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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first, here’s my take. Whatever happens in Ukraine over the next few months and years, the crisis has reminded me that there are really two kinds of rulers around the world, those who think about the past and those who think about the future. And if it weren’t abundantly clear already, it is now.

Vladimir Putin is the first group and his country will be the poorer for it. We’ve all learned some lessons in Russian history. Crimea was the first great prize for Russia, wrested from the Ottoman Empire and a mark of Russia’s rise to great power status.

It also gave the Russians something they never had, a warm water port with direct access to the Mediterranean and thus the wider world. Russia held onto the region even though it lost the Crimean War in the 19th century. Almost a century later it maintained its grip on the region after reclaiming it from the Nazis in early 1944.

Then came the strange and fateful twist in 1954 when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gifted Crimea to the Ukraine, an internal transfer within the Soviet Union. Why Khrushchev did that remains somewhat unclear. Whatever the cause, the consequences are lasting and dramatic.

That is the history. But history is bunk, as Henry Ford said. By that he did not mean that it was unimportant but rather that people should not be trapped by it, that they should not think backward but rather forward.

His exact words were, “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.”

The history that leaders make today has much less to do with geography or constraints from the past. When Singapore was expelled from Malaysia in 1965, the experts said that the small, swampy town in the middle of nowhere could not survive as an independent country. It is now one of the world’s great trading hubs with a per capita income higher than that of its erstwhile colonizer, Great Britain.

That’s because its founder, Lee Quan Yu (ph), thought less about the disadvantages of history and more about the advantages of the future.

When the Nationalist Chinese were abandoned by the world on a tiny island after the Communist Revolution in mainland China in 1949, most assumed the place would not survive. Yet in the most precarious position with zero natural resources, Taiwan became one of the world’s fastest growing economies for over four decades.

That’s because it didn’t worry about geography. It obsessed about competitiveness.

When Paul Kagame took over Rwanda, the country was more deeply ravaged by history than almost any nation. Scarred by a genocide of a speed never seen before in the past.

Rwanda’s also landlocked with no geographic advantages at all and a bloody war in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. But Kagame looked to the future, not the past. The result is a small African miracle, a country that is healing its wounds.

There are those who are still trapped by history and geography; think of Pakistan’s generals, still trying to establish strategic depth in their backyard while their country collapses.

Or think of Putin, who is, as Secretary of State John Kerry said, playing a 19th century game in the 21st century. What has he achieved? Ukraine has slipped out of his grasp, its people suspicious of Moscow even in Crimea the 40 percent who are non-Russian are probably restive and resentful.

Moscow’s neighbors are alarmed and once warming relations with Poland will be set back, trade and investment with Europe and the United States will surely suffer. Meanwhile Russia continues along its path as an oil dependent state with an increasingly authoritarian regime that has failed to develop its economy or civil society or foster political pluralism.

But no matter, Moscow controls Crimea. In today’s world, is that really a victory?

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1403/23/fzgps.01.html

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Posted March 24, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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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

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

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Even if the rest of the world sees Russian President Vladimir Putin fully as a “semi-delustional autocrat” who has bought too far into his own propaganda, Daily Show host Jon Stewart observed on Thursday, Fox News is all too willing to treat him as a legitimate world leader.

But while conservatives trip over themselves to praise Putin for acting unilaterally, Stewart said, they immediately cry “imperial president” when U.S. President Barack Obama does the same.

“What the hell is wrong with these people?” Stewart asked. “What happened to these people as children that has enabled this love-hate relationship with authoritarian figures and the inherent cognitive dissonance that goes along with such a schism?”

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R) joke about Obama wearing “mom jeans,” Stewart noted, had become a right-wing talking point, even if it tied in to overblown stories about Putin, like the story about him shooting a tiger — which turned out to have been tranquilized and trapped beforehand.

 

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-march-6-2014/big-vladdy—semi-delusional-autocrats

 

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST:
“In a strange act of historical coincidence, it was 60 years ago this week that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev handed the Crimea over to the Ukraine. It might not have seemed a big deal in those days; everyone was part of one, big, unhappy Soviet Union.

But that has created today’s geopolitical crisis. Russia has now made its move. It has essentially detached Crimea from the Ukrainian government’s control. What remains unclear is what Vladimir Putin wants to do with it.

Incorporate it into Russia, use it as leverage to negotiate a deal with Kiev, both?

In any event, Washington’s response should be clear and forceful. Russia has violated all kinds of laws and norms, including most crucially a treaty that it signed with Ukraine, guaranteeing that country’s borders, in return for which Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons.

For Washington, for Americans, really for people around the world, it would be a terrible precedent to allow issues like these to be resolved not by negotiations or diplomacy, but by force.

If Russia can detach parts of neighboring countries with impunity, won’t other great powers like China decide that they, too, can act in similar ways?

So what can be done?

For starters, President Obama should cancel entirely his attendance at the G8 summit to be held in Sochi in June. He should try to persuade the other major powers to follow suit.

Russia’s membership in the G8 should be suspended. Remember, the G8 was created to recognize that post-soviet Russia was behaving like an honorable member of the international community, not a rogue state. If the behavior has changed, Russia’s status should also change.

Militarily there is less that can be done. Russia’s defense budget is about 18 times that of Ukraine, but NATO should restart talks on providing assurances to countries like Poland, including perhaps building the missile defense system that was abandoned.

In economic terms, Washington and the E.U. should consider sanctions that would be effective, ones targeted specifically at individuals who could be held responsible for these acts of aggression against Ukraine.

Washington cannot stop Vladimir Putin as he creates facts on the ground in Crimea. But step back and consider what a strategic disaster this is for him.

Ukraine has slipped out of Russia’s orbit and most of the population there is going to be hostile toward Russia for generations. Countries like Poland that had eased up relations with Moscow will now view it with great suspicion. All European countries will put their relations with Russia under review.

Even China will surely oppose the brazen violation of national sovereignty, something Beijing is always concerned about. Within Russia, people have now seen that Putin is terrified of a democracy movement and will brutally oppose it, not really the image he wants to present.

Putin gets Crimea, which, by the way, is only 60 percent Russian; parts of it will be deeply hostile to this Russian takeover, including the population of Crimean Tartars, who are Muslim and getting radicalized. Remember, Crimea is in the Northern Caucasus, the area where Russia has been battling a ferocious Muslim insurgency. So even as he lines up one more piece or half-piece on his chessboard, Vladimir Putin will find that the price he has paid for it is quite high.”

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1403/02/fzgps.01.html

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: “But first, here’s my take. 2013 seemed in many ways to be the year of Vladimir Putin. The Russian president had consolidated power in his country, crushed any possible opposition, kept his ally in Syria from being toppled and brokered a deal to remove Syria’s chemical weapons.

2014 was also going pretty well for Putin. The Sochi Olympics was not the disaster many had suggested and, above all, Putin had maintained Russia’s historic relationship with Ukraine, outmaneuvering the European Union, which had made Ukraine a complicated and conditional offer that Ukraine’s president turned down in return for cold Russian cash.

That’s what it had looked like until just a few days ago. But now, on the central issue of Ukraine, Russia does not look so triumphant. Ukraine’s President Yanukovych, who is now its former president, overplayed his hand.

Putin assumed that force would solve the problem and disperse the protests. Western observers were despairing and assigning blame for all that had happened from Washington to the European Union.

And then things started to change. President Yanukovych and the opposition made a deal, brokered by the Europeans, calling for a coalition government, national elections and a new constitution.

But even that was not enough for the protesters, who have managed to achieve change much faster, ousting the president and beginning the process of transformation right away. In this long and complex situation, it is the people on the street who have shown determination, courage and persistence.

Now one has to be cautious; everything we know about these kinds of revolutions is that this is the thrilling moment which is often followed by turmoil, tension, violence and chaos. Destroying the old order is a lot easier than building a new one.

This is going to be particularly true in Ukraine, which is riddled with corruption and, in many ways, is on the brink of economic collapse. The opposition will have to act with wisdom and include those whom it despises, including the supporters of former President Yanukovych.

And Russia will not allow Ukraine to slip completely from its grasp. One of its main fleets is based in the Black Sea in Ukraine. Russian pipelines crisscross the country, carrying natural gas to Europe.

Russia will demand a say in what happens there as it has for 300 years. That’s why the Ukrainian opposition turned government needs to approach things with caution and a sense of national unity.

But Russia, too, will have to be careful; as the last few weeks have shown, it has created a deep sense of opposition among tens of millions of people in Ukraine and their hostility to Russian domination might well grow.

For now at least, let’s just marvel at the spirit of the Ukrainian people, let’s keep our fingers crossed for their future and let’s note that 2014 is not looking quite as good for Vladimir Putin as it did a week ago.”

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1402/23/fzgps.01.html

Posted February 24, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who was freed Monday in a Kremlin-backed amnesty, slammed Russia’s prison system and said that the whole country is built like a penal colony.

“Russia is built on the model of a penal colony and that is why it is so important to change the penal colonies today to change Russia,” Tolokonnikova told journalists after her release. “Penal colonies and prisons are the face of the country.”

She said she and released bandmate Maria Alyokhina will be working on a project focusing on rights of prisoners, using experience of spending a year and ten months in prison.

“I don’t consider this time wasted,” she said. “I gained unique experience which will make it easier to really engage in human rights work. “I became older, I saw the state from within, I saw this totalitarian machine as it is.”

Addressing journalists, she said her views have not changed since she was arrested for performing a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour protesting Vladimir Putin’s re-election campaign.

“Prisoners should be treated like normal human beings … not like trash,” she said, specifically mentioning her previous penal colony in Mordovia in central Russia, where “people were being murdered morally and physically.”

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/23/russia-is-a-penal-colony-says-freed-pussy-riot-punk-nadezhda-tolokonnikova/