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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Examining the Russia/UK Troubles; Russian Election Discussed. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired March 18, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:13] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria coming to you live from London today.
ZAKARIA: On today's show, a secretary of State fired. A poisoned spy and the Kremlin holds elections.
First up, the American secretary of State gets fired via Twitter. What does Rex Tillerson's departure mean for America and the world?
Then, a poisoning in Britain sets off a major international incident with Russia.
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The United Kingdom will now expel 23 Russian diplomats.
ZAKARIA: Where does the furor over a former spy go from here?
It's also election day in Russia. But that really begs the question, will Putin be president for life? I'll ask one of his opponents, Ksenia Sobchak.
ZAKARIA: But first, here's "My Take." If confirmed as secretary of State, Mike Pompeo will arrive at a department that has been battered by proposed budget cuts, hollowed out by resignations and vacancies, and neutered by President Trump's impulsive and personal decision- making style. But Pompeo's most immediate challenge will not be rebuilding the department or restoring morale. It will be dealing with an acute foreign policy crisis that is largely of the president's own making, regarding the Iran nuclear deal.
Pompeo will have to tackle a genuine foreign challenge soon. President Trump has agreed to meet with Kim Jong-un before the end of May. This could be a promising development yet before Trump even sits down with Kim to discuss a nuclear deal, the administration will have to discuss how to handle the preexisting deal with Tehran.
From the outset, Mike Pompeo has cheered Trump in his hard-line posturing toward Iran. Trump has announced that America will no longer abide by the Iran nuclear pact unless European leaders agree to fix the deal's, quote, "disastrous flaws," end quote. They seemed unwilling to endorse more than cosmetic changes and Iran for its part has flatly refused to renegotiate.
All this means that by May 12th, the United States is set to pull out of the Iran accord, which could lead Iran to do the same thing and restart its nuclear program. And this would be happening at the very same time as the summit with North Korea when the United States will surely be trying to convince North Korea of the benefits of signing a similar agreement.
Recall that Iran did not have nuclear weapons, only a program that could have led to them. Still, the deal required the Iranians to scale back significant aspects of their program, dismantling 13,000 centrifuges, giving up 98 percent of their enriched uranium and effectively shutting down their plutonium reactor at Iraq.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has cameras and inspectors in Iran at every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle from mines to labs to enrichment facilities. The IAEA attests that Tehran has in fact abided by its end of the deal, even Mike Pompeo himself has conceded as much.
The Iran deal is not perfect, but it has stabilized a dangerous and spiraling situation in the Middle East. With a deal to unravel an already similar region would get much hotter. In an interview, with CBS' "60 Minutes," the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad bin Salman, recently affirmed that his kingdom would go nuclear if Iran did.
The tragedy here is that this is an entirely self-inflicted crisis. There was already enough instability in the world that the administration did not need to create more. Pompeo should recognize that his job as secretary of State will be to solve problems not produce them, and that he should preserve the Iran agreement and spend his time on North Korea.
Pompeo should take a page from his boss' book. Trump has reversed course on issue after issue, often with little explanation. Remember what he said about NATO?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said it was obsolete. It's no longer obsolete.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: Likewise he promised to label China a currency manipulator and then decided against it. He insisted that talking to North Korea would be a waste of time, then eagerly announced that he would. So whatever Pompeo said about the Iran deal months ago is now ancient history. He should simply declare that right now under the circumstances the deal is worth preserving.
There are significant costs to the nation's credibility and reputation. If Washington keeps reversing its positions on core foreign policy issues. Yet there are greater costs to stubbornly persisting with the wrong policy. [10:05:06] So, Mr. Pompeo, repeat after me. The Iran deal was bad,
but now it's good.
For more, go to CNN.com/fareed, and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
It was a week filled with foreign policy intrigue in one fell swoop or one long tweet to be precise. The president fired his secretary of State and named a new one. In the world outside of 280 characters, he openly admitted to fibbing to the Canadian prime minister. He's fixing for a fight with South Korea on tariffs, which are big thanks for arranging a meeting between him and Kim Jong-un, and of course, there is the big row between Britain and Russia over a spy poisoned on English soil.
Joining me now, David Miliband, the former Foreign secretary of the United Kingdom, he is now the president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the former director of policy planning at the State Department. And here with me in London is Zanny Minton Beddoes, the editor-in-chief of "The Economist."
David Miliband, what do you make of the Tillerson firing? Have you ever seen anything like it in all your years in diplomacy?
DAVID MILIBAND, FORMER UNITED KINGDOM FOREIGN SECRETARY: No. Rex Tillerson was inexplicably abusive toward his own department. He tried to take on the State Department rather than work with the State Department. But the manner of his dismissal and more important, what his dismissal portends for the future of the American foreign policy, is obviously a grave concern.
I can't think of a more dangerous moment when you've got crises around the world, not just North Korea and Iran, but the tragedy in Yemen, the man-made tragedy. You've got dysfunction in Washington of the kind that the Tillerson demotion or firing represents, and you have a new belligerence on the part of the president that I think portends some really very, very major decisions coming up.
I think that the rising rhetoric, the great fear is now that the rising rhetoric is matched by actions on the part of the administration because until now the combination of Tillerson and Mattis I think has helped keep things in check.
ZAKARIA: Zanny, when you look at it, what is the -- what is the personnel change mean in policy terms?
ZANY MINTON BEDDOES, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE ECONOMIST: Well, I think you've gone from a weak and ineffective secretary of State, but one who was broadly viewed as a grown-up, who held the conventional view of alliances and the importance of the global order, to a man in Mike Pompeo who is someone clearly who the president gets on with, and who knows how to flatter the president. Who is somewhere between a hardcore hawkish realist and an America firster.
And I think what that means is you've basically got Trump there at the beginning of the second year of his presidency who said I'm going to do it my way, and you have President Trump, remember in the campaign, he was basically very all holds barred. He dislikes alliances, he wants to make America great by distancing the world.
Then when he was started in foreign policy, we all thought actually not that much were changed because he's brought a bunch of generals and a bunch of grown-ups in. And I think now we're seeing him essentially get rid of the people that he doesn't like, who don't look good on TV, or don't say nice things to him, and bring in people much more to his liking.
ZAKARIA: Richard Haass, you've long said that Tillerson should resign because he was -- he obviously didn't have the confidence of his boss. Max Boot, the historian, says Rex Tillerson is the worst secretary of State since 1898, since the United States became a great power.
Do you think that's true and do you think, as Zanny Minton Beddoes does, that the Pompeo announcement is also a big policy shift towards a more hawkish or America first direction?
Oh, I'm sorry. We -- let me ask you, Zanny Minton Beddoes, do you feel like when you look at the new configuration, is it something that you're likely to see new policy on? Because part of what -- I mean, for Trump, this is more in some ways just having people who are congenial around him, it seems like he just didn't get -- he didn't enjoy the company of Rex Tillerson.
MINTON BEDDOES: I think that's right. He certainly doesn't like people who may or may not have called him a moron, but we definitely -- I think we now have people who have a different view on certain important things. So as you said earlier in the show, on the Iran deal, clearly Mike Pompeo shares the president's view, Rex Tillerson didn't. Before that, you have Rex Tillerson was, you know, in favor of the climate change deal. He was much keener on alliances.
On North Korea, he didn't know anything about what was going to happen in terms of direct talks so that was partially a function of the fact that he was a very weak secretary of State, but it was also partly a function I think that the president just didn't respect him.
[10:10:07] So is it better to have someone as America's chief diplomat who speaks for the president, which I think Mike Pompeo will do much more, but also you have someone who is much less likely, perhaps to restrain the America first agenda?
ZAKARIA: All right. We are going to come back with this panel, including Richard Haass, and we will talk about trade and Russia when we get back.
ZAKARIA: And we are back with David Miliband, Zanny Minton Beddoes, and hopefully Richard Haass if we can get him back.
David Miliband, big foreign policy challenge in your country. What to do about Russia?
[10:15:02] We all know the circumstances, but I wanted to get your take on I suppose the simple question, has Theresa May, has the British government been tough enough in their response to what they believe was Vladimir Putin personally ordering a murder on British soil?
MILIBAND: I think she has made the right start, but it can only be the start because this is an attack not just on the UK, it's the first use of chemical nerve agent since the Second World War on European soil, and therefore is an attack on frankly the whole of the Western alliance.
I think the absolute key going forward is going to be two sets of allies that she needs to bring into play. The first are the obvious allies in the U.S. and around Europe where they're going to need to work together for some targeted financial sanctions that really address some of the people around Putin as well as Putin himself.
The second thing is that we have to understand how Russia has been building alliances elsewhere in the world. It's been reaching out to Saudi Arabia, it's been reaching out to Israel. And those countries, too, who like to see themselves as very close allies of the U.S. or the UK, they also need to be part of a very clear demonstration to President Putin's regime.
These attempts to sow discord around the world, to undermine some very fundamental aspects of global stability, are not acceptable. Frankly Russia is now a member of the U.N. Security Council that behaves in too many ways like a rogue state. And unless that's met with a very clear and very united response, it's going to get worse.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, David, briefly. The leader of your party, the Labour Party in Britain, has been much less tough on Putin and Russia than you just were. Does that worry you?
MILIBAND: Well, I think what's extraordinary to many of us -- I now live in New York, obviously running an international humanitarian agency, but watching the UK debate what one sees is a symmetry between what Jeremy Corbin says and what Donald Trump says. Both of them seek to evade pointing responsibility to Russia.
Both of them have such a deep skepticism about the West that they end up excusing or at least finding ways to avoid, pointing the finger at Russian undermining the international system. And while skepticism about intelligence is an important part of the judgment that goes into policy making, when skepticism means that it's greater of the West than it is of what the Russians are saying then it becomes very worrying indeed.
ZAKARIA: Richard Haass, I think we have you back. Let me ask you, where does the administration go from here? Is it -- are we likely to see a more America first policy, a neocon policy? I mean, give us the big picture.
RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, the administration now has also sorts of challenges in its inbox. Some it inherited like North Korea, several as you suggested are its own making. The Iran one, the trade thing. We've already got a new secretary of State, that the rumors are true, it's a question of when and not if we have a new National Security adviser. The one constant is the president.
And three, you know, the challenge is always dealing with the real world as it is, and my crystal ball is no better than yours. I would simply say that this administration is on the edge of the most difficult two or three months in foreign policy in my memory, and it simply can't -- you know, rule of thumb, maybe only one nuclear crisis at a time.
So I would argue for shelving the Iran one, focusing on a reasonable approach to North Korea and basically walking back the issue on tariffs. It's very hard to confront your adversaries at the same time you're in a trade war with your friends.
ZAKARIA: But, Zanny, he really believes in the tariff issue. This seems to me the biggest -- possibly the biggest danger out there.
MILTON BEDDOES: I think he absolutely believes it. I think the one thing that Donald Trump has been very clear about in the last 30 years is that he doesn't believe in multilateral trade and he thinks America has had a really rough deal, and he intends to change that. And I think the interesting thing, the important one person that we haven't talked about yet is Larry Kudlow, who is the new White House chief economic adviser.
He is someone who was brought in I think in part as a TV pundit because he looks good on TV, he's talked a lot about tax cuts, he's flattered the president on TV but he is a free trader. And so the interesting thing to me is going to be whether this man, the new chief economic adviser, can convince the president not to be as extreme on trade as he would like to be. And the one area that I think you really need to look out for is what he does with China because China is the place where he's got the biggest grievance on trade.
The whole steel and aluminum stuff didn't really hit China very hard, but there is a big question about, is he going to slap tariffs on China and to retaliate for their supposed IPO theft, their theft of international property? If he does that, we can see things get very nasty very quickly.
ZAKARIA: You know, and Richard Haass, he did -- President Trump did say that he hired Larry Kudlow, I think he called him and said, I like what you said on TV and you're very handsome. I do recall during the campaign President Trump had said he liked what he heard you saying on TV, which leads me to wonder if you would have gone to Larry Kudlow's tailor, would you be secretary of State right now?
[10:20:14] ZAKARIA: Seriously, tell me what you think of the personnel -- you know, we didn't get to this so you've got 60 seconds but have you ever seen more chaos in the administration? And, you know, just the kind of staffing of an administration?
HAASS: No, and the president's making a dangerous mistake, Fareed. He is hiring people with whom he is comfortable, but that's not what you want as president. You want people who will speak truth to power, who are experienced, who are confident so we may end up with the Cabinet and staff he wants. It's not necessarily or it's far from the staff and Cabinet that he needs, and again the contrast potentially between these most daunting of worlds and inboxes, a Russia that's become a real outlier, a difficult China, a Venezuela that's unraveling, the Middle East that (INAUDIBLE) unravelled.
And the pressure on this set of people and a chaotic process at the risk of being self-whatever. I wrote a book about a world of disarray, the combination of a world in disarray and an administration in disarray, that ought to keep people worried, that ought to keep people up at night.
ZAKARIA: Well, and as you say in a tweet of yours -- of your own, Richard Haass, Peter Navarro, one of the president's chief economic advisers said, he thought his job was to find ways to justify -- find analysis to justify the president's views, which is a rather bizarre way to look at it. You'd think that you'd first do the analysis, not just try to justify whatever the president's views were. Do you worry that it's now going to be yes men all the way?
HAASS: Well, again, the secretary of Defense is not a yes man. The question, though, is whether he will be marginalized. We'll see who comes in as National Security adviser ultimately, and Mike Pompeo, there's an old saying, Fareed, where you stand depends upon where you sit.
So the question for Mike Pompeo, is he the kind -- the guy who was in favor of tearing up the Iran agreement when he was on the Hill, or does he now take responsibility for the full dimension of American foreign policy?
Have a serious, practical approach, maybe entertaining an interim agreement with the North Koreans because we're not going to get full de-nuclearization. Does he decide not to tear up an Iran agreement when we have nothing to replace it with? Is he prepared to get the president to moderate the tariffs? He has to decide I think whether he's going to be a secretary of State or whether he is going to be a confidant of the president.
There is tension there, and I think how that plays out could be critical.
ZAKARIA: All right. We've got to go. Thank you. Fascinating conversation.
When we come back, we will dig deeper into the Russia story with a terrific panel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: Our quarrel is with Putin's Kremlin and with his decision, and we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the UK, on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: That was the British Foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, on Friday pointing a finger for the poisoning of an ex-double agent and his daughter on British soil. Earlier in the week, British Prime Minister May to a parliament, she was ordering the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats and Russia of course retaliated.
So what to make of the spy story? Joining me now are Luke Harding who wrote a terrific book on the last known poisoning of a Russian spy on British soil, the book is called, "A Very Expensive Poison: The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin's War with the West." Anne Applebaum is a Pulitzer Prize winning historian, who writes a foreign affairs column for the "Washington Post." She joins me here in London as does businessman Bill Browder who was once the largest foreign investor in Russia, he has since become one of the fiercest critics of the Putin regime.
Anne, what do you make of this -- this affair? What is the significance of what happened?
ANNE APPLEBAUM, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: The significance is that the Russian government used chemical weapon, a military grade chemical agent which it would have known, would have been traced back to Moscow, which could only have been used by Moscow because Moscow invented it. And it used it in Britain, in a provincial city to carry out a very brazen murder of somebody who had been a Russian spy but who was traded in a spy swap for Ana Chapman and a number of others including people who were based in the United States, and in other words by doing so, Russia broke all kinds of unstated rules, you know?
You don't attack spies who have been traded and pardoned. You know, the use of a military grade chemical weapon in the middle of a crowded city center, a small city, all kinds of assumptions that we make about how countries behave -- civilized countries behave inside one another's borders were broken, and the message had to have been one of disdain for London. We don't believe you're going to do anything to us. We are above the old deals and arrangements, we just don't care anymore.
ZAKARIA: Luke, why would Putin do something like this? It seems provocative. It seems somewhat reckless. Is it -- you know, is it a new kind of aggression? Is that -- what's going on? Putin is supposed to be a smart guy. What's his -- what's the strategy here?
LUKE HARDING, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, THE GUARDIAN: Well, I think there's an interesting question about timing. This attack happened two calendar weeks before today's Russian presidential election. It plays well with conservative nationalist voters inside Russia who maybe otherwise who wouldn't have gone to the polls. So that's one dimension, but I actually think ultimately the target of this attack is the Russian elite. I think Skripal was merely the instrument. It's to anybody inside the Russian elite, whether they're an oligarch or a spy, who is thinking about cooperating with the West in general, but I would say with Western intelligence in particular, that "We can strike you at any moment; we will damage you, your family as well." And I also think it's partly to do with Robert Mueller and his investigation.
Bear in mind that the espionage operation to influence the 2016 U.S. election involved a lot of people. A lot of people know about this in Russia. And they will be thinking very hard and very carefully before -- before telling anything of what they know.
ZAKARIA: Bill Browder, what to do about this because, you know, I was struck by Alexi Navalny, probably Russia's leading opposition politician, has a long interview in The Times of London this morning, in which he says, "Look, the West's responds so far, and Britain's response so far, has the Kremlin laughing because this is precisely what they wanted. They wanted what he calls another installment in the TV show that they are running called, "Look, look, the West hates us," and that that, you know, feeds Putin's nationalism and his base.
So where do you go from there? I mean, is this crisis provoked for that reason?
And if that's the case, the more you oppose him, the more it plays into this game.
BROWDER: Well, first of all, kicking out 23 diplomats is not going to have any impact on Putin. It's not going to prevent this from happening again. Remember that this -- this is the second time that something like this has happened in the U.K.; Litvinenko was killed with nuclear poison, 2006.
What -- what Putin will react to and the way to deal with this whole situation is to go after him with targeted financial sanctions, to go after him and the people around him, his cronies and the oligarchs who look after his money, by seizing their assets in the U.K.
And everybody in the U.K. says "We don't have any -- our cupboards are bare; there's nothing we can do." Well, that's not true. What we have in the U.K. and what we have elsewhere is that they commit their crimes in Russia, they keep their property in the West. And if we go after their property in the West, then this type of thing wouldn't happen going forward.
ZAKARIA: You wrote a Washington Post column saying that the reason London is not responding more strongly is because essentially it has been in collusion with Russian oligarchs, laundering their money, allowing them to move their assets. And Navalny says go after oligarchs and their children who live in London and use that money.
APPLEBAUM: That's certainly been true up until now. I don't think that -- it's not actually just London, although London is the primary place. I don't think that we in West have fully acknowledged the degree to which we are complicit in Putin's rise to power. Numerous accounts of how he came to power, how he made his money, show
how he took money out of the Russian state, he and people around him. They took it abroad. They laundered it abroad. They brought it back into Russia. They bought property. And this is how they engineered their rise to power. And Western banks, Western tax havens, Western accountants, Western lawyers, Western shell companies, all kinds of people, particularly in London but not only, also in New York, in Miami, in Paris, helped them all along the way.
And this is why they have so much disdain for the West, because they know -- they think of us as "It's corrupt, you know, we can buy them; we can buy their lawyers; we can buy their political parties."
I think the reason why they were so sure of themselves in intervening in the U.S. election was partly that, "Look, we can use money to get anything. We got ourselves to power using Western money, sort of, leveraging our money in and out of Russia using Western institutions. Why not just keep going?"
ZAKARIA: All right. Stay with us. When we come back, we will talk about just that, Russia and Trump. New reporting reveals contacts between Russians and Cambridge Analytica, the firm that helped the Trump campaign target voters. What to make of that?
ZAKARIA: And we are back with Luke Harding, Anne Applebaum and Bill Browder, talking about Russia.
Luke, you studied Russian intelligence very carefully, and its methods. And so I want to ask you, what do you make of this report that Cambridge Analytica, the firm that did extensive work for the Trump campaign and really helped the Trump campaign figure out where to try to bring out voters and where to suppress voters, and the Russians had some contacts, which had been previously denied by both sides.
The contacts were through Lukoil, a big Russian oil company. Is that a direct tie to the Kremlin?
Is it possible that this was just, you know, something unrelated? When you read that story, what did you make of it?
HARDING: I was deeply disturbed. It was an astonishing investigation published today in London by the Observer newspaper. And of course Lukoil is not like your regular oil company. It's an appendage, essentially, of the Kremlin and there's clearly a kind of connectivity there.
And I think the big point here is the way in which unscrupulous powers like Russia can take advantage of the porousness of the Western system, the fact that we're open. And for decades the KGB was trying to influence elections and reshape European and American politics and they never got very much purchase. But -- but now these methods have been updated for the age of Facebook and Twitter and social media, and what we're seeing is an astonishing ability to, kind of, micro-target people and to push -- to push people to the extremes, to try and polarize the conversation.
And what Putin has been doing is to try and, sort of, instrumentalize social divisions in America, in Europe and elsewhere, for his own -- own advantage. I think it's very scary and I think our democracy is actually in a more precarious and I would say, sort of, perilous state than at any other time in the 21st Century.
ZAKARIA: Bill Browder, you know, the reason this is potentially important is we know the Russian intelligence officers know how to do cyber-attacks; they now how to hack; they know how to use Facebook, et cetera. But they don't have a reputation for having a deep and detailed understanding of which demographics in rural Ohio and Michigan to suppress and bring out and -- and that seems to have been provided by Cambridge Analytica. So if there is a link, if that was how they got the know-how of where to do this kind of -- that does suggest that there was -- I mean, I don't know what one would call it, but it suggests that somebody was helping them in the United States?
BROWDER: Well, if this link turns out to be true, I mean, you know, there are people who are, as Anne was talking about before, there are these Western enablers in all different fields. There's lawyers; there's investigators. Now, apparently, there are election analyzer manipulators involved in this kind of thing, and they're doing it for money. They don't see it as -- as treason or being unpatriotic and they're doing it for money. And to the extent that that link is proven, it's highly disturbing that you have a major Russian company that's effectively under the thumb of Vladimir Putin somehow involved in a -- in a situation where somebody knows how to micro-target 50 million voters.
ZAKARIA: Do you think the Trump administration's response to the poisoning -- you know, in general, is it getting tougher? Does it feel to you like, you know, that period where Trump seemed strangely unwilling to criticize Russia is over or are we still in that kind of world?
APPLEBAUM: I think his response to the poisoning was peculiar. He made an initial comment saying, "Well, it sounds like it's Russia; maybe it's Russia." He hasn't tweeted about it, when this is his preferred form of communication, as we know.
He still doesn't want to say it's Russia; it's a break of the rules; you know, we're standing by our ally. I was very struck by the fact that John McCain made a much more forthright, clear statement about who's responsible than Trump did. And it's true that the administration has signed onto a couple of big statements with -- together with Germany and France in support of the U.K. and our ally and so on, but it's very pro forma and it doesn't come from him. And there remains something peculiar about his attitude to Russia, as if he's afraid to attack them; he doesn't want to attack them. He's -- he doesn't want to be seen to be criticizing them.
And whatever -- apart from whether it was Cambridge Analytica, working with Lukoil, whether it was one of his numerous aides who were in touch with Russia during the campaign, whatever his exact role in that was, you know, we don't know. But there's something in his mind; there's something that's keeping him from acknowledging what Russia is and acknowledging the kinds of threats that Russia poses to the United States.
ZAKARIA: We've got to leave it at that. Anne Applebaum, Bill Browder, Luke Harding, pleasure to have you on.
Next on "GPS," it is election day in Russia. We will take you to Moscow for the latest news.
ZAKARIA: Russians have been voting for their next president this weekend, but I can say with almost certainty that they will simply re- elect their current president, Vladimir Putin.
Let's go now to Moscow, where CNN's senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, is standing by.
Matthew, what I want to do is -- you know, it's a strange sort of election, so I want to throw at you three pieces of polling that I've seen recently, The Washington Post in particular, a very interesting package. And the first one is simply Vladimir Putin's approval rating, which is still at around 82 percent. And I'm wondering, when you look at poll numbers, you know, you see this and it's done by reputable, independent, often Western polling agencies, what do you sense on the ground? Are those numbers real? Are people scared to say something or is Putin genuinely popular?
CHANCE: Well, I think this, Fareed, is a really underappreciated fact about Russia and about Vladimir Putin. Yes, I think he is genuinely popular. I know a lot of Russians personally and professionally, and a lot of them, despite their, you know, liberal sentiments, despite their pro-Western leanings in many ways, do genuinely believe that Vladimir Putin is the right kind of leader, the strong kind of leader, as they would characterize him, needed to manage a country as diverse and as vast as this.
And Putin plays to that, of course. He also plays this kind of hyper- nationalistic card, which is that, you know, Russia under Putin is a strong country; it will stand up to interference and intimidation from the West. We saw that most recently the day before the election when Putin's foreign ministry announced its retribution and its response to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Britain by doing the same here and also upping the ante by closing down the British council and the British consulate in St. Petersburg.
And, you know, he thrives on this idea that he is seen as somebody who is a strong leader, who will stand up to the West. And, yes, I do believe that, although there are a lot of people in Russia that despise him, there are far more who think he's the right guy for the job.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, Matthew, again, looking at these polls, there are two more that I want to show you and get your response. The first is the number of people who regret the collapse of the Soviet Union. You remember Putin very famously once said this was the greatest disaster of the 20th Century.
Well, look at the number of Russians who agree: 58 percent of Russians still believe that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a mistake, or they regret its decline. And then this final one, which strikes me as very interesting -- so they asked Russians, "Do you believe Russia has an enemy?" And of the ones who said they thought Russia had an enemy, 22 percent believed it was the United States in 1999, and now it's 68 percent think it's the United States.
So my question to you, Matthew, is Russia now, you know, of a mood that they wished they were the kind of great power they were in the days of the Cold War? And do they really want to stand up to the United States very specifically?
CHANCE: Well, I mean, look -- I mean, I think that one of the things that Putin has done is give Russians back a sense of their national pride, which they lost so dramatically and suddenly, really, when you think about how suddenly the Soviet Union collapsed, back when that massive geopolitical event took place. I mean, Russians were, you know, on an equal footing, in their minds, at least, with the United States, and they were suddenly reduced to a -- to an impoverished nation that had to go cap in hand looking for food, even, from other countries.
And it was a deeply humiliating experience for many Russians that fell off that perch. And, you know, they clung on -- they have clung onto Vladimir Putin as their leader who can give them their pride back. And that's perhaps been one of the main reasons for his enduring popularity today, that he has given Russians back their sense of pride. And I think we shouldn't dismiss that incredibly important factor in this election and in Putin's popularity in general.
In terms of Russia's response or Russia's attitude towards the United States, I mean, look -- I mean, there was a moment when Donald Trump was the candidate, when he was elected president of the U.S., but Russians really believed, after years of being, you know, kind of, jostled around and being, you know, kind of, disrespected, I suppose, they would see it, by the Obama administration and those earlier, they thought the situation was going to turn around. They had really high hopes that Donald Trump was the president who was going to see the world from their point of view. And so they have been immensely disappointed in the past year and a half or so since the Trump presidency began that that did not happen. And I think that, when your hopes are high and then they're unfulfilled, your disappointment is greater. And I think that's probably why we're seeing those heightened figures that the United States is perceived as the enemy.
ZAKARIA: That's fascinating reporting. Of course what that suggests is Putin will be re-elected, reaffirmed and there will be tough relations between him and the United States and the entire Western world. We will be following it, and we will be back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAKARIA: The debate on allowing circumcision of boys has been an ongoing one in Europe for years. It's now being reignited and it brings me to my question. Which country recently introduced a bill that would ban the circumcision of male children: Iceland, France, Sweden or Belgium? Stay tuned and I'll tell you the correct answer.
Now, I want to make sure you're aware of many ways to stay connected with "GPS" outside of this weekly show. First, if you ever miss a show, download our podcast and make sure you subscribe to it. Go to iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Also, we have a weekly online quiz that allows you to test how well you know your world. Go to cnn.com/fareedquiz. And you can also see how good you are at predicting world events. We've teamed up with Good Judgment Open to allow our viewers to tell us things like whether there will be war with Iran or in the China Seas in 2018. You tell us what you think. Go to gjopen.com/fareed.
The answer to this week's challenge is A. After passing a law in 2005 that makes female genital mutilation a crime, Iceland lawmakers now want to change the wording of the law from "girls" to "children," according to the New York Times. The paper says that would make it the first European country to prohibit male circumcision. Although many Icelandic doctors and nurses support the bill, it has come under fire from Jewish and Muslim organizations who say it would restrict freedom of religion.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.