The future of Ukraine is nebulous: calls to move towards Europe compete with Russia. The U.S. has thrown its weight behind those protesting against the government’s refusal to join the EU. Has unnecessary interference become a trademark of Washington? Today we talk with Pat Buchanan – the man, who advised three American presidents.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Our guest today is legendary politician Pat Buchanan, a senior advisor to three American presidents, who was once a candidate for the top job himself. Mr. Buchanan, it’s such a pleasure to have you on our show tonight, welcome.
Pat Buchanan: Glad to be here, Sophie.
SS:So we are just going to start with the latest news. John McCain promised to support Ukrainians in their political stand against the government. Is that helpful for Ukraine?
PB: I’m feeling that Senator McCain, who has my respect, had no business in the Ukraine, this is the decision by the Ukrainian people, and Ukrainian government as whether they want to orient towards Russia’s Customs Union or toward the European economic union, and I don’t think that’s an issue that the U.S. has any right to be involved in. It’s a decision for the Ukrainians as I said and Senator McCain being there is a little bit like President Putin being in Canada during the NAFTA debate and telling the Canadians not to sign. So, I think that Ukrainians should make this decision themselves.
SS:There are talks about sanctions the U.S. could use against the Ukrainian government – what are they? Is that action warranted?
PB: I don’t think any action against Ukraine is warranted, no matter what decision it makes. This is a decision, again, for the Ukrainian government, and Ukrainian people, it has nothing to do with vital interests of the U.S., and I would be opposed to my own government, my own country, imposing sanctions on the Ukrainian government and people for the decision which is their sovereign right. So, I don’t think the Congress of the U.S. would go along with sanctions, I find that hard to believe.
SS:Like you said, this is a choice that Ukrainian people should make themselves; and there is no one opinion of what path Ukraine should choose. In your opinion – what do you think can help them figure things out at this point?
PB: Well, I think the Ukrainians are to decide what really is in their own best interest. I know a bit about the Ukraine, I was there back way back in the Nixon’s administration, before Richard Nixon, in 1971 and I know that Eastern Ukraine, for example, is very much oriented towards Russia, and Western Ukraine is somewhat oriented toward the Old Hapsburg empire, so it’s a country that is really a mixture – but again, this is a decision a democratic country ought to make for itself and it is not a business of the U.S. to determine, which way they should orient their economy.
SS:What do you think about the money thrown at promoting democracy around the world, which also includes support and funding of color revolutions – is that money well-spent? Some would argue that democracy actually happened in those countries that revolutions took place in. What do you think?
PB: My view is that many of the national endowment for democracy and its associated agencies – these were Cold War institutions, and they were created in the Reagan administration, I was in the White House and we were trying to orient countries more towards the west as the Soviet Union was trying to orient them towards their camp in the Cold War. But, with the Cold War over, in my judgment, I think these are counter-productive. I mean, interfering in internal affairs of foreign countries to reorient their foreign policy or their government toward the U.S. – I don’t think it’s justified unless there is some imminent threat to our own country, and I don’t see that, and I have argued, basically, for the abolition of these kinds of agencies that interfere in the internal affairs of foreign nations. I think it’s counter-productive, I think we create more enemies that we do friends, when we involve ourselves in these so-called “color-coded revolutions”. Many of them have been overturned since the U.S. was sub-rosa engaged in them, so again, I would say if the common turn has been shut down then they ought to shutdown some of these agencies in the U.S., but I’m not in office anymore and I’m not advising presidents anymore.
SS: What a pity that you are not advising presidents anymore. Since we started talking about Ukraine, would you classify the U.S. actions in the Ukraine right now as interference in internal affairs of the foreign country, and do you generally find that Washington has a real understanding of places it interferes in.
PB: I don’t know that you can say that Washington is interfering per se, but I don’t think the U.S. government, the under secretary of state should have gone there and gotten into a rally into the middle of Kiev. I don’t think senator McCain should have gone there, and then in a rally in a middle of Kiev and accuse Russia of interfering in the internal affairs in Ukraine, when he himself is doing exactly that. So, I don’t think that is helpful. Again, this is an issue that really doesn’t involve the U.S., I can understand EU going into Ukraine and arguing for their case, I can understand Mr. Putin inviting the president of Ukraine to Russia to argue his case. I just don’t know what America’s vital interests or America’s interest is in this decision which belongs to the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government; I’m sure some people welcomed Senator McCain, but I think doing this really enhances and underscores the reputation, unfortunate, of the U.S. for interfering in people’s affairs all over the world when there is no necessity or no right to do so.
SS: But at the same time – if people are out on the streets, demanding an end to corruption, war transparency, respect for human rights – I mean, surely the U.S. is helpful to them, no?
PB: Well, I think they ought to do that. I mean, they have a perfect right to demonstrate, they have a perfect right to demonstrate against their government, they have a perfect right to say “We don’t want to orient towards Russia, we would like to be part of EU” – that’s the right of the Ukrainian people and we would certainly, from the outside support that right, but the question is not whether we support that right, which we do, but whether we are to get into the middle of the argument. And that’s what I’m saying is that it isn’t our quarrel, it isn’t our argument; but would I like people of Ukraine to have a right to have peaceful demonstrations whether they are for or against Russia’s Customs Union – that’s fine!
SS: But also, you know what a lot of people are thinking – I mean, the U.S. has enough troubles inside its borders, hasn’t it – can it really afford at this point to send under-secretaries and senators to foreign countries to support them for whatever reason?
PB: Well, I think the senator went on his own, and he probably paid for his own way, but I agree with you – I don’t think the under secretary of State should be in demonstrations or should be vocal inside foreign countries about decisions they make which don’t affect our national security, and merely about choice which as I say belongs to Ukraine alone.
SS: Now, you advocate curtailing U.S. invasions around the globe – but aren’t’ they about security for Washington? Isn’t it better to sponsor or fight small-scale wars far-away than let things play on their own and face big problem on your doorstep later?
PB: May view is that now, when the Cold War is over, the U.S. ought not to use its military force unless it’s authorized by the Congress of the U.S., unless the vital interest of the U.S. are imperiled in some way or the other, and unless the American people are united over this intervention. As you may know I was against the Iraq war when President George Bush took us to the Iraq war. While I favored the intervention in Afghanistan after the massacre of 9\11, I did not believe the U.S. should stay there and try to reform and remake that country according to our ideas and our ideals. I thought that was a bridge too far for the U.S. I’ve opposed intervention in Syria, because I’m not an admirer of the regime there, but no vital interests of the U.S. were threatened in that civil war. So, in each of those cases and frankly, since the Cold War ended I have been against most of the American interventions – I didn’t see them as directly related to the vital interests of my country: nothing in my country was threatened, our people were not threatened, and so I don’t think we ought to be out trying to remake the world in our image. It’s an impossibility, as a great scholar once said, the Constitution of the U.S. is not for export.
SS:But you’ve also said that U.S. and the West will collapse in the same way Rome did –from uncontrolled multiculturalism. Do you not believe in positive effect of globalization?
PB: There’s no doubt that the globalization has some tremendously positive aspects to it and consequences from it. I think that the fact that the Chinese people, for example …when I visited China it was Richard Nixon’s at his “opening up China”, I was part of his delegation – it was a deeply repressed country. Poverty was pandemic; it was as dreary a place I’ve ever seen. And I think globalization is in large part responsible for the enormous build up of China, the fact that there is widespread wealth in China, there’s enormous production, and it is growing 10-12% a year for 20-25 years – that’s a great thing. My concern over globalization is that the American economy…America was the most productive nation of the world with a tremendous manufacturing power, when I ran for president in 1992, I said “If we go into these Trade treaties and Free Trade policies the U.S. will lose its manufacturing base, it will disappear. It will be exported” – and that’s exactly what has happened. In the first decade of the XXI century 50.000 American factories disappeared and 6 mn manufacturing jobs disappeared – one in every three we had. So I think when you have an economy as advanced as the U.S., put American workers in direct competition with Chinese workers who are making $1-2 dollars an hour was deeply damaging to our country, even if it was beneficial for People’s Republic of China.
Pat Buchanan about rising of civilization, the Collapse of Rome, about China and Richard Nixon, Kerry, North Korea, Syria ….