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Interview: Francis Fukuyama Says US Should Militarily Back Ukraine

FILE - Dr. Francis Fukuyama, former Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy, seen at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University, Washington D.C., Oct. 2008.

FILE - Dr. Francis Fukuyama, former Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy, seen at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University, Washington D.C., Oct. 2008.

Dr. Francis Fukuyama, a political economist and Senior Fellow at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, is the author of 10 books, most notably 1992's The End of History and the Last Man, in which he argued that the conclusion of the Cold War may have represented "universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government," a position he has long since modified.

His latest work, Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy, addresses question of developing governance, nation-building, security and democratization in countries such as Georgia Ukraine.

VOA: Dr. Fukuyama, your latest book, Political Order and Political Decay, just came out. When we speak about the order, where are the countries like Georgia and Ukraine in this order?

Fukuyama: According to my frameworks, you have to have three things. [First], you have to have a modern state, meaning a low level of corruption, the ability to deliver services, and [ability to] protect the population. Second, you need a rule of law which is a set of rules that constrains the state to make sure that the officials of the state also obey them. And, third, you need democratic accountability to make sure that the government reflects the wishes of the whole population and not just the ruling elite.

So, Georgia has the democracy part, I think. Turn over between parties that happened in the last elections is a good evidence of that, [and] it has done a lot to improve the state in terms of fighting corruption. And I think that’s an important lesson for Ukraine, because Ukraine’s big problem after the Orange Revolution was corruption. The rule of law is, I think, a weakness right now, because there is not a long tradition in Georgia of an independent judiciary that is free of political influence and can act impartially for the whole population. That’s roughly my assessment where Georgia is.

VOA: We are seeing Russia’s intervention in Ukraine; the same happened in 2008 in Georgia. In one of your recent interviews you said that the Islamic State militants, for example, are less of a danger than Russia or China. What kind of danger do you see coming from Russia — meaning the broader picture, not only Moscow's role in post-Soviet countries?

Fukuyama: I think the whole European peace since 1991, when the Soviet Union broke up, is based on a notion that if there are Russians that are stranded outside of the Russian Federation, they would just stay there. What Putin has done by annexing Crimea is basically to overturn that whole settlement. He basically told all Russian populations outside the Russia that "if you don’t like your present situation, then we will help you." That’s very dangerous precedent, because I think the former Soviet Union avoided the chaos of the former Yugoslavia because of the willingness of Russians outside of Russia to live in other places like Moldova, the Baltic States, and so forth. And now all that is up for grabs. It is going to destabilize not just Georgia and Ukraine, but many other parts of Europe.

VOA: With Russia’s attempt to reclaim its authority over post-Soviet countries, do you see anybody in the world to stand up and speak up against it?

Fukuyama: I think it’s been happening. ... [but] I think the West needs to do more. I think we need to give much more military support directly to Ukraine. It’s a slow process, but I think the West, under more resolute leadership, still can do a lot.

VOA: President Obama on that has said that we should not expect military solution of the conflict. With Russia’s power increasing, do you think we have disequilibrium in the US-Russia role in international politics?

Fukuyama: I wish President Obama would, for example, agree to provide direct military assistance to Ukraine, because they desperately need that. I think he is right that there is no military solution in the sense that Ukraine could be empowered to take back the Donbas, but Putin really understands force better than he understands economic sanctions, so I think that has to be an important part of Western response.

VOA: Given Russia’s military and political power, what do you think countries like Georgia and Ukraine should be doing now?

Fukuyama: Obviously their foreign connections are extremely important in pushing back against the Russians. I think Ukraine in particular has to fix its internal politics; the Orange Coalition failed and Yanukovych made a comeback because they did not solve the question of corruption — because they did not really provide a kind of government that Ukrainians were happy with. This is really what they’ve got to do. Democracy is not just the absence of dictatorship. It’s also the government that can reflect the interests and wishes of people and govern effectively, and do things that meet peoples’ needs in terms of security, education, health and the like. That is very critical for internal reform to happen.

VOA: Do you think Ukraine is in a situation to be taking care of such reforms right now, when its security is not ensured?

Fukuyama: Yes, it has to. And [lack of reliable security] is actually a good motivator for reform, because there is nothing like foreign invasion that concentrates the minds of political leaders on what’s really necessary and what’s not. You can’t wait. Legitimacy for this new government is extremely important and legitimacy will come by offering good government.

VOA: In your book you also speak about the national identity. In what direction do you see national identity going after Russia's invasion of Ukraine?

Fukuyama: This is one of the troubling things. There has been this incredible increase of Russian nationalism and Putin has been reviving all of this Slavophile and Russophile symbolism of the 19th century. This is dangerous [coming] from the Russian Federation because not everybody in the Russian Federation is Russian. I think he stimulated a much greater ethnic awareness in the sense of ethnic identity in a region that actually had been peaceful, because people did not think "I am a Russian speaker," or "I am a Ukrainian speaker," or whatnot. I’m afraid that nationalism is now on this rise.

VOA: How do you think Georgia should achieve consolidated democracy? And does it mean consolidating successes of the past?

Fukuyama: I think the reform of the public sector that occurred in Georgia is very important. That’s an important gain and it ought to be both preserved and deepened. Democracy involves building rule of law so that you have a judiciary that’s impartial and it also requires a degree of reconciliation. The political world in Georgia is highly polarized in a way that is not good for democracy. Good democracy requires competition, but it also requires certain degree of trust. That’s a pretty important goal for Georgian politicians to strive for.

VOA: Given the West’s response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, and Georgia’s aspirations to join NATO and European Union, what do you think Georgia should expect from the West?

Fukuyama: I think the EU part of it is fine. Georgia is on a path to association, and I think that’s a good long-term goal. I think NATO membership is more problematic, simply because it’s going to be very hard to implement Article 5 commitment, but that does not mean you can’t have other forms of tied cooperation, including military cooperation, things like training and supply.

VOA: When NATO membership is considered as some kind of insurance from Russian intervention, do you think current partnership with NATO serves as insurance?

Fukuyama: There is a practical problem of geography and distance and logistics that make it extremely hard for NATO to defend Georgia, given its physical location, given the fact that Russian army is just a few tens of kilometers away from Tbilisi. I think that the real solution in a long run is going to be a combination of military support and also the larger political environment that will hopefully provide some deterrence to Russians.