• With: Dan Henninger, Bret Stephens, Matt Kaminski, Mary Anastasia O'Grady, James Freeman

    This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," September 6, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    PAUL GIGOT, FOX NEWS HOST: This week on "The Journal Editorial Report."

    NATO leaders meet as the threat of war in Europe grows. Will Russia's next move be against a member state?

    Plus, destroying ISIS or managing it? The president is under fire for his mixed message on the terror group, with criticism now coming from fellow Democrats.

    And, running on the recovery. The White House is touting an improving economy, but Americans don't seem convinced. Is it a winning issue for the president's party in November?

    Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    NATO leaders met this week in Wales amid growing signs that Russia's ambitions may go well beyond its annexation of Crimea in March and its recent incursion into eastern Ukraine, now talking openly about a new Russia.

    President Vladimir Putin reportedly told a European Union official that Russia could, quote, "take Kiev in two weeks."

    So, what's Russia's next move? And could it be against a NATO member state?

    Let's ask "Wall Street Journal" columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger, foreign affairs columnist Bret Stephens, and editorial board member, Matt Kaminski.

    So, Matt, looking at where we stand right now, do you -- does it look to you as if NATO, the U.S. and Europe have essentially written off Ukraine?

    MATTHEW KAMINSKI, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, that's been the story for the last six months. The U.S. and the E.U. did not react forcefully to the taking of Crimea in March, and Vladimir Putin saw a green light to move forward. He has moved forward.

    Every step, we've been late in imposing hard sanctions. We've always tried to give Russia a way out, which Putin has taken as an indication to move forward.

    But most importantly, we've abandoned Ukraine but not helping it defend itself. Even though Ukraine is not a member of NATO, it's worked closely NATO for years, it's served in Afghanistan and Iraq. They deserved arms and they haven't gotten it.

    GIGOT: What about those who say that -- you know, look, Ukraine has historically always been part of Russia's sphere of influence, it's not part of NATO, we really don't have an obligation to defend it, we're not going to war against Russia, what else can we do, it's going to be there for Russia to take anyway?

    KAMINSKI: But we made a commitment over the last 25 years since the fall of Soviet Union with Ukraine, both in treaties, we signed a treaty in '94 in Budapest, when Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons, that we are going to not guarantee fully, but we're going to secure Ukraine's independence.

    GIGOT: Russia was part of that --

    KAMINSKI: Absolutely.

    GIGOT: They repudiated that lock, stock and barrel.

    KAMINSKI: But we've also worked, you know, Ukraine has been an ally, a de facto ally of the U.S. for much of its independent history. And it deserves that support.

    GIGOT: What are the consequences, Dan, of abandoning Ukraine as Matt talks about? I mean, strategically, as you look at the European map?

    DANIEL HENNINGER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, I think the biggest consequence is it will tell Putin he doesn't have to stop at Ukraine. I mean, the president of the United States was in Estonia earlier this week giving them his unqualified support.

    GIGOT: He said an attack on Tallinn is an attack on London, New York.

    HENNINGER: There was no daylight in what he said. Having said that, I doubt that that's really what NATO intends to do.

    Sure, if Russian troops rolled into Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, that might be one thing. But most likely, Putin will start to destabilize the Baltics because they have ethnic Russian populations in there the same way he did in Ukraine.

    If he does that, is NATO likely to act? I doubt it very much. I suspect that's where he's going next, in the Baltic.

    GIGOT: You agree with that, Bret?

    BRET STEPHENS, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yes, I do. And remember, 20 years ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who had been Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, warned in a very prescient essay in foreign affairs, Russia without Ukraine is a normal state. Russia with Ukraine becomes an empire.

    That's important for us to understand. This is changing the character of the Russian state as we have known it since the end the Cold War. It is bringing it back to something very much like what it was before.

    And once it's Ukraine, it doesn't need to be the Baltic States. There are lots of targets of opportunity for Vladimir Putin, northern Kazakhstan, huge country, very empty, there's a large Russian population.

    GIGOT: That's not a NATO state.

    STEPHENS: No, of course not. But it means that he is going to begin piece by piece to reconstitute aspect of the old Soviet Union. And that is dangerous for the kind of order we have in the world because it sends a signal to other countries that might want to revise the global order that they can do that as well.

    GIGOT: Right. But NATO is crucial because as a defense alliance it helped to unify Europe and keep the Soviet Union out of Western Europe.

    Do you think, Matt, that one of Putin's goals here is to essentially show that NATO is a hollow promise, and do what Dan and Bret suggest, which is to attempt, basically, to destabilize one of the Baltic States and when we don't respond, NATO will be shown to be essentially a nullity.

    KAMINSKI: But Putin does what he usually says. Putin has said that he wants to divide the West, that NATO is a threat to Russia, but the thinks he can weaken NATO, that it's really a paper tiger.

    GIGOT: Yes. And you think he wants to do that and will do that?

    KAMINSKI: I think he clearly is moving on, because he I mean, the ultimate reason why Putin --

    GIGOT: Moving in that direction.

    KAMINSKI: Moving in that direction, he has to keep moving because he has - - to survive in power, he's beating these nationalist drums in Russia and he needs to keep beating them to keep control in Moscow itself.