Russian missiles struck Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv for the first time in over a month on Sunday. This happened as Russian and Ukrainian forces continue their battle for control over the eastern city Severodonetsk, and Russian President Vladimir Putin warns Western nations against supplying longer-range rocket systems to Ukraine. “The longer this war goes on, the much more difficult it is to end it,” says Katrina vanden Heuvel, editorial director and publisher of The NationColumnist and magazine The Washington Post. Vanden Heuvel says U.S. corporate media is responsible for what she calls a “one-sided debate” on Ukraine, which is greenlighting unprecedented spending on weapons over the importance of negotiations.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be final.
AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Ukraine, where Russian missiles struck the capital Kyiv for the first time in over a month Sunday. This happened as Russian and Ukrainian troops continue to fight over control of Severodonetsk (eastern Ukraine). Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukrainian President, stated that Russia now controls roughly one-fifth the territory of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin, Russian President warned the West against supplying Ukraine with longer-range missiles on Sunday.
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: [translated] If the longer-range missiles are going to be supplied, we’ll make certain conclusions and use our own means of destruction, which we have enough to strike at those targets which we have not yet been hitting.
AMY GOODMAN: Putin’s comment comes after the United States announced it approved a $700 million security assistance package for Ukraine, including four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.
Meanwhile, has said, quote, “We must not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means” — that said by French President Emmanuel Macron. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s foreign minister criticized Macron’s comments, saying, quote, “Calls to avoid humiliation of Russia can only humiliate France and every other country that would call for it.”
For more, we’re joined by Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation magazine, columnist for The Washington Post. Her most recent piece there is headlined “We need a real debate about the Ukraine war.”
Welcome, Katrina. Describe your argument.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, I think what we’ve seen, Amy, over these last years is that the corporate media has a one-sided debate. You don’t hear from informed, analytical scholars or writers who are not there to justify but to provide history and context about what we’re witnessing today in the proxy war, but the war between Ukraine and Russia. And there’s a marginalization of those voices and a preference for voices which are about how to escalate the war, how to cover the military, not cover the history. And I think the venerable journalist Walter Lippmann once said, “When all think alike, no one thinks very much.” And that seems to be the framework in what we’re witnessing. And I think it’s very important that there’s not an intellectual no-fly zone, even while understanding how barbaric, how illegal the Russian war against Ukraine is.
But this war is going to end, and how it ends is a matter of discussion that isn’t being shown in any real way on our screens in corporate media. There have been some cracks, I’ll admit. May 19th The New York TimesIt was an important editorialQuestions are being raised about U.S. strategy. There have been a few articles that raise concerns about the possibility of an unlimited war. We’ve now put through about — the United States, Amy, you mentioned the $70 million. There are — $57 billion has been given to Ukraine in these last months and years. And the question of where that money is going and how that may escalate a protracted war between — with a nuclear power, I think, is critical to raise, to understand and provide context for.
AMY GOODMAN: So, comment on Macron’s comments this weekend —
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: — saying, “Do not humiliate Russia.” The significance of this, and also Putin saying, “If you send these advanced missile systems to Ukraine, we’re going to hit places we haven’t touched yet”?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: So, we’re into more than a hundred days. It’s clear, as Zelensky said, that Russia now controls maybe 20% of Ukraine, but Russia seems to be settling into the eastern part, Severodonetsk, and this is the Donetsk region, Luhansk, Donetsk republics. This is a measure of where you see the parameters to a peace agreement. I’d like to add something that I consider quasi-subversive. Appeasement is not possible through negotiation. And I think what’s happening with the provision of weapons may well be, as some argue, that Ukraine needs more leverage to come to the negotiating table. That’s an argument. But there are — it’s time now to really push for high-level diplomatic initiatives, which have happened, Amy.
Macron maybe saying we shouldn’t “humiliate” Putin might have been the wrong word, but, you know, what’s interesting to me is there’s all this talk of how unified the Western alliance has been, how NATOAllies are so united. But, in fact, what we’re witnessing here, it seems to me, is a division between what Donald Rumsfeld during the Iraq War called old and new Europe. New Europe — Baltics, Eastern European countries — fearful, having been occupied by the Soviet Union, of Russian aggression, witnessing Ukraine, but France, Germany — and it’s not just the gas and oil, but it’s a sense that they live on the same continent, that there needs to be agreement and not a kind of sundering or instability, because it’s lost here, but this war, again, is going to end, and what emerges will be — whether it’s mutual security or constant insecurity and instability, again, with nuclear-armed weapons, is, I think, a very fundamental issue, and Macron was right to raise this.
AMY GOODMAN:Katrina you have been studying Russia and Russia for decades. What sense do you have of the Russian public and where they stand right now, the significance of high-level officials differing from — one even quitting over this — and any pressure that you think is effective from within that’s being placed on Putin?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL:Amy, you are so critical to discuss the Russian opposition’s pressure. The Russian government has done everything possible to suppress the protests that erupted following the Ukrainian war. Many Russians have relatives and friends in Ukraine. And I believe there was shock in the first instance. There has been a rallying to the Russian government, partly because of the propagandistic state television portraying now that it’s a proxy war. It’s easier for Russians to fix on fighting NATOThe U.S. is better than Ukraine. A friend of mine from Moscow says she feels twice shamed. She’s shamed by her government, but she’s also shamed by the United States, NATOStigmatizing and, it seems to me, demonizing all Russians, while not understanding that there are those who oppose the war.
There are also mothers who are angry at the body bags coming back to Moscow and new gravesites, as well as those who saw it during the Afghan War. So that’s a factor, and the Russians have been very careful to keep numbers low, even though they’re losing thousands a month. Zelensky, by way, pointed out Amy that Ukraine is losing 50-80 men per day. This, in comparison, is more than what the United States lost at Vietnam’s highest point in 1968.
I will mention that my longtime friend, and editor of the independent paper, is my friend. Novaya Gazeta, who received — co-received the Nobel Peace Prize in December, has just auctioned his Nobel, or announced he will, and contribute the money, which he thinks might be $100 million, to Ukrainian refugees. The newspaper is still operating in Riga in the Baltics.
AMY GOODMAN:What do you think of the U.S. Senate’s standing? I mean, you have the arch, well, libertarian, conservative, anti-civil rights leader, Rand Paul — right? — the Republican Kentucky senator, who is an enemy of the other Kentucky senator — right? — the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, holding up a vote of weapons sales, saying, “Where is the oversight? We need an ombudsman.” And that — and, you know, finally, he caved on that. But you have the Republicans who are pressing against these weapons sales, and the Democrats and much of the — outside Fox — media, CNN, MSNBC, all just pushing forward, and when weapons sales are not happening, asking, “Why not?” or just weapons give-overs.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL:Amy, U.S.-Russian relations have been a mess for the past five, six years. You know what? There is something that has emerged. I consider it a very important development, a significant development in U.S. political, foreign policy. I would call it the restraint Caucus. This is the Quincy Institute. It’s headed by Andrew Bacevich. Trita Parasi and Anatol LIeven. These are members of the Quincy Institute who believe not in isolationism but that there is a different way for America to engage the world, with diplomacy, with restraint and with an understanding that America is stronger if it’s not a unipolar power, if it’s not policing the world and if it’s not triumphalist. Sadly, I think, on this issue particularly, on Russia, the progressive community is not at this moment offering, saying, you know, “Negotiations, let’s open a space for it,” but focusing more on Russia as a kind of demon and should be not in the civilized network of nations, and more weapons, more weapons. I think it’s important not to attribute this restraint caucus solely to the Rand Pauls or Josh Hawleys. It’s much broader and, I think, more representative of this country. And as you know, those in this country’s voices are not often heard inside Washington.
Amy, one thing has fundamentally changed in the last few weeks is, of all things, what is the strategic focal point of U.S. involvement with Ukraine? Is it to — from the original concept, to defend Ukraine as a free, sovereign, independent country, or is it, as General Austin said, to degrade, to weaken Russia, or, as President Biden said and had to roll it back, Putin shouldn’t — you know, he shouldn’t be in power? And that’s a very different framework. It’s sort of comparable to the old debate between George Kennan’s containment, which was later changed in focus to rollback idea, which has dominated this country’s foreign policy.
And I think it’s important to understand that there are negotiations that have occurred in these last months. One was held in Istanbul between the Russians, and Ukrainians. The FT, Financial TimesIn March,, reported that a 15 point plan had been developed. You know, it’s easy to start a war than to end a war. Surveys show that it’s more difficult to end a war if it goes on for too long. Our weapons, which many may argue are vital to defend Ukraine against the barbarisms of Russia, can lead to a prolonged war with all the ancillary nukes, threats, perils, etc. So, I think it’s pivotal inflection point, and I think people need to take steps.
You mentioned the Senate. I’m referring to November’s midterm elections. These are the top two priorities. And I think that many presidents, including Trump and Biden, had a long-standing understanding years ago of Ukraine’s national security interests. Obama didn’t send lethal weapons. It was before the Russian aggression. But I think that’s worth thinking about. How vital is Ukraine’s security? Yes, but it is not an extraordinary amount of commitment.
I’ll end by saying I think Zelensky, who, you know, is an extraordinary figure, has talked about $5 billion to $7 billion a month needed to keep Ukraine aloft, alive and surviving. And that money — you know, the money is going to be needed for reconstruction of this ravaged country, for those displaced, for food and security, for all the issues we’ve talked about as extending from this war, which has had global impact.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, the idea — we’re talking about, if this is a proxy war, you know, major nuclear countries, the United States versus Russia. What do you think?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, what’s interesting is, polls show that Americans now are thinking about the nuclear threat. Now, one thing that is of great concern, Amy, I’ve heard that there are no working groups, there are no groups talking at lower levels — U.S., Russian — about the nuclear issues, which are critical. We don’t have a nuclear arms infrastructure at the moment, Amy. It’s been shredded since 2002, the anti-ballistic missile system. START, very weak, extended ’til 2025, ’26, but all these other treaties are just torn apart. The nuclear issue is a terrifying one. I mean, this is as dangerous, more dangerous than the Cuban Missile Crisis, which many don’t remember, but it’s protracted. The longer this goes on, more accidental incidents, miscalculations could occur. This is why these missiles sent from the United States only reach 40 miles. There is a terror that they might escalate into Russia, as Putin has threatened.
I will say June 12th, 1982, we’re marking the 40th anniversary this June 12 of a million people in Central Park to oppose the nuclear expansion at that time of Reagan and Gorbachev. And I think people — maybe this will focus people on the need for freeze, for build-down, for understanding the peril of nuclear weapons, while we live with so many other dangers. This is really horrifying that it has been raised as a possibility in this protracted — let us say, this proxy war, which is leading to a possible global war in its implications for the change of our political-military architecture.
AMY GOODMAN: I know I said “finally,” but this is really finally. What do you think could shake the establishment consensus? The media is a large part of it, pushing Biden to go even further, to sell more weapons at the point, and to allow those other voices in?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, I mean, that’s the question of our time, isn’t it? And I think that to listen to the people — I mean that, because I think people care about being a good force in the world, but are not up for this policing, this triumphalism. I think that it’s going to take those who understand the need to demilitarize.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Amy, there was a sense of return to an idea in foreign policy called common security — this was Olof Palme, this was also Mikhail Gorbachev — but an understanding that there are human security needs, to fight the pandemic, to fight global inequality, to fight food shortages and, of course, the existential crisis of climate change, which, by the way, in the $50 billion that has been put through to Ukraine, that’s far more than we’ve been spending to tackle and hold climate crisis. But I do think there’s a way of framing our security needs that could open up minds.
And I think this idea I talked about, about restraint, it needs to be more broadly understood, because I think it’s much more in the American tradition than what we see from the neocons or the neoliberal interventionists who have dominated inside Washington. Biden is definitely under great pressure. And it’s a pressure, as I’ve said, I said in my Washington Postcolumn that begins in the center and continues to the right. These forces are necessary to exert pressure. And they’re there, but he hasn’t opened up his administration or let them in or listened to them. But if you had a more open media and a more open-minded administration, these people are young — Blinken, Jake Sullivan — but they’re recycling the oldest and worst ideas in our foreign policy.
AMY GOODMAN: Katrina vanden Heuvel, we want to —
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: And we haven’t even talked about China. Sorry.
AMY GOODMAN: Sorry. Go ahead.
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: We haven’t even talked about China, in the context that they were supposed to move on to China, but they’re doing so in a way to challenge and treat China as a terrible threat. These countries are not to be admired, in many ways, but they’re needed, not as friends, but as partners, in dealing with some of the grave issues of our time. And that is a realism, one hopes, a realistic approach, because there are a lot of people putting her head in the sand and thinking we’re going to have double wars, Russia and China. This is not the way to build a world.
AMY GOODMAN:Katrina vanden Heuvel is the publisher of I want you to know how much we appreciate your support. The Nation magazine. We’ll link to your pieceIn The Washington Post, “We need a real debate about the Ukraine war.”
Next, the House Committee investigating the January 6th Insurrection is holding its first hearing on Thursday. Democracy Now!It will be streamed live at 8:00 Eastern [Daylight] Time. Stay with us. We’re speaking with Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Will Bunch.