All-Star Panel: Geo-political implications of a murder mystery in Moscow

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 2, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


OBAMA: What I've called for is a full investigation and, hopefully, an independent investigation of what happened. Whether that can occur inside today's Russia or not is not clear. Basic civil rights and civil liberties inside of Russia are in much worse shape now than they were four, five, 10 years ago.

GARRY KASPAROV, HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION CHAIRMAN: I believe it was a ritual murder. Again, not Putin, some other people very, very close to him, because that's a signal. If you speak out against Putin, even if you are Boris Nemtsov, you're dead. It's a one man dictatorship, so as long as Putin is sitting there we will never learn the truth about Boris Nemtsov's murder.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Boris Nemtsov, a leading opposition figure in Russia, killed, murdered over the weekend. And Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, is vowing to investigate. In a letter to Nemtsov's mother says "Boris Nemtsov has left his mark in the history of Russia, in his political and public life. He occupied significant posts in the difficult time of transition in this country. He always openly and honestly voiced and upheld his views.  We will do everything to ensure that the perpetrators of this foul and cynical crime and those who stand behind them are properly punished."  That, again, Vladimir Putin who says, Mara, that he is overseeing this investigation personally.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: That was a foul and cynical statement right there if you ask me. You just can't listen to this stuff with a straight face. It was a highly professional assassination. As George pointed out, they didn't kill the girlfriend who was standing right there. They certainly knew what they were doing. The snow plow is positioned perfectly to obscure the view. And, you know, he says he is personally conducting an investigation. I guess that means we will never know who killed, or somebody would be blamed for it who had nothing to do with it.

BAIER: Over the weekend, marches in the streets of Russia. The Russian leadership is saying that this was a provocation designed to blame the Kremlin.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Provocation is a term from the '30s. Hitler would go around and they'd shoot their own people, accuse the communists or any other opposed, and then cover it up, obviously, and attack the supposed opponents who killed that person. Stalin used the same technique. It's a classic of these dictators. You accuse the opposition of killing its own as a way to get sympathy or whatever and then you go after and you persecute them.

There is not a chance in hell there is going to be anything that will come out of this that is going to be true because the murder was either ordered directly by Putin, or he walked around the Kremlin saying "Will no one rid me of this troublesome agitator," and somebody in the entourage went ahead and did it. It obviously comes out of him, and it was a message to the opposition that I have now ratcheted up. It is not just imprisonment. It's death.

BAIER: The president is hopeful for an independent investigation, George.

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Independent of what? We can't even investigate the IRS scandal without putting in charge someone who is an Obama contributor. Regimes don't investigate themselves. That's just not the way it works. It's a basic principle of diplomacy and foreign policy that the nature of a regime tells you what its external relations will be like. How it treats its people internally tells you something about how it will treat others abroad.

What do we know about this? It is a gangster regime run by a tyrant who is a personal assassin, fuelled by corruption, a kleptocracy, and we're trying to deal with them in the Ukraine. We have seen what happens there.  They negotiate ceasefires, they violate the ceasefires. He wages what's called hybrid war with the little green men who are associated with no one in particular with no uniforms on. Clearly, this is a man who is part Hitler and part Goebbels because Hitler at least farmed out his propaganda and his big lies to Goebbels. Putin does it all.

BAIER: There is criticism, obviously, Mara, that the U.S. is not doing enough to step up against Putin, especially in the Ukraine, because, perhaps, they want Russia's help with Iran and with Syria.

LIASSON: I think that it's a little more complicated than that because Europe is taking the lead there. This is happening in the heart of Europe. And if the Europeans aren't willing to up the sanctions, get tougher on Putin, I don't know exactly what we are supposed to do. Go to war with Putin on our own? That has been ruled out by pretty much everyone, Republicans included.

But I do think that after this, I don't think there is a single shred of credibility left to anything that Putin does. And I would just hope the Europeans move along those lines.

KRAUTHAMMER: But that's the Obama line, the only alternative to capitulation is war. The alternative is to supply the Ukrainians with weapons they have been asking us for for a year. And the one thing that's ominous about the murder is Nemtsov was a protege of Yeltsin, and Putin was elevated by Yeltsin when he promised that he wouldn't touch him, his entourage, or his followers. And now Putin has shown that that pledge is dead.

BAIER: By the way, new Defense Secretary Ash Carter says he is for delivering weapons to Ukrainians, it just hasn't happened yet.

That's it for the panel, but stay tuned for some confessions from the administration.

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