tv Amanpour on PBS PBS April 4, 2018 6:00am-6:30am PDT
welcome to amanpour on pbs. tonight, president trump says he'll put the military in charge of guarding the border with mexico until that wall is built. >> the mexican ambassador to washington joins us. plus, as relations between russia and the united states seem to go from bad to worse, my conversation with yale professor and historian timothy schneider about his new book "the road to unfreedom -- russia, europe, america."
good evening and welcome to the program. i'm christiane amanpour in london. u.s. military forces patrolling america's border with mexico, that seems to be the latest from president donald trump amid the ongoing drama of america's immigration crisis. we don't know the details yet, whether this will entail states sending in their national guard or congress. but sitting next to his defense secretary-general mattis today, president trump announced this move and threw in a few threats to neighboring mexico for good measur measure. >> we are gog to be doing things militarily phenomenon we can have a wall and proper security. we're going to be guarding our border with the military. that's a big step. we haven't done that before,
certainly not very much before. but we will be doing things with mexico and they have to do it, otherwise i'm not going to do the nafta deal. >> so this comes after trump took to twitter over the holiday weekend egged on by the conservative media complaining that he has yet to even start his promised border wall. the president unleash add drum beat of threats over a human chain of some 1,000 central americans who are trying to make their way to the u.s. border. they're mostly hondurans fleeing violence at home and the march is, in fact, an annual event which is in its fifth year. it tries to draw athe toengs the plight of people fleeing violence and poverty in central america. today the mexican government issued this response saying "mexico's migration policy is a sovereign one through which it seems to ensure, legal, safe and orderly migration with full respect for people's rights.
under no circumstance does the mexican government promote irregular migration and the mexican ambassador to the united states, geronimo gutierrez, joins me from washington. thanyou for being here. >> it's a pleasure t be here. >> let's take stock. what does the mexican government understand by president trump's statement just now that he will militarize the border with your country, sent american troops there? >> well, thank you very much. this gives me the opportunity to address this issue which is important and i can certainly call attention. the first thing is we have -- the mexican government has formally asked for clarification of the president's statement both through the state department and the homeland security department. i have personally already spoken to secretary neilsen at dhs and the important thing is that we both -- both countries share the
idea of having a secure border. we don't always agree in how to achieve that objective and i do expect that in the next few hours we will get clarification on this issue. it's certainly not something that the mexican government welcomes but as soon as we have further clarification we can expect to have a better idea of where we are. >> so when you picked up the phone to talk to the secretary of homeland security, did she have any idea that this was coming. did you get clarity from her? >> my understanding, as you mentioned before, the national guard has been called before in different instances in past years in a supportive role. i would assume that that's what we're looking at. the president will be meeting with secretary neilsen later today and we will continue our dialogue with u.s. authorities today. >> so what will mexico's
response be if you do not get the kind of clarification that you want? in other words, will mexico respond by putting troops on its side of the border if, in fact, that's what's happening from the u.s. side? well, mexico is certainly a sovereign nation and we will act in our own best interests, as that's only natural. in fact, the u.s. and mexico have a very strong cooperation on security matters, especially at the border and we believe that we will find common ground to secure the border but in a way that serves both countries' interests. that is the type of corporation we ha -- cooperation we have been engaged in with the trump administration and we hope that will continue. >> let me ask you, because the original sort of anger from president trump amongst many others in this ongoing crisis over the wall, over immigration, et cetera, is this human chain,
this procession of central americans who are coming through mexico trying to reach the united states. you just heard in that sound that i played of president trump saying that it's up to mexico to stop them or else we will deal them a defeat on nafta. so what is mexico doing about this? >> well, i'm glad that you earlier referenced what is the mexican government policy on immigration. the mexican government does not promote nor advocate for irregular immigration. it's certainly not in the interest of anybody, including mexico. what we seek is a migration that is legal, safe, orderly and that respects the basic rights of people. and that's what we're trying to achieve. in the specific case of the caravan which, as you mentioned, has taken place before in previous years, what we're looking at is an event that calls the attention into the rights of migrants in mexico. as it was announced yesterday by
mexico's government, mexican migration authorities have been working with the people involving the caravan. ewe hav offeredlready humanitarian relief to them in mexi and we're also looking at the status of the individuals so we can proceed either with a repatriation process according to mexican law or offer that humanitarian relief that i just mentioned. >> but does the humanitarian relief involve allowing them to continue to the u.s. border? >> it does not. this caravan calls our attention on something that it's important. mexico faces a challenge, central america faces a challenge and the u.s. faces a challenge with respect of this type of development. what we really i think this calls to our attention is the need to better communicate and coordinate and hopefully align our asylum policies.
there has been in a specific working group that has been formed by agreement of mexico and the united states that it will start working group -- it will start working the next few days. i hope in a couple of weeks at the most and i think that will be helpful to manage the situation and any other one in the future. >> so i wonder whether you were all surprised and maybe caught off guard a little bit. because you heard also president trump threatening nafta and mexico's participation in fta. it seems, though, that you'd all be experiencing negoations that we heard, at least from the mexico side, seemed to be going quite well. what is the status of the nafta discussions under way right now and were you caught off guard by president trump threatening that nafta deal today? >> well, you know, the administration's position on the north american free trade agreement have been public for
quite some time now. we are engaging in negotiations. the eighth round will soon take place. we believe nafta has been on balance a very successful agreement for the three countries. we do recognize that it's a 25-year-old agreement that can certainly be improved, updated and modernized. that is where the negotiating teams are focused on. it's in the interest of the three nafta partners to help employment conditions throughout the region. we share that view with the administration and our canadian friends. that is what we're concentrated on. nafta, it's not so much only about what we trade among ourselves but it's really about how do we produce together as a region to export to other places in the world and it can be improved, yes, that's what we're doing. but on balance it has been successful. and the relationship between mexico and the united states is a very comprehensive one. certainly it's a very dynamic and it needs to be looked
comprehensively. but i think that the nafta negotiation is on track and at the same time our security affairs are evolving on a different basis and on separate tracks. >> the nugget was you believe nafta is on track. so let me ask you regarding security. president trump appears to think this caravan of people, he calls it, is a threat, potentially a national security threat. do you, since they're coming through mexico, view these people as threats? are they dangerous? >> they're not dangerous. i think it's very important to separate very clearly what we have as shared challenges, national organized crime and other security challenges fm what i humanitarian situation. it important to keep those serate. every country faces security challenges and, in fact, the ones that we do have and are being addressed jointly through
cooperation between u.s. and mexican agencies so i don't see why we cannot continue to improve our cooperation. >> i just wanted to ask you finally because we're slightly running out of time. the president seems to be egged on, as i said, by the conservative media. his conservative followers and supporters about this wall. how does that sit with you as a mexican city, as a mexican nationalist and a government official and the whole idea that they say mexico is going to pay for it one way or the other? >> let me be very clear. number one, we do believe in the importance of having secure borders. we will not always see exactly the same way how to achieve that objective with the united states. a relation like the one between mexico and the united states
needs to have spaces north to agree to disagree. the issue of the wall is certainly one of them and as my government haas cles clearly exd already, mexicoy no mea will be paying for a wa. >> on that note, ambassador geronimo gutierrez, thank you so much for joining me. turning to another foreign power, russia. the foreign minister sergei lavrov said relations with the west might be worse now than during the cold war. president vladimir putin is in turkey today meeting with president recep tayyip erdogan, an american ally increasingly in name only whose own authoritarian tendencies are redirecting his gaze towards moscow. they'll be joined by hassan rouhani to discuss the war in syria leaving the u.s. apparently on the sidelines. after the fall of the soviet union, it was simply assumed that western democracy would
triumph. my next guest calls that the politics of inevidentabilitabil. timothy snyder is the author of "the road to unfreedom, russia, europe, america." welcome from yale university in new haven. >> very glad to be with you. >> so you have done a lot of work digging in to the enigma that is russia and particularly russia western relations. i just want to quote something from your book, it's built around the idea that "if russia could not become the west, let the west become russia." what exactly do you mean? >> well, the basic idea of the road to unfreedom is that ideas don't have to travel from west to east. they did for a while but they aren't anymore. ideas can also travel from east to west. so from russia to the european
union or from russia to the united states. what i meant in that particur quotation is that russia has not managed to establish a certain kind of regime with the rule of law, with assured social advancement, with predictable, meaningful democracy and the way that it's resolved that failure is to export it to other people. to the european union, to the united states. this serves a domestic political purpose because you don't want russians thinking that better things are possible elsewhere. and it also serves as effective foreign policy because if you can disintegrate and confuse the legal order in european union and the united states then those places will no longer be able to offer any kind of a counter to what you want to do yourself. >> you've outlined their strategy, but their tactics. so we know about the interfering in western elections. you also point a lot to what happened in ukraine. give me more examples of how the rest of the world can become russian, so to speak. >> i mean, the philosophy and
the strategy and the tactics are really all one thing and one should give the very intelligent people in the kremlin credit for this coherence. the philosophy is that nothing's really true. the facts of the world don't really matter. the strategy is something called strategic relativism. the idea is that you want to convince people at home and abroad that nothing is true, everything is relative, everything is subjective and therefore there's no point in acting. democracy is a joke, the rule of law is a joke, we might as well stay on our couches. the tactic, the way you convey this is you get into the minds of your adversaries, whether they're european or american. you find the existing fault lines, whether those are social or racial, and you play on them and try to convince people that the only thing going on in the world are their momentary psychological enmities. there's no point thinking about the real world, about facts, about how to make things better. so in that light, policy towards
ukraine -- that is a traditional invasion combined with cyber information war against the european union and the u.s. -- or the campaign to support brexit, or the campaign to support the far right inside the european union, or for that matter the cyber war against the united states in 2016 which led to the election of donald trump, these are all pieces of a larger picture. the picture is one where russian reality, an oligarchal regime where citizens aren't supposed to believe in anything except their own nation, that this model can be spread everywhere. >> so do you think, then -- i mean, you're outlining a very planned, clever as you said strategy that you say the kremlin is unfolding on the world. but on the other hand, couldn't you say they often overplay their sand? they've got a lot of sanctions which they still haven't got rid of because of ukraine. they now have practically the whole of the western world united and others around the
world in anger and expelling diplomats over the -- skripal poisoning in london. have they shot themselves in the food? >> i think all in all they play what we would normally see as a very weak hand. if you look at the 20th century measures of strength, economics and technology, russia is extremely weak. there's no reason reason we should be talking about russia as much as we do if those are the indices of power. but russia has managed to do is change the rules of the international zbiem that pgtionr is less about politics and technology and much more about how we feel about ourselves, about our sense o t and fear. in this sense, russia is winning at tighehe h level because that's the form of politics which they're the most comfortable. if you look at the practical day-to-day reality of american foreign policy to russia, it's
astounding how often they win on the basic issues. they want chaos inside washington, d.c., they've got it. they want a weak american department of state, they've got it. they don't want americans to investigate dark money. they don't want americans to close the loophole which is allow foreign intervention in american elections. we're not doing that. they don't want us to change our basic reliance on fossil fuels because fossil fuels are the source of the power of the russian elite. we're not doing that. on all the basic issues, including investigating cyber war itself, which would seem to be absolutely fundamental since the cyber war of 2016 was a violation of american sovereignty, on all of the basic issues, it's striking how they're winning. we've just gotten used the fact that they're the new normal. >> professor, that is quite chilling because you are describing a supine west, the part of the world with the rule of law, with all sorts of checks
and balances and institutions that are meant to maintain as america has always called itself the exceptional nation. exceptionalism. what are you saying about that then? >> i think in order to be exceptional, you have to behave exceptionally. part of our problem in the last 25 years since the end of communism -- and this holds in different ways for both the u.s. and the european union -- is that we've taken for granted that various kinds of progress were automatic. we're now facina test. if we allow ourselves to be nvinced that thin is true, everything is permitted, it doesn't matter, if we all become cynical, our institutions will collapse. our institutions depend upon beliefs, that i depend upon virtues, they also depend upon people, including new generations, who are willing to see new challenges and react to them. so the west is a set of institutions and tbeliefs aroun those institutions. the question is whether we can gather ourselves around those
beliefs and revive them. >> where do you think the west went wrong -- if it did -- in the sort of post-soviet world. everybody called it a great triumph for democracy, the west, as you have written also, the end of history was declared after the berlin wall fell in 1989. and you described a conflicting philosophy. the politics of inevitability that the west has verb us is the politics of eternity held by russia and elsewhere. what do you mean by that? >> you've put your finger on, i think, the basic intellectual mistake after the revolutions of 1989. the thing that i'm calling the politics of inevitability is precisely the idea which so many of us held that history was over, there are no alternatives and somehow automatically democracy, liberal ideas of rights, free trade, were going to spread around the world. we had a quarter century of
thinking like that, of thinking that it didn't really depend upon us personally because there were certain laws of history which were going to make sure that things went in the right direction. when you hit a shock, when it turns out that that's not true, you have a temptation to fall into another set of ideas which i call in the book -- which i call if "road to unfreedom" the politics of eternity where you start to think politics is not about progress, it's not about the future, it's about the fast, it's about how the same people threaten us over and over and over again. russia has already moved into that model. in the united states under president trump we're moving in that direction as well with our constant invocation of america first or of making america great again, the politics which begins from internal enemies rather than from a vision of how america might, in fact, be a better country. so the main thing we got wrong was our complacency. the main thing we got wrong was thinking that history or economics was going to do the political and the intellectual and the moral work for us.
now we recognize we have to do that work and maybe that's a good thing. >> we spoke almost exactly a year ago, shortly into president trump's first year. and there were the elections in europe coming up, everybody was wondering what would happen in france and in the netherlands and elsewhere. and you told me at that time that things were going to get worse for the next 18 months. so i wonder how you judge now in hindsight. we saw that france didn't go to the extreme right racist party of marine le pen, we saw that the similar candidate in the netherlands did not win. on the other hand, highly populist groups did win in italy and racist groups or neo-nazi groups are the opposition now in germany. where do you come out on balance? >> on balance what i say is that this is a time of rebuilding and the rebuilding will take years and not decades and i think it -- years if not decades and it's a mistake to wait for each election as being a sign that
things have finally turned around. that's always the temptation, to think that the trump election means things are doomed one direction or if macron wins that means things are wonderful in the other direction. there's bad news everywhere, there's good news the other places such as slovakia recently there's been good news. but what i would say is that this is a moment for kind of reconsideration in both the u.s. and the european union and in the uk for what it is that we actually stand for. waiting for the next election is another form of the politics of inevitability. we just hope the trends will rescue us. the trends won't rescue us. it will be the good people like the lawyers filing suits or the reporters carrying out investigations or the young people who choose to run for office who are finally going to make things turn around but it's going to take work, it's going to take encouragement, it's going to take some focus. >> do you believe the checks and balances in the institutions in your own country, in the united states, are strong enough to withstand the kind of pressures
that you are worried about? >> not on their own. not on their own. that's the whole point. some of our checks are not working. the legislative branch of our government, which is supposed to be branch number one, is not serving as a very effective check on branch number two, which is the executive. the judiciary may be a bit more effective. >> just one final question. it's clear where you stand on politics. but what do you say to those who say, well, you don't like the current crop of people who've been elected, certainly it's obvious you don't like president trump's policies but i guess people voted for him because they didn't like the alternative. what's your answer to that? >> i've got a very strong view about the sovereignty of the united states. i care a great deal about the sovereignty of the united states. and what happened in 2016 was exceptional because a foreign country, the russian federation in particular, found ways to intervene in our elections. it seems that before we break
ourselves down into political loyalties and parties, we have to get that right. we have to be a sovereign country ruled by law first and then we can have our political disagreements. i'm happy to agree that the alternatives put up in 2016 were imperfect. but what i wouldn't concede is that politics is only ever about the clash of imperfect candidates. politics is also about things that are more important. it's about the virtues that we stand for and it's abo the rules, the laws, that we choose to live by. so it is possible to be very patriotic and to have that very patriotism lead you to a concern about the behavior of an individual. i don't have strong feelings about mr. trump one way or the other. but i would like the president of the united states to be an example of the rule of law here and an example of democracy here. that's what i would very much like to see regardless of the party. >> timothy snyder, author of
"the road to unfreedom," thanks so much for joining us. >> it's been my great pleasure. thank you so much. two interesting conversations tonight as america faces calibrating its relations not just with russia and the rest of the world but also on its southern border. and that's it for our program tonight. thanks for watching amanpour on pbs. join us again tomorrow night.