On Friday’s Now With Alex Wagner, the editor of the far-left magazine The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel, declared to viewers that they keep in mind that the President of Ukraine has waged war “against his own people in southeastern Ukraine” and even though Russian President Vladimir Putin “is an authoritarian leader,” demonizing him “is not a policy” that the United States should continue.
Vanden Heuvel’s comments came during a discussion with Wagner and Politico Magazine editor Susan Glasser about Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine Thursday, apparently by Russian-backed separatists in the region. [MP3 audio here]
Vanden Heuvel first began by ruling that Ukraine’s movement toward stronger relations with Europe earlier this year was a result of “feckless and reckless actions” by the United States and the European Union when Ukraine “should be a neutral country.”
In her analysis, she attacked not Putin but the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, for raging military actions “against his own people in southeastern Ukraine.” This is despite the desire of the “pro-Russian separatists” to cause chaos for Ukraine and undermine Ukraine’s ability to control the region and advance its prospects of joining Russia, but I guess she missed that point.
Next, vanden Heuvel described Poroshenko’s actions as “atrocities committed against Ukrainian citizens” and added that he walked out of cease-fire negotiations earlier this year. When Wagner tried to push back, saying that “some people would say, though, that was actually...a show of strength,” vanden Heuvel angrily dismissed that premise.
In her final comments of the segment, she went after the United States for its treatment of Putin and Russia. She said:
if America understood its own national security interest, it would understand that it needs to be tough in its political resolution and agreement, but it needs Russia to resolve some of the key problems. It makes and made no sense to treat Russia's relationship – Russia and its relationship with the Ukraine as somehow not in Russia's legitimate national security interest or treat Russia as a post-war existential threat to the post-war order. I’m hoping people come to common sense and I think there must be a way forward if the United States understands its own security interests and understands, by the way, that Putin has his own politics at home and the demonization of Putin, and this is not to absolve him, he is a authoritarian leader, is not a policy.
The relevant portions of the transcript from the July 18 Now With Alex Wagner segment are transcribed below.
MSNBC's Now With Alex Wagner
July 18, 2014
4:18 p.m. Eastern
ALEX WAGNER: Katrina, let me start with you. Hillary Clinton's comments that Europe should take the lead on this. Do you think that will end in effective policy making?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, let me just say, we are looking at a heinous, tragic act, but in order to avoid further tragedy, Alex, I think the United States and Russia should do as much as they can to avoid deepening a new Cold War. I hope that this horrific moment gives countries the ability to see moving forward the diversion and distraction of resources from the crisis of our time that have poured in to the situation have been a terrible mistake. I think Hillary Clinton spoke the truth, but in the wrong way. I think Europe could and should take the lead. In fact, Putin's major interlocutor has been Angela Merkel of Germany and I think Europe is close on and I suspect as we were talking about earlier, Europe understands without absolving perpetrators here, that the U.S. and the E.U.'s policy was feckless and reckless earlier this year when they pushed Ukraine to become part of Europe opposed to understanding that it should be a neutral country. If Ukraine is to recover financially, economically, democratically, it needs both the west and Russia.
VANDEN HEUVEL: ...First of all, I think we need an independent investigation, an international investigation. I think it's also very important to remember that the United States needs Russia to deal with many of the –
WAGNER: International issues –
VANDEN HEUVEL: – international issues from proliferation, to exiting Afghanistan, a whole slew of issues. But, you know, what has been under reported, Alex, is that for the last few months the President of Ukraine has waged quote “an anti-terrorist operation” against his own people in southeastern Ukraine, his own citizens. No question that you have pro-Russian separatists. In some cases, it seems Putin lost control of these pro-Russians, but there have been atrocities committed against Ukrainian citizens by the president of their country. 110,000 Ukrainians have fled across the border to Russia. There must be an international commitment, not only the avoid a new Cold War but a real cease fire, to real negotiations. The president of Ukraine walked out of cease fire negotiations after two days, negotiations with Ukraine, Germany and France.
WAGNER: But some people would say, though, that was actually, you know, a show of strength and it was, you know –
VANDEN HEUVEL: A show of strength to kill your own civilians? How can you even –
WAGNER: Well – ok, Katrina, I'm not arguing that, nor would I ever...
VANDEN HEUVEL: I think the contours here –
WAGNER: Let me ask you a question, Katrina, which is when we talk about -- when you call for international agreement, an internationally led cease fire, we played the tape from this U.N. Security Council, the enemies and appliances are, as they always are. You have the Brits on the side of the Americans and the Russians and Chinese skeptical and working in tandem. How can you possibly be hopeful that there would be international consensus, given the fact the battle lines seem to be the same ones they already are?
VANDEN HEUVEL: I think this tragedy could be a, quote, “game changer,” I don’t – but I think we’ve come – we’re going to see more tragedies if people don't come to common sense instead of more bluster. The contours of an agreement are there. I come back to what Hillary Clinton said, I think Germany and countries in Europe need to play a key role and if America understood its own national security interest, it would understand that it needs to be tough in its political resolution and agreement, but it needs Russia to resolve some of the key problems. It makes and made no sense to treat Russia's relationship – Russia and its relationship with the Ukraine as somehow not in Russia's legitimate national security interest or treat Russia as a post-war existential threat to the post-war order. I’m hoping people come to common sense and I think there must be a way forward if the United States understands its own security interests and understands, by the way, that Putin has his own politics at home and the demonization of Putin, and this is not to absolve him, he is a authoritarian leader, is not a policy. It is, as Henry Kissinger said, an alibi for not having a policy.