Henry Kissinger and the German Defense Minister were on Fareed Zakaria today. This is from the CNN transcripts and Fareed’s interview with them. No comment needed from me, I can be sarcastic in another.
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ZAKARIA: Late last week, President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel stood together in the White House Rose Garden to express their solidarity against Russia’s actions. Days later, Vladimir Putin softened his tone and seemed to be looking for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis.
Will it happen and will Germany keep the pressure up?
Joining me now are Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. secretary of state, and Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the former German Defense minister.
Henry, you were on this program during the Sochi Olympics and you made two predictions, you said that Putin was not going to what was happening in Ukraine and the way in which Ukraine was trying to move to the West and move to the EU, and B, that he wouldn’t do anything during the Olympics. Both prove exactly right which is the day after being the Sochi Olympics, out, Putin moves.
Now reading him and you have met him more than any other American, do you believe what you’re hearing come from him suggest that he is not looking for a diplomatic path?
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER DEFENSE MINISTER: Yes. I believe that he’s looking for a diplomatic outcome, but when I discuss what the outcome is, he doesn’t just want an outcome in the abstract, it’s concerned. And every president that I know is to — they cannot look at Ukraine as an entirely fallen country, it’s (INAUDIBLE). So membership of Ukraine and NATO is something that it’s extremely grating to them if it were to happen.
And then it’s the principles, sir. Then he probably, most certainly wants the Ukraine as relatively weak as possible so they’re not in a position to challenge him because it’s a country of 45 million people. Those are the strategic objectives.
ZAKARIA: You think he doesn’t want to annex eastern Ukraine?
KISSINGER: No, but he would like, I guess is to have the eastern Ukraine as his sort of autonomous regions, but that’s not the key issue. The key issue seems to me to be this. If Russian strategic frontier at the border of Poland is unacceptable to the west. That would be if you follow the Ukraine fell under Russian —
ZAKARIA: Under Western control.
KISSINGER: Control. A Western strategic frontier 300 miles from Moscow is unacceptable to Russia. So the question is, can one create a kind of — you can say perfect state or an area of cooperation in which Ukraine will be free to participate in European economic relationships but not join NATO.
ZAKARIA: Merkel has been pretty strong in terms of supporting President Obama. She seems to be alone, though, in Germany in this regard. How do you read the German political situation?
KARL-THEODOR ZU GUTTENBERG, FORMER GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTER: It’s a hard situation for Angela Merkel at the moment because on one side of course she’s totally committed to the western alliance and has so often quoted values connected to it. On the other hand, she is the leader around the globe that has had the most direct contact with Vladimir Putin during the last couple of weeks and months, and I think that’s a balance she has to keep for foreign policy. Talking about the situation in Germany, she is facing quite some tough position. And you hear also some kind of growing — I call it selective anti- Americanism in a group which is not famous for doing so. So that’s a new development and it makes it hard for her to deal with.
ZAKARIA: There is an article that the editor of “Devout,” Germany’s big newspapers, saying, look, what we have to realize is that new Germany, it’s not just old West Germany of the cold wars. This much larger entity it includes parts of the West Germany of the Cold War. It’s much entity. It includes parts of the east that have historically been close to Russia and have part of themselves as part of — kind of bridge between the west and the east. Gerhard Schroeder, the former chancellor, going to Putin’s birthday party.
Is this a new Germany that is going to try to play a kind of different role and Merkel is kind of the one person trying to tug it in the Atlantic direction?
GUTTENBERG: So we have it already since a couple of years that the — that the discussion about finding an equilibrium, or an (INAUDIBLE) between West and the East Germany. And the former Chancellor Schroeder is just one exponent for that very notion, although it was quite ridiculous behavior he had shown at the end of last couple of weeks, first of all accusing the EU of aggressive behavior toward Russia and to the reaction as such was understandable, but it certainly is part of a Germany that tries to find a role within Europe, within the wider Europe, that is somewhere being redefined.
ZAKARIA: Henry, we should still be working, you feel, to keep Russia, in a sense, integrated into the current global order?
KISSINGER: I think paradoxically Russia is a country that has enormous internal problems. It’s a declining demography, it’s an inadequate industry. But it is a piece of strategic real estate, and piece of strategic real estate from Petersburg to (INAUDIBLE), which it is in everybody’s interest that it becomes part of an international system rather than an isolated island.
So yes, I would — I think one has to interpret Putin not like a Hitler like that he has been, but as a Russian czar who is trying to achieve the maximum for its country. Usually that message are excessive and we are correct in standing up to it, but we also have to know when the confrontation should end.
ZAKARIA: Henry Kissinger, Karl-Theofor, pleasure to have you both on.