tv Atlantic Council Discussion on Ukraine- Russia Conflict - Panel CSPAN December 8, 2018 1:27am-2:54am EST
western powers. the atlantic council in washington dc hosted a discussion on the crisis with a panel of diplomats and security analyst. after the discussion the retired general gave a talk on the conflict this is just over two hours. [inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon everyone. executive vice president here at the atlantic council welcome to our conversation on aggression it is my pleasure to welcome you to the important conversation today how ukraine and its western
allies for those watching on november 25th to seize three ukrainian naval ships traveling from the black see the waters that they share six ukrainian crew members were injured all 24 were detained and are still in russian custody. this attack marks a significant escalation and russia's war against ukraine it is the first time the kremlin has used force several countries and the european union with aggression against ukraine but a comprehensive response has yet to take shape. we are gathering at an importantan time in brussels on this issue but also we gather with a time of intense debate
here in washington currently inside the executive branch about our response and our intention to inform that conversation our panel will surely touch on if russia will take this seriously many have been out there arguing there is no concrete steps it will be viewed as an indication that in essence what is unfolding before our eyes is another example of creeping annexation this time in territorial waters. this is not an isolated incidente and ukraine is not
the only state that faces the threat the georgia and republic of moldova have been recognized by the comments aggression and to be recognized on the frontline of freedom this is where the dividing line is so we have been proud to be partners and we will continue to do it we can for the freedom to determine their own destiny a conversation today i'm very much looking forward to the experts i'm delighted to welcome back to the atlantic council the board director from allied commander thank you for being with us today we look forward to your thoughts as your leadership was instrumental in office.
it'll be preceded by experts on these issues we will turn to our own ambassador secretaryor for europe former ambassador to ukraine and doctor celeste a great friend and colleague working in the administration now ceo of us russia foundation and former ambassador to russia general of nato among many others in our very ownwn melinda haring editor extraordinaire who leads wildly successful ukraine alert blog i hope you all enjoy this conversation looking forward to not only the specific ideas this is not
to ask questions right now it's's my pleasure to give the microphone to celeste. it is a privilege to be here but it is disconcerting to be here but the russian strategy i agree with the characterization with that revisionist russia with that specific goal to protect the ukraine to keep that ukrainian leadership foldable and amenable this is also about
challenging with the international law that favors the kremlin interest. number two this is another instance what we take away from this of what is completely predictable another instance of russia to characterize that with that classic context the russians are extremely good in the grand scheme of things to change the status quo and then to accept and recognize not to voice complaints and third we
need to think what comes next to be so responsive that will continue but to get ahead of the curve and with those capabilities but political and economic tools and then the revision is changing and what do i mean by that? after the russian invasion the attention went away but it wasn't over at that point and then to recognize the independence the military and border guards cooperating with those two entities to
recognize they slowly but surely created a new reality on the ground day by day that wouldn't necessarily get the attention but theit turnaround suddenly has a couple of kilometers on those territorial lines. so the point now is considerably larger than they were. so this is what we mean what they do constantly in the international community becomes accommodated through action and lack of reaction. anotherr example you may have
forgot aboutut georgia. under the open skies treaty, treaty members cannot conduct open skies flight within 10 kilometers of non- treaty members with the united states and europe would file flight plans for the open skies treaty the russians would deny the flight plans to approach within 10 kilometers because those were independent countries not treaty partners the united states word protest nobody wanted to have a military conflict but you couldn't because they were deniedfl but over time denying those flights they made the basis for claiming that drew their action to recognize the
sovereignty and integrity so why do i belabor this because you are familiar then what wouldli happen to put a different frame on it. is not just ukrainian ships or control of the kurdish trade and to lay the groundwork for the next step which is claiming territorial sovereignty. the first step over the summer when the russian ships began to claim the right to inspect commercial ships to prevent the shipping of the ukrainian naval ships that is the next step of that policy that
russia has been so effective to execute in georgia and moldova since 2014. so the take away from that don't just think about territory, but the rules of the game and the international community none of these members care about the ukraine. but they do care about the international rules of the game. that is where a big part of the effort should be in a large part of the obama with russiann invasion of 2014 not just because of the obama administration but that was the effective argument to make
so that is where part of the response needs to be. what is next is predictable the immediate objective to highlight two political objectives and a military objective. numberti one ukrainian presidential election to think it is kremlin friendly leadership but one way is to create instability and fear and uncertainty but it's not clear of further military russian a operation so high danger on the sea or on the ground not necessarily with the military objective but to
shake the fears and the concerns of the ukrainian political elites ahead of that election. the second political aspect with the prospect of the american election and that timeframe that the kremlin has in mind is the political cycle in 2020 and to act decisively and where there is a consolidation of leadership in germany in particular. so this period of 2014 there is an opportunity of the transatlantic relationship to
change what the status quo looks like while we are not paying attention but we can address that and it is within our power and more than any particular response that is what i would advocate. >> thank you so much. >> thank you very much thank you to be on this distinguished panel. i was asked to give the view of nato so i will approach it from that perspective. so the allies to be too much in agreement that russia is responsible for what happens it is certainly unanimous with the sequence of events russia had no legal justification for use of force. so that being said without
whole episode. so starting the usual playbook that still is allowed to meet at higher level meetings and the next day the north atlantic council cause the return of the ukrainian ships with the freedom of navigation and of course with the sovereignty with the common restraint on both sides. and since then the nato response in my view lacks any real sense of urgency most have fairly limp expressions
although concerns is not an answer. but no specificity of its direct aggression and its use of force against ukrainian ships or what anyone would do if food refused to return the ships yesterday that prime minister did not change the picture very much there was rhetorical r criticism but no concrete steps or anything significant to say it already increased its presence of 120 days of this year compared 80 days last year for robust nato action.
and to the warnings of russia's need so now the position may evolve and perhaps we consider these measures but right now i think that president putin from washington and brussels and this is disturbing because the november 25 attack was not a one off event or an isolated occurrence it would be incrementally increasing the pressure for a couple months reminiscent to georgia in 2008 testing the left under the temperature under only verbal protest. so in this case it is also
clear moscow has been tapping the ground and the fact the msa and with that russian sovereign territory with the declaration onat the 15th of november and that unilateral view it is no longer a shared body of water. to be careful and wise then they will increasingly by the claim of provocation that both sides equal - - bear responsibility i am of the
view of heightened danger at the end of march and to do all they can to destabilize ukraine with the failed states with leaders are provoking russia and those who may be more pliable to show deference to moscow. so ukraine has to navigate carefully in its conduct on the seas while defending itself with warfare. with readiness and resilience. but beyond that to have more
shipping covered by existing ukraine sanctions but i would argue we need to try yet again to freeze the project to re- navigation and to leverage the more serious approach. and then better to sanction. and then to pick upk on those on the project. but nato as a whole will not do this i don't think but
order to deter aggression with the improved radar with the ukrainian navy. with those of other allies and as a legitimate subject as an excuse for inaction over the next few weeks. we should try to consider more exercises in the region. and engage with turkey and romania to overcome their resistance and then to behave
aggressively just to give the russians something to think about. then to figure out what to do there is a lot of things that nato could do. >> thank you so much. >> ambassador? >> this reminds me of the deputies committee were i would often speak at the end and then they say what do we do about it? and what sanctions do we impose?
it is to responding to russia's aggression so i will challenge to come up with guidelines and specific suggestions you have to know what you want to achieve and mean it. sanctions are not fun than those that lobby against them so make sure to waive the risk and benefit and then defend your ground. and responding to this act of aggression and that change of territory changing territorial boundaries and second to
restorednt as a longer-term process but to tie the sanctions to turn them on and off that if we impose sanctions we keep them on so here first with those sanctions that already exist there could be a better job and europeans need to do much more. though sanctions against crimea the purpose is to turn crimea into a very expensive liability we can parade around
not highly as drastic with those restrictions on the state banks but nevertheless and third not to go after a single russian bank that would blow back on the financial markets we could apply sanctions to them there is more vascular tory headwind that this is enough for now there is less headroom in the obama administration we decided to go after this i
would maintain thesen guidelines on the future oil production that is easier said and done that they can get from china but we still have a monopoly out of certain projects america and some companies i would look at this seriously for years after the russian invasion after ukraine that is enough time to factor in proper risk regardless of the ukraine we should go after
putin and where they send their money to close the channel for russian investment in the various hidden methods in the real estate markets we know that putin improved sanctions we know this to the length he went with the magnet ski act to get overturned by the panama papers. we know it hurts because they complained that should be an indication of leverage.
with that important important pipeline in the baltic sea than what? they should reconsider the balance of interest to pending resolutions. to determine those german companies that we have other things you want the germans to do. my final point we associate these with europe. putin is the europeans have now woken up and agreed to significant sanctions against them it may suggest to the russians that putin was not calculating the western response
in his latest aggression against ukraine. want to show that putin has -- he regards as as weak malleable and accepting of his aggression. it is of our interest to prove him wrong. and if it is important to get the europeans on our side or wouldn't start by insulting the european union. i am just saying. and since the secretary of state criticized so-called brussels bureaucrats yesterday in brussels i would point out that in my experience the brussels bureaucrats a.k.a. the european commission were the people responsible for setting up the successful joint imposition of sanctions by the united states and the european union. the european councilmember states couldn't have done it without the staff or the
european commission. bureaucrats serve as strategic advance have their place, so thank you. so i thank you very much. we were expecting no less. ambassador vershbow. >> i have the fortune of being the last and everything are to being said so i'll offer a few main points in some small additional i hope insights. first of all to frame this issue it goes back to what celeste said the kremlin is pursuing a revisionist policy to a bend the rules of order established since the cold war but even at the end of world war ii. concepts like sovereignty in territorial integrity. in moscow it is not brought in a country which has a sizable number of ethnic russians or for that matter russian -- the way to understand what is happening in eastern ukraine is that if moscow succeeds in up-ending the
territorial integrity of ukraine the chance of moscow provoking the baltic states goes way up. it's 25% they population in estonia that are russia. the smartest and safest way to defend our baltic allies is to make sure moscow gets logged down until it decides to leave. that does not involve american troops or nato troops. two if you look at the crisis happening right now, why did it happen on november 25? the first thing to understand is that moscow began a new part of its campaign against ukraine in april when it began to inspect ships coming to and from the ukraine imports. it's remains an important economic area for ukraine. as a result of the inspections the delays in shipping imports
an expert from ukraine imports have dropped according to statistics that are readily available 50% according to some firms dealing heavily they told me last week, 66%. either way that's a major hit to ukraine's economy but also for those of you who remember moscow blames whose economic livelihood is threatened by moscow's heavy-handed in moscow. impartial terms a greater number of russians and russian speakers. barely we know it's a cynical game. now what happened on november 25 it was part of russia's tightening of the clamp on dunbar. to come in september hugh crane spent -- sent naval ships through the kerch strait into the sea of basel.
my understanding and i will leave it at that is mr. putin after this happened although he did not say no was not an uzi stec about it. he did not want it to happen a second time. the third data point which has nothing to do with this ukraine one or is in the process of winning a critical victory in its war for true independence. you will note the constantinople patriarch in the orthodox world has announced his intention to grant ukraine auto so fully very soon. this lead to the creation of unified ukrainian orthodox church recognized by world orthodoxy which will take up substantial amount of churches with it and become the second largest church in the out orthodox world which will also be a counter to kremlin influence. mr. putin is not amused by this.
the next point, mr. putin's own domestic albums. you have seen a rash of not predict a well-informed analysis they declared russian laws the way to deal with domestic problems. i'm not saying political calculations did not play at all in his decisions but marshall law when you are a relatively new country like ukraine threatened by the world's second most powerful military is not a crazy option. it's also an option which poroshenko was slammed for three to four years. anyway while people were focusing on that which is very, very very positive kremlin propagandists and no one was paying attention to the fact that not only has putin's approval rating dropped to the lowest figures of the 60s but much more importantly, he was in
the 60s before but the polls show and have shown for a couple of years the majority of russians think the country is heading in the wrong direction. this is new information. the different polls from moscow's premier institution demonstrates that a majority of russians are now blaming the president of russia for that fact is. that is a dangerous statistic could mr. putin had -- finally this happen on november 20 10th. on november 23 naval ships started sailing towards the kerch strait asking to go through the straits of oslo. the kremlin has built up immunity in the sea of oslo. if you felt that stranglehold on economic to be through kerch strait also to position their military for possible additional strikes or to raise the cost of
ukraine's defense by threatening additional strikes in the sea of oslo. some people talk about the problem of crimea's water supply that shaky bridge that sandy refer to but let's remember a spare could not build a bridge across the straits through the waters of straits, the currents are very strong which is why the railroad with -- the road bridge is not -- anyway if that ridge is in trouble theme for the canal which in the days when ukraine have full control over crimea supply water from the new river in crimea becomes very important. i personally don't think the kremlin will try to seize that because that would require a military operation. they want to avoid that type of
operation because that will trigger serious sanctions and other actions. all these things have the kremlin ready to say no to the next i'm ukraine will send its ships to the kerch strait. what was kremlin trying to do with the ships? it the goal was simply stopping the ships from entering into the sea once they put that tanker and give balls in the picture over at the kerch strait with that tanker sitting there the only way the ships could have gotten in would be by taking force against the tanker and that would have been the pretext of moscow would have love to slam ukraine and much harder way than they did for attacking the ships. what do the russians tried to do first? to ram the tug vote. what were they trying to do? they were trying to get the ukrainians to shoot. if the ukrainian shot first they
could punch. it didn't work. ukraine did not shoot. by the way you all heard the tapes. they expected some sort of antics from the kremlin. the ordinance for the commander on the ground to the sailors were saying go after them. interestingly not only did they try ramming when that didn't produce an reaction they tried shooting. that would have again been the kremlin to say they are shooting us in that gives us a reason to bomb. they shot and then they put an eye on the unctuous jump point they seized the ships. here is my final point and the most important one. once they did that, once the
ukrainians had not responded in the way the russians claimed moscow hunker down said hey we are not doing anything guys. why did they do that? they wanted to make sure the west remained asleep and this comes back to the point about russia as in a revisionist power. put nest as a -- putin as a revisionist leader. their aim is to take as much as they can without provoking the west. for those who say the need for strong response is warlike is provocative. you've tried 10 years of appeasement. we tried it after georgia. we got crimea. we tried it after crimea, we got done boss. the point that we didn't have it thanks to celestine dan. although remember, remember
remember dunbar began as an operation in april of 14 for the hard sanctions only came in july 3 months later. now it was 10 days after in the black sea. the europeans didn't even take the sanctions until their shoot down of the malaysian airline. we needed a little bit of encouragement. the full range of measures on sanctions, those are the ones i don't need to repeat. i suspect that over time, four,, six coming weeks we will see the u.s. somehow move forward and take some of those steps. this aggression has slowed down and appointed time where it at. the fact that with the lame duck congress. congress is a very important factor in this whole equation. the obama and under the trump administration but eventually we
would see a stronger u.s. response which made the way for the europeans. senate thank you so much ambassador herbst. i wanted to ask mr. vershbow. there's a lot of boats bumping into each other. why is it such a big deal puts big deal? it the look of the video it doesn't look like much. >> hopefully that will get you going. >> mostly first of all any kind of military clashes intrinsically dangerous because it creates the combustible material for an escalation and rarely do complex the best way to higher levels for many reasons, it's an unpredictable game. so i think that is why there is reason for concern. whereas we have had clashes
between russian forces and other ground forces it really is extraordinary that it's been extended to the maritime -- while this is new and it's predictable because the black sea is also with several nato members as andy pointed out. the reason, would come back to the recent as combustible as it is politically combustible. the willingness of this kremlin as a military instrument not invasion but military instruments for political and that is the change from earlier. difficult rush under the first two terms of putin's presidency we were willing to do military force inside of russia. when they geltz and presidential leadership was willing to use military force in moldova to
expel but to use military force not just for grabbing territory but to change the local rules of the game i think is broader and more dangerous. it makes it politically and militarily unpredictable in ways that a more capable and more assertive russia has demonstrated its willingness to entertain. >> ambassador you just wrote in the "washington post" that nato should expand its presence in the black sea. what about the sea of as not? some of argued that nato should split -- at the invitation of the ukrainian government is it legal and is it wise? >> i think the fundamental problem is it isn't legal under the high lateral agreement of 2003. russia gets clear on any request by third countries to pass from
the kurdish straits. apparently there are serious operational constraints because of the shallow body of water and many american naval vessels and allied vessels could actually go in there and operate. would it be a wise move? that is debatable but i think given it's only a theoretical possibility the focus should he on beefing up nato presence. not letting that become uncontested russian lake showing the russians if they are worried about encroachment of nato forces that they are triggering this rather than preventing it through their aggressive behavior. that may not be enough but i think it would be a step to show a little more backbone than it's been showing in last month. >> the leading candidate to replace german chancellor angela
merkel has suggested the eu ban russian ships until they resolution is resolved. would he think about that proposal? >> i take it's a reasonable proposal. banning russian shipping, it's important to sink through the collateral damage and whether the balance of pain is going to be the way you want it to be. that's one that i would take a look at. and in a german politician is calling for more sanctions i want to listen most attentively and as sympathetically as possible but i don't want to go into a hypothetical because there are a lot of ideas out there and you want to make sure you can do it and it's not going to have fun for seeing consequences and it will hurt the people that you want to hurt >> a bit more time to look into it. ambassador herbst why are we
letting ourselves get dragged her blond squirrels from the south china sea to a cause you? americans really care about these faraway places and should we be willing to risk more with russia and china over them? [laughter] >> okay i think it was neville chamberlain who said something very similar about czechoslovakia in the british people. ..
moscow has to worry about defense. and the south china sea give me a break. the south china sea has a very large percentage of global trade and to dominate the south china sea and how do we do that? >> we would not publish that article let's just put it that way. so to save around one goes to russia and the crisis do you agree with that assessment did russia come out on top? >> it is not round one but it is around one it is a continuation of the effort to influence ukraine for sure
and everyday risk at being unraveled so that is the other advocacy so if all those sanctions are what europeans have to suffer so that we don't keep losing to the bigger challenge we know present tramp canceled the meeting with vladimir putin at the g 20 what about treating diplomatic engagement. >> and with that diplomatic engagement and then that way
would be one of the ways to come up with sanctions for the europeans of the american companies. and that is ridiculous. >> we want to ask one more question than we will turn to audience we are in the cycle of bad for worse and with the threat of conflict between two nuclear powers will you reject that question? >> but i will reject the premise. of course we have better relations with russia early in
the eighties so with world peace post afghanistan aggression but that was not going to work and tactically to lose every round of the cold war. and with those underlying strategic issues to play that hand well. and not as strong as he makes out to strut around. if we organize ourselves of all the assets of high ground but the purposes and to beat
on russia but to have better relationships which i believe is possible. but i do believe it is possible. >> i simply underscore the issue is not good relations with moscow but protecting american interest. because he is a strategic master i think he is a strategic loser but ukraine wants to it was about nato or ukraine but stupid china. that is a strategic problem. and i suspect that moscow and
doesn't want to increase the fight with the policies. >> and what is different today and bring about a change for the better we have a russian president who maintains relations with those living standards and the russian people not put up with that so we have to we are not doomed in this spiral forever the with a strategic competition.
after the election so it is personal. so with that form of putin's him it is real in the minds of the kremlin they saw at that as a threat that we need to take seriously it is deeply embedded not just what we hope for. >> we would love to talk to you 30 more minutes. >> when you get up i need your identity and the question. no statement i will cut you off.
>> we don't take traffic targeting but the ongoing situation and we appreciate your patience. but since i arrived at the atlantic council that you have certain services. there is no doubt that moscow's policies are designed to produce leadership with those criminal interest. and what happened the spring
but putin has said not just as president of the ukraine but also made statements about the ability to deal with ukraine in a better fashion after the elections with new leadership. >> to get those they want but that will not happen. how the parties shape up with that dynamic similar to what they face today in the political class against kremlin aggression and putin is the father of the ukrainian
defense with a pipeline in the baltic sea it would be a significant new violation of international law the eta - - the area that nato patrols and much more cautious of those operations. nato has many more cards in the deck and has a very weak and but the military is much stronger than it used to be but that isn't at the top of the list of that military move.
but i agree that it cannot be ruled out or other european allies should respond early on to test the waters with that kind of operation. >> and to get some views on this and presumably with other european states i am much more worried about their nefarious activities. with this difficult environment of the reinforcement to generally
the same is true in crimea and in january 2014 in 2025 percent maximum but in crimea 40 or 42 percent are interested to join russia the majority of crimea and the status quo. and with the attitudes of people in those places. >>. >> but the other difference is to be sensitive to cost while i agree i worry about that
political temptation with latvia and estonia i think it is not crazy and understands the importance to enhance the deterrent method moving forward to the nato alliance that doesn't solve the problem for ukraine. but there is something in there it is sensitive to so possible military for ukraine to deal with russia. >>.
>> from the policy research institute we have a number of experts and diplomats here so i'll ask you to take off your hat so releasing a poll last week a 10 percent german poll said they should have stronger relationship in cooperation with russia through the united states at 43 percent. lot of the conversation is on nato or retaliatory measures with any long-term strategy. what counsel would you give to the administration about what needs to happen between berlin and moscow? >> i am skeptical about reading too much. i went through the bush administration all that meant
evening these were first recorded of the russian aggression and ukraine recently on the budapest memorandum and to invoke this mechanism. how do you see the ability of the budapest memorandum? with the architecture of security and defense and the cornerstone treaty and the challenge what is your perspective? >> thank you.
>> but lack of the enforcement mechanism with the reality that with the political will at the time and once it was done i don't know if we can bring it back we have to think about it more broadly with those principles that are reflected in where you hope to begin a process and russia is focusing on dunbar with that reinterpretation or what they
might do in the coming months and that would influence the election. and to stand up to that memoranda and then look to the future. >> one more question. >> and with the atlantic council i am reminded in january 68 with the johnson administration so to look at western leadership dealing with yellowjackets to reset
will be gone after the 11th and donald trump with the tariff band comments. so it seems he is dealing with an extremely weekend leadership. so to raise the prospect but it strikes me has to be putin talk to put in a broader strategic concept but they have to destroy us you have start to or a new start so
would that not be a bad idea if there is some idea that overarching conference that might address all these issues? otherwise i don't see anything happening with ukraine if not be more aggressive despite their policy. >> a conference right now would be a disaster because of putin and i would expand there are a zillion sanctions you could put on russia but the kremlin is the effective sanctions so with the administration it was exactly those who with the core
leadership looking at with those nato members that are not destabilizing what putin love right now would be a security conference because he is on a roll and does not sit down and once what the kremlin is experiencing too seriously get back to the original comment that we are not asking russia to not do anything it didn't except at the end of the cold war but these to belong to other countries but not right now.
>> thank you so much. i'm afraid we are out of time please put your hands together. [applause] here is what we will do next do not move. freeze. we will change the stage then we will be joined by the general we need one minute. please do not go anywhere. thank you very much. [inaudible] [inaudible conversations] >> thank you for your patience it is my pleasure