Espreso. Global

This war will definitely not end with Putin's parade on Khreshchatyk — US official Fried

24 December, 2023 Sunday

In an interview with Espresso TV, Daniel Fried, the former coordinator for sanctions policy at the US State Department, spoke about the effectiveness of existing sanctions and the prospects for new ones against Russia


Extremely important news came from the state of Colorado. The local court gave Ukraine and not only Ukraine a chance that Donald Trump may not get into the American election race. When we read the signals from Donald Trump, we realize that this can directly affect the deterrence of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

I am not happy that the world sees the bad side of American strategic thinking. Donald Trump represents the so-called America first school, which is a school of thought that was held in the 1930s. That the United States has no real interest in European security. This was a catastrophic policy. Not a policy of the US government at the time which was then headed by Franklin Roosevelt, but it was certainly the sentiment of the Congress that prevented Roosevelt from doing more to combat Hitler's rise. And that meant that World War II broke out and the West needed Stalin to defeat Hitler. That was catastrophic for Poland, for Ukraine, for Europe and for the United States. And Trump represents this bad tradition. So I will speak clearly about this tradition and my disagreements with former president Trump. 

You asked about the Colorado decision. This is unprecedented in American history because there never was a president of the United States who engaged in efforts to overturn an election and engaged in insurrection against the political transfer of power in the United States. We never had a case like this before. A section of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that says that no officer of the United States government who is engaged in insurrection against the United States government can hold any office. This was an amendment passed after the Civil War and it was designed to prevent former confederate officers from joining the US government or taking a place in the US Congress. It was applied in the past. It has not been applied to any presidential candidate until now.

The Colorado Supreme Court determined that Trump had participated in an Insurrection against the United States. It also concluded that he was under the third section of the 14th Amendment ineligible to become president and thus ineligible to appear on the ballot. The arguments on the other side can either be that Trump didn't participate in an insurrection, which is a difficult position to maintain because we all saw that he did. Or that there has been no legal finding he has not been convicted of supporting or leading an insurrection and therefore the 14th Amendment doesn't apply now. This is a legal issue. The Supreme Court of the United States will step in. And I actually expect that they will not uphold the Colorado Supreme Court decision, they will probably determine one way or another that Trump is eligible to run and this will be a heated debate. But I think in the end Trump will still be a candidate for president. And I say this not as a supporter of Trump, but I'm trying to give you a sense of the way this is likely to turn out. I could be wrong. But that's my initial view.

I would like to ask you to analyze possible scenarios related to the allocation of macroeconomic assistance packages to Ukraine and Israel. We understand how much Ukraine will depend on these tranches and whether the Biden Administration is able to convince some Republicans through major intra-American budget bargaining. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has said that there is a "Plan B" in case of need.

This is another case that I wish I didn't have to address. The United States should have by now provided additional economic assistance to Ukraine. It has been hung up. It has not been blocked too early to say it is blocked, but it has been delayed by a debate in the Congress about the Southern border and the security of the Southern border.

The Republicans in Congress argue that there needs to be an agreement on the southern border so that money to secure the southern border will go hand in hand with money for Israel and money for Ukraine.

This US Senate is engaged in intense negotiations to find a solution to the issue of the Southern border which will open the way for the funding for Ukraine. They have not found it yet, but the talks appear to be serious.

I think in the end there will be a solution reached and there will be assistance for Ukraine, but I can't guarantee that. So you have an unfortunate bad case of American politics and at the same time European politics preventing both the EU and the US from providing the financial assistance that we should be providing. In the European Union the problem is that Victor Orban's Hungary has blocked agreement for no good reason. And in the United States you have the problem that the Republicans are insisting on some solution on the southern border before they agree to assistance for Ukraine. 

Not a great moment for either the United States or Europe, but I think that we will get there in the United States. How Europe manages Victor Orban I can't yet say.

This would mean that the European Union is in an extremely big crisis if it fails to neutralize Viktor Orban's influence on geopolitical and historical decision-making. On the other hand, at least we in Ukraine have always hoped that common sense and internal American history may be stronger than the pro-Trump MAGA group. Accordingly, we understand that perhaps this is just an additional expression of the fact that they do not want to raise the degree of escalation and deterrence of the Russian Federation, perhaps not.

The European Union will have to find a way to prevent Victor Orban from blocking them on an issue of such strategic importance as Ukraine. I think they will find it. Orban will lack an ally in Poland, and he will be isolated and the European Union will find a way to resolve this. I don't know how long it will take. Hopefully not much time.

The support for Ukraine in the United States is still strong. We will find a way to work through our politics and get the assistance to Ukraine that would be in our interest, in Europe's interest as well as the interests in Ukraine. We will get there but it is a difficult period right now and I regret that. I say this without pride or pleasure. It is difficult. And it gives Putin an opportunity to continue to put pressure on Ukraine, which  is Putin's dream to have the West divided and paralyzed. And we need to summon our strength to push back on Putin and push back on Russia and help Ukraine succeed.

Sometimes I have the feeling that we may find ourselves in the role of the Polish Republic in 1939, because just a year ago we heard completely different things when it came to macro aid and security assistance.

I would say that Ukraine's position is far better than Poland's position in 1939. You brought that up. Poland was in a hopeless position between Hitler and Stalin; they were eaten alive. Ukraine's geography is much better. You are exposed to Russia, but you have friends to the West, not enemies. We'll leave out Hungary for the moment, but Poland is your friend. I understand the trucker's blockade and all the other disputes are part of the factor. But Poland is your friend. 

And Ukraine has held off the Russian onslaught successfully so far, not in all aspects, but you have prevented Putin from destroying Ukraine. I don't know how the war ends. But I'm pretty sure it will not end with a Russian Victory Parade in Kyiv. That is a great achievement on the part of the Ukrainian nation. The question is the future course of the war. But this will not be the dismemberment of Ukraine that is extremely unlikely.

We in the West need to support Ukraine so that Russia advances no further. And so Ukraine can retake as much of its territory as possible. And for that we need to get the assistance flowing again, that's on us.

What possible scenarios do you see in order to improve our geopolitical and, ultimately, domestic economic situation as soon as possible? War is about resources - military resources, financial resources, and human resources.

One source of resources exists that you didn't mention. At the very beginning of Russia's full-on invasion of Ukraine in 2022, the G7 countries immobilized Russian sovereign assets in their jurisdiction that was more than 300 billion dollars. Now that money has remained Frozen. The question is should it be used to help Ukraine, Should it be used to offset the damage done by Putin's war of aggression?

For various reasons European governments in the US government were hesitant to take the step, but they seem to be moving toward it. I have supported this step. I think we should use the immobilized Russian reserves to help Ukraine and  the policy discussion is moving in that direction and the faster it reaches a good conclusion the better, as far as I'm concerned.

So I wanted to throw that in as a potential way ahead for Ukraine. Those resources won't be available immediately even under the best circumstances, but they will be available and to use them is the right thing to do.

Could you please tell us about the so-called long geopolitical scenario and try to draw a trajectory for the next six months?

In war much is uncertain. The Ukrainian land offensive did not succeed in the year that's almost past as much as we and Ukrainians hoped. But the Russian offensive failed as well. The Ukrainians succeeded in forcing the Black Sea Fleet to retreat and in partially opening the Black Sea back to Ukrainian shipping and Ukrainian exports.

I don't know what the next year will bring on the battlefield. If General Zaluzhnyi is correct and contempt modern military technology favors the defender, and he may be right, then the Russians will not be able to advance much, maybe neither will the Ukrainians.

The question then is how much additional economic pressure can we put on Russia? And how much Ukraine can do to make it difficult for the Russians to keep Crimea well supplied? I think the United States should provide Ukraine with more longer-range rockets, longer range fires as we call them. So that Ukraine can make the Russian position more difficult to sustain.

I don't know how the war ends. But as I said it will not end with the Russian Victory Parade down the Khreshchatyk. Still the Russians are going to attack in the new year, and we need to help Ukraine defeat that attack.

General Zaluzhnyi in the article published in The Economist asked for aviation. We are still waiting for help with the air component. This is how we understand that this is a strategic issue, and most likely, through some closed communication channels, the Kremlin could have seriously warned the United States, in particular, about aviation. In any case, F16s are still not in the Ukrainian sky. We are very much counting on them. On the other hand, we understand that the Abrams tanks are very good, but the number of Abrams M1 tanks is extremely important. 31 units is good, but we understand that for the full-scale war with Russia we need much more.

It is the US intention to have Ukraine provided with F-16s capable of helping Ukrainian forces on the battlefield. 

I'm not a military expert but military experts do seem to conclude that one of the problems with Ukraine's land offensive this year is that they lacked air superiority. The F-16s can help provide them with that. There is no magic weapon that will change everything at once but provision of F-16s could help.

It will certainly make it harder for the Russians to dominate the airspace over the battlefield as they had done in some cases in the summer and fall of this past year. So I hope this will proceed quickly. 

We hoped that the Russian economy would fall much faster and much louder. We are now seeing big problems in the Russian economy, but the key story is whether the so-called inevitable process has already started and whether the Kremlin has now managed to reorient itself to third-party markets: People's Republic of China, India and possibly Turkey?

The bad news is that economic pressure on Russia has not forced Putin to end his war of aggression. The good news is that pressure is continuing. We in the West, the Europeans and Americans have options to increase the economic pressure on Russia. That economic pressure means that while Russia can concentrate on military production, it is starving the civilian economy and creating economic imbalances which will hurt Russia. 

The question is how fast can we mount the economic pain on Russia? There is more that we can do in terms of economic pressure and sanctions. A lot of this has to do with enforcement. The European Union announced its 12 package of sanctions. The US a few days ago announced new sanctions itself. We have to keep closing the loopholes enforcing the sanctions so that the Russian economy is placed under more and more pressure.

And as I said, we should draw from the 300 billion dollars of immobilized Russian Sovereign assets to help Ukraine. 

Talking about the internal Ukrainian transformation and Ukrainian politics through American eyes. We understand that a lot of things are not brought to the public. On the other hand, most likely, the Biden Administration, perhaps the Pentagon, gave very clear signals. I personally can only guess what exactly the representatives of the top Ukrainian authorities could have been talking about and being advised by over the past month. At the same time, we in Ukraine have been extremely pained by the rumors that the Ukrainian presidential administration is not happy with General Zaluzhnyi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

I certainly don't want to start commenting on Ukrainian domestic politics. Certainly there's a range of political views in Ukraine. I've heard calls from Ukrainians as well as American friends for a government of national unity in Ukraine bringing together some people from the opposition. But that's not a position that my government holds. This is simply an idea that is out there. It's not for me to say what political arrangements will benefit Ukraine the most. It's perfectly true that during the most difficult period of World War II Winston Churchill invited his political rivals into a war cabinet. So there was a government of national unity. But this model may or may not apply to Ukraine. It's Ukrainians, which will figure this out.

And the world admires the leadership of president Zelensky. He has become the face of Ukraine. But of course we also are aware that Ukraine is a democracy, and Winston Churchill after successfully overcoming the Nazis was voted out of office almost immediately after the war. 

So politics can be unforgiving. But Ukrainian politics is not our business. We want to see a democratic sovereign successful Ukraine.

Perhaps you have some information about Penny Pritzker, who deals with American aid to Ukraine.

When this war ends, I suspect that Ukrainians will insist on a country worthy of their sacrifice. I suspect though I don't know that Ukrainians will want to see a fully europeanized Ukraine, by which I mean a Ukraine that is democratic, based on the rule of law, without oligarchs and oligarch influence, with honest government. A Ukraine that is transformed and ready to join the European Union and NATO when that time comes.

I think the Americans and people from the European Union and the UK are all united on that objective. We want Ukraine to succeed as a European country.

At the second Maidan Ukrainians were flying the EU flag. The EU flag as a civilizational choice, as if to say we Ukrainians want to be part of Europe. We don't want to be part of the Russian World. And it will be our obligation and frankly our pleasure to be able to help Ukraine succeed.

And the EU accession process will be the main driver but the Americans can help. Also The Poles, who have experienced negotiating EU accession are going to be in a position to be very good advice to Ukraine. The new Polish government, like the old Polish government, wants Ukraine to succeed.

Will the United States and the civilized world, the G7 in particular, recognize the process that is called the presidential election in Russia or in the Kremlin? It's clear that Putin will appoint himself in a few months, but the key story is whether this will be recognized by the world and what consequences it could have if it is a matter of recording the moment of usurpation or seizure of power?

It is almost inconceivable that Europe or the United States would recognize a sham election as a real one. It's pretty clear that Putin has no intention in allowing the free and fair election. So I think it is somewhere between impossible or exceedingly unlikely that there will be any recognition. We regard Putin as a dictator. We regard him as someone who maintains his power through fear and force and occasionally murder.

He succeeds in staying in power by putting in prison or forcing exile on his opponents. He is in the tradition of Stalin, and he will lead Russia to no good end. But there will be much pain between now and the time when the Russian people wake up and realize what this leader has done to them and to Russia. Nothing good.

But in the meantime we need to help Ukraine. And the more Ukraine succeeds in its fight for survival, the closer the day will come when the Russian people may decide a different course than Vladimir Putin.

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