tv Atlantic Council Discussion on Arming Ukraine CSPAN October 3, 2017 12:28am-2:00am EDT
>> good morning everyone. my name is hannah. i am a research fellow at the hudson institute and i'm honored to be here today. at the atlantic council in conjunction with the charles cook institute. for a really entertaining discussion, a debate that i hope you will have about whether or not the us should arm ukraine. that is the question at hand. should the us arm ukraine? i wanted to start the program today with a little bit of a
pole. to see just how many of you think that you have made up your mind about your own answer to this question. how many of you think that you've already decided? how many have not yet decided but are open to be swayed? give -- you have a very tall order on hand!those watching from c-span, i invite you to follow us on twitter at # future ukraine. you may be wondering why we are covering this topic now. it has been three years since we had this debate here in the united states about whether we should indeed arm ukraine.i think we did have a discussion a couple of years ago. things are changed, we have new president, the situation on the ground estranged quite significantly in ukraine and we
all have the kind of push and you're starting to see people like this ambassador who is newly been named as the others are presented with ukraine negotiations talk about the real possibility of sending some kind of weaponry to ukraine. it is a debate that really starting to reemerge on the policy seen. i'm glad that we have with us today, two gentlemen that will be taking on the side that we should not arm them and then the other said that we should indeed do that. arguing for pro ambassador john hurts at the end project of the atlantic council. for 31 years as a foreign service officer in the us department of state and ambassador to ukraine as well as to -- and also ambassador
alexander sandy. distinguished fellow at the atlantic council. the center on international security. you may know he was the debbie secretary general of nato from 2002 through 2016. also former us assistant secretary of defense for me is ambassador of nato, russian federation and public of korea. extremely distinguished career. arguing on the con side. we should not arm ukraine. doctor -- at the city college of new york. also senior research scholar at the institute of war and peace that he's at columbia university and a global ethics fellow at the carnegie council on ethics in international affairs and has written extensively on these topics. and last but certainly not
least, to my immediate left is doctor william. the vice president for research and policy at the charles coates institute as well as vice president for research formally research fellow in foreign policy studies at the cato institute as well as an associate professor of political science at texas state university and a professor at the johnson school of public affairs at ut austin. he is also currently an officer in the us navy reserve and a veteran of the afghanistan war. dominic, thank you very much for joining us today. we're going to begin actually with the con side. thanks so many times we begin with the pro and then the con is left to be fighting from behind. sounds a little more negative i think. we will start today from the con side. the way we will run things is to have both of our colleagues here.
we'll start with doctor ruger. we will start with the case against the ukraine. then we will switch to ambassador -- will again give five minutes and then to her dr. and then the ambassador. the floor is yours. >> thank you for coming out today. thank you to the atlantic council for joining us and sponsoring a civil debate in which this has been sorely lacking in our country. hopefully this is modeled in civil discourse. i will start with the case of why we should not arm the ukraine. with a bigger picture. then with doctor the particulars and hand-off later to my partner.
the ukrainians have been fighting on their own so it's time to level the playing field to avert a permanent source of tension and instability close to nato's borders. this would not represent. >> electronic warfare and the like. not to mention thousands of so-called volunteers and vacationers. they've never -- a cease fire and heavy win withdrawal. they continue to launch rocket attacks with impunity. and mean while the occupied territories are subject to brutal repression and coming more and more a part of the
russian economy. diplomatic efforts to implement minsk -- i appoint kurt volcker, this prospects for success remain dim. and moscow is intent on keeping the situation at a low boil and trying to topple the government and bring to power leaders who will abandon the ukraine people's dream for a future. the challenge is how to change president putin's calculus and convince him to negotiate in good faith on implementing minimum nsk. congress has provided needed leverage withthe sanctions bull the sanctions alone don't seem to be enough. we need additional pressure on putin to convince him that
prolonging the -- that time is not on his side. the best way to do that is to significantly expand u.s. security assistance and in particular to lust the obama administration's -- lift the obama administration's embargo on lethal defensive weapons. the aim is not to encourage ukraine to seek a military voc and they know it's impossible. the purpose of providing defensive weapons is to help ukraine deter the russians from carrying out further attacks by raising the cost of further aggression, and ultimately to increase the pressure on russia to negotiating seriously on implementing mink. the ukrainians need more advanced radars, armored vehicles, reckon san drones and security communication. the most controversial i'm tis wouldn't increase the ukrainians potential to recapture territory but they would help deter new
russian large scale phones by creating a greater risk of significant equipment losses and casualties, and i think that there's a lot of evidence that casualties are a sensitive issue for putin who still pretends there no russians and the and punishes they who speak about casualties. i think it's no coincidence that putin offer as peace keeping proposal just after secretary of defense mattis was talking about lethal defensive weapons on the visit to ukraine in late august. putin may be looking for a diplomatic way out. even if increasing security systems doesn't change putin's calculus in the short term it will serve as warning that aggression elsewhere would meet a stronger western response. and it will create the foundation of strength and commitment to our values that will ultimately make it easier to get back to a cooperative
relationship with russia than be demonstrating weakness and lack of resolve. >> we'll new town -- now town to doctor menon on your thoughts why to not arm the ukraine. >> thank you for hosting this event because the council has taken a very clear position on this, certainly my two dish wouldn't call -- >> not as an institution. >> any two colleagues -- well, a matter of opinion. i want to make sure that it's understood that those who oppose ukraine are not people who are not decrying the russian annexation of crimea and the fomenting of a separatist movement in eastern ukraine. as i understand the case, certainly as made yesterday, and in the publications of my two colleagues and others who favor arming ukraine, it is that putting pressure on vladimir putin by supplying these arms
will make him realize that the war cannot be won, the ukrainian government cannot be toppled and he will be amenable to a political deal and the ultimate goal is a political deal. now, that is certainly one possibility. i'm not a soothsayer so i don't know but what about an possibility? if you look at the distance from the yates, about 6,000-milesmild the distance from poland which has a border of ukraine, 700 miles. russia has a 1,165, give are take, border with ukraine, on the other cider thousands thousf russian troops ensconced in military bases. so think about this, because we need to think carefully before we take the first step. why would the reaction of vladimir putin, because he has reacted as such in -- on prior occasions, in the baltics and --
in 2014-15 -- whoa not be to scale up what he can do very easily, which is to reinforce the separatists? now, then, there's a quandary. whether the united states, having put paid in the u.s.a. weapon in the amend of ukrainians. one is to say we can't allow them to fall but this is an issue of paramount importance. so we scale up and deliver more weapons, knosting that the geographics. the second is to intervene in some direct way ourselves, although proponents of arm nothing american groups on the ground because that would be a nonstarter. the third possibility is to back down i. submit that none of those possibilities, especially the last one who are interested in the credibility of nato and american credibility, would be a very good one. let's be clear, vladimir putin has weathered sanctions,
political isolation, put his soldiers on the ground and allowed tome to -- them to die in this cause, it is true that join pointed out, the war is not pop floor russia, snares mumbling and so on, but putin's approval ratings are very high and even if there's opposition, he has shown not a whit, not a whit of evidence he is willing to back down. we have to be humble when we predict the followon consequences of military adventures. let me run you examples where we have spectacularly failed anticipating reactions, vietnam, kosovo, iraq, afghanistan, libya. when i hear esteemed colleagues saying we know how this is going to play out, i'm tempted to reach for my wallet because i'm
deeply skeptical based on our past record. there's a kind of american hubris we seem to know. the other point i'd like to make is that ukraine is a fairly substantial military power, one minute. it has a military force that has again from 5,000 to 250,000. defense spending has doubt -- doubled to 64 billion. the state manufacturer of weapons, manufactures a whole host of things, the t84 tank, the 225 airlifter, aerial refueling tanks, and antitank guided missiles. corsair. it's not clear that this is necessary and given this is not other infantry lawyer but each side is lobbing artillery shells
and grenade launchers back and forth and tanks are now stationary, what is the target? and by the way, the ukrainians have been so desperate for antitank guided weapons, why not use their own or cheaper systems such as the spike from israel or the mmt from france? i have a stop sign in my face, i'll stop. >> i thank you very much for paying attention to the signs and thank you for keeping our panelists on track today. you heard mentioned yesterday, we also did a version of this debate on capitol hill yesterday so our interlocutor here have become familiar with their arguments which i means we'll get a bit more rollicking debate going as we move into the more argumentative part. until then, ambassador herbs will close it out for the pro side. >> okay. also like to thank the foundation for joining us with this and will and roger for
being part of it. i think the -- i agree with will that we need to understand the importance of any issue before we choose a policy course. but i disagree that the notion that ukraine is not the -- the fight in ukraine is not of vital interest to the united states and let my explain i would. we have an absolutely critical interest in maintaining the post-world war ii, post-cold war security order, which was established in europe in 1945, and an order based upon the sanctity or borders, of sovereign states, the resolution of disputes peacefully. that order, following the most destructive war in human history, world war ii, has given us an absolutely unprecedented in history 75 years of -- or 70
plus years of stability and prosperity. in 1945, only 10% of the world's population was not living in poverty. today it's 90% is not living in poverty. 10% live in poverty today. no major wars between major powering are despite all the failures of policies, including many failures of american policy which raj laid out in his presentation. maintaining this is critical for our security and for our well-being. and the problem, it's very simple. we have the word's second greatest military power motherrodding in europe. the kremlin want as new world order or world disorder. new rules or no rules.
it wants to weaken nato and at the eeeu and establish a sphere of influence in the soviet dispose and probablyon that, and to achieve these objectives the kremlin conducted a war against georgia, changed borders in georgia, seizes crimea, and is continuing an ongoing not so covert hybrid war in ukraine. now, we need to stop this before moscow stumbles into some provocation in the ball stick state, nato allies, where we have a firm commitment to intervene to defendant them. the forward defense of nato, the forward defense of our interests, demand we give mr. putin -- help mr. putin have a hard time in dunbas. will argued if we are nice to the kremlin on ukraine, we will be able to even ease pressure on
the baltic states. couldn't disagree more. we tried the nice guy approach after georgia with a very weak response. we got crimea. we tried the nice guy approach with the very weak response after crimea. we got dunbas. thank goodness our leaders began to weiss up, albeit not as quickly as we would like. the response was the covert campaign began was better. we got real sanctions, though it took several months to get and it took for the europeans -- the shoot-down of the airliner. as sandy pointed out, the kremlin has twoity vulnerabilities here. one is the isolation and impact of sanctions on the russian economy. the other is the fact that the russian people do not want to be fighting in the dunbas. so providing weapons to increase russian casualties will make mr. putin more cautious. die have one minute sunset thank
you. i agree that american's enable to see the future is a problem. we are not arguing that if we give weapons to ukraine, this will for sure deter mr. putin from additional direction in ukraine. might not. but it will certainly raise the cost of that aggression, will make it -- mean he has fewer resources to conduct provocations and aggression against our baltic allies allied means the west will respond strong if if he escalate its. one final point. no doubt russia seems to have a greater interest in ukraine per se than the united states. but it doesn't have nearly as great an interest in ukraine as the ukrainians. and ukrainian people are fighting for their territorial
integratity, and their sovereignty. the asian people want no part of that fight, giving the ukrainians weapons will discourage russia and lead to a better outcome. >> thank you. we're now going to mo move into rebuttal. >> i think the ambassador has shown a good deal of hugh -- humility by saying we don't know if this is going to work. what i would bring to the table here on that is okay, then, what next? and do we get into that kind of spiral model of escalation on one side, escalation on another, it just ramps up and up, and at what point do we, given that we have fewer interests than both ukraine and russia, do we have
to then say, no mas and what does that mean for the vaunted credibility that the advocates of doing something keep talking about. i'd be worried about that. again, the other thing is that if it really is a matter as dire as the entire rule based order of the international system is under siege, i think there might be people that flank you to the hawkish side who might say we need to do even more. that means we actually need to get more deeply entrenched in the conflict because otherwise this is going to lead to the end of the west system, and i think that, a., maybe the cat is out of the bag already on that but the fact is that we are going to be drawn into something that might even seem crazy to us now if we allow this escalation to continue. i would say we just need to be very clear about what our interests are, what we need do or not do, and basically be
sober about what could occur what might be next. that's i think the most important thing. the other thing is that when we talk about some of the lessons of history here, there are lot of dueling lessans, dueling case studies, and yesterday we talked about the issue of, is this like world war i if we don't doing? i would claim that if we do do something that's actually more of a danger when you're talk can about getting engaged in a peripheral area that actually harms core interests and that has to be a worry in any scenario. to me the lessons here would be, be very clear about what you need to do-don't do what you -- it's not in our interests or isn't necessary because then you might get tugged and dragged into something beyond which you really want to engage. >> ambassador. >> thank you very much.
>> i'm not a soothsayer, but i think it's highly unlikely the russians would respond to the kind of assistance that is being debated here by escalating massively. first of all, their ambitiouses have been scaled back because the ukrainians have been fairly effective after the initial setback when they couldn't get their act together and were reeling by the surprise their former fraternal neighbor was trying to dismember their country. not part of the slavic brotherhood. but the ukrainians faith to a stale matte, recovered some of the towns bought the russians are trying to keep this ambiguous so they didn't initially put in the whole russian army but only by doing so were they able to force the stalemate that is reflected in minsk agreement.
but halved to give up the idea they would follow like dominoes. the ukrainians love their country and are ready to fight for it, even if they speak russian as the first language and ethnically russian, and putin knows that escalating this conflict would require much more massive commitment to force, to conquer more territory and face guerrilla resistance. i don't think he is likely to go there and the russian people would object to that. they have been taken in by the appropriate began a da but if they knew russians bee sent off to fight in large numbers other slavic brothers they would got for it. what we're suggesting has the potential to change putin's calculus in the other direction, may not be enough, but the assistance that was provide under the obama administration
didn't cause the russians to frequent out and -- freak out and escalate and it included effective technologies but not enough to stand by the ukrainians and help them reduce their losses, hold the russians more at risk and deter the russians definitively from launching further aggression. in the send ukraine is fighting a battle that is ultimately for our benefit. what is happening in the dom bask. >> to subtly i think i think we owe toy the ukrainians to
continue to stand by them but they're fighting their own battle. they manufacture antitank weapons and the said we have our own. i think there are technologies they would benefit from and now is the time to provide them. >> thank you very much. >> where to begin. first i'd like to thank john for helping make my case for me. me listed a hit any of thing that vladimir putin did that took everyone by surprise. didn't mention syria. betting that he is going to play by your rule book, i think is absolutely not a valid thing to do begin the stakes here. that's came up in yesterday's discussion. nato's future is at stakes, their transatlantic alliance is at stake. that amounts to heavy breathing and if you have problems within nato, there's a lot that nato can and should do, ending
duplication, scaling up defense spending, that they have not done. a wealth ya continent has gotten use to an american security guarantee and now we should get involved in a fight on russian's border to reassure them our credibility? the logic misses me completely. poroshenko being toppled. the russians would like to see him gone but he has bigger problemes. an approval rating of 22% in every single institution in ukraine, including the anticorruption bureau has a single digit approval rating. not withstanding the ukrainian economy has started growing, the debt is down and inflation is down. what will the ukrainians do with the appears? my two colleagues say, they don't -- they're not going to talk the don bas back. mr. poroshenko said that is objective was to take the donbas
back. doesn't matter what we in washington think. it's what ukraine thinks that matters. principles of international order and how russia has wrecked them. employs,ese, they've done some things that are just absolutely not co sure. but let us look honestly and ask have we been automobile faithful to this principles? preventive war in iraq without any reason? intervention in kosovo, saying the u.n. can get roes? rendition, torture, opt out of the climate grange? the icc? so, if we're going blame the russians -- and they ought to be blamed for a lot of things -- let us be fair. with haven't not been the pair gones of -- paragons of the international order as well. the main thing bowls down to this. mr. putin now has put forward a
peace agreement. a very good piece on this showing it has very significant am big guts and holes -- ambiguities and holes that's true. it's not acceptable in its present form. this may be a time, however, to negotiate that. i think the effect of arming ukraine right now will not be sal ya torry on the diplomatics produce but a the calculation is vladimir putin forward this proposal and we want to put pressure on him to give us a better deal, the opposite could also be true. he might calculate, want to ramp up my negotiating position by scaling up very easily and i can do that. and in terms of the popularity of the war, unpop hard, that's not -- unpopularity, threat not a big issue for him. the state is not threatened by this bar and unpopularity it has other problems coming down the rude. >> thank you very much. >> an argument made against
ukraine is this will lead on a escalation and might cause the united states to consider intervening in ukraine. our position is very clear. the purpose of providing weapons to ukraine is, one to defer further russian aggression and to increase the cost to moscow to the few resources with which to then other countries. that is it. and properly policy, which heads in this direction, provides no risk of america sending troops to ukraine. that's point one. point two. the argue. made that nato's future is not a stake in ukraine. it's certainly true that nate toy can defend itself without reference to ukraine but the smart policies to defend yourself at minimal cost and sin there's a war going on in donbass, make the russians bay there so you don't have to fight enemy in estonia or lat via. three, regarding the russian threat to the international
order no question that american foreign policy over the past 15 years has not been skillful. no question there have been mistakes which cut against the international order. but it's also true that american policy in making those mistakes were not driven by the conscious effort to undermine that order, which is what kremlin policy is. it's significant that our distinguished colleagues here have not addressed russian revisionism, in doctrine and on the ground. the notion that there is a contradiction between providing arms to ukraine and pursuing diplomacy is simply wrong. again, we tried a soft approach. i'll not use the phrase appeasement but that it may apply there. tried the soft approach after the russians carved up georgia and achieved nothing. instead of that make thing russians more sympathetic to our
friends in the region, it caused them to be more -- [inaudible] crimea. be tried the same approach with crimea and what we got was war in donbass. it's time we learn from our mistakes. it's time we toughened '. that will enable to us maintain our nato allies with minimal -- not minimal effort -- with less effort, less danger of bloodshed , lest danger of america intervening to proctthe baltic allies for polls or romanians. this is a smart play with a risk we can manage. >> thank you very much. my thanks to all four of you for raising a very full set of issues surrounding this question but i'm a little interested to notice that none of the four of you mentioned something that is very often brought up in ukrainian requests for this kind of assistance and that's the
budapest memorandum of 1994. the argument often goes that the united states, russia, uk, ukraine, signed the budapest memorandum in order to have a kind of security assurance in exchange for ukraine give up nuclear weapons. i'dber curious to hear from the pro and con side houston you -- how you react to the assertion, particularly from the ukrainian side. >> i'll just use another esteemed member of the foreign policy establishment to make our case for us which is strobe talbot, now president of brookings, the deputy secretary of state who pled the negotiations on the memorandum you're talking about. he said, quote, this does not mean the u.s. is willing to come to the defense of ukraine if it is attacked militarily. so there isn't a kind of guarantee of any type of provision of defense. in fact, people as wide and far
as evolume dolger to mike o'hanlon have said even the nato article 5 fairway tee is not a guarantee of anything in particular. you can send a sternly worded note as a response. so, the kind of commitments we have actually made are inflated as much as the threats are in this community. >> it's -- i mentioned briefly the budapest memorandum, and indeed it doesn't have an enforcement mechanism, not a hard security guarantee much to the ukrainian's regret. they feel they were swindled in giving a large arsenal. and guarantee of sovereign and territorial -- now lavrov says what budapest memorandum? we didn't sign it with this
regime. international agreements transfer from one government to the next. we don't have a legal obligation under the budapest memorandum but gives us a moral obligation to do what we can to help ukraine restore its sovereign and territorial integratity by supporting them politically and providing economic and political support, mainn't a united front with europe on the sanks and giving them defensive weapons to prevent further territorial acquisitions by the russians in their proxies in eastern ukraine. also issues relating to the viability of the international nonproliferation regime which seeing today with north korea which can point to ukraine's folly of giving up nukes as a justification for keeping their own. but largely it's about the rules of the game in europe and respect for the sovereignty of
borders, integrate of states which russian as violated and should give us more motivation to help the ukrainians, and to opinion things tornado the diplomatic solution. that is what see as the ultimate goal, not escalate the conflict but to bring about a diplomatic solution. >> any additions? >> your question was on the buddh best memorandum? did the russians violet the memorandum? of course, there's no question. i'm not their litigate that. that was about as egregious as the so-called referendum in crimea. it's where he enemy dim requires to us take a step which is extremely foolish and extremely dangerous. it does not, no reading of the budapest memorandum could lead you to the conclusion we therefore have an obligation. we have moral obligation buzz morality, is a like it as much after the next man, has to be
filtered through concrete circumstances and not used automatically as a guide for action. so on the budapest memorandum to the the answer is it was a violation but obliges us 0 to do no such thing as what is being proposed here. >> ambassador? >> i just make the point that sometimes lawyers and statesmen who use them are too clever. there's no question that the budapest memorandum did not guarantee ukraine security. united states gave not guarantees to ukraine but assurances. and this is one of to the cases where the guarantee versus assurances is the fine print. this fact that moscow invaded ukraine against u.s. assurances and assurances of other countries, in fact was a mark against american credibility. that's point one. point two is the one that sandy made, but just to emphasize it a little bit, think it's safe to say that the greatest example of
counter-proliferation was the russian invasion of ukraine and the very weak reaction from the united states, france and britain. in other words, this was a marker to rouge regime, don't give up your weapons of mass destruction because look what happens when you do that. we repeated that mistake in libya. america has made a lot of mistakes over the past 15 years. >> thank you very much. one of you in your statements mentioned this new peacekeeping proposal emerged, ukrainians talk about it for some time. president putin of russia has discussed. this is the sort of idea of placing u.n. peacekeep errs or some sort of a u.n. body inside ukraine, the ukrainians would like for these peacekeepers to be throughout the so-called lnr and dnr, the occupied areas in
eastern ukraine, whereas the russian proposal would rather have them on the contact line, and i believe vladimir putin's words were to protect the osce special monitoring mission rather than be peacekeepers on their own. now that we're starting to see some willingness or some interest from the side of russia in moving forward on a kind of conclusion or some small step towards changing the situation in eastern ukraine, what in your opinion, on both sides-what would the united states' giving of weaponry, whether that be radar and night vision goggle, javelin antitank missiles or something more lee that, what impact do you see any u.s. provision of arms or military wings to the ukrainians having
on this nascent idea for a peacekeeping proposal in eastern ukraine? >> so, hannah, in addition to the gnaws in the proposal you mentioned and i'm sure sandy will have more to say -- there's a six-month time limit that they stipulated now, both putin and lavrov. there is also the question of monitoring of the russian ukrainian frontier. will the troops and volunteers -- whatever you call them, once they leave, will they come back and how do we make sure. in its present form it's not ideal. this is the brunt of your question, provide. now, sandy could be right, one possible could be that putin will say, the americans are giving the arms to the ukrainians so i betle saddle up here. but that's not the only possibility. the other possibility is a scaleup and from want we have seen, the long history of vladimir putin's behavior and
given the circumstances that play, would put my money on the -- i'm not saying sandy is wrong because it is a plausible argument. i'm just saying it's not the only arguesment and we ought to think about where we could take a diplomatic opportunity and bullet out of the water. in -- and blow it out of the water. >> i think there is reasons to be skeptical about the proposal itself but we should be testing putin in negotiating room and that's what suggests in this piece i wrote for the hill the other die. i think putin is a man who feels he has to negotiate from a position of strength, and i think that's the way we should enter into this discussion as well. we don't have to sort of send 15 planeloads of weapons tomorrow morning in order to increase our negotiating leverage, but i think maintaining the ongoing momentum in terms of the cooperation with the ukrainians, which was apparently something was discussed between trump and poroshenko yesterday about
expanding defense cooperation. continue to show we're standing by the ukrainians, may be furthermore capable bit ourselves hardware in the pipeline. that will contribute to putin's seriousness in the negotiations. but the main thing is to test whether he is inside a real peacekeeping force as opposed to the concept he has put on the table, which as raj said would be very limited in its scope, mainly protecting the monitors and geographic location on the line of contact and turn that line into a de facto international border and lead to the freezing of the conflict. what it the -- is having access to the whole territory of the donbass, including the international bored sore it could become a force that would oversee the actual implementation of the minsk withdrawal, of heavy weapons, illegal militias. some say they're not there but heat hope they would disappear into russia and never come back
and the u.n. forces would be on the border to make sure they don't come back. so, i'm not particularly optimistic that putin intended if there's anything more than a distraction because of what mattis said about defensive weapons but let's see. i certainly hope that we could achieve a break through and then our debate would be not entirely academic but more academic. >> doctor. >> i'll highlight what my perioder in said which is we're not opposed to diplomatic efforts to resolve this conflict in a way that is better for ukraine, better for peace in europe and better for the united states. what we want to do is make sure that we're not doing something that could encourage us going backwards rather than forwards in toes diplomatic efforts. we don't want to encourage militarization on the part of ukraine. we want to allow for diplomacy
the other levers of power that the united states and others are using to work themselves out towards a resolution of this problem. so, again, we're not saying that we don't want to do fig. it's that we want to make sure we're choosing our means carefully and we calibrate those towards the ends and we think through what next. >> ambassador herbs, any additions? >> the peacekeeping proposal might represent russian flexibility. we'll find out. in the weeks to come. but -- you can't rule out that providing additional limited equipment to ukraine might provoke kremlin escalation. but what we have seen again is continuing russian escalation in the absence of such counterforce.
again, weak reaction to the georgia aggression, against crima, weak reaction to crimea gets donbass. we have seen putin regularly maneuver, starting in the fall of 2014, in response to western sanctions. maneuver in ways to suggest the was not escalating, to avoid further sanctions. and i think we have seen as sandy suggested, as we talk about americans providing lethal defensive weapons, some moving in terms of this initiative. soft approach has failed. it's time to try something better. thank you. >> and my thanks to all of you. we'll now open up the for -- flr for all of you for questions. we encourage you to ask a question, to one side or the other, or to both at the same time, but please, when you're recognized, in the microphone is
can't match it, etc., etc., why not take the approach that he implied? i don't think you'd have to develop the idea of supplying subben substantively -- substantively the capability, just not doing it directly. this particular proposal, if i may, the 50 or 100, whatever it is, appears to be a made for tv proposal. it could be debated add inmy knew tim. >> excellent question. thanks very much, matt. we'll start, again, with the con side on the first, more general question. >> second one was to us? >> yes. but the first one also to you as well. >> who starts? >> at the end. >> what will putin's reaction be? now, as someone who's tried to make the case that we ought to be humble about how we predict reactions, i'll say i don't know. but i don't think he's going to be starting to scale up the war all of a sudden. there are many reasons why he
wouldn't want to do that, because he wants a kind of rapprochement, i think, with the west because the sanctions have hurt russia, there's no question. but i think he'll wait and see what is done with the weapons and what difference it makes materially on the ground. he will not allow the separatists to be defeated. he cannot afford to do that. rather than do that, he will scale up. so i will, i would say that lavrov and putin, probably mr. lavrov, will give a condemnationover the proposal very eloquently -- of the proposal. i don't think they'll immediately withdraw their proposal for peace keeping. peace keeping process is very interesting, by the way. soon after this crisis broke i and a few colleagues met with russian scholars, unofficial discussion on how to politically resolve this question. the putin proposal that we're kind of tentatively welcoming
now bears a very strong resemblance to some of the ideas that were suggested at that meeting. what happened? we came back to find a mccarthyist manifesto denouncing us arguing that we had negotiated on behalf of the ukrainian government. that's absurd. i'm an academic. i don't negotiate on behalf of countries. but i'm glad to see that this dipmatic thing is on track. i think the diplomatic solution is the only solution. i think the greatest threat to ukraine is whether the reforms will go forward in a robust and significant way, and there are people like anders here who can speak to that. so, matt, that's your answer with a little bit of my own time tacked on. >> the pro side on what putin will do on tuesday if we arm on monday. >> i think a lot depends on what's in the package or what's in the plane that's delivering this weapon. but i actually think if we did, for example, all the recommendations that are in this task force report that john and
i worked on, most of these things are more advanced versions of things they've received before like more advanced battery radars, tactical secure communications, uavs, armored fighting vehicles, more intelligence sharing combined with lots more training for their forces which is going on on a pretty significant scale already. i think that putin would rant and rave and the propaganda -- in the propaganda arena, but i don't think there would be a significant escalation on the ground. no one can guarantee this. i could be wrong. but i think that it would more likely have salutary effect on his willingness to negotiate. the second question is an interesting one about why not provide it indirectly either third-party acquisition in the open or even covertly. that is an option. it might have advantages in terms of plausible deniability. the russians are good at that game.
we can play that game too. might also make it less likely. john made this point yesterday, i think it was persuasive, that the russians may have less sense of immediacy of a need to respond if they can't point to some white house press release declaring what we're doing. i personally sort of feel we should be transparent about this, because it's in our interest. i think it's justified. and that would be a continuation of a commitment to ukraine that has been very strong since the aggression of 2014, and it's been strong since independence in 1991. so i don't think we have to be secretive about it, but it is an option. >> to the con side, to follow on the second part of matt's question, would you be as opposed to the united states using a second or third party to deliver those weapons? >> well, one of the things i would say is that if part of the argument that the pro side is making is that this will reassure our allies that we have
to, you know, ukraine is a key credibility signal for our actual allies, covert loses some of that reassurance. and so it's not as helpful. so if i were on the pro side, i wouldn't want it to be covert. it just loses a lot of its value. >> i, as sandy mentioned, strongly support -- of course, it's crazy to be saying this with television cameras on -- i strongly support providing this weaponry covertly. [laughter] >> put that in writing. [laughter] >> for the following reason: doing it that way diminishes system of the reassurance value. but only some, not all. the purpose of providing weapons is not to help ukraine reconquer the parts currently under kremlin control.
and i am confident that if we do this, this would not encourage purr schoen coe to do that. i know him well. i know the constraints, the political constraints which led to his statement about retaking dun bass. but the purpose is to help persuade mr. putin to leave. and the way to do that is, one, to increase the price from him on his intervention and, two, help show him a reasonable way out. now, if we go in there beating our chest and saying, look at this, we provided these weapons, the russians are toast, that would give him cause to react badly as we would see it. but if we do this, it's his decision whether to make this an an issue. and we've seen him demonstrate a certain level of nuance back when the turks shot down the russian jets after their fourth incursioning into their -- incursion into their air space. the minister of defense and the
presidential spokesman said we don't know if the turks shot it down, maybe the turkmen in syria that erdogan, for reasons that i can imagine but i don't think were wise, chose to beat his chest and say, yeah, we did it. and that forced a russian reaction. there's no question that moscow's paying a heavy price for its invasion of ukraine. they didn't expect the resistance they've faced both in ukraine and internationally even though the resistance internationally has not been strong enough, to my taste. and there are certainly people in moscow who understand they need to change course. and we just want to help them make that right decision a little bit faster. >> all right. we'll move on to the next question. gentleman in the pink and navy-striped tie there. microphone should be on its way. >> thank you. great debate. thank you very much. mike pesner, u.s. senate staff. two quick questions. i wonder if you could talk a little bit about the economic repercussions of this, because
clearly lifting of the sanctions has been a priority for mr. putin's government, and they clearly have hurt. and i think as the ambassador mentioned, probably the willingness of some of our european partners to enforce and to continue those has been flagging. so the provision of defensive weapons, should there be an escalation, could thereby increase the willingness of europe to maintain and possibly even increase those sanctions against further russian aggression. on the other hand to, we've also seen that the russian economy has so far weathered the sanctions that we do have in place, that they -- i think the menus in moscow i've read now proudly indicate that shrimp is coming from the russian far east. and they've been able to substitute and even in some cases stimulate the local
economy to weather those sanctions. and, of course, the regime benefits from conflict and perceived conflict with the west as a means of staying in power. so what is the economic benefit or detriment to the regime, the benefit or detriment of the economic aspects of this? and finally i'd just add a second quick question is new york times ran an obit earlier this week of the soviet lieutenant colonel who prevented world war iii in 1983. obviously, that seems more farfetched now, but is it becoming less so as the risk factor in moscow clearly has gone way down from the soviet regime and possibly the risk calculus here heading the same way? thank you. >> thank you very much. we're going to start with the con side again. >> i'll just add one thing and then hand off. you're mentioning the prior soviet union and now russia as a
nuclear power, i think, should give us a lot of sobriety about how we deal with this issue. we just need to remember that, that our major interest is to avoid the type of problems from a nuclearized or a nuclear russia. and that's the most critical thing we need to keep in context. >> nice tie, by the way, i like it a lot. [laughter] have the sanctions hurt the russian economy. absolutely. which is why mr. putin wants them lifted. the biggest mistake he made, in my view, in beginning this insurgency and annexing crimea was he thought that the sanctions would not be kept in place by a motley crew of 36 countries. that was a big strategic mistake. the united states and europe have stayed together on this. on the other hand, at the risk of being academic -- which profession i plead guilty to belonging to -- [laughter] there is a large, there's a large literature on sanctions.
with a lot of empirical data. and i'll sum up the finding of the majority. it is at the heart of the -- it is that the higher the stakes, the the greater the sum cost, the less likely that economic sanctions will work. in the united states, there's a predisposition to think of international politics as homo-economicus. states go to war for things that defy all economic logic, and i don't think they're motivated simply by economics. now, i didn't understand the last part of your question, but it was something like what effect will this have on the european allies in terms of arms. it's interesting to note, isn't it, that in this town there is a huge campaign to arm the ukrainians. there is no analog in a single nato country. in fact, there are polls show the public is not generally in favor. it varies significantly. now, people will tell you like
dr. so and so, and they told me over a highball that they would actually support us if we do it. that's all well and good, but it's interesting they're telling you this in private when they may be slightly inebriated. if they're really serious, they should do it openly and publicly. not going to split the -- it's not going to split the alliance, but i don't think they could be bludgeoned into submission. is that good for alliance politics? not really. >> the pro side on this economic question. >> regarding the europeans and u.s. weapon sales, the poles, the baltic states, canada are all ready and waiting to provide weapons if the united states makes a decision. this is very clear. >> and maybe a few others. >> some others as well. it's also true -- and i would
not disparage it the way raj does -- that senior people in europe and countries that are formally to opposed to sending weapons to ukraine have said to us privately that they are in favor of this. and not when they were drunk or even high. [laughter] but importantly, what chancellor merkle and certainly -- merkel has said publicly when she came here to see president obama in january, i believe it was, of 2015. and she said publicly then and there have been some more statements since that, yes, germany opposes providing weapons to ukraine, but if the united states were to proceed to provide weapons, germany will continue to work with the united states on this issue. i was a diplomat for 31 years. i learn to spot amber lights a long, long time ago, and this
was one flashing amber light. so this is not an issue which will divide us and europe in any serious way. and on sanctions, raj is right that mr. putin thought sanctions would not hold. i can tell you on the basis of many, many conversations and a lot of analysis that if we were to provide weapons, some countries in europe would fuss. it would not have, ultimately, an impact on the policy, and it would not have an impact -- it would not change european sanctions policy. those -- that policy is firm. six months ago or seven months ago before all the elections in europe maybe it was possible to think about sanctions easing. but after the dutch election, after the french election and what i think will be chancellor merkel's big victory on sunday, this is not a question. >> ambassador? >> yes, just briefly. first, i would say if there was a big strategic mistake by
putin, it was annexing crimea. not only in terms of how he overturned the international system, but also he made it almost inevitable that these sanctions would be much more long-lasting than if he had turned it into a -- [inaudible] but it also makes it much harder to get out. but i do agree that he is interested in getting out of the sanctions, and i think that's one of the reasons why it's, i'm not convinced that the most likely effect of arming the ukrainians to a greater degree than we're doing now would be this escalation. i think he knows that be he's tried to take more territory or inflict much larger casualties on the ukrainians, it will lead to more sanctions. you can see what happened with the senate and house sanctions bill, and he would kind of resolidify the european consensus as well. so since the economy is suffering maybe more from other
factors -- declining energy prices, putin's persistent refusal to carry out any reforms further exacerbated by the sanctions -- he has less freedom of a maneuver even to afford this massive military billup. it's going to -- buildup. it's going to become more and more difficult as russia's hard currency reserves decline. is, but i do think, as john said, that this issue is not going to be as divisive among allies as some predict. and there are some countries that are, i think, lining up to provide some additional equipment. some are already engaged in training on the ground with us, the canadians, the brits and a few others. so this is not going to be a big problem inside nato. >> one additional intervention. >> just very quickly. i don't with run in the exalted circles that john does, chancellor merkel has said nothing to me on this issue. [laughter] but you have a long weekend coming up, i'm sure you're lacking for things to do. do a nexus search or a google
search and read the statements about arming ukraine and ask, and really ask yourself whatever your position is on this may be, is there a great deal of enthusiasm among the european public and european leaders for this? well, the baltics in poland, yes. geography kind of tells you why. i think it's a foolish thing for them to do, but that's their right, that's their right to do. on the -- i will agree with sandy on one thing. i think in a net sense the handling of ukraine has been a loss for russia in the sense that it has permanently alienated and pushed to the west the country which is most important of all the ex-soviet states. so i'm not here to argue that mr. putin is a grand strategist or what he did here or there is correct. i'm simply saying given the situation on the ground what ought we to do. and i think some of the things that are being suggested here, if i may, are counterproductive and perhaps, indeed, reckless. on the covert/non-covert, that's
a distinction without a difference, it seems to me. the effect on mr. putin will not be whether his feelings are hurt, it will be are the weapons making a difference. he'll decide based on that. >> i'd be remiss if i didn't give the other side a chance to respond to that. >> i agree with most of what you said except for the last part. [laughter] >> even the part about merkel? >> the idea this is going to have an instantaneous effect also, you're right, they will look at what happens on the ground, and we're not talking about giving boar schoen coe and the ukrainian armed forces a right to fight with military victory. you were right in quoting poroshenko's speech, it was not the right -- [inaudible] but i think what we've heard from him in recent days, we heard -- i was at the yes conference and, actually, we had a side meeting with him. he is focusing everything on this peace-keeping idea, trying to get to a place where you
could actually see minsk implemented rather than become the cover for a permanent frozen conflict. unfortunately, putin may be precisely doing that. proposing his peace-keeping force because he wants to cut his losses a little bit by basically freezing the conflict, putting a peace-keeping force along the line of conflict so it becomes an international border, seeing when that gets him out from under the sanctions. i don't think it will. i think the principles that are at stake here with the changing of borders by force and waging undeclared wars against your neighbors is not supposed to be foe in the 21st century. and i think if the u.s. stays firm and we have angela merkel still calling term in europe starting next week, europe will stay firm as well. >> we've got just enough time for one very short, last question.
medi amc connell. >> i can't recall which gentleman tried to use strobe talbott as part of their defending their position against -- [laughter] okay. i would just refer you to an article written by former secretary of state george shultz and former defense secretary perry who clearly states that we have an obligation under the -- memorandum to provide weapons for ukraine and that it is in our interest in terms of how we deal with russia as well. i'll be happy to send it to you, if you'd like. >> any responses? >> yes. [laughter] an appeal to authority is not an argument. you know, with all due respect, i don't care what they said. read the budapest memorandum. any reading of it, i think, puts to rest the proposition that it requires us to arm ukraine. again, your weekend assignment, read the budapest memorandum and see if anyone in his right mind would really make the argument
that we are obligated not just to defend ukraine, but to provide ukraine with arms? to say that the russians violated the agreement is one thing, but saying there's anything in the text that requires us to arm ukraine is just preposterous. >> our ambassadors have told us there's no actual legal obligation, it's merely a moral obligation, in their view. >> ambassador? [laughter] >> i said it earlier, it is a moral obligation. it's definitely not a legal obligation. but i think it takes on added urgency in light of the flay gran city of the way the -- flay gran city in light of the way the russians have site violated it. in some cases they helped draft the helsinki final draft, and now they're the biggest lawbreakers in the world. we have to take that as our starting point in considering this issue. >> it's also the geopolitically smart thing to do. but there's one more point i'd like to make, which is not an answer to nadia's question.
raj and will said multiple times this is good, they are not in any way defending putin's policies. and that's true. the debate has been about american policy. but i'd like to make something clear because this is, at times, lost as people look at the work that we have been doing here at the atlantic council on the war in ukraine. and more broadly, on both russia and ukraine. our position is in no sense anti-russian. it is anti-revisionism, it's anti-aggression. the greatest russian historian wrote sometime in the late 19th century -- and this is a very simplified pair a rah phrase -- paraphrase -- that when the russian state marches, the russian people lose. and there's certainly a connection between mr. putin's revisionism and aggression abroad and his repression at home. and our policy's which is designed to there wart that,
will -- thwart that, will hasten the day. and this is not talking about regime change. it will hasten the day when we see the right developments domestically in russia. >> yeah. on that, if i may, i think part of our argument also is that if we want to see liberalizing changes within russia, the worst thing we could do would be to try to stimulate a rally around the flag effect within russia. i mean, putin could use american deeper engagement as a way to stimulate his own power and respect. this is a very traditional thing. it's as old as politics. and why hand them, him this opportunity. >> so i can see all -- that you really want to respond, and we can go back and forth. but we are running out of time, and we have enough time for a three minute closing statement, three or four minute closing statement from both sides. and so we'll, of course, begin with the con side because that's how we started this entire debate. so you just began with some
interesting remarks about what this might mean for russia. so if we could hear first from the con side, we'll conclude with closing statements from the pro side, and then we will adjourn. >> yeah. so i'll just reiterate what i said with my owning, that i think this -- opening, that i think this isn't necessary more our -- [inaudible conversations] laser-like focused on that. it could be counterproductive. again, we should have humility about our ability to predict the future. that's a basic world view that i think all realists share, and that -- but we think this could collied to escalation which would be detrimental to all parties involved. and then in terms of trying to look forward here a little bit, you know, one thing that i think we probably don't think enough about is what's the general context for the american debate. and i find the context for the american debate about russia to be very one much detached from reality. and again, trying to see the world as it is.
i mean, the united states spends ten times what russia does on its military force. europe's gdp alone -- leaving aside the united states -- swamps russia completely. european military spending is robust, and even if the united states wasn't part of this at all, europe is a strong, rich area that could easily deter russia. so i think that there's so much of this, so much more is made out of this. now, that's not to say there aren't challenges, there aren't problems, it's not a defense of putin. but again, there's a context in which we have to be careful about assuming this is the cold war again, and that's the frame of reference for a lot of people in the united states, particularly people that are more senior in their career and hearken back to that lesson, right? there's a lot of good work in political science, our tribe, that talks about the kind of analogies people use about their experiences that are formative.
and unfortunately, i think there are too many formative experiences that hearken back to that soviet time, and everything is viewed through that prism. and unfortunately for russia if they're, you know, but fortunately for us, russia just isn't the same animal anymore, and neither is europe. this is not 1945 when europe has been devastated. europe is a robust economy, powerful country. and, in fact, i'd like to see europe take more of the burden for their own defense. and if europe thought that this was such a fundamental issue of international life and of their own security, why aren't the europeans stepping up to the plate in the way that people here in the united states would even though our interests are clearly less engaged? i'll end with that. >> additional statements for the con. >> first of all, i'd like to say this, you know, we live in a country where we can have a spirited public debate with senior diplomats and hash out
issues before a thoughtful audience, and i'd like to thank the atlantic council again for that. there are places where you couldn't do that. we can do this, that's a good thing. thank you, john, and thank you, sandy. i will just say the argument that we can run nato cost effectively by doing what john and sandy are suggesting strikes me as very curious logic. i don't want nato to be run cost effectively. i want the europeans to do what they promised to do for a long time. the defense of europe is more important to europe than us. it is bizarre to me that a continent that a gdp roughly equal our ours cannot defend ourselves. we're wringing our hands saying how will we defend poland, the baltics? shouldn't this have been thought before you extend to the russian borders? now everyone's wringing their hands and trying to figure out what to do. starting a war in ukraine is not
a way to run nato cost effectively. it is to take care of the problems that beset nato. i was against nato from the get go, but having done it -- it seems to me -- we're to obliged to make it work internally rather than using the budapest memorandum as a reason to say, well, that's the way to fix the alliance. that strikes me as very perverse logic. >> my thanks to the con side for their closing statements. gentlemen on the pro side about two minutes each. >> okay. well, first, let me reciprocate the thanks. this has been an interesting experience, and it is good we can have a civil discussion. there's no kind of open and shut case on this issue. it's been a controversial one for several years. of course nato needs to do a lot to strengthen its defenses, and the europeans have to do more, and we're making progress on that, but there's a long way to go. but part of nato's declared strategy is to support and help strengthen the defense capacity of neighbors, the countries in
between nato and russia, because we see it's in our interest. projecting stability and preventing kind of a zone of conflicts and chaos persist anything the heart of europe is part of nato's strategy. nato doesn't do the lethal weapons, it does defense reforms and other forms of training. this is something where the europeans actually do have skin in the game, and it's important. just to say a couple last words, i think we diverge on our advice on this issue, i think fundamentally, because we disagree on what's at stake. john and i think a lot more is at stake in terms of the international system, how it operates and whether there are rules or no rules. if russia succeeds in subjugating ukraine, is really successful in blocking its path to the west, it's a recipe for new conflicts both in europe, but between the united states and russia down the road. more color revolutions. and ultimately, it would guarantee a poisonous relationship between the united states and russia for a long
time to come which i don't think is either side's interest. but it's going to be hard to get out of the downward spiral we're in we can't find a way to solve the conflict in eastern ukraine and, ultimately, crimea. first and foremost, the ongoing shooting war that russia is maintaining. so i still am convinced, as i've said multiple times, that arming the ukrainians, broadening the kind of assistance we've been giving in recent years could create the negotiating leverage to get to a solution. and i think we're likely to go down that road anyway. despite the results of this debate or whatever you think of the results of this debate. [laughter] but we shall see. the diplomatic opening may be a way forward, but we may have to see a little bit more with the kind of negotiating from a position of strength before we get to a negotiated outcome. >> ambassador, final comments. >> it's interesting, in which
closing session -- in this closing session, a new issue has emerged in a very clear light and that is whether or not europe is or should be able to defend itself. and there's no question that europe has the wealth and has the ability to spend on defense in order to defend itself. but here i think, and i'll poll our friends on the right -- appall our friends on the right by saying this, i think in this case we're the realists and they're the idealists. let me explain. europe has had unprecedented peace, again, since the end of world war ii because of the transatlantic institutions that were built in the late 1940s. you know, the famous statement nato was built to keep the germans down, the russians out and the americans in. and frankly, that formula has worked beautifully. and while in theory maybe we
should dispense with it, i think we're playing russian roulette. sorry for the image -- [laughter] if we do it. so let's stick with the formula that's worked. even as we, obviously, have to adjust it for the new world we're in. and i'd like to thank raj and will for a very civil debate, and we could probably do this again on some other issue. thank you all for coming. >> and i hope we certainly do. before we adjourn, we started this with a poll to see how many of you had made up your mind. i'd like to see how many of you have changed your mind, if any. [laughter] next time. >> one. >> certainly. please join me in thank our panelists, the atlantic council and the charles koch institute. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
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