tv Center for the National Interest Discussion on Ukraine CSPAN August 13, 2019 7:34am-8:43am EDT
your own mind brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. >> next we hear from the former us ambassador to ukraine talk about the political agenda of the country's president and the ongoing conflict with russia. >> we are going to get underway. i am richard burton and my day job is a managing partner of associates, and and in both of these capacities at both think tanks.
the lunch epicenter for the national interests, better than the atlantic council. to top off the excellent lunch we have a great dessert, ambassador john herbst is with us today. the future of ukraine, ukraine russia relations. we couldn't have a better speaker to address this issue. john has not only served as the us ambassador to ukraine but followed ukraine, the ukraine related issue for many years in his current capacity, running his european program at the atlanta council and having a
real "in depth" understanding for, let's call it eastern priority and central asian affairs not only served in ukraine but is pakistan if i am not mistaken but he told me one of his first jobs after leaving the state department was running a program called dealing with complex problems at the national defense -- the state department trains you for dealing with complex problems. without further a do i'm going to ask john to begin. as traditionally the case, this is being filmed by c-span, we are not following chatter house rules, we are on the record.
>> thank you for the invitation to come here. let's talk about what volodymyr zelensky means for russian ukrainian relations was the first thing to understand about president volodymyr zelensky is the wants for reasons having a fit into with foreign policy, the people of ukraine were demonstrating in polls 18 months ago, 24 months ago, they wanted a new face of political leadership, polls regularly showed in 2018, 40% of the population back to for audi, wanting none of the above, well-known political figures. there is a general dissatisfaction with the state of affairs, not so much the russian war but the state of domestic affairs, a consequence
of two things. and static socioeconomic system characterized in ukraine for the 30 years since independence and the problem of corruption. and this qualifies the first point i just made, serious changes were made, people know more about transitions about command economies, when you do the right things with the standard of living takes a hit. the voting ukraine which volodymyr zelensky was the harvester of reflected a sentiment that has been existing for several years. he did not win an outright victory in the first round of the presidential elections, in the wake of the russian seizure
of crimea and in the east, a large plurality in the mid 40s and he won 72%-73%. more importantly, this is a critical understanding of what may or may not be possible going forward in ukraine domestically, he won a resounding victory in the elections last month. for the first time in ukraine's post independent history you have one party which has an outright majority and he can rule with that party by himself and my guess is that is going to happen. one of the party should be an actual partner, it is not clear if volodymyr zelensky will make that partnership. and get their support without the partnership. the point -- and what that says
to anyone looking at ukraine and the ukrainian public which mode these guys in, the changes they want are in his grasp. and anyone who does politics. he is a highly successful comedian and businessman. i met him in february, and western ambassadors who saw at that time were underwhelmed about his command of issues that six weeks later were deeply impressed. the guy is smart.
up until some point after he decided to run for the presidency, he wasn't paying detailed attention to major political and economic issues he was a smart ukrainian growing up in ukraine with absorbing this. he came from benny pearl in the eastern ukraine. we all know about the differences in parts of the population north and west. and the differences are closing but it is not irrelevant and he is of jewish descent, ukrainian, and speaks russian and he had to brush up on his ukrainian once it is clear he
had a shot at becoming president and much better than he was in january. coming from the east he observed certain attitudes, he might be a friendly voice and ukraine. i don't think he has the passion for a couple issues which are somewhat controversial in ukraine, one of those being the language question and the other being the question of the orthodox church. an important part of his biography which we need to understand to figure out who he is and where he is going is a young man. volodymyr zelensky is 41. the soviet experience is not
something he truly felt. he went to college, and some things might have sound reasonable, things that are not necessarily positive, looking at turning over reform in ukraine, not normal, not natural. part of growing up in the east may explain some talk as president-elect, and in moscow. volodymyr zelensky put more emphasis on it.
that i think reflects his background and also -- it is not something he highlighted as a candidate but he talked about it and we have seen him as president take steps consistent with such statements. to talk about ukraine and foreign-policy more broadly, he put volodymyr zelensky in a context that will explain where he and the country are going. there is a little bit of a simplification, ukraine's foreign-policy orientation over the past 30 years. in two options, the concept where ukraine is in between russia on the one side, the eu and the united states on the other.
and the alternative to that has been a pro-western orientation and obviously we saw that. volodymyr zelensky's background would put him in between those two alternatives. you can argue that as a would be leader and as the leader he has taken sums steps in the middle of those possibilities. it is in the western
orientation side, three conceptions in his brief period on public stage. one on relations with russia and the other on joining nato. which could be seen as something positive from the standpoint of the kremlin. those two referenda were not considered by ukrainian political society and volodymyr zelensky, the comedian, the businessman whose success was based substantially on the ability to feel his relevance as a comedian, you've got to read your audience. as a politician, he saw that reaction, and it is important to recognize before they faded, there was nothing out of
moscow. this is interesting. those were two things he did. the third is more recent and more important. the war in the east, largely been a hardening separation between the russian occupied territories and the rest of ukraine. on the ukrainian side this was the result of the activity of people associated with a tougher line with russia. it was based, quite active in hardening the contacts across the line of contact three swings ago in 2017.
there was talk in the diplomatic gyrations for over a year about somehow improving access across the line of contact. and he did not want to go there. john herbst -- volodymyr zelensky already has. i'm open to the border crossing and 0 reaction from the kremlin. also you have two important facts that to this day vladimir putin has not congratulated volodymyr zelensky on his victory and were important and that vladimir putin says the provocation when he was president-elect with the passport game, the same game the kremlin has played in all the conflicts.
so volodymyr zelensky has extended a hand and got nothing back so volodymyr zelensky is the guy who learns from his experience. last point here, which is off the specific theme which is this. some people, more than some people were concerned as volodymyr zelensky as a candidate, to the presidency that would be vladimir putin passing. versus the night. volodymyr zelensky showed that he was not going to be an easy guy for vladimir putin to manage because volodymyr zelensky put vladimir putin on his rear end, take the passport. we have no control over your
leadership. he has those colorful expressions going back to catching him in the outhouses, referring to stephen piper, vladimir putin is silent. volodymyr zelensky had won that battle because that is volodymyr zelensky's strength, a ukraine class comic but that is unfair. he is not going to be so easy for the kremlin to manage. let me make one more point, this caught my attention big time, two weeks ago, ukraine seized the russian tanker in the attack on ukrainian ships, that was a gutsy move but not
stupid. he kept the tanker and release the sailors. i think the kremlin doesn't know what to make of this guy. with russians on various tv programs and in fact it has been pretty mild. what happens with the war, to address this i need to explain so you read what i say in context. i think ukraine has the upper hand. the reason is the following. this is a war of the kremlin against the ukrainian people.
i put it that way because the ukrainian people by a large majority understand moscow is conducting the war and they support their country's policy of resisting kremlin aggression, and numerous others said that. vladimir putin continues the fiction the russian army, not in ukraine, this war was not engendered by kremlin operatives. the president -- a couple thousand officers fighting a war right now. he hides russian casualties from the russian people. this is a major vulnerability for the kremlin. ukraine has the upper hand,
they have gotten adequate, i don't think sufficient but adequate support from the west, the sanctions they held for 5 years. the extension of sanctions moved from 6 months to a year. the kremlin open the champagne, in the council of europe, the extension of sanctions is a bigger deal. it is i from washington to be a bigger deal still, very much in play. that is the second point. this is a major problem for the kremlin. sanctions cost the russian economy of gdp, given the fact, and there is a third point. we breached, donald trump
breached the supply of lethal weapons in december 2017 and you will see more stuff heading ukraine's way. to use an old marxist phrase the correlation of forces is on the side of ukrainians. if you watch carefully kremlin activities and the moscow political conversation about the war over the past several years you see the following. and the immense negotiations are and are certified largely irrelevant process. when interesting ideas come from the russian side in those talks.
there were more than a few. there have been two periods of real negotiations of the conflict. they did it in 6 months. the first one in 2016 until june of that year. the cirque off new lynn channel. it is worth what was going on at that time. the kremlin is engaged in syria since asad's troubles emerged in 2011. in the fall of 2015 which is the first time since the seizure of crimea that ukraine was bumped off the first line
in russian media. thoughtful people in moscow recognized the correlation of forces in ukraine and you began to see some talk in the think tank and russia reflecting flexibility in these negotiations began. interesting things were set on both sides in those talks. why does it stop in june 2016. there were two reasons which one is of course vladimir putin was never really comfortable with this. more importantly, for the timing, the emergence of that time of donald trump as republican nominee, i can tell
you, the whole question of from and russia was discussed in hyperbolic terms but for my interaction with russian think tankers starting in fall of 2015 and the russian media it is clear they like trump. and no question the russian leadership is hoping of trump were to win not that they expected and in summer of 2016 they were hoping for a better deal on ukraine. and in minsk, nothing happens. trump wins. and i am going to give you one of my secrets for what is going on in moscow. that is to follow the writings of why things are interesting. i will digress on this. >> not too much. >> i will just tell you this.
he always wants to be within the bubble acceptable to the kremlin bubble but always towards the edge of that bubble pushing moscow in direction to what is good for russia and better relations between the west and russia. that is how we characterize it. he wrote an article basically saying russia can do what wants in ukraine which demonstrated what the russians thought they would get with trump. it didn't turn out that way. for thoughtful russians pondering us sanctions policy in the summit. he was not the panacea he hoped. in the end the second period
negotiations, by late fall in 2017, with russian think tanks. russia can live with ukraine and nato. other think tanks offered serious ideas about an international presence as a vehicle for ending the war. if you can establish that, the russians lose control of the border and soldiers and offices and weapons and such an elastic-12 months of international force to be in charge, you can have reelections. that can be a face saver. these negotiations, and
they would be able to lead to serious ukrainian concessions on foreign policy. hasn't happened. instead, the east voted forgot who is essentially endorsing a westward policy. zelensky is victory is a disaster the imperialists in moscow. smart people in moscow understand that. i think some of the smart people are in putin's inner circle but they don't include the great man himself. so at some point the criminal with our decision to get out. at some point that will be 12 to 40 months from now, or eight to ten years. i don't know. thank you. >> well, there's a difference. [laughing] thank you, john. you gave us a lot to chew on. let me sort of, as people think about what they would like to raise with you in terms of questions and comments, let me get the ball rolling by, you
kind of describing or at least commenting on how you depicted this emerging relationship between putin and zelensky. using to suggest that, as you said, putin hasn't congratulate zelensky. you also seem to suggest zelensky is made a couple of overtures that putin really hasn't responded to. i at least know they have had two conversations and have also heard through let's say well informed american sources that zelensky has at least indicated that he's prepared to take a different approach to these ossified minsk agreements, and actually look hard at the idea of holding elections in the
east. if he were to take that step, if you were to say, begin to actually implement the ukrainian requirements under minsk, what would be in your judgment the russian reaction there? or would they just pocket back in session and stand back? >> so far we've seen no russian movement under the minsk agreement. we've seen some, although not a great deal of ukrainian movement. the key point is the way the two sides interpret the most controversial provisions of the minsk two agreement, which relates not just to the elections but the influence, or lack of influence, that local authorities in those territories
would have over ukrainian national security policy. the kremlin insists that whoever wins those elections can veto ukraine's national security policy. and no one in ukraine, with exception of the meta-chuck crowd agrees with that, for that matter neither do germany or france or the united states. i think if the kremlin were willing to accept, and i can see this as a face have once mr. putin realizes he cannot get ukraine to change his foreign policy by the method of war in done false, that could be the face saver wary of real election, certain kind of autonomy. all that is controversial within ukraine, and he can't be sure how ukraine would ultimately resolve that through parliament but i think if zelensky were to push on this and you have a real peace and ukraine is able to pursue its relationship with the eu, this could be a deal, but
that's not for me to determine. that's for the ukrainians. >> jacob. >> wait for the mic. >> sorry. i'm editor at the national interest which is published by the center itself. in listening to your remarks my mind goes back to 1955, the year of the austrian state treaty wendy four hours -- when the four are signed an agreement to return sovereignty to austria and he became a neutral country. it seems to me improbable that there would be an agreement that
would leave or that would allow ukraine quickly to enter nato. with the austrian state treaty provide some kind of model within which germany, not just the united states, but also germany was involved in a negotiation that would return full sovereignty to ukraine? >> i understand the question. i think that are two relevant points here. your question is i would say written from the standpoint of great power, thinking in great power politics. the great powers decide things for these little people. and the greatest strategic thinker in ukraine, who i come
to all of you, his name -- he's about 80 years old. he's been a strategic advisor to basically every ukrainian president, a former guy from the rocket industry, the soviet rocket industry. he said to me more than once, the only way russia will leave us alone is if we are in nato. now i'm not telling you that the last word in ukraine, but i bun tell you that as a result of moscow's various aggressive steps over the past five years, majority of ukrainians now want nato membership. we should recognize the aspirations of people, which is not to say we always endorse them. that's the first point. the second point is, this war, moscow's aggression in ukraine,
was not about nato. it was not even about membership in the eu. it was about a trade agreement between ukraine and the eu. russian policy on ukraine's westward relations had always been clear and tail, i don't know, spring or early summer of 2013. they said no way can ukraine join nato. nothing strongly against ukraine joining the eu. then suddenly in the summer of 2013 you had russian trade embargo against ukraine because of this emerging agreement. so this is not just about nato. i'll leave the question at that. >> the austin state treaty did succeed in getting the russians out of austria, and have to say
i have never had a single austrian complained to me about you great powers doing deals above our heads. i think they are all delighted by how that all turned out. but george, you've got the floor. >> thank you. i'm vice president here at the center for the national interest. thank you, john, for your remarks, very enlightening and i think somewhat controversial and i want to ask you a question about, one point back in your argument, and that is russia basically has the lower hand as opposed to the upper hand when it comes to developments in ukraine's east and the war, and that for a variety of reasons russia is under a lot of
pressure to trying to find a face-saving way out. i can understand the argument as you presented it, but i think there's probably a strong school about this is just the opposite. that, in fact, what's happened in ukraine as expressed in zelensky's election and the victory is the ukrainian people saying enough. we want peace. we are tired of war here. that there's actually pressure within ukraine to find some way to regain control of the east, but to do so in a way that brings peace in a settlement -- and a settlement to all of this. that's one question. the other thing on the russian side, one of the things that has impressed me as a russian observer is the degree of political will that has existed in moscow and in russia towards ukraine.
ukraine is, i think, arguably the most important foreign policy matter, foreign policy interest that russia has, has been explicitly identified as russia's top priority for many years, going back into the yeltsin period. and the question of ukraine's geopolitical orientation as part of that nato membership is a critical issue in moscow. and it's one i think where the work itself demonstrates, russia regards this as a vital issue, something that they are willing to fight over. and i think their ability to endure economic hardship and their ability militarily to ask the late -- escalate as they see fit to ensure that the forces in donbass are not defeated is very impressive. so i wonder whether or not
there's a great deal of political will on russia's part to make sure that there's not a defeat in some way. so i would just like your reaction to that. >> i almost completely disagree with you. [laughing] i think ukraine's want peace but we see no indication they believe they should let russian dictate, or i shouldn't even say russia. i'll come back to that on your second point. they don't want to let the criminal dictate their sovereignty. and that's what this is all about. and so yes, if they can buy negotiations or recover donbass, in the war without giving moscow at deal over at foreign policy,
the creamy people go forward that's not where the criminal is. putin would tell the russian people what's going on in donbass but he's hiding it from there. he's hiding the casualties. he's hiding it because poll after poll says we don't want our soldiers fighting there. the political will in moscow is this wide on ukraine, company this way, each with two years of president putin. and there are people in the elite who understand this is a disaster for russia, and it's part of a whole complex of policies which are a disaster for russia. andrew knows more about the russian economy than anyone in this tough and he can tell you that the economy is going nowhere. and sanctions early part of the reason, not the most important part. but the point is he's growing
state crony capitalist corrupt control of the economy is keeping a very, very talented people in for all, and ukraine is part of that. ukraine is part of that. if you're right, if you write an russia stays and hold onto ukraine and a putin clone follows him, whatever, whenever he decides to leave, russia is doomed to become a fourth rate economy and a third rate power. not in the year, not in ten years but in 25 25 or 30 and it will become china's little pal, which is already developing. >> john, you're right that anders is a great deal about russia, but we have another cut industry who also knows a great deal about russia. his name is dimitri simes and he now has the floor.
microphone. >> first of all thank you very much for accepting our invitation. and thank you for what i consider truly to be a great presentation and are a lot of things you said that i entirely agree with. if i disagree with you somewhere on the russian position, i will say without any sense of setback because i don't know what the russian position is. because it's very clear that we know what they are not prepared to allow. it's not very clear what they really want. if they want to recognize -- as an independent republic, donbass could do it. you could say well, there would be new sanctions. i don't think unreasonable because they are not prepared to pay for it the things you describe the russian opinion on that conflict quite eloquently. there was an element of pride. it's now not as strong as
before, but russia is going through a period of economic hardship and their willingness to pay for donbass, how to put it, is amenable at best. they also probably have enough military power to go further to take over the whole donbass in minsk regions. my opinion this is not even being discussed. regarding zelensky, i met zelensky apparently in the host of the first channel in moscow. i was not aware that i was meeting future ukrainian president. a couple of years ago. but believe it or not, he was an increment, helping them with one of their comedian shows. so i talked to several people who really knew him, and their description of him was exactly like yours. that he would not have the same
sense of how to put it, intense ukrainian nationalism, which you would see in the case of poroshenko and some others. but there was no question in the mind that while he spoke perfect russian, that not only he was ukrainian, but he was a ukrainian who was interest in western orientation. so people who knew zelensky in moscow, my impression is they did not have expectation that he would become like mr. medvedchuk can someone who represents clearly the east of ukraine and has a very strong and he's very proud of that very strong russian official connection. where the problem is and where i don't know whether we agree or disagree is what to do with the situation. i think he said quite correctly that most ukraine is today want to be in nato, and i agree that
the united states could not take a position that russia would have veto power. but for me when you say that somebody should not have veto power, for this to be of great importance you want to complete the sentence and to say, and nato wants to invite ukraine. ukraine is in track of joining nato and accordingly there's something the russian should not be allowed. remember somebody had a problem on russian tv saying that he did not think that nato was quite ready for ukraine, talking about you, and that's one reason you were so popular on those shows. because while you were not pulling your punches and you are openly talking about russian aggression and about putin's responsibility, always honest.
if nato is not quite ready for ukraine, and instead why we would not allow newly elected authorities even as they were to democratically elected to have a veto power over the whole ukrainian nation security policy. but i think it would take nothing or very little away from ukrainian practical ability to make national security decisions, but would still provide russia with some assurances that ukraine would not be in nato anytime soon. >> i certainly don't rule out that possibility. this is an evolving situation and the ukrainians themselves will make that decision. certainly there will be an
american role in all of this, and that's hard to predict how this will play out, but what you describe assortment of possibility and not necessarily a terrible possibility. >> john, thank you very much for your presentation. this is very informative and a think i may not be the only one who detected an element of your experience in jerusalem in the subtlety of your analysis. because the more i look at middle east issues and ukrainian russian issues, i think you can learn from the two. i'd like to shift the focus a little bit to a third country and its relations with ukraine, namely our own. i mean, i carry no water for mr. zelensky. i was as astonished as any foreign observer as his achievement, but the fact is he has achieved three times
democratic legitimacy, and both front of the present election and in the parliamentary election. he's done something we americans claim is important. he has achieved true electoral legitimacy. when is he going to get an invitation to come to washington? if poroshenko had have been reelected he would it have had an oval office visit by now. he probably would've addressed a joint session of congress by now, maybe. what is the problem here in washington in dealing with somebody who, whatever else he may or may not be, and he think you describe just drinks and his limitations correctly in the complexity of ukrainian position, what is our problem with zelensky as a new, legitimate force in the history of post-soviet ukraine? >> two short remarks. first, this is a case where having a camera means it will be
a lot less interesting. the second is, is you've got statements coming out of both ukraine white house atoll bso and sometime in the next four, six weeks. i think that's true. that's all i can say. >> thank you. i know you wanted to keep the focus on elites and leadership. your point about the demand for change in ukraine is fascinating. in 2011 the polling data in russia showed that two-thirds of the people wanted either total or massive change in the legislature. it was predicted at they didn't get it there would be real problems and there were protests
on a pretty wide scale. the public opinion dated inrush of the jeweler to, especially dimitri again with the surveys, it's showing russians are no longer so supportive of the aggression foreign policy. right after zelensky was elected we saw some indication russian commentators were mentioning how come ukrainians can get change, we can't? has that kept up and do you have any sense of whether that's becoming a factor in these elite discussions? >> it's usually ukrainians who say this, not russians, but ukraine is not russia. i'm not sure that the data that you referred to suggests we're going to see ukraine type developments in russia any type soon. that's the first point. but the second is, rush is not also russia the way some spokesman claim it to be. what i mean is this.
you often hear in discussions a special russia-ukraine about the building of the russian people to suffer endlessly and do what's her masters want. and that's true until suddenly it isn't. and so there's a great history in russia, rebellions. i've been watching what's been happening in russia. this thing in moscow, these constant demonstrations going on now for three weeks, the demonstrations read which was successful about the journalist and about the cathedral, all very interesting. whether that means were on the verge of some major shift in russian politics, i hesitate to make that prediction. i'll just say watch it closely. >> you are just going to tantalize us. [laughing]
>> john, i think you were right to point to the shifting russian attitudes towards the eu in 2013-2014 as being key, but my concern is that eu attitudes have continued to shift towards ukraine. and there is what i would say is a growing sense of ukraine fatigue because of the lack of reforms under the previous government. so i wish you would speak a bit too mr. zelensky's likelihood of engaging seriously with the oligarchs and achieving some level of reform in ukraine. because i think that's to whether ukraine can continue to advance to the west. you pointed to as being post-soviet, that doesn't necessarily mean he's eu either. >> i have to say that's a great question and if i'm not mistaken, i don't think i heard the word corruption mentioned by
you in your presentation. >> i said he ran on anticorruption. >> okay. how is he doing that? >> first, i think your description of ukraine fatigue in europe is overstated. we start from a different point of view, but i'll answer your question. zelensky has talked a very good talk on reform issues overall, including corruption. his appointments have largely been very good thus far. the appointments are his economic advisor, a clear reformer. the guy who is now in charge of the behemoth defense industry company, state company, is -- who did major reform work as minister of economy in the early poroshenko years.
another great source of corruption in ukraine is customs. the new head of customs as a former deputy minister was a serious, serious reformer. the guys whose name is a likely general, also reformer. the one appointment which has raised eyebrows in at less than friendly way is his chief of staff, a lawyer. used when a lawyer for zelensky, the comedian businessman but also a lawyer for ukraine's third richest man. president zelensky is taken some knocks on his appointment from friends in the west and you said i am the president, i'm making policy. he's a very competent guy who's helpless is to me. my policy is going to be reform policies. he won as aubrey said a decent
majority and their other reform parties. so he owns the reform issue and he will have to produce. will he? i mean, we don't know. the early indications in terms of personnel are good. we know that, i have not gone down his parliamentary list with the microscope, but what i hear from people who know more about this than me, there's an excellent names on that list but there are also some less than excellent names on that list. it's also true if the president of the country who has 73% popularity rating wants evil dose less than positive names to vote the right way, presumably he has a certain amount of influence. last point, i know, i should also mention it looks like the acting minister of finance is think on, and she's excellent. i've talked to all these folks. i've known them for years. they all believe that president
zelensky is giving them the opportunity to do with the want to do, which is to make major changes, otherwise it would not accept the post. we will have to wait and see. we will have a better idea in six or 12 months but the early signs are not bad. >> you mention that zelensky had not paid a lot of attention to political and economic issues i'm wondering if there's a a se of what he will do. this is a very poor country. i was an official election observer for this last parliamentary election and talked to many regular ukraine's as occurred in one of the number one complaint was their sons, their daughters, other relatives had to go abroad to work here i will say asking about zelensky, people tend to broadly fall into two camps on the whole almond one was a did know what is going to do if he said he was a
patriot and they felt very good about it. the other people didn't know what he was going to do but they were resigned and felt like he was going to end up like every other, would be reformer. i was wondering if you have a sense of what is going to do about some of the other issues that face ukraine and making it much more prosperous were also giving security a lot more strength. >> i think it's safe to say that certainly a plurality of ukrainians think that they're in a football situation. in other words, they want to feigned disappointment because that's what happened in the case of poroshenko. but i am cautiously optimistic about zelensky and reform. my read is that he means it. that explains his appointment and what he told the people disappointed. and i think there may be --
although he may be a competent person, whether he can be a successful print is another order of questions. i believe he's in a position to do it. i think we're going to see some good things but again, we will know in eight or ten months. if we see very little change, and his current 70% popularity rating will be 50 year from now, it will be 37, it doesn't go in the right direction. >> john, thank you for a very interesting presentation. i want to follow up on the issues and your exchange with fran. i very much agree with you that a large number of the personal appointment that i've seen at least the ones i know about are very encouraging. i'd have to say i just saw i very worrisome article last night in the kiev post about judicial reform.
i'll just read the headline. zelensky appoint tainted officials who will receive judges reform. this is an article about the commission that is put together to supervise this process, and the gist of the article is there some reform minded people but an awful lot of people who are corrupt, a lot of people with very unfortunate political connections and so on. there are few names here i recognize, most i don't anything about so i can't judge whether this is overstated or not. but i'm wondering whether you heard anything from your friends and contacts in ukraine about the judicial reform issue in particular? >> i have not seen this article. i will have to get a look at it but i can say i've had many conversations specific on that. point effect, this is really important. as president of ukraine, zelensky has special authority in the justice system, both on the courts and on the generals office. so there is, in fact, to be
direct. i need to look into this is what i'm saying. >> i saw someone with her hand up. right here. >> mark david villa, trade advisor. ambassador herbst, i raise this issue a few months ago at the morgan williams group before the election. what effect has the maneuvering between russia and ukraine has or had on russian belarusian relations, both on the lukashenko putin level and in the street, if that's applicable, and what is of the future of belarus sovereignty? >> looking through the prism of what's going on in ukraine today. >> ukraine has been a complicating factor in the minsk moscow relationship because he understands it's in his interest that ukraine not knuckle under to the kremlin.
and, therefore, lukashenko has not been as receptive to kremlin ideas such as, for example, facing more troops special along ukraine's northern border with belarus to make ukraine's defense defense circumstances were difficult. there's also been what i would call the indirect impact, which is of this. i mean, for sure since the rose revolution in november of 2003 and then the orange revolution in the fall of 2004, putin has been really, really focus on the notion of these revolutions from below. and so in the very occasional periods in belarus where there are domestic disturbances, moscow watches carefully and lukashenko understands that. lukashenko before putin truly emerged as an authoritarian was
correctly called the last dictator in europe. so he had his own reasons wanting to repress civil society. but he also wants a better relationship with the west for whatever economic advantage and regime legitimacy event they come from it, but also to give them something to use to again enable them not to knuckle under to the kremlin. so the kremlin concern about colored revolutions which come first and foremost from ukraine becomes a factor encouraging lukashenko to be more authoritarian in dealing with his own domestic problems. >> interesting also we -- sorry. it's interesting also that we have reimpose some sanctions on the senior leadership in belarus in the last few months,
considering again there may be an opportunity to guide them to the west. >> i agree. >> thank you very much, and i'm delighted to see two such graduates sitting by at the top of the table. an excellent presentation. john, could you elaborate a little bit on your remarks about russian casualties and putin's desire to keep this fact from the russian people. what is the rough number of russians who have been killed in ukraine? how many are there now? this is something that happens on a daily basis, in which case how do the russian people find out about these casualties if
they are so sensitive? >> i don't have good numbers on the number of russian casualties. certainly it's in the hundreds. beyond that i would not say anything. i just don't know. we know that they are called swiss cargo something. the special cargo, bringing for maine's home to russia. we know they are buried in secret. we know that in the summer of 2014, one of the most popular organization in russia was the mothers of russian soldiers. because some of those mothers were talking about russian soldiers die in donbass. they were made an illegal organization. they were outlawed. we know that family members who talk about their sons or brothers or whatever it is dying, as on duty soldiers in ukraine. they are threatened. we know the reporters who have written about this have faced unpleasant circumstances.
so it's real. it's real. we also know that, first of all, the fighting in donbass has not gone away. there are scores of fire incidents every day. the our ukrainian casualties most weeks, and certainly every month there are several more ukrainian deaths including recently. we don't have good information on deaths on the other side for reasons that are obvious, for what i'm saying. but it is true that there'd been no major offenses. the last major offensive was when the kremlin sees baltimore right after 2015. we know that offenses will be a fence at the airport in the fall of 2014 were spearheaded by -- [inaudible] we also know largely the order of battle, that's the wrong phrase. the way the russians have done things more recently, last several years, is they are all
over the place but they are generally speaking not russian soldiers right up to the point likely to get incoming. so then try to minimize casualties that way. >> so john, to carry on your last statement, we also know that you done a terrific job today, speaking to this group. the only thing i regret is we really didn't get the chance to spend more time talking about u.s. policy toward ukraine. of course our subject was really ukraine and russia, so that means we need to invite you back. maybe i should happen after the next six to eight weeks when the potential meeting between these two television personalities, ukrainian and american, have opportunity to meet and see where that relationship is headed. >> rick, thank you. i'd be happy to do that. but in case none of you have
seen zelensky's program, seek it. it's on netflix. it's at least solid. i seem to other episodes. some people think it's brilliant. it is definitely worth watching, and will entertain you. >> thanks, john. please join me in giving you a round of applause. [applause] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations]
d.c. and around the country so you can make up your own mind. created by cable in 1979, c-span is brought to you by your local cable or satellite provider. c-span, your unfiltered view of government. >> the heritage foundation in washington, d.c. hosted a series of panel discussions on japan-south korea trade relations. this portion of the event included keynote remarks by marc knapper, the deputy assistant secretary of state for korea and japan. this is 90 minutes. >> good afternoon. welcome to the heritage foundation. we understand the construction noise was should be stopping since awfully it's not too disac