Kurt Volker: How Trump Man Solves the Conflict between Russia and Ukraine
Ambassador Kurt Volker has been appointed US special representative for the crisis in Ukraine, which means that he is right at the epicenter of the complex and fascinating relations between the US and Russia. The Global Politico and Susan Glasser was invited to visit Volcker to discuss the difficult issues he is working on and are actively covered in the news.
Susan Glasser: I would even say that you, Kurt, are now one of the few people in the American government who communicate with the Russians at the highest level. You have just recently returned from the last round of talks with one of the key figures in Vladimir Putin’s entourage, Vladislav Surkov. Tell us about it.
Kurt Walker: Vladislav Surkov works in the Russian presidential administration. He is responsible for the "frozen" conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He is considered the main one in the invasion of Ukraine - both in Crimea and Donbass.
Secretary Tillerson, on behalf of the State Department, as well as on behalf of the American government, asked me that the United States be more involved in the negotiations in order to try to resolve this conflict in the Donbas. It must be resolved by the so-called Minsk agreements. This was my third meeting with Surkov.
I believe that the Russians are thinking about this idea: is it worth ending this conflict, creating the world, going out, and how will it all look like? I do not think that they have already made a decision in her favor, I don’t think at all that they have made any decision - but I think they are studying this idea.
I find Surkov very clever, very professional and very talented person. Perhaps he has cynical humor, but he knows what he is doing, and in this respect it is good to negotiate with him. Because if something happens for us, it will come from Surkov and his relationship with President Putin.
Glasser: So you think he has enough authority to decide? Is he speaking on behalf of Putin?
Walker: I think only President Putin can make a decision. But Surkov has the opportunity to communicate with President Putin, and this is very important. And he is not cut off from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense, he is a political consultant. He conducted campaigns. He dealt with some regional conflicts, as well as with the leaders of Chechnya, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as I said. That is, it has a communication channel. But I think that decisions are made by Putin.
Glasser: Yeah. Many people - including from the administration, with whom I spoke in the past weeks - say that our relations with Russia have not yet reached the bottom. And talking with them now about Ukraine is a very interesting contact at the moment.
How do you think how bad it is?
Volker: Interest Ask. Today, there is a huge disagreement with what Russia is doing - this is the expulsion of diplomats from our embassy in Moscow, and some actions in Syria, and other issues, such as the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles.
Ukraine is an interesting question. Although on it we have very different views on Ukraine and prospects, but we still may be able to agree on some common actions, and this may be the foundation for the accomplishment of something positive. I think that Russia in this case wants to see Ukraine pro-Russian, friendly to Russia and with the government, with which it can work.
But having invaded this country and grabbed off part of its territory, they created a more nationalistic, more West-oriented and more united Ukraine than ever before in history.
Glasser: Yes. Negative response. Ironically, many say that the only thing that rallied the Ukrainians was Putin’s invasion.
Walker: Exactly. And this is the exact opposite of what they wanted to achieve, and it gives them a reason to say: “Well, we do not get what we wanted from this situation. It costs us too much, specifically in terms of the military operation and civilian administration, ”but it also costs dearly in terms of sanctions, their reputation, their relations with the European Union, their relations with the United States. Therefore, they may be interested in solving this.
And, of course, we want this to be decided in such a way that Ukraine will return its territory.
Glasser: Good. How do you think, how much are Surkov and other Russians ready to admit these factors? How open are they with you?
Walker: Interesting, because there is a difference between what they say and what you intuitively feel they know. They will not say, “Oh, yes, we have invaded, and oh, yes, we do it,” but you know that they know, and they know that you know, and in this way ...
Glasser: I know that you know that he knows.
Walker: Therefore, you are talking about what we can achieve.
Glasser: And how much you have the opportunity to talk about the Crimea and the Donbass? Or are you talking only about one thing?
Walker: This is a very good question, because the difference between them is almost non-existent. This is the Russian invasion, the Russian occupation of the territory. In the case of the Crimea, they also annexed it, and in any case we do not recognize it. It's illegal.
The Minsk agreements were created to resolve the conflict in the east; that is where active battles are taking place today. Today, on average, one Ukrainian soldier dies every three days, on Ukrainian territory, defending the country. Therefore, there is a very “hot” conflict.
In Crimea, the situation is different today. So, we do not accept the invasion and occupation of the Crimea by Russia, as well as the declared annexation, but if you can advance on another issue, on the Donbas, then it is worth it.
Glasser: That is, you do not mention the Crimea when ...
Walker: I mentioned Crimea. I started a conversation about the Crimea, and the Russians say: “We will not talk about the Crimea”. It is very important to put a marker that we do not agree with them on this issue.
Glasser: Clear. That is, in essence, only the existence of a real opportunity for peacekeepers is being discussed now, as a result of this initiative (or how to call it) of Russia in September?
Walker: Yes. The question is what. If Russia wants to come out - and this is unclear - then there is no trust between Russians and Ukrainians. The Russians do not believe that the Ukrainians will fulfill all the Minsk agreements - there are a lot of political steps. Ukrainians do not believe that Russians can let go of security control in this area.
And the peacekeeping forces must reconcile these different points of view. This will provide an opportunity to establish security, create conditions for holding local elections, create conditions in which Ukrainians will be able to fulfill other points of the Minsk agreements, and as a result will return their territory and renew the sovereignty of Ukraine, and this will be the implementation of the Minsk agreements.
But today the problem is that everything has been stalled for three years now, and no one is moving anywhere, and therefore the idea of peacekeeping forces is to create security, time and place for this to happen.
Glasser: Some people say that diplomats are eternal optimists, otherwise they wouldn’t do it. The report on your last meeting - it seems that this is your third meeting with Surkov - says that from the Russians ... that you proposed a list of 29, as far as I remember, principles throughout, and the Russians said that they rejected everything but three.
I suppose in those three paragraphs it was about something like how to write the name “Ukraine” correctly.
Walker: Yes, I did not count. It was like this. In September, Russia proposed a draft resolution of the UN Security Council, and according to their UN project, it should allocate forces to protect OSCE monitors in that region. They were supposed to monitor the truce and the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
But, of course, everyone knows that the truce does not last long; he is disturbed every night, sometimes several times; there are a lot of artillery, explosions, mortars and so on. And heavy weapons are not completely withdrawn.
So it does not work. But the idea of the Russians is that if you protect the observers, they will be able to go deeper into the territory, be safer and not stumble upon such a number of roadblocks. As for me, this is a superficial argument, because if the Russians wanted the observers to have access throughout the zone, they would have done so. There is something else.
Therefore, we said: “Look. We were intrigued by the fact that Russia turned to the UN. The idea of a UN mission in this zone is worth implementing, but it must be a real peacekeeping force. One that will control the security in the contested zone, so that it is really possible to quarter heavy weapons and really control the Ukrainian side of the Ukrainian-Russian border, so that there is no free movement of people and military equipment back and forth. If you did this, it would be a very useful step that will allow you to implement the Minsk agreements. ”
I believe that the Russians made this offer in order to start a conversation. They wanted to be part of a dialogue about what peacekeeping forces should be.
Our third meeting, as you said, was a step back. They returned to their initial offer. I do not know what the next step will be after this. Perhaps this happened for entirely different reasons, which have absolutely nothing to do with Ukraine, simply because of where we are now in terms of relations between the United States and Russia. This could be due to the lack of bilateral meetings between President Putin and President Trump.
Glasser: And they got angry about it?
Walker: Well, we do not know. But that's exactly what happened. It was not a two-way meeting; we had a meeting with Mr. Surkov in Belgrade, and it was clear that this was a step back. She was sincere, we had a good conversation, but it was a step back. Let's see what happens next at our next meeting, which will happen around December.
Glasser: And, of course, the march of 2018 is getting closer, when Vladimir Putin is likely to be reelected with ceremonies, although not without political breakdowns. Many people who are watching Russia are thinking about whether Putin is in the situation to do anything other than pouring out of empty water in Ukraine before the elections. What is your opinion?
Walker: This is an open question. He conducted his campaign in 2012, relying on the nationalist narrative, defending the Russian people from external enemies and justifying their long stay in power. He is now choosing how to conduct this campaign: either play the same card, the nationalist card, or some other one, we'll see it later.
It is possible that he decided to become a peacemaker; decided to stop killing and fighting the Russians with the Ukrainians. He will achieve a special status for eastern Ukraine. He will achieve the implementation of the Minsk Agreements, and the international community will create security in this zone, including security for the Russian-speaking population, as well as all the others who live there.
Therefore, if he wants, he can achieve a lot. But we do not know how he wants to play it.
Glasser: Well, well, but of course, we must not forget that this can only be our version of the campaign, what we want it to be. But Vladimir Putin achieved success not only by criticizing the United States with his nationalist narrative, but also specifically by the fact that in the past few years he has created a completely public narrative on Russian television and in his speeches that this is the foremost war between Russia and The West, the war between Russia and the United States.
Therefore, I am sure that you have some skepticism that Vladimir Putin will destroy the narrative, which he himself created around this conflict.
Walker: That is, and honestly, everything is in his hands. All we can do is make it clear that the continuation of the situation in the form in which it is today is a real war, it is a humanitarian tragedy, it is a negative for those people who live in this zone and which they are supposedly defending. It is these people who bear the brunt of the blow. And it is very expensive for Russia.
They can do it. They did it in Abkhazia, they did it in Transnistria, they can do that. But this is not the best option for them. And we can also try to create general conditions - and what could be the alternative? What will it look like for Russia - support for peacekeeping forces in this territory, implementation of the Minsk agreements, renewal of Ukrainian sovereignty, and what will this mean for them?
I think there are reasons why they want to investigate this issue, but this is for them to decide.
Glasser: So, we talk a lot about the Russian side and what Putin wants - this is always the most important question about Vladimir Putin since he came to power.
But there is still, of course, the American side, and I want to ask the same question: what does Mr. Trump want? I am very interested in how the administration views the issue of politics regarding Russia at this moment, when we talk about Russia in Washington more than ever before in your and my memory.
Who do you work with on this issue? How much is this policy consensus? And at what stage are there now negotiations within the administration about sending weapons to Ukraine, and how does this complicate your task?
Walker: I was asked to take on this role by Secretary Tillerson, and I report directly to him and keep this conversation active. I had the opportunity to meet in the administration with the majority of high-ranking Cabinet officials regarding Ukraine and what we are doing.
I would say that there is a very high degree of agreement on this issue; here the position is one. I also had the opportunity to participate in the meeting of President Trump with President Poroshenko on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. At this meeting, I would also say that, as for me, there is a powerful consensus in the administration on this issue, and the easiest way to formulate it is to formulate it in the way the president does. And he wants peace. People are fighting, people are dying, and he would like to see the world.
In addition, if we want to improve relations between the United States and Russia - and I believe that this should be the goal of the United States - we do not want to stay where we are now. We would like everything to be more constructive. In this case, it is necessary for the question of Ukraine to move forward. As far as this question is concerned, this was exactly the message of President Trump to President Putin in Hamburg at the G-20 meeting, and it will remain until we see an improvement.
Glasser: About the weapons for the Ukrainians. It can be said that this issue has been discussed in this way and this way for a long time. Do you think they will endorse him ultimately? This is the first. And second, how does this affect your peace talks?
Walker: Here it is very important to correctly formulate the question itself. Ukraine is a country that fights on its own territory to protect itself from aggression, and people die there every day. So this is a self defense case. It is spelled out in the UN Charter. Any other country would have done this: made a decision to defend its territory, to protect its population from aggression.
The United States maintains defense and arms sales relations with dozens and dozens of countries around the world. I do not see anything so weighty, why Ukraine should be an exception, why we cannot do this, especially now that they are actively trying to defend their territory.
Here is just a matter of defense, it is not ...
Glasser: But it would be different if the Obama administration - she, too, had difficulties with this issue, and again, the Secretary of State and the Pentagon recommended it, but Obama refused. Now you have the same situation again when the State Department and the Pentagon recommend it.
So, what would have changed, in your opinion, in this war, if it happened? And how will the situation change now if we give the go-ahead?
Walker: Those arguments that people put forward in the past, they do not stand almost any criticism. One of the arguments was that it would lead to an escalation of hostilities, an arms race; Russia will always have something to cover, and you add fuel to this conflict. The fact is that this is really a conflict, and Russia is already doing this, they are already fighting. So as for me, this is not a very effective argument in this situation.
And yet, that this will give courage to the Ukrainians and that they will go on the attack. Ukrainians are not stupid, and they know it. And also, that there is a difference between lethal weapons and non-lethal weapons.
Glasser: It seems that this is exactly where the Obama administration is stuck.
Walker: Again, the essence of military weapons is to be able to use force and defend themselves. The Obama administration provided, for example, radars for counter-battery combat. These radars make it possible to determine where mortar fire is coming from and to fire back more clearly in order to kill those people who are shooting. This is called a non-lethal weapon, but it was a very effective aid to the Ukrainians from the Obama administration, and I think it is very useful.
It is also important to remember that the Ukrainians themselves produce very, very many defensive weapons.
Glasser: For sure. They were one of the centers of armaments in the Soviet Union.
Walker: Absolutely. They are still doing this, and they have done a very good job in rebuilding their military forces. In 2014, they almost did not exist, but since then they have been restored, and they are working well to maintain stability, if you can call it that, along the line of conflict.
Glasser: Okay. So that's what I wanted to ask. More or less ... they allegedly achieved a mutual cease-fire with the Russians, with the militants. So, will this change ...
Walker: I would say that it was Russia who decided not to go deeper into Ukrainian territory.
Glasser: All right.
Walker: And I think that the Ukrainians have increased the potential that it supports.
Glasser: Exactly. This is more like a line of deterrence, or to make sure that Russia does not launch a new offensive.
Walker: For sure. Exactly. This is a containment.
Glasser: This is an argument, at least.
Walker: Yes, this is an argument. Once again: I do not want to go deep into the rabbit hole as to the fact that this is a question ... this is just about, as is the case with any other country in the world, so that Ukraine can protect itself and restrain aggression.
A much broader question is whether Ukraine is a successful country. Democracy. Market economy. It flourishes. Is it safe. And so on. And will we be able to resolve this conflict, which is, in my opinion, an important step towards the renewal of sovereignty, the renewal of territorial integrity in Europe, a way out of this impasse in which we are now with Russia. This is where we want to go.
Glasser: I can say that you are clearly not very tuned in on our expectations that peace will soon prevail. But one more for the sale of weapons. You can imagine an alternative scenario of this situation, and how this is all displayed in Russia.
Let's say Trump approves this issue, and it will happen next month, plus or minus, before the presidential election. You see how it will be served on Russian television in Moscow, right? Something like, the United States again began its provocations, and therefore we need to do this, this and this also in response; a new round of propaganda will begin, which will help develop a narrative called “Putin protects you from the evil aggressors of the West” before the elections.
Walker: First, let me remind you that I am not ... that so far there is no solution.
Glasser: I understand it. Yes.
Walker: We do not necessarily do it or do not. And now regarding your question. I do not think that we have to make decisions, starting from what, in our opinion, the Russian media in Russia will say.
I think we need to make decisions based on the interests of the United States, the national interests of the United States — how we want to position ourselves in the world — and based on their own conclusions, not all of this.
Glasser: Good. Then let's talk a little bit about that - because it is very interesting, and I am sure that our listeners are also interested in this - how you worked in the Bush administration. You returned to the government under completely different circumstances. This Republican administration is completely different, and I know that you have many friends on both sides of today's foreign policy, which in many aspects is a break with the past.
But you have a different position. I heard you voiced it today at the State Department. Undoubtedly, there are many questions, many public discussions about whether Secretary Tillerson has gone too far, what happened to the moral state, and where does this reorganization lead? No one really knows. He was also going to cut commissioners apart from you, obviously. So this is all very interesting.
Tell us a little about why you agreed to this job and how you like this whole situation in the State Department.
Walker: The first question is very simple. I am not indifferent to these questions. I am not indifferent to the success of Ukraine as a country; I would like the conflict to be resolved. I would like to see how we return to the idea that ... you know, many, many administrations, ranging from George Bush Sr. to this day, we talked about a united, free and peaceful Europe. That we want to support democratic societies, rich, market societies and security for all without a trace, including Russia.
But we did not come to this. We have done a lot. A number of countries that were not members of NATO in 1990 later joined the Alliance, and these are democratic, prosperous and safe countries - the Czech Republic, Estonia and others.
So we achieved a lot, but we didn’t go all the way. And today there is a situation when there are active conflicts in Europe. And if there is a way to really deal with them and solve them, I would really like to do it. I am ready to do everything in my power to help.
Secondly, because of this, I am not very annoyed by the policy that accompanies this, regardless of whether the Democrats in power or the Republicans: Bush, Trump, or someone else. Let's focus on what we are trying to achieve. And I believe that in reality there is a serious consensus on this issue. If you do not get involved too much in the internal political debates that we are having and focus on the essence of foreign policy, then there is a big consensus.
As for the State Department, fantastic people work there. They are very smart, very motivated, they want to act, they want to work hard. But transitions are always difficult, and this one was especially hard. I think that now, when people like Wes Mitchell came to work ...
Glasser: New Deputy Secretary for Europe.
Walker: Exactly. New Deputy Secretary for Europe. Something of a type of connective tissue appears between the political leaders and the top of the administration and the diplomatic service, as well as personnel professionals in them. This is what needs to be cultivated. You need to have this connective tissue in order for the State Department to feel its involvement and that it is used and that it can help.
In numbers, the State Department has grown a lot since 2001. If you look at the budget of the State Department at that time and at what level it has come out since then, as well as at the missions that the State Department has launched since that time, this is a huge increase.
You also mentioned the ombudsmen. A large number of commissioners, I think - I do not know the exact figure, but ...
Glasser: Something about 78 people?
Walker: Yes, a huge amount. You know, as for me, I think that it would be correct if the people who occupy positions and are nominated by the president are confirmed by the Senate, who are responsible for different regions of the world - so that they are responsible for politics.
I was asked to take up these negotiations in Ukraine at a time when the deputy secretary had not yet been confirmed, and there were many appeals from the French, Germans, Ukrainians and Russians to put someone from the United States to do this. I do this job with pleasure; I work on a voluntary basis, so I do not charge taxes to taxpayers. And I would like to ...
Glasser: Oh, I didn't know about that. How interesting.
Walker: Yes, and I would like it to be implemented at the State Department when we are at the point where it makes sense.
Glasser: Very interesting, because they literally wanted someone from the US to sit down at the negotiating table.
Glasser: Good. I understood your idea that as soon as you remove a politician from here, which has become simply super-electrified in any question related to Russia, there is actually a big consensus about whether the United States should sit at the table and help speed up this or that a different peace process.
But what's the point ... Look, you worked for John McCain, who is probably the most prominent Republican critic of President Trump's foreign policy. Plus, there is a conflict between “globalists” - to which, as I understand, we belong to you as well - and this idea of the existence of “rebellious nationalism”, this America First, this foreign policy.
Do you already see this in practice, or has it not yet manifested itself?
Walker: The point is to cooperate with the rest of the world. Be involved with the rest of the world.
Glasser: But there are people who say: “Why do we need all this? How does this generally concern America? ”
Walker: Similarly, I cannot speak on behalf of Senator McCain - there are different points of view, and they are reflected in domestic policy. But ... the question is, how is this all done? How to deal with a question from foreign policy? And it is here, I think, that when we get to the bottom of what needs to be done, there is a big consensus there.
People want power. They want American values. They want American interests. They want to be successful. And I would say that these are desires in both teams, as well as even in different teams within the Republican Party.
Glasser: Well yes. I’m thinking - see, one of the key questions is the question we have just discussed in connection with Surkov, namely, to what extent is this process fueled by the relevant leaders? Is Putin ready for peace? Is Trump ready for peace? In this sense, this is a very significant question.
Walker: Of course. As far as I know - I heard it directly from the president - he wants it. He wants peace; he wants it to be decided; he wants Ukraine to regain its territory. This is very clear.
As for Putin, here it seems to me that we see glimpses; see reason to think that maybe they want to. But they need to make a choice in this favor, and in the same way they can choose the opposite scenario.
Glasser: And this is a very important note. I was going to ask you: you have come here relatively new in the past few months, and have already met Surkov three times - what surprised you? What do you think you learned from this process? Did you get new insights or saw the situation differently than we see it here in Washington?
Walker: Well, I wouldn't say that, but what surprised me was how much the attitude towards Russia in Western Europe has changed since I worked in the government.
Glasser: And you were, I should note, the US ambassador to NATO.
Walker: Yes, from 2008 to 2009. It was then that Russia invaded Georgia. And then there was such an unwillingness to speak honestly about what Russia is doing, or somehow to seriously oppose Russia. If you remember, after they invaded Georgia, after six months we press the big “reset” button, and Lavrov and Secretary Clinton say that we are moving on.
Today, attitudes toward Russia in Western Europe are quite different. Everything is much more honest, a lot more understanding of what Russia is interfering in their elections and their political processes, a lot more understanding of what Russia has done with its neighbors - Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine - and a completely different attitude than 10 was years ago.
Glasser: Now everyone is in favor of using force against Russia.
Walker: You know, Russia is provoking it. People don't want that. People would like us, as the president always says, that we communicate normally with Russia. But what Russia is doing is very complicated.
Glasser: You mentioned the invasion of Georgia. It always seemed to me that that six-month period after the invasion of Georgia, as you said, was in fact the key period for convincing Putin in any way that the punishment for acting against his neighbors would not be serious, and that this pushed him to the idea to go against Ukraine.
Walker: Yes, I think so. If you look at these two situations directly, then after the invasion of Georgia it seemed to get away with it. And, I think, he thought that he would get away with it in Ukraine. And it seems to me, to be honest, that there was a certain red line in Syria on chemical weapons, and when we did not act in response - we gathered our strength, but didn’t do anything - I think that also convinced him that in the case of Ukraine, we will not act.
This led to the fact that he, as for me, miscalculated, as if he would get away with everything again. Instead, we imposed sanctions on 3,5 of the year; this attitude has changed in Western Europe; in our country, the attitude has changed. We also responded by reinforcing our presence in the Baltic countries, Poland, Romania, and reinforcing the containment of NATO for our allies. I think this is all very different from what he expected.
Glasser: Yes, I wonder what you mentioned and NATO sanctions. You have been observing this for a long time, do you have an opinion on whether Ukraine should in the future seek to become a member of NATO?
Walker: No one can take away their aspirations from them. This should be decided by the Ukrainians themselves. What do they want for their country? Neither we, nor Europeans, nor anybody else should negotiate behind their backs and say that their possibilities are limited. Our task is to maintain standards. We should not lower standards for NATO membership; we must insist on democracy, reform, market economy, anti-corruption, army reform, participation in general security, operational compatibility. This is all what the Czechs and Poles did - it is still relevant. And this means that Ukraine still has a long way to this point.
Glasser: Do you think that the fact that Poland and the Baltic countries joined NATO has stopped Putin from further aggression?
Walker: Yeah. You know, this is all very hypothetical, it is not easy to put it all together. I believe that the understanding that if they do something in one of the Baltic countries, this will lead to a response of many European countries and the United States, this is deterrence.
Yes, we can say that NATO is very important in terms of psychological; or say no, even if we, as a member of NATO, had not demonstrated more determination, they would have done so anyway. You can look at it differently. But it seems to me that where we are now indicates that Russia believes that we have demonstrated readiness to respond to its actions, and therefore it is not worth it.
Glasser: Interesting. As for me, you slightly outlined the question of whether the Obama administration gave the wrong signal to Putin that the price for the invasion of the neighbors — after Georgia — was entirely lift, in principle, and that therefore he invaded Ukraine.
Do you think this message reached? The fact that it can no longer be? Someone from the administration told me that in fact this did not convince them very much. Does Vladimir Putin think that this is like a punishment in hockey: you need to sit in boxing with sanctions for about two minutes, and then you can go out on the ice again and resume the game? Did he even realize that he wasn’t - can’t he just pick up and resume the game?
Walker: Well yes. It seems to me that Russia somehow will not change in principle. They can change tactics, they can look at their interests and decide what to do, but in principle they will not change. They will also try to calculate our reactions to what they do and what we will do. How far are we ready to go? And it is very difficult to calculate.
I think it was clear during Obama’s rule that there was a certain limit. That we will not go too far against Russia. Until they invaded Ukraine. And then the Obama administration changed, and in the past few years the policy has been much tougher than during the reload period.
When the new administration arrived, I don’t think they knew how it would act. If they read our press, I think they are very confused. And they also see that there is a very clear position on Syria, a very clear position on the embassy and consulate in San Francisco, a clear position on Ukraine, and a desire to do and resolve these issues. Now it’s not so clear to them how determined we are.
But it seems to me that this is all stabilizing. I think they are beginning to understand that it is necessary to begin to solve something or to begin to consider certain issues. That is why - I return to the topic of Ukraine - they can perceive it as one of the areas where we can actually agree on something.
Glasser: So we went back to the very beginning. This week, our guest was Ambassador Kurt Walker, who, as for me, has one of the most interesting posts in the Trump administration, the essence of which is to communicate with the Russians. Few high-ranking officials are doing this in the US today.
We will finish. But let me ask you, Mr. Ambassador, what are the chances that in a year from today, hostilities will still continue in eastern Ukraine?
Walker: I would say at least 80 percent.
Glasser: 80 percent?
Walker: I think there are chances that there will be no more fighting, but there is a lot more chance that this will continue. People are dying, and this is bad for those who live in the Donbass, and it’s about them that Russia says that it protects them. This is bad for Ukraine itself. Already more than 10 000 people died. If this continues, it will be very, very bad.
But we must do everything possible to solve this, and we need to be realistic and understand that this is very difficult.
Glasser: Will our grandchildren see the Crimean Peninsula a part of Russia on the map?
Walker: Not. When I was growing up, the Baltic countries on the map were with an asterisk and a note that the USA does not recognize the forced inclusion of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania into the USSR. I think it will be that way.
Glasser: Then in retirement we will rest in Yalta.
Volker: I hope we will get the results faster, but, fortunately for me, the grandchildren do not have to wait very long.
Glasser: As for me, it turned out to be a very interesting conversation about what is happening inside Russian discourse, to which, frankly, not so much attention is paid here in Washington. I am very pleased to have this opportunity to discuss policy regarding Russia and Ukraine with Ambassador Kurt Walker. Thank you once again for being in The global politico. Thanks to everyone who listens to us. You can subscribe to us at iTunes or write me on email@example.com.
Walker: Fine. Susan, thank you very much for inviting me.
Glasser: And thank you.
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