The world order has shifted now that Russia has invaded Ukraine
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We are following this breaking news today. Russia has invaded Ukraine on multiple fronts. The sound of sirens jolting families awake in Ukraine, explosions rang out this morning in several major cities - this after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that his country would conduct a military operation in the east of Ukraine. International reaction has been swift because the Russian attack has come on multiple fronts, as we've noted. EU leaders say Russia is grossly violating international law, undermining European and global security. President Biden and leaders of the G-7 will meet this morning to discuss next steps. Daniel Fried served as assistant secretary of state for Europe and is now a distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council. Ambassador Fried, thank you for joining us this morning.
DANIEL FRIED: I wish it were under better circumstances.
MARTIN: Indeed. Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen talked to us earlier and said the world order has shifted today. Do you agree?
FRIED: Yes. I don't know the military situation, but clearly Putin has demonstrated that he will act like an aggressive dictator abroad, as well as a despot at home. That is dangerous. And Putin's aims seem to be to destroy Ukrainian sovereignty but also upend the order that has kept the general peace in Europe since 1945. This is dangerous. And the Biden administration was right all along when they were warning of this. And now it falls to the Americans to do what we're supposed to do, which is organize the democratic community, the free world as we used to call it, to determine our long-range response against Putin and to determine how to help the people of Ukraine who are fighting for their country.
MARTIN: Let's talk about both of those objectives. First, the short-term need - helping Ukrainians who are living through this right now. I mean, we know the Biden administration has issued sanctions already. They intend to do so, we expect, today. But those aren't going to have an effect for those people who are, at this moment, fleeing for their own safety.
FRIED: I don't know, and I can't get a clear sense of the actual military situation. How far are Putin's armies driving? What do they intend to hold? What do they intend to seize? But the United States should continue to help the Ukrainian people defend their own country. That doesn't mean American troops on the ground. I don't think President Biden is going to change his mind about that. There are plenty of things that we could do. We can provide weapons to the Ukrainians. They need it. Let them tell us what they need, and we should provide it. The Ukrainians will fight. They cannot defeat the Russians, but they can force Putin to fight a major war. And that is going to have consequences. I'm not sure the Russian people are ready to see Russians killing Ukrainians for no good reason, except a dictator's sense of vanity and historic destiny. So we need the United States and the free world generally need to turn Putin's aggression, even if it's a successful short-term aggression, into a long-term strategic defeat.
MARTIN: How does that happen? I mean, do sanctions truly make a difference? There's nothing in his history to suggest that he's vulnerable to economic sanctions.
FRIED: I'm not sure I agree with that. He says he doesn't care. The Russians will sneer at them, and they will almost certainly impose counter sanctions and other measures, as President Biden has rightly warned. But sanctions that hurt the Russian economy can have an impact. Here's a bit of history. We put on sanctions against the Soviet economy and did so in a kind of inconsistent, muddled way. We thought they were failing. But look what happened. The Soviet economy was unable to use Western credit and investment to make up for its failure to reform, and it fell apart. We need to think in longer terms of how to put pressure on Putin's Russia so that he does not succeed. He can't modernize the economy because he's a despot. His whole system is a kind of kleptocracy. There's no real entrepreneurship because of the kind of mafia state will grab it all. We need to put pressure on the Russian economy long term. That's what sanctions can do. The bad news is that can take years. The good news...
MARTIN: Right. Is Ukraine sacrificed in the meantime?
FRIED: I know, and that is - I have friends in Kyiv and Lviv. This is not an abstract country, not to me and not to lots of others. And the Ukrainians are fighting for their lives. We need to help them. The Ukrainian foreign minister, after Russian attacks began, tweeted out a checklist of things we could do, which was pretty good. He didn't say send the 82nd Airborne to fight for us. He said, help us fight for ourselves. Sanction the Russians. Help us with humanitarian assistance. Help us with weapons - pretty good list. We ought to do it. We ought to show Putin that he cannot intimidate us into abandoning Ukraine. And the Ukrainians are showing great courage. The address of President Zelensky to the Russian people yesterday was strong, and it was - it made Putin look like, you know, a weird tyrant because Zelenskyy was saying to the Russians, we're not your enemy.
MARTIN: Ambassador, do you believe Vladimir Putin's ambitions end with Ukraine?
FRIED: Of course, they don't. Of course, they don't. He wants Ukraine because it's part of his version of a Russian empire. He wants Belarus to be part of that empire. And he also wants Russian power, a Russian zone of domination to extend as far west as possible. He has, in his mind, a map of the furthest extent of the Russian empire. He's talked about Russia's historic boundaries. So Finland, Poland, the Baltic states - no, he doesn't want to conquer them, but he wants them under his control. He wants them under his shadow.
MARTIN: Ambassador Daniel Fried, former assistant secretary of state for Europe, we so appreciate you coming on with your perspective and context. Thank you.
FRIED: Thanks for the opportunity. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.