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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST:But first, here’s my take. The crisis in Ukraine was produced by two sets of blunders, neither emanating from Washington. The European Union’s vacillations and most significantly, of course, Russia’s aggression produced the problem.

But it will now be up to President Obama to show the strength and skill to resolve it.

For years now, the European Union has had an ambivalent attitude towards Ukraine which produced instability in that country and opposition from Russia. Ukraine is the most important country in the post-Soviet space that Russia seeks to dominate politically. If Europe wanted to help Ukraine move west it should have planned a bold, generous and swift strategy of attraction. Instead, the EU conducted lengthy, meandering negotiations with Kiev.

But let us not persist in believing that Moscow’s moves have been strategically brilliant. Vladimir Putin must have watched events unfold in Ukraine in February with deep frustration, as a pro-Russian government was swept out of power, because the Sochi Olympics were under way, which limited what he could do.

When the Olympics ended, he acted quickly, essentially annexing Crimea. But it was a blunder. In taking over Crimea, Putin has lost Ukraine. Since 1991, Russia has influenced Ukraine through pro- Russian politicians who were bribed by Moscow to listen to its dictates. But that path is now blocked, as Princeton’s Steve Kotkin has pointed out on this program last week, without Crimea, which has an ethnic Russian majority no pro-Russian politician could hope to get elected president of Ukraine.

Remember, Ukraine is divided but not in half. Without Crimea, only 15% of Ukraine is ethnically Russian.

As important as losing Ukraine, Putin has triggered a deep anti- Russian nationalism around his borders. There are 25 million ethnic Russians living outside of Russia and countries like Kazakhstan with significant Russian minorities, must wonder whether Putin could foment secessionist moments in their country as well and then use the Russian army to protect them.

Beyond the near abroad, Russia’s relations with countries like Poland and Hungary, that were once warming are now tense and adversarial. NATO, which has been searching for a role in the post- Cold War world has been given a new lease on life.

Moscow will face some sanctions from Washington and almost certainly from the European Union as well. And in a rare break with Russia during the discussions at the UN security council, even China refused to condone Russia’s moves into Crimea.

Now I have generally been weary of the calls of American intervention in any and every conflict around the world, but this is different. The crisis in Ukraine is the most significant geopolitical problem since the end of the Cold War. Unlike many of the tragic ethnic and civil wars that have bubbled over the last three decades this one involves a great global power, Russia, and thus can and will have far-reaching consequences. And it involves a great global principle — can national boundaries be changed by brute force?

If this becomes acceptable, what happens in Asia where there are dozens of contested boundaries and several great powers that want to redraw them. So President Obama must rally the world, push the Europeans, and negotiate with the Russians. In this crisis, America truly is the indispensable nation.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1403/16/fzgps.01.html

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Posted March 17, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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