US - Georgia relations

Charles Krauthammer: The US suffers in Moscow


Tabula apologizes for technical mistakes in Dr. Krauthammer's interview (print edition). Please, find below the corrected text .

Charles Krauthammer, an American Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and political commentator, gave an interview to Tabula in Washington D.C. in late May. It was his second interview for the magazine. The first interview was recorded exactly one year ago and was published in Tabula English Issue No. 19, released in June 2012.

Called the most influential commentator in America by the British Financial Times and "Obama's critic-in-chief" by the American National Review, Mr. Krauthammer talked with Tabula about major international developments and shared his thoughts about the tendencies of world politics.

Charles Krauthammer
Last year I was here, in this room, when we witnessed the Discovery Shuttle being moved to the museum. You seemed to be quite sad and took it as a symbol of US decline. What is your feeling now about the role of the US in world politics?

Now it is no longer symbolism, everybody can see it. You can see it in Libya, you can see it in Syria, and you see it in action in Iran; humiliation after humiliation. The US suffers in Moscow without any response, the television shows the capture of a US spy and [US Secretary of State John] Kerry being held for three hours to see Putin. In Libya, the intervention was supposed to have saved the Benghazi, but our own people died in Benghazi. Iran proceeds without fear. I mean, everywhere. I have been writing this since 2009; this is where Obama was going. This is absolutely clear to everybody.

How do you think recent spy scandal could influence Russia - US relations? We observed the visit of Secretary of State John Kerry to Russia, he spoke very vaguely about differences, mostly trying to stress areas where the US and Russia are to cooperate.

They go like supplicants, they ingratiate themselves to Putin as if he is the great power and as if we are the ones that came out of a terrible contraction and he is the arbiter. In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, when anybody had a problem with the Middle East, they went to Washington. Now where do the Arab leaders go? Where does the Syrian government go? Where does Turkey go? Where does Israel go? They go to Moscow. So Moscow has become the dominant power. It's clear that throughout the whole reset policy, the US has given Russia everything – [the cancellation of the planned] missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, WTO status, it has given them basically a free hand in the Middle East, and flattered them. And then what does Putin do? There is vicious anti-Americanism; he shuts down the last remaining free public opinion polling, calling them foreign agents, shutting down any form of influence we had in Russia; he kicked out Radio Free Europe, he has done everything and we just smile and say nothing. So the reset was simply capitulation.

You have just mentioned that those promoting Western values in Russia are called foreign agents. This trend has also been seen in Georgia. Some believe that the enhancement of anti-western and anti-democratic forces has geopolitical grounds – the US is retreating from the region; they reckon that the defeat of the colored revolutions is linked with US foreign policy.

Yes, that's that an underlying reason. When the US withdrew, look what happened to Syria, which is a classic example. The whole region is now dominated by Iran; the axis of Iran, Moscow and Hezbollah. The same with withdrawing from Libya. Nature abhors the vacuum. Wherever you withdraw power, someone else steals it. Even central Europe, which is part of NATO, is not safe from Russian influence, because the US abdicated – canceling the missile defense. We are not supporting them to balance Russian power. Imagine how much less influence, initiative, and energy [is spent] on balancing Russian power further abroad; in Ukraine, Georgia and the neighboring republics, which are not NATO members.

We are getting out of Afghanistan. We are out. Obama is the president that came to power to get us out. Out of Afghanistan and [leaving] nothing behind. It's like post-Vietnam, like the late 1970s, it did not stop with Vietnam, 1979 was the annus mirabilis for the Soviet Empire: we got kicked out of Iran whilst Russia basically got control of Nicaragua, Cambodia, Afghanistan and even Grenada.

But many say that considering  its economic and military strengths, there is no chance of Russia regaining the influence of the Soviet Union...

But this is not a reflection of objective numbers. The power of the country is objective strength multiplied by it willingness to use it, it's a fraction. Russians are fully willing to apply their strength. True, [compared to the Soviet Union] they have much less power, much less economic power, but in small countries like yours they don't need huge economic power to change things. Your prime minister has seven billion dollars. In the US, seven billion is lunch, maybe dinner, that's it. But if you are not willing to apply your power, you have no power. So to me it's a matter of will. That's why I wrote "Decline as a Choice", the countries choose. America retreats and the rest of the world feels it, this is the same as the late 1970s.

But Obama was re-elected, so that's the choice of the American people...

That's what I mean. There are a lot of things people don't like about Obama – Obamacare, high spending and taxes. You don't hear protests about his foreign policy. People are quite willing to live with it.

What would you say about the condition of the Republican Party? You compare today's America with the post-Vietnam period, but the post-Vietnam period was followed by Ronald Reagan and the situation changed radically. What are the chances that something like that will happen again?

I don't see a Reagan, but I do see the Republicans winning. I do believe that the Republicans have young and very skillful leaders. The other thing is history, every time one party has had the White House for two terms, they get thrown out. There was only one exception to this and that was Reagan. They gave him a third term by electing George H. W. Bush. Americans don't normally re-elect. I don't think that will change, but you've got to wait. You have to hang on until 2016.

Discussing Reagan leads me to my last question - Margaret Thatcher has just died. How would you evaluate her controversial legacy?

She single-handedly saved England and, with Reagan, Helmut Kohl and John Paul II, defeated the Soviet Union. If anybody lived half the life she did, they would have had a great life. Those are her two main achievements.

She single-handedly saved Britain from being ruined by socialism and changed the whole zeitgeist. I mean the whole success of an ideological revolution is not measured by what you achieved when you were in office, it is measured by what happens when the other guys inevitably come back. It's like Roosevelt, who revolutionized the US with ideas. The Republicans said it was terrible, but when they came into office with Eisenhower they maintained everything. Then you have the second birth of liberalism – after the Democrats Kennedy and Johnson, Nixon comes in and he continues everything – he invented the Environmental Agency, introduced Affirmative Action.

So when your ideology dominates to the point where when the other guys come in they accept the premise, you have changed history.

Reagan did that. Ten minutes after his inauguration he said government is not a solution, government is the problem. After 12 years, Clinton came in, what did he say in the 1996 State of the Union address? That the era of big government is over. Clinton accepted the premise.

That's what Tony Blair did with Thatcher. When Thatcher came in, not only did she change Britain, she changed the Labor party. When Tony Blair came in with the new Labor party, he accepted the premises of Thatcherism and did not repeal any of it. That's a person that resets the ideological trajectory of a country. Thatcher did that, the same way Reagan did, and that's her legacy. Not only what she did, but also what Tony Blair did makes her historic.



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