PrintPrint EmailEmail ShareShare CiteCite


Russian and Chinese Assertiveness Poses New Foreign Policy Challenges

HBO History Makers Series with Robert M. Gates

Speaker: Robert M. Gates, President-elect, Boy Scouts of America; Author, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War; Former Secretary, U.S. Department of Defense; Former President, Texas A&M University; Former Director, Central Intelligence Agency
Presider: Fareed Zakaria, Host, CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS; Editor-at-Large, TIME Magazine; Member, Board of Directors, Council on Foreign Relations
May 21, 2014

Event Description

Former defense secretary Robert Gates sits down with CNN's Fareed Zakaria to give his perspective on U.S. foreign policy. Gates warns that recent efforts by the United States to shift some of the burden of global leadership to its allies may have spurred Russia and China to act more aggressively in pursuit of their interests. He also suggests that a federalized Ukraine with significant autonomy for the eastern part of the country could be the formula for an acceptable compromise with Russia and a de-escalation of tensions.

The Home Box Office History Makers Series focuses particular attention on the contributions made by a prominent individual at a critical juncture in international relations.

Event Highlights

Robert Gates on Putin's intentions in Ukraine:

"I think what he wants, particularly in Ukraine, now that he's got Crimea, is a government that is definitely not moving toward the West, and that is sympathetic to Russia. How sympathetic may be negotiable, and particularly if you end up a more federated Ukraine where the East has a great deal of autonomy in terms of the Russian language, education, business, and so on and so forth, and in fact, can be—look more towards Moscow than toward Kiev."

Robert Gates on the recent indictment of Chinese intelligence officers for stealing trade secrets from U.S. companies:

"What do I think the administration did this for? Because I—it's not only rare, I think it's unprecedented. I don't know of any precedent of indicting foreign intelligence officers while they're still sitting in their home country, and not likely to visit. I think partly it was a wake-up call for American companies that this is real and it's big and it's very well organized, coming from the Chinese. Second, I think it's a shot across the bow at the Chinese in that they may have gone too far and there will be broader ramifications for the relationship."

Robert Gates on the consequences of the United States assuming a less active role in international affairs:

"And my belief is that as the—with all the talk of coming home, of nation building at home, and so on, that the perception has grown increasingly around the world, that in fact the United States is pulling back from the global responsibilities that it has shouldered for many decades now. I believe Russia and China, among others, see that void, and are moving to see what advantage they can take of it."

Terms of Use: I understand that I may access this audio and/or video file solely for my personal use. Any other use of the file and its content, including display, distribution, reproduction, or alteration in any form for any purpose, whether commercial, noncommercial, educational, or promotional, is expressly prohibited without the written permission of the copyright owner, the Council on Foreign Relations. For more information, write

More on This Topic

Must Read

The News: Our Commitment to Pakistan

Author: Robert M. Gates

In Pakistan's The News, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates reflects on the long-standing friendship between Pakistan and the U.S. and...