The Reid Report   |  April 24, 2014

Russia begins military drills

Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin called the latest Ukrainian efforts to oust pro-Russian forces from government buildings in East Ukraine “a grave crime.” The Washington Post’s Anne Gearan joins to discuss the latest news and how the U.S. could respond. She also discusses Israel’s decision to suspend peace talks with the Palestinians after an alliance between two rival factions.

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

>>> do now have you, ann , so thank you for your patience.

>> thank you.

>> let me ask you again, about this crisis. at what point do we begin to describe it as a civil war ?

>> well, it could be described as a civil war at the point when russian forces really fully invaded the eastern areas of ukraine , and ukrainian forces fought back. we're not there yet. but the last 24 hours have been really deeply worrisome to many people watching this, and certainly to the ukrainians as well. for the first time, they have issued an explicit threat to answer force with force, and say that they will not tolerate a military incursion, similar to the one that russia launched in crimea a month ago, saying that the ukrainian prime minister saying we learned our lesson there and we'll fight back this time. it's not there yet, but it's worrisome.

>> they say they're not going to tolerate what happened in crimea. but we have a situation where that government cannot even get the russian forces to leave their government buildings . are you hearing any sort of a plan to escalate on the ground to at least get that done? because that i think is when people looking from the outside looking in, makes the government look incredibly weak.

>> right. those irregulars who have occupied government buildings in several cities and towns were supposed to be gone by now, under terms of an agreement reached a week ago, and russia said it would help make that happen. it hasn't. now, there's a question about whether russia has full control over those irregulars, but certainly if vladimir putin had gone on television the other day or did so today, and said, come on, everybody, give it up, they would have a whole lot less of a nationalist standing, and mandate to keep occupying those buildings. the fact that it hasn't happened raises questions about the ukrainian government 's ability to do any of this on its own. and were they to actually undertake a military operation , huge questions about how far they could take it. they do have an army, but it would be no match for the russians.

>> and i want to play something on what president obama said. he's been getting a lot of pressure from senator john mccain about the idea that we're not arming the ukrainians, we're not escalating our own military rhetoric. this is what president obama had to say about the idea of drawing the red line in general and the u.s.'s obligation.

>> the implication of the question, i think, is that each and every time a country violates one of those norms, the united states should go to war. or stand prepared to engage militarily. if it doesn't, then somehow we're not serious about those norms. well, that's not the case.

>> so, ann , talk about the conundrum, that's the president speaking in japan, that the u.s. will not go to war over this. but you see the military escalation on the part of the irregulars. the u.s. is in a box here. what can the u.s. do short of actually get some movement on peace in the ukraine ?

>> what obama is saying there is, we are not the global policeman, and every single time something awful happens around the world, it is not incumbent on the united states to fight about it. that's a very common-sense reduction of much of his foreign policy . but it also then immediately begs the question of, okay, well, if you're not going to fight about it, and you're not also going to fight at arm's length by providing arms, which isn't going to happen anytime soon in the ukrainian context, then what other than talking are you really willing to do? and there obama's answer in ukraine , as it has been elsewhere, is economic sanctions . and that's essentially using the marketplace as your battlefield. and the -- in the russian context, that's a difficult one. the sanctions applied so far have not seemed to be in any way a deterrent to putin or russian action, and the further sanctions that the president talked about, and you teased there in your opening, would essentially be more of the same. they would be sanctions against individuals, as opposed to sanctions against broad sectors of the russian economy , like oil and gas and defense. we're not there yet.

>> okay. i want to shift gears real quick and talk about the middle east . israel announced it's suspending peace talks after rivals forced a new alliance with hamas. take a listen to what benjamin netanyahu said to andrea mitchell a short time ago.

>> if it moves forward, peace moves backwards. it's really, as the state department yesterday, the ball is in the palestinian court. i hope they dribble it in the right direction.

>> hardly a surprise that the middle east peace foiled again. but what do you make of this latest development?

>> yeah, who knew nine months of talking and they didn't get anywhere. you know, it's hit repeat. however, this is a sad day. this has been the signature effort for john kerry and his state department for the whole of his first year-plus in office. they really did try. and if a boss thought the palestinian authority president mahmoud abbas thought that the reconciliation with hamas would be some kind of bargaining chip and a way to force additional concessions from israel , it appears he miscalculated. this is something israel simply will not tolerate. and if they were looking for an excuse to walk away from talks, and i don't know that they were, but if they were looking for it, they've got one.

>> indeed. thanks so much, ann . appreciate it.

>> thank you.