• With: Matt Kaminski, Bret Stephens, Dan Henninger, Kim Strassel

    GIGOT: Matt, there is an argument out there, you hear it from Russia, but you also hear it from some Americans, that the cause of this is actually Russian insecurity, that we caused this because we've expanded NATO not -- from the border of Germany to Poland, to the Baltic States, and therefore we gave this Russia this sense that it's surrounded. Is that at all true?

    KAMINSKI: I think blaming ourselves only says something about us, that we want to excuse Vladimir Putin's misbehavior, as we have over the years. The bottom line is that Vladimir Putin is doing what he's doing for all those reasons but also because of his own insecurity. He's terrified about what happened in Ukraine, the fact that a country very similar to his might become a democracy. His economy is slowing down dramatically. He needs a distraction from inevitable trouble in Russia itself. And that's also why he's moving against Ukraine and trying to gin up this nationalism.

    But more broadly, NATO did not expand to Ukraine. Remember that five years ago, we denied Georgia and Ukraine --

    GIGOT: And Ukraine.

    KAMINSKI: -- a very simple first step into NATO. Since then, Vladimir Put has invaded Georgia and invaded Ukraine. Our weakness has been an invitation to his aggression.

    GIGOT: On that point, Dan, you've been very tough on the president --


    GIGOT: -- and his leadership, failed leadership and, yet, some liberals would come back at you and say, hey, look, this is nothing about Obama, this is Putin. Why blame anything having to do with Barack Obama for Putin's aggression? What is your point about Obama and American leadership, may perhaps having invited this?

    HENNINGER: Well, I think that Putin has been sitting there watching America's president behave in areas like Syria, when he declined to bomb Assad's air fields, and decided that if we were going to pull back and as part of Obama's ideology for the United States to kind of just go alongside international institutions, he would test it. He would move forward. And he's done that now. And I think he's not only did it, he's thrown down the gauntlet to the leadership in the West. It's not only the western Europeans, but it's the United States. And the western Europeans, I think, have been making it pretty clear that although they would do some economic damage to themselves if they proceed with sanctions against the Russians, some their leaders, Angela Merkel especially, have made it clear they would be willing to do it if there would be so-to-speak burden sharing on taking a hit. This is not going to happen though, Paul, unless the president of the United States gets out front of the Europeans and leads them in that direction. And so far, Obama has not done that.

    STEPHENS: Paul, people ask what does Syria have to do with Ukraine.

    GIGOT: Right.

    STEPHENS: You know, there is no causal relationship. I would disagree. I think the relationship is environmental. Remember the broken windows theory of policing? When people see disorder at the surface level --

    GIGOT: Right.

    STEPHENS: -- it creates deeper disorders. That's precisely what's happening now. China's aggression in the South China Sea, the collapse of the Syria state --

    GIGOT: Right.

    STEPHENS: -- and the civil war taking place, the capitulation with the negotiations with Iran, all of this is creating an environment of global disorder that is an invitation to a range of states that want to revise the global order to take advantage of what is clearly Western indecision, weakness and desire to --


    GIGOT: Almost three years left in this president's term. What can he do to reclaim the initiative and stop that fraying of global order?

    STEPHENS: The most significant challenge that is going to confront him now is whether the United States will accept Iran as a de facto nuclear weapon state. That's exactly what they did with this temporary agreement. We'll find out in six months whether that will happen.

    KAMINSKI: I would add to that that we need a new strategy for Europe and a commitment to NATO, and to push back Putin and hit him hard.

    GIGOT: OK, thank you. With sanctions, I assume you mean?


    GIGOT: When we come back, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid heading the charge, Democrats wage war on the Koch brothers. What is behind their attack strategy and will it make a difference in the midterms.



    SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV.: This is about two very wealthy brothers who intend to buy their own Congress, a Congress beholden to their money and bound to enact their radical philosophy.


    GIGOT: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid earlier this month, denouncing billionaire businessmen Charles and David Koch from the Senate floor. The brothers, whose group Americans for Prosperity spent a reported $122 million in the 2012 elections, are well-known for the support of conservative candidates and causes. And as the 2014 midterm elections approach, the Senate's top Democrat is leading a party-wide effort to silence them.

    Wall Street Journal Potomac Watch columnist, Kim Strassel, joins us with more.

    So, Kim, it's not every day you see the majority leader attack two businessmen in such personal terms. What are they up to?

    KIM STRASSEL, POTOMAC WATCH COLUMNIST: Well, this is a sign of desperation on Harry Reid's part, Paul. Look, the story here is that the Kochs helped found some groups, outside conservative groups that are now playing very effectively in a lot of races in which there are vulnerable Democrats. They're talking about Obamacare, bringing up issues that voters want to hear. Harry Reid doesn't like this. And so there are two things going on here. One, this is an attempt to change the conversation, to suggest that it is all about, as he said, evil wealthy Americans, special interests trying to buy an election. It's also, I think, about Harry Reid trying to scare his own donors into giving some more money for this race because right now the Democrat I go base is quite dispirited about the midterm.

    GIGOT: What about the argument they're making that the Kochs, because of their wealth, have undue influence over American politics, and therefore, we need to rein them in somehow so they don't have that influence.

    STRASSEL: I mean, the interesting thing about the Kochs here is, look, they have, again, helped found these groups that are doing nothing more than talking about the issues that Americans want to hear, about the economy, about Obamacare. This is a huge contrast, Paul. For instance, when G.E. goes and hires a lobbyist, it's very transactional. They are asking for a subsidy.

    GIGOT: Right.

    STRASSEL: When the unions say we'll give money to Democrats, they're saying if you'll give us Card Check.

    GIGOT: But wait a minute, Kim.

    STRASSEL: The Kochs aren't doing --


    GIGOT: But you and I can't go out and spend $100 million on an election. Most Americans can't. The Kochs can because they have the money. What about the charge that that gives them undue influence over politics?

    STRASSEL: First of all, money is speech. And also, what's interesting here, Paul, we don't actually know how much money the Kochs are spending. They founded a group like Americans for Prosperity which, by the way, has 90,000 donors and 2.3 million members. So because some of this is not disclosed, it's not actually for certain how much Koch money is going into this.