Jeffrey Sachs: Why the West Hates Russia | Transcript

Professor Sachs argues that the US recklessly freelances military aid and lacks coherent strategy, while Russia feels increasingly threatened. This lack of diplomacy is a major factor behind the world's perilous situation.
Jeffrey Sachs: Why the West Hates Russia

Judge Andrew Napolitano and Professor Jeffrey Sachs discuss about the perilous state of diplomacy between the US and Russia.

Professor Sachs argues that the US recklessly freelances military aid and lacks coherent strategy, while Russia feels increasingly threatened. This lack of diplomacy is a major factor behind the world’s perilous situation.

Here are the key points:

• The US and Russia are not engaged in meaningful diplomacy.
• There is a lack of clear communication between the US and Russia, which is leading to misunderstandings and miscalculations.
• The US’s decision to allow Ukraine to use American weapons to attack Russia is seen by Russia as a direct threat.
• Russia feels increasingly threatened by NATO enlargement and US military activity near its borders.
• Professor Sachs believes that the US is deliberately trying to dismember Russia.
• The current situation is reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but with even weaker leadership.
• The risk of nuclear war is high.

Professor Sachs also criticizes the US’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He argues that the US is siding with Israel and blocking a two-state solution.

Streamed live on June 4, 2024

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ANDREW: Hi everyone, Judge Andrew Napolitano here for Judging Freedom. Today is Tuesday, June 4th, 2024. Professor Jeffrey Sachs joins us now. Professor Sachs, a pleasure, my dear friend. Thank you for taking the time to join us.

JEFFREY: Of course.

ANDREW: We have a lot to talk about with the Biden Administration authorizing the Ukrainians to use offensive American weaponry to attack sites inside Russia and the Biden Administration claiming that the Israelis have offered a peace plan for Gaza, which some of the Israeli government deny. But before we get to that, I want to talk to you about something that I know is close to you, and that is diplomacy. With all of this recrimination going on between Tony Blinken and Sergey Lavrov, are they still not speaking to each other? I mean, stated differently, is there still, as we speak 26-27 months into the war in Ukraine, no meaningful diplomacy between the United States and Russia?

JEFFREY: Of course, I can’t vouch for things that we don’t know about in public. But what we do know about in public is that there is no meaningful diplomacy that is made known to us. I believe that’s likely the real situation. In other words, I doubt that behind the scenes there is much more going on. I think we simply have an absence of diplomacy in our government. They don’t understand it. I do not believe that President Biden speaks with President Putin or has done so since early 2022. This is absolutely a grave political mistake. I don’t believe that there is active diplomacy between Secretary of State Blinken and Foreign Minister Lavrov. I think the situation is equally fraught in many other areas, including with China, where the exchange in public of finger-pointing and really harsh remarks is very, very dangerous. There have been some meetings but not satisfactory diplomacy. This is an administration that, in my view, acts irresponsibly on many fronts and puts the world in peril as a result of this. I’m not at all confident in the tactics that are used or the basic strategy or outlook of the administration and feel that each day proves the fact that we are closer and closer to a major war.

ANDREW: How perilous, to use your word, is the determination by Western leaders, including President Biden, to use their own or to authorize the use of their own offensive weaponry to strike targets inside Russia? Stated differently, is this perilous to the freedom and security of those of us in the mainland United States of America?

JEFFREY: Well, first of all, one thing that we have definitely seen is a remarkable amount of freelancing of the Western leaders, each one talking out of turn, inconsistently, sometimes absolutely recklessly and dangerously. We have Baltic state leaders saying Russia must be destroyed or Russia must be dismembered. We have the UK political class piping off in a similarly reckless manner. We have President Macron saying, “well, we’re sending troops to Russia period” and apparently have done so. We have the Germans in an open debate where Germany has said “yes, now we give clearance to Ukraine to use our weapons.” We have incoherence on our own side. Blinken says one thing one day, the White House clarifies the next day. This is absolute reckless freelancing in an extremely dangerous environment where different countries seem to operate on different principles in our so-called alliance. I personally find the UK utterly irresponsible in general because they talk like the 19th-century British Empire and get everyone else into hotter water as a result of that. France’s remarks, President Macron’s remarks, that is, in recent weeks have been highly irresponsible. Zelensky is a danger to the world in my view because, of course, what does Zelensky want? He wants a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia because if it’s a war between Ukraine and Russia, Ukraine loses. So he’s trying to pull NATO into a full war. I profoundly resent that on behalf of all of our children and grandchildren around the world. We need to stay away from that kind of idea. This is totally irresponsible, but this is what is actually happening. So Biden barely leads. He doesn’t speak to the American people. He speaks to donors. We hear stray remarks, and we have this general cacophony right now among so-called allied leaders, one more reckless than the next. People should understand this is extremely dangerous. There was a strike by Ukraine, presumably maybe with US targeting, maybe with British targeting, we don’t know because they lie on everything, but against the two early warning nuclear attack radar systems inside Russia. I got very worried emails by American top experts outside of the government that, my God, this is as reckless and dangerous as can be. Please share that with the White House. Please share that with people you know, which I did. But this is the situation right now. We have extremely weak leadership, very unstable politics in our country, a very unpredictable electoral period ahead, and a hot war. A lot of people are not making much sense.

ANDREW: I’m going to play a clip from Foreign Minister Lavrov. There’s an English translation, and then I’m going to ask you if the world takes him seriously. Please run cut number one, Chris.

LAVROV: “We have shown that we will not put up with this and that we will not allow Ukraine to be used as a direct threat to our security, as an instrument for the destruction of everything Russian on historical Russian lands. They did this for more than two decades or even 30 years, immediately after the disappearance of the Soviet Union. Their goal was to destroy everything Russian, from the language to the government, in this territory which they wanted to take for themselves. They were counting on it, but as always happens, if they wake up the Russian bear, then our people have united like never before. These are not empty words. We saw this during the Russian presidential elections. The Nazi regime continues to use Western weapons to attack civilian targets, towns, and cities. I assure you that they will not be able to cross this line unnoticed.”

ANDREW: Does the West take that seriously? Stated differently, do they think President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov bluff?

JEFFREY: Well, this is not a bluff. This is serious concern. Do they take it seriously? I don’t know. Should they take it seriously? Absolutely. This is not wild speech. This is absolutely saying, look at this current situation, your weaponry is hitting us. We are in an environment of absolute reckless absence of diplomacy because another part of what Minister Lavrov repeats and what President Putin repeats is, we are open for negotiation, but it has to be meaningful negotiation with the United States of America. The absence here is of the US. This is a US-led military alliance. This is a US-led alliance that’s being pulled around by Ukrainian leaders who have their own agenda, by Baltic leaders who have their own agenda. This is not America taking care of an extraordinarily dangerous situation. The language that is used in the West is utterly intemperate and irresponsible. “We must destroy Russia.” These are words being used by Western leaders. Well, that’s war talk. That’s World War III talk. We don’t want that. Where is President Biden? Where is that address to the American people? Where is that clear statement, “We are staying away from such dangers. We understand this.” Where is the restraint within the US military alliance so that other leaders don’t manipulate the United States for their purposes or get us into trouble that we should not be in and don’t want to be in? I don’t see it happening right now. I don’t see that most basic responsibility at this moment. What I see is three fulminant crises with the US and Russia, with the Middle East, and with China, not one of which is being properly managed.

ANDREW: Is your understanding of the availability of nuclear weapons such that it is not unrealistic that if the Russians fear a serious threat, they might resort to them? I don’t know if you saw this clip. Colonel McGregor and I viewed it together privately of a Russian academic two or three days ago pointing out that Russia could destroy Poland and all the Polish people in about 30 minutes if it felt that Poland was being the place from which American missiles were being fired into Russia.

JEFFREY: I can’t believe that in June 2024, every day we’re talking about nuclear war. Are we out of our minds? It’s terrifying. By the way, if you look at one of these articles and then you look at the comment section, which I mistakenly do all too often, say of the Financial Times where there’s an article where the Russians say that this is taking us closer to nuclear war, then the comment section almost entirely is, “Oh, don’t worry about that. Bluff. That’s fake. We’re not going to be blackmailed.” All this mindless tough stupid talk. If someone says, “Well, maybe we should be worried about it because nuclear war could end everything,” then the next comment is, “Oh, you’re a Putin troll. You’re a Russian troll.” I don’t recall an environment like this in my life. I don’t recall a crisis moment like this since the Cuban Missile Crisis. But then the leaders were more circumspect, and that’s what actually kept us from complete annihilation. Now we don’t have any circumspection. We have complete freelancing. We have open discussion. Now, what’s nuclear war among friends? The whole environment of this is mind-boggling. I’m not saying, I don’t know, of course, nobody knows, is nuclear war imminent. God help us. But what kind of language and thought processes are we using to even have a question like that even remotely phrased? But that is the truth that this has become a normalized discussion. The president needs to step up and say, “No, it’s not going to happen because we are engaged in diplomacy. This will not get out of control, and we will find a peaceful end to this conflict.” That’s what a president of the United States needs to do. This is not complicated. This is about saving the world.

ANDREW: Why does the West hate Russia?

JEFFREY: You know, people have this capacity of delusion, rant, groupthink. But I’ll tell you, I went back to take a look at the end of the Soviet Union in December 1991. Our defense secretary at the time, Dick Cheney, said, “Okay, they don’t want communism anymore, maybe Russia should be dismembered too. Why stop at the Soviet Union?” The idea was already there. It wasn’t about communism or non-communist; it was about Russia. He was defense secretary, starting in 1992. In 1997, as I was reviewing yesterday, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in his Foreign Affairs article, “A Strategy for Eurasia,” says, “Yeah, Russia should be a decentralized country. There should be a European Russia, a Siberian Russia, a Far East Russia as a kind of confederation.” What are we doing? Planning the dismemberment or the dissolution or the turn to a confederation of Russia? This is just blatant American arrogance but extraordinarily dangerous, and it has played out now over 32 years with this NATO enlargement. We don’t hear Russia with regime change operations, with the US support for insurgencies along Russia’s borders. This also goes back, by the way, to 1979-1980, when President Jimmy Carter assigned the CIA to work with jihadists, Islamic fighters, to fight in Afghanistan with Brzezinski’s idea of entrapping the Soviet Union into a war in Afghanistan. Then that kind of jihadist activity became part of America’s secret arsenal, extraordinarily dangerous, leaving in its wake wars and instability all across Russia’s borderlands. Then the NATO push and the NATO enlargement and the coup in February 2014 and the placement of US missiles near Russia’s borders after unilaterally abandoning the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and then unilaterally abandoning the Intermediate Nuclear Force Treaty under Trump. Well, if you just keep doing this, that we call all the shots, we do what we want, we don’t listen, “Oh, that’s a bluff,” we’re going to have a really bad accident. That’s the problem.

ANDREW: All right, well, we know. You know, you’ve told us many times, Colonel McGregor has told us, Ritter, Johnson, McGovern, and the others, that Putin doesn’t bluff. When they make a threat, they carry it out. But I need to…

JEFFREY: And just to understand, because these are not offensive threats; these are responding to events. That’s important to understand.

ANDREW: Correct. Chris, put up the full screen. Look at this. “We do not rule out additional steps in the sphere,” this is Lavrov, “We do not rule out additional steps in the sphere of nuclear deterrence because our command centers and the locations of our nuclear forces will be in range of American forward-based missiles.” That’s an example of what you just mentioned, a responsive comment to aggression initiated by Biden’s statement. Yes, President Zelensky, you can use American weaponry to fire into Russia.

JEFFREY: We know that one of the greatest concerns of Russia since 2002 was that George W. Bush Jr. pulled the US unilaterally out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which was one of the stabilizing factors to prevent nuclear war. The Russians were aghast at that. This was also in the context of NATO enlargement because two years after that, seven more countries joined NATO around Russia’s border: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia in 2004. Then the United States started putting Aegis missile systems first into Poland, then into Romania. The Russians are saying, “You’re not going to talk to us about that? How do we even know what’s in those missile silos? We don’t know, but it’s a few minutes from Moscow.” Then we know now, because it was revealed just very, very recently, that in December 2021, the United States said, “Well, we will not deploy missiles in Ukraine.” This was supposedly a commitment from Biden to Putin directly. Then ostensibly, what we’ve heard reported was that in January 2022, Secretary Blinken said to Lavrov, “No, no, no, no, no, that’s not a hard agreement. We’re not going to agree on anything like that.” We don’t know. We’re watching from the outside the pantomime on the screen without knowing what is being said behind the scenes. But the fact that these things are discussed this way, not denied, no report from the United States government, not any kind of stabilizing words from Blinken or from Biden, is completely alarming. It’s as if we’re just adrift.

ANDREW: I want to segue over to Israel and Gaza.

JEFFREY: Yes, absolutely the same incredible situation.

ANDREW: This proposal that the president has offered, which he claims came from the Israelis but which significant parts of the Israeli government are doubting and denying, is this again for domestic American politics, or is this a realistic way of dialing back significantly the slaughter that’s going on in Gaza?

JEFFREY: It’s pathetic. I don’t know whether it’s for domestic politics or whether it is Biden claiming things that he doesn’t have in hand. But what we do know is that the intermediaries in the negotiations between Israel and Hamas had put forward a ceasefire plan several weeks ago. Hamas accepted it. Israel rejected it. Our rhetoric, because it’s all propaganda morning till night in our country, is that Hamas rejected it. Okay, then the war continues. Israel enters into Rafah. Now we have essentially the same thing being floated again by President Biden, calling it Israel’s plan. Well, that’s absurd because at least two members of the coalition, Smotrich and Ben Gvir, immediately said no way. This isn’t the government’s plan. Immediately after Biden said it was Israel’s plan, then we have a spokesman from Netanyahu’s office saying, “Well, it’s terrible, but we support it.” Then we have Netanyahu saying, “No, we don’t support it. We say not a permanent ceasefire but six weeks because our mission to destroy Hamas is unchanged.” So what is Biden talking about, for God’s sake? This is the Israel plan? Come on. This is just more of the same drift and confusion.

ANDREW: Here’s first Joe Biden, cut number three, and then Itamar Ben Gvir, one of the right-wing members of the coalition, also the head of the Israeli equivalent of the FBI. So first Joe Biden, Chris, and then Mr. Ben Gvir.

JOE BIDEN: “Israel’s made their proposal. Hamas says it wants a ceasefire. This deal is an opportunity to prove whether they really mean it. Hamas needs to take the deal.

ITAMAR BEN GVIR: A deal, as its details were published, means giving up on destroying Hamas, renouncing the continuation of the war. It is a reckless deal. There is no total victory but a total defeat to Hamas. I say that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to lead this deal, we will dismantle the government.”

ANDREW: One more to raise your blood pressure, Jeff. Here’s Admiral Kirby insisting three times that this was an Israeli proposal and not an American one. Cut number four.

JOHN KIRBY: “That proposal, an Israeli proposal, has been given to Hamas. It was done on Thursday night, our time. We’re waiting for an official response from Hamas. We would note that publicly Hamas officials came out and welcomed this proposal. This was an Israeli proposal. We have every expectation that if Hamas agrees to the proposal as was transmitted to them, an Israeli proposal, that Israel would say yes.”

ANDREW: Whose proposal was it, Jeff?

JEFFREY: You can see this game of talking points everywhere. This is just narrative. This is devoid of reality. It’s devoid of grown-up behavior. Certain words get used. They say the main point, “We need to emphasize this is Israel’s proposal,” so he says it three times. Or “The war was unprovoked, unprovoked, unprovoked.” And then you see across the American mainstream media, you see it at the podium of the White House, you see it in all the officials, everyone uses exactly the same word.

ANDREW: Right.

JEFFREY: Well, this is basic PR propaganda that is so juvenile that they don’t think anyone notices this stuff?

ANDREW: What do you see happening in Gaza? More slaughter, Israel attacking Hezbollah, the United States getting involved, Iran and Turkey getting involved? Where is this going to go?

JEFFREY: Look, the United States could stop this immediately. It just has to say this war is over, not “this is Israel’s proposal.” This war is over.

ANDREW: Well, you know that Joe Biden won’t do that for his own internal reasons.

JEFFREY: Yeah, his own internal reasons are going to lead to his defeat, and we may get worse with Trump. But Biden is completely bleeding support from people who would normally vote for a Democratic candidate for president. So this isn’t for his own internal reasons. This is for his weakness as president and the weakness of his team. And the fact of the matter is, there was an important meeting in Bahrain in mid-May of the Arab League, which made a declaration which everyone should look at, which said, “We, the Arab countries, are ready for peace in this region based on the two-state solution: a state of Palestine living peacefully alongside a state of Israel.” And that is also subscribed to by Iran, by the way, and by the Islamic countries in the OIC. Peace is waiting there to be achieved. But this would depend on Biden being able to do what an Eisenhower would do or what a John Kennedy would do or what other presidents that had capacity in this area would do, and that would be to lead. And of course, he doesn’t. We are adrift, and we are adrift at an extremely dangerous moment.

ANDREW: You may have heard this, but I want to play it again. It’s the Saudi foreign minister talking about Israel. Israel doesn’t get to decide whether or not there’s a two-state solution.

PRINCE FAISAL BIN FARHAN: Israel doesn’t get to decide whether or not the Palestinians have a right to self-determination. This is something that is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. It is something that is enshrined into international law. It is also a founding principle of the United Nations decision to found Israel. So, you know, it is absolutely necessary that Israel accepts that it cannot exist without the existence of a Palestinian state, that its security is served by building a Palestinian state. So, we hope sincerely that the leaders in Israel will realize that it is in their interest to work with the international community, not just to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, but to finally establish a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, as everybody understands is the right thing to do.”

ANDREW: Can’t imagine anybody in the Netanyahu government agrees with any of that.

JEFFREY: Well, but the point is, the foreign minister very correctly, properly, and eloquently stated what 191 countries believe. That is, out of the 193 in the UN, 191 believe that the only way to peace is two states living side by side. Israel is dead set against it, and the United States is too weak to make peace under this administration. So, what he said was absolutely correct. There’s a backstory to his statement there on May 27th that should be understood. That is, it has been the fervent hope of two administrations, Trump and Biden, that Israel could get its way—no Palestinian state—and have normal relations with Saudi Arabia because the US would kind of bribe the Saudis through an F-35 deal, through a defense agreement, maybe provision of some nuclear technology, and that would get the Saudis to normalize relations with Israel. This is what Kushner worked on during the Trump period. This is what Blinken and Hochstein, another so-called negotiator of the US, worked on. What the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia is saying is, “No, no, stop it. Don’t keep coming to us to think we’re going to walk away from the Palestinian people.” They’re not going to, and the whole Arab League is saying clearly, “Peace with Israel? Yes. Peace with the state of Palestine.” It’s so clear. So, we have one country with one very weak president and one extremely weak foreign policy team blocking peace in the Middle East. If he wanted to get elected, make peace. He’s got the whole Arab League on side for peace. He’s got the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on side for peace. He’s got the whole United Nations on side for peace. But what are we doing? No, no, we’re siding with one other country to block peace. It’s just absolutely unimaginable how uncreative, naive, weak, and deadly this failed diplomacy is.

ANDREW: Professor Sachs, thank you for your analysis and thanks for your passion as always. I know we were across the board in this. We didn’t get to China, and I know you want to talk about that. We will when you’re on with us again.

JEFFREY: Actually, if you have one more minute just to make an added point that involves China, if it’s okay with you.


JEFFREY: Good. You know, after the Bahrain meeting and the Arab declaration, things didn’t stand still. The king of Bahrain went to say, “Let’s now have an international conference to create the two-state solution.” Where did he fly? Did he fly to Washington? No. Where did he fly? First to Moscow. Very interesting. He had a long talk with President Putin, who said, “Yes, we support the two-state solution.” Then, where did he fly? Yes, to Beijing. Because this is reality, right? Are we living in a dream world or are we living in the real world?

ANDREW: Where did he not fly? Washington.

JEFFREY: That is the point.

ANDREW: Thank you, Jeff.

JEFFREY: Very good.

ANDREW: Thank you for all these fascinating points tied together in such a compelling way. Look forward to seeing you next week. All the best.

JEFFREY: See you next week.

ANDREW: Thank you.


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