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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: But first here’s my take. The deal announced Thursday to end the fighting in Ukraine will face the same obstacle the previous such agreement faced — how to ensure that Russia will abide by it.

Frustrated by Moscow’s continued support for Ukrainian separatists, Western statesmen have begun discussing military assistance for the Ukrainian government. But in trying to decide what would actually deter Moscow, it might be worth listening to what seems to scare Russians themselves. And it is not military aid to Kiev.

When asked recently about the possibility of so-called swift sanctions, which would bar Russia from participating in the international payment system centered on the dollar, Prime Minister Medvedev warned that Moscow’s response would be without limits.

It’s understandable why Putin’s closest associates are so rattled by the prospect of additional economic sanctions. The Russian economy is in free fall. In a report released this week, the International Energy Agency said that Russia is facing a perfect storm of collapsing prices, international sanctions and currency depreciation. The IMF projects Russia’s economy will contract by 3 percent in 2015.

And Putin needs strong oil revenues to maintain his power. From 2008 to 2009 when oil revenues did collapse during the global financial crisis, the Russian government increased its spending by a staggering 40 percent, all to preserve social stability. This according to the economists.

On the other hand, Russia could easily handle continuing its military skirmishing in eastern Ukraine. Moscow’s defense budget in 2014 was roughly 20 times that of Kiev’s, according to figures published this week by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The argument against sanctions is that while they may raise the cost for Russia, Putin has shown that he does not respond to higher costs in a rational calculating manner. But if that’s the case, then military aid for Ukraine won’t work either. No one believes that Kiev can actually prevail in a military contest with Moscow.

A recent think tank report urging military aid itself acknowledges that the aid package will merely raise the cost for the Kremlin in order to force it to then negotiate. In other words, the consensus is that the only possible strategy is to raise costs for Russia. The disagreement is really about what kinds of costs Vladimir Putin finds most onerous.

I think that military aid to Ukraine would stoke the fires of Russian nationalism, let Putin wrap himself in military colors and defend his, quote-unquote, “fellow Russians,” in an arena in which he will be able to ensure that Moscow prevails. For a regime that waged two bitter and costly wars in Chechnya, a region far less central to the Russian imagination than Ukraine, the loss of some men and money in a military operation is not likely to be much of a deterrent.

Why would the West want to move from its area of enormous strength, economic pressure, to an area where it will be outgunned in every sense?

If Russia breaks this fragile peace, then more sanctions should be considered. Senator Lindsey Graham recently offered the most honest reason why some in Washington are advocating military assistance. Even though it doesn’t seem likely to work, it’s a way of doing something in the face of Russian aggression.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don’t know how this ends if you give them defensive capability but I know this. I will feel better because when my nation was needed to stand up to the garbage and stand by freedom, I stood by the freedom.

ZAKARIA: But the purpose of American foreign policy is not to make Lindsey Graham feel better. It is to actually achieve American objectives on the ground. That means picking your battles and weapons carefully.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1502/15/fzgps.01.html

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Posted February 16, 2015 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN: But first here’s my take. The actions of the pro-Russian forces, who it appears shot down a civilian airliner, might seem at first glance to be crude and unsophisticated. But in one sense they’re on the cutting edge. They represent something we see all around us these days — the democratization of violence.

Let me explain. For most of history, the side with the bigger army usually won a conflict. Over the past few decades a different pattern has been emerging, the power of asymmetrical warfare. Look at the pro-Russian separatists or Hamas or Hezbollah or the insurgents in Afghanistan or Iraq, and you will see attacks that are cheap compared with the massive response then launched by traditional armies.

In Moises Naim’s excellent book, “The End of Power,” he calculates that for every dollar that al Qaeda spent planning and executing the 9/11 attacks the United States spent $7 million countering it or coping with the losses. That’s a ratio of $1 million to $7 million. Staggering, indeed. That is why Naim says never in the field of human conflict has so few had the potential to do so much to so many at so little cost.

Naim cites scholar Ivan Arreguin-Toft who looked at asymmetrical conflicts in history and found that while 150 years ago the weaker party would win only about 12 percent of such wars. In the last 50 years it has prevailed 55 percent of the time.

But let’s be clear about the current crisis in Ukraine. This is not really a story about a band of rebels who are up against the Ukrainian government. It is about little Ukraine up against Russia, a country that spends 35 times what Ukraine does on its armed forces. The Russian effort to turn this into an asymmetrical conflict by using special forces, rebels, and perhaps even mercenaries is a conscious strategy to take advantage of the power of asymmetry.

Moscow is seeking to destabilize Ukraine at low cost and perhaps most important with the ability to deny its involvement. The best way to counter Russia’s strategy is to deny that advantage that it seeks. The world must make clear that it recognizes that Russia has had a conscious deliberate centrally directed policy to destabilize Ukraine and to do so has sent into the battlefield heavy weapons including anti-aircraft weapons.

This is not a case where terrorists are operating without an address or a home base. It’s called the Kremlin. If they were in the West to hold Russia responsible for its actions in eastern Ukraine, insist that the government of Ukraine, which Russia claims to recognize, be allowed to take control of all regions of its country and help the democratically elected leaders in Kiev, Mr. Putin’s strategy of causing chaos on the cheap will not work.

After all, despite Russia’s huge defense budget, despite its massive size, despite a U.N. veto, it is now watching its neighbor, historically part of Russia, move irretrievably from its grasp and why? Because Russia has provoked the most important force in the modern world. Nationalism.

Ukrainian public sentiment and sentiment in Eastern Europe and perhaps beyond has become deeply anti-Russian. That’s an intangible force but one that has proved to be very powerful in modern history. In that sense it is the Kremlin that is on the wrong side of asymmetrical warfare.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1407/20/fzgps.01.html

Posted July 21, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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Barack Obama “The young people in the audience today, young people like Lara (sp), were born in a place and a time where there is less conflict, more prosperity and more freedom than any time in human history. But that’s not because man’s darkest impulses have vanished. Even here in Europe we’ve seen ethnic cleansing in the Balkans that shocked the conscience. The difficulties of integration and globalization, recently amplified by the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes, strained the European project and stirred the rise of a politics that too often targets immigrants or gays or those who seem somehow different.

While technology has opened up vast opportunities for trade and innovation and cultural understanding, it’s also allowed terrorists to kill on a horrifying scale. Around the world sectarian warfare and ethnic conflicts continue to claim thousands of lives. And once again, we are confronted with the belief among some that bigger nations can bully smaller ones to get their way — that recycled maxim that might somehow makes right.

So I come here today to insist that we must never take for granted the progress that has been won here in Europe and advanced around the world, because the contest of ideas continues for your generation.

And that’s what’s at stake in Ukraine today. Russia’s leadership is challenging truths that only a few weeks ago seemed self-evident, that in the 21st century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force, that international law matters, that people and nations can make their own decisions about their future.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/transcript-president-obama-gives-speech-addressing-europe-russia-on-march-26/2014/03/26/07ae80ae-b503-11e3-b899-20667de76985_story.html

Posted March 28, 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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FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST:  Inevitably, the crisis in Ukraine is being discussed in Washington largely through the lens of political polarization. It seems like any and every topic is fodder for partisan dispute these days, even the weather — actually, especially the weather.

Many Republicans are arguing that Vladimir Putin intervened in Crimea because of President Obama’s weakness. Putin saw that Obama didn’t want to go to war in Syria, for example, and this emboldened Putin.

Well, who knows, right? It’s tough to know what would have happened in an alternative universe. Imagine that we still had Putin around in charge of Russia but imagine he faced a different president, one who was tough, aggressive, who had no compunctions about invading countries.

Oh, wait, we ran that experiment in 2008. Putin faced George W. Bush, a president who had invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, for good measure, in the latter case, defying massive international pressure and opposition, and yet, Putin invaded Georgia.

And not as he did this time in a stealthy way with soldiers who were already there who switched their uniforms, he sent in Russian tanks roaring into Georgia, and without any referendums, simply annexed two pieces of that country.

Does this prove that Bush was a wimp after all? No, it doesn’t. You see, there has been some very good and careful scholarship by Daryl Press and Jonathan Mercer, among others, that looks at historical cases to figure out whether having a reputation for toughness actually deters your opponents from doing bad things like invading countries.

In general, the answer is no. Countries make these decisions based on many factors, but the most important ones seem to be a careful analysis of the power dynamics of the specific case.

So in Ukraine, Russia would ask, is this a vital interest of the United States? And what is Washington’s capacity to act in this particular situation? In other words, Putin would look at his cards, Washington’s cards, and the specifics of the situation in Ukraine, rather than assuming that because Bush invited Iraq he would defend Georgia, or that because Obama didn’t invade Syria he would do nothing about Ukraine.

Politicians in Washington are convinced that Putin was encouraged by Western weakness. But it’s actually quite possible that he, Putin, felt he was acting to stop the West’s growing strength.

Look at the situation from Russian eyes. In 1991, Moscow gave up its 75-year-old Soviet empire. It also gave up large parts of its 300-year-old Russian Empire, including Ukraine.

Since then, its historical rival, NATO, has expanded closer and closer to Moscow’s borders. And then the West encouraged Ukrainians to take to the streets and depose their president who had close ties to Moscow.

Now none of this excuses aggression or justifies Putin’s thuggish response, but if we’re going to find a political solution in Ukraine that will stick, we need to recognize that the issues at stake are not personal, and that they are larger than Obama’s weakness and Putin’s paranoia.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1403/09/fzgps.01.html

 

Posted March 10, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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John Fugelsang


There are no racists at #CPAC2014 – they just didn’t mind when Putin invaded Georgia & a white President did nothing.

 

 

Posted March 8, 2014 by tmusicfan in Politics, Quote of the Day

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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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