Many say the current presidential race is the most uncivilized in modern American history. Civility in public discourse, why it seems to have hit a new low and long-term implications for the democratic process.
Guest Host: Frank Sesno
A day after Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to annex Crimea, U.S. officials are conceding that Ukraine has lost the region. Now Russia faces new sanctions from western countries to deter Putin from moving troops into eastern Ukraine. And German chancellor Angela Merkel speaking ahead of an E.U. summit in Brussels said today that the current political situation means the G8 effectively no longer exists. Guest host Frank Sesno and his guests discuss the implications of Russia’s actions on its relationship with the West.
- Jack Matlock U.S. ambassador to the U.S.S.R. from 1987 to 1991 and author of “Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended.”
- 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."
- Susan Eisenhower chairman emeritus, The Eisenhower Institute of Gettysburg College.
- James Goldgeier dean of the School of International Service at American University, former State Department official and staff member of the National Security Council.
MR. FRANK SESNOAnd thanks for joining us. I'm Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University sitting in for Diane Rehm today. She will be back with you on Monday. European leaders meeting in Brussels today are expected to hit Russia with new sanctions over its actions in Ukraine and Crimea. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is indicating the Group of 8 economic powers will expel Russia from their club.
MR. FRANK SESNOShe says it basically exists no more as G8. Well, joining us to discuss the implications of Russia's actions on its relationship with the West, on NATO, on military alliance and on regional security is: Susan Eisenhower of the Eisenhower Institute of Gettysburg College, Christian Caryl of the Legatum Institute, and James Goldgeier of American University. And welcome to you all. Thanks for coming in.
MR. CHRISTIAN CARYLThank you.
SESNONo shortage of things to discuss here, folks, because this is a very fast-moving, yet confusing situation. Christian, what's the latest, following the referendum in Crimea? What do we know?
CARYLWell, I think the latest development is precisely this European Union summit that you just mentioned where the European leaders have gathered together to try to talk about the next possible wave of sanctions. Angela Merkel has said that Russia could probably expect another round of action from the EU. The question is can they get 28 countries to agree on measures that will actually have some kind of meaningful impact.
SESNOSusan Eisenhower, Merkel says, the German chancellor, the G8 effectively no longer existed. She said this in an address to her legislature. How significant is that?
DR. SUSAN EISENHOWERWell, I think, from a Russia perspective, it's probably not that significant at all. I mean, there was some prestige of being part of that group, but I think Putin has rolled the dice. He's in for the whole game, and it's unlikely that that would have any effect.
SESNOWhat is the G8, Jim Goldgeier?
MR. JAMES GOLDGEIERWell, it came about in the 1990s. The G7 had existed previously, the group of seven advanced industrialized countries, the U.K., Germany, France, Italy and then the United States, Canada, and Japan. They were coordinating the economic relations among the major countries of the time.
MR. JAMES GOLDGEIERIn the 1990s, as Bill Clinton was trying to figure out a way to help encourage Russia to become closer to the West, at a time when he was also pursuing a policy of NATO enlargement, he felt that if he offered Russian participation in this group and made it a G8, that he would help Boris Yeltsin both -- it would enable Yeltsin to accommodate himself to NATO enlargement, but would also give Yeltsin a platform on the stage with the Western countries and would help draw Russia closer.
SESNOAnd so much of the post-Soviet emphasis was to try to fold Russia into some of these other thing to normalize relations and create a meaningful dialogue or not?
GOLDGEIERWell, the goal after the end of the Cold War was to try to create a Europe, whole, free and at peace, as George H.W. Bush said, even before the fall of the Berlin Wall. And it was important for the United States to try to figure out a way both to increase the security of central and eastern European states that were still nervous about Russia, but also try to reach out to Russia and bring them closer to the West, which, when Boris Yeltsin was president of Russia, was more possible than it was after Putin took over.
EISENHOWERWell, I think that if that was the goal, it was a completely - it was inadequately addressed because the biggest issue for Russia at that time, new Russia, was the prospect of an enlarging NATO. After the...
SESNOThe Western alliance.
EISENHOWER...the Western alliance, after the wall went down in Germany and the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, Russia was under the impression that there would be no eastward movement of NATO, and so this became instantly a security issue between the West and Russia.
SESNOChristian, the Ukrainian government says it's drawn up its plans to evacuate all of its military personnel. There was, in fact, some difficulty in a skirmish, fight, and at least one Ukrainian that we know of was killed. I believe it was yesterday in Ukraine. What is the posture of the Ukrainian government in all of this and how dangerous or how real do you consider the risk that Russia could reach deeper into eastern Ukraine and slice off more?
CARYLWell, first of all, Frank, I think that the Ukrainian government has been quite cautious so far in its handling of this crisis. It was quite conspicuous when Russian forces began asserting their control over Crimea, how restrained the Ukrainian forces were and how effectively they refrained from using their weapons, which might have given those Russian troops a pretext to do something very regrettable.
CARYLBut I think this is also the Ukrainian government acting within its realistic means because the fact of the matter is, the Ukrainian government, the government in Kiev, really doesn't have a lot of means at its disposal right now. It's a somewhat fractured and unstable government. It's hardly a unity government that brings together all the different interests in the country.
CARYLTheir resources are quite limited. The country's on the verge of bankruptcy so it's a little hard to see how they could possibly respond to this effectively. And I think the key thing in your question there was about eastern Ukraine. Crimea's one thing, but as we move forward, it's really going to depend very much on whether Putin decides to move forward and make a grab for part of the eastern Ukraine.
SESNOJim Goldgeier, back to the Western response to this. Vice President Biden traveled to Poland and the Baltic nations on Tuesday with a message of reassurance and a reference to the mutual defense treaty of NATO. A couple of other developments, though. His comments came at the same time that Russia announced beginning of large scale aviation drills in northwestern regions right near its border with some NATO countries. The Fins -- and you mentioned the Swedes -- are considering applying or at least talking about maybe they belong in NATO. What's going on?
GOLDGEIERWell, first of all, from the standpoint of NATO itself, the important thing is to remind all the NATO allies that that alliance is there to insure their security and so those countries, like the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania or even Poland which came into the alliance in the post-Cold War period, need to be reminded and need to be reassured, and that's why Vice President Biden was over there was to reassure them that NATO is there for them in order to guarantee their security and the United States has send F16s to Poland.
GOLDGEIERNATO had done increased air patrols over the Baltics in order to reassure those countries.
SESNOFor the Fins and the Swedes to be talking about joining the Western military alliance is an extraordinary thing.
GOLDGEIERWell, NATO has had partnership arrangements with countries like Sweden and Finland and others for two decades now. There has been talk previously about whether or not those countries would be interested in drawing closer and, of course, these events are basically reminding them that security remains very important and given the uncertainties that President Putin had created about Russia's intentions, it's natural for them to be thinking about how best to guarantee their security.
SESNOSusan Eisenhower, post-Soviet Union, there was a lot of talk about whether there was any role or meaning for the NATO military alliance at all. What about now? How does this change?
EISENHOWERWell, I think, first of all, we're in a very fluid situation at the moment, and we've got really divisions forming that look like they're getting deeper, not being mitigated by any real effort at finding a way to meaningfully reduce tensions. It's one thing to talk about reducing tensions and then putting on sanctions, but we really maybe need a serious third-party to come in here and to serve in that role?
SESNOWho would that be?
EISENHOWERWell, I don't know. It would have to be somebody that everybody respects.
SESNOThe United Nations?
EISENHOWERWell, I have some doubts about whether that would work.
EISENHOWERPossibly, but it -- no, I think it's a really serious thing. I think, frankly, strategically, the United States missed a very big opportunity in the beginning of this crisis at the time the demonstrators ousted the Ukrainian president. We had a choice. We could've said, we're now going to be the -- we're going to serve as honest brokers, as peace makers rather like we did in Northern Ireland and the fact that we didn’t do that has, at least, played some role in creating these divisions.
EISENHOWERNow, that was then, now is now.
EISENHOWERThe now is we've got a very, very serious situation on our hands, and I think people who think this is trivial or couldn't spin out of control are really not thinking about it very clearly.
SESNOWhen you say spin out of control, what are you talking about?
EISENHOWERWell, I mean, that, you know, both sides have all kinds of things they can do that are not apparent to everybody. I mean, we think about the fact that we're facing off to big nuclear powers here, but actually I think cyber issues are every bit as important as the nuclear configuration. And I think it was really significant that China decided to abstain at the recent vote at the U.N. on the Security Council.
EISENHOWERThis is very significant, and I think we have to be thinking in much broader, larger, more strategic terms about what it looks like in the next 10 years and what, you know, could transpire as a result of this immediate crisis.
SESNOChristian Caryl, your take on the implications for the Western military alliance with all this that's now developing?
CARYLWell, I think that we are in a situation where it's going to be very hard for both sides to back away. For example, right now, we're seeing just an amazing momentum for increase sanctions against people within the Russian regime and if Putin ratchets up the situation anyway, I think it will be very, very hard for even the most moderate policy makers in the West to step back from doing that.
CARYLI think also we are going to see NATO respond to this -- that NATO will feel pressed to respond to this whole issue in a much more palpable way than it has so far. Otherwise, I think people, very quickly, begin to ask questions about the very justification it wants.
SESNOBut NATO is a military alliance and the British foreign secretary, William Hague, has said flat out -- and I'm quoting here -- that "the alliance is not looking at military options here. This is not a Crimean war." So what is the role of a military alliance if there is not military option? James -- Jim?
GOLDGEIERWell, again, it's to protect the security of its members, first and foremost and Ukraine is not a member of NATO and so it's really, right now, about reassuring, especially the Baltics given President Putin's comments about his concern for Russians in Estonia, for example. But you also have to remember, NATO's a lot more than just a military alliance and it has really served in a variety of capacities around the globe.
GOLDGEIERWhen the U.N. was concerned about ships with food aid going through the waters off eastern Africa, who was there to come help protect against pirates? When the U.N. wanted to help stop the potential moving in Benghazi by Muammar Qaddafi, it authorized NATO to do this. NATO is the only institution that can.
SESNOWe're talking about Russia and the implications on the ground. We'll continue.
SESNOWelcome back to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm Frank Sesno sitting in for Diane today. We're discussing the crisis in Russia, Crimea and the implications for the western military alliance and the international arrangements that have governed the world for the last several years, certainly since the end of the Cold War.
SESNOAnd joining me by phone now from his home in Princeton, N.J. is Jack Matlock. He served as the last United States ambassador to the Soviet Union. He served from 1987 to 1991, wrote a very strong piece in the Washington Post over this past weekend. Amb. Matlock, thanks so much for joining us.
AMB. JACK MATLOCKHappy to join you but I was not in fact the last ambassador to the Soviet Union. Robert Strauss was. And we have the sad news that he just died.
SESNOYes. He passed away today I believe at the age of 95. So thank you for the correction and still thank you for your service. Amb. Matlock, are we facing another Cold War situation here?
MATLOCKWell, we're obviously facing something that is going to be reminiscent of the Cold War in the sort of polemics going back and forth. I think it is nothing like the sort of confrontation we had during the Cold War, and I think we need to bear that in mind even though the rhetoric seems to be reminiscent of it.
SESNOWhy is it nothing like this -- why is it nothing like...
MATLOCKYeah, it's nothing like this. There is not a clash of the ideology, of the communist system or the other. It is not a worldwide competition. It is not one, I hope, that is going to involve, you know, any real military clashes. That would be -- I think that would be simply insane on both sides. And I do think that, although obviously the west must put some sort of sanctions on, they've promised them, you have to follow through on that.
MATLOCKBut I think we ought to be trying to calm the rhetoric now and start looking at what the real issue is going to be. These sanctions are not going to cause Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine.
SESNOCrimea is gone. Crimea is lost.
MATLOCKCrimea is gone. I mean, it is back in Russia where it probably belongs. And what people need to understand, it's going to be hard for the Ukrainians perhaps but Ukraine is better off without Crimea. Nothing weakens a country more than to have an area with the majority of its people not wanting to be in your country.
SESNOAmb. Matlock, in the piece that you wrote over the weekend, you delivered a very harsh assessment of the way the west, the United States in particular, has dealt with Russia in recent years. You referred to the diplomatic equivalent of swift kicks to the groin and you cited, and I'm quoting from your piece, "further expansion of NATO in the Baltics and the Balkans, plans for American bases there, withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, invasion of Iraq without U.N. Security Council approval, overt participation in the Colour Revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan."
SESNOAnd then what you described as "probing some of the firmest redlines any Russian leader could draw talk of taking Georgia and Ukraine into NATO." How much responsibility do you think and are you suggesting that the United States and the west bear for this crisis?
MATLOCKI'm not -- look, I think all of the parties have certain elements of guilt in bringing this about. I'm certainly not trying to whitewash the Russian reaction or anyone else. But I think we have to realize that every country is going to have certain redlines regarding security (word?). And the basic area -- error that I think was made by our leaders in the 1990s is that we should have created a security structure in Europe that included Russia.
MATLOCKNow, we could've done that in various ways, but you don't do it by expanding NATO step by step. And there were other ways to reassure the east Europeans, but we didn't do -- after World War II, we had the wisdom, we Americans, to insist that the Germans and the French make up. That was a condition (unintelligible). And, you know, we should've structured it so that we bring Russia into the security structure of Europe. I know Susan Eisenhower and I argued very strongly at the time of the decision to expand NATO. That is the wrong way to go.
SESNOAmb. Matlock, if, heaven forbid, you were ambassador today in Moscow sitting there and your phone rang and it was the President of the United States, and he said to you, Jack, what should I do now? What would you tell him?
MATLOCKWell, first of all, try to lower your voice. I know he's being pushed domestically, you know, saying he's looking weak and so on. You know, we could not have prevented this without threatening a nuclear war, so why blame the U.S. President? But his public sort of confrontations with Putin are simply strengthening Putin at home. Is that what we want to do? I mean, his poll figures have gone up tremendously.
SESNOSo if he were to back off a little bit, that's what he should -- maybe what he should not do is be strident. But then what should he do?
MATLOCKI would quietly, you know, pass the word that, look, the important thing now is putting Ukraine back together, what's left of it. It's really better off without Crimea. Now, you know, I can't say this necessarily publically so much but convey to the Russians -- and it's probably better done by a representative and not personally because I think the chemistry is not great -- but, you know, let's put a potentially viable Ukraine together. Help them put themselves together with the cooperation of the Europeans and so on.
MATLOCKAnd if we can do that, we'll find a way to sort of phase out this other stuff and let bygones be bygones. After all, Russia didn't take over people who don't want to be in Russia. Let's not forget this. And let's not forget that for Russians particularly, this is an extraordinarily emotional issue. I mean, so much of their history is tied up there. In Sevastopol, the battle of Sevastopol at various times are part of, you know, Russian military history. Leo Tolstoy fought in the defense of Sevastopol, you know, in the Crimean War.
MATLOCKSo, I mean, in effect this is in many ways a family dispute. And for outsiders, either the EU or the U.S. to get in it has all of the -- I would say all of the bad fallout from outsiders sort of interfering.
MATLOCKAnd I do think also the United States having itself violated some of these rules, maybe for a good reason, in the past regarding sovereignty, regarding territory integrity, most notably toward Kosovo, but also invading Iraq. You know, we're not in the best position of telling the Russians, you're bad because you have violated Ukrainian sovereignty.
SESNOAmb. Jack Matlock, thank you very, very much for your time. We're very grateful for it and I appreciate it and all the best to you.
MATLOCKThanks for being on. Thank you. Bye.
SESNOBye-bye now. Christian Caryl, let's have some response to what the ambassador just said, bygones be bygones?
CARYLYeah, bygones be bygones, that's an interesting phrase. I totally understand where Amb. Matlock is coming from. I don't want to get caught up too much in the history of whether we should've expanded NATO or not. For me there's a very fundamental question here, and some people have just started addressing it in the past few days.
CARYLAmb. Matlock's comments about doing business with Putin, about trying to come to an arrangement and figure out, you know, some common cause that we can both agree on, it kind of presumes that Russia is a status quo power, that it's interested in preserving the international system as it exists today.
SESNOAs opposed to...
CARYL...as opposed to being a revisionist power which doesn't really buy into those rules and doesn't really care what the other countries think. Now, Amb. Matlock said Crimea should belong to Russia. Well, maybe that's true. Why shouldn't northern Kazakhstan belong to Russia as well? There are, I believe, 5 million Russian speakers there. Russians fought and died when they were conquering that territory. Belarus, the Baltics, eastern Ukraine...
SESNOAnd what many people in Russia are -- in Europe are saying, very sensitive to the issue of borders and the arrangements that have been made in the post-Soviet years, is that there are ways to do this.
SESNOAnd ramming this kind of thing through is not one of those ways.
CARYLThis is the most dramatic revision of the post-World War II security order that we've ever seen.
SESNOJim Goldgeier, your response to what the ambassador had to say?
GOLDGEIERWell, Amb. Matlock was an incredible public servant, but I don't even know where to begin in responding to the many different things that he said. First of all, not everyone in Crimea wants to be in Russia. There's a Crimean Tatar minority there that's very nervous about its future. And there are also other non-Russians. There are Ukrainians there as well. This isn't just about Ukraine.
GOLDGEIERVladimir Putin has defined security of Russia through the insecurity of his neighbors. We've seen it in Moldova with respect to the Transnistria region, the separatist region which is now asking for annexation as well. We've seen it in Georgia with (unintelligible). We're seeing it now here. This is how he's defined Russian security. And it -- these are countries that want a better future for themselves. To consign them to a Russian sphere of influence is not the best way to create a stronger and more integrated Europe, including with Russia.
SESNOSusan, if I can be undiplomatic about it, what I heard the ambassador say was we blew it, the west blew it. It overplayed its hand. It now needs to back off. It needs to find a way to accommodate this new reality and get a dialogue going again with Russia. Where are you on that?
EISENHOWERWell, I don't think that's what he's saying. I don't think he's saying that, you know, we need to accept things as they are. I think he is talking about the dangers of empowering hardliners in Russia. He's talking about the importance of the way people address the issue so that it doesn't increase nationalism and exacerbate the problem.
EISENHOWERI -- speaking for myself, what I would say having listened to Amb. Matlock and everybody else, is that we're trying to treat an immediate crisis in an immediate way. Now, you know, this is the thing that was noteworthy after World War II. Actually the generations that went before us were able to actually look out over a longer time horizon.
EISENHOWERWe need -- the international community has to arrive at some basic principles about the extent to which we're going to allow the mob or demonstrators or protestors, depending on whatever situation that vocabulary applies, and we have to decide the extent to which they're allowed to determine the governing arrangements of the country they're protesting in.
EISENHOWERWe've got problems in Venezuela, in Turkey, in Thailand, across the world. And, you know, we need to understand what the ramifications are if a popularly-elected president -- a democratically-elected president gets removed by a demonstration. I think we also need to have -- back to Jack Matlock's point -- some kind of an idea of some principles around the notion of self determination. Because from a Russian perspective, it looks like we're saying, do as I say, not as I do.
SESNORight, right, right.
EISENHOWERAnd until we reach some kind of an international understanding on that, it's going to continue.
SESNOReaching an international understanding on that is going to be tremendously difficult though because there's so many different perspectives on it.
EISENHOWERVery difficult but...so why don't we do a hard job here and get busy with it? In the meantime, we need to find some way to, you know, stem the escalation of this particular crisis.
SESNOOur discussion this hour, the impact of the crisis in Russia and Crimea on the international order. We'll be back in just a quick moment. And we're back. If you want to join our conversation, please give us a call at 1-800-885 (sic) -8850 or you can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SESNOI'd like to come around to talk about a few other things, folks, with our panel Susan Eisenhower, Christian Caryl and Jim Goldgeier, that may not get very much attention, which is the degree to which Russia has been working with the rest of the world in a lot of these international organizations, OECD and we talked about G8, we talked about the World Trade Organization, which they'd like to be very much a part of. What's at stake here in terms of this merging international order, Jim Goldgeier?
GOLDGEIERWell, what we're seeing particularly in this response from President Obama -- and I would again disagree with Amb. Matlock -- about the need for strong American response. And President Obama has said that he's going to pursue a strategy of trying to isolate Russia over the actions that it's taken. And that has meant using international institutions to demonstrate how alone Russia is on this issue.
GOLDGEIERHe has had the G7 condemn what Russia's done and now basically talk about the disbandment of it. He had, as Susan pointed out earlier, the vote that took place in the United Nations where Russia had to oppose it on its own, China abstained, which was very important for the United States. And so we're seeing an organization for security and cooperation in Europe. We're seeing an effort to try to demonstrate to Russia that it's alone in having taken this action.
GOLDGEIERAnd that is quite disturbing as a general point. And here I would agree with Susan, we have sought, since the end of the Cold War, to try to figure out ways to help bring Russia closer to the west, as we have done with China through international institutions. And we're now saying because of these actions you're going to be isolated over this and shown how alone you are.
SESNOSusan, one of the things just to make it real and show the stakes here is a lot of discussions going on with the Russians on terrorism, cyber security, money laundering. They've been important players at those conversations at the table.
EISENHOWERWell, no, they have. And I think there isn't probably any issue that we're working on right now that wouldn't benefit from a cooperative relationship with Russia, which is now impossible under the circumstances. But I think if you were, again, to draw back historically, we had a very, very serious confrontation over ideology and other things during the Cold War. And yet we were finding ways all the time to try to integrate them precisely because we didn't agree with them.
EISENHOWERSo I think you've hit the nail on the head, Frank, that this is really an issue of will isolationism work in a global economy. Is there another strategy that might be more nuanced but more effective over the long run?
CARYLWell, I do find myself wondering, so in other words, we're saying there should not be a cost for doing this sort of thing. I guess that's...
SESNOOr are we saying not that there shouldn't be a cost but how do you evaluate the cost?
SESNOBalance the cost against the benefit of continued engagement.
CARYLYeah, well, I think these are all very tough questions. One of the things that we're seeing right now, for example, is with the issue of sanctions is that Russia is so tightly enmeshed with the global financial system and the world economy that it becomes very, very hard, for example, for London to simply say, OK we don't want to do business with you anymore.
CARYLYou know, there are hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars of Russian money there. A lot of it probably from ill-gotten gains and probably might not be a bad idea to clean out some of the dirtier money. But how do you do it?
SESNOSusan, I want to come back to the military component. Here's what the New York Times writes, "The Atlantic Alliance was designed, as the old phrase went, to keep the Americans in, the Germans down and the Soviets out. Now with Putin acting more like a Cold War antagonist, arguing the Russians right to defend Russians everywhere, the United States will be under more pressure to sustain and exhibit military strength in Europe despite its much (word?) pivot to Asia." Do you agree?
EISENHOWERWell, I -- the president and the Prime Minister of Great Britain have underscored that there isn't a military option here. So, I mean, I think...
SESNOBut is there something -- it's interesting. Is there something between displaying military strength and engaging a military option?
EISENHOWERWell, you know, there probably is and this is what we're trying to do. And I couldn't agree more with Chris that, you know, we just can't let this go unchecked. On the other hand, we have to really assess what all of our tools are. Bottom line is we got to spend some time looking at this from the Russian perspective so we know what we'll really have in effect.
SESNOYour calls and questions for our panel on Russia, Crimea and the western response. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."
SESNOYou're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm Frank Sesno, sitting in for Diane today. Our guests discussing the situation in Crimea, Russia and across Europe and the rest of the world, as we contemplate the implications this has on the global system, Susan Eisenhower, chairman emeritus of the Eisenhower Institute of Gettysburg College, Christian Caryl, senior fellow at the Legatum Institute, contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine and a senior fellow at the MIT Center for International Studies, and Jim Goldgeier dean of the School of International Service at American University, former State Department official, staff member on the National Security Council.
SESNOJim, I want to come to you very quickly and then go to the phones. Ivo Daalder, former American ambassador to NATO says the vital task for the Atlantic Alliance now is to insure Article 5, that commitment to collective defense. We've been talking a lot about do we/don't we. I think there's a military component to this, but Article 5, what does that entail?
GOLDGEIERSo Article 5 says that an armed attack against one or more of the members shall be considered an attack against them all. It means that if anybody's attacked who's a member of NATO, everybody comes to their defense. And that's why we've seen this effort to reassure countries in that part of the world, the Baltic countries, Poland, that NATO is there for them. That's why Vice President Biden went over there, to reassure them.
GOLDGEIERAnd so that's the military piece of this, to remind that if you're in NATO, you will be defended. The problem is we don't have a solution for the insecurity of those countries between NATO and Russia.
SESNOLet's go to the phones now. And Rosanna is calling in from Miami, Fla. Hi, Rosanna, thanks very much for calling and holding.
ROSANNAHi. Thank you so much for taking my call. So my question is two. First, I don't think that the Crimea is the same as Georgia. I think that Crimea has been part of the Russia until the '50s. And people there feel, you know, very close to it. So my question is if we had a country that has such close ties with us, and more importantly that hosts our military bases, wouldn't it be doing the same thing?
ROSANNAI mean, I…
SESNOChristian Caryl, you want to start with that? If the foot were on the foot -- shoe were on the other foot?
CARYLFirst of all, yes. Crimea became part of Ukraine in 1954, which doesn't seem like that long ago, but think for a moment about all the countries that have become countries since 1954. You know, the entire decolonization process went on after the 1950s and '60s. So we might as well just redraw all those lines on the map if that's -- if time is the criterion.
CARYLAs James pointed out, there are procedures for doing this sort of thing, you know. There are systems that enable countries, you know, East Timor might be a good example of a country that didn't want to be in the country it was in. They fought a war for their own liberation and then the international community came together and regulated, helped, assisted and oversaw the process of East Timor breaking away from Indonesia.
CARYLThere is a system for that. But when one country goes in and says, well, you know, these people speak the same language that we do and so we're just going to go in and gobble it up, that seems a dangerous precedent.
SESNOBack to the phones. And Karune, from Dallas. Hi, Karune.
KARUNEHi, good morning. You know, so I am originally from India, and I migrated to the United States about 30 years ago. And the same situation as exists between Pakistan and India. There are plenty of, you know, states at the border of India and Pakistan which either speak, you know, Hindi or, you know, the language and they have the same culture. Now, does that mean that, you know, Indian army just goes rolling into Pakistan and says, well, you know, let's have a referendum over there and let's gobble up, you know, part of Pakistan?
KARUNEI mean this is setting a real bad example of how, you know, you can annex part of the country just because you have a cultural people sitting at the border and, yeah, you now, before 1947, you know, Pakistan was part of India.
KARUNESo, you know, that's a completely flawed logic I think.
SESNOOK. Jim Goldgeier, you want to respond?
GOLDGEIERYes. Well, Karune is completely correct. And, as Christian was saying, you know, there are lots of places in the world where countries think that there are neighboring territories that should be either independent or adjoining them. And this is why Russia found itself alone in the United Nations. This is why China abstained. It doesn't want to see this as setting precedent. It doesn't want Tibet, for example, to have a referendum on independence. You know, we can't have a world in which this is the way countries operate.
EISENHOWERWell, I couldn't agree more, which is why I was calling earlier for some kind of global discussion about this, but at the same time, the situation is slightly complicated in the Crimea because even though Khrushchev gave Crimea to Ukraine as an anniversary present, in fact…
SESNOAnd who was president then?
EISENHOWERExactly. But in fact -- yeah, that's a good point. In fact, Moscow controlled Crimea all the way up until the collapse of the Soviet Union. And I think what's really important, just as a piece of information here, is that the USSR ran everything and quite frankly, the country was never designed to fall into various countries. It was -- the borders were drawn by various Soviet leaders, including Joseph Stalin, and this was all -- these borders were cut precisely to assure that no national group could -- that there would be no coherence.
SESNOAnd may I say…
EISENHOWERAnd therefore no loss of control.
SESNOAnd may I say, Susan, for my comment, for those who may not know, you are related to Dwight Eisenhower. You are his…
SESNOBack to the phones, And Alexi, from Rochester, N.Y.
ALEXIYeah, thank you for taking my call. I'm wondering why is it a result of the recent (unintelligible) and not recognized? Is it that democracy process is gone there? When the majority of people voted to join the Russia, but they said many didn't see the interest of the White House, it's not recognized.
CARYLWell, Alexi, I understand where you're coming from. I don't think, again, that the problem is that -- the problem is precisely that the way the referendum was held was in defiance of all international norms. I have a lot of friends who are journalists who were on the ground there. They were attacked by crowds of so-called volunteers who didn't want them reporting on the referendum. International observers tried to get in and observe the referendum, not just pet observers of Putin, but genuine international observers.
CARYLThe OSCE mission that tried to get into Ukraine to report on the referendum was fired upon. So if you're really sure -- if you're Vladimir Putin and you're really sure that everybody in Crimea is going to vote yes on this referendum, why not just open up the gates and let the outside world come in, let the Indonesians come in, let the Australians come in, let everyone come in and verify the result? If you don't do that I think you're going to have a situation like the one you have now.
SESNOWe have quite a few emails. Let me just run through them and ask you to respond to them as you will. Because I think they show the range of the conversation and the concerns that our listeners have. Here's one from Jonathan. "Yet again, America is getting half into an argument. We staked a position against Russia and threatened costs, yet as we continue to ratchet up these costs the question is to what end? What's the desired outcome? How, since Crimea isn't going away, do we measure success?"
SESNOHere's another one from Pat, in Rochester, Mich. "The world will not be able to stop the supreme bully," Pat writes, "unless they're willing to go to war. And no one wants that. So we'll be standing by watching Putin roll on from country to country and regain the countries lost during fall of the former Soviet Union." And this one from Phil, in Hadley, N.Y. "Do you experts agree that America's number one strategic foe is China, not Russia? Please discuss likely effects of Russia's new moves on the China/U.S. relationship." Susan? Wherever you want to go with that. It's quite a range.
EISENHOWERWell, it is a quite a range. Well, I certainly appreciate all of those responses from the listeners of this program. I think the last writer specifically talked about U.S.-China relations. And I think this is one area that requires a lot more assessment. During the Cold War we were really playing a three-way game between the United States, I should say, and our western allies, Soviet Union and China. And so I think it would be important for us to factor that in, clearly.
EISENHOWERI know that as we talk about this issue more, I'd like to associate myself with the idea of the coherence of Ukraine. I mean the one thing that is worrying me a lot about this rhetoric -- back to the rhetoric point -- is it seems to be implying support only for Western Ukraine. That seems to be the implication. I know it's not what we mean, but we need to clarify that the coherence of Ukraine is critical.
EISENHOWERI just mentioned that, of course, the boundaries were drawn so that the coherence would not form during Soviet times. Right? But we really need to work on this because there's never going to be any peace in any of these areas until we help them learn how to nation-build and to respect the rights of all of the citizens of those countries.
SESNOJim Goldgeier, your response to some of what we heard from our listeners.
GOLDGEIERWell, you know, on U.S.-China, we've seen in recent years the problem with China's moves in the South China Sea and concerns about China's designs on territory. And so it's not just China that's watching this, but also our allies in the region, as we reassure our allies in Europe. So these are very important things. On the cost, we're not going to go to war with Russia. So far the costs are not sufficient to have prevented Putin from doing this.
GOLDGEIERBut as I said before, this isn't just about Crimea. It's about Eastern Ukraine, it's about other parts of the former Soviet Union to make clear that there are costs in order to try to deter future actions.
SESNOChristian, what about Jonathan's email, in terms of to what end, how do we measure success?
CARYLWell, I think at this point one of the main ways you measure success is by not allowing the situation to get even more out of control than it is. And I think Susan's remark about maintaining the coherence of Ukraine is a very important one. One of the best things I've seen in the past few days was an article in The Guardian, by Timothy Garton Ash, who knows this area very well.
CARYLAnd he said, OK, there's an election coming up in Ukraine. Everyone's forgotten about that. May 25. What we need to do is flood eastern Ukraine with observer, international observers, from as many different countries as possible. And let's make sure that there's a viable candidate for the Russian-speaking part of Ukraine. And let's welcome that and encourage that. Let's make sure that the Russian speakers in east feel fully represented and feel like their interests are generally being taken into account.
CARYLAnd then let's let the Democratic process work. And along the way let's try to boost the Ukrainian government and encourage the Ukrainian government to allow for greater participation from people in the east, but let's pursue that avenue as robustly as we possibly can to make sure that Putin doesn't really have a Crimea option in eastern Ukraine. And also to make sure that Ukrainians get the best deal out of the situation.
SESNOI'm Frank Sesno. And you are listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I want to go back to the phones now and call on Patrick, who's calling in from Dallas with a question. Hi, Patrick.
PATRICKHello. How are you doing?
SESNOJust great. Thanks for calling.
PATRICKMy question is regarding the Olympics and how this would have affected the Olympics had this taken place either before or during the times of the Olympics. Would the U.S. effectively have boycotted the Olympics and how do you think the West would have responded to it?
SESNOInteresting question. Susan, timing is everything, right?
EISENHOWERTiming is everything. Well, I think we certainly had a precedent for that. During the Carter administration we boycotted the Olympics that were held in Moscow.
SESNOWhen they rolled into Afghanistan.
EISENHOWERWhen they rolled into Afghanistan. So we certainly have a precedent for that. As it turns out, timing was such that it wasn't an issue, but now we've got to, you know, find other ways to make our concerns known. And I was saying during the break that one value of running through the kind history lessons that Amb. Matlock did in his recent pieces, is that it helps us understand how it looks from the Russian perspective.
EISENHOWERAnd the reason that's important, is that then begins to help us understand what they value and what they're concerns. And with that analysis, we can use this kind of thinking as a way to find where the real leverage points are.
SESNOSo great point. So what do they value and where are the real leverage points, do you think?
EISENHOWERWell, I think first of all, it's very clear that there's no ideological differences between the United States and Russia these days. I mean it is a very -- I mean, capitalism, if you want to call it -- that's one of the most laissez-faire places on the planet. And I think that, you know, certainly one thing they care about is their freedom to move around internationally. They care a lot about -- their oligarchs care a lot about being able to send their kids to school in the West. Now, when…
SESNOAnd buy real estate in the West.
EISENHOWERThat's right. So you'd have to be very careful not to make victims out of people who don't deserve it. But still, I'm wondering by only looking at it from our side, I think we're losing an opportunity to enhance our position and our values by understanding what they care about.
SESNOBack to the phones. Adam, from Arlington, Va. Adam, go ahead.
ADAMHi. Thanks for taking my call. I assume that Putin is a reasonable actor here. But I'm trying to figure out what is his end game? Is -- he had to know that this would cause this kind of backlash in the West. Is it an economic play to China? Is it just a -- something he thinks is going to blow over? What do you think his end goal is?
CARYLWell, if I knew that I could substitute for the entire CIA. But I think one of the dangerous things about this particular situation is precisely that we don't have a very clear game of what is end game is. It's quite possible that holding onto Ukraine will be enough for him to -- holding onto Crimea, I'm sorry, will be enough for him to destabilize the situation in Ukraine over all. And that that will be enough for him.
CARYLBut one of the really worrisome things about this, especially after I listened to his speech two days ago, was again, this emphasis on Russian speakers, on the Russian nation. And it's very, very hard to know where that ends.
SESNORussia rising? Jim Goldgeier, is that what his end game is?
GOLDGEIERWell, he's wanted to see Russia rise ever since he took power. He thought that the '90s were humiliating for Russia. He thought the collapse of the Soviet Union was humiliating. He was trying to…
SESNOWorst geopolitical disaster -- catastrophe is, I think, the word he used.
GOLDGEIERBut I think the immediate concern that he's had is that he doesn't want countries of the former Soviet Union building closer ties to the West. We've seen this in Moldova. We've seen this in Georgia. We're seeing this in Ukraine. He's made that very clear time and time again. And that is clearly extremely important to him.
SESNOAs we wrap up with our final few minutes, Susan, I know there's a point you want to make and you'll have a chance to do it, I think, as we kind of catch our breath here and put this in perspective. I'd like you each briefly to think about -- and it's where we started the program -- this web of international relationships, conversations, diplomacy that's much bigger than Crimea and yet, ultimately heavily influenced by Crimea.
SESNOAnd Russia -- what much of the world views anyway -- is Russia totally (unintelligible) the rules here to redraw the map? Jim, go first. And what should we be looking for? Where do you think those leverage points are for the international community?
GOLDGEIERWell, you know, Susan was saying in terms of within Russia I think at some point, if we're really going to inflict costs, we're going to have to go after the guys with the money in order to have them say to President Putin, hey, we're taking the hit here and we don't like it. And really, only if you have that situation, I think, will you be able to get any leverage.
EISENHOWERYeah, I'd like to just clarify something said before. It's not just that Putin thought Russia was humiliated. Actually, the Russian people feel humiliated. And this is what makes this really kind of a dangerous situation. The Soviet regime couldn't have cared less what their people thought, but Putin's got a constituency. And I think he's worried about staying in power himself. And he realizes that this is a popular thing. So we're going to have to address that larger issue at some point.
SESNOAnd Christian Caryl.
CARYLAnd there's also this point -- to build on Susan's last remark -- that Putin feels very threatened by the idea of popular uprisings. And he really did not want to see a popular uprising in a place like Ukraine succeed so close to home.
SESNOAnd we understand the president of the United States will have something to say on this in short order, as well, this morning, in just a few minutes. So we'll see what his assessment is and where he sees the pressure points. Our thanks to Susan Eisenhower, Christian Caryl and Jim Goldgeier, dean of the school of International Service at American University for very enlightening conversation. Thanks to you all. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm Frank Sesno.
Most Recent Shows
AT&T’s bid to acquire Time Warner: Join us to talk about what the proposed merger of the country’s second-largest wireless carrier and a major content company could mean for consumers and the future of U.S. media and telecommunications.
After the 9/11 attacks, U.S. intelligence, military and law enforcement agencies were forced to work together in completely new ways. A veteran national security reporter on how America has tried to adapt to a new era of warfare.
Early voting is underway in states across the country. Just over two weeks before the presidential election, a look at the latest polls, the electoral map and end-of-the-line strategies for both campaigns.