July 20th, 2014

Zbigniew Brzezinski on Putin: “He has gotten himself into a horrendous jam.”

CNN’s FAREED ZAKARIA GPS featured an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor. Brzezinski spoke with Fareed about what is likely to happen next in the Ukraine/Russia conflict after the downing of MH17 and gave his take on the Israeli /Hamas conflict.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

Brzezinski on European reaction to MH17: “My sense is that the European public opinion is aroused.  This humanitarian issue is so tragic, so painful, so cruel and so unnecessary that the Europeans are beginning to be moved.  But each of the major European leaders has a role to play.  Chancellor Merkel has to face the fact that her predecessor, also a chancellor, was one of the creators of Europe’s dependence on Russian energy supplies. Does Europe want to become a satellite?  I think President Hollande has to face the fact that he cannot now, at this moment, be sending advanced arms to help Russia.  Prime Minister Cameron should face the fact that the city of London has become a Las Vegas for Russian financial transactions that are self-serving. There are responsibilities these leaders have to face and they have public opinions which I think are becoming increasingly aware that this is truly a moment of decisive significance for the future of the system — of the world system.”

 Brzezinski on the idea of a new Cold War: “I would say that we’re not starting the Cold War.  He (Putin) has started it.  But he has gotten himself into horrendous jam.  I strongly suspect that a lot of people in Russia, even not far away from him who are worried that Russia’s status in the world is dramatically being undermined, that Russia’s economically beginning to fail, that Russia’s threatened by the prospect of becoming a satellite to China, that Russia’s becoming self-isolated and discredited.”

 Brzezinksi on Netanyahu’s strategy is Gaza: “No, I think he (Netanyahu) is making a very serious mistake.  When Hamas, in effect, accepted the notion of participation in the Palestinian leadership it, in effect, acknowledged the determination of that leadership to seek a peaceful solution from Israel — with Israel.  That was a real option.  They should have persisted in that.  Instead Netanyahu launched the campaign of defamation against Hamas, seized on the killing of three innocent Israeli kids to immediately charge Hamas with having done it without any evidence, and has used that to stir up public opinion in Israel in order to justify this attack on Gaza which is so lethal.  I think he is isolating Israel.  He’s endangering its longer-range future and I think we ought to make it very clear that this is a course of action which we thoroughly disapprove and which we do not support and which may compel us and the rest of the international community to take some steps of legitimizing Palestinian aspirations perhaps in the U.N.”

A full transcript of the interview is available after the jump.

ZAKARIA:  Let’s bring in Zbigniew Brzezinski now.  He was Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser.  He’s the author of “Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power.”

Zbig, you see the situation in Ukraine.  What should Washington, what should other world leaders do?

 

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FORMER U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER:  We should be aware of the fact that this is truly a historically defining moment.  If we do the things we need to do, if we are firm and clear, but also somewhat flexible, we can still give Putin the chance to redeem himself and to rejoin the community of nations.

 

We are, in fact, facing the first use of force over territorial issues in Europe since the outbreak of World War II.  Putin is doing it.  I think he can be persuaded to stop if we stand united and that means presidential leadership from the United States and consistent, continued actions and European leaders rallying with us.  It’s a major challenge, but it is defining.

 

ZAKARIA:  You have argued — on your Twitter feed that what we need is a war crimes tribunal to — or the International Criminal Court to investigate and perhaps charge with war crimes those who were responsible for bringing this plane down.

 

BRZEZINSKI:  Yes, indeed.

 

ZAKARIA:  What would that be?

 

BRZEZINSKI:  Well, first of all, I have in mind Putin doing it.  That is to say — he can still say that the actions that were taken to shoot down that plane by his thugs with the arms he provided went far beyond anything he intended and that this was an illegal criminal act and the people responsible for it would be handed over to the international tribunal.  And he can suspend the military intervention in Ukraine itself, which is a cause of possible conflict between the east and the west as a whole.

 

These are the actions he can undertake.  If he fails to undertake them, he is actually challenging the cohesion of the international system and the security of Europe at the same time.

 

ZAKARIA:  You know, Zbig, that Europeans are much less willing, at least so far, to impose sanctions.  There has been some reasonably tough rhetoric, but because they are so dependent on Russian natural gas, there has been a reluctance to do much more.

 

Do you believe that this will be a turning point in Europe?

 

BRZEZINSKI:  My sense is that the European public opinion is aroused.  This humanitarian issue is so tragic, so painful, so cruel and so unnecessary that the Europeans are beginning to be moved.  But each of the major European leaders has a role to play.  Chancellor Merkel has to face the fact that her predecessor, also a chancellor, was one of the creators of Europe’s dependence on Russian energy supplies.

 

Does Europe want to become a satellite?  I think President Hollande has to face the fact that he cannot now, at this moment, be sending advanced arms to help Russia.  Prime Minister Cameron should face the fact that the city of London has become a Las Vegas for Russian financial transactions that are self-serving.

 

There are responsibilities these leaders have to face and they have public opinions which I think are becoming increasingly aware that this is truly a moment of decisive significance for the future of the system — of the world system.

 

ZAKARIA:  There are a lot of people who look at Washington’s reaction to Russia and say, look, it’s all very well to be tough, but we need, we, the Americans, need Russia on Syria, on Iran and if we end up with a new Cold War, you are not going to be able to get Russia to cooperate on any of these vital strategic issues that the United States cares about.  What would you say?

 

BRZEZINSKI:  I would say that we’re not starting the Cold War.  He has started it.  But he has gotten himself into horrendous jam.  I strongly suspect that a lot of people in Russia, even not far away from him who are worried that Russia’s status in the world is dramatically being undermined, that Russia’s economically beginning to fail, that Russia’s threatened by the prospect of becoming a satellite to China, that Russia’s becoming self-isolated and discredited.

 

I think there’s still maybe a chance that he can reverse course.  We are to emphasize that option and failing that, do what is necessary and at the same time try to deal with the other problems on our own if we can.

 

What is the alternative?  To let war break out in Europe?  To let Russia go on to the Baltic States from Ukraine?  To let acts such as these simply be ignored?  Is that the choice?  Is that the test of leadership?

 

ZAKARIA:  Let me switch gears with you, Zbig, and ask you about the Israeli invasion of Gaza.  Prime Minister Netanyahu on CNN told Wolf Blitzer that this was a strategy to demilitarize Gaza, explaining the use of force, but it has been — it has been quite a robust use of force and the most recent attacks apparently 60 Palestinians have died.

 

Do you think that it is going to succeed the Israeli stage?

 

BRZEZINSKI:  No, I think he is making a very serious mistake.  When Hamas in effect accepted the notion of participation in the Palestinian leadership, it in effect acknowledged the determination of that leadership to seek a peaceful solution from Israel — with Israel.  That was a real option.  They should have persisted in that.  Instead Netanyahu launched the campaign of defamation against Hamas, seized on the killing of three innocent Israeli kids to immediately charge Hamas with having done it without any evidence, and has used that to stir up public opinion in Israel in order to justify this attack on Gaza which is so lethal.

 

I think he is isolating Israel.  He’s endangering its longer-range future and I think we ought to make it very clear that this is a course of action which we thoroughly disapprove and which we do not support and which may compel us and the rest of the international community to take some steps of legitimizing Palestinian aspirations perhaps in the U.N.

 

ZAKARIA:  Zbig, when you were National Security Adviser, you had to deal with the Iranian revolution, the Iranian hostage crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, did it feel to you, and I’m thinking about the world we’re living in now, that there were so many crises taking place at the same time that Washington was simply overwhelmed and how should President Obama deal with these multiple crises happening in various parts of the world simultaneously?

 

BRZEZINSKI:  The fact is that in this realm the president has more autonomy than in the domestic realm, difficult and important as the domestic realm is.  It’s the area where he defines the future of this country’s position in the world.  So he has to lead and he has to be up front.

 

I support his positions but I think he could be more engaged in the promotion of them, in the assertion of them, in imposing in others the realization that he stands behind the initiatives that his secretary of state is pursuing and that there are consequences if we are defined — defied.  I think that is the role of the president today and that is the challenge in this complicated world.

 

My hope is that we can create coalitions ad hoc dealing with these different issues but what is happening in Ukraine could preempt these issues and this is why an intelligent but strong position, collective position with Europe on Russia and Ukraine is today so much needed.  With a positive outcome as our objective or a firm stand if necessary.

 

ZAKARIA:  Zbigniew Brzezinski, always a pleasure.  Thank you, sir.

 

BRZEZINSKI:  Thank you.

 

### ENDINTERVIEW ###