'The Nation' Editor Calls for 'More Common Sense and Less Bluster' on Ukraine

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This week, we asked The Nation editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel to answer five questions. Katrina will join the discussion on our powerhouse roundtable Sunday on "This Week."

1) So, you live in New York City. How do you think Mayor Bill de Blasio is doing so far?

It's too early to judge. What's clear is that de Blasio is staying true to the principled stands he campaigned on: expanding universal pre-K, increasing the city's minimum wage and paid sick days; providing for more affordable housing; ending stop-and-frisk [as implemented by former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly]; and pushing education reform. Governor Cuomo and the state government in Albany are certainly more of an impediment than many anticipated - as is the tabloid media's relentless mayor-bashing.

De Blasio came to office with the support of a broad-based coalition of community-based groups, labor unions and key political players such as the Working Families Party. That movement's energy, allied with key and new progressive players at all ranks of city government, will be important if measurable and humane change is to happen in months ahead.

2) Bernie Sanders said he is "prepared" to run for president in 2016. Would you prefer him over Hillary Clinton?

If Senator Sanders does run, I'm sure he'll raise important issues that the former secretary of state - and others - might not. What's key is debate in our elections and new ideas in our politics. That's why "The Nation" last month launched what we call "Project 45? - an initiative that refuses to accept the assumption that presidential elections are a spectator sport or that the 2016 campaign has to be dictated by insiders. We'll highlight reforms big and small, and we'll lift up bold new ideas that deserve to be debated and discussed in election campaigns which, even in this era of big money and big spin, can be teachable moments.

3) Is there something the United States should or should not be doing in regards to the situation in Ukraine? Has President Obama handled it well so far?

When it comes to Ukraine and Russia, we desperately need a better understanding of history, more common sense and less bluster. NATO's two decades-long expansion eastward, despite Secretary of State James Baker's promise to then-Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev that the military alliance would not "move one inch eastward" after the fall of the Berlin Wall, must be remembered if we are to understand Russia's perspective and actions today.

I am no fan of how President Obama has handled the conflict so far - but not because he is weak, as some neocons or frustrated Cold Warriors whine about. That is nonsense. There is no real U.S. "stick" in relation to Ukraine. At the moment, the U.S. is talking loudly and carrying a small stick. Economic sanctions and visa denials won't impact Russia in serious ways, nor will they make Ukraine an economically viable and democratic country. Furthermore, Americans have no desire and no reason to go to war with Russia over Crimea. The E.U. and the U.S. aren't going to supplant Russia's economic influence in Ukraine. Nor is the U.S. going to provide the aid, the trade or subsidized energy - and the E.U.'s austerity regime, if inflicted on Ukraine, will likely lead to further destabilization.

President Obama should work together with Ukraine, Russia and the E.U. to preserve Ukraine's territorial unity; to support new and inclusive elections; and to agree to allow Ukraine to be part of both the E.U. and Russian customs union, while reaffirming the pledge that NATO will not extend itself into Ukraine.

4) You went to Princeton. What are your thoughts on the "Princeton Mom?"

Why is she even getting air time? I'd much prefer to hear what's on the mind of two terrific Supreme Court justices who attended Princeton, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan (my classmate), and first lady Michelle Obama.

5) You have issued close to 50,000 tweets and have 100,000 followers. Do you have a strategy?

Tweet (more than) regularly, engage with smart folks, pass on ideas and articles and stories and tidbits that intrigue me. … I also take a high-low approach. For example, one evening I might tweet about the Knicks game or the Golden Globes; the next night I'll be all over lousy Western mainstream media coverage of Ukraine crisis or Dianne Feinstein's remarkable speech about torture and CIA illegality.

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