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Trump Should Not Sit Down With Putin At G-20 Summit, Taylor Says


Now let's pick up this conversation with William Taylor. He was ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009. He's in our studios with us this morning. Ambassador, thanks for coming in.

WILLIAM TAYLOR: Thank you, David.

GREENE: So should President Trump sit down with Vladimir Putin in this moment?

TAYLOR: No. You don't sit down with someone who has directed or clearly countenanced the attack on a neighbor. We live by rules. We've been able to avoid conflict for 70 years by living by these rules. And President Putin and the Kremlin have decided that these rules don't apply any longer.

GREENE: You're saying that the rules - I mean, international rules would say that Russia should not have annexed Crimea forcibly. But that - I mean, it doesn't seem like there's any sort of immediate pressure to turn that back. Is there anything beyond sanctions that the United States and allies could do in this moment to change Russia's behavior?

TAYLOR: Sure. As you say, we've got sanctions on - those are not the last of the sanctions. We have plenty of sanctions that we could still apply. We could stop the Nord Stream II gas pipeline. We could sanction shipping coming out of the Black Sea. We could provide military equipment - additional military equipment to the Ukrainians. We've done that. This administration has done that, unlike the previous administration. And so anti-ship missiles is certainly appropriate in this case. So there are other things that we could certainly do.

GREENE: Well, let me ask you about what may or may not take place in Argentina. I mean, the Trump administration has argued that they have taken tough actions against Russia, which is something, obviously, that we could talk about and debate. But then, of course, we have had these cozy-looking moments between these two presidents. If President Trump does have some sort of meeting with President Putin and does not publicly call him out over what has happened in Ukraine right now, what would the implications be?

GREENE: Implications would be that President Putin gets the green light to take it further. As you said, he's invaded Crimea. He has invaded and sent his security forces into Donbass, in southeastern part of Ukraine. We've pushed back a little bit. But if President Trump does not push back on President Putin, he will continue. He will - and who knows what will be next? So this has implications for further destabilization, further aggression by the Russians.

GREENE: Let me just ask you - I want to play a little bit of tape here from Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, who declared martial law in some of his country. He was talking about that on NBC News.


PRESIDENT PETRO POROSHENKO: The first will be fighting against Russia for the freedom and democracy because we are under attack just because we want to - we hate the idea anymore to be the part of the Russian empire, the Russian colony. And my 45-million nation want to return back to European family.

GREENE: That sounds like a very dramatic moment. I do want to say that the argument from Vladimir Putin is that Poroshenko might be staging this naval confrontation, hoping to boost his popularity ahead of an election in Ukraine next year. Is that part of what's happening here?

TAYLOR: I don't think so. I don't think so. This is clearly an attempt that's been an ongoing, long-coming attempt by the Russians to squeeze Ukraine in the ways that we've talked about, but also more recently, the past six months, in their - Ukrainian access to the Azov Sea. They built this bridge that was too low for the main shipping vessels to get through. Ukraine has two ports on the Azov Sea that are now constrained, losing money. It's their ability to get their steel and grain out. So this is a long-term effort by the Russians to squeeze Ukraine.

GREENE: William Taylor is a former ambassador to Ukraine. He's now executive vice president of the U.S. Institute of Peace. We appreciate you coming in. Thanks a lot.

TAYLOR: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.