tv NATO Russia after the Cold War CSPAN August 5, 2022 1:20pm-2:16pm EDT
a closer i got, he had a -- stuck out the aperture. and i can remember crawling toward the hill box. he's off to my right. this ditch, the pill boxes over here. i'm gonna try to get close enough to get the flame in their. i can remember the bullets ricocheting off of my air tank on my back, hitting the tank. and i don't know why i was smart enough to figure out. closer and he couldn't get me, he would've got me if i went back. i just crawled faster. he only had it out of the
aperture. and i got it. >> you can watch this interview in its entirety, along with other oral histories, at c-span dot org slash history. hello, everybody, welcome to the washington times for the special episode of history as it happens. a podcast for people who want to think about current events historically. i'm martin di caro. our guest today, catholic university historian michael kimmage. welcome, michael. >> you are a member of the state departments planning staff 2014 to 2016. your portfolio was russia and ukraine. so, you bring a lot of expertise to the subject we are going to talk about today. you are an expert on u.s. russia relations. that is the road to war in eastern europe. how did we get to this point?? where europe is seeing its first major land war since world war ii. the possible exception of the breakup of yugoslavia, the civil war. so, let's begin with something, i usually stay away with, stay away from, rather, my day today podcast. that is what's happening on the ground. we want the podcast to survive
rubber and not become dated. i am curious as to what you think about why russia's invasion has gone so poorly, at least from a russian perspective. not achieving any major objectives yet. >> well, i think there are a couple of factors. it begins, i think, with an ambition that was henry was able from getting. this ambition was to dominate entirely the country of ukraine, to knock out its government. to put in a puppet, to take control in some way. maybe not all over all of ukrainian territory. over most of it. it is a country that's roughly the size of texas, a population a bit less than 40 million people. the russians came in with an army of 200,000 soldiers. it just wasn't proportional from the beginning. there was great overconfidence on the russian side with ukrainians falling apart, or joining up with the russians. and that's, i think, the primary reason. >> the hubris. we hear from our western perspective, the idea that ukrainians want to rebuild from these imaginary nazis that had taken over the country. in
putin's view. obviously, as you just said, the ukrainians not -- to the ocean flag, logistically lack of air supremacy. just from a tactical strategic standpoint, this professional army, i think it surprised a lot of people how poorly it has performed. >> of course, there are two ways of looking at the same issue here. on the one hand, ukrainians have performed way above expectations that many of the u.s. and ukraine and russia had for the ukrainian military. part of it is the success of the ukrainian military. they've had moral. they have really been training and improving their military since 2014. they have the assistance of quite a few very vulnerable countries. including the united states. that's clearly a major factor. beyond an unreliable concept that either putin or his generals developed for this war, we see lots of corruption within the russian military. you just see a sense of confusion on the part of russian soldiers as to what it is they are fighting for. that
is a recipe for not succeeding. >> echoes of the soviet invasion of afghanistan when recruits were drawn to the theater of war with no clue where they were going or why they were there. >> true. >> of course, we are speaking here at late spring time heading into the summer. that can change. as we know, russia is still very powerful militarily. it could potentially blast its way to something called victory. that is what sir max hastings, the great military historian, that could happen when you join me on the podcast a few weeks ago. in the meantime, enormous amount of destruction and suffering. a massive refugee problem that could destabilize that part of europe. >> that is for sure. you have millions upon millions of people displaced. people have moved in the east to the west. or for battle zones to parks that aren't under immediate fire. and then of course you have i believe 5 million refugees. in poland and elsewhere. the scale of this humanitarian terms, it cannot be exaggerated, it is an utter
catastrophe for the people of ukraine. >> poland's population jumped 10% in a short period of time. just because of refugees. amazing. okay, so, let's talk a little history, shall we? do you remember what you are doing besides opening presents on christmas day 1991? >> christmas day 1991, i don't remember. i do recall as a historian, the flag was coming down, soviet flag was coming down. something new is being born. it was not just the russian federation, by 15 new countries. i knew map of europe. i do recall, also, having been about 18 years old at the time, the great feeling of optimism. maybe not all russians felt it. certainly in the u.s. we felt it and across much of europe there is a sense of a real new beginning. >> you are reading my mind. i was going to ask you about that moment of optimism. i am talking about the day, christmas day 1991, president bush gave a televised address. i was 16 years old. i would not pay attention to international politics or it was going on in the news. i do remember reagan.
he was a child in the 80s, i watch all the cold war movies, rambo and read on. which is still a very good movie, by the way. when was last time you watch right? on >> not since, childhood, early alex the lessons, don't forget firefox also. >> president bush, on tv, basically says, i encourage everyone listening to seek the speech out it's on youtube. we won, they lost. freedom and liberty prevailed. he said, this is a victory for our values. it wasn't just that the soviet union collapsed from within, this is a victory for western values. in a sense we defeated them. we know that bush was also a pragmatist. he understood because he was aware of european history. he was a pilot in world war ii. whatever the triumph then feeling of those, he was aware of the potential danger and challenges to come. i bring all of this up, as you reflect as a scholar on the past 30 years, and that moment of optimism, which of you are sometimes about the way
history would develop after the cold war have turned out not to be the way you expected? >> i don't know what assumptions i had really at that time. apart from the general mood of optimism. if the walls were coming down, the berlin wall, others, the borders are opening up. there is a sense that a lot could be a cheap through cooperation. i think if you look over the last 30 years, that is not wrong. a lot was achieved the cooperation. we really did, we collectively built a new europe. east and west were much more integrated, much more trade, commerce, exchange of ideas. it's not as if all the optimism is misplaced. a lot of it was better than it was during the cold war. i think the remaining question, the outstanding question in 1981, it's only grown in stature overtime, where does russia fit in all of this? i think the assumption then, this is much more questionable in retrospect, russia would join the club and some form or fashion. it would be a partner, i would take on a market economy, it would become a democracy. many russians
wouldn't become exactly like us. but they would speak the same language. it's not as if that does not happen at all, there are lots of ways we can discuss those trends. that's totally not putin's russia. we are back in the kind of confrontation that's more acute than anything we expected during the cold war. >> i don't think is exaggeration to say, the state of u.s. russia relations is at its worst point probably since the early cold war days. the cuban missile crisis, maybe ronald reagan's first term. before the détente, there was a cold period of the cold war. you said two things there. we should focus on some of the successes, right? and eastern europe, the former block, those countries, despite some backsliding and hungary and poland, they are still democracies. they are working towards becoming integrated market economies, would you agree? >> very much so. for these countries, the progress that we might have hope for after 1991 is very real. it was achieved. it was not just market
economies and democracies. it was their national independence. that is a story for peoples across eastern and central europe. that is a story that will take us to ukraine. of course, ukraine, you can't put it in the category of prosperous, successful countries at the moment. it is a somewhat different story. that is where they wish to go. >> ukraine has held a special place in this equation. another part of that optimism was that maybe the area of block politics, block strategy would come to an end. we have another dividing line and europe again. ukraine happens to be on the run inside of it. for all intents and purposes, they are getting article five protection in a way. we'll get back to the present moment in a bit. was that an unrealistic expectation that the era of bloc politics would go a?
>> i would urge as much precision as possible. there was a hope for a new world. for this broad cooperation that russia, china, the united states would all be integrated in some kind of collective system. it goes back to woodrow wilson, dreams of world cooperation and world order. that was very much there. it's not as if meta was dismantled after 91. in fact, nato was expanded across much of europe. in part, a very small country to country, and part as a hedge against russia's return. so, at the same time, there is a hope for a world without bloc, without conflict, without tension that hope was qualify to agree by the expectation is might return and that was one of the reasons why nato is still kept in existence. >> did the cold war really end? some people say, not really. what's your view on that? did, and but there were continuities into the new era. >> i think the cold war ended, certainly, for a time. one of the ways it's still over is
that the cold war was not just a battle of countries and not just a battle of armies in a matter of nuclear weapons. the cold war was a battle of ideas. whatever the current crisis is or the current competition is, it's much more of a standard classic geopolitical competition between the united states and russia or between the west and russia. but it's, not at the, moment such a battle of ideas. and that, since the cold war was very different in perhaps, when it concluded in 1991, a concluded in its terms. >> some historians have argued that what we're witnessing right now are the wars of soviet succession it. that the collapse of the soviet union was not an event, it was a process, still playing out to this day, obviously. because, when empires collapse, it is a bloody, protracted process. the war in chechnya in the early 90s, we knew again as yeltsin was leaving the stage and put most coming on. georgian await, when george w. bush was president. now, of course, ukraine. i shouldn't say now ukraine, ukraine since 2014. you are in the state department
and crimea --, odierno, you came in a little after the annexation of crimea. i can't blame that on you, unfortunately. what is your view as a historian on that idea? that we are witnessing wars of soviet succession? >> i think it's an excellent way of looking at the current crisis in the current tensions. one of the things the cold war did, interestingly, was to keep things and check. at the same time there's a lot of conflict attached during the cold war, in a way, europe got frozen. maybe those one of the ways in which it was cold. when the soviet union collapses, europe and freezes. we might think of that is a good thing in terms of countries getting their independence and national movements of re-discovery, baltic republics, poland, many other countries. that was, on balance, a very good thing. but by becoming unfrozen, you have a very open question of what the borders are, with the security structures are. nato's one answer for that has been
coherent for the nato member states. but you have a lot of countries that are not in nato. you have belarus to the north of ukraine and you also of moldova to the south, where there is a russian military presence and part of the country. and galleries has sort of been absorbed recently into russia, at least militarily. ukraine is a war zone. gradually, year by year, exactly as you suggest, there is a war in georgia in 2008, it hasn't been a peaceful process. in fact, it's been getting more bloody and more violent year by year, this process of figuring out where does russia ended where does europe begin. if those are the right terms. >> there's been a lot of debate, to say the least, about the nato issue. to what extent can we blame nato expansion for russian aggression? john -- the scholar basically says the united states is responsible for the war in ukraine by pushing nato expansion. we can get to him in a little bit. but, to your point about those wars, they convinced countries in eastern europe that they needed to be a nato. especially the wars and chechnya in the 1990s. you agree with that?
>> that is very important point, the way in which russia, boris yeltsin's russia in the 1990s, before putin comes to power. the way it manage some of its internal problems, the whole issue of chechnya, which is politically a part of russia but was a threat to be a separatist territory. it was suppressed very brutally. i think that a lot of countries in central and eastern europe looked at that and said, well, this makes the whole issue of joining nato all the more important. so, yes, boris yeltsin's russia did quite a bit to advance the urgency of expanding the nato alliance. >> so much focus on putin. the 1990s are very important decade in the story, on the road to war. but when it comes to the nato question and whether nato should pack up its bags and go home because the warsaw pact had dissolved or should expand slowly and selectively war, basically, put the pedal to the metal. that's what happened in 08 with george bush in the bucharest conference, i would
follow after that. all of those questions, they weren't decided in 89. before the collapse of the soviet union. but that was a key moment in this, the so-called not one inch promise. that is playing a part in today's drama, because putin does say the west promised they would not expand nato one inch passed its current border. well, that was just a discussion, it was a conversation between james baker and soviet officials. i think, actually, it was gorbachev absolve. we know that president george h. w. bush and his cabinet ultimately decided that not only would a unified germany remain part of nato, but that nato would have the freedom to potentially expand in the future. what are your thoughts on that chapter? because as i said, it's looming large now, the so-called not one inch. >> the open door policy of nato, which goes directly against the notion of not expanding at one inch, is in fact built into the nato charter of 1949. so, structurally, nato has had this
element of it, so we didn't finland are probably going to enter the alliance with the summer on the basis of this policy, the open door policy. that is not a 1989, shift that it is an old policy that has been woven into nato. i think it's perfectly legitimate to talk about the historical record and to go over those discussions and see what was said and what people felt that what they thought about, it that's a legitimate historical conversation. the idea that anything james baker would have said in private is binding or is sort of obligating the u.s. or germany to do anything, i think, it's just off the mark. that is russians storytelling and a part of their narrative. in the, and it's really just a propaganda narrative on the russian part. i don't think it plays any meaningful role in policy. not to engage in a sort of schoolyard response to your question, but who is it for the russians at the moment to ask about promises that have been broken? and treaties and such that have been violated? we could go down a long list of
russian violations over the last 20, 25 years, especially under putin. so, it's a good historical conversation to have, you want to have accurate data. i see no policy consequence of what was discussed in 1989 that would change the nature of the open door discussion, the offshore policy of nato. >> in the final settlement, the treaty, i guess, which was a treaty that ended the occupation of germany after world war ii, it allowed for nato expansion with some conditions. now, of course, it didn't take long for that treaty to be interpreted differently, depending on which side of the new dividing line you are on. but, i mean, it is my interpretation as a reader of these issues, mary elise sorrati has written a book about that. i haven't, here i want to reference that at some point. that the russians are getting with very wrong. that doesn't mean there weren't issues with nato expansion and that nato expansion was not a threat to russia from their perspective, but this idea that it should have never expanded is not relevant. >> it's a red herring. it's not worth too much serious consideration. >> do you remember the last
country to be accepted into nato? >> in the last couple of years? i don't know if it's north macedonia? >> yes. i do this sometimes with my guest, i like to put them on the spot, because it's not fair because you're not a walking encyclopedia. north macedonia, montenegro in 2017, albania and croatia, former members of yugoslavia, 2009. i one pointed us today, really going back to the early post cold war years, early 90s, that these countries, tiny countries, should be a part of nato was a nonstarter, wasn't it? too much territory to defend. what's the interest of giving article five protection to countries like this when it might be difficult to actually protect them? >> i think the thinking behind nato expansion, some people
prefer to use a term nato enlargement, although i'm not quite sure what the differences between those two areas, but one of the premises was it could help consolidate countries as democracies. by bringing them into nato there is also in the nato charter a commitment to democracy. there's a democratization agenda that is connected to the enlargement of nato. but there's also the sense that, and this has been imperfect, but the sense that nato helps to resolve regional security problems. so, instead of having, let's say, a germany that would be a nato and three baltic republic that would not be a part of nato, if you put them on nato unifies and connects them and it makes a very unlikely that there be any tension or conflict. going back to the late 40s, this was really a question of germany and france. one of the great things that needed was to bring germany and france are the same alliance, and of course, the uk in these countries that, for so many years, had gone to war with each other unseen each other as aggressors and enemies, they are suddenly partners and allies in an alliance. that's done a lot of great things for europe. i think there's a sense with some of the smaller countries that you get a similar dynamic. >> and the baltic states wanted to join nato.
>> absolutely. >> they had been living under soviet domination, they were annexed by stolen during world war ii. and their view, they were necessarily thinking about germany or advances into germany. margaret thatcher was, and the late 1980s. she was concerned about a unified germany because world war ii, but they were concerned about an aggressive soviet union. >> hundred percent. >> but ukraine falls into a different category. maybe i'll get to ukraine and nato now. i want to talk to you about what condition u.s. russia relations were in as the yeltsin and clinton administrations got underway. because they're in pretty good shape, there are still some leftover trust and communication and some hope for cooperation in the 1990s. so, it's up to you, do you want to talk about ukraine and nato in the early 90s, or u.s. russia relations in the early 90s? this time i interviews go. >> we can build it up to ukraine. i think the 1990s is the high point of the u.s. russian relationship. you have the highest number of meetings
between russian and american presidents. >> clinton went to moscow a bunch of times. >> there is a lot of respect shown on both sides, i think even friendship you could see between bill and boris, as they were referred to in the 1990s. you wouldn't want to romanticize it, in terms of nato, yeltsin was not pleased to see nato growing larger in europe. that was an issue already back then. there are lots of disagreements about former yugoslavia now to manage that crisis. and there was, i think already then, an implicit tension that the u.s. was economically more powerful, militarily more powerful than the russian federation. at the same time, yeltsin do that but he didn't want to be treated as the junior partner. you get this tension there that's not fully resolved but it's not a catastrophic tension in the 1990s, by no means. >> the two leaders got along really well. yeltsin even called clinton directly for help in securing a loan from, i guess, the world bank. in desperate need for, it because it had been rejected and he was able to get clinton to get that loan through. but as far as
russia's place in the world, you alluded to this earlier in our conversation here. clinton himself said, about the importance of needing russia, he said, without a stable, functioning russia, the rest of the world will know zero. we look at what's happening today, russia is becoming a pariah in the eyes of the west. the view from the global south of the little bit different. i think it still obtains, though, we do need russia as part of the international community. of course, that is incumbent on russia to not invade other countries, right? but going back to the 19 90s, clinton certainly understood this but russia was in such bad shape. the transition to a market economy and a democracy, if you will, never really happened. and not affect the relationship. >> the country was certainly struggling in the 1990s. you have a major economic crisis in the later part of the 1990s that really unwinds a lot of the sense of excitement,
enthusiasm about the new world. there is, and russia to this day, a bit of resentment about the kind of advice that the u. s. gave about -- >> shock therapy. >> about economics. but i think one also has to factor in, not that you want to read back too much from the present moment, but when you see putin, when you see his war in ukraine, when you see putin's popularity such as it is at the present moment, you also have to factor in that russia sees itself as having a privileged position in eastern and central europe. that's never easy to define, as the countries on russia's periphery use the term near abroad. where they feel it's also the sphere of influence. you can also think a quasi-imperial terms about that. i don't think that's forgotten in the 1990s, i don't think it's irrelevant to boris yeltsin's career, just that they didn't have the capacity to act on those aspirations but they wear their. >> they felt humiliated as a fallen empire. >> that is certainly an important part of it. there is a sense that this part of europe is a buffer zone between russia and the outside world.
and there is just a habit of imperial thinking. >> deep historical roots there. >> deepest oracle routes, going back hundreds of years. that is destined, i wouldn't want to overemphasize the sense of destiny and all of this. but that is destined to conflict with the american view of europe. the small, states the big states are autonomy, as they have the freedom to choose, they're not supposed to be under anybody's domination. >> euro hole and free. >> if they want to be a part of american institutions like, nato so be it, it's a choice, it's not something a russia's able to veto. russia, i should, say not just, putin takes a different view of it. that's already there in the 1990s but it's under the surface. >> that is an intractable aspect of this conflict. these two world because that will never be squared with one another. and you're right, all russian leaders, gorbachev, yeltsin, before putin, felt, and military intellectuals, military figures, government figures. the moment where they
had some political parties, russian of all stripes felt the sense of humiliation. and also the sense that the united states were piling on and taking advantage of russia in the way some of these negotiations went about the, for one, expansion of nato. wouldn't you say?, i think that's true. from an american point of view, that was known. that made a certain amount of sense. the united states was uncontested superpower in the 1990s. i don't think it's felt the need to bend over backwards to privilege to honor russian concerns. it did not make a lot of intuitive sense in the 1990s. that was interpreted by many russians, not all, but many as a kind of arrogance. the seeds are laid in the 1990s for the conflicts that we see playing out before us. i think there are many ways in which we
could've turned, maybe not come to the outcome we had before our eyes now. the 1990s are a pet vehicle that cage that number of the big problems we have at the moment can be traced back to those years. >> nothing is inevitable. there is always options or side roads to take. about my point just now about all russians in positions of power. i do this on my podcast. i will take out a book and read a few sentences. this is mary louise sororities book, not one inch. about ukraine and what to do about ukraine's interest in nato after the fall of the soviet union. but before ukraine has declared its independence at the end of 1991. if ukraine decided in that referendum become put fully independent, and at once commence a painful economic and political divorce from its fellow slaves. and also become a greater nuclear power than either britain or france. ukraine's choices would clearly have such far reaching effects from moscow, advancer strauss advise washington the most revolutionary event of 1991 for russia may not be the collapse of communism, but the loss of
something russians have all political stripes think is part of their own body politic. near to the heart at that. ukraine. i would like you to pick it up from there. >> i mean, ukraine has -- the baltic states joining nato may have wrangled the soviet union. it is different than ukraine joining nato. >> the war colors, all of this in the darkest possible terms at the prompt present moment, that's as it should be. the war is the most important invent of our moment and will be for a long time. the war speaks a high degree of russian chauvinism and imperialism. the sense you can go into another country and take its territory. >> no excuse. >> through coercion and bloodshed, behind that, it is not a benign history. is not necessarily a war like history. it's a kind of sensibility
among many russians that there is a kind of shared civilizational bond between the two countries. religion and russia, language, culture, architecture flows from medieval ukrainian, kyiv history, russian history is built upon that. that is a matter of harmony and -- a lot of people vacations in crimea and ukraine. they had positive social asians there. the language issue is important. that there are even today a few russians speakers in ukraine. there's a proximity of language. that takes us to this notion, very controversial and upsetting of putin's, that they are one people people. it might seem like the friendly notion. it's a notion at which he's promised the need for war. that resonates with attitudes in russia that see this as, yes, exactly as a court indicates. ukraine is an agreement part of russia. it makes ukraine very different, as you're indicating, from poland or the baltic states. or georgia or other
countries. >> ukraine's desires -- you know, history is moving on, right, wrong, indifferent. the russians cannot get their way anymore. if in fact ukraine is to be a sovereign, independent nation, to choose its own path. it wanted to, well, maybe i should ask you, one of the attitudes in ukraine at this point about joining nato? how strongly where the ukrainians pushing this idea? at the same time, the west wanted them to remove their, safely removed, all the nuclear warheads. >> i don't think that in the 1990s there is a big push in ukraine to join nato. i think the problems were pretty immediate. people are wrestling with questions of poverty. and economic development. and state building after the collapse of the soviet union. those are the most pressing concerns. i don't think there is too much of a worry of a war with russia or anywhere else. i don't think security concerns were paramount in the 1990s. even according to polling data, there wasn't even a majority of
ukrainians who supported the notion of nato membership. what you do get overtime, i development i think after the 1990s, a much stronger sense of ukraine as a part of europe. this also speaks to the collapse of borders and walls that young people start to travel more. ukraine, of course, has a border with slovakia, hungary, poland. >> western ukraine, historically -- >> has many ties to austria and other parts of europe. >> ukraine start to see itself as europe. doesn't have to be zero sum. it doesn't have to be europe or russia. you start to see that inclination. that takes us in a way to 2013. and to the present of you crane then, victor yarmulke which, is about to sign an agreement with the european union. he was pressured not to do it at the last minute in november of 2013. that sparked protest. it brings us a little bit to the content re-moment. that is not about nato, that is about europe.
>> with so much focus on nato, we forget that was a trade pact with the eu. putin would not allow it. try to offer some loans as compensation. i mean, that trade pact might have cost russia's economy significantly. >> they eventually signed, i think, in 2015 they signed it back. i don't think it had very serious repercussions. yes, it was an insult to russian prestigious that russia was trying to build its own structures. it was a footnote. it was a detail. it was a huge russian blender to make such a mountain of that regulatory and institutional law will. >> to say the least, 1999, why does yeltsin choose putin? >> well, yeltsin -- >> it's a key point in history. >> it, is it is, no one could see the significance at the time. putin was unknown outside of russia. he had been a kgb officer, i think most of us know, and east germany. he came
back for a while, worked as a taxi driver, said he worked as a taxi driver. and then got into saint petersburg mayoral politics. was given the job of head of the fsb, at the intelligence services in the late 1990s. certainly is a very capable manager. a ph. d. in law. has self discipline and intelligence. that was attractive to yeltsin. there are many people that had those active boots, what yeltsin felt, he needed somebody who had come into power and not prosecute his family. yeltsin has its own issues with corruption. more to the point, his family members had been on the take. so, if they had ended up in jail, i think yeltsin would have been devastated. he chose some of that would be loyal to yeltsin as putin was. no one was prosecuted from yeltsin's family. he got that you loyalty, he also got a lot of other things in the bargain. you're right, it's a huge turning point. >> scholars disagree about the extent to which that was the driving, the driver, behind
yeltsin's decision. the so-called family. really, -- dealing there. what's funny about that, when you look back at what yeltsin told clinton, how he described putin. he said he is a democrat. lower chris. the he said he's a democrat. i recently watched, which i do for some of my podcast, i'm digging into the archives, watching old news conferences. i watched vladimir putin's 2000, you could call it, and inaugural address. he did win the election. i think he won 53% of the popular vote. he's in the former czarist palace where the sorry to sit on the throne. he's giving an inaugural address. he's not talking about autocracy. i mean, who would? he is talking about promoting democracy. he wasn't a thorough going authoritarian, some scholars have said. when he takes over. what happens? >> the best way to think of putin when he begins, not as a democrat. although he did work
for a liberal political figure and saint petersburg. i think the way to think of putin in the year 2000, a modernize. or that was the promise he made to the russian people. for a while it worked. >> state. builder >> modernize are in the sense you build a system that works, a powerful state. and economy that is comprehensible. so, he did engage in confrontation with various oligarchs. of course, a lot of the modernization was driven by oil money. it's not as if putin did something magical to make the country prosperous. he just benefited from those revenues. i think he presented himself, and wasn't stirred stood by the public, as younger, new generation. efficient, competent, not somebody who had a drinking problem like yeltsin. not someone who had these personal weaknesses. it wasn't the name of modernization. i think democracy would be a bit of a misnomer. >> i agree, i'm not trying to make him out to be the next coming of thomas jefferson over here.
>> you have the apartment bombings, never explained. possibly putin's instigation. very tough dealings with chechnya as part of his political promise. that is there at the beginning. >> he did seek, he tried to restore a sense of state authority after what happened in the 19 90s. >> absolutely. >> he wanted, speaking of resets, clinton, yeltsin, it's interesting how the leadership coincided, bush, gorbachev leave the scene at the same time. clinton and yeltsin come on together. they lead together. george w. bush and putin coming together. george w. bush certainly sought a reset with russia. he was very chummy with putin. we all remember the fishing trip. that was later in the process. their very first joint news conference, george w. bush's at the podium. putin was standing next time. he said, russia is not the enemy of the united states. the cold war is over. putin didn't get what he wanted from bush. some historians have argued, this is a big reason why he became, he becomes, more
authoritarian and autocratic. >> i wouldn't put the u.s. at the center of the story in that way. i think putin became autocratic for internal reasons. it speaks to his personality. his sense of power. the vision that he has for russia eventually he latches on to a very, sort of conserved in the sense, of reactionary autocratic vision. of russia's past. of russia's future. i don't think that's a function of anything george w. bush did, anything the u.s. did. although, the u.s. is always the foil to putin's russia. i think more to the point, when it comes to where those two figures diverge, the iraq war. so, pushing warned against, it he thought it was a bad idea. he may have been on to something. he felt he wasn't listened to. he felt like the u.s. was becoming disruptive, going down the wrong path. i think that really crushes the relationship between georgia bush and putin. i wouldn't use that to explain putin's autocratic -- i think that comes more than. that's a good point. it wasn't just putin who try to talk bush out of
invading iraq and others. >> and many others. >> because the u.s. did what it wanted, the russians did take from that, we're going to do it we want it. it does not excuse it. >> crucial to the russian -- the u.s. broke the rules. >> overtime, putin, maybe he's always been this way, he's taken on, in terms of foreign policy, ukraine's place and all this, we are here to discuss leading up to the war in ukraine. and ultra nationalist, often fantastical, version of history about ukraine. this whole time, ukraine's place in the new europe is never fully resolved. it remains an irritant to russia. i think pouring gasoline on that fire, george w. bush, at the bluegrass conference in 2008, first and 2007, putin is at the security conference. he lays down a line. georgia and ukraine are not going to join nato. 2008, george w. bush goes
up after the bucharest conference, a nato meeting, and says, we want ukraine and georgia to join nato. that seems like a really important turning point here. >> that is very true. i think if you take a step back, really the issue, not the expansion of nato, especially the expansion of nato as it was up until 2004, the baltic republic, poland, czech republic. i mean it's true the russians did not like it. they lived with it. it was not at the end of the world. >> there is not much they can do to stop it. >> there is not much they could do, did you to stop it. that's not the crux of the matter. even those issues with the bucharest summit, unfortunate wording i think, most people agree it's regrettable that w. bush put it in those terms. i think it's not even that. i think the heart of the story is, for the west, for the u.s. in particular, the most important
country and all of this. they could never really decide where ukraine fit. it is dangerous in some respects to leave a country half in, half out. >> worst of both worlds. >> there's enough there in the u.s. posture to provoke russia up to a point. >> the u.s. never withdrew that offer. i think at some point, everyone kind of understood ukraine was not going -- to >> still, in effect, the statements. the u.s. did enough anger to russia when it came to ukraine policy. it did not do enough to protect ukraine. it should have made a more coherent choice in 2008. maybe it wasn't even about nato membership. i think that was difficult. nato requires, as we know now, turkey which is causing some problems with sweden and violent, two for new country to enter, you have to have unanimous vote. that may have been difficult for ukraine. you could have built up a more robust security relationship strategy in 2008. and made as a matter of security assistance, military cooperation. that could've been another solution in the past. when you look at retrospect, we have to be critical of this. neither this nor that policy.
>> you know, the idea also is that no country gets a veto. russia does not deserve -- >> for sure. >> you also have to look at things, the world as it is. instead of the world that you want. i understand that u.s. policy makers, 20 await bluegrass conference, if they were thinking that way, they said sorry, this is going to happen. this was an irritant. i'll give you a different point of view about that from stephen calk in, a great scholar on that. i know you are tomorrow of his. >> great admire. >> have you read his stolen volumes? >> yes, of course. >> they take a long time to get through. they are beautiful books. volume one, i am to, and account volume three it's going to be about 1500 pages. [laughs] the idea the hold were lighting in the cold war. not to digress. okay, so stephen culkin gave an interview. gave an interview to the new yorker.
he was asked about -- i mentioned him earlier, the u. s. is -- pushing nato on ukraine. george cannon, the great george cannon has made the same argument. close the same argument. caution can says i respectfully disagree. the problem with their argument is that it is tombs that had nato not expanded, russia would be, sorry, russia would not be the same or very likely close to what it is today. he says, but we have today in russia is not some kind of surprise it is not some kind of deviation from a historical pattern. before nato existed in the 19th century, russia looked like this. it had an autocrat. it had repression. it had militarism. it had suspicion of foreigners and the west. this is a russia that we know said kotlin. it is not a russia that arrived yesterday or the 1990s. it is not a response to the actions of the west. they are internal processes and russia that account for where we are today. it sounds like you would agree with that based on what you've been saying. >> yes, it's a very fair point. george cannon and 1997, and
interview with tom friedman said that the expansion of nato is going to lead and a negative direction. i don't think he could have foreseen the war of 2022. we can go back and talk about 2014 and 2015. >> look at that. next >> this is to be a little bit more pointed than the great steve kotlin and terms of that analysis. to blame nato expansion for the russian invasion of brave 2022 is really ludicrous. the nature of the invasion, the motivations at best joining nato is a very different prospect in 2022. if it's if it was even a real prospect before the war. maybe will become a prospect because of the war. before the war, it was not a real prospect. so, to put nato and a causal sense at the beginning of that story is just off the mark. >> nato expansion may or may not have been a good idea. you're arguing it cannot be blame for that. >> correct. >> there is an argument to be made for that based on putin himself, his view of history. as mr. kotlin explained, as
others have explained, it goes back to this ultra nationalist, he does not want to bring back the soviet union. he wants to bring back greater russia. sometimes, easing autocrats can become unhinged or unmoored from reality. i don't think putin's insane and we have to be careful about trying to cycle analyze somebody. he's changed lot recently. he is isolated. he says that 20 foot -- could imagine doing this podcast with me 20 feet away? he meets everybody like that. who knows if he's getting good advice. so, i don't know if you're bending to offer their before we talk about your experience in the state department and ukraine. any final points about putin and his worldview at this time in his life? >> it's one of the big debates with putin. i think historians will be debating this for a long time. what has changed? maybe not that much. maybe has just shown his true colors and last couple of months. what we saw before was a sort of hidden or moderate version of putin. i'm a little bit more inclined say that putin himself seems to have changed. in one way, that seems really significant to me.
he's more of a risk taper at the moment than i thought he was before. obviously, putin could be aggressive. >> he was a shrewd operator. do >> you give any question that putin, he would use brutal tactics on civilians, you have to go back to the syrian war of 2015 or towards in chechnya. much of what's happening in ukraine was anticipated by the actions of the russian military. that is not a boundary that he has crossed. he cost that bounty long ago. the kind of risk that he is taken with his own economy, the battlefields of ukraine, it's a war he could lose. that is an enormous risk for such a take. he'll lose the war, but himself will not survive politically. he has gambled everything on this. i never thought he was quite the gambler that he seems to be. >> it raises a host of issues about the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons. how long the war might last. how far he is willing to go to save face. where are the diplomats? almost all wars and a negotiated settlement. total victory is a myth. we think of world war ii. that was an
anomaly. conquest, a conquest of the access powers, the occupations of their country, we wrote their new constitution for them in the case of japan. i don't think we're going to see total victory and ukraine. only fools try to predict the future. one last point about putin, you are saying, was it weighs like this, has he changed? in the west, he was underestimated. i think obama underestimated him. trump's relationship with putin has been a subject of a lot of debate. [laughs] anthony beaver the great military historian believes that the west however to find the underside we him. defy the fact the rewards in chechnya, wars and jet in georgia, the annex of crimea. he is really this type of, well, if not a gangster, simply interested in accumulating his own wealth. an ultra nationalist who felt humiliated by the collapse of the soviet union. >> there was a sense of, also a sense in the u.s. west, a putin as a loser. the phrase that obama had. the kid whose life
is in the back of the classroom. sort of aloof and surly. you >> basically said, sorry interrupt, obama basically said, russia's original tower. he made an right about that. the russians want to hear. that >> what does even to mean to say a countries original power? everyone knows russia has nuclear weapons. i think it's to confuse two things. to say, is the country capable of a very effective modernization? obviously putin's russia is not. he came in as a modernize our, he did not succeed and monitors in the country. china has gone way beyond russia in terms of its economy. china will be one of the dominant countries of the 24 century. i doubt that russia will be for the long haul. you can be a country that doesn't modernize, you can still to make an arrest problems not to your neighbors, but the whole international system. which is what putin has done over the last couple months. his capacity to do harm should never have been underestimated. his aloofness, in some ways, his meter operate as a leader, is a degree of
truth to that. that maybe besides the point. you can wreak havoc. >> he's proving. that russia is just too big and too important a country with too many natural resources. as we speak here today. i read a headline about how finland is going to start cutting off gas imports. the west is putting the pressure, sanctions wise, on russia. at some point, there has to be a renewal of some type of function and relationship. that is my editorializing. i want to ask you one or two, to wrap up, a couple of questions about your experience as a member of the state department. you are already a professional scholar and an expert on u.s. russia relations. you are for the state department in 2014 to 2016. you became a member, as i said, the policy planning department. your portfolio was russia and ukraine. this is a key moment. today, ukrainians, even those who may have been sympathetic to russia, today ukrainians are united against russian domination. in 2014, even after the annexation, you still have parts of ukraine that were still maybe tilting
more toward the east. how would you characterize ukrainians feelings that important moment, after the annexation, with a large part of the country wanting to pull away from russia and join the west so to speak? >> it was more complicated than what you described at the present moment. it's a large country -- it's a large country region, it has its own regional differences. there were parts of the country that inclined more economically towards russia, and more towards the rest. more importantly than that, that's true for many countries. that they have different, the united states have different affiliations. more important that, i think there wasn't a strong belief in government. that's with the revolution was about in 2014. was creating a new timed of government. that was only a partial success. up until, well, maybe in till the present moment. it has not fully succeeded. the project of reform. and a way that i -- >> corruption.
>> in a way that i could not have anticipate when i was at the state department. there was one greater success of american politics. it was very subtle. it took a long time to play out. this was whatever contribution the united states made to democracy in ukraine. however we would depart find this. in 2019, you have an election in ukraine. -- the oligarch president who had been there since 2014. >> not a democrat really. >> a man with his flaws. you operate within the democratic system i would say. he's voted out of office. you get this younger figure who is the first post soviet leader of us like state, he's the first one to be of the younger generation, a different mentality. i difference next to his people. he is not the world's greatest president between 2019 and 2022. his popularity rating was very low when the war began. nor hold, you get a war, this is someone who can deal with his own population. i think that's election in 2019 was absolutely pivotal. whatever u. s. did to help create conditions, if you do something, that was an extraordinary
investment in ukraine's future. had petitioned go or someone else like an oligarch but empower when the war began, the ukrainian skepticism of the state would've been stronger. the more white have been more difficult to prosecute. i'm happy to speak about the things that we did wrong. and is the critically, there was one really remarkable area of success that was only visible over the long term. >> an amazing point. i tend to focus on what goes wrong. i was a reporter, i suppose. thank you for correcting my comment about the predecessor to zelenskyy. final question, i mean at this time, i notice you have not been drinking water. if only knew this was not water. hey [laughs] it's a joke, not happier yet. final question, i'm concerned about this war and its ripples. we're going to feel the ripple effects for potentially decades. we tend to, and this country enjoy, when i say we, who am i talking about? the political elites in this country, the biden
administration, very proud of the unification of nato, the sense of purpose the raison d'etre. on the ground in eastern europe, we're seeing a catastrophe unfold. we know that wars, they don't end, they migrate to other places. they migrate to our minds. they migrate to a legacy of ethnic hatred. maybe there won't be ethnic hatred in this case as there was an early 20th century. what are your final thoughts on what could happen from this point on? >> let me make two points by way of conclusion. in terms of your very important question. i think that what the biden administration must do is to explain to the american people how important regional europe stability. as the united states fought to more than 20th century because dylan got out of hand. those are different wars, different situations. it's not equivalent. we really, as a country, need to be
invested in regional stability. european stability. i don't have the perfect recipe for how we achieve stability and critters are the corner, -- it's a case on your job. it's very important. i think biden needs to communicate that. he has got to the think tags of a d. c. on a side. he needs to communicate that to the general public. or elsewhere going to be a real trouble with the policy. that takes me to the second point. the war is going to, exactly as you suggest, has some very long term costs. for the people of ukraine undoubtedly first and foremost. first and foremost for them. refugees, people and the death of civilians. which is heartbreaking. an ongoing. they hire wheat and commodity prices. as a result of the war, that could result in hunger and starvation by the end of this calendar year. of course, inflation, because of ruptures to the economy. higher commodity prices, oil prices, gas prices, et cetera. it's going to be an issue that already affects us. it's going to affect us more because of the war. there's not probably that much that russians can do about those big global problems. apart from trying to manage them. i don't think we can get rid of them. we can't get rid of the war overnight. for people to be aware that
that's on the horizon, at the same time, to see what the core u.s. interests are in the situation, that the u.s. has to stay engaged. and has to stay sort of on target with this. if we can keep these two points in some kind of harmony, we will be okay. >> i promise we'll be wrapping up. one final comment. the united states has become the de facto guarantor of ukraine's independence. it's costing tens of billions of taxpayer dollars, we have our own problems to deal with here. without any debate in congress, no real debate, i'm not saying stop supporting ukraine, i'm not saying support ukraine for as long as the war lasts. whatever the right policy is. there is no debate in our country, this leads to mission creep. we have been down this we've seen this movie before. -- but the longer the war last, the worst potential outcome is at least in my view. >> i don't have a good counter to that i think the biden administration sees a degree of military accomplishment if not
victory over the summer. that may be true, proven true. maybe proven false, i think that's one reason why there's such a rapid investment at the present moment. i agree, over time, you have to set priorities. at times, yet to set limits. >> where is congress, where is the diplomats? >> come to a sense of what it desirable and it would be. i don't think northerly at. it's also heartening to see this degree of support for ukraine at the present moment. given the stakes of what's happening on the battlefield. down the road, those priorities and limits have to be very clearly articulated for the policies to succeed. >> how does this and, to pull a vietnam era question back. how does it end? the weakening of russia, that is a fuzzy goal. i understand it's easy for me to sit here and fire the questions away at you and the leaders of our country. it's much more difficult to answer the questions. we want to thank michael kimmage, historian at
the catholic university at history as it happens. i hope you all enjoy this interesting discussion about what's going on today. remember, everything happening today comes from somewhere. that is the goal, the aim of history as it happens from the washington times. >> c-span's american history tv continues. you can find the full schedule on your program guide or c-span.org/history. >>
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