'This Week': Crisis in Ukraine

ABC's Hamish Macdonald, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol on the crisis in Ukraine.
3:00 | 02/23/14

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Transcript for 'This Week': Crisis in Ukraine
with president Obama. A high-stakes conflict just 300 miles from sochi in Ukraine where the parliament voted to strip the president of his powers after a peace pact ended days of violence. It's a tug of war between Vladimir Putin and the west. So critical because of Ukraine's key location. Take a look. It's a country torn between east and west with opposition protesters looking towards the values of Europe on one side, while supporters of Ukrainian president point to Putin's Russia. Hamish McDonald is on the ground in the capital and joins us with the latest. Hamish. Reporter: Martha, the ousted president is calling this whole process a coup. And then hours later was prevented from leaving the country on a helicopter. Take a look at these pictures broadcast on local independent television. They claim it's security footage of him trying to escape. They can't verify it's him. In the meantime, the parliament is trying to assert authority, appointing an acting president. The speaker of the parliament. As well as that, releasing the arch rival of I canyanukovych, yulia tymenshenko. She has been in prison. She has back problems and in a wheelchair. As the power vacuum opens up, yulia tymenshenko takes the stage. She began the day a prisoner and entered a key player in this country's future. She is not universally admired here, but they shout approval when they shout for justice for the ousted president. The parliament agreed to release the former prime minister, leaving her daughter in tears. And they impeached the president and hold fresh elections in may. Outside, protesters are in control, guarding key government buildings and roaming the abandoned presidential retreat. It's thought to have cost some $500 million. I can't believe such a place could exist in Ukraine. Reporter: The average person here earnsless than $15 a day, and the country has huge debts. The zoo, the cars unbelievable. They hope the next leaders will be more honest. Maybe more intellectual. Very easy to be. Reporter: But are they corrupt? Are they clean? We don't have clean politicians. Especially in the parliament. Reporter: Andre is Ukraine's best-loved author. He's writing about the latest bloody chapter in the country's history. Why was it worth killing people to keep power? He didn't consider the people on the streets his people. They were the enemies. Reporter: There's much at stake for world powers. This past week should have been Vladimir Putin's finest hour. Instead on his own doorstep, protests gave way to running gun battles. How much is about Russian versus western influence? Very much. Putin's Russian world would not exist without Ukraine. Kiev is the first capital of ancient Russia. Reporter: How disappointing is this for Vladimir Putin? I think if I was him I would drink all night. Reporter: Toppling lenin statues, evidence of a long-held desire for distance from Moscow's influence. But in the russian-speaking east, those bonds remain tight. In this deeply divided nation, the biggest challenge may just be remaining united. Martha, quite apart from who wins the battle for international influence here, whoever emerges as the leader has the challenge of trying to keep this country united, prevent it splintering into two, possibly three different count countries. Crucial to that will be deal with the debt crisis that Ukraine is now in. Thanks so much. Let's dig into this with our experts, Tom Friedman is a foreign affairs columnist for the New York times. And author of from Beirut to Jerusalem. And we welcome back our ABC news contributor, bill kristol, editor of the weekly standard. Welcome gentlemen. Tom, I want to start with you. You have Ukraine's president, who has virtually vanished. Now trying to rally his supporters. New elections, protesters feeling they have a victory. What happens next in this country with no money and no unity? Well, I think the good news, Martha, is the fact this happened from the bottom up. The west didn't do this, the United States didn't, the eu, the Ukrainian people did this. That's important to remember. What we learn from experiences like Egypt. We saw bottom-up ousting of a long-time dictator. What we learned -- Seems similar to Egypt. It does at many levels. A failing state. But also what we learned from Egypt, it's not about the morning after, it's about the morning after the morning after. The morning after, everyone celebrates getting rid of the leader everyone hated. But what you discovered in Egypt, there was a huge diversity of opinion of where to go next. What they wanted to be free to do. And we'll face the same challenge in Ukraine. The second big challenge like Egypt is an economically desperate state. When you win Ukraine, you win a bill. Bill, bottom up, is that a good path? What happens now? Your eyes? Ten years ago, the Orange revolution in Ukraine. The first color revolution, inspoir inspired other efforts in Lebanon and ultimately maybe Tehran and Damascus. All honor to the people of Ukraine for having that first revolution, unfortunately slipped away. That's partly our fault, and the west european's fault. We didn't do as much as we could to help. It was corrupt, oligarchs facilitated the corruption. Putin didn't help at all. We ended up where we were. Now they have done it again. It's bottom up, that's great. I agree. George Washington, who's birthday was yesterday, liberty, when it begins to take root is a plant of rapid growth. Liberty is stronger than those of us in the west think. Once that spark is there, people remember it and want it back. We need to help them. We can't avoid Russia's role here, as you mentioned. What Russia does next is so key. Here is what president Obama said about that this week. Our approach as the united States is not to see these as some cold war chess board in which we're in competition with Russia, our goal is to make sure that the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves about their future. Of course, yanukovych was democratically elected. But is this a new version of the cold war? It's not the cold war. It's a very specific thing. That was two nuclear-armed powers and competing ideologies truly playing on a global chess board. I would argue the world is in three kinds of states right now. My coauthor and I have been talking about this. One is countries focused on having a powerful state. That's Russia, oil, Iran, north Korea, nukes. You can focus on having a powerful state and play the geopolitical games. Second are states focused on having a prosperous people. That's the european union. That's the world that many Ukrainians want to join and third are those fighting over something primal. Who are we? What are we? Who owns which olive tree? That's Syria. Ukraine is all three. Russia, wanting to pull into the powerful state sphere, funded by oil. Ukrainians wanting to be part of the globalization, the I.T. Revolution, economic growth and opportunity, and you have a state that's not sure about its identity in a post-soviet, post-cold war world. But Russia is in danger of losing a key ally. Is there any danger that Russia does intervene? That they might send in troops as in Georgia? They have intervened in all kinds of ways. They could even more so. It's nice for president Obama to say it's not a cold war chess board. I don't know why he says that with disdain. That was not an ignoble thing to play on that for 45 years, and we won. Putin thinks it's chess, maybe a rougher game. And we can match it. In all honor to the people for beginning the process, but if we and the europeans cannot make ourselves as strong a force for democracy and rule of law is Putin is for the opposite, things may not go well. I want to move to Syria. You mentioned Syria. The U.N. Security council voted to boost aid to Syria this weekend. But that conflict grinds on. There's been talk about perhaps new options in Syria. Is there anything more that can be done here, Tom Friedman? Clearly, if we can identify people who share our values of wanting to see a pluralistic consensually political Syria, we should arm and support them. Seems to me the administration is doing that. But can you name the head of the Syrian opposition? I knew you were going to ask that. Can anyone? I can name several. I can't. That's really one of the problems. I think a lot of people in Syria -- you know, sometimes the news is in the noise, and sometimes in the silence. So many people clinging to Assad, they don't see an opposition that has the willability, and maybe even the ideology to build a pluralistic Syria, the Christians clinging to Assad and others would feel confidence in. Come back to the Ukraine and to a similar revolution, Tunisia. Why is it that the Arab state that's done the best is the one we had the least to do with? The people took it and owned it. If we see that in Syria, I'm for supporting it. It's got to start with them. The middle east puts a smile on your face when it starts with them. Iran didn't intervene in Tunisia. You didn't need to go and you need to win war friends. That's the case in Ukraine and Syria. It was a bottom up, peaceful, a pro-western to an amazing degree in 2011 and we did nothing. So bill, step back for a moment quickly, and look at what Barack Obama's foreign policy legacy is up to this point. With Syria, with Ukraine, with Libya, with Iraq, with Afghanistan. With Iran. People around the world I think want liberty to an amazing degree. We have done little to help them. Thanks to both of you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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