The Ezra Klein Show: Fareed Zakaria Has a Better Way to Handle Russia — and China

New York Times Opinion New York Times Opinion 3/4/22 - Episode Page

“Russia’s utterly unprovoked, unjustifiable, immoral invasion of Ukraine would seem to mark the end of an era,” writes Fareed Zakaria, “one that began with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989....

Many of us, myself included, grew up in that era. We came of age in a unipolar world, dominated by a single country whose military, economic, even cultural, hegemony remained largely uncontested. That world was by no means free of violence. But the great power conflict that had defined the lived experiences of previous generations seemed like an ancient relic.

Recently, it’s the post-Cold War era of the last 30 years that has begun to feel outdated. China has become an economic and military powerhouse — its economy is now larger than the third, fourth, fifth and sixth biggest world economies combined. Russia has become geopolitically assertive, annexing Crimea in 2014, undermining U.S. elections , and now invading Ukraine.

Over the past few weeks, questions that once came off as alarmist have become urgent: Are we witnessing the return of great power conflict? And if so, what does that mean for America — and the rest of the world?

Fareed Zakaria is the host of CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS,” a columnist for The Washington Post and one of the most brilliant analysts of this emerging era. His 2003 book “The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad” and his 2008 book “The Post American World” were well ahead of their times. And his more recent work on Russia’s aggression, China’s rise and the crucial distinctions between those nations is crucial for understanding this moment.

We discuss the decline of the so-called “Pax-Americana,” why Zakaria believes Russia poses a much more existential threat to the liberal world order than China, what the West would be doing if it wanted to seriously punish Russia for its actions, whether Putin’s attempt to break the liberal world order has actually reinvigorated it, why Zakaria thinks it’s a mistake to think of the world as divided into “democratic” and “neo-authoritarian” blocs, how America’s expansionism and hypocrisy undermines its reputation abroad, whether Donald Trump was ultimately right about the need for greater European defense spending, what a diplomatic solution to the current Russia-Ukraine war could look like, how America’s thinking about the world needs to radically change in a global great power competition and more. Disclaimer: this episode contains explicit language.


“The Internationalists: How a Radical Plan to Outlaw War Remade the World” by Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro

Fareed Zakaria GPS episode, “Fareed’s take: Putin’s War on Liberal Democracy.” (CNN)

“The Return to Great-Power Rivalry Was Inevitable” by Thomas Wright (The Atlantic)

“Why Ukrainians Believe They Can Win” by Michelle Goldberg in The New York Times.

Book recommendations:

“Man, the State, and War: A Theoretical Analysis” by Kenneth N. Waltz

“A World Safe for Democracy” by G. John Ikenberry

“Memoirs 1925-1950” by George F. Kennan

Thoughts? Guest suggestions? Email us at

You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at />
“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Our executive producer is Irene Noguchi. Special thanks to Kristin Lin and Kristina Samulewski.

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