Krauthammer: ‘Keep Our Foot on the Neck of the Russians’

On Thursday’s “Special Report” on the Fox News Channel, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer argued against the Obama administration going out of its way to negotiate with the Russians to ease sanctions levied on their country over the aggressive tack it has taken dealing with the Ukraine and the Crimea.

Partial transcript as follows:

ROBERTS: Charles, I hear conservatives criticize the president frequently and say he won’t get out of his comfort zone. He just relies on Valerie Jarrett and the same old advisers. What’s wrong with reaching out to Henry Kissinger, a Republican, former secretary of state in trying something new?

KRAUTHAMMER: It’s a great idea. He should have started six years ago. He would have gotten excellent advice. I think Kissinger is the best geopolitical strategic thinker we’ve had in two generations. It’s a pity he hasn’t been used over the decades. And he is a man who knows Putin. He knows a lot of the world’s leaders. He knows everybody going all the way back to Charles de Gaulle. And I think he has some relationship with Putin.

If you use him, though, you don’t put it on the front page of the “New York Times.” And you use him in a way to say if the Russians have anything to offer we’re willing to listen. But as we just heard, the Russians are the one in distress, the Russians are the one who depend entirely on an extraction economy, especially oil and gas. The price of oil has collapsed. It’s half of what it was. They are in deep trouble economically. So we should wait.

But why Obama would be running after the other guy when he’s in distress is simply incomprehensible. If the Russians want to offer a deal to get out of eastern Ukraine — they’re not going to get out of Crimea — well, that’s a serious offer. Anything short of that, why are we chasing him?

ROBERTS: But if you are saying Putin is on defense, his economy is potentially in ruins, the ruble has been losing strength for weeks, almost months now, why not have an initiate because your opponent is dealing from the weakness, as you say, Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: What you do is you don’t relieve the pressure gratuitously. We keep our foot on the neck of the Russians, who have been extremely aggressive. We did the same thing with the Iranians. They were reeling from economic sanctions, suffering inflation that was rumbling among the merchant class industry. So what did we do? We chase after them, open these negotiations, relieve sanctions, and at the same time give them the right of enrichment, which has never been done for a nonnuclear power. Why repeat that with Russia?

ROBERTS: David, listen to this sound from a former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov who was talking today about the state of Russia on New Year’s. Listen.


MIKHAIL KASYANOV, FORMER RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER (via translator): The end is near. The country is at the brink of going down. I have these kinds of feelings. That’s why I say people will take to the street demanding a change to the situation, and we will contribute to this. That’s why I think 2015 is a very important year. I would say it may be a historic year.


ROBERTS: On the brink of going down. Maybe he’s exaggerating the situation, but is there a counter situation here that could play out in 2015 where the economy in Russia gets so desperate that Putin acts even more rashly? Rather than trying to come to the table he actually does more desperate measures?

DRUCKER: I don’t think Putin has proven anything other than he’s going to do what we think is irrational. And I think every time Americans and the administration think that they are giving Putin a very rational, logical, profitable off-ramp, the reason he says no and essentially flips us the bird because that’s not what he’s interested in. It’s not the way he thinks. In Putin’s head he has us right where he wants us. We’re chasing him even though his economy is going into the tank, and he keeps feigning invasion to try and distract a Russian public that isn’t happy. And I don’t think he’s going to stop acting like that if and until it either gets so bad that he knows his days are literally numbered in single digits, or he somehow has a lobotomy and he changes the way he thinks. This is who he is. He has never proven any different. And I think that’s what’s so strange to me about the “Bloomberg” story.

ROBERTS: And A.B., he has not pulled out of eastern Ukraine. The sanctions have hurt his economy but have not changed his mind.

STODDARD: The offer that Charles is talking about is reportedly with what Kerry offered Lavrov, which is the foreign minister, which is if we will not talk about Crimea but if you stop supporting the rebels and their activity in eastern Ukraine we can ease some sanctions that — the Crimea sanctions would remain, but we could talk about easing some other sanctions. And David is right. He’s laughing off that idea. So there has to be another moment where his power base is actually threatened and the oligarchs around him are furious, and that moment hasn’t come.

KRAUTHAMMER: Obama is living in a fantasy world because he doesn’t understand that Putin is a Russia nationalist. There’s nothing irrational about nationalism. In Obama’s mind it is because he believes in international norms. So he can’t understand this man with whom he has no relationship. So I think he ought to wait for something that’s offered rather than chase after the Russians.

ROBERTS: Or trying to decide what Vladimir Putin is thinking.

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