Jimmy Carter: Putin must ‘be stopped’ from taking further military action

Former President Jimmy Carter said Wednesday that Russian annexation of the Crimea region in southern Ukraine was “inevitable.” But if Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to take further military action, he must “be stopped.”

Carter told PBS NewsHour co-anchor Judy Woodruff, in an interview that airs on Wednesday’s broadcast, that nothing would have deterred Putin’s actions in Crimea. “No matter what the Western world had done, he would still have done this because Russians have always considered Crimea to be part of theirs and, as you know, the majority of Crimeans wanted to be part of Russia, so that was inevitable.

“But I think now he has to be stopped and prevented from taking any further military action,” said Carter. “And I don’t really think he’s going to” go further militarily.

Instead, Putin likely will try to “seduce” the Eastern Ukrainians, who speak Russian, by showing them how attractive Russia is through loans, grants and trade concessions, Carter said.

He recalled the actions he took as president when then-Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979. “I was very forceful because I saw the danger of him going further. And that’s similar to what it is now.

“I sent Brezhnev a direct message that if you go any further, we will take military action and we would not exclude any weapons that we have.”

Carter said he also withdrew the U.S. ambassador, declared an embargo and began to arm the freedom fighters in Afghanistan who were repelling the Soviet troops.

“I took a lot of bold and very aggressive actions, some of which I think would be excessive now.”

These days, he said, “I think we would be justified to arm the Ukrainian military effectively, and let everybody know that they’re being armed.”

In terms of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Carter said Secretary of State John Kerry “is making more progress in the Middle East than in the last 15 or 20 years. And he’s done it almost all on his own apparently.”

But by himself, Kerry can’t do much, said Carter. “In order to be effective at least in Israel, the president of the United States has to be directly involved and have the whole weight of the United States government behind any controversial proposal.”

Carter went on to say he thought it would be “almost impossible for an Arab who lives in the West Bank to agree that Israel is a Jewish state, because about a fourth of the population of Israel itself are Arabs and they can’t deny their own fellow Muslims just because they live across the border.

“And I never have thought that it was possible at all for Palestinians to be permitted to come back into Israel in any sort of unrestrained way. I think the best alternative there is not to let them come back into Israel but into the West Bank and Gaza” and to pay some sort of reparations for the property the Palestinians lost, the former president said.

In the interview, Carter also addressed the debate over the National Security Agency’s surveillance program and his latest book, “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power,” about the abuse of women and girls in the world.

The full interview airs on Wednesday’s PBS NewsHour, or you can watch it above.