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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS

Discussing the Russia-Georgia Conflict

Aired August 31, 2008 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE: Hello, and welcome to the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE, to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
On the theory that you just might have had your fill of convention coverage and political analysis, I thought you might want to know what else is going on in the world.

We're going to concentrate on one of the biggest crises the world is facing as we elect a new president in the United States -- the Russian-Georgian conflict.

Today, I've had an opportunity to sit down with both sides, trying to get at what they're really after.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

SERGEY LAVROV: After what happened on this very tragic night, we can't simply allow Georgian troops closer than at the distance of a shot.

PRESIDENT SAAKASHVILI: Georgia is not going to give up its freedom. We will never surrender. We will rebuild our country.

ANDREW BACEVICH: Russia today is not as weak as it was 20 years ago. And they have -- they've bitten us back.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

ZAKARIA: So, I hope you'll stay with us.

Has the Cold War suddenly come roaring back to life? It's been almost four weeks since Russia launched its attack on Georgia. But now the crisis is deepening, the positions hardening and the rhetoric getting hotter.

Joining me now is the president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili.

President Saakashvili, welcome.

MIKHEIL SAAKASHVILI, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA: Thank you, Fareed. Very happy to be on your show.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you first, are Russian troops still in Georgia, beyond the security zone that, at least in their interpretation, is allowed in the agreement that the two of you signed? SAAKASHVILI: Look, French document was a cease-fire document. And so, we were strictly willing and are still adhering to every point of it, except that the Russians have violated every point.

Now, of course, we need a cease-fire, and of course we Georgians are keeping cease-fire, even if Russia is violating that on a daily basis.

But what we need in the longer term is European, 21st century, civilized, democratic solutions for the conflicts of the 20th century. We don't need brutal, 18th, 19th century solutions, as we've tried -- we've seen the Russians trying to do it during the last few days.

What we have here is not a quest for minority rights or for protecting some of their citizens. What we have is that, under the false pretenses and false claims, invasion of an independent country with the purpose of, first, to destroy its government, to undermine its economy and to dismember its territory.

It's so clear. You know, I saw a "Washington Post" article today that was very efficient in demoting and destroying the Russian lies. And I can only agree with what they had to say. And I can add big things to that list, as well.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about how this all began. As you know, there is some controversy about it.

And I want to ask you very specifically, because many of the people who support you and support the strong Western response toward Georgia feel, in Carl Bildt's words -- the foreign minister of Sweden -- that you made a tactical blunder.

The "Financial Times" -- which has a lengthy, almost hour-by-hour accounting of the events -- says there is little evidence to support Georgia's claim that Russian tanks went into the separatist enclave ahead of Georgian forces.

In other words, the position basically being said is, while there were clashes of various kinds, you went in first, on August 7th.

SAAKASHVILI: First of all -- first of all, we are a democracy. And, you know, I think that one of the main advantages of democracy, that things are transparent, and the truth always comes out.

And we are ready to have any kind of impartial international commission investigating what led to a conflict and how it has erupted.

And I have to be very clear about it. It's not about Russians being there or when they entered. The Russians have been there for many years already.

You know, Tskhinvali was governed by several Russian generals. The commander of the Russian army, that entered through that Roki Tunnel, served before as the defense minister of so-called government of South Ossetia. So, you know, it's not about where Russians came in. Russians came in that night en masse through the tunnel with their tanks.

But before they came in through the tunnel, Tskhinvali was under direct military control of the Russians. Most of Abkhazia was under direct military control of the Russians.

The officials that were saying that the South Ossetian separatists were basically on-duty Russian generals -- not retired ones, the old (inaudible) that were sent in Russia. Russia was directly administering, against every international law and standard, this conflict area.

And of course, yes, they entered through Roki Tunnel. One day before 7th of August, they officially took under protection the Roki Tunnel, took out -- or, you know, expelled -- the so-called local separatist irregulars, and the Russian border gets officially controlled also, the other side of the tunnel. So, there was every sign of international aggression.

But prior to that, for all these months, I've been warning our counterparts in the West and worldwide that Russians are doing military buildup. Russians have been, you know, widening the port in Abkhazia, where nobody lives, for their Black Sea Fleet to enter. Russia brought in railway troops up to Abkhazia to build railway for, obviously, to carry through tanks and heavy equipment.

Russians clearly brought in paratroopers, and in front. And already, then, Georgia had all the rights to react, because it was a clear act of international aggression. Unfortunately, nobody else really pitched (ph) much to the (inaudible).

So, what we are talking about, the build-up, when we are talking about preparation of all this, it has been this long, long story. It didn't start the 7th of August. It culminated on the 7th of August. And again, about 7th of August, we are willing to have any commission investigating that.

However, the point is that, let's not take it out of context. You know, first time President Putin told me -- and I denounced it publicly, because I didn't want to be bullied in secret -- that he would make aggression against Georgia in the fall of 2006. Straight after, they introduced all-out trade embargo on Georgia.

Since then, especially for the last one year, we've been seeing this military build-up, preparations, grumbles, noises they made all around the world that they are preparing for this.

And you know, we are where we are. But, you know, it hasn't started on the 7th of August, certainly. And it has a long story, a history to it.

And it will not end, unfortunately, with Georgia, I am afraid. And so, we have to be very careful.

ZAKARIA: All right. We're going to talk about how to solve this crisis, if there is a way, when we come back.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: And we are back with Georgia's president, Mikheil Saakashvili.

Let me ask you, Mr. President, how you envision the endgame of this crisis. Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia have been disputed territories ever since Georgia declared its independence. In fact, the civil war began in some ways in 1990, a year before Georgia declared independence.

Do you want that Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia be reincorporated into Georgia proper, with no international peacekeepers, even if the views of the Abkhazians and the South Ossetians are that they do not want to be part of Georgia?

SAAKASHVILI: Fareed, let's make it very clear. Whom do you call South Ossetians and Abkhazians?

Because that's one of the, and other cliches, that, you know, Russians have tried to sell to the world and to simplify the issue.

Here is the population of South Ossetia prior to 7th of August. You see the green lines. They are areas under Russian direct control, so-called Separatist Administration. And the other lines are those that were under Georgian control.

Now, Georgian-controlled areas were ethnically mixed, and they were administered by former South Ossetian separatists, who basically switched sides. This is the guy that fought against us in the war you mentioned, in the early '90s.

And all those men have...

ZAKARIA: Switched sides in what sense?

SAAKASHVILI: ... switched sides and then moved...

ZAKARIA: Switched sides meaning?

SAAKASHVILI: They came to -- they negotiated autonomy with Georgia's central government, and they were regarded as worst enemies by the Russians.

And these were ethnically mixed places. And, you know, we have -- we didn't have any problems with it. We had all the language rights, the autonomy rights. And we've been very, very open and flexible with those people.

ZAKARIA: Do you dispute that, when these two republics declared independence this week, there was widespread rejoicing on the streets? International journalists reported that...

SAAKASHVILI: Look, look...

ZAKARIA: ... when this happened...

SAAKASHVILI: Wait, wait a minute.

ZAKARIA: ... they were happy.

SAAKASHVILI: Hold on.

ZAKARIA: Is that because...

SAAKASHVILI: Wait a minute.

ZAKARIA: ... all that's left are the separatists?

SAAKASHVILI: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

I mean, first of all, certainly there was rejoicing by Sudeten Germans when Germany entered Czechoslovakia and first annexed Sudetenland.

There was rejoicing of some ethnic Russians when they were expanding over (ph) in Stalin's time, you know, Germans from Kaliningrad, Koenigsberg, and when they were expelling Finns from Karelia, when Stalin annexed, you know, the biggest province of Finland.

Now, when we talk about solution of these issues, they should be based on several issues. First of all, wide autonomy, rights for ethnic groups. And Georgia has a very good track record of democracy and giving individual and group rights to different groups.

I myself, personally, I mean -- you know, I started my career as minority rights expert at the Norwegian Institute of Human Rights. I feel very strongly about minorities.

But, you know, you cannot allow to expel majority and then claim that those who stayed behind, they no longer want to let back majority.

Everybody has to have rights. And everybody has to -- and everybody has to be -- has right to security. That's why we need genuine international peacekeeping force.

What the Russians were doing there for all these years, they were doing peacekeeping in terms of keeping a piece here and a piece there of the former empire.

We need genuine international peacekeeping. We need European Union peacekeepers on the ground. We need genuine democratic procedure. We need to allow people to get back to their houses.

Right now, as we talk, you know -- you say, you know, what about those people? What about those people that are being thrown from their houses as we speak, right now, from the area called Akhalgori, next to South Ossetia, where it was totally under Georgian government control? The last villages are being emptied right now.

Of course, tomorrow, somebody might move in, shoot Kalashnikov in there, say, "Oh, I'm happy. We are independent. We just got rid of all the others."

But this is not the way civilized humanity can accept it.

ZAKARIA: But let me ask you, then, the endgame. Because do you really think that Russia will not just return to the status quo ante, but actually withdraw its peacekeepers from Southern Ossetia and Abkhazia, when it has now officially recognized them?

I mean, in other words, is the demand you're making one that is realistically achievable?

SAAKASHVILI: I think this game and the whole geopolitical thing now is not about Georgia anymore, unfortunately. For me, it's all about my country.

But the Russians made it very clear -- especially during the last few statements -- that they are after, or they are personally (ph) up to restoring the former Soviet Union, in its own (ph) words.

They clearly were making lots of hints. And, you know, and basically, they were talking a lot about them. This is a nightmare scenario, but this is no longer an unrealistic thing to expect from them.

Second, they went after energy routes, and they want to control every energy routes. Remember, they used their most sophisticated SS- 26 missiles to attack energy routes in Georgia. And I think this is not going to end there.

And I think what they have clearly been saying, that they are taking revenge on the free world for what they think was humiliation of Russia by the free world.

I think what they perceive as humiliation is bringing freedoms to the frontiers of Russia, allowing people to -- even small peoples like Georgians -- to make their own free choices, free of violence, free of intimidation. And that's exactly what they couldn't stand.

So, you know what? When we are talking about these issues here, this is not going to end here.

Unless they are -- this thing is rolled back, unless the world really reasserts, and the free world reasserts, its own principles, unless there is clear understanding what's at stake here, we are going to see further Russian aggression, I'm afraid, and further tragedies, which my country has just lived through.

We have seen them. We see that these people, you know, people who take decisions, they are very brutal. And they are not going to stop at the frontiers of Georgia, and certainly at the frontiers of some of the Georgia's region.

Let's be very...

ZAKARIA: What...

SAAKASHVILI: ... (inaudible) about that.

ZAKARIA: What leverage does the West have? What would you like to see the United States and the Western European countries do, and European countries do?

SAAKASHVILI: Well, just everything, you know.

First of all, from my perspective, the main response in my country's context is rebuilding, you know, what we control in Georgia, rebuilding most of Georgia and, you know, coming up with -- and we are doing it. I mean, we have rolled our sleeves.

And even if there is still tension and provocations, and Russians running around, we are already -- we already have big construction sites all over the places we so far liberated from the Russians.

And we are trying to help people. We are trying to build new things. We are trying to restore normal life.

Because Georgia has been the fastest-growing economy among known oil and gas-producing countries. We had the -- we were the highest per capita recipient of foreign direct investment in the region.

It has been -- Georgia has been getting high grades for free market and open enterprise and absence of corruption here.

So, the point here is, it's very important to understand that we want to get it all back. And that already would be a powerful enough response on the part of the free world to help us in that one.

On the other hand, we should clearly understand that the West has much more leverage over Russia than Russia has over the West. There is no way Russia can reignite the Cold War -- or, indeed, fight a serious hot war -- with anybody in the U.S.

You know, they had -- they came into my country with 3,000 tanks, 80,000 soldiers. Well, it's enough to run over a small country.

But it's not enough, with their technological backwardness, with their disorganization, with their -- you know, these people that came in, most of them were irregulars. They were brutal. But there is no way they can frighten the world and intimidate the world.

And, you know, Russia is so interdependent. Russia is so dependent upon, you know, good -- like goodwill of the West, of the free world, of other countries, countries like China.

And the point here is, it's clearly, you know, the free world and the developed world and civilized world still has to come up with responses in terms of utilizing all the great powers we have. Of course you have great power. Of course Russians know it. The only thing they think is about, what they really believe -- if you want to know my perspective on what they are thinking is -- they think, well, they can always be (ph) right (ph). They can always manipulate. They can always undermine and corrupt some people in the free world. And then, that's why they can get away with just anything they do.

Their thinking is, who is blinking first. And they always think that freedom will always blink first, civilization will always blink first in front of the brutal force.

But they are not the first brutal force in the history of the world to have made that mistake.

And I think we should show it over again that the world is alive, that civilization has survived, that freedom will prevail. And that's a huge mistake what they are thinking.

On our part, Georgia is not going to give up its freedom. We will never surrender. We will rebuild our country.

We will peacefully reach (ph) out to all our citizens of all ethnic groups to make our country whole and acceptable for all citizens -- but, of course, free of foreign domination and free of brutality and violence that they have tried to impose on us.

ZAKARIA: President Saakashvili, thank you so much for your time. And we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: Mr. Minister, thank you for joining me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, MIMISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Thank you for having me, sir.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about something Prime Minister Putin has said. The prime minister said that he believed that American forces were both training Georgian troops in the combat zone, and also encourage Georgia to make its military moves.

Do you have any proof whatsoever of these claims?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The words of the prime minister speak for themselves. We do have ample evidence of American military presence in Georgia before the outbreak of this conflict.

In fact, the American administration itself did not make any secret out of several stages of -- several programs of training and equipping Georgian troops. And as recent as today, as recently as today...

ZAKARIA: But that's not the question. So, that was about -- Mr. Putin said they were in the combat zone, and that they encouraged the Georgians to make their move.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just say what I have said before, that the words of the prime minister speak for themselves.

I do not think that he -- my prime minister -- could make this type of statement without any substantial proof that this was the case.

ZAKARIA: Mr. Minister, let me ask you one more question about Prime Minister Putin.

Prime Minister Putin also said that he thought that the United States, that the American administration was fomenting the crisis in the Caucasus, in Georgia, to help the candidacy of one person for the presidency -- presumably John McCain.

Is that a serious Russian accusation, that you think that this whole thing began because John McCain wants a crisis in Georgia, so that it will boost his presidency, and that President Bush would foment an international crisis to facilitate this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, sir -- and you can agree with me, since you are so well versed in American domestic policy -- that the crisis in Caucasus, and the current situation which we experience there around South Ossetia, is very much in, at different points of the American domestic political debate. This is an undeniable fact.

And we all see how opinion polls show different results according to different developments in this very area.

To our mind, it is very unfortunate that a situation, which has been produced by a person who is irresponsible in his actions, is being used and misused again, and is now being a factor in the U.S. domestic policy that close to very important elections, which we have early in November in your country.

ZAKARIA: Where are Russian forces now? Because there are many, many reports that Russian forces remain in parts of Georgia that they are not meant to be in under the agreement that was signed by the Russian government, that they are not confined to the zones in which they were meant to be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is, of course, a question which we are being posed by so many people around politicians and governmental officials.

The answer is very simple to my mind. We have completed implementation of the six points peace plan, agreed by the presidents, Medvedev and Sarkozy.

No doubt that we're in full commitment to this plan. We have implemented our withdrawal to the places prior to the start of tragic events of August 7th and 8th.

ZAKARIA: But Mr. Minister, you are in the port of Poti. How on earth could you make the claim that you need troops there to prevent an attack? That was not envisioned under the plan at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard these accusations. They have been aired around. And we are, of course, in a position to answer it in a very simple way.

Nothing in the existing plan, which was agreed by Russia, precludes us from establishing posts that will ensure security of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

And this is what has to be done. And this is what is being done by our side, by our troops and by our government.

We cannot allow...

ZAKARIA: Sir, if you are anywhere in Georgia, you claim that you need those troops to protect South Ossetia.

Is there any part of Georgia that you feel you could not be in by this logic?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Again, we are not going to occupy any part of Georgian territory. The only reason, the only meaning for all these efforts on the part of our military people, is to ensure security of these two regions, of these two states which are recognized as independent states by Russia.

And definitely, we will perform only peacekeeping functions in this connection.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

President Medvedev said that he was doing it because, if people in an area want to be free, want to declare independence, then they should be allowed to do that, and Russia felt it had to recognize that.

If that is the case, sir, why did you not recognize Chechnya when it wanted to be independent? And in fact, why did you prosecute two rather brutal wars, killing tens of thousands of people, when Chechnya wanted to be independent?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fundamental difference between Chechnya and South Ossetia is, and has always been, that in South Ossetia we have had a very balanced and a very promising, I would say, international mechanism for resolution of this situation in form of Joint Consultative Commission, in form of the presence of the OEC (ph) and others.

All this was brutally removed by the action of President Saakashvili, which was, I think, a traitor action, an action of a person who didn't believe in anything he said before. He simply, you know, acted as if nothing was agreed between him and others.

And after this, the situation is very different. We can't act as if business as usual is possible with Tbilisi.

ZAKARIA: We have to take a break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAKARIA: Let me ask you what you expect the future to look like. Georgia is now on a faster track to become a member of NATO as a consequence of this.

Do you -- what is your reaction to that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are against any NATO expansion. We have always been. And nothing here has changed since August the 7th or August 23rd.

I think that it's a fundamental mistake to continue this effort. I think now it's more open and vivid, and clear for everyone, that NATO's expansion is purely a geopolitical project. It has nothing to do with the security of countries belonging to NATO now, aspiring for NATO membership.

It's all about maps and reshaping the maps.

NATO expansion is only driven by those who believe that now it's time to grab opportunities, to draw geopolitical consequences of some disturbance, of some troubles Russia has in her relations with the West.

And unfortunately enough, a figure like President Saakashvili tries to score political points out of this situation.

So, we do believe that this is the very wrong way to go. Better to take interval to look into things as they are in a sober manner, and to try to draw very different conclusions from what you are referring to.

ZAKARIA: Let me ask you, Mr. Minister, and finally.

Look at what this Russian military move has produced. It has produced an acceleration of Georgia's membership in NATO. Ukraine now is asking unhesitatingly for a path to NATO membership.

Poland has asked for a missile defense shield, which it did not seem likely to ask for.

The Europeans are all worried about Russia. There is talk about expelling Russia from the G-8. Membership in the World Trade Organization seems unlikely. Cooperative measures with the West have slowed down.

Was all this worth it? Has this not been a massive Russian miscalculation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a worrying tendency.

We do hope that people who take responsible positions and make responsible decisions will not try to use this situation as a pretext to destroy prospects for better cooperation with Russia for a cooperative approach to resolving real security issues -- like nonproliferation, like terrorism, like whatever we have in the area of economy, climate change and things like this -- to politicize everything here, to sacrifice everything here to some very unfortunate decisions by one person in Tbilisi and those who advised him and supported him.

I think it's very short-sighted policy.

Definitely, it is not our choice to move along these lines. But if we will be deprived this choice -- or to quote the secretary of state, who said a couple of weeks ago that the U.S. will reject Russia its strategic objectives -- I think it is an overstatement of what is possible in this world.

I think it is a statement that belongs to the 19th and 18th century, and not to the 21st century, where we are now.

And I think also, that this is definitely a wrong way to go, since it will not be helpful in terms of resolving these very real issues.

This is not the choice of Russia. We are trying to keep our heads calm. We are not trying to retort in a way that will simply accelerate this war of words. We are simply trying to explain our views as much as we can, as I tried to do today. And we hope that we will be heard by those who still are able to take responsible decisions.

ZAKARIA: Minister (INADUIBLE), thank you so much for joining us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: The specter of a newly aggressive Russia, the confusion over what Georgia may actually have done, along with a few other world crises -- all to be discussed with my panel today.

Joining me now, Boston University professor of international relations, Andrew Bacevich; also, the president of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass; and the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton -- equally prestigious -- Anne-Marie Slaughter.

Thank you all.

Andy Bacevich, let me ask you first. When you look at this crisis -- Russia, Georgia -- is this the beginning of a new Cold War? Is this going to spill over into something significantly more dangerous?

ANDREW BACEVICH, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: It shouldn't. I mean, I begin by reminding myself that Russia today is not the Soviet Union. The Russian army today is not the Red Army of yesteryear.

I think Russian ambitions are nationalistic, not ideological. It's not a totalitarian state, it's an authoritarian one. And the point of all that is to say that, although Russia will be a competitor of sorts, it's not nearly as dangerous as it was 30 or 40 years ago.

ZAKARIA: But it is trying to establish some kind of sphere of influence, renegotiate, perhaps, the terms of surrender at the end of the Cold War?

BACEVICH: Well, I would -- I think that's a good way to put it. Not so much reestablish but reaffirm a sphere of influence that Russia long claimed, even before there was a Soviet Union.

We've spent the last 20 years poking the Russians in the eye, advancing a set of interests that I think in many respects were important interests, like the expansion of Europe eastward, and imagining, apparently, that the Russians were going to let us get away with this forever.

Well, Russia today is not as weak as it was 20 years ago. And they have -- they've bitten us back. And we should take that seriously and understand that they have legitimate interests. But we should not overstate any threat posed by Russia, either to the United States or to the West more generally.

ZAKARIA: Anne-Marie Slaughter, Tom Friedman, in a column of his, said, what did you expect? You expanded NATO over Russia's objections. When they asked for some kind of ameliorative measures, we gave them none.

We then said we were going to expand NATO even more, right up to its borders. We want to put missile defense into Poland.

There are all these moves where we have, in effect, taken advantage of Russia's weakness and the crumbling of both the Soviet empire and the czarist empire. Of course, once they were able to rebuild, largely because of oil money, they're going to be very, very annoyed and try in some way to reassert themselves.

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, DEAN, WOODROW WILSON SCHOOL OF PUBLIC AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: I agree with that. And I agree with Andy's analysis.

Although I think there's a deeper difference in perception here, that we were expanding NATO while we were telling Russia, "Look, you're not our adversary anymore, you know. We're partners."

We're, you know, we're friends, from Bush and Putin's point of view, so that we were doing these things saying, "You shouldn't be humiliated, because we're no longer your adversary."

I don't think that's ever fully been the Russian perspective. I think Russia has still thought that we have many adverse interests. And in many ways they are still in the Cold War mindset, where they've been seeing this as our expanding our zone of influence as fast as we can before they get back on their feet.

ZAKARIA: Richard, was it a mistake to expand NATO?

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: A bigger question is why we didn't make a serious effort to bring Russia into an expanded NATO. That way, we could have done the expansion to include countries, ultimately, like Ukraine and Georgia.

But if Russia had been part of the process, rather than left outside, that obviously would have been preferable.

It's almost as if the West forgot Churchill's dictum, that in victory, magnanimity. We weren't terribly magnanimous towards the Russians. We didn't take enough steps to integrate them.

And then, even worse, because of our lack of an energy policy, Fareed, we then not only helped breed some resentment, but we gave them the wherewithal to do something about it. And that's why, in large part, I feel we find ourselves in the sort of situation we're now in.

ZAKARIA: But now, both of you are in Denver, Anne-Marie and Richard. The sort of reflect -- the reflections you're providing are not to be found among the candidates on either side, but certainly not in Denver.

The position, as far as I can tell, of both candidates is this is naked Russian aggression. Of course, we have -- what this means is we have to expand NATO more and faster, and that Russia was going to be a bully in its backyard no matter what, and what we have to do is to make sure that they understand it will be met by force.

Richard, you worked for Colin Powell. John McCain certainly does not take that more nuanced view. It seems as though this is -- you know, what you're hearing from him is a kind of full-blooded war cry.

HAASS: You're hearing some fairly muscular stuff coming out of actually both campaigns, particularly out of the Republican campaign, as you say.

What I would suggest is, we need to find some kind of a balance here, find ways of supporting Georgia, particularly economically and politically. At the same time, we've got to preserve our relationship with Russia.

It doesn't make any sense to me to basically boot them out of the so-called G-8, to prevent them from coming into the World Trade Organization. We want to give Russia a greater stake, not a lesser stake, in behaving responsibly.

It's interesting, Fareed -- and I'm sure you've noticed it -- how much the Russian stock market has suffered over the last couple of days. Well, that's one of the good things that comes out of Russia being integrated into the world economy.

So, rather than isolating them and allowing them to feel they've got nothing to lose, I think both campaigns need to rethink their approach to how to respond to Russia, given that, though, Russia is the larger, if you will -- bears the largest responsibility for what's happened over the last few weeks.

They have acted aggressively. They have acted badly. But again, we've got to balance out help for Georgia, help for Ukraine and some effort to preserve our relationship with Russia.

ZAKARIA: Andrew Bacevich, in your new book -- it was just called "The Limits of Power," am I right -- you talk about the United States really recognizing the limits of its own power, and recognizing that other countries do have legitimate national interests and spheres of influence, and we can't be involved everywhere.

Should we be involved in guaranteeing the freedom and security of Georgia?

BACEVICH: Absolutely not. It seems to me that what we -- and I agree with much of what Anne-Marie and Richard have said. But I think there's a large question here about NATO, and what NATO exists to do.

You may remember that, after the end of the Cold War, NATO went in search of a new reason for its existence. What was the phrase? Need to go out of area, or out of existence.

Well, NATO today is in Afghanistan. It has forfeited much of its effective military power, and it's engaged in what I think is going to be an endless mission of trying to pacify Central Asia.

Well, NATO should be the alliance that defends Europe.

ZAKARIA: Anne-Marie, what is your sense of how the Obama people look at this crisis unfolding? Because right now you have the Russians recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The Georgians say they want all Russian peacekeepers out.

The West seems to be taking a position that's sort of somewhere in the middle, where it has talked about a return to the status quo ante, but then also seems to be asking for Georgia's territorial integrity.

In other words, it seems like we have a kind of crisis in the making, that unless Russia really backs off completely -- which seems highly unlikely -- what happens? Do we have business as usual with the Russians, or no?

SLAUGHTER: Well, I agree with Richard, that there are many other levers here, other than force, economic levers.

I also think, honestly, Russia has overplayed its hand, and we're seeing that in the response of the Chinese. The Chinese want no part of this kind of use of force, of this kind of conflict. It's antithetical to the kind of world they want to see, the harmonious world we've just seen in the Olympics.

ZAKARIA: Richard, McCain -- if McCain became president, given the position he's taken, given his very longstanding personal friendship with Mikheil Saakashvili, it seems there will be a very tense relationship between Russia and the United States. HAASS: Well, quite possibly. And it could also be something of a tense relationship between the United States and Europe.

It's not clear there's a consensus across the Atlantic about whether to expand NATO to include Russia -- to include, rather, Georgia -- or Ukraine.

And you're right, more fundamentally that, if we are going to place Georgia at the center of U.S.-Russian relations -- and rather than, say, try to bring about Russians' cooperation vis-a-vis Iran and its nuclear program, or rather than dealing with energy issues, or rather than dealing with trade issues, and so on -- that if we are going to place this at the center, then we are in for a long, cold and difficult period, because, quite honestly, it's very hard to see how we fully reintegrate these two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia back into Georgia.

I think the Russians have created something of a new status quo. And I would think the real challenge is how to keep this situation from getting worse, how to keep Georgia, the rest of it, fully sovereign and viable, and how to prevent this crisis from spreading to the Ukraine, which I actually think could be -- could emerge as one of the most serious crises facing whoever is the 44th president, where Russia may try to regain control of some of its Black Sea positions, where there is, unlike Georgia, a very large ethnic Russian population.

That's the crisis that I want to avert, in addition to trying to keep the current one from getting worse.

ZAKARIA: Andrew Bacevich, you have the last word. Is this the beginning of a series of new kinds of crises, where these new rising powers -- China, India, Russia, Brazil, even -- will all kind of try to assert themselves in their own regions, and that the United States has got to get used to it?

BACEVICH: Well, it need not be. I mean, the thing that strikes me about the rhetoric from Senator McCain is, he's speaking like an ideologue. And maybe somebody tells him that's what he needs to do to get elected.

But Senator McCain, in his career, has also shown to be a real -- have a pragmatic streak. And my hope would be that, should he become the president, that he'll recognize that we are already overcommitted militarily. We don't have the wherewithal to have a third war to go along with the first two that are already getting into their fifth, sixth and seventh year.

And so, I would hope that that pragmatism would reassert itself. And therefore, rather than pressing for some kind of a showdown, that we would see a more reasoned and realistic effort to defuse this crisis and learn to live together.

ZAKARIA: Thank you, gentlemen and Anne-Marie Slaughter. Thank you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAKARIA: On this week just 17 years, the Soviet Union began to unravel. It started in Kiev on August 24, 1991, when that republic declared itself an independent country.

We watched on live television as history's last great multinational empire fell apart.

Compared with prior examples, the Soviet empire's collapse was remarkable in its speed, but also in Moscow's attitude. It accepted the breakaway of regions that it had ruled, often for hundreds of years, with little protest -- until last month.

Many believe that the new Russia is tough, brutal and smart, and in Vladimir Putin we face a formidable foe.

I'm not so sure. In fact, the Russian attack on Georgia will prove to be a major strategic error.

It has galvanized anti-Russian nationalism in the countries surrounding Moscow, driven the Eastern Europeans firmly into the West's arms, and raised concerns around the world about Moscow's thuggish behavior.

And what has Russia gained? Seventy thousand South Ossetians.

Many have made comparisons with the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, or Czechoslovakia in 1968. But the more telling analogy might be the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, when Moscow -- then, as now, drunk on high oil prices -- made a foolish strategic move that produced a crippling response from the region and the world.

That's it.

My question for this week relates to the events in Georgia.

What ethnic group do you believe has the strongest case to become a nation?

You can choose any one you want from the Scots to the Kurds. Just choose the one you think has the most compelling justification for nationhood.

You can e-mail me at FareedZakariaGPS@cnn.com. You can also visit our Web site, cnn.com/gps, for highlights from this program. And you can always find our weekly podcast on the Web site.

See you next week.

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