Ronan Farrow Daily   |  April 28, 2014

Can US manage frosty ties with 2 superpowers?

President Obama announced a new round of sanctions against Russia Monday, and has made commitments to defend Japan and South Korea in territorial disputes with China. Financial Times’ Geoff Dyer and The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof discuss with Ronan Farrow.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> new round of sanctions against russia , trying to increase pressure as pro- russian forces defy international demands to stand down. seven government russian officials and seven companies now face penalties.

>> the goal here is not to go after mr. putin personally. the goal is to change his calculus with respect to how the current actions he's engaging in in ukraine could have an adverse impact on the russian economy over the long haul.

>> this as events grow increasingly ugly. the mayor of an eastern ukraine city was shot in the back and fighting for his life. one of the cities where pro russian gunman seized buildings. today they called for the release of seven european military observers still being held hostage by pro- russian forces after being accused of spying for nato. one was released jed for health reasons but their cap tors refuse to discuss when the others might go free. president obama addressed the ukraine crisis from the philippines . the big news out of that tour, a new 10-year military agreement just signed with the philippines , expanding america's military presence in the region in what the white house called a historic commitment to the pacific. this on the heels of commitments that the u.s. would defend japan , south korea and other countries in their territorial disputes with china . all confronting a rising and increasingly tense chinese super power . do we risk a new cold war ? and can we manage two frosty relationships with super powers ? for that i turn to an expert on u.s./ china relationships jeff dire and nicholas christoph. president obama hasn't gone all out and gone for the sectorwide crackdowns he threatened at times. why is he holding back?

>> he wants to have something in reserve if russia does indeed send troops across the border into eastern ukraine , he has something -- a real threat. what was announced was the mild end of what was plausible. i wish they would signal a little more clearly that the banking sector will be devastated if russia does take the next step. i'm not sure they signaled as clear as they could have.

>> he's blamed part of this on europe , we're going to be in a stronger position to deter mr. putin when he sees the world is unified, say we're not going to allow certain arms sales but every european defense contractor back fills what we do. can we expect europe to take the lead given the economic constraints they are under and how close they are to russia ?

>> i think that leadership is going to come from us. and europe is very divided. you have countries like poland that would like much tougher stances and germany which is completely in bed with russia and given that dysfunction and disagreement, we can provide more leadership there.

>> and seems to suggest something that's an unrealistic outcome, that they'll leap first. you've argued that china has benefited from the periods of frosty relations between the u.s. and russia since it does forge a tighter bond between china and its neighbor. do you think that's what's happening here?

>> that's definitely one of possibilities. russia , if it becomes more isolated from europe as the crisis unfolds and nationally it's going to be clopushed closer to china . a gas deal almost a decade now and there's a possibility it might be signed because they have an opportunity. the chinese are awkward about the situation and don't like the idea of countries, one country invading and encouraging separatists but by sitting back they are -- in the long run.

>> president obama denied charges that this is about containing china . we're not interesting in containing china . doesn't he have to expect that's how the trip will be read given the strong position he's taking in the territorial disputes ?

>> there will always be people in china whatever the u.s. does in the western pacific , they will say the u.s. is out to contain it. containment is what the u.s. is trying to put in place with russia , trying to isolate it from international community and economy. with china , it's about deterring certain types of chinese behavior and putting in place a defensive network making it harder for china to push for any military domestic nation. it's a different kind of policy.

>> you had very interesting reporting on exactly the type of potential plan to counteract china that the pentagon has put in place. nick, you know the chinese authorities very well. do you think there's a harsher reaction still to come from china ? they've been pretty subdued?

>> i think we miscalculated by having president obama step forward and saying we will use military force if necessary to back up japan over the sen kak cue island dispute.

>> you think that was a step too far?

>> we've gone from assistant secretaries of defense making that point to cabinet members and now this is the first time that a president of the united states has said that the united states / japan security treaty applies to these uninhabited islands and we don't take a position on who has sovereignty but willing to risk a nuclear war with china over these islands.

>> where do you think that comes from? he did have to pars this careful stance, we're not taking a side but if china goes too far we'll engage in a>> there's been a mistaken view that we need to back japan up to show that we stand by our allies and that this will indeed intimidate china and make it a void, but we tried that and in fact the result has been that japan overreached and that triggered more violent reaction from china . i think this policy essentially failed.

>> and it does seem to the extent this is personality driven to come at a time when president obama is getting flak for the trips not being substantive enough, saying there's nothing to this trip and what has come out, implying for better or worse, you've described this confrontation with the defining geopolitical context of the history. can you describe that? xbr the sorts of things you've seen outlined while the president has been in asia. you've seen this deal with the philippines . you saw the discussions with japan about military cooperation. you're seeing the pentagon slowly putting in a network of much of -- not quite alliances or bases but facilities that is available to use across the western pacific and allow it to expand its presence. the u.s. has done a similar deal with australia and singapore. talking with malaysia and indonesia and vietnam. whole series with which the u.s. is talking about have a closer military relationship. that's one part of it. the more controversial bit is the military tactics the pentagon has been discussing how they would deal with some kind of conflict with china . one of the ideas that some people in the pentagon have. if there was any kind of dispute the way to approach that would be for u.s. to try to take out some of the chinese missile facilities which are the key bit to the chinese military platform. that's a dangerous escalatory step. you get into scary and difficult questions.

>> it's a frightening scenario, everything you're describing and that ramp up, americans hope we'll avoid. 61% of americans say the u.s. should be less involved in world affairs . it seems like this trip is anything but that. thank you both.