U.S. Policy Toward Russia, With Derek H. Chollet

Derek H. Chollet, Counselor of the U.S. Department of State, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the Biden administration’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

May 3, 2022 — 31:06 min
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Host

James M. Lindsay

Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair Full Bio

Episode Guests

Derek H. Chollet

,

Show Notes

Derek H. Chollet, Counselor of the U.S. Department of State, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss the Biden administration’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

 

Books Mentioned on the Podcast

 

Derek H. Chollet, The Middle Way: How Three Presidents Shaped America’s Role in the World (2021)

 

Statements and Polls Mentioned

 

Ashley Parker, et al, “Big majority of Americans back sanctions on Russia, aid to Ukraine, poll finds,” May 2, 2022


Secretary Antony J. Blinken on Russia’s Threat to Peace and Security at the UN Security Council,” U.S. State Department, February 17, 2022

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Transcript

James Lindsay:

Welcome to The President's Inbox, a CFR podcast about the foreign policy challenges facing the United States. I'm James Lindsay, Director of Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This week's topic is, U.S. Policy Toward Russia. With me to discuss the Biden administration's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, is Derek Chollet. Derek is the Counselor of the US Department of State. He serves as a Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State. Derek held a wide variety of government positions during the Obama administration, including Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs, Special Assistant to the President, and Senior Director for Strategic Planning on the staff of the National Security Council, and Principal Deputy Director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff. He has written, or co-edited eight books. The most recent, which looks at the presidencies of Dwight Eisenhower, George H.W. Bush, and Barrack Obama, is titled the "Middle Way, How Three Presidents Shaped America's Role in the World." Derek, thanks for joining me.

Derek Chollet:

It's great to be here, Jim. Thanks for having me.

James Lindsay:

If I may Derek, I'd like to begin by providing a bit of context for our listeners. Most of them probably haven't heard of the position of Counselor to the Secretary of State. So, could you just briefly give us your job description?

Derek Chollet:

Sure. Thanks, Jim. And again, it's great to be here. So, I fully concede the position of Counselor sounds entirely made up. And in fact, when I was asked to do this job back in late 2020 during the transition, my family thought it was just completely concocted out of nothing. But in fact, it has a long history and proud history here in the state department, going back over a century. And I am humbled that of some of the predecessors that have had this job from George Kennan to Charles Bowen, to Wendy Sherman, who's currently our Deputy Secretary, to Eliot Cohen who had this job under Secretary Rice.

Derek Chollet:

So, I would say a good chunk of my time is spent helping the secretary of state dealing with whatever is on his plate. Whether it's Russia-Ukraine, or China, or things here in the internal department, I spent a lot of time helping him navigate through life, but also then I've got my own portfolio as well, that either is by default or by design. Either things that sort of fall onto my plate that one has to work on or things that we've decided are priority issues or things that I can, on the secretary's behalf, work with colleagues here in the department and around the government to drill down on. And so, over the course of the last 15 months, I've done everything from Nord Stream Two, to Myanmar and ASEAN, and to Libya and Tunisia, so and everything in between. So the days go fast. I'm very busy, but obviously I've spent a lot of time in the last several months, working all things, Russia-Ukraine as has many of us here in the department.

James Lindsay:

Okay. So, let's talk about Russia-Ukraine. And before we jump into the details, Derek of how the administration has responded to Russia's invasion, I'd like to ask you what the administration sees as being at stake in Ukraine. And I'll note that Ohio Republican Senate candidate, JD Vance said earlier this year that let me quote him, "I don't really care what happens to Ukraine one way or the other," end quote. I assume he is not alone in that sentiment. What is he in others who agree with him missing?

Derek Chollet:

Well, one of the benefits of this job is I don't do politics, so I won't engage directly on that. But look, I think clearly, and what we have seen happen in the last 10 weeks since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, is the greatest crisis Europe has faced since the second World War. It's the largest conflict Europe has seen since the second World War. It is the largest refugee crisis. There are well over 10 million Ukrainians about a quarter of its population is currently displaced. Roughly half of those folks are refugees. So, they have crossed borders outside of Ukraine, mostly in the surrounding countries. Poland alone has got several million refugees that they have absorbed over the last 10 weeks, but then also 4 million or so are displaced within Ukraine. So, they have left their homes in Ukraine and have tried to get out of harm's way. So, this has ripple effects across not just Europe, but around the world.

Derek Chollet:

We've seen it in energy prices up. We've seen it in food prices going up. So, there's a tremendous amount of stake in terms of security and in terms of stability within Europe and beyond. Also, there are fundamental principles at stake. Principles, like the sovereignty of states and principles like a state being able to choose its own destiny that a larger, more powerful neighbor cannot exert its will over a smaller neighbor through violence. And so, that's why it's been interesting that, I mean, clearly this is a crisis first and foremost for Ukraine and for Europe, but it has also been really seen as a global crisis. And I've been struck in my engagements with counterparts around the world, but also along with the secretary, with his counterparts around the world, that we are talking about this constantly.

Derek Chollet:

And whether it's obviously with our European friends, but also in Asia with Japanese and the Koreans and many others, Australians, New Zealand have been part of the response to this crisis. And so, there is a lot at stake here. And unfortunately, I think that things will continue to probably get worse in the sense of this conflict, we foresee it going on for some time. Ukrainians have proven their tremendous resilience in bravery in the course of this conflict, and the world, the United States, and many, many other partners have really stepped up to provide them support, or we're going to be providing them more support in the coming weeks and months. So, they have what they need to be able to defend their country.

James Lindsay:

So what would you describe the Biden administration's objectives in Ukraine, Derek?

Derek Chollet:

So, I think first and foremost, it's to help Ukraine defend themselves. And that's why already the United States has provided over $4 billion in security assistance to Ukrainians, and just the last week. President Biden asked Congress for another $30 billion in assistance to the Ukrainians. 20 of that is going to be security and defense assistance, about 8 of that is going to be economic assistance and 3 or so is going to be humanitarian support. Now, that's just what the United States is doing. And I think, again, I want to stress that the response in terms of support for Ukraine has been global. You've seen a whole parade of leaders go into Kiev or other parts of Ukraine just in the last several weeks.

Derek Chollet:

Over the weekend, we had the speaker of the house with senior congressional delegation. The week before that we had the secretary of defense and the secretary of state go to Ukraine. So, currently we've got tremendous amount of support going into Ukraine to help them defend themselves. And so they can be stable, be able to rebuild themselves and that's going to be frankly, another piece of business, we're all going to need to be part of down the road. Once Ukraine is able to defend itself, then we're going to need to be all part of a reconstruction effort for Ukraine as well.

James Lindsay:

Let me ask you about the initial response by the Biden administration. There was a poll released early this week by Washington Post and ABC news. And it found that more than one in three Americans thought that the Biden administration hasn't done enough in Ukraine. How would you answer that charge?

Derek Chollet:

Well, I think when you see the kind of violence being perpetrated against Ukrainians and the power imbalance, that's clear between Russia and Ukraine, there's never a sense that one can do enough. I think it's important to put in perspective what we are doing and particularly on the military support side. And again, the $4 billion up to this point with another $20 billion, hopefully as soon as Congress acts in the pipeline, that's a historic level of support. I'm hard pressed to think of a comparison in a conflict that we are not party to, where we have provided just in the matter of 10 weeks or so, that kind of support. I think the closest analogy that I can come up with is the early days of World War II before we got involved in the early 1940s.

James Lindsay:

Lend-Lease to Britain and other-

Derek Chollet:

Yeah, the Lend-Lease period, exactly. But you have seen in our response to this crisis, going back from before the invasion began, well before the invasion began last fall, United States started to provide then, hundreds of millions of dollars of security assistance in so called drawdown packages, which is sort a fancy way of saying we're taking our own stocks of material and applying them to the Ukrainians. Those started last fall, and there was several before February 24th, as we watched this build up begin, and the US, we were doing it ourselves, but then also working with allies and partners for them to provide support. And so two weeks ago, Secretary Austin, Secretary of Defense, was in Ramstein in Germany and hosted a meeting of about 30 other countries, defense ministers, and chiefs of defense, with the Ukrainians to talk through the Ukrainian needs and really kind of divide the labor about who's giving what and how the assistance can get into theater.

Derek Chollet:

And we've seen that of course put to good use and that the Ukrainians won the battle of Kiev. It was not so long ago that the Russian forces were on the outskirts of Kiev. We have seen since they've departed, the tremendous atrocities that have been committed in some of the suburbs of Kiev while they were present there. But the fact that Ukrainians were able to push them back is a testament first and foremost to the Ukrainians, but also to all the assistance that we've been providing them in the last several months. I should also point out assistance we've been providing them over the last eight years or so. And that the training of the Ukrainian military really started in earnest in the wake of Russia's initial invasion of Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014.

James Lindsay:

Derek, it was very clear that the administration was ahead of what the Russians were going to do, throughout much of the late fall, early winter, the Biden administration had warned friends and allies that Russia was poised to invade Ukraine. Most of those warnings were dismissed or discounted as being overly fearful. Why do you think it is that America's friends, partners and allies were slow to believe what the administration was telling them?

Derek Chollet:

Well, Jim, I think there are a lot of reasons for that. When we first started to see the intelligence assess that this was something that Russia was thinking about, and this goes back to October or so of last year. I think the first time that president Biden spoke to his key European counterparts about this was on the margins of the G20 Summit in Italy in late October of last year. At that time, we had nothing conclusive. We saw evidence gathering, but the decision had not been made. So at that point, it was about using this information to try to get allies and partners, to try to use whatever means they had to persuade Putin, not to take the steps we were worried about him taking. I have to confess that there was a disbelief among some of us.

Derek Chollet:

Meaning that obviously, we believed the intelligence we were seeing, but it just didn't seem to make much sense from a Putin perspective, both in terms of some of the assumptions that he seemed to have about how this conflict would go and the idea that it would be a quick conflict, something that would just be a few days. To the consequences that he would face if in fact, he followed through with this. And so, I had empathy for our colleagues around the world who we were sharing as much intelligence as we possibly could with them. And I think we broke all sorts of records in terms of the amount of sensitive material that we were allowed to put into public domain to show the world that Russia was what it was up to. And to try to call them out in some way to try to slow this down first and foremost. So, we could use the time to build the coalition, to prepare, to get assistance to the Ukrainians, to prepare sanctions packages. And in other ways, we were going to isolate and punish Russia.

Derek Chollet:

If they were to take this action, making clear to the Russians that we were willing to engage with them in diplomacy, but that if they were unwilling to take that path, there would be another path of punishment and isolation. And then also very importantly, getting our embassy secure, using the time that we had to ensure that our diplomats could be safe in the event of a Russian invasion. So, we made good use of that time, and I think there's no question that our ability to use the information we had, to make the case to our allies and partners around the world, but then also in the public domain has helped us in the diplomacy since the invasion. But it's important to stress, we and secretary, we wanted to be wrong here. Secretary Blinken went to the UN Security Council in February of this year. He was on his way to Europe, actually going to the Munich Security Conference, stopped in New York, gave a statement at the UN Security Council laying out the Russia playbook and what we expected to see and almost to a syllable, what he said was going to happen, happened.

Derek Chollet:

Everything from the fabricated provocation that Russian claimed it was acting in defense of innocence inside the Donbas, to these kind of theatrical security council meetings. And we all remember the famous sessions with the big table with Putin and some of his senior officials, to a declaration of recognition of the Luhansk and Donetsk as republics, all that happened. And Secretary Blinken said, in that statement, "Look, we want to be wrong. We hope that we're wrong. We would be willing to take the hit to our credibility, if we were wrong in this." We didn't think we were, and of course we were. And so, that actually has also enhanced our credibility, I think, in the last... as we've responded to this crisis. Given that there were some doubters about whether this would happen or not.

James Lindsay:

I agree with you that it would've been better if you had been wrong and the Russians had not invaded, but obviously they have. And we're now two months into this war. You mentioned Secretary Austin's trip last month to the theater being in Ramstein. He was also in Kiev and when he was in Kiev, he said, let me quote him here, "We want to see Russia weaken to the degree that he can't do the kind of things that it is done in invading Ukraine." That produced some criticism, arguing that the United States is engaged in a form of mission creep. That it's one thing to try to stop Putin from succeeding in Ukraine. It's quite a different objective to try to cripple his military's ability to wage an aggressive war. Are we seeing mission creep Derek?

Derek Chollet:

No, and I think in many ways, what Secretary Austin articulated, we already have seen. The Russian military is being depleted every day. It has suffered setbacks that very few expected that it would suffer prior to this invasion. It has shown that it's lacking in capability. Although, it obviously still has tremendous capability, it's perhaps not as fearsome as was thought. Secondly, Russia's economy is being depleted. It is under tremendous strain. It's going to be even harder and harder over time, particularly as things like export controls really kick in. Meaning that the impact of the export controls, because right now, Russia is able to keep its economy afloat by running through its existing stocks. But as it runs out of that and is unable to import key technologies to innovate or to produce, reproduce some of its material or weapons in particular, but other basic consumer products, it's going to pinch quite hard.

Derek Chollet:

Russia is more isolated in the world than it was 10 weeks ago by every single measure. I anticipate that isolation will only grow with time, particularly as we see further evidence of atrocities mount inside Ukraine, and lord knows what we're going to find once the siege in Mariupol is over. One can only imagine what's happening there right now, given what we saw in the outskirts of Kiev and other areas that Russia once occupied after it withdrew. And then finally, if one of Putin's key goals, and certainly I think one of his expectations was that this conflict would drive the US and Europe apart, would weaken NATO. And of course, the US-European relationship has only gotten stronger in the last 10 weeks and NATO's only gotten stronger. And the idea that now we are talking about Finland and Sweden, joining the alliance, something that was not on anyone's mind at the beginning of the year is a direct consequence of Putin's choices.

Derek Chollet:

And then finally, if one of his goals was to exert almost total influence over Ukraine, including by overthrowing the government. Well, he's failed at that spectacularly. And Ukraine... he lost the battle of Kiev and he has only pushed Ukraine further into the West. And so in that sense, Russia has already had a massive strategic setback. And then finally, let me just say, the other thing that we're watching happen this week, even in kind of a further turn of this, is the decoupling of Russia from Europe economically, and in terms of its energy, and the strategic consequences of that are going to be massive. I think Putin did not expect the Europeans to move as quickly as they have in terms of their willingness to endure higher energy prices. But I expect that tomorrow, we'll see the EU take another decision to set itself toward the goal of cutting off Russian energy, which is something that I don't think Putin fully expected.

James Lindsay:

It's hard Derek, not to agree with your assessment, that Putin's invasion of Ukraine has turned into a major strategic blunder. We certainly have seen remarkable unity in the West. I think in some extent, we've surprised ourselves with the degree of unity we see in the West, but I want to talk about this issue of how the world more broadly is reacting. It seems that many democracies in the so-called Global South haven't reacted to the invasion of Ukraine by criticizing Moscow. Instead, they're sitting on the sidelines. Some like South Africa blame the West for provoking the war, and others like India have been trying to profit from it by buying cut-rate Russian oil. What is the administration doing to get these democracies to come off the fence and join this broader coalition that is trying to isolate Russia?

Derek Chollet:

Well, I think from where I sit, we do see a trend of more countries joining this effort to isolate and punish Russia. As I've talked to counterparts from all over the world in the last 10 weeks, there's no one... very few. I should say not no one, but very few. Certainly no one I've been engaging with, is defending Russia, saying that what they're seeing in Ukraine is fully justified or anything like that. Look, countries have complicated relationships with Russia. I was in Vietnam a few weeks ago. Of course, Vietnam has for decades been a close defense partner of Russia's, but at the same time, they're not pleased in any way with what's going on inside Ukraine and the Vietnamese can in many ways, relate to the Ukrainians because the Vietnamese themselves, at least four times in the last 70 years have been the smaller country that has been military forces by a larger country, has been used against it, including by us, the United States.

Derek Chollet:

And so, part of what we're talking to the Vietnamese and others about, is ways that we can be a better partner, particularly in the defense realm. India's another example. Of course, India for decades has had a close defense relationship with Russia. The majority of India's combat equipment right now is Russian made, but we also understand that many of those decisions were taken years ago before the US was available to be a partner of a country like India's in the defense realm. So of course the US-India defense relationship, is in a totally different place than it was even a decade ago. And just a few weeks ago, Secretary Blinken and Austin had a so-called two plus two, with their Indian counterparts here in Washington, which was very successful talking about all matters of the relationship from our defense and economic and trade relations to what we're doing together, diplomatically in the quad for example.

Derek Chollet:

As we speak the Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman is in South Africa, most senior level visit we've had to South Africa during this administration. And we're looking forward to doing more of those kinds of visits. President Biden had a good call just a few weeks ago with the South African president, Ramaphosa. So, we are working this every day, working with countries to try to bring them into this broader effort in any way they can. And we also recognize that for many countries, they are facing greater hardship, whether it's high energy prices, high food prices. And that's why, for example, the secretary of state is focused on food security in particular. And so the U.S. this month, will be the president of the UN Security Council. And one of the core efforts of this month that we're going to try to put a lot of our time into, is an effort on food security.

Derek Chollet:

And so Secretary Blinken later this month will be up in New York, working on that issue. And that's something that Linda Thomas Greenfield, our ambassador to the UN will be working on every day. And so recognizing that we're all facing higher food prices. Now, some of this by the way is not because of our sanctions. It's because of Russia's basic blockage of Ukrainian ports. Actually the wheat crop in Ukraine this year is quite high. It's actually not been affected by the conflict, but the problem is that wheat can't get out of Ukraine because Russia's blocking the port. So, it's on Russia for the reason why we're having such high food prices right now. And part of that, our job is to get that message out about why countries are facing the hardship they are. This could all end quickly if Vladimir Putin were to withdraw all of his forces from Ukraine.

James Lindsay:

Well, that doesn't seem to be in the offing, Derek.

Derek Chollet:

Exactly, unfortunately.

James Lindsay:

So, let's talk about where do we go from here? The standard advice in diplomacy is to always give your adversary an out. Otherwise, you face a foe who has nothing to lose. That's especially dangerous when you're talking about a nuclear armed adversary. So, how is the Biden administration thinking about how this crisis is going to play out? Are we going to provide the Russians with so-called off-ramps to try to entice them to do what they don't seem to want to do?

Derek Chollet:

Yeah, well, so your last point is kind of important. They don't seem to want to do it. They've had maximalist goals from the very beginning and prior to the invasion on February 24th, the administration and the secretary of state in particular worked tirelessly to try to engage with the Russians and to try to take them at their word that they were seeking a diplomatic solution. And there were all various formats that we tried with those bilateral through NATO, through the OSCE, but it was quite clear really at the time, but particularly in retrospect, as we watch this play out, that the Russians were never very serious about diplomacy. They, they never engaged in this in a meaningful way. They never moved a millimeter off their maximalist goals. And Vladimir Putin, I think has made it very plain for all of us to see, in his own public statements from prior the invasion to everything he said, since the invasion, that he's not interested in anything short of his maximalist goals of being able to control Ukraine.

Derek Chollet:

And that's just totally unacceptable. The Ukrainians aren't going to settle for it, of course. So, we are doing what we can to support the Ukrainians, and there are discussions underway between the Ukrainians and the Russians. So, it's not for lack of dialogue. Unfortunately, there's very little to indicate those discussions are leading anywhere. And as you've also seen, there's been no shortage of world leaders talking to Vladimir Putin. We had the UN secretary general in Moscow and Kiev last week, President Macron of France had another phone conversation with Putin today. None of those have gotten anywhere because Putin hasn't shown any interest in negotiating.

James Lindsay:

So, where does that mean we're headed?

Derek Chollet:

Well, our policy right now is pretty simple. Three prongs, support Ukraine, provide Ukraine the means it needs to defend itself, and also with economic and humanitarian support. The U.S. will pay a large sum of that, but we will also work very closely with allies and partners. So, they step up as well. Second, to isolate and punish Russia, and that will mean continuing to refine and come up with new sanctions against Russia to further harm their economy, but also to make clear that... well, to make it harder for them to maintain the power that's required needed to continue their assault against Ukraine, but also isolate Russia further in the international system. We've seen that through the UN General Assembly votes and in other ways that they've been isolated in the international system.

Derek Chollet:

And then third, to shore up our European partners, particularly those on the Eastern flank of NATO, who are bordering Ukraine, who are either dealing with massive refugees, but also quite nervous about the potential to spill over. We've been very clear throughout this crisis, we'll defend every inch of NATO territory. Now, have got about a hundred thousand troops, US troops in Europe defending the Eastern flank along with other NATO partners. We've got a summit in Madrid, a NATO Summit at the end of June, which will be a very consequential summit that the president will lead. So, those are the three prongs of our strategy. And we will stick to that as long as it's required to end this war.

James Lindsay:

So, it sounds like you're expecting a long crisis, which primes my next question, President Biden came into office saying that countering China was foreign policy job one, but now it looks to be the case that the administration is focused for obvious reasons on Russia. Is the urgent trumping the important?

Derek Chollet:

Well, one of the greatest challenges in policy making, as you know Jim, is to both manage the urgent while you're staying focused on the important, and we remain very focused on the challenges and opportunities in the Indo-Pacific. Secretary Blinken will be speaking to some of those challenges in the coming days. And we have been, whether it's by showing up and myself, I was in Asia just about a month ago last week... yeah, last week, we had Kurt Campbell and Dan Kritenbrink. Kurt from The White House, Dan, our Assistant Secretary for East Asia, were in the Pacific Islands, dealing in particular with the Solomon Islands issue, that's popped up. We are going to continue to show our desire to have robust leadership in the region. I should say, also next week here in Washington, Present Biden will host for the first time ASEAN leaders, from Southeast Asia here, all nine of the ASEAN leaders will be here in Washington for the first time.

Derek Chollet:

It will be the largest meeting of world leaders here in Washington, since before the pandemic. And that I think symbolizes the importance that we place on Southeast Asia in particular, and our enduring interest there. So, we remain very focused on the important, but as I said, in some ways there is overlap between the urgent and the important, because the Russia-Ukraine crisis is not just a crisis for Ukraine or even for Europe. In many ways, it is a global crisis. And it's one in which we've engaged intensively with our Asian partners on, in addition to Europeans and partners in the Middle East, it's not just been a Europe only enterprise.

James Lindsay:

Are you worried that we're seeing the emergence of the Sino-Russian Alliance?

Derek Chollet:

It's something we're watching closely, but I haven't seen it yet. I think we've seen China back off a bit. It seems at least in their public posture of their embrace of Russia. They famously had this 5,000 word joint statement before the Olympics.

James Lindsay:

Strategic partnership with no limits.

Derek Chollet:

Exactly, where they talked about no limits. We have been very clear with the PRC that if they help Russia in any way, in terms of sanctions of Asian, if they provide material, military support to the Russians, that there would be consequences for that. And clearly they are providing some support to Russia in the international system, whether through these UN votes and whatnot, but I don't want to overstate the kind of the Sino-Russian relationship here. And we have our own complex relationship with the PRC and it's something, again, Secretary Blinken will be speaking to soon that has cooperative elements. And unfortunately, they're not many cooperative elements, but for example, on something like climate change, we've got to work with the Chinese government.

Derek Chollet:

We have elements that are going to be confrontational, where we genuinely do not agree, and we will not agree, and we're going to need to stand by our principles and our interests firmly. And then areas where it will be a competition. And we are willing to welcome the competition with China, as long as we are playing by the same set of rules. So, we have our own complex relationship with the PRC, but when it comes to their support for Russia, we have been very clear with them from the president on down, and his engagements with President Xi, all down the chain about our expectations for them.

James Lindsay:

Derek, I want to close by going back to another major overarching point that President Biden emphasized on the campaign trail and after becoming president. And that was, he wanted to renew and reinvigorate America's traditional alliances and partnerships. He famously said, "America's back," shortly after being inaugurated, and clearly put a lot of effort into trying to build back relations with key partners that had been strained in recent years. We've had this remarkable unity among the West, and even the term, the West has sort of enjoyed a renaissance in the last several months. Has the administration given any thought to steps it can take to sustain, nurture that cooperation, potentially formalize it? Because again, what's remarkable is this is not just a NATO response. It really is a much broader response. You mentioned Asian allies stepping up to the plate and taking on responsibilities and reacting to the invasion. Any thought about whether you can take advantage of this moment to build something more lasting?

Derek Chollet:

It's a great question, Jim, and we are giving it a lot of thought. I should just say for context, it has only been 10 weeks since the invasion and-

James Lindsay:

I'm impatient.

Derek Chollet:

I was reminded one of the seminal books about the creation of the Marshall Plan was entitled, 15 weeks. So, we still have five more weeks until we hit that mark. But, we feel we have seen reaping some of the benefits of the work over the last 15 months to reinvigorate, revitalize, and help heal in some cases, our alliances and partnerships around the world. It wasn't just by accident that this alliance has come together or this coalition has come together as quickly and strongly as it has. Also, you have seen that we've tried to elevate some existing partnerships. So the quad, for example, which later this month, President Biden, there'll be a summit meeting of the quad. And it's hard to imagine, or it's hard to remember. It's only been a year or so that we've been doing quads at summit level, at leaders level.

Derek Chollet:

And now it's sort of expected that we're doing this. So as well, as I mentioned earlier with ASEAN, really trying to raise our game in Southeast Asia with ASEAN now. So, some of these are existing partnerships and alliances coalitions. Some of these are going to be new and we are trying to be as creative as we can be as we try to not just take advantage of the moment, but really rise to the moment and the new reality that we're facing. I know there's no shortage of ideas out there on this. I'm a loyal reader of CFR publications, foreign affairs on your website. And I know that-

James Lindsay:

Thank you for the plug.

Derek Chollet:

It's a debate we follow very closely as well. So yeah, we are quite open for business for ideas on that front, but we've spent in addition to answering the day to day of responding to this urgent crisis in Ukraine, thinking about what this is going to mean for us moving forward, because we do see this. It's a cliche phrase, but it's totally true right now, which is, "We aren't an inflection point, we feel." And it is one of those moments where we have to rise the occasion to meet this acute set of challenges we have, but also that's an opportunity for us to create something new and lasting to our benefit.

James Lindsay:

On that note, I'll close up the President's Inbox for this week. My guest has been Derek Chollet, Counselor of the US State Department. Derek, thank you very much for taking time to speak with me.

Derek Chollet:

Thanks Jim. It's great to be here. Appreciate it.

James Lindsay:

Please subscribe to the President's Inbox on Apple Podcast, Spotify, wherever you listen and leave us a review. They help us get noticed and improve the show. You can find the books and articles mentioned in this episode, as well as a transcript of our conversation on the podcast page for the President's Inbox on cfr.org. As always, opinions expressed in the President's Inbox, are solely those of the host or our guest, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. Today's episode was produced by Zoe Collis with senior producer, Jeremy Sherlick. Zoe did double duty as our recording engineer. As always, Zoe, thank you. Special thanks go to Margaret Gach for her assistance. This is Jim Lindsay. Thanks for listening.

 

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Max Boot, the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Washington Post columnist, sits down with Jam...

Max Boot, the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow in national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Washington Post columnist, sits down with Jam...

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Evan Greenberg, chairman and CEO of Chubb, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss growing tensions in U.S.-China economic relations, the importance of trade to t...

Evan Greenberg, chairman and CEO of Chubb, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss growing tensions in U.S.-China economic relations, the importance of trade to t...

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Gernot Wagner, climate economist at Columbia Business School, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss progress in the green energy transition and the risks and be...

Gernot Wagner, climate economist at Columbia Business School, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss progress in the green energy transition and the risks and be...

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Ian Johnson, CFR’s Stephen A. Schwarzman senior fellow for China studies, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss economic, political, and demographic development...

Ian Johnson, CFR’s Stephen A. Schwarzman senior fellow for China studies, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss economic, political, and demographic development...

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Stephen Sestanovich, George F. Kennan senior fellow for Russian and Eurasian studies at CFR and Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis professor of international diplomacy ...

Stephen Sestanovich, George F. Kennan senior fellow for Russian and Eurasian studies at CFR and Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis professor of international diplomacy ...

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James M. Lindsay sits down with Ali Wyne, senior analyst of Global Macro-Geopolitics at Eurasia Group, to discuss great power competition and the growing rivalry bet...

James M. Lindsay sits down with Ali Wyne, senior analyst of Global Macro-Geopolitics at Eurasia Group, to discuss great power competition and the growing rivalry bet...

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James M. Lindsay sits down with Bonnie S. Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, to discuss House Speaker Nancy Pelos...

James M. Lindsay sits down with Bonnie S. Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, to discuss House Speaker Nancy Pelos...

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James M. Lindsay sits down with Michael R. Gordon, national security correspondent at the Wall Street Journal, to discuss the U.S. war against ISIS.    ...

James M. Lindsay sits down with Michael R. Gordon, national security correspondent at the Wall Street Journal, to discuss the U.S. war against ISIS.    ...

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Top Stories on CFR

Russia

Russia’s moves to mobilize thousands more troops and to annex more of Ukraine’s territory signal a new, potentially more dangerous phase of the war.

Puerto Rico

The Caribbean island, which shares a close yet fraught relationship with the rest of the United States, faces a multilayered economic and social crisis rooted in long-standing policy and compounded by natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, migration, and government mismanagement.

Censorship and Freedom of Expression

Suzanne Nossel, the Chief Executive Officer of PEN America, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss growing threats around the world to free expression and how the fight to protect human rights needs to adapt to succeed in a world of great power competition.