tv After Words Marie Yovanovitch Lessons from the Edge CSPAN April 15, 2022 9:03pm-10:03pm EDT
war on ukraine. interviewed by new york staff writer. afterwords is a weekly interview program host interviewing authors on their latest work. >> i am joined today by the ambassador in the book is lessons from the edge. not only here between two covers that in many because ambassador clearly theref were times with people who want their name and picture on everything they are reluctant is a public figure
but that is the story of a public servant. so let's start with that. this is aoi good conversation writing a memoir or to put yourself at the center of attention. you for having me here today. it was a challenge to write the book quite frankly. i am an introvert by nature and i don't like being the center of attention. so iec thought long and hard if i really wanted to write a book but i received many letters of support. and people asked me about my life and the challenges that i face and they wanted to know more so i thought to the memoir i can share with people
why diplomacy is so important to national security interest as a tool. host: it's interesting you say that because with the more interesting aspects of your book there is a case that the portrait of what it means for the world today it's complicated and messy and then you saw the unraveling in real time and now with the consequences that you see with the resurgence of a new era and plutocracy and this is not been front and center in the american political conversation.
and having to sit with that biography so american diplomacy so as people fear we are in failure. >> everybody thinks they can do it.ht [laughter] and we can figure this out together. that it is more complicated than that and important to faunderstand the culture and the language in so many different factors. yes that is doable over time. and right now, actually we are witnessing important diplomacy on steroids with president
biden and secretary blank ends efforts to keepi the coalition together it is remarkable and one of the reasons that we are a corrupt set of democracies that we don't have the will or the skill to come together and that shows the importance diplomacy. >> let's talk about putin and his view that we were no better than a corrupt country who would essentially let him establish his influence in his part of the world and ukraine. we would not be having this conversation today if you have not been my in the middle of
the scandal that helped to shape putin's attitude toward america. and with the trump administration how much i did or did not with the word ukraine? and on the one hand the former president who is an admirer vladimir putin of long-standing nunnally column a strong leaderr or a great leader but. >> but at the same time he also have defenders vladimir putin did not bomb when trump was in office. so we have some perspective so let's walk through because your book tells the story what was the actual no bs trump
policy toward ukraine? i know there is a trump administration policy than a president trump policy is that how it was to you? >>mp . >> it's confusing because the trump administration the official policy was actually pretty strong. it was a continuation of the obama policy that was very good to help ukraine move forward to become the partner that would be best for the united states. and then to improve democracy and then security of course. we had a strong and robust relationship with ukraine particularly after 2014 and the revelation dignity and action in return when they ttgrabbed crimea illegally.
>> so the trump administration continued that strong policy and in one way he strengthened itom that there had been some discussion under the obama administration with the entity missiles to ukraine and the obama administration declined to do that but in 2017 the pressure in the presidency he did agree and then famously he held them hostage in the infamous perfect form call where he asked for a favor in exchange. >> backup a little bit because you must've beennd aware of that
back-and-forth and then against even ultimately the secretary of state to view that as aeschylus tory. but clearly putin's number at that point in time. so the ukrainians are looking very anxiously at trump not that they thought the trump demonstration had good policy that they were panicked at the time your shingle is in charge and they want to have a good relationship with russia. andd that putin is even better than her own american leader there's a lot of conversation when trump first comes to office to even lift the sanctions on ukraine i'm sorry on russia because of that
illegal annexation of crime. my desk amy is a how real was that threat and tell us about how anxious the ukrainians were. >> they were rather nervous given everything you just outlined in the comments he had made with regard to crimea and it was really russian. so we were worried about the policy. it is chaos the matter how well prepared drinking from the fire hose everything comes even once we often don't has key people in place that this is true on steroids for the trump administration with largely those who had not been in government or in government recently.
so there was a lot of chaos. >> and went on you had a meeting with donald trump there was a fascinating story i didn't know that until he read your book and it could be the prologue unfortunately in this moment we are having with the war because what did you hear directly from the mouth of the president of the united states in that meeting quick. >> donald trump turned to his national security advisor hr mcmaster at the time there was a discussion about requesting javelins and other military assistance in the donbas and trump looks at hr mcmaster national security advisor in says we have troops there. meaning in the east.
mcmaster everybody was absolutely deadpan expressing surprise and said we have troops in the far west on the polish border where we are training. so for me it was one of those moments because i thought how is it the president of the united states he is the tcommander-in-chief how is it he doesn't know where his troops are or does he not know that the adversary on the other side is russia? so it was really remarkable because this is the man but on the most important sensitive issues.. >> it must be mind blowing for you living day and night the president of a country that's
literally fighting and reminds me of the anecdote of the three baltic countries for president trump and then they realize that talking aboutn world war i. but you are in the meeting that there is an echo of the scandal because talking about the entire country of ukraine and it is a corrupt country. the most corrupt country and that he push back and for the presidents allegation is that he heard that from a friend.
>> and he did a good job to push back but one of the things that i find to be unfair is that talk about ukrainian corruption that in 2014 when ukrainians were angry that the pro- russia president had turned his back on the association with europe which ukrainians wanted they wanted the economic benefits ofnd that. so they were angry and students are coming out and then eventually they pushed him out of the country but it was the revolution of dignity and that means rule of law and want to be treated with dignity to be treated the same way as theig president is treated under the law.
whether the oligarch or small business owner it should people for everybody and that was the essence of the people's revolt so the incoming administration in the beginning they were quite good and fighting corruption because they had no other choice.. and it was a very open discussion with the initiativesco taking place other countries and the international financial institutions for all helping ukrainians in the school because they thought it was good for the' but also good for us because that would be a better partner in ukraine. that's why we talk about ukrainian corruption because ukrainian people want us to put an end to corruption. >> yet amazingly enough you have trump's campaign chairman who was pollyanna for it who
was literally the political person behind the russian leader who was forced out in that revolution and that must have given you a lot of pause and would have been incredible as ambassadors. >> i actually arrived after a metaphoric had to resign so fortunately i did not have to confront that issue directly. >> but then that is the context for what happens next. >> so the reason we are here. your memoir is not what happened in the prologue meeting in the spring of 2017 but unbeknownst the following summer in the summer of 2018 and then explored in your world and that is a story although it has to go backwards because there is the
impeachment that brings it all to the public view in the file 2019 and it causes you crisis to clarify and scandal. and so i feel that you write the story as a series of shocking but clarifying moments. so tell us with some of those moments were as they unfolded for you. this is just a crazy rumor. >> there are a number of moments. nobody sat me down ibe to say ts is what is happening. they all had little piece of it of course rudy giuliani was not sharing with me. so there were these things
people were coming to me did you know that he establish this relationship did you know this or that? and never go back and fyi this is what i heard today. don't worry because i was calling my part of washington. but this was all happening around president trump but not byei a civil servant officers people that he called the deep state. but they had a deeper condition and the planning and
how to get their time joe biden and there was asserts one —- a sense that maybe i would not be helpful in that effort if i saw things going on. >> but you knew about some of these issues. and if you have sean hannity talking about and the president son, don junior and it is a small community here in washington and these have been here foror many years. but it really did not breakthrough but there are the's parallel universes and washington so that conspiracy theory that doesn't menecessarily breakthrough. but now all of a sudden.
>> but that was crazy so i thought my problem is ukraine but once the articles came out it wasas all over fox news the president of the united states himself retreated one of the stories d later on donald trump junior tweeted something to that effect and then once it hits the hill i started to realize that my problem was in washington so i was looking for people to help there was a congressional delegation in town but with all of the ukrainians that is not where my problem was. >> and that is very interesting in that current moment off crisis because there seems to be this bipartisan
support and this partisanship that exists and that is likely to resurface. but i not because we have had a long-running running dependent since 1990 wind and were starting to see that sour because this is an important moment for ukraine but it's also an important moment for us we need to pass the test vladimir putin does have an of session with ukraine but also to undermine theed international order over the last 75 years before world war ii. >> but the big thing that we learned from the impeachment is to get to the end of the story first but every single republican and member e of congress every single one that
have become critics every single one of them did not vote to have anything wrong with president trump holding military aid and hold them hostage. >> so that partisanship. >> yes. you are absolutely right but i like to think about that less about showing support for ukraine and more about oprotecting the president. >> in a team sport aspect. host: okay. so it is amazing. march 2019 you have this washingtonru problem and you go to wine trumps ambassadors he gave $1 million at a hotel.
and with foreign service officers like you and then those who don't have any experience and obviously leader emerges as a public figure. >> and a very interesting piece of advice you heard from your superiors. what did he tell you to do? >> another president and if you don't but you know what he is like you need to tweet out that you love the president and make it strong and my advice is to go big or go home. i thought about that is a foreign service officer and we are nonpartisan. that doesn't mean you don't get to have your own private and personal belief. but we work for the government and we work fore the president but we are nonpartisan for the president as a political
appointee from a presidents party. that is important for the continuity that we are a democracy and people elect a president and the president needs to feel confident. after all of the debate. but the state department and every other agency to implement that policy. that's important. and to mentioned the deep state and to undermine and so forth. that's very far fromm the truth and certainly about the state department. i felt that to put out a tweet
like cap a wonderware i lost it but it would just feel wrong. >> but not as a personal agent of theha national interest. and even in writing one of your colleagues you are surprised to talk about the crisis as a learning experience with the number three at the state department was a career officer in yet he seemed to embracing the notion that you should flatter the president and speak of your loyalty. >> that's how i understood as a loyalty pledge. i'm not sure that's not what a he was thinking when he recommended that. and wondering if the state department could release a statement supportive me because i can see that but i
can see if pompeii himself did not come to my defense then i would have to leave because once you have the president in the presidents family putting stuff out like that, then ukrainians would be understandable if they wondered if i was representing them and their policies. they were talk about on monday and in the end there was no support but and to do what they wanted and again it was a question of why is she doing that? so because u presidential elections were coming up and the importance of democracy and our institutions and so forth and then i said i'm
working to implement the presidents policies. >> he never called you? throughout the whole ordeal? >> you h and others appeal to him and you never did and in fact listening to a very good interview from my friend at npr playing her favorite snippet that rips her head off and all the time to the department. there is absolutely nothing wrong with it to embrace every single one of the principles with integrity and your colleagues and things like that that manages to violate every single one. >> but that is interesting part of the story that the
institution that you serve like mogadishu or somalia or occurred to stand or russia - - or occurred to stand but that is under assault and unwittingly not just one that explains your own career but and i am curious for the later accounts fire john bolton and the testimony impeachment shows that pompeo was holding off donald trump for quite some time in terms of firing me bed in the end both bolton and pompeo caved. so that is t an interesting
question so in the end a day his enablers versus a story that the president has enormous power it was your life . >> i think that's a good question and a question that everybody who works in government has to ask themselves at some point because he will not love every policy of the administration. and how will you deal with that? dom not that anybody was pushing.
and then try to stay out of the mainstream. and everyone has to find their own path to that. and then to do some good things as well and with the trump administration. >> we can talk about it's very interesting because it has taken on a different light. and then tragically and then that is an interesting set of
questions. and what the ukraine scandal had to do with enabling the war in the first place. but this is an incredible trauma you already have so the leadership that you never hear from mike pompeo and in head of the foreign service and say that you did s nothing wrong. but then when he got on the next plane to washington. and then in moscow under very tough situations.
but he was the one that was handed that assignment of firing me officially. and was so angry and sometimes and i am angry it is expressed through all these tears and i think it was probably a pretty unpleasant conversation for him. it was for?? me that i haven't done anything wrong. are you doingng this? but they said they wanted to protect me. and protect me be fired by tree and mind you even at that moment that they were protecting themselves and a masters have the exalted
title. and that we are not very senior in the administration and if donald trump had fired me by tweet and everybody would have wondered what was going on. that was diplomatic malpractice anyway. and then it would have called attention but i was struck in reading the account ofn that meeting and in general that you describe yourself and it seems to me that there is a gender element and it took you a while to fight your way back buty ever done something wrong? will they ruin me? and i think explaining to
peoplele the fear that you felt that moment are forces that you don't understand are out to get you. that is the part we may understand the former soviet union or in russia but the need that trump used fear to take over the republican party. >> speaking about myself you described it very well. because in my world to pull the ambassador out of post there was talk i was correct i was very close to the president. in a normal world there would be an investigation with charges being brought. and i wonder and we know the
president can be quite petty sometime i wonder if they way take away my pension because i was looking at retiring. i wondered if i would get a job anywhere. you had to nothing wrong but on the other hand and with that self-doubt, maybe i'm not understanding this all properly. but then fast-forward in september and that is when i i saw thehen transcript that she would go through some things andue i thought what more could there be he's already pulled me out? and around that time but the inspector general of the state department was marching out to the committees starting this
impeachment inquiry and that was all about me. >> . >> and everybody has heard this but all of a sudden we are getting to the boiling point when the inspector general decides he needs to share with the committee. if you actually look at the files they are laughable because i wasn't sure and now there is this moment where trump is speaking at the wan assembly in a press conference with the newly elected president zelensky and and now he's become this world famous figure and encourage and was
not standing up to donald trump that he was so uncomfortable some people describe it as a hostage video it was obvious he was stuck up by the president and tried not to alienate what ukraine needed and he goes along with trump and also said she's bad nambassador did you get any clarification on ukraine about that quick. >> all i got was we would be happy to have you back. but i think what was going on ukraine is a smaller country at war with russia because it had stolen crania and invaded and although not making
headlines in the united states every week some ukrainian soldiers or civilians would die. a hot war even before 2022 these are the most staunch partner across the board whether economic assistance and security assistance. so in that september meeting it was to solidify that relationship and get the security assistance that and that is the context for zelensky and then one year ago a canadian who had not even announced for president now with the most powerful man in the world and looking at what
zelensky did catering to trump and to look at the western allies and those who did exactly the same thing and people in the united states also cater. and perhaps not so surprising. >> in this man's presidency literally began and you left your post the day of the inaugurationnc the entire beginning of the presidency is overshadowed by this effort of donald trump to blackmail him and now the presidency is years laterveral in the biggest land war in europe since world war ii. that i had will be something. so let's talk what it's like
to be a witness in the impeachment of the president of the united states. but here you are in the limelight. it's all about you.t' it will make history a lot of ways but the first time the president live tweeted his own impeachment by intimidating a witness. what was that like? when he says yovanovitch is a disaster. mike running the motor pool at the us embassy nobody shoe had personally we went somalia. [laughter] what is that like? >> it was a complete surprise obviously. i had no idea what was coming. when he first announced he
would do this and then there was the anticipation. what will he say? what could he say? than the actual tweet itself was ridiculous. absolutely ridiculous. so trying to compose my faith when i look at the video played that night, all of my emotions were there for everybody even a little bit of contempt because my eyes rolled. i cannot believe the president of the united states was attacking me. but it felt even in the moment it was more about him. more about him and that the sorts of things i was saying how i was treated was absolutely true because it
continued. i think he demeaned himself by doing that. and the other thing and also the republican party. and the strategy but if he wanted to attack me then that became very hard at that point and the questions were focused on with the entire procedure but also the president of the united states has a right to pull ambassadors for any reason at anyma time which is absolutely true. but why did he have to maligned me? that was tough. >>us to go back and read an
account of that dayng in my own reaction with the republican strategy. and the republican ranking member of the committee who has now quick congress to work for donald trump said this is and irrelevant story. there should be a subcommittee. and then to talk about what happened to you. >> it seems that the key to unraveling the scandal and then that try to understand there was a problem that something not right was going on between trump and that i think many people felt that actuallyhe your firing was the moment at which the iceberg burst into view with the
story. >> you we didn't know the other elements at the time. >> no. is happening around. >> in this conversation and then you can be dignified but it is a very powerful read one of the things in the book and in your testimony to call it on cynical outreach about what nohappened to american democracy and our system of government. this is not how things are supposed to work it is talking on —- shocking that he would fire and ambassador whono did nothing wrong. are you still able to be on cynical? does it look as strong to you after all of this? >> as we know this was only
the first impeachment or the classic. [laughter] so not to make light of the very serious issue but he was not held accountable. and i think he was emboldened thinking he could do whatever he wanted and now fast-forward through 2020 and the election and the campaign and the elections that he lost that he refused to concede and it looks to me with all the things coming out now that there really was a conspiracy to hold onto power. with the second impeachment inquiry and once again the president was not held accountable. there are many other things as you know including targeting
journalists and minorities in various other things and classic actions that with thoses divisions in society but with that january 6 insurrection something it never thought i would see in the united states at that that was a terrible moment for many people but what we need to takent from that is not that i hate government i don't want to know anything about this but what we need to do is work to fix reform and strengthen the institution and bring people with integrity to run
for office and hold those high level positions and after finding out not and federal government but local estate as well. and that's what we need to be doing and to be purposeful and optimistic optimism is a force multiplier. >> it made the job of the american ambassador or diplomat a lot harder. can you imagining on —- imagine doing that today with elections and democracy quick. >> the short answer is yes i can working on freedom of the press or freedom of assembly, it's not because we are perfect because we know how importantwn that is. and we hope you will too.
the way to deliver a message is important and we need to be listening as much as we are and sharing our official government point of view. and i will tell you that after january 6 so many people reached out to me. they were shocked and afraid and wondered what was happening in the united states but also afraid for their own country at least those that do still look to the united states as an example and as a leader. so we need to get our own house in order to continue to fully inhabit the role.
>> and in the voelker testimony ain special envoy dealing with ukraine conflict obviously those negotiations were not going anywhere. and then trying and failing to be inserted into the middle of this with giuliani and to engage. especially with john bolton who says don't do that. that's not a good idea. because he is trying to get a good outcome for the ukrainian government. and basically realizes that actually they are holding up a meeting in order to get investigations. and there is a testimony talked about having a conversation with us your advisor to president zelensky
and he is telling him you cannot go after your opponents are you cannot prosecute then addictive and the ukrainian officials says wait. this is the undercutting got punch of the moment because that ise exactly what american officials are trying to do to encourage andch other countries and with those closing remarks and that moment where we are better than those that we seek. >> we always have to perfect on —- perfect our democracy and not that we will give up but it isoe to double down and work very hard. it doesn't mean you have to run for office that you could
be in the pta working with thee teachers to do great things with the kids or a garden plot to beautify the city and with that civic mindedness is what builds america and it creates partnerships with people who have different political views. that you are building a basis and a friendship and trust to get us to the next step in terms of the fabric of society. host: listening to youou in this comes through in the book with this power of civic institutions despite the challenges to change the trajectory of your life. i am reminded that you were one of the many witnesses who
had a background with immigrant families and we have not talked about your own family story. essentially having parents who saw firsthand to see the nazi and soviet aggression. dont you think that factored? you had fiona hill, your on family story, in a way these immigrants who believe more in america than those who have arguably benefited? >> may be. i know for myself and you have to think aboutut what that means and we want to live in the united states and i wanted to identify myself. and my parents came here with nothing and were always grateful to the united states and they want to do a how one —- they want to do all here
and to give back and that is a huge influence on me. >> so g you write about another part of the book with what happened to american democracy and what about the democracy you saw struggling to emerge? you were in russia, a couple times in your career but you were there in 1983 in boris yeltsin not standing on n the tank noble steering down the two from 1991. what later generations of moscow correspondence would refer to as a bad to one —- to in 1991 but by turning the tanks on himself he was blowing the whistle to democracy and then there
through the election of 1996 and that was a corrupt bargain to purchase that election to be justified by many people here in washington as a way to avoid a return. was that an original sin russian democracy? is at the moment when putin became inevitable? >> i don't know is the short answer and i will just say that the intelligence services had always wanted more power and that's for he comes from. and there was a choice and he had a choice in 1999 there were a number of prime minister's who failed one way
or another but yelton managed to get that but i would like to adddd one thing. but there is plenty to criticize but the us did or did not do with regard to russia. but the first thing i say is we manage our foreign-policy based on the information that we have and the choices we think are in front of us as an imperfect process and we do the best we can. >> sometimes itd doesn't work out exactly the way you would have liked. but the second thing is that russians have agency as a country and leadership and the people. and then to from point of view. and all those countries and have no agency but they are the most important actors so
that's a great note to end on. >> let's talk about ukraine and the incredible agency. it is extraordinary. you saw there was a war while you were there but nothing like the war or the hell that has been unleashed upon ukraine. as you said by some of your interviews but somehow ultimately ukraine will prevail? >> because there may come a time when russia prevails militarily. and there will have to be a deal made. but i'm not sure that the ukrainian people actually i don't think ukrainian people will accept it. may be short-term but not long-term. and i do think there will be a war and civil disobedience.
and with our russian occupier. not want to be a russian soldier going into ukraine. i would not want to be a rushing getting into a vehicle thatat was just serviced by a ukrainian because i'm not sure what would happen. and ukrainian found ways to make that occupation so costly not only with diverted resources for development but in terms of the body count. >> we will leave it at that. it is an extraordinary history we are observing right now. thank you ambassador marie yovanovitch for sharing your own history with us and this book it is a gripping read and