May 11, 2022

“You cannot seriously sit down with Putin anymore” – German diplomat Christoph Heusgen on 5/10/22 Transcript

"You cannot seriously sit down with Putin anymore" - German diplomat Christoph Heusgen on 5/10/22 Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsChristoph Heusgen“You cannot seriously sit down with Putin anymore” – German diplomat Christoph Heusgen on 5/10/22 Transcript

German diplomat Christoph Heusgen talks about the future of Europe and if Russia can ever be trusted again under the current leadership on 5/10/22. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1: (00:00)
Christoph Heusgen is the new head of the Munich Security Conference. He has been working in foreign policies for more than 40 years. It’s with great pleasure to meet him here in Washington during the Munich Security Conference Spring Summit. Mr. Heusgen, great seeing you again.

Christoph Heusgen: (00:16)
Wonderful to have you.

Speaker 1: (00:18)
So you are here in the US also to kind of test the waters, especially ahead of these crucial midterm elections. You met with Republican lawmakers. What did you take from that meeting?

Christoph Heusgen: (00:30)
We were, I wouldn’t say nervous, but we were very curious how would the representative of the different parties now with this challenge that Russia aggression in Ukraine poses, how is their position if the midterms go as apparently everybody expects will go to a Republican majority? Would this change the American policy? And my impression is very clear that this is a bipartisan position, that Democrats and Republican lawmakers are very firm in the support on a tough policy against Russia, on a strong policy of support to Ukraine. So that was really comforting information that we received here.

Speaker 1: (01:17)
Bipartisan is a word we don’t hear so often anymore in this really divided country. That’s interesting. But how do you prepare or can you prepare for the possibility that, A, Donald Trump is coming back and might use his power to convince Republicans not to put in so much money in the support of Ukraine?

Christoph Heusgen: (01:39)
We live with the present situation and the present situation from also Republican lawmakers. We talked to a number of Republicans, also those that apparently are very much in the Trump camp and the message was very clear. This is something where Republicans and Democrats are united. I even heard some Republicans saying if Trump had been President, he would’ve been much tougher on Russia than President Biden is. So I think we are right now in a time where in the United States we have on this issue, bipartisanship, and we have a very good and very close corporation across the Atlantic.

Speaker 1: (02:28)
The current President of France McCall said, and I quote this here, “We should not humiliate Vladimir Putin.” And do you agree with that?

Christoph Heusgen: (02:40)
Well, first of all, it’s up to Ukrainians to say how they want to direct this war. We have built so many bridges to Putin. I remember when we were trying to get the so-called Petersburg Dialogue revitalized, where you have discussions with Russia, between politicians, between representatives of business, civil society, media. We built so many bridges. We have, unfortunately to see that he destroyed all these bridges, that he has violated the UN charter. He has violated the charter of Paris. He has violated the Budapest memorandum where actually Russia guaranteed territory sovereignty and integrity to Ukraine, and Ukraine gave up nuclear weapons.

Christoph Heusgen: (03:36)
If a politician actually doesn’t adhere to any of the agreements that he or Russia signed, then you wonder how can you work with somebody like this in the future? So I think for me, we need Russia. We need Russia to achieve this sustainable development goals, climate and everything. But for me, you cannot seriously talk to a man anymore who has actually violated everything and he is responsible for war crimes. And I don’t think that he can be a partner again.

Speaker 1: (04:21)
Is it possible, is it thinkable that Russia and Putin be integrated again in this world order after being completely excluded?

Christoph Heusgen: (04:31)
He committed a breach of civilization. And I don’t see how you can sit down with somebody like him, who is responsible for the attack on a country, for a violation of the UN charter. You have seen the pictures, what happens to this thousands of mothers and children, for the thousands of death, or the destruction of a city like Mariupol, attacks on the city of Odessa. I cannot see how you can sit around the table with somebody who is responsible for this.

Speaker 1: (05:01)
But what does it mean? Do we have to wait for the next president, for the next leader in Russia?

Christoph Heusgen: (05:08)
As I said, I don’t think that you can sit with Putin around the table. How Russia is represented, we have the question of the G20, et cetera. There will be Russian representatives at the United Nations. I just don’t think that you can seriously sit down with Putin anymore and take him seriously because when he signs something you know he will not implement it.

Speaker 1: (05:30)
You’ve also been working as the German Ambassador to the UN, how can Russia be removed from the UN Security Council?

Christoph Heusgen: (05:40)
There is no way that you can remove Russia from the Security Council. Russia is a founding member and for Russia, but also for the United States, it was a condition for them to join the UN that they have a veto right. And Russia is now extensively using this veto right. But this is a situation that we had also during the Cold War.

Christoph Heusgen: (06:05)
What for me is very important, and we have seen this, is a certain shift to the General Assembly, when Russia cast its veto, when the Security Council wanted to condemn Russia, it went to the General Assembly. And in the General Assembly, it was made very clear to the world public that it’s only the dictators of Belarus, of Syria, of Eritrea and North Korea that support Putin. So also the UN also made it very clear who is the culprit.

Speaker 1: (06:39)
But it’s also China and the African continent which is not standing so unified behind the Western alliance. How can you present a viable alternative to China’s influence, especially in Africa?

Christoph Heusgen: (06:54)
Yes. I think sometimes we commit the mistake of presenting this conflict that we are witnessing now in Ukraine, the Russian aggression that we… or it is presented as a prolongation of the East/West conflict. And this is not what it is. What we are witnessing is the blatant violation of the UN Charter of International Law, of the international rules based order. And I think this has to be our message. This has to be our message also towards African countries, Latin American countries. This is not about East/West, this is about the rules that are enshrined in the UN charter, and we have to work together worldwide to preserve this basis for our civilization.

Speaker 1: (07:45)
But having that said, the support from, again, China, India isn’t as it probably, in your opinion, should be in the UN?

Christoph Heusgen: (07:53)
Well, no, we have these great power games and we see that China and India are abstaining, and this is something where I think we have to work hard on. And we have to also make it very clear to these countries that what is at stake here is the UN charter.

Christoph Heusgen: (08:16)
Do we want to follow international rules or don’t we want to do it? So I think we have to work very hard. And this is also something that we have to do from Germany, from European countries. Sometimes you hear the argument with United States in the lead that, “Well, these are double standards, where was the international community when the US, in the second Iraq War, invaded Iraq also without any basis and no international law as justification?”

Christoph Heusgen: (08:48)
So this is what we have to overcome. This is an important role also for us Europeans, for a country like Germany that has always based its policy on international law, and that we also step up to the plate.

Speaker 1: (09:03)
There’s a lot of applause for the current [foreign language 00:09:05], as our Chancellor Schulz said, but there is also a lot of criticism of Germany’s longstanding Russia policies, was America naive?

Christoph Heusgen: (09:17)
Well, we have talked to a lot of colleagues here from all over the world, and everybody tells us that they were surprised what Russia did, that Russia was… Actually now Putin was, became as aggressive as he did.

Christoph Heusgen: (09:40)
We were at the Munich Security Conference in February, where the international community was very united. We were thinking that Putin must be impressed by this, and he will not dare to enter Ukraine because it will end badly for him. He went in there anyway, and it’s ending very badly for him.

Christoph Heusgen: (09:59)
So I think one needs to take into consideration also the way in which Putin, during COVID, has been secluded from public opinion, wider European public opinion, and he has started to believe his own propaganda. And this is very difficult then to cope with.

Christoph Heusgen: (10:22)
Basically, I think the idea that we had since the end of the Second World War after, in the name of Germany, 27 million Soviets were killed, I think for us to try and get into a better relationship with Russia to build bridges, I think was the right policy. We just have to realize that Russia today is ready to destroy all these bridges that we have been trying to build.

Speaker 1: (10:55)
But there were warning voices. I had the honor to interview George W. Bush half a year ago also, and we talked about Angela Merkel, and her legacy. And as much as he praised her, he said, and that was before the war in Ukraine, that he warned Angela Merkel and her administration about the dependency from Russia when it comes to German energy supply. Don’t you think the German administrations kind of again, were naive or underestimating Vladimir Putin?

Christoph Heusgen: (11:28)
I think that what I have been really proposing during for a long time is that we have something like a National Security Council where you deal with these questions in a context. I think we have, when the questions were answered, “Where do we get our energy from?”

Christoph Heusgen: (11:49)
After we said, “We don’t want to prolong nuclear energy.” When we said, “We don’t want coal.” We looked around and said, “Well, where is the cheapest gas?” And this was from Russia. So we went that way.

Christoph Heusgen: (12:00)
I think what would’ve been necessary, and what I really think we urgently need is a kind of a National Security Council, where all these questions, defense, but also energy security, domestic security, terrorism, this all comes together, and these questions are dealt with, also not only from a point of view, where do we get our cheapest energy from, but what does this mean with regard to strategic dependence?

Christoph Heusgen: (12:33)
We have this discussion now a lot on China, how much do we depend on China? And I think there’s also a question of security. How much do we make us dependent on China? While I’m not in favor of breaking ties with China, but there has to be a balance. And we have to actually diversify also with regard to China.

Speaker 1: (12:57)
You’ve been in foreign policy for 40 years. When you look backwards, what’s the moment in hindsight, obviously, when you think, “Wow, that could have been a warning when it comes to Putin?”

Christoph Heusgen: (13:06)
Well, we have seen Putin, how he behaved. And when you go back at the last aggression of Putin, 2014-15, it was actually Chancellor Merkel together with Francois Luand who was at the frontline, and in negotiations, stopped the Russian advance. They agreed on the Minsk Agreement and they got Russia at a table. So I think that was the right decision, again, what happened then we tried really to get into negotiations to see how can we resolve this was peaceful means. At some stage Putin decided, no, he wants to go on another track. And this is what happened then on the 24th of February.

Speaker 1: (13:56)
Germany, as you just said, was once really seen as a bridge builder to Moscow; who could fill in this role moving forward?

Christoph Heusgen: (14:05)
I think right now it’s very difficult to fill in. We have many Russians who have fled Russia and they come to Germany. I think these people who are educated people, who are people who are desperate when they see what is happening there, I think there are so many also in other countries, Russians. I think these will be the partners in the future to build a new Russia.

Speaker 1: (14:28)
Thank you very much. And I’m looking forward to keep this conversation going.

Christoph Heusgen: (14:31)
Yes. Thank you very much for having me. Thank you.

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