SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
U.S. intelligence officials say Vladimir Putin personally authorized cyber attacks on the U.S. elections to hurt Hillary Clinton's candidacy. President-elect Trump says he accepts their report but says Russian meddling had no role in his election. What will be his response? What will President Trump's foreign policy look like? He's rejected U.S. military involvement overseas as vehemently, and even in the same language, as Bernie Sanders.
But Trump also wants to build a wall along the border with Mexico. He cites Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad as strong leaders. One of the people Trump has sought for advice on foreign policy is Richard Haass. He's president of the Council on Foreign Relations and has a new book, "A World In Disarray: American Foreign Policy And The Crisis Of The Old Order." Richard Haass, who's been on NPR almost as much, over the years, as Nina Totenberg, joins us now...
RICHARD HAASS: (Laughter).
SIMON: ...From the studios of the Radio Foundation in New York.
Richard, thanks so much for being with us.
HAASS: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: How big a deal is this prospect of Russian meddling? John McCain says it amounts to an act of war.
HAASS: Well, it is a big deal because it's not isolated. It comes against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the takeover of Crimea, the Russian military intervention in Syria, which really was a series of war crimes, now this. And I think what it tells us is that Russia, under Vladimir Putin, has opted to be, what Henry Kissinger once called in a different context, a revolutionary power. Rather than working within the world of the day, he's trying to bring about a very different one. And it ought to concern us, Scott, because one comparison I give you is Vladimir Putin is more independent, has more freedom of action than, say, somebody like Nikita Khrushchev at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. He can, essentially, take Russia where he wants to take it.
SIMON: What about people who say, look, the CIA has meddled in campaigns overseas - Iran in 1953, Chile in the 1970s. They - that's sometimes what they do, isn't it?
HAASS: It is sometimes what they do. The difference here is it's Russia meddling in our campaign. And, again, it's not an isolated action. If it were a one-off, that'd be one thing, but it's not a one-off. And I think it also shows us Mr. Putin's sensitivity to the so-called colored revolutions, the attempt by the United States and the Europeans to promote liberalism throughout the former Soviet space in Europe. And it shows just how frightened he is of liberalism within his own country. I don't think he takes his own power, his own political permanence for granted.
SIMON: What can the U.S. do, though, when all is said and done?
HAASS: Well, what we've got to do is talk to the Russians. I think there's no advantage in ignoring them. I think we can show them a degree of respect, but we've also got to be tough. We should be strengthening the military arm of NATO. In some ways, we demilitarized NATO in Europe after the end of the Cold War. We've got to reintroduce some military capability there. We should only reduce sanctions introduced after Ukraine if the Russians behave in better ways. We've got to strengthen our cyber defenses and maybe strengthen some of our cyber attacks. Let Mr. Putin know, for example, that two can play that game. And we should look for ways in which we could raise challenges to him domestically. Again, that's his Achilles' heel.
SIMON: In your new book, you suggest, I believe you call it a world order 2.0. What would that be like?
HAASS: Well, world order 1.0, which has actually been around for a couple of centuries now, is a world of sovereign states. And essentially, we recognize and respect each other's ability to do pretty much what we want inside our borders. And the whole idea's that you should not violate borders with military force. That's all necessary. It's simply not sufficient in a world of globalization in which anything that happens inside a country, now, is not simply its business alone.
If a disease breaks out in one country, it very quickly - because of globalization - can threaten everybody around the world as we saw with, say, Ebola or Zika. Or if there's a terrorist that's allowed to operate in one country, or given our previous conversation, some hackers that are allowed to operate inside the territory of one country, suddenly, this can affect everybody else.
So what I'm arguing for is a world of what I would call sovereign obligation, a world order 2.0, where countries now have to understand and accept their own obligation to make sure that things do not emanate from their own territory that could have an adverse consequence on others. And this ranges from terrorism, to climate change, to disease, you name it. And I believe, essentially, this ought to be the new steering or navigating principle of American foreign policy.
SIMON: What about something like Syria?
HAASS: Well, Syria's a sign that, you know, we're far from there. I think that the inability or unwillingness of the world to deal with it is a real tragedy. It's a strategic nightmare. I think at this point what we've got to do is find some limited ways to help innocent civilians, to try to prevent the creation of new refugees. But I don't think we're in a position to change the fundamental politics of Syria. I think Bashar al-Assad is there for quite a while.
I also think we should continue to take the fight to the terrorists - against ISIS - in both Iraq and Syria. That's something that's consistent with what I've talked about. The big challenge will be securing areas that have been liberated from ISIS. We've got to find some partners there. And at the moment, partners are few and far, you know, between.
SIMON: You also worry, in this book, that the U.S. is - just has too much debt, and the U.S. economy is just too weak - although, both have been improving - to be influential.
HAASS: I am worried about that. I think the U.S. economy is poised to grow. I think some combination of tax cuts, corporate tax relief, deregulation will probably see some significant boost in American economic growth. But debt, potentially, is our Achilles' heel. If we allow Social Security, disability, Medicare, Medicaid to continue to grow, we increase our spending on things like infrastructure, American debt will grow. And that leaves us extraordinarily vulnerable to the markets or to the machinations of central bankers elsewhere. This is something that we have got to address before it gets out of control.
SIMON: Richard, we have 30 seconds left. Has President Trump offered you - President-elect Trump offered you a job? Would you take it?
HAASS: Well, I think when any president offers one a job, and I've not been offered one. You've got to discuss it. I think there's an obligation to take it seriously. But I also think one should only accept it if there's significant alignment in your views of the job and, more important, your views about what the United States ought to be doing in the world. That's not a conversation we have yet had. And if we do have it, we'll just have to see how it plays out.
SIMON: Richard Haass, who's head of the Council on Foreign Relations. His book - "A World In Disarray." I'm afraid I said a word in disarray on Twitter. Forgive me for dropping the L.
HAASS: (Laughter) Thank you, sir.
SIMON: Thanks so much.
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