All-Star Panel: America's approach with Russia working?

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 18, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We've joined Poland and the international community in condemning the continuing assault on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and the blatant -- the blatant violation of international law by Mr. Putin and Russia. Russia has offered a variety of arguments to justify what is nothing more than a land-grab, including what was said today. But the world has seen through, has seen through Russia's action, and has rejected the logic, the flawed logic behind those actions.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT, (via translator): We are told about the Russian intervention in Crimea, about the aggression. This is strange to hear. I don't remember any case in history when an intervention was conducted without a shot or any human deaths.


BAIER: Russian president Vladimir Putin saying he will go forward. Russia will annex Crimea. This as the tension increases in that region and the White House increases the threats, saying more sanctions are on the way. What about this and where we're headed? Let's bring in our panel. Jonah Goldberg, at-large editor for National Review online, Charles Lane, opinion writer for the Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Jonah?

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Well, and Crimea is annexed. They are switching to Moscow time in two weeks. The currency there is now the ruble. If you watched any of Putin's speech today, it was a real bravura performance where he tried to placate all sorts of constituencies while at the same time making it clear, I think, if you read his body language, that there's more trouble to come. I think we are at best midpoint through wherever this crisis is going.

BAIER: Here is what Secretary Kerry said about the speech today, responding after Putin talked.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Today is egregious enough when you raise this nationalistic fervor which could in fact infect in ways that could be very, very dangerous. All you have to do is go back and read in history of the lead-up to World War II and the passions that were released with that kind of nationalistic fervor.


BAIER: I mean Secretary Kerry, Chuck, you had Vice President Biden, you had Jay Carney essentially defending President Obama, saying we are going to continue to stand up to Putin. Is that working?

CHARLES LANE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Well, no. In the sense that -- I don't know what could work in a situation where Putin is so determined to hold on to the Crimea. As Jonah said, the speech today was remarkable. This is a man who is angry, passionate, indignant, and, you know, ridiculing the United States and all of its arguments against what he's doing. And I think we're at a very, very dangerous moment because even though he has annexed Crimea, all the supplies that he needs to keep his army going there and indeed the civilian population of Crimea, must run through Ukrainian sovereign territory. The electricity, the gas, the water, go through pipelines and other kinds of lines that cross a very narrow piece of land. That's the flashpoint next, that and the Ukrainian army troops that remain in Crimea and who now by Putin's definition are occupying foreign land.

It couldn't be more dangerous, and I see no evidence that anything will deter him except his own calculation of what's in his interest, not any of the threats coming from the West.

BAIER: Vice President Biden said we're sending 12 F-16s to Poland. He is standing alongside the Polish there. But there is a disconnect here, Charles. Here's what the White House said about where the sanctions stand now, what's happening, and then reaction from Putin's inner circle about being targeted, one of the people targeted.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Those actions have incurred costs already. They have done damage to Russia's economy, to its currency, and to its standing in the world. Further actions, further provocations will lead to higher costs.

VLADISLAV SURKOV, VLADIMIR PUTIN AIDE (via translator): I'm proud of this so-called political Oscar from America in the nomination of best actor in the supporting role.


BAIER: All of these people came out and said they were proud to receive this designation.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: This is well-earned mockery. It's true the Russian economy has slipped as a result of the invasion, but not as a result of anything that Obama has said or done. The sanctions he imposed yesterday are risible. The Russian stock market went up 3.7 percent in relief. The American stock market, our stock market, all markets care about is tranquility, status quo, and continuation of what's going on. They went up radically because they were surprised by how weak were the American sanctions and how little it would do. Everybody understands that these sanctions are a joke.

There are real sanctions that we could impose on the Russian economy, and there's nothing on the energy sector, which is the source of all their wealth, and there is nothing on the banks. We know from the Iranian example that if you cut off their access to western banks, unlike the Soviets, who had an autarkic, an isolated economy where the banks didn't make any difference, the new Russian economy is in some ways integrated.

BAIER: So why isn't that happening, Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Because we have no leadership from the United States. All we get from this administration is air. You get Kerry talking about being on the wrong side of history, which is an old academic collegiate lefty slogan which means nothing. And you get action on the part of Russia.

Chuck is right. The real problem is that the next step would be, can be, might be attack on the rest of Western -- Eastern Ukraine. And there is nothing that Obama has done that would in any way dissuade Putin.

BAIER: Jonah?

GOLDBERG: Part of it is maybe Putin -- he said today this was his last territorial ambition. The problem is that you saw the crowds that Putin was talking to. If you go by the reports from people in Moscow, what Putin is doing is very popular. Tyrants very often get controlled by the mobs that they create. It is entirely possible that he's unleashing emotional passions in Russia that could take care of this whether he wants it to or not.

BAIER: Mitt Romney in an op-ed today writes this, "President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton traveled the world in pursuit of their promise to reset relations and to build friendships across the globe. Their failure has been painfully evident. It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when Obama took office. And now, Russia is in Ukraine. Part of their failure, I submit, is due to their failure to act when action was possible and needed."

LANE: Well, I think Mitt Romney is sort of enjoying in a way a little bit of "I told you so" because he was the one that Obama ridiculed for talking about Russia as a geopolitical foe.

But just going back to something Jonah said -- but Putin can deny that he has further ambitions. But on March 4th, the last time he came before the press, he disavowed any intention to annex Crimea. He said he didn't want to talk about the referendum. That was a hypothetical. And now he has annexed it. So these statements really don't mean anything. And the best construction you can put on these sanctions is that they're holding the real sanctions in reserve for what he's going to do later. But that's really fundamentally irrelevant. He has no reason to worry about anything the West has in mind for him as compared to the value he places on controlling the Ukraine. It's a vital interest for him. No sanctions are going to stop him from doing it. The only question, I think, is what kind of policy we're going to have once this episode is all over toward Russia. Is it going to be more realistic? Is it going to be adjusted?

BAIER: And last thing, for somebody sitting at home in America on the couch, why should it matter?

KRAUTHAMMER: Because after the Cold War, we had a settlement, a stable resolution of the European situation, as George Bush senior said, a Europe whole and free. And Ukraine was sort of in the no man's land and it was understood it would remain independent. And now the rules don't apply. Putin is on the march. He could continue to march, and then it could involve Estonia, 40 percent Russian. It could involve Poland, and that's how major wars start, in Poland, in places like Estonia. And unless someone thinks that we can live entirely protected by the Atlantic and Pacific and not care at all, as we thought in the '30s, that affects us.

BAIER: Next up, the latest on Flight 370, the missing plane.

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