US renews efforts to ease tensions in Ukraine

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The United States has appointed a representative to establish stability between Ukraine and Russia, more than three years after Russia annexed the Ukranian territory of Crimea.

American diplomat Kurt Volker, currently acting as U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, believes the best option is for Russia to leave Crimea and give the territory back to Ukraine. Since the annexation by Russia, more than 10,000 people have been killed, and more than 2 million people have been displaced as a result of the conflict.

Coming up next on "Arizona horizon," we'll talk foreign affairs with former nation ambassador Kurt Volker and retired four-star general Philip breedlove. and we'll check out a program that helps keep women from returning to prison. Those stories next, on "Arizona Horizon." "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by the friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Good evening and welcome to "Arizona horizon." I’m ted Simons. enrollment for insurance under the affordable care act begins today and runs through mid-December, with policies taking effect January 1st. those looking to buy insurance through the health-care marketplace can shop on the web-site, healthcare-dot-gov. this year's sign-up period is shorter than previous years as directed by president trump, who also moved to cut public outreach and assistance programs. again, the web-site for help in signing up for the affordable care act is healthcare-dot-gov. Former Nato ambassador Kurt Volker was recently named as U.S. special representative for negotiations to ease tensions in Ukraine. We welcome Kurt Volker back to "Arizona Horizon," Volker is also executive director of ASU's McCain institute, and also joining us is the former head of Nato command in Europe, retired four-star U.S. air force general Philip Breedlove. Good to have you both here.
Kurt Volker: Good to be here.
Ted Simons: The state department envoy. What does that mean?
Kurt Volker: 2014 Russia invades Ukraine taking Crimea and a portion of eastern Ukraine. Three and a half years go by. there is discussion, Ukraine, Russia agree on settling these things, the Normandy process with France and Germany trying to nudge them along but nothing has been resolved in three and a half years. I was asked to see if I could get more engaged and try to bring about a resolution to the conflict.
Ted Simons: How do we get Russia’s attention?
Philip Breedlove: First and foremost, a better format to bring accountability to the processes would be a good start. In my opinion, mince is not working. We are not getting progress. I think the parties around Russia and Ukraine need to bring accountability for the agreement.
Ted Simons: We are talking about this because you are special part of the negotiations. A lot of people are not aware this is the eastern part of Ukraine. Fighting is going on as we speak.
Kurt Volker: Every day. 10,000 people killed in the conflict. On average, a Ukrainian soldier is killed every three days. Can you imagines their own country as well? Can you imagine the effect on any country?
Ted Simons: How tenuous is the situation?
Kurt Volker: There are cease-fire violations every night. 60 incidents each night. It can escalate again. At this point, Russia is digging in rather than taking more territory. What we are trying to do, what the French and Germans are trying to do is negotiate a way for the Russians to leave. Frankly, it's backfiring on them.
Philip Breedlove: I think they are trying to legitimize the line of contact opposed to the political border of Ukraine. The minced agreements are trying to bring us back to the border of Ukraine. The movement now by the Russians is to try to drive the line of contact the Russians have.
Ted Simons: As a general, been in the area, understands how these things work, do we send weapons or more weapons to Ukraine?
Philip Breedlove: I have been asked that many times. My recommendations have not changed. I recommend we give Ukraine a better ability to defend themselves not to be offensive, but a better ability to defend themselves. I have called for more lethal defensive aid.
Ted Simons: What do you think?
Kurt Volker: I have said I agree. Some argue that adding weapons will increase and escalate the conflict and the Russians can out arm the Ukrainians. But the point is defense. To the ability of doing that well it stops further encroachment.
Ted Simons: I hear some saying sounds like a proxy war. Does the U.S. want to be involve in a proxy war?
Kurt Volker: We don’t. We want the Russian forces to leave, establish a peace-keeping process and hand it back to the Russians over time. If we can do that, I think we'll unwind this.
Philip Breedlove: And reestablish the internationally recognized border of Ukraine.
Ted Simons: You mentioned getting Russia to do anything, x, y or z. is it important for Russia to save face. If you want Russia to do something, do you have to make sure it doesn't feel or look like they have lost?
Philip Breedlove: We were laughing about two rules in the world. It’s always two sides to the story. Certainly the Russians have a view of what happened in southeast Ukraine. I believe we need to find a political solution. No one wants to restart fighting in that area. What we really need is commitment to finding a solution opposed to existing in the status quo which makes it hard in my opinion for Ukraine to make all of the reform its people expect of it. When there is an active line of contact, it's hard to get reform.
Kurt Volker: First off, Russia wants to have a Ukraine that's Russia family. It wants to have a compliant Ukraine. It’s produced the opposite by invading and taking territory, it's more westward looking more nationalistic Ukraine. They know it's not working for them. The incentives for them to get out are there. They need a face-saving. Putin could present himself as a peacemaker, stop fighting between Ukrainian people, claim a special status for the territories in the east and say the territory is making people safe. If he wants to, there's a way.
Ted Simons: What do you do with those that are pro-Russia? What do you do with them? Kurt may have a different take. When you say ethnic Russians, there are ethnic Russians but like in other nations, the Baltic nations, they identify themselves as Ukrainians or Estonians. We need to understand what the people think they are, and approach that in any negotiations.
Ted Simons: There are pro-Russian groups in the Ukraine.
Kurt Volker: There are some, but there are ethnic Ukrainians defending their territory against ethnic forces. The issue is of international conflict where Russia is trying to destabilize Ukraine.
Ted Simons: When you talk about Ukraine, you are talking about Russia. When you are talking about Russia these days, you are talking about the trump administration. The trump administration curiosity regarding Russia, how do they impact what you do on the ground?
Philip Breedlove: People wonder what it means. I try to stay focused on the issue at hand and say we have a conflict. People are dying. We need to find a solution. Here’s what we propose to do about it and rally around it. I don't think the distraction of domestic politics will ever go away.
Ted Simons: Some of the distractions involve Russia. The idea that the trump administration -- is there a clear Ukrainian plan right now for the trump administration?
Philip Breedlove: I haven't been privy for what they have put into place. I know what we have had going into this president's administration is a clear series of planning and working with Ukrainian government to discern together what we need as a U.S. military and as nato to be able to help.
Ted Simons: Does that need to be tightened up a bit?
Philip Breedlove: The work is good. It’s a matter of how do we accept or apply that work.
Ted Simons: Back to foreign affairs in general and the United States position in the world, Senator John McCain, McCain institute, he has warned of half-baked spurious nationalism. Is the U.S. policy half baked?
Kurt Volker: I think he's referring to a mood in the country. That’s what he explained afterwards, that's defiant, isolationist instead of engaging. That has never served us well. We are better off to shape the environment we live in and values we believe in, democracy, rule of law. Leading on those points is important.
Ted Simons: He said abandoning U.S. leadership is unpatriotic. Do you see the country abandoning some of that leadership as we sit?
Philip Breedlove: Clearly we saw in Syria and western deserts of Iraq a place and time we could have been more engaged and may not have ended up where we are. I don't think we are able to make those judgments clearly right now.
Ted Simons: When McCain says we have to fight protectionism and nativism, he's talking about the country and the trump administration. Do we have to fight those things, general?
Philip Breedlove: I go back to what I said before. Across history, since the great wars, World War I and World War II, we have taken a position where we stood for values, and I think that's what's important about America today. Get past the political left or right. Remember what our values are and stand for them in a way that is demonstrative. Lead for them in the free world.
Kurt Volker: One of the things I think is true about our country, there is at the core of the people, a strong commitment to values, fairness, freedom, democracy, rule of law, respect for human right, respect for other people, tolerance, diversity. These are core values of our country. It’s incumbent on all of us that we are for speaking up for values.
Ted Simons: Can we do a better job of that?
Kurt Volker: We can always do a better job of it.
Ted Simons: Let’s talk about North Korea. Is there a defined clear strategy and what are your thoughts?
Kurt Volker: It’s a tough one. Affecting Putin’s decision-making is hard but he's rational. Affecting Korea’s decision making, I don't know. We have to show we are strong, proking our allies, work diplomatically with those that have more influence than we do like china and stop him from deploying a nuclear weapon. If we don't, we have to prepare for the worst.
Ted Simons: Are we showing that we are strong and protecting our allies? With North Korea, I don't know if anyone can figure out.
Philip Breedlove: I often ask myself what has really changed. For several decades we have had a north Korea because of the nuclear capability, north Korea has had a huge lever into the political situations on the peninsula, and we in America have engaged them in many ways, giving them energy and food, etc., etc. but they have always had this tool. Now they are fighting to get a tool to allow them to hold war at risk across the world. I don't think we should expect any different behavior in the future than in the past, in that they'll use this tool to their great advantage. I don't think we have a choice but to engage them politically.
Ted Simons: When push comes to shove, you are a diplomat. Have you ever said we are going to bury you?
Kurt Volker: My friends make fun of me. I can't swear very well.
Ted Simons: Is that productive? You are dealing with a nutcase over there, do you have to act like a nutcase to deal with it.
Kurt Volker: We have a strong national security team with Tillerson, master, pence, it's a really good team. They are doing all of the right things. At the same time, I can see why the president attempted to tweet to communicate directly so people hear what he's saying. If he's communicating that he's tough, which is what he wants to communicate to the North Korean leader, that's something a diplomat will figure out how to use.
Philip Breedlove: I’ll add to that, this team is good as they can get. They’ll put forth good advice.
Ted Simons: Below the noise, you are confident good things are happening?
Philip Breedlove: I’m absolutely confident they are putting together the right kind of options.
Ted Simons: Are you worried about the noise?
Philip Breedlove: I’m worried about the political climate in our capitol.
Kurt Volker: The noise affects the decision making of our allies. We might be doing the right things, but they get distracted. It’s hard to keep everyone focus.
Ted Simons: Your thoughts on the New York City attacks, it looked like they were inspired by Isis? Your thoughts?
Kurt Volker: I think it's more than that. Isis puts things on the internet, seeks to radicalize people. The fact that they succeed sometimes is a deliberate act.
Ted Simons: Your thoughts on this?
Philip Breedlove: My thoughts are not good. I have long said that this terrorism is coming to America as we mash them and other parts of the world, they'll seek to get their form of terrorism into America, and the attack surface is so large that we need to be very ready for what our future holds. I have great confidence and put a lot of hope in all of the systems that we bring to bear. We have to be ready.
Ted Simons: Including the justice system, which apparently is a joke, according to today's round of comments. We are not going there?
Kurt Volker: I can't talk about the justice system. Let’s talk about North Korea.
Ted Simons: I want to be sure the systems are in place. We have a great country, a great constitution, great set of judiciary institutions.
Kurt Volker: We have a strong country. Our strength is our people. We are a resilient nation. Look how we came back after the attack on 9-11.
Ted Simons: Something else was suggested today. Put this kind of person in Gitmo. What do you think about that?
Philip Breedlove: We need a place to put these people. We are surrounded by politics. Whether it's a good tool or not, I think it's a great tool.
Ted Simons: Do you think it's a tool that could be used against the country in propaganda?
Kurt Volker: It has been in the past. People use it as a way to say we are not true to our own values. There is a problem we haven't dealt with which is terrorists are not states. They are not wearing uniforms. They are not following the laws of war. Protections of people that are following the laws of war are not in our country. They are not behaving according to the laws of war.
Ted Simons: You have 30 seconds. Why is general Breed love here?
Kurt Volker: Phil and I are going to talk a bit. He has a speech and we'll have a conversation about the challenges in the world.
Philip Breedlove: I’m proud of ASU. As you know, my wife and I are alums. She has a graduate degree and I have an undergraduate degree. I am really proud of their solute to service.
Ted Simons: We are proud to have you here.

Kurt Volker: U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations
Philip Breedlove: Retired General, United States Air Force

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