A Station for Everyone
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Two Answers To The Crimean Question: How Should The U.S. Respond?


So what should the U.S. do in response? Two answers now. We turn first to Strobe Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution. He was deputy secretary of state in the Clinton administration. Strobe Talbott, what should the U.S. and Europe be doing now?

STROBE TALBOTT: They should continue on the course that they have set out. I think that the - starting with economic sanctions and first against individuals and now against an institution, a bank that services the Kremlin, is the right way to get going. But the key thing, Robert, is going to be whether the president, when he meets with the leaders of Europe and the alliance, can maintain maximum solidarity so this is not just a U.S.-driven sanctions policy and it does not give the Russians a chance to try to split us.

SIEGEL: And should the U.S. and Europe be prepared to really get down to minimal economic relations with Russia?

TALBOTT: Selectively. They're properly, I think, concentrating on the banking sector because the banking sector, if it is pressed and pressured by these sanctions, may lead powerful people around Putin to begin questioning the wisdom of what he has done and perhaps putting brakes on bad things he might do. I think changing Vladimir Putin's mind is a loser. He is in a make my day, bring it on, tell me something you don't want me to do and I'll do it next Tuesday.

SIEGEL: Well, should the West move faster toward embracing Ukraine as - well, as someday a NATO ally? Or should the West hold out the prospect of Ukraine as a kind of neutral borderland between East and West?

TALBOTT: Neither. I think it would be counterproductive - which is a word we use here in Washington to mean stupid - if we were to basically make a promise to Ukraine that we couldn't keep, which is to bring them in to NATO as quickly as possible. That would just be provocative, and it would not please or make the lives of the Ukrainians any better, but nor should we say that they are going to be forever in a security limbo as a buffer state. We should keep the question of the future of NATO, the expansion of NATO on the agenda but not talk about that now.

SIEGEL: Strobe Talbott, thank you for talking with us today.

TALBOTT: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: And now to Stephen Hadley, who was national security adviser to President George W. Bush. What should Washington do next? Do you agree with what Strobe Talbott has said?

STEPHEN HADLEY: I think it's a good starting point. The objectives really need to be to strengthen Europe at this point, for the United States to reaffirm its security interests in Europe and to reaffirm its commitments to NATO. And then we need to do two things with respect to Vladimir Putin. One, impose real costs for what he has done so that he is not tempted to run this play again. We saw it first in Georgia in 2008, now in the Crimea. And, finally, we need to do some things to eliminate targets of opportunity. Putin exploited some of the disruption that was in Kiev. This is not to blame the Ukrainians for what Putin has done. Putin is responsible, needs to be held to account.

But we also need to recognize there are some things we need to do to avoid giving him targets of opportunity. Europe needs to make clear that the door is open for countries of central and eastern Europe to come into the EU. We need to make clear that the door is open for them come into NATO. And, finally, these aspiring countries like Ukraine need to fix their internal politics and bring a prosperity to their people that will win their loyalty and support. It's a long list. It's going to take a long time. We need to get after it.

SIEGEL: Let's say that bands of Russians who Moscow says are actually acting independently take some provocative action in the east of Ukraine, and Russia moves to protect ethnic Russians, as they say. What do we do then?

HADLEY: It's very difficult once the Russians start to move for us to respond. So what you need is a set of policies that will make Russia decide that such course of action is ill-advised. And that is the whole list of things that we've talked about.

SIEGEL: Let's assume that the U.S. and Europe do everything about Ukraine that you've described. Realistically, should they be drawing a much clearer line around the Baltic republics, let's say, or among the former Soviet satellites of eastern Europe, that intervention there would be a totally different kind of response from the West?

HADLEY: Well, that line is really what the NATO line is about because that, of course, involves Article 5 and a commitment that attack on one is an attack on all and will be met accordingly.

SIEGEL: If you go into Estonia, and German and U.S. troops would be there in their defense.

HADLEY: That is right. I think that Putin has a strategy that, basically, takes a chunk out of a country like Georgia or Ukraine or Moldova. And then, basically, by doing that, he has frozen them but in this Neverland between Russia and the West because the western European countries are unwilling to take into EU or NATO a country that has a territorial dispute with Russia. And that is something we've got - to send a message to Putin, that ploy won't work.

SIEGEL: Stephen Hadley, thank you very much for talking with us.

HADLEY: Nice to be here.

SIEGEL: That's former national security adviser Stephen Hadley. We also heard from Strobe Talbott, former deputy secretary of state, and also from Lilia Shevtsova of the Carnegie Center in Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.