The U.S. and European allies have room for compromise with Russia over Ukraine if Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t act “impulsively” to seize more territory, said Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. national security adviser.
“He might still act impulsively and that would be extremely dangerous,” Brzezinski said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.
Brzezinski, who was President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, said there remains “a chance for a compromise solution, and I think we should be working for it.”
The posture of Finland, which also has a long border with Russia, offers a possible model, he said. Finland is a member of the European Union and not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Throughout the Cold War, Finland’s foreign policy was based on official neutrality.
A resolution may be possible “in which Ukraine deals with us, by wanting to move closer to Europe, but has a relationship also with Russia like Finland does,” said Brzezinski. “That could be accommodated if we’re intelligent and if Putin becomes less romantic about his historic role and more practical.”
Still, he warned that Putin may move on Ukraine militarily, perhaps assuming little challenge will come from the new government in Kiev and its foreign supporters.
“I think its possible, I’m not predicting it,” said Brzezinski, who is counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
The Russians should recognize that, unlike in Crimea, the Ukrainians are likely to resist further Russian incursions, he said.
“If the Ukrainians resist, it’s a new ballgame,” he said. “In Crimea, it was a pushover because they didn’t resist. Here, if they resist, it becomes prolonged and could last a long time.”
It will be “very difficult” for the U.S. and European nations “to justify sitting simply on the sidelines” if that happens, he said, suggesting they may be drawn into providing weapons to the Ukrainians.
“Obviously, public sympathy is going to be with the Ukrainians, who are being set upon by a much larger country,” he said.
On the outlook for U.S. diplomacy with Israel and the Palestinians, Brzezinski said President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry “need to be more persuasive.”
“The problem is both the Israelis and the Palestinians have been evasive and have been making it more difficult,” he said. “The problem furthermore is the Israelis are much stronger, and therefore their actions are more decisive.”
To the extent that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “wants to avoid a real compromise, he bears the larger responsibility for the so-far failure of the talks,” he said.
“Israeli public opinion is intelligent and, in the main, realizes that if these two nations are to coexist, there has to be a solution based largely, not exclusively, on the 1967 frontiers and with the sharing, in some fashion, of Jerusalem,” he said.
Brzezinski expressed ambivalence about the possibility the U.S. will use the release of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, the American naval intelligence analyst found guilty in 1987 of selling secrets to Israel, as a bargaining chip with Netanyahu.
The matter of what information Pollard gave the Israelis and what they did with it is “very sensitive question,” he said. “Some of this stuff that he gave away was extraordinarily important, and perhaps the beneficiaries were not only the Israelis.”
Pollard, 59, was arrested after supplying Israel with top-secret documents including assessments of the weapons capabilities of several Middle Eastern countries. He’s serving a life sentence in a medium-security prison in Butner, North Carolina, and is due for release in November 2015.