov, at the ING Bank in Moscow says, "All the Russian assets are being sold now. It's panic. The market is nervous. And one should not wait for positive news." So Russia's economic interests are at stake here. Are they not?
LOZANSKYWell, of course. I think they've made some calculations about that, that this was to be expected. It's what Christian didn't just concentrate on Afghanistan, not Iraq. But if -- he said rightly that, at that time, Russia offered tremendous help, probably more than any other allies, in Afghanistan. And from all those years, since collapse of Communism, Russia kept telling U.S. that we want to be partner. We want to be strategic partner. We want to have common European defense system, common European home. And it's always, Russia was rebuffed by U.S., by Europe.
LOZANSKYAnd so they just--I think it's our fault that we didn't accept -- didn't meet the expectations from Russians who wanted to be part of the Western civilization after collapse of Communism. And of course, West didn't deliver -- not only didn't deliver, but it keeps trying to weaken Russia, isolate it, and bring it down.
GJELTENI want to go now to Christy, who is on the line from Chapel Hill, N.C. Good morning, Christy. Thanks for calling "The Diane Rehm Show."
CHRISTYHi, good morning. My question has to do with, what is NATO currently doing to respond to this crisis? I've been a little surprised. In addition, it seems like such a violation of international law. And the only thing that I -- the only excuse I'm hearing is, A, protection of Russian-speaking people and, B, Russia's strategic interests geopolitically on the Black Sea. But NATO members -- Turkey, Greece, many others -- have very important strategic interests in the Black Sea.
CHRISTYWhy isn't NATO urgently convening a conference about this and, if not militarily, certainly putting a lot of diplomatic pressure directly on Russia, threatening to block access to the Black Sea if they don't back off?
GJELTENWell, I'm sure you know, Christy, that a blockage is considered officially an act of war. So I'm sure that nobody wants this situation to escalate very soon in that direction. But Christy makes an important point...
CHRISTYWell, I wasn't suggesting that.
CHRISTYI was just suggesting, you know, we obviously have -- NATO has strategic interests on the Black Sea and needs to take appropriate diplomatic response.
GJELTENRight. Christian, what are NATO's options here? And we're -- not even to talk about sanctions, what are NATO's options here?
CARYLWell, it's very important to remember that Ukraine is not a NATO member. So, in that sense, there is not a great deal that NATO can do. Lithuania and, I believe, also Latvia, if I'm not mistaken, which are NATO members, have invoked the Article 4 clause of the NATO Charter, basically calling on the other members of NATO to formulate some kind of response because of an immediate threat to the security of those countries -- of Lithuania and Latvia -- because they feel directly threatened by what's happening in Ukraine.
CARYLSo as far as I'm aware, the NATO members are in fact in permanent session at the moment, trying to figure out what to do. They've been talking very elaborately to the Russians. But I think the military options here necessarily remain limited for a very good reason because nobody wants to see this escalate. I think that the response of the West is likely to be a political one. And that's going to be hard because the Europeans and the Americans actually have rather different views about how to respond to this crisis.
CARYLThe Americans are in favor of quite tough sanctions, apparently, against some members of the Putin regime, whereas Germany, for example, a key European player, has made it clear it doesn't really want to go that far down the road. So unless they can get on the same page, it's -- and formulate a unified response, I'm not sure that their response will be very effective.
GJELTENNadia Diuk, Marilyn from Arvada, Colo. writes that -- points that senators, such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham, keep calling for President Obama to take stronger action against Putin. And, as Christian just mentioned, it's sort of hard to know exactly what could be done here.
GJELTENShe says, "Since Obama has already said he might not attend the G8 and has told Putin to back out of Crimea and has stepped up talk of financial sanctions, I don't understand what these senators have in mind. What's your view? Is there anything that the United States and, from your point of view, should be doing that it is not doing?"
DIUKWell, I think the United States, as we know, is sending Sen. Kerry to actually bolster the Ukrainian government. What could it do in terms of Russia? Well, I think you -- we have to put this into a broader context and realize that where this -- what's happening in Crimea is primarily fueled by the Kremlin and by Putin and that, in fact, maybe on a broader context, the United States should actually support those people within Russia who are actually against this type of activity.
DIUKI saw yesterday there were demonstrations on the Manege Square supporting Ukraine and against the actions of the Russian government, statements signed by opposition political leaders, Kassianov and Yemtsov. (sp?) Maybe we should help them to have a free and fair election and see how long Putin would last then.
GJELTENI'm going to let Burk get into this conversation now. We actually have a couple of calls, both with questions about Crimean history. Burk, I'll let you handle the Crimea history question. What is it that you'd like to understand? Burk? Can you hear me, Burk? Burk might not be there anymore. OK. Let's go back to -- in that case, let's go back to Alex who had a question about Crimean history. Alex, are you with us?
ALEXYeah. Good morning. I came in a little late to the show -- listening to the show. Do you have a Russian invited guest who's speaking?
GJELTENEdward Lozansky is president of the American University in Moscow. Yes, indeed we do.
GJELTENHe's very eloquently giving sort of a Russian perspective here, which I think is important.
ALEXYes, a nationalist perspective. Now, I saw an article in The Washington Post Saturday, which was very interesting. It was a quick review of Crimean history. And, according to that source, during -- right after World War II, as punishment for having sided with the Germans, the Russians punished the Tatar or the Turkish population that was a majority there, marched into the central Asian country, which wasn't named. Apparently, half of them died en route and so implanted a Russian majority there artificially.
GJELTENWell, that's not really in dispute, right?
LOZANSKYOh, yeah. Of course. This happened, and I know that a couple of days ago -- there's a huge Tatar community in mainland Russia, huge. I think maybe, like, 12, 15 percent of the whole Russia. And they're now talking to Tatars, which are their cousins, to calm them down. So we didn't see any really violence at this point. But going back to what to do -- what U.S. should do.
LOZANSKYI think this is most important, because you can talk who to blame for about a -- what to do. I think, today, Germany made a very important point and yesterday Angela Merkel, in England, saying that now the most important thing is to save Ukraine from economic collapse. And it looks like Europe or U.S. cannot do it without Russia. This is a fact of life. And U.S. is coming with $1 billion. Europe is not sure what they can -- to do because they don't have any money. IMF is saying, yes, but they put such conditions that this will be a rocky revolt now even from the Western Ukraine.
LOZANSKYSo only Russia, so far, committed $15 billion cash, plus a reduced price of gas, plus -- which is even more important, they actually support Ukrainian industry by giving orders to Ukrainian industry. So I think we should cool down, calm down, have a conference and talk how we can save Ukraine from economic collapse, from hunger, from violence. And this only can be done with Russia. So calm -- instead of Kerry going to Crimea, we better sit in Berlin or Germany someplace, and talk how we can save Ukraine.
GJELTENBut, Ed, for Russia to say that if the Navy in Crimea does not surrender by 3:00 a.m. or it will face a real assault, that's hardly a way to calm things down. Christian, you've got your hand up.
CARYLWell, I totally agree with that Ukraine is an economic basket case. I think we all understand that. And I think we would all agree that Ukraine has very real -- that Russia has very real strategic interests in Ukraine, that Ukraine is heavily dependent on Russia, economically, although trade with Europe and the rest of the world has been growing very steadily. Now, all that said, I don't think it's going to invite in a lot of investors to Ukraine when an outside country is intervening militarily in its affairs. As an investor, I'm not going to put my money into a country like that.
CARYLSo I actually don't see how military intervention in Crimea supports, you know, the economic future of Ukraine. As far as I can see, it only makes things much, much worse.
GJELTENNadia, how far can the -- can this damage spread in terms of economic interests? I mean, Europe is just kind of in a very fledgling economic recovery. We talked earlier about the vulnerability that Russia faces. Could we see here, even if we don't go to a military move, could we see sort of a economic -- real economic disaster throughout this whole region: Europe, Ukraine and Russia?
DIUKWell, Europe was getting ready to sign trade agreements with Ukraine in November. And admittedly a lot of devastation has taken place since then. But Europe had its package ready all the way through the last three months. It's been saying that the door stays open for signing these trade agreements. And, unfortunately, this situation makes it very difficult to even think about that in logical terms.
GJELTENWell, I wish we could -- very quickly, Ed.
LOZANSKYVery quickly. Nadia said, yes, Europe was willing to give $600 billion -- oh, I'm sorry, $600 million, and Ukraine needs $35 billion.
LOZANSKYSo this is difference.
GJELTENA ways to go. That's Edward Lozansky. He's president of American University in Moscow. My other guests were Christian Caryl, he's from the Legatum Institute and Foreign Policy magazine, and Nadia Diuk, vice president at the National Endowment for Democracy. I'm Tom Gjelten, thanks for listening.
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