CNN’s FAREED ZAKARIA GPS features an interview with Radek Sikorski, foreign Minister of Poland, and Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia, about the crisis in Ukraine.
In a discussion regarding what action the European Council will take to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Sikorski said to Fareed, “Russia is leaving us no choice. And the European Council has decided, if there is no movement on Russia’s part to correct the position, then I’m afraid we’ll have no – no choice on Monday.”
A transcript of this discussion is available after the jump.
ZAKARIA: This week, Poland’s president marked his country’s 15th anniversary in NATO. He used the occasion to ask for more U.S. troops to be sent to Poland, this after a dozen American F-16s and 300 U.S. troops had already been promised.
A little further north and east and bordering Russia itself sits the Baltic nation of Estonia. Last weekend Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves told President Obama that what Putin is doing in Crimea follows the same script that the Soviet Union used in the 1940s to take over Estonia.
President Ilves joins me now from Tallinn, Estonia, and Poland’s foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, joins me from Warsaw.
Mr. President, let me start with you. You have a substantial Russian minority in Estonia. There have been tensions with that minority. Does what is happening in Ukraine make you worry that Russia might follow a similar strategy with your country or with other neighbors of Russia?
TOOMAS HENDRIK ILVES, PRESIDENT, ESTONIA: Well, let’s be clear. Europe is full of substantial numbers of minorities, and far more than we have in Estonia. We, as one of the more liberal democracies in the world, shouldn’t have to worry about these things.
I would say, however, that once you start using the argumentation used in 1938 to annex the Sudetenland, no borders in Europe are secure anymore. The Crimea has not been annexed yet, but the argumentation really is the same.
ZAKARIA: Radek Sikorski, Poland borders the area of Kaliningrad, this Russian enclave that is — that is Russian and, in fact, is the home to Russia’s Baltic fleet.
Do you think that the European Union will act in a united and firm manner with regard to what is happening in Ukraine, that is to say, to continue to not recognize any annexation and to impose sanctions on Russia?
RADEK SIKORSKI, POLAND’S FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, I don’t see any freedom-loving country recognizing this patently illegal, unconstitutional referendum being carried out in haste and under the gun of a foreign — a foreign army. But, of course, facts on the ground are being created.
ZAKARIA: But will Europe act in a united fashion, do you believe?
SIKORSKI: Well, we are all reluctant to impose sanctions because Russia will probably respond and we’ll all suffer as a result. But Russia is leaving us no choice. And the European Council has decided, if there is no movement on Russia’s part to correct the position, then I’m afraid we’ll have no — no choice on Monday.
ZAKARIA: Radek, regarding NATO, what would Poland want from NATO and from the United States in particular in response to this?
SIKORSKI: Well, you’ve alluded to some of the U.S. response, which we are glad about. Remember, we are not feeling militarily threatened as yet. It’s just that we are concerned for ominous developments on the territory of an important partner of NATO. And that’s why it has been important and correct to raise NATO’s situational awareness. And, of course, the question remains whether Crimea is the limit or whether it’s phase one, and then, of course, it could get much more serious.
ZAKARIA: President Ilves, when you look at this problem of the Russian minorities, it is not — as you say, it’s all over Europe, but it is also all over Russia’s near abroad. There are 25 million ethnic Russians living all over, places like Kazakhstan. Is it your impression that those countries will now be wary — more wary of Russia?
Because, after all, you know, if I were in Kazakhstan, all of a sudden you would be worried that, if there are tensions between — with the Russian minority there, Moscow could decide that, in order to protect its Russian-speaking compatriots, it needed to take some kind of military action?
ILVES: Let’s — I mean, I think that there are a number of countries that are quite worried. If we look at the numbers, they’re rather — they’re rather large. There are 8 million Russians in Ukraine. There are also about 11 million Ukrainians in Russia. And so it’s not really an argument you want to be using too much, and that’s why countries have long abandoned this kind of argumentation, because they saw the disastrous results of World War II.
ZAKARIA: What would you like to see NATO do, Mr. President?
ILVES: Well, I think the focus of NATO has been, for — for almost two decades, conflicts outside of the NATO area, based on the premise that NATO members, alliance members themselves, don’t feel that their territory is under threat. And, of course, that assumption, with the kinds of actions we have seen, have disappeared, alas.
ZAKARIA: Radek Sikorski, do you think that the annexation of Crimea is now a, kind of, de jure legitimacy; we will have to live with the reality? Or do you believe it is possible that Mr. Putin will actually reverse course?
SIKORSKI: I hope he will reverse course because, as President Ilves was saying, the precedents are terrible. I hope we’ve learned something from the First World War, from the Second World War and from the Cold War.
We — Europe is a patchwork of nationalities, both in the East and in the West, and we have found ways of resolving these issues, giving maximum rights to minorities and dissolving borders so that people can happily rub along as, indeed, they have been doing in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Remember, not a single Russian or Russian speaker has so far been harmed. So there isn’t even a pretext for everything that is being done.
ZAKARIA: President Ilves, do you want something in particular from Washington, from President Obama? What do you think Washington’s role in this should be?
ILVES: Well, I — I think we have received assurances from President Obama and from Vice President Biden. And, certainly, I think what has come home to all of us is the idea that it is now time to fixate, or rebalance, or pivot, or whatever the term one wants to use, on areas outside of Europe was unfortunately premature, that, in fact, the security situation in Europe is not resolved in the way that we thought with the peace dividend in the 1990s.
ZAKARIA: Mr. President, Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you very much for joining us.
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