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tv   To the Point - International Debate from Berlin  LINKTV  January 17, 2022 12:30pm-1:01pm PST

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it sometimes seems as though russian president vladimir putin wants to turn back the clock. he's been insisting that the west should provide russia with far reaching security guarantees or face the consequences if it doesn't. so what exactly does moscow want? and how should the west respond onto the point? we ask ukraine belarus kazakhstan putin's backyard. mhm, mm hmm. well, thanks so much for joining us here on the show where my studio guests are, rachel tolson friant
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editorial director at the german marshall fund who thinks russia maybe willing to pay a high price to shape the future of its neighbors. but the us cannot back down also with this is marcus came from the german institute for international and security affairs who argues that in geneva it was all about the u. s. and russia. if europe doesn't get a more active role, it will simply be sidelined by the big powers and a warm welcome to typical bush julia from dws, russian department, he believes the russian wolf is at the door. so are the western ducks going to try and sit this one out too. if so, good luck, interesting stuff, plenty to talk about. so let's get on with it. mikhail, you are laughing. tell us a little bit about the ducks and the wolf. what does it all mean? listen if we see it as a game though morally it's it's problematic but if we see it as a game, then we can see a huge asymmetry in the conflict between the
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west and russia where russia is ready to raise the stakes knowing it is a weaker player, it still has skin in the game and is ready for action while the west is not and that's the huge difference between them. so the problem is i don't see in the moment any any i idea to stop putting from doing what he's planning to do, rachel, what have you got to say about that? who is threatening who? from your perspective i mean the threat is definitely emanating from russia. they have over 100,000 who are the weakest partner or the weaker partner we have just learned. i mean they are the weaker partner but they wanted more and who wants it more has strength. also they're not that week. i mean russia wants a security guarantee. they're one of the biggest, most well armed armies in the world. so yeah
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that's the idea that they need a security guarantee is is you know, farcical. um but they're the aggressors, they're the ones who wanted more, the west, the u. s and europe. they would rather not have to deal with this issue. this is not number one, not number two not number three on their list until russia makes it and that's an asymmetry. indeed. so marcus came i'd be interested to know what you have to say about about this about who's to blame for taking us to the edge of a conflict that leading german newspaper said could pose a threat both to europe's security architecture and the international order, how bad is it? it's really bad. and regardless of the situation in ukraine and the and the efforts to contain the crisis in ukraine, i think the overarching effort of the russian leadership to reframe the european security architecture or to redefine the european security architecture of overarching effort of the russian leadership to reframe the european of even bigger concern for the europeans because that really
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turns back the clock until back to the beginning of the 19 nineties. we have to keep in mind. and with a cut carter of paris in 1990, we agreed and we agreed on the fact that every country in europe is entitled to choose the political or military alliance it wants to belong to. and if we would agree with the russians that this is not acceptable, acceptable anymore if we would accept spheres of influence, fears of interest in europe, that would be more or less the division of europe like yalta, after the end of the cold war rachel. i i mean, we talk about who's who's provoking here, who is to blame. i picked up a line from us secretary of state tony blinken, who was quoted as saying, nato didn't promise not to grow. that sounds as though he has a he still has a considerable appetite for expansion and enlargement that can't put vladimir putin's mind at rest, surely, i mean, it's not that
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the u. s. or or the other nato partners want to expand. they want to grow, but it's the principle that every state should be able to choose what it wants. and that's the principle that the u. s. and nato cannot back down from. they can't tell ukraine, they can't tell, let's say poland, which is actually what food would also want. sorry poland, russia doesn't want you in nato. so it doesn't matter what you want. we have to listen to russia. that's the principle that nato absolutely cannot back down from. and it's a principle of ukraine's choice. ukraine has clearly said it's in the constitution now that they want to join nato and why do they want to join nato? because they feel threatened by russia not by nato. so um it's about dominance, right? it's not about sort of threat to russia. it's it's an attack on russian dominance of its neighbor countries. um and frankly putin doesn't want ukraine to be successful and to have a democratic western european or nato based path because that would get russians thinking that maybe they could have
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a better situation. that's what it's really there's a problem rachel. the problem is that for the west and for nato, the ukraine, for example is just a small puzzle piece. while for russia it's a centerpiece of of, let's say strategic thinking strategic plans and that that's what makes the difference and that's what makes the symmetry really in say strategic thinking strategic plans and that that's what makes the conflict. now i just wonder before we moved before we move on whether it is how easy it is to dismiss vladimir putin's concerns because since 1997, the west has built a real, a formidable arc of nations from the baltic republics in the north, right down to bulgaria romania albania in the south. and that's so that that is surely an understanding. it is understandable that vladimir putin views that as a threat, that scenario, but it wasn't perceived as a threat by the russian leadership at that
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time. and i think it's a conditional agreement and the conditional announcement, i think with two major caveats first, no major permanent deployment of nato troops on the soil of those countries, which have been become african member of nato since then there is a military presence, but it's on a rotating basis and no nuclear weapons will be deployed to these countries. and as far as i can see nato was upholding these commitments of the nato russia founding act of 1997. so actually, it's it's a part of a new, more recent russian narrative being threatened by nato being encircled by nato. this is not the time, that hanot been the case in the 1990s. so why now, why now this new narrative? what has changed? i think it has the russian foreign policy has become more
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to make a long story short, more revisionist, more aggressive more focused on reconstituting some kind of post soviet, i wouldn't call it the empire, but the room of political dominance and room of political head. lemoni okay, me on that shortly. pretty much everybody agrees that there is currently a lot at stake in relations between the us and russia. let's get a further feel for the uncompromising tone of the rhetoric on the two sides. for months, putin's menaci presence s loomed alonghe border th ukrne, where 100,000 troops and heavy military equipment are reportedly being fast moscow has been attempting to destabilize the former soviet republic since 2013 when protests against ukraine's pro russian government resulted in the ousting of its en presentthank you. perhaps the annexation of the crimean peninsula which belongs to ukraine
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was just the beginning. in any case, russia is laying out its own directives for negotiations with nato. we need ironclad, waterproof, bulletproof, legally binding guarantees, not assurances, not safeguards guarantees with all the words shell mask everything that should be put in this bowl, never ever becoming a member of nato and nato is countering. we will never compromise on the right for every nation in europe to choose its own path, including what kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of the deployment of military forces in eastern europe, rachel tells a different is given those two very oppositional positions. uncompromising positions is is rapprochement possible
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at this point in time where we're where we're experiencing new tensions and new language. it is, i mean in in in the main fundamental conflict, there is no solution russia wants to be able to control ukraine uk and belarus and all of these other countries and their choices nato cannot shut the door. right. both have committed to this fundamental position. there are however ways right. and this is i think what the negotiations are working on that one. i mean russia, what they're saying is a maximalist position never ever guarantees that in ukraine, but one could imagine some kind of compromise where it's clarified for 10 or 20 years that ukraine has no potential for nato membership, which is the reality in in any case, right i mean in any case nato is not eager to open the doors to ukraine while there's a low level conflict and war going on with russia. so the fact
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is um, ukraine's not joining nato anytime soon and maybe there's a compromise where they pick some kind of time frame um, that both can live with. and in a way russia is already winning in that it's re establishing itself as the big european partner who's sitting at the table with the united states. this is the other thing that i think putin wanted uh you have to remember obama called russia a regional power very dismissive was excluding russia from, you know, different global form as as a punishment for by the way, aggressively invading another country. so i think this is already a win for russia because we are again taking them seriously washington, which wants to be only paying attention to the conflict with china is again talking about european security, spending all of its energy on talking to russia. so, putin's already got something out of this, but it's only a temporary wind in my eyes. i think he's not contained with with that though it's it's a step forward. but i think in in a consequence he's seeking a recalibrati of of, you know
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power structure in the region. so, um, i don't buy i don't really i don't buy the, you know, the talks about this maximalist ultimate goals, because i don't think that's the real, you know, real concern now, at least in moscow they want to to, you know, to to get ukraine back as a whole. they're not content with the crimea and the eastern statelets, they want more. and that's the point. and i don't see any well, let's say, i don't see the west doing something in in in reaction that can stop him effectively. marcus kind, do you see that some have interpreted of vladimir putin's actions in recent weeks and months as as a huge kind of bluff with 100,000 soldiers in the field. is that is that how you see it? and has he has
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his bluff perhaps just begun to be called in recent recent interactions? no, because i never read this military exercises as a military threat, at least so far. the purpose has been more political one to put political pressure on the west and to get something out of it. and i would totally agree with rachel, he got something out of it. he got the recognition to be one of the world's leading powers, one of the superpowers or major powers called major powers to negotiate on an, on an equal level on par with the united states with the biden administration. he is considered to be one of the determinants of the future european security order in a bad way. but we have to take into an we have to take into consideration the russian policies, the russian position and i think he's maybe not the winner of the last couple of weeks, but he gets something out of it. give us give us a sense of how ordinary
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russians are going to be responding to what we're hearing this is victory. i'm understanding for vladimir putin, is that how it's going to be seen by people on the street in russia? well, um, i think people are afraid of a major war. we're the neighboring country. i think many people, especially elderly people who are watching state run tv would just believe what they are said in uh in the media, in the state run media. so, um and i'm afraid that people are ready to accept the costs of war. that's that's a huge problem. i mean the reason why putin is so emboldened to, to to let's say take a military option is and and to the reason why putin is so emboldened to, to to have it is that he knows he still can, you
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know, sacrifice some prosperity in the country for the sake of greatness. vladimir putin. it was who in 2005 said that the collapse of the soviet union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. is that's an idea that is still resonating through russia. is that a perception of the world that many russians share? because it's right at the core of who vladimir putin is and and why he acts the way he does on the political stage i would suggest, well that's his personal opinion, but to some extent probably, yes, i don't know, we we we have some, you know, um some social um um studies on that, but i don't know if we have to take it at face value anyway. um the vision of of it as a catastrophic. i don't think it's so
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widely accepted in in this society is by putting itself and certainly not accepted in ukraine and it's right and probably in kazakhstan in in and in many other countries former soviet countries as well. so, so that, i mean it's not going to come easy if if it's not only a bluff and if putin really is considering invading ukraine maybe also only to destabilize it or to win a few more pieces of strategic territory, um it's it's not going to be easy because ukrainians are quite united against russian aggression and they will put up a fight although the west probably if it were to come to it won't help them enough. you said at the top of the show that the west must effectively respond in kind. you seem to be implying what line should the west take if that if that invasion or something similar
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to an invasion does come, biden has already ruled out military intervention on behalf of ukraine. um the europeans would have never considered it in the first place. back in when crimea crimea was annexed, you had voices in the u. s. calling for a more robust military support of ukraine and it was the europeans who said no. so biden has taken a pragmatic view that this is just not something that the europeans and the americans will sign up to. um so they have to think of other things which are economic sanctions as hard as they possibly can be. that seems to maybe have had some impact on putin's thinking. um but this is the asymmetry that michelle was talking about. i mean russians will put troops on the ground, they already have um western powers won't but they'll do as much as they can to support ukraine. and and that's the tricky thing. i mean that's what we we want to avoid that in any case and this is what the diplomats are right now as
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we speak, working on what can they give russia that isn't sacrificing a core principle and sacrificing ukrainians what might be marcus, actually, i'm, my concern is that, you know the russian us talks on monday, nobody was really mentioning the minsk agreements. so they actually, we have the diplomatic and political pathways on the table which can be which can be followed since 2015. but nobody is ready to do this now, the russians or the ukrainians for different reasons, which i understand. but this is my concern that there's no political solution on the table. we have it reasons, which i understand. but this is my concern that theoretically we have the all the pieces available, but nobody's really to, nobody's ready currently to step forward and to start the diplomatic initiative. and that has not been the agenda of the biden administration was now they're quite active i mean, there have been, you know, dozens of meetings agenda of the biden administration was now they're quite active
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really high level meetings i think now they're engaged. um but it does seem that they're not engaged on the terms of minsk anymore. it's going to be something new um and that's bad news for europeans in the sense of european ownership of the process because minsk was kind of a european deal and now it looks like whatever deal happens while the us is very, very careful to include the europeans and is actively including the europeans in the end. it looks like it's going to be a us negotiation with russia. um and the europeans are not the leading the leleading crafter of any kind of deal but i'm afraid that the ironic thing is that means gazed out essentially and that's why they even didn't mention it. that's that's basically also the reason why putin is trying to say or i'm ready to for action because minsk is that so the some some minimal goals of of the kremlin administration are not um um they haven't
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gotten there yet. so and that's that's the point. okay let's just change the perspective a little bit and take a quick look at russia's hasty intervention in kazakhstan. was this vladimir putin responding to the vicissitudes of international politics or is it all part of some complex long term strategy with debris cleared in the morning of victims, an eerie calm has descended on the kazakh megacity of almaty mhm protests were sparked by rising oil and gas prices in the resource rich country. they are also being directed against the corrupt government which is entangled in an internal power stggle. the ahoritarianegime respond with a shoot to kill order. continue to do. tokev appeals to a russian
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led military alliance for support tanks and soldiers are keeping the peace for putin. ts preses an opportunity to influence the situation both externally and internally at a military alliance video conference, he vowed to stop any color revolutions. what exactly are the russian president's interests in kazakhstan. yeah. what is vladimir putin up to in kazakhstan, i think it's part of the larger picture to recreate not a soviet empire in a territorial sense, but to create a russian empire in terms of hegemony, to create political influence and using a variety of methods which we have seen over the last couple of years, starting with cyber attacks is spirit knowledge, propaganda over the use of and the use
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of ethnic russians living in countries in the new, in the neighborhood of russia over using politically the these low intensity conflicts sometimes called frozen conflicts in the russian periphery over destabilizing openly certain partsf the other countries, donbas and a handful of others. so that's a russian toolbox but i think it all serves the same purpose to create and maintain political influence in germany in the post soviet space. i wouldn't i wouldn't go so far as marcus for me just, you know, unexpected belated christmas gift that putin just took happily, but it's not a huge strategic planning of him. it just came and he took it as it came. and the thing is, i mean
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there's one funny episode recently putin couldn't even pronounce the name of the kazakhstani president properly just told some gibberish you know, uh and that's for me a sign that something different is on his mind not, you know, the president's name, but nato, i don't know washington ukraine keith whats whatever, but that was nice. that was a possibility for him for a real show of force to show to, to show the world the autocrats in the region to show washington okay, i've got here a military organization that is capable of something uh that we internally in the region were talking for years and years and years and now. executive look at this, that's it. so it's i don't see any, you know, bigger strategic planning behind it. what's your worst case scenario for the for the for the next year or two to come? in terms
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of kazakhstan? or in terms of in terms of vladimir putin's continuing influence over the, over this very, very broad region? well, i'm afraid that he's going to invade ukraine by means that we don't know yet. and he's calibrating them now behind the talks in geneva. um so that's the point. that's what i'm afraid of. yeah. worst case scenario, ukraine and the others are left alone because the europeans and the u. s. can't agree on anything that's strong enough to push back against. that's the worst case scenario. i hope it won't happen. best case scenario is a peaceful update of the post 1945 structure of european security. that takes these states uh sovereignty seriously, but includes russia at the time and again, and there is at the same time as all this. there's a new german government in office. and i'm just wondering what marcus's advice
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would be to the new german government as they contemplate this crisis, prepare for the worst optimistic. this is the same. i mean, that would be a hard test for for the new government and all of salt. do do you think the new government is going to be strong enough to to go head to head with the with the russians with putin? i don't i don't really know but i'm intrigued to see what they are up to and if they live up to to the situation, okay we've been we've been looking at vladimir putin's moves to create possibly a new post soviet all there in eastern
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