Bill Clinton said he realized in 2011 that it was “only a matter of time” before Vladimir Putin moved to Ukraine after an intimidating discussion with the Russian president in Davos, Switzerland.
Clinton said that during that confrontation, Putin rejected a US-brokered deal agreed to by his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, to respect Ukrainian territory in exchange for Kiev giving up its Soviet-era nuclear arsenal.
“Vladimir Putin told me in 2011 — three years before he took over Crimea — that he didn’t agree with the deal I made with Boris Yeltsin,” recalls the former US president. “He said . . . I do not agree with him. And I do not support him. I am not obligated to it. And I knew from that day on it was only a matter of time.”
Clinton shared that memory during a joint appearance with his wife, Hillary, a former secretary of state and presidential candidate, at 92nd Street Way in New York, where they were interviewed by The Carlyle Group president David Rubinstein.
The Clintons urged the West to boost its support for Ukraine, and said Kiev could prevail if given enough weapons and ammunition. They warned that failure to stand with Ukraine would embolden not only Putin, but also Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Russia’s military failures in Ukraine and the West’s assertive reaction to its invasion, Hillary Clinton has argued, have hampered Xi’s campaign to retake Taiwan which may have been more advanced than appreciated.
She said: “Shi saw it. And I believe that before the Russian invasion, there was a good chance that he would move to Taiwan in two to three years. I think the schedule has been pushed back.”
She also echoed her husband’s mistrust of Putin, whose malicious meddling she blamed for her shock defeat to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.[Putin] He is in what he views as a righteous struggle to undermine Western democracy and re-establish the Russian Empire, as best he can. “So he’s not going to stop,” she said.
To end hostilities, Hillary Clinton said, Ukraine must either defeat Russia or at least regain the territory it has lost in the east since last year’s Russian invasion. “They need leverage,” she said. “I will not trust him at the negotiating table under any circumstances, unless the Ukrainians – with our support – have enough leverage.”
Turning to US politics, Bill Clinton – a veteran of budget showdowns with his Republican opponents – said the risk of default due to the Republican-controlled Congress’ refusal to raise the debt ceiling was “crazy” and that the US needed to pay its bills.
“It shouldn’t be a political football,” Bill Clinton said of the debt ceiling. “On the other hand, we will have to show more fiscal discipline in the coming years.”