A former pro-Russian American politician, Henry Kissinger, gave an interview
to CNN, in which he said events in Ukraine were very nervously perceived in Moscow as Putin is convinced that it is a dress rehearsal for what is planned for Russia.
CNN reports (air date February 2, 2014):
- Starting Friday, the eyes of the world will be on Sochi, a resort town sandwiched between the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains. These two features will be the geographic backdrop of these games, but the geopolitics of the region are moving from background to foreground.
There are terror fields centered upon neighboring regions like Chechnya and Dagestan, with rest of Islamic populations, and then there is the revolution next door, just 600 miles away is Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, a nation of 45 million being rocked by a revolution. Ukraine gained its independence when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but it is still inextricably connected to Mother Russia.
To get a better grasp of what's going on there and what it might mean for the Sochi games I wanted to talk to a man who knows the region and its players very well, indeed. Henry Kissinger was, of course, Secretary of State under Richard Nixon. He's now the chairman of Kissinger Associates which helps corporations do business in countries around the world.
Fareed Zakaria: Henry Kissinger, thank you for joining us.
Glad to be here.
F. Zakaria: Now, we've talked about this and you think that what is going on in Ukraine is going to be of particular interest and sensitivity to Russia. Explain why Ukraine is so central to Russia and to Russian -- Russia's sense of its security?
Well, first of all, what the Russia of today developed from Kiev ...
F. Zakaria: From Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.
From Kiev. And Kiev used to be called Kiev Rous and so that the political and even more the religious development of Russia came out of Kiev. Then they split, but since the beginning of the end of the 17th, the beginning of the 18th century, Ukraine has been part of Russia. And I don't know any Russian, whether they're dissidents or pro-government, who does not consider Ukraine at least an essential part of Russian history. So the Russians cannot be indifferent to the future of Ukraine.
Now, I'm strongly in favor of an independent Ukraine and strongly in favor of Ukraine having an organic relationship to Europe, but to understand the Russian attitude, one has to look at history.
F. Zakaria: Now when you look at what is happening in Ukraine, how would you describe it? Because the way, you know, it appears on television is, you have forces for freedom, democracy, and a relationship, an organic relationship, with the West, battling against a pro-Russian president. Is that what's essentially happening?
That is not my impression of -- my impression, it's in essence a divided country. The eastern part is Orthodox, Russian oriented. The western part, the further west one gets, is the form of Catholicism. And ...
F. Zakaria: And Western ...
And pro-West. And pro-West. So I think the opinions are going to be fairly evenly divided. As to the parties fighting each other in Ukraine, my impression is, that each of them have democratic elements, each of them have oligarchic elements, and I don't consider the current president inevitably pro-Russian.
F. Zakaria: You know Putin well. You've met him more than any American. Do you think he is watching what is happening in Ukraine and thinking, the West and the United States is doing this essentially as a way of surrounding Russia?
I think he thinks that this is a dress rehearsal for what we would like to do in Moscow. And ...
F. Zakaria: Regime change?
A regime change issue. And the fact that it's happening so close to the Sochi games, will make him even more suspicious. But Putin thinks that the disillusion of the Soviet Union was a great historical disaster. So obviously, the largest part of this independence is Ukraine with 50 million people, and he can't be indifferent.
F. Zakaria: Do you think the Obama administration is handling this appropriately?
Well, the Obama administration has a tendency to keep making public statements on evolving, dramatic events, as if it's going to be settled on a Sunday talk show. I don't disagree with where the administration is heading, but I think it's not necessary to do it so publicly and one should have a better view of the long term historic evolution.
F. Zakaria: And your basic concern is that this will cause deep Russian resentment, which will make it difficult for us to find the cooperation with them when Syria or Iran or ...
Relating Russia to the rest of the world and to us is a huge challenge because here is a country that has been an imperial country for all of its history that has identified itself, to itself as by its imperial achievements. Now they have a frontier with China, which is a strategic nightmare. They have a frontier with Islam, which is an ideological nightmare. And they have a frontier with Europe that's historically very shaky.
On the other hand, Russian rulers throughout history have governed by giving the impression that they're very important abroad, so how do rally his country while looking fields abroad and yet realizing that huge adjustments are possible - are necessarily. I think that is the great thing, challenge that Putin faces an it's not in our interests to drive them into a beleaguered attitude where they feel they have to prove what they can do.
Department of Monitoring