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tv   Washington Journal Michael O Hanlon Discusses U.S.- Russia Relations  CSPAN  July 9, 2017 6:33pm-7:27pm EDT

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eastern monday morning. joined the discussion. announcer: now a look at president trump's meeting with russian president putin in hamburg and the state of u.s.-russia relations. from "washington journal," this is just under an hour. >> we want to welcome back michael o'hanlon, research fellow, out with a new book "beyond nato: a new security architecture for eastern europe." let's talk about russian president putin and the meeting on friday. what is your take away? guest: i think it did what it had to do. there are things that can be critiqued. we will continue to learn more about things that may have been said. we don't know yet if president trump tried to forgive president clinton for election shenanigans. we will learn more about that in the days and weeks to come. i thought what needed to happen was pretty much accomplished your there was firmness and mr.
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trump explaining that certain russian behavior had been unacceptable, and there was an effort to build a working relationship. in my book, i'm trying to argue and other people are, too, that we need to find ways of collaborating with russia and defusing the tension. it is going to be hard. the problems in the relationship are mostly russia's fault, but we have to get creative. seeing president trump and president clinton able to have a longer meeting, begin to talk about substance, seems to get some kind of an ok report going, that was all to the good. mr. trump's two predecessors both started out strong with putin and wound up frustrated, so i'm not suggesting there is huge progress, but it was pretty much what i expected and hoped for. host: if you could read the diplomatic tea leaves with regard to the somatic hacking diplomatic hacking issue, two different perspectives from sergey lavrov
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and rex tillerson. guest: i take a broader perspective on this. does not putin released because the truth, spin is a kind word for what he does. i'm not necessarily concerned about how each president reports what happened in their conversation. i'm more worried about knowing that president trump is sending a stern message, this cannot be tolerated and this kind of behavior is not consistent with a good relationship, this behavior in our elections and what he is doing in ukraine. as long as that message is being set by occasional policy -- is being set by american policy in the form of sanctions, i think we are ok regardless of what the tea leaves claim might have been set in the meeting. host: the president has been tweeting this morning with regard to election and cyber security. he said "putin and i discussed the celebrating an impenetrable cyber security unit so that the election hacking and other things will be guarded."
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he went on to tweet. well, let me get your reaction to that we first. guest: not really sure what that means, because certainly russian hackers are among the world's biggest problems in cyberspace. there is no way to create a unit that just becomes impenetrable or that makes everybody else's systems impenetrable. cyber security is a hard challenge for a long time, and i don't believe we can view russians as russian state actors as partners in this endeavor. occasionally we can exchange information and collaborate, but we should expect they are trying to learn from every interaction and figure out how to break into our systems. they are competitive when it comes to cyberspace, so that we concerns me a little because it's just wishful thinking on president trump's part. the second half -- questions were asked about why the cia and fbi had asked the dnc 13 times for their server and were rejected. guest: there are a lot of people
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who did not do very well last year in united states in terms of enhancing cyber security. the russians caused the problem. we were not very resilient or smart about how we reacted, and that extended up to president obama's mistake not to have explained before election day what we knew to be going on. president obama was concerned that this would make it seem like he was taking sides, but if you are the countries top law enforcement officer, you have got to tell people what is going on in that domain. i think a lot of agencies and organizations on the u.s. side did not quite get up this not last year. what is done is done. we have got to learn and be better next time. you wrote in april, "vladimir putin continues to make discipline is a difficult -- to make diplomacy difficult. as investigations heat up on russian interference, most of trump's security team is reverting to anti-russian rhetoric. if we continue, u.s.-russia were corrupt over a contested area in
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europe." to reduce the risk, you write we need to develop a alternative to the future expansion of nato, one that promotes the security and prosperity of countries in eastern europe. please explain. guest: we have now expanded nato to 29 countries, the last new member was last month, montenegro. we are promising membership as of the bush administration. as of 2008, we are promising eventual membership for ukraine and georgia, both of which were constituent republics of the soviet union. george is not even in europe. i think we have pushed the process too far. i was always a skeptic on nato expansion, but what is done is done and there were good reasons to try it, but it also had a predictable effect on u.s.-russian relations. vladimir putin is the number one problem in this relationship, but how would we feel if we had been engaged in a cold war for
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decades and the organization that defeated us expanded to include canada and mexico? that is essentially what we are doing to russia with nato, even though our intentions are good and we are not using military force to threaten them. at a psychological level, it is hard for russians to accept. they are competitive and proud people. they feel like we are rubbing their face in our victory in the cold war. i'm not suggesting that putin's to pave your -- whose behavior is defensible, but the way he uses nato's expansion to create support for this behavior at home was protectable, and i think we have to figure out how to change the dynamic. especially because we are not about to bring ukraine and georgia into nato anyway. we have created the worst of all worlds. we have promised to do so and made it appealing for booting to meddle in their -- appealing for putin to meddle in their affairs. as long as there is turmoil, we're not going to bring them in. we have promised them eventual membership and they have both been invaded by russia since the time he made a promise.
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we have to figure out a way to negotiate a neutral zone that would allow these countries economic and dramatic freedom but constrain options on nato membership and say nato is not enough. host: i also want to ask you about north korea. you wrote the toughening sanctions make sense, but tougher sanctions alone will not suffice. how do you deal with the problem in north korea? guest: there is not any easy answer, but i think we have to consider the idea of going for a deal that would freeze north korea's nuclear program rather than immediately dismantle it read the north koreans are not interested in being denuclearize read they see nuclear weapons as a crucial way to make sure what happened to saddam hussein and muammar gaddafi does not happen to them. host: you think they have nuclear weapons or the capacity for them? guest: everyone in the intelligence community thinks they do. of course, we have been run before, but we know they had ternium that they reprocessed.
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we watch them shut down the reactor. we know where their plutonium reprocessing occurs. we know they have underground secret uranium enrichment facilities. the estimates are they have enough material for one dozens of two dozen bombs and they have set five off, so they have tested five times. two thousand 6, 4 times in the obama administration. we pretty much know they have nuclear weapons. the hard part is, can they deliver them over an extended distance on a missile? that requires a smaller weapon and a reentry vehicle that can survive the turbulence and heat of atmospheric reentry, which is hard at long range. temperatures get into the more than thousand degree range and it is very easy for a warhead to be destroyed in that dissent. that is what we don't know, specifically what they can do to us erie it we are pretty confident they could put a weapon on an airplane, and if the airplane could penetrate air defense, could drop it on soul.
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they probably could put a nuclear war plane on a shorter missile, where reentry is less damaging. we pretty much know this is a big problem. host: one final point and we will get to viewers' calls. can you squeeze north korea from both ends, through russia and china, which i believe are its leading trading partners? guest: there is india as well, number of countries. you do have to squeeze multilaterally and use secondary sanctions on those companies and banks in countries like china that won't comply with the sanctions. we have to start indirectly creating the pressure. host: is that feasible? guest: yes, we did it with iran, that is what led to the nuclear deal. i also believe we need to consider a freeze as the first step in a u.s.-north korea and broader negotiation, so we can verifiably make sure they are not producing nuclear material anymore. all we have to do is give up our biggest exercises with south korea to get that deal.
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i would do it. nato," the newest book by michael o'hanlon. you can also read his book. our phone lines are open. marian joining us from virginia. caller: thank you so much for taking my call. my question is, from the very beginning with trump, we saw that he was very partial to , and then then seven or eight insiders in the trump campaign seem to have connections with russia, and now just this morning we hear about the meeting that eric jr. had. i guess my real question is, trump appointed tillerson, who exxon, then we got food and -- then we got putin, who if the sanctions were lifted
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-- which i assume is what putin is trying 4 -- then putin will trillion and $.5 so will ask on make a lot of money since they have all that land there. is that really what this is about? is this really about money? host: thank you, marion. guest: you are fundamentally right about the kind of motives that could be involved and about the kind of payout that could be involved, especially for the corrupt russian oligarchs that essentially run that country, and that includes people close to boudin and perhaps boudin himself. i have perhaps your same concern that that is part of the motive. onlyer, if putin's interest in life or to make himself richer, he has taken a strange path, because he did stabilize the russian economy when he was president from 2000 to 2008, but in the last few
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years, what he has been doing around the world, especially ukraine, has lead to sanctions that have caused russia's economy to go into recession. were really trying to maximize profit, he would not have invaded ukraine or would have gotten out as quickly as he could on whatever face-saving basis we could help them orchestrate. he hasn't done that. i have to assume that one of his other motives is to expand and maximize russian power and influence around the world, especially places like ukraine, but also the middle east. he has competing motives. he did not offer to president trump to get out of syria. he did not offer to get the united states come up with whatever plan we had for syria to make a piece, and he did not offer to pull out of ukraine. he did not make any of those offers. at a personal level, use the expression kissing off. at a personal level, he may have been trying to ingratiate himself with president trump, but his policies were not trying to please united states, as best i can tell.
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russia has got a number of motives, most of them not admirable, but more than just money. your concern is valid, but i think it is only one of the things we have to keep in mind and understanding putin. guest, michael o'hanlon, who earned his doctorate from princeton university. he is the author of a number of books, including "bending history." his latest book, "beyond the nato." our nextning us -- color is joining us from georgia, republican line. caller: i hope you give me some time to speak. c-span keeps drowning out people like mr. o'hanlon who essentially push fake news, so let me just make my comment. i wish mr. o'hanlon would comment on the fact that the united states got involved in ukrainian politics by having backed a resolution that removed the duly elected president of ae ukraine and installed
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president that was for america a few years back. this is what is really causing problems. mr. o'hanlon brushes that over. guest: you make a valid point about the origins of this crisis in complicated, and indeed that there was a ukrainian president extremely unpopular with his own people largely because he was seen as doing russian bidding who presided over a complete deterioration of the russian economy, which led to protests by the ukrainian people in the middle of the winter back in 2013-2014. that did lead to this deal, which was violated by the opposition, and did drive the former president out. but he was involved, and united states did not do that. we supported the peaceful protesters publicly, not through covert means. i am proud the united states supported those protesters because they had a valid point
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against their own president, but vladimir putin would read this much differently and he would say the united states was trying to bring its own version of democracy to russia's borders. i think we have nothing to apologize for, but one can debate that. there is no fake news here, but there are complex origins. i do not see that being a earningation for putin irregular forces into eastern ukraine and producing a war that has killed thousands of people, shooting down a malaysian airliner, even if it was tactically by mistake, it was the result of willingness to create violence and mayhem. it is hard to find it offensive vladimir putin. , going alongcy with the spirit of your comment, i will say he at least recognized that we've united states had no real clue what we were doing in the syrian civil war. we called for president assad ouster, we made tentative steps toward helping the opposition, we did not follow through, the
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war got worse, 500,000 people died. ouras not fundamentally fault, but the policy we constructed in the obama years to respond was entirely ineffective. i think putin got quite cynical about watching the united states , in his mind, blundering around in the middle east without much affect or positive result. i can go along with the spirit of your comments to that degree, not to the point of defending vladimir putin. host: rick joining us from florida, our line for independents. caller: good morning. everybody is talking about fake news now. this is donald trump's keyword, fake news. i can tell you what's fake. that meeting that he had with putin the other day. what we got out of the meeting as far as citizens was a bunch of lies from both of them, i guess. trump says what he said and putin says what he said, and
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both of them are lying, so who do we believe? guest: i would say the most important thing is to see how the two countries behave. there are real issues here. i'm not that concerned about the commentary on the meeting itself. as i said earlier, it is more important that they establish a working relationship because addressing the war in ukraine, the war in syria, the nuclear crisis in north korea, these are real issues. we are going to see how the two countries behave. i'm more interested in that than how we interpret what happened friday. you may be right, but it was probably an ok meeting, it just did not go very far. it was the first effort to establish a collaboration. now comes the hard part, figuring out how to solve these intractable crises. byt: we are joined live bureau chief for the associated press. thank you for being with us on this sunday. caller: thank you. just for purposes of accuracy,
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let me correct that i'm not bureau chief, i'm second-in-command. host: thanks very much for being with us. let me ask you first, how is the meeting between president trump and president clinton playing out in moscow -- president putin playing out in moscow? caller: it is being interpreted largely very positively. i think the most characteristic or demonstrative headline that i have seen was from the very name]r tabloid [russian that headlined its story about the meeting as putin and trump have found a path to peace in syria and ukraine. that is arguably a very premature assessment given that onlyeeting had to do with small elements of both the syrian and ukraine conflict. nonetheless, it does seem to reflect the russians' view of the meeting as being very
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positive and also reducing a lot of the anxiety about trump, who had been very much an unknown quantity here. host: let me pick up on something that michael o'hanlon was referring to earlier, that this is the first step is a long-term relationship between putin and trump. where does this go next in terms of other areas? syria, north korea. waymore tangible results, from the meeting -- can more tangible results come away from the meeting on friday? caller: i think the two most pragmatic issues on the minds of russian officials and the populace in general is one, whether the u.s. was going to reduce or rescind any of its sanctions against russia, and secondly, whether the u.s. is going to get back the diplomatic compounds that the obama
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administration took away from the russians in late december. on the second issue on the compounds, that is an issue that seems to have disappeared from russian coverage of the meeting, just because it is as yet unresolved. putin and trump discussed it, but there was no resolution. as far as sanctions, the appointment of kurt voelker as special envoy for your grain, -- for ukraine, which was announced as part of the trump-putin meeting, that is seen as a step toward possibly getting rid of the sanctions connected with the war in ukraine's east. to the extent that kurt voelker succeeds in pushing the peace process forward in ukraine, that could also impact sanctions. north korea, that is a very
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murky issue. the north korea issue essentially has not been discussed in russian media as a consequence of the trump-putin meeting. guest: we are talking with -- host: we are talking with james hynes in moscow, covering russia for the associated press. host: james, quick question for you. you mentioned current folder. -- you mentioned ambassador kurt voelker, i'm am friends with him, very accomplished, sort of a russia hawk. friend in any sense of the word, very concerned about russian behavior in recent years. i am curious about why you interpret his appointment as an indication there is any momentum toward resolving the ukrainian civil war and sanctions that resulted. i am more skeptical about the path forward. that is part of why i wrote this
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book because i think we need a bigger idea than appointing an envoy to solve the ukraine problem. caller: i was pondering that myself, and i don't have any more of a real sense of it at this point than you do. voelker as know curt being a comparative russia hawk, so at this point, his appointment and russia's apparent happiness with his appointment may in part indicate that russia is looking for a little bit of tough love in this by being involved in the conflict in east ukraine that created a lot of unforeseen problems for themselves, and one has the sense that russia has been looking for an exit in a way that they can save face.
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host: will there be a second, third, and fourth meeting? where does this go next between president trump and putin? caller: i would say that any kind of predictive statement about russia or about trump is a bad bet, but i would, of course, are twoiven that these superpowers with a lot of interest that they share and a lot of conflicts that they share , certainly there would be more meetings. the timeframe, the substance of the meeting, and the tempers at the time are all extremely hard to predict. host: with regard to syria in the short term, what will you be looking for with regard to russia and its involvement in the cease-fire that began earlier today in the southwestern part of the country? caller: i would be looking for
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any indication that russia is going to try to keep -- going to presence ofase its truce enforcers were peacekeepers beyond this very small part of southwest area that the agreement announced this weekend covers. , moscow newseintz editor for the associated press, joining us from russia. thank you for being with us. we appreciate your insights. back to your phone calls. that's good to kevin from california, -- let's go to kevin from california, line from republicans. caller: i hope you are well. mr. o'hanlon, it is in my opinion that in the past decade, russians have cut ties with america and lifted plenty of sanctions. financial sanctions and trade sanctions really hinder a country, the way that we put them on to russians. without questions, the russians
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had their interest in donald trump because they saw mrs. clinton has a continuation of the obama chrome in -- obama program and sanctions. my question is, what exactly did the russians do to mess with our elections? it was in their best interests for president trump to win, but i don't think they changed or influenced a single vote. can you please explain what exactly the russians did? guest: i will do my best, in very broad terms. other people celebrate this -- other people study this in more detail. the sanctions that have been imposed so far only one of the problems with the russian economy, maybe not even the top problem. the drop in oil prices has been the number one cause of the russian recession. a lot of the sanctions have been on putin and his cronies, especially cronies that have bank accounts or business interest abroad, not being allowed to access that money or to travel. of theot affecting most
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broader russian economic interest -- relationship with the outside world. we still have countries doing business with and in russia. sanctions are light at the moment, and i think putin knows it could get worse. i am not as convinced as james in the moscow bureau that putin is looking for a way out of the ukrainian crisis. i think you can tolerate the amount of pain right now. if he were to get more aggressive, we can certainly turn up the volume quite a bit detrimentns to mutual to both economies, the west and russia, but there you have it. the sanctions are modest so far. in terms of what russia did last year, you are right that the effects were limited or nonexistent in terms of vote tallies. they did not manage to get inside our voting tabulation or vote counting machines and change the numbers, so there is nobody -- no american who was ultimately credited with voting
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for donald trump who really tried to vote for hillary clinton but the vote somehow got changed by a cyber worm or hack. that did not happen. it could happen next time, but it did not happen this pastime. what i understand russia to have done, apart from releasing emails that hackers access to the democratic national committee, which cap hillary clinton's campaign offguard and make conversations look pretty bad, including their desire not to see bernie sanders win the nomination at the dnc, their desire to help hillary -- all that was stuff you and i could read. they are the calculations that happen in most political campaigns, but we found out about the ones the democrats were having, not about any such conversations the republicans are having, because the russian league was selective -- russian leak was selective. there was some contribution by russian cyber warriors toward
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essentially echoing some of the quote unquote fake news about hillary and various things she was reported to have done were people around her to have done, some of which were not truthful. there was an effort by russia to make sure those sorts of stories were amplified on social media. those are the two main things i would start with, but they did not change the vote count. in that sense, the russian damage was in the realm of propaganda rather than actual change to the outcome, per se. host: let me get your reaction from a tweet earlier this morning where the president says it is time to move on. we negotiated a cease-fire in parts of syria, which will save lives. now it is time to move forward working constructively with russia. what does that mean to you, working constructively? guest: what it means to me is issued by issue. on north korea, it means tightening the sanctions, but also looking for a new negotiating strategy.
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for syria, it means some kind of political vision for the country that recognizes president assad is not going anywhere anytime soon. yet at the same moment we say that, the sunnis in syria cannot be expected to live under a guy who has been barrel bombing their apartment buildings and neighborhoods. they need some degree of autonomy, safe zones, sanctuaries, local governance. we need some kind of complex lyrical vision for syria that essentially acknowledges a sod is still going -- acknowledges acknowledges assad will be president but make sure his armies do not terrorize the populations where he has been doing so. we need flexibility and creativity on that front and some military collaboration on the ground as well, not just to defeat isis, but to defeat the al qaeda affiliate, which is in a touchy, sensitive part of the country. if we don't work with russia on that, i don't think we can do it.
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finally on ukraine and georgia and other parts of eastern europe, i think we need a vision that we would try to negotiate within nato with the neutral countries themselves and with moscow. the vision should be neutrality for the countries that are not currently in nato. in other words, end the process of nato expansion. if russia would pull its military forces out of ukraine and georgia, we could start to look to an end of sanctions. countries at issue would have every right and freedom to join economic associations to have their own diplomacy and foreign policy. we just would not extend nato that far. in other words, issue by issue is how you have to collaborate. they are all hard and controversial issues. host: we know the president watches this program. this is a tweet that came out moments ago. sanctions were not discussed at my meeting with president putin. nothing will be done until the ukrainian and syrian problems are solved. what would you tell the president? guest: first of all, thanks for watching. secondly, i think he is right, that we will have to go forward
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with solutions. i think his administration has done a good job of underscoring with ambassador haley, secretary tillerson, and others that we could not have business as usual or lifting of sanctions until russia gets out of ukraine. they have been saying that for months. i think there has been clarity on that. i'm glad to hear further clarity this morning. i think that is the right way to think about it. but we also will not imagine a way for russia to get out of ukraine unless we rethink the security architecture in eastern europe. if russia thinks we are going to bring ukraine into nato, russia will want some way to stop that, some way to meddle so ukraine is two week and divided to keep that from happening. that is why we have to negotiate a neutral zone and eastern europe. host: let's go to richard in florida on the republican line. good morning. caller: thank you for taking my call. mr. o'hanlon, i have followed
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your thoughts on foreign policy for some time, and oddly enough, i find myself mostly in agreement with you. i have got a two-part question on different areas of the world. unless i missed something because i tuned in late, i believe i heard you say that not much got accomplished between president trump and putin at the summit. you don't believe the cease-fire that begins today amounts to anything? are you anticipating that to fail? the second question -- host: we will get the first question answered and come back to you. guest: that is an excellent point. i did not expect to see a cease-fire come out of this. as you know, it is very localized. i did not expect this kind of detail to be possible in the meeting that was supposed to be 45 minutes and got to two hours. i am impressed they got to that level of substance and had that much preparation before the meeting. i am still wary of any announcement of cease-fire in syria. it has happened multiple times before. even if this does stick, it is only one small part of the country.
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but you're right. it is a promising development and we should hold out hope for it. host: your follow-up? caller: thank you. mr. o'hanlon, i am very interested in your take on what we are going to do with north korea. to me, the one that breaks the peaceful approach is back is when they marry a nuclear warhead to an icbm. guest: this is an excellent point you make as well. we know president obama and president-elect trump were discussing this last fall. i believe mr. obama told the president-elect this was likely to be the biggest issue that he had not seen as much in the headlines as it was going to be. president obama recognized the situation was going downhill. president trump has been very forthright, saying he wants to solve this problem on his watch. ,'m not sure a solution, per se is realistic anytime soon, however. that is why i think we need this
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carrot and stick approach, tougher sanctions, including indirect american sanctions on foreign companies that do business with north korea. at the same time, more flexibility on the negotiating path going forward. i would like to see the north korea nuclear program frozen, including production of nuclear materials and testing. testing of long-range missiles also frozen. if we can get those things done verifiably -- that is going to be hard -- i would be willing to suspend the south korean military exercises we do each we're -- each year. we could find a way to make do without those if we can get a nuclear freeze from north korea. north korea has still got probably 15 bombs, not good, but a whole lot better than seeing north korea have 100 bombs, as they might otherwise in five or 10 years. host: our guest is michael o'hanlon. mary is joining us from philadelphia, democrats mine. -- democrats line. caller: thank you for taking my
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call. i believe russia and some of these other foreign countries are using the same tactics putin believed we have used regarding russia in the past to weaken the kremlin. you know, to financially weaken our country. you know, applying -- engaging us in all these conflicts in civil wars around the globe. we are $20 trillion in debt and we entered into iraq based on flawed intelligence from other countries, not the intelligence of the united states. this is what we have been following behind, intelligence from other countries. they have been using it to profit their own country. we have to start thinking strategically. why are we engaged in so many
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conflicts around the globe? and what can we do to disengage ourselves? because i agree with trump when he said we entered iraq based on flawed intelligence. but it wasn't from the united states, it was from other countries. host: thank you, mary. guest: you make a lot of valid points. i think president trump on the campaign trail spoke for a lot of americans like you invoicing the same frustrations. two things. you raised a lot of suspects -- subjects. first, i think we have to take some responsibility for the intelligence failures that led to the iraq war. we had a lot of foreign sources and foreign intelligence agencies, but our agencies got it wrong, too. i got it wrong, too. i did not have firsthand knowledge, but i looked at the information. a lot of us concluded that if
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saddam was hiding so much, he must have something to hide. that turned out not to be true. i think that is partly on us. in terms of all these conflicts and crises -- let me go back to north korea -- i have been happy to see president trump quickly think through his options and recognize he does not have a good military option in north korea now. he is trying be approach of trying to put pressure on other countries, including his new friend president xi jinping in china to turn up the economic heat. it is the only viable way forward. a more we also need flexible negotiating strategy, because we cannot afford a war there. we have to do whatever we can to avoid that. patrick joining us from omaha, nebraska, independent line caller:. i want to say i feel this guy is presenting a false narrative. i watch rt a lot read they have a show called "cross talk." they bring up the point that we spend billions in ukraine to overthrow the government and
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spend billions to overthrow assad in syria. europeans are paying for the sanctions, not americans. rtst: some valid points, but is a pretty questionable new source. i have done that show quite a few times. they let me finish my sentences, i'm grateful for that. they don't interrupt or i would not do that show. however, the other guests they have on and sometimes even the background information from the anchor is skewed and sometimes flat-out wrong. let me go through your two specific points. you are right we have spent billions in syria trying to unseat assad. were certainly many hundreds of millions. but we did not spend billions causing a revolution in ukraine. we gave very limited help with democracy promotion and civil society organization through boardarent, above the organizations like the international republican institute and national democratic institute.
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probably provided a few tens of millions of dollars. again, about the board, to groups that were trying to strengthen their democracy. president putin saw that as transparent tip of the iceberg and thought we were doing a lot of things beneath the surface. i don't agree. i don't know of any basis for that concern. to say we spent billions of dollars to cause revolution in ukraine, i don't think rt is correct when they say that. >> i want to ask you about nato and montenegro. this is a country of just over 600,000 people, a very small country on the adriatic sea, yet it has become a flashpoint, a sore spot, when it comes to nato and expansion. can you explain why? guest: montenegro and serbia are long-standing russian friends. they share an orthodox religious tradition. russia often had influence in that part of europe through many previous centuries of european imaginations that gave us -- european machinations that gave
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us the world war. world war i had its spark in the balkans. there is still a lot of emotional baggage. this is also about the only outpost russia has left in europe of places friendly toward it, serbia in particular. montenegro has split off from serbia in recent years as the former yugoslavia increasingly shrank and now does not exist in that form at all anymore. montenegro is a very small country. it is not a military powerhouse. it is not going to be a military battleground between russia and nato in any way i can perceive. i think its admission into nato is a mistake. what it has done is simply antagonized the u.s.-russia relationship with no apparent strategic benefit. host: what about its location on the water? guest: the mediterranean is a place we have competed with russia before. we have all the ports we could ever need in the mediterranean. russian warships are not calling in montenegro. they have limited access elsewhere. the russian navy is not a threat to nato's southern flank,
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in my judgment. even if it were, montenegro is a tiny piece in the equation. that if we are bringing it into nato to keep russian warships out, we are getting paranoid about how to think about the naval balance in the mediterranean. a tiny country, beautiful country, mountainous country, very limited population, very weak economy. i think bringing it in was a reflection of the ongoing momentum. i don't blame president trump. this process was started well before he was in office. it should make us think twice, do we have a clear idea of what we're up to with the nato expansion process? host: the book is called "beyond nato: a new security architecture for eastern europe ." let's go to bob from massachusetts. caller: good morning, gentlemen. i would like to say, i am sorry you are so skewed toward hillary clinton. i watched hillary clinton sit in front of congress and lie under oath. mr. comey was asked to look into
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-- was asked by jason j fits to look into it -- was asked by s to look into what she did. she said she had a server, she had three. she said she had one phone, she had seven. she was destroying the phones. 30,000 emails disappeared. all you guys just accept that stuff. i don't understand. she broke a lot of laws. comey put words into statutes about breaking laws. intent is not anywhere in any of it. host: thank you, bob. let's get a response. guest: i'm not here to talk about hillary clinton's role in last year's election. i was asked a question about russia's role, and i tried my best to respond to that, so maybe you are referring to other shows on c-span. i was not here to debate 2016 or the elections. host: from bella vista, arkansas, charles, good morning. caller: good morning. michael, please explain the difference between russian
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intervention in our elections and the difference between obama's interference with israelis' election? also, if you could guess why the coverage by the news people were completely different between the two. guest: you and i may have a disagreement. i think vladimir putin did all the things i mentioned earlier with trying to circulate certain kinds of news stories, do a fair amount of hacking, and release emails. and our role in the israeli elections -- frankly, president obama i thought was very light in his touch. obviously, he and prime minister netanyahu have a strained relationship. i'm glad to see president trump and prime minister netanyahu seem to have a good one going forward. beyond the fact that everybody knew that obama and netanyahu did not have a great, productive relationship, i don't think
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the united states took sides in the israeli elections. host: in your piece about north korea, you made reference to otto warmbier. based on what you know about the north korean regime, what happened to them? guest: we don't know, but you have to assume some kind of serious mistreatment. whether it was beating him up just out of anger, that the prison guards thought they were somehow doing the will of their leader by punishing him for taking a sign down in a hotel lobby -- i think is the extent of what he was purported to have done -- or whether he had some kind of medical episode and they failed to properly treat him and it got worse, we don't know. but we do know whatever they did was inhumane, and obviously in the end, amounted to murder. at least i would put the burden of proof on them to dispel that argument, if they really think there is any counterargument to it. but we do not know precisely what happened. host: the larger and more
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significant issue in terms of what is going to happen with north korea, you talk about the number of weapons the country has, the number of potential weapons it has. if sanctions don't work, are there other options? guest: if there were a war, i think we can be fairly confident several things would be the outcome. the north korean regime would be destroyed. we would win with south korea. whether china took some foothold in northern north korea with its own armies would be up in the air. i would predict maybe. but that is ok. we don't need to control all of northern north korea. but unfortunately, we could see anywhere from hundreds of thousands to even the low millions of fatalities, including many, many south koreans and tens of thousands of americans, because there is the distinct possibility that north korean weapons could be used around seoul. i doubt very much they could reach the united states. i'm not going to predict that would be a likely or plausible result at this point.
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but i think you could see nuclear weapons detonated in seoul. even if there were not nuclear weapons, north korea has up to 1000 artillery tubes that right now today are within range eoul to deliver weapons that could kill 5, 10, 20 people if they land on a street and those people are around. even if those people take shelter fairly fast, you would have a fair amount of property damage, probably in the billions of dollars. to ultimately stop that and do a counter invasion to overthrow the regime that would have initiated that, which i assume is where this would go, now you're talking about an all-out war with the north korean army being one million people. i think the fourth-largest on earth, and pretty indoctrinated that kim jong-un is their leader they must always obey and fight for to the death. i think it would be a very ugly fight. host: sobering. let's go to cindy, joining us from louisiana on the independent line.
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sir, y'all need to tell the victoria nuland tapes in the ukraine when she says how many billions of we were dollars spending. she also says who the next president is going to be. she also said if you don't like what we are doing, you can go blank yourself. let's see the tapes and quit taking opinions. host: thank you for the call. do you want to comment? guest: good memory. that was a very interesting diplomatic episode, when victoria nuland, an important official for president obama, was overheard saying some pretty blunt things. , even ifher bluntness it is regrettable those particular comments got public, but i don't think the united states spent billions of on a dollars secret plan to cause revolution in ukraine. i don't think that is the right way to think about it. we spent tens of millions
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promoting democracy, promoting above the board, transparent efforts to help ukrainians organize themselves into various political entities. a far smaller and more transparent activity than has been alleged. host: our last call is from michigan on the democrats' line. raymond, good morning, thank you for waiting. caller: good morning. i got two points. one is you give president trump too much credit. he israel narrow focused -- he is real narrow focus. there is a $5 billion oil bill pending that was put on hold when russia went into crimea, put on sanctions. his only goal is to figure out how to get covered to russia so they can lift the sanctions. [indiscernible] trump isll president focused on, how to get these sanctions removed so they can
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get the oil deal through with tillerson. the biggest strategic mistake that americans are going to have to pay for is tpp, the trans-pacific partnership. that was more than just a trade deal. there was a military component keeping the asian pacific, the nato of the pacific, keeping north korea and china and check. by dismantling tpp, we have no check. we could have went to these people and asked for help against north korea. now since we have dismantled tpp, we have to pay for those consequences. guest: thank you for your points. two quick reactions. tpp is a trade deal, not a military organization. the military organizations and alliances we have in asia are intact. there is no expansion of them as a result of tpp, but there would not have been even if tpp had been ratified. i agree tpp was a good idea and had a lot of aspects that would have strengthened our overall strategic position in nonmilitary terms and that would
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have, i think on balance, enhanced our power. i do hope we can get back to it. on sanctions and president trump's motives in russia, if all he wanted to do was lift sanctions, he picked a funny cabinet to do that. ambassador haley, who has been adamant in saying russia must get out of ukraine if it wants sanctions lifted. secretary mattis, who has done the same thing, and secretary tillerson himself. i might have had some of the same fears you did last year , listening to candidate trump talk about the kind of relationship he wanted with russia if elected. but so far in office, his team has been pretty resolute in promising that sanctions will not be lifted until russian behavior changes. host: let me ask you about the next step between the u.s. and russia. we talked about whether there will be more meetings. this syria cease-fire that took place today. do you think we can move beyond so much discussion about 2016 and see results in other areas? guest: yes, but it will get harder before it gets easier. take, for example, eastern
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syria. we are making pretty good progress against isis, but this creates the possibility of a security vacuum. who will move in to fill it? iran has an answer to that. how about us, they say, how about hezbollah? which is the terrorist organization they sponsor which is enemies with israel and has shelled israel in the past and killed a lot of israelis. there is concern as isis is driven out of eastern syria that iran could create a land bridge through iraq, syria, all the way to lebanon. that is probably not in our interest or the interest of israelis or even jordanians or iraqis. i think we have to figure out what kind of a force goes into eastern syria to prevent that. it is not worth a huge u.s. military effort or the risk of u.s.-russian direct conflict, but it may be worth trying to train up a larger syrian opposition, trying to propose a u.n. force for that sector,
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maybe even putting in modest additional numbers of americans in that sector to help create and catalyze this new governing structure in the east. we could imagine a confederation in syria where assad rules much of the west and the turks keep their forces in the east as peacekeepers, essentially. the russians stay in the west as well. the kurds have areas in the north. and then this internationally governed space in the east replaces isis. and then we try to solidify -- make that deal permanent and then get on with the process of rebuilding syria. you use your economic leverage to try to get assad to step down. basically say, if you want the part of the country you control to ultimately get the reconstruction aid, you will have to find a successor government. you can have a hand in choosing it, but you cannot stay because you have too much blood on your hands. that is the kind of mechanism i think would work, or at least has a chance better than anything else. as you can see, it is complex and has to go further than one or two localized cease-fires
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in parts of the country relatively stable to begin with. we also need a strategy to defeat al qaeda in syria. which is known as the front for conquest now. you broke off from al qaeda, but it is an al qaeda derivative with a lot of the same ideology. if they keep that ideology and military tactics, we will have to work with the sod and russia -- work with president assad in russia to defeat them. there is no plausible way for us to do it by ourselves. host: we need another hour to talk about that. michael o'hanlon, thank you for being with us. your latest book, "beyond the nato," and your work available online at brookings. russian president vladimir putin gave a closing news conference yesterday at the g 20 summit. he talked about his meeting with president trump and their conversation about russian interference in the 2016 u.s. election. this 20 minute portion begins with a


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