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Fareed Zakaria GPS
Diplomatic Efforts Continue With Ukraine On The Brink; Tensions At Fever Pitch Amid Shelling In Eastern Ukraine; Interview With Condoleezza Rice, Former U.S. Secretary Of State. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired February 20, 2022 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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.
Today on the program, President Biden says Vladimir Putin's mind is made up. He's decided to invade Ukraine. But is there an exit ramp? If not, what can we expect and when? I'll talk to reporters on the ground in Kyiv and Moscow about what they're seeing and hearing, as well as top former foreign policy officials joining us from Munich and back here stateside.
Plus, I talk to Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state. She dealt with Putin in the first decade of his rule. She'll tell us what she learned.
Let's get started.
I will bring you my take later in the show, but first let me set the scene for you. Russia is now believed to have well north of 150,000 troops arrayed around Ukraine, surrounding it on three sides, Belarus to the north, Russia to the east and Crimea and Moldova to the south. Meanwhile, yesterday Putin and his Belarusian counterpart oversaw nuclear drills, tests of ballistic and cruise missiles.
Also yesterday Ukraine's president gave a speech criticizing the West for not doing enough to help his nation.
So I want to understand what is happening in the Ukrainian and Russian capitals. CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward joins us from Kyiv and CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is here with us -- is with us from Moscow, my apologies.
Nic, let me ask you what does the state of play look like? We all understand that there is a military escalation, but in diplomatic terms, what are the flurry of counterproposals and counterproposals telling us? Is there a growing diplomatic gap? Does it seem that people are worried that gap is unbridgeable?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It does feel as if it's growing. The flurries of diplomacy are also quite intense. We have just had a readout from both the Kremlin and Elysee Palace over the phone call, hour, 45-minute phone call between President Macron and President Putin, and President Macron followed up that call with a phone call to President Zelensky for 30 minutes.
And President Macron also spoke with President Zelensky late last night so there is a diplomatic effort under way and it is around the Minsk Agreement. And there is pressure on Ukraine from the Kremlin to agree to talk to the separatist leaders in the Donbas area in the east of Ukraine, the pro-Russian separatist leaders.
So where are we on that? And I think take half a step back. Yesterday we saw President Volodymyr Zelensky in Munich saying that he is open to talking directly with President Putin. He's been saying that for some time and President Putin hasn't been taking him up on that offer. President Putin on Friday said that there would be no military de- escalation around Ukraine until President Zelensky talked with those pro-Russian separatist leaders in the east of the country.
But what is happening on that front, in the east of Ukraine these separatist leaders are calling for a civilian evacuation, it is chaotic, it is playing out on Russian TV, it is playing out in such a way that it could be used as a manipulation over public opinion, eventually in fairly short order for Russian forces to go into the Donbas region. We've seen today, CNN teams have seen today Russian forces headed towards that -- that Donbas area.
So what does that mean? It means that the military gap in Donbas, in the east is growing wider and therefore the diplomatic gap for that one thing President Putin is insisting must happen, that President Zelensky must talk to the rebel leaders, that diplomatic gap is bigger. So despite these flurries of diplomacy that we're hearing from President Macron, the Elysee Palace saying that there would be lots more of this diplomacy in coming days, despite that it appears that the diplomatic gap is growing larger with the military gap.
ZAKARIA: Clarissa, what does it look like in Kyiv? Is it a city that appears to be readying itself for an assault? Joe Biden says that that is likely. And Zelensky seems very confident not -- not the man who appears about to make major concessions judging by the speech Nic was referring to.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's surreal, Fareed, because here in Kyiv the streets are very quiet but they are also calm. And we do not see any evidence that people are preparing for any kind of a major assault and that's in part because Ukraine's leadership has had a very different tone from the kind of rhetoric that we've seen coming from the U.S. and from the White House.
They say that they see the U.S.'s intelligence, they don't dispute the U.S.'s intelligence, but there is a matter of difference in terms of the interpretation of it. They don't believe that an all-out invasion is indeed imminent.
Now, having said that, there are very real concerns here about what is going on in the east of the country along those front lines with Donbas, with the pro-Russian separatists. We have seen a high amount of ceasefire violations. Yesterday, Saturday, was the highest amount that we have seen in some years, at least three years, I believe.
We had a CNN team who was out with the interior minister, they came under heavy and sustained artillery fire, they were forced to take shelter and they were pinned down for some time before quickly evacuating the area. And we've also seen civilian structures getting hit and shelling happening further back from that front line. So there is a real concern on the ground here that that could quickly escalate out of control.
And when, you know, you heard Nic talking about the Minsk Agreements which are seen here as being very much playing out in Moscow's favor, publicly the government of Volodymyr Zelensky, the president, has said we will not make any concessions, but privately it's our understanding that they are facing a certain amount of pressure to make some concessions on that front.
Remains to be seen how that will play out. As you mentioned, the tone that we see publicly from the president is far more strident and we heard him yesterday again in Munich saying, listen, if your intelligence really does tell you that this is happening, why aren't those sanctions already being levied?
Why aren't those heavier sophisticated weapons already being given to us? And if the intelligence isn't as decisive as you claim it is, then please stop using this type of language because it's panicking the Ukrainian people, it's destabilizing Ukraine's economy and that of course plays exactly into President Putin's playbook, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Nic, Clarissa, thank you so much.
Next on GPS, what is the diplomatic space left? I will ask Poland's former foreign minister and a former top White House adviser on Russia.
ZAKARIA: At the Munich Security Conference yesterday, President Zelensky of Ukraine asked why his nation wasn't being admitted to NATO. That's in absolute contradiction to Russia's long-standing demand that Ukraine never be allowed to become a member of the Western alliance.
Is there any diplomatic maneuvering room here?
Let me bring in the panel, Radek Sikorski was the foreign minister of Poland. Today he is a member of the European parliament. Tom Graham was senior director for Russia at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration.
Tom, let me start with you. It feels like the window for diplomacy is narrow. As far as I can tell what Putin is doing is saying to the West, thank you for all your proposals on arms control, on troop force deployments, on all those issues, but the central issue remains Ukraine and NATO, and I'm not going to budge unless I get concessions on that. Is that a fair interpretation?
THOMAS GRAHAM, DISTINGUISHED FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I think that's absolutely true. He's been saying this since December. He has three principal demands on NATO and Europe, and no eastward expansion into the former Soviet space, particularly in the Ukraine is on the top of the menu.
So he needs some satisfaction on that issue and if we're going to have a diplomatic resolution to this problem, from Putin's standpoint, the United States and our NATO allies are going to have to be prepared to talk about the future of NATO in Europe and expansion.
ZAKARIA: Radek, let me ask you before you put your foreign policy hat on, you were also deputy defense minister of Poland. Does this look like a full-scale invasion to you? Do you imagine that the Russians would be willing to pay the cost of, you know, what would be a difficult occupation in a country in which most of the population does not want a Russian occupation?
RADEK SIKORSKI, FORMER POLISH FOREIGN MINISTER: Yes, I was defense minister and I was also war correspondent, and it does look like all the pieces are in place for a massive invasion, a completely unjustified act of aggression against a democratic member of the U.N. in good standing.
ZAKARIA: And does it look to you like -- you know, people thought there would be -- the strategy would be go into the Donbas, quote, unquote, liberate those places, recognize them as independent republics like Georgia, or do you think the strategy is actually go to Kyiv and occupy the capital or replace Zelensky with some kind of Russian implant?
SIKORSKI: They'll do it in stages, first take Donbas and if that goes well, if the resistance is less than Putin expects, he can go further. But, you know, on NATO, let's just remember that the West has done what Tom Graham proposed in our last interview a month ago, namely the chancellor of Germany told him that Ukraine would not be admitted into NATO under his watch, and he may be in power for as long as Angela Merkel.
This is a complete red herring. Ukraine applied to join NATO in 2008, was refused and nothing has moved since then. President Putin doesn't want or need security guarantees. He wants Ukraine.
ZAKARIA: Tom Graham, does it appear to you that there is any room to maneuver, or do you think Radek is right that at the end of the day Putin seems to -- nothing less than close to total control of Ukraine would seem to satisfy him?
GRAHAM: Well, I think that Putin can calculate the risks as well. Certainly he is creating a situation in which he wants to keep the west off balance. He does want some concessions on Ukraine, but my sense is that -- that there is a room for a solution along the lines of what I proposed before, but it doesn't -- but it can't come from the German chancellor, it has to come from the United States.
For Vladimir Putin, the United States is the key player in the West and until there is some sort of agreement from the United States that Ukraine is not going to enter NATO at any time in the near future, he's still -- he's going to maintain this pressure and keep pressing until he gets that type of concession.
ZAKARIA: All right. Stay with us, we're going to ask both of you what would you do next in this complicated chess game.
ZAKARIA: And we are back here on GPS talking about a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine. I'm joined by Radek Sikorski, former defense minister and former foreign minister of Poland, and Tom Graham, formerly the top Russian official at the NSC.
So, Radek, what would you do at this point? Is it still possible to deter the Russians?
SIKORSKI: President Putin should be deterred by the deliveries of sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles. The Ukrainians now have an anti-tank missile for every Russian tank. And you know, those Stinger missiles were deployed in Afghanistan back in the 1980s when I covered that war, and they meant that the pilots had to go high.
If you add to that U.S. tactical intelligence, this might be a very different war from what Mr. Putin expects. And we should tell him in advance that we are ready to sustain a Ukrainian guerilla war for 10 years if need be, and that we would increase our budgets and that we would create a gas union and thereby extract a much better gas price from him. Those are the kinds of things that would deter him.
The NATO issue is a red herring. You cannot enlarge NATO against the will of Germany and Germany has said it's not happening.
ZAKARIA: Radek, what is your sense from Munich and, of course, from the time when you were foreign minister? Would the Europeans go along with the kind of hardline strategy you're suggesting?
SIKORSKI: I think when bombs start hitting population centers where thousands of people are being forced to flee, perhaps millions, the attitude will change and those things that I'm talking about will happen. The point is that some of our politicians seem to be too timid to say it to Putin in advance to deter him.
ZAKARIA: Tom, do you think that some kind of military deterrent would work? Because it does seem like Putin has built a kind of sanctions- proof economy, $600 billion of foreign exchange reserves, oil prices at, you know, $100, gas prices up 400 percent. Do you think you could get by with just economic sanctions?
GRAHAM: No, not at this point, for the very reasons that you mention. In addition, Putin almost knows through his own intelligence sources, he has some idea about what the United States plans to do, how unified the alliance is going to be in applying those sanctions, and he's already taken that into account in his planning. Second, he does believe that there will be spillover effects from these sanctions into Europe and elsewhere.
He does believe that the Russian people are tougher and more resilient than Europeans are. Whether that's a correct assessment or not is another matter, but that's the way he thinks. So economic sanctions are not going to be sufficient to deter him at this point.
ZAKARIA: Are there costs for the American people, Tom? I mean, do you think that the Biden administration has prepared the United States? Obviously we are not going to go to war over this, but, you know, you could have an energy crisis like the 1970s, right?
GRAHAM: Right. I mean, you know, the Biden administration has done a superb job in rallying the alliance so far. What it needs to turn to now is preparing the American public for the spillover consequences of a major military operation in Europe. Not only is it energy prices.
But if we launched the sanctions that we say we are, we have to be prepared for cyberattacks by the Russians against a critical infrastructure, against our financial system. So the Biden administration needs to do more so prepare the American people for the possible sacrifices that might come with deterring Russia, pushing back against Russia, not only in the next several days but for months to come.
We're in a new type of situation with Russia, a new normal, we're going to be facing this challenge for many years forward.
ZAKARIA: It does feel like a new world. Radek Sikorski, Tom Graham, pleasure to have you on.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, I will give you my take on how the U.S. is pushing its two biggest rivals, Russia and China, closer together, when there is another way out.
ZAKARIA: Here's my take. The Biden administration has handled the Ukraine crisis intelligently, formulating a policy that could be described as "deterrence plus diplomacy."
It made credible threats about the cost of a Russian invasion and rallied its European allies in an impressive show of unity. And while correctly refusing to promise that Ukraine will be barred from NATO, it has offered to discuss almost everything else, from arms control to missile deployments.
This crisis, however, has highlighted a larger strategic failure, one that extends beyond this administration. One of the central rules of strategy is to divide your adversaries. But increasingly American foreign policy is doing the opposite.
Earlier this month, in an over 5,000-word document, Russia and China affirmed a friendship with no limits. The two powers appear to be closer to one another than at any time in 50 years.
For Russia, which is essentially a declining power, China's support is a godsend. The most significant reason why even tough sanctions against Russia might not work is that China, the world's second largest economy, could help.
Russia recently announced new deals to sell more oil and gas to China, and Beijing could buy even more energy and other imports from the country.
It could also let Moscow use various Chinese mechanisms and institutions to evade American financial restrictions. "China is our strategic cushion," Sergey Karagonov, a Kremlin adviser, told Nikkei. "We know that, in any difficult situation, we can lean on it for military, political and economic support."
To those who would argue that this is simply a case of two autocracies ganging up, it's worth noting that it was not always thus. In 2014, when both countries were also autocracies, China pointedly refused to support Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It has still not recognized the annexation of Crimea. Similarly, Beijing did not support Russia's intervention in Georgia and has expressed support for that country's territorial integrity and independence. On Saturday, in a very encouraging sign, the Chinese foreign minister also affirmed Ukraine's sovereignty.
China and Russia are both adversaries of the West, but they are very different from each other. Lumping them together is a sign that ideology has triumphed over strategy in Washington these days.
Putin's Russia is a geopolitical spoiler state. It has invaded two neighbors, Georgia and Ukraine, and occupied territory in those countries, something almost unprecedented in Europe since World War II. It has reportedly used cyber warfare to attack and weaken more than a dozen democracies, including the United States. It has supported allies like Bashar Al Assad with brute force. It has murdered its opponents, even when they are living in countries like Germany and England. And as a petrol state, it actually benefits from global instability, which can raise oil and gas prices.
China is different. It is a rising world power that seeks greater influence as it gains economic strength. It has been aggressive in its policies towards some nations, but as a big economic actor, it can credibly claim to want stability in the world.
As Robert Manning noted in Foreign Policy in 2020, Beijing is not trying to replace the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO and other U.N. institutions; it is trying to play a more dominant role in them.
In the past Beijing has voted for and supported sanctions against rogue regimes like Libya, Iran and North Korea, though that cooperative spirit has been waning, especially in recent months. It has used its veto on the U.N. Security Council far less frequently than Russia or the United States.
Don't get me wrong, China poses a critical challenge to America, but much of what we need to do to combat it is in the realm of domestic policy, enacting measures that would unleash American innovation and competitiveness.
Europe's greatest 19th century statesman was Otto von Bismarck, whose central strategy was always to have better relations with each of his adversaries than they had among one another. And ever since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger drew China away from the Soviet Union in 1972, for decades the U.S. was closer to Russia and China than they were to each other, But not anymore.
There was talk in Washington about attempting a reverse-Kissinger, an effort to win Moscow away from Beijing. And the Biden administration moved in that direction last year. But that was a naive misunderstanding of Vladimir Putin, whose response has been to initiate the current crisis.
Perhaps what was needed was not a reverse-Kissinger, but simply Kissinger, in other words, an effort to have a better working relationship with China. That, in any event, is what Henry Kissinger has advocated.
At the start of the Cold War, when ideology also dominated over strategy, Washington lumped all Communist states together. It took the U.S. 25 years and the Vietnam War to learn that we should treat Moscow and Beijing differently.
At the start of the War on Terror the Bush administration announced that Iraq, Iran and North Korea formed an "axis of evil," a mistake for which we are still paying the price. Let's hope that this time we do not have to endure a long and costly misadventure before we finally recognize that we should not be helping to unite our foes.
Go to CNN.com/Fareed for a link to my Washington Post column this week.
Next on "GPS," former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.
At the center of this conflict is a historical question of whether the U.S. promised never to expand NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Rice was the top Russia expert on the National Security Council at the time. Then she became national security adviser early in the Putin presidency. As he matured into his domination of Russian politics, Rice was secretary of state.
Condoleezza Rice will tell us what she thinks of the evolution of that man, Vladimir Putin.
ZAKARIA: I wanted to take a step back and put the Russia-Ukraine crisis in a larger historical context, so I decided to talk to Condoleezza Rice. Before she hit the national and global stage, she was a scholar of
political science, focusing on Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. As the Soviet Union was collapsing, she served as director of Soviet and East European affairs on the National Security Council of George H.W. Bush. Then, under the younger President Bush, she served, of course, as national security adviser and then secretary of state.
She is now the director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. I spoke to her there earlier this week.
ZAKARIA: Condoleezza Rice, pleasure to have you on.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Great to be with you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: When was the first time you met Vladimir Putin?
RICE: I first met Vladimir Putin when he was the deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, and he was serving as deputy mayor to the reformist Anatoly Sobchak. And I remember this man standing in the corner. He looked a little bit out of place. And I walked over to him and I said hello and he said hello. We didn't talk very much. I don't remember much of what was said.
And then, in July of 2001, when I was with President Bush in Slovenia, and I looked up and here came toward us the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. And I thought, "Oh, my goodness, I now remember it's that same man."
ZAKARIA: So when you -- when you met him as national security adviser for the first time, what was your first impression of him as a -- as a statesman?
RICE: I thought that, in that first moment when we met him with President Bush for the first time, that he seemed almost a little bit shy, a little bit reticent. He walks like an athlete. There's a certain presence to him as he, sort of, strides in, But then, as you began to talk to him, he didn't really look you in the eye. He seemed a little bit unnerved, maybe, about meeting the president of the United States for the first time.
Needless to say, he went pretty quickly from shy to confident to arrogant to megalomaniacal. But those first few times, I thought he was actually a little bit lacking in confidence.
ZAKARIA: Russia was very poor at the time; it had -- it was indebted. He needed debt relief; he needed foreign aid. The price of oil was very low.
Do you think that that was part of it, that as Russia recovered from the post-Communist collapse, his own confidence grew and grew?
RICE: There is no doubt, I think, that the level of confidence of Putin and others in the Russian leadership grew almost exactly in line with the price of oil. It is absolutely the case. Remember that this first meeting takes place in 2001. He's only been brought in by Yeltsin in '99. This is after the essential collapse of the Soviet economy with the crisis of 1998.
And I do think that they were trying to find their footing, and they were -- they were also -- and Putin in particular -- he was looking for some kind of strategic relationship with the United States.
ZAKARIA: So my sense of it, at least, is that he would tell a slightly different story.
So I remember once, when I was -- and I interviewed him once. And on the sidelines of it, he says to me at one point -- he says, "You know, in 1999 and 2000 -- and he spoke in English.
ZAKARIA: As you know, he speaks it -- slowly and a little haltingly, but quite clearly. He said, "Bill Clinton and I, and even the Bush administration and I, we actually talked about Russia maybe joining NATO." And he said, "Look at where we have come now, with NATO coming closer and closer to our borders."
So in his mind, I think it's fair to say, right, that he viewed NATO expansion as, sort of, kicking Russia while it was down?
RICE: It's so interesting, Fareed, because he had that conversation with you. He wouldn't raise it with us.
RICE: I really don't remember a conversation in which he raised issues about NATO expansion. This came quite a bit later, when he began to, as the Russians have a tendency to do, mis-remember the conversation between Jim Baker and Eduard Shevardnadze, in which Baker supposedly said that we would never move NATO east.
But, of course, in the '90s, this was about German unification. This was not -- in '89, '90. Nobody was even thinking of the Poland or Czechoslovakia or Hungary becoming members of NATO.
And the only time that I can remember it beginning to be a problem about where NATO was moving was when we began to think about putting missile defenses in Poland and in Romania, and perhaps some interceptors in the Czech Republic. At that point, he started to talk about the use of this territory to threaten the interest of -- of Russia. But before that, in all the conversations that we had with him, he didn't make the case that we were, quote, "encircling him."
ZAKARIA: But by 2008, the Bucharest declaration, NATO basically says, "We have an open door to Georgia and to Ukraine."
Your ambassador to Moscow at the time, Bill Burns, who is now the secretary of the CIA, wrote a series of cables which, thanks to various leaks, we have, in which he said -- and they were addressed to you -- he said, "This is a terrible mistake. For any Russian government, putting Ukraine into NATO is a neuralgic issue. I've talked to liberals. I've talked to conservatives. They will never allow this. They will never forget this" -- kind of prescient, in its way.
By then, was it clear to you that...
RICE: Well, it -- I -- you know, I have the highest regard for Bill Burns, but it wasn't a surprise to me that this was the way that the Russians felt. But as you know, Fareed, because you've been in and around policy making, you're often balancing two competing sets of values.
We wanted to continue to have the good relationship with the Russians. We had created the NATO Russia Council. The reward was that they sent someone who didn't even speak the language. So we were trying very hard to show that NATO had transformed, that it was something different.
But the competing value is that NATO has always had a view that it is an alliance of democracies. And to say to Ukrainians or to Georgians, "You're still in the Russian sphere and therefore we have to cut this line at a particular point and we can't allow you to even be considered" -- to say to these young democracies, "You could never be a member of this club," that was -- that was something we weren't willing to say.
ZAKARIA: When we come back, I will ask Secretary Rice what is next for Ukraine?
Can that country flourish when Russia is determined for it to fail?
(voice over): Don't forget, if you miss a show go to CNN.com/Fareed for a link to my iTunes podcast.
ZAKARIA: Now back to my interview with former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. I sat down with her on Tuesday at Stanford University.
ZAKARIA: Are you surprised, given how the Europeans in '08, and even after Crimea, were not very willing to put in very tough sanctions, that this time around they do seem to have come around to a -- to a view of maybe some stronger sanctions?
RICE: Well, I hear that there would be crippling sanctions, but I think we'd have to see what the specifics would look like. If -- there was that little slip of the president that it, sort of, depended on the nature of what the Russians did.
ZAKARIA: Right. RICE: And I -- I'm not sure that we would see the kinds of crippling
sanctions, for instance, banking sanctions, that would deny dollar- denominated transactions to the Russians, if we had more limited activity.
ZAKARIA: The president of Ukraine says that maybe NATO membership is a dream.
Do you think that, at the end of the day, where we are going to come out of this is everybody knows Ukraine is not likely to become a member of NATO, but nobody is going to say it formally and publicly because that would be too much of a concession to the Russians?
RICE: I suspect that that is where we'll end up. But if Vladimir Putin has mobilized 100,000 soldiers on the Ukrainian border to the east and 30,000 or whatever it is on the border with Belarus, that's a pretty big mobilization to get somebody to say something that's a penetrating glimpse into the obvious. And I, kind of, wonder if that's enough for him.
I have a sense that Putin has set in motion some things that he did not intend to set in motion. And maybe there is a -- a rethinking in Moscow about what has been achieved by this huge buildup, by all of these threats, by the threatening exercises that have taken place, by the narrative that has been created in the Russian press and in other places about the dangers to Russian-speaking populations in the eastern part of the Ukraine.
That's an awfully big buildup. And one wonders whether he underestimated NATO, underestimated the response that that would bring, perhaps thought that he could intimidate maybe even the Ukrainians into something more.
We will see how this -- how this comes out. But I hope he's done one other thing, which is to remind us that, as much as we all want a transition from hydrocarbons in support of climate policy, if that transition takes place and leaves us out, does not allow the United States to take advantage of its tremendous assets in oil and gas, we will hand the oil card to Vladimir Putin.
ZAKARIA: Do you think, in the long run, can Ukraine survive and flourish with a Russia that is determined to, kind of, make it fail?
RICE: One of Putin's frustrations, I think, is that he hasn't been able to make Ukraine fail. Despite the fact that he annexed Crimea, despite the fact that he has made a mess of a third of the country in eastern Ukraine, separatist movements, no ability to deal with the Rust Belt, the horrors of living in the Donbas, despite that, the Ukrainian economy has grown -- not a lot, maybe 2.5, 3 -- 3 percent. Zelensky has turned out to be, I think, a stronger president for Ukraine than perhaps the Russians expected.
The feeling of being Ukrainian is growing, particularly in the west, but not just in the west. There are young people in Ukraine now who only remember an independent Ukraine. And I think that part of his frustration is that this has happened
despite his efforts to undermine Ukraine, and that Ukraine keeps yearning to be a part of the West, whether NATO or not, whether European Union or not, moving closer and closer to the West, and perhaps a little bit of sense in his mind that time is running out for his vision of Ukraine, the little brother, Ukraine, the natural part of Russia, Ukraine, as he said in Bucharest in 2008, the "made-up country," because it's really never been -- been independent that long.
You get a sense of his frustration.
So can Ukraine survive and prosper?
Yes. It will be easier if the Russians cannot do some of the things that they intend to do. But I remember giving a talk to a group of Ukrainian young legislators a few years ago. And I said, "I know you have a difficult international situation, but imagine if the FRG, the Federal Republic of Germany, had said, for that 45 years, 'Well, we really can't progress until we have our eastern half; we can't get stronger; we can't build an economy; we can't build a democracy.'
But instead, they did quite the opposite. They built a powerful democracy. They built a powerful economy. And when the time came, the East Germans wanted to be a part of that, not the other way around."
And so I would say to the Ukrainians and to the Ukrainian people, this is a very sad and difficult time. I hope that we are supporting Ukraine's aspirations strongly enough. I have to say that I think that the Biden administration is -- is playing a difficult hand rather well these days. And it is ultimately, though, up to the Ukrainian people and their leadership to keep trying to build that strong democratic, independent Ukraine that is fighting corruption and building an economy. It can be done.
ZAKARIA: Secretary Rice, pleasure to have you on.
RICE: Thank you. Great to be with you.
ZAKARIA: Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.