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Political Science Professor Dr. Thomas Ambrosio talks with us about Russia, Tillerson, and more

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

(Please note - this transcript was copied from an electronic captioning service. We apologize for any errors, spelling, grammatical, or otherwise.)

Chris Berg:
Tonight, many of you are asking about world war III as President Trump changes his position on NATO today. U.S. and Russia no longer in a cold war, might as well call it an ice war after today's meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Vladimir Putin. Also being reported that china is lining up troops along the North Korean border. Holy cow. Good evening and welcome to "Point of View." I'm Chris Berg. Thank you so much for joining us. Big question obviously, is world war III on the doorstep? Is it here? Well, here is some interesting news. There has been a record number of you, people out there searching the term world war 3 on Google. In fact, it's the most time that's been searched in the last 13 years. So to break all of this down for you about what's happening across the globe and really help you and I understand what exactly does this all mean for you and our families, I sat down earlier today with NDSU polypsych professor, Dr. Thomas Ambrosio. Great to see you. Thanks for being here. So is this world war three starting?

Thomas Ambrosio:
Hopefully not. There is an increase in tension certainly the attempt to have a reset with Russia has died before it actually started. So that is no longer even an option.

CB:
At least Tillerson didn't bring a reset plastic button.

TA:
Right. At least he didn't have that. But certainly really focus now is on North Korea. And kind of positioning there. All these things are all tied together because the U.S. relationship with china and with Russia are obviously strained. But more than that, the United States hoped to use Russia to balance out china. Now we're finding that can't do that and now -- instead we need china to help us with North Korea. So it's a very -- a lot of moving pieces.

CB:
I want to go in a lot of directions. Also today it's been reported that trump is now going china, china, is not a currency manipulator. Now he's saying that remember the whole campaign, NATO is obsolete and all of a sudden today, nope. NATO is pretty relevant.

TA:
I think trump is realizing there is political realities going on.

CB:
How did he not know that before? I know there is different levels of intelligence. But still, it's pretty clear that Russia, they're not friendly.

TA:
No. I think that, especially the situation with North Korea has really ramped up. When President Trump or candidate trump, actually sorry, President-elect trump met with Obama right after the election, they talked about North Korea. I think that was a wake-up call for trump and he realizes that this is the central issue of his first administration.

CB:
Wow. I want to talk a little bit more about Russia because we had Secretary of State Tillerson meeting with the foreign minister. I think some of the stuff can get kind -- kind of bring it to our dinner table, if you can, to help us relate to it in that perspective. Here is what I want to get from you since you're an expert in Russia and Putin. Putin was going to meet with Tillerson. Change of heart. Putin says we'll meet and in the meeting, Tillerson, U.S.-Russia relations are at the lowest point ever. Does he care?

TA:
I think Putin doesn't care very much. Putin thrives on conflict. And for him increasing conflict with the U.S. actually helps him domestically. It distracts his population away from their economic problem, but also it promotes Putin as a strong leader. So, in fact, whereas in our country, we think of conflict as bad. In the Russia, they think of conflict good.

CB:
Why?

TA:
Well, it distracted the population. You have an enemy to focus on rather than looking at home. And that's what Putin wants.

CB:
The other thing, a false flag. Assad did not carry this out. That shows there is going to be more false flag chemical attack, maybe outside Damascus. Trying to create more conflict. What's the strategy?

TA:
His strategy is to promote as much disinformation as possible. To have a he said, she said debate in which no one wins. I think also the Russians in many ways will know they want conflict with the U.S. at a certain level, they're backed into a corner here. It's unclear whether or not Putin knew about this ahead of time, or the Russians knew ahead of time. The U.S. has said that. But the evidence that they presented did not actually indicate pre-knowledge. But none the less, the fact that Assad did this and then U.S. react to do that means that now Russia has to react. So now we're in this spiral of we take an action. They have to take an action, which causes us to take an action. That's a downward spiral.

CB:
So I'm Putin. Everyone in the world besides Iran hates Assad. In trump's words, a butcher and an animal. The only way you know about Putin, if you're Tillerson or trump, hue do you peel Putin away from Assad and at least be more friendly with the west?

TA:
I don't really see an option.

CB:
Really?

TA:
No. There is no chips to play. Putin has played his chips and they're on Assad.

CB:
Sanctions?

TA:
Possibly. That could be an option. I can't imagine it would be politically feasible domestically in the United States, especially given all the kind of anti-Russia hysteria that we're seeing. I'm not sure trump could offer that bargain. That was in the idea that there would be some kind of grand bargain between Washington and Moscow. I think those days have quickly passed.

CB:
Also one of the things that he was saying in the press today with Tillerson, we did an investigation. There is no proof there was chemical weapons or Assad did this. Today there was a vote in the U.N. and Russia vetoed the vote requiring Syria to cooperate with investigators.

TA:
That's what else are you going to do? If you have the facts on your side, you show the facts. If you don't have the facts on your side, the chips are on the table.

CB:
Seeing all of this happening, what was actually -- as far as we know taking place now between Russia and the U.S., then the main stream media continuing to pound this idea that Russia influenced the election, trump and his team were in collusion with them. What do you say?

TA:
Certainly at this point, trump is not Putin's lap dog and will not be. The political realities have changed and the landscape has changed for the administration. I think also trump has a different perspective on what he sees as responsibilities of the U.S. president. And just being in the office, 80 days or so at this point, has really changed him. Fundamentally kind of changed how he sees even his role and America's role.

CB:
Do you think he's changed or he was just that -- what's the word I'm looking for? Easy to move? I think this is a lot of Ivanka and Jerry getting in his ear.

TA:
There is probably that. He's listening to different people and campaigning is certainly different than governing. But there is this idea that when you're president, you kind of see yourself differently in your own role.

CB:
Most important thing people should focus on if you look out into the future right now concerning all this has happened with foreign policy is what?

TA:
That's where the rubber will hit the road. Chinese supposedly 150,000 troops. We got sub issues. We sent our aircraft carrier fleet. Supposed to be in the south Pacific. We lifted it up to the north Pacific, to Korea. So that is where the potential conflict is. Less Syria, the trucks starting to walk that back, saying we're not going to get involved in Syria. The bombing, but they're not saying that North Korea.

CB:
One last thing I wanted to wrap up here with our audience. If you watch the presser with Tillerson, he said whether you like Assad, he's a legitimate government. There is no U.S. sanctions against him. He's the one that's protecting Christians and fighting ISIS and Al NUSRA. I'm not in any way backing what this man has done. In full context, it's important to realize sort of this is a very, very complicated quagmire, if that's the right word. We appreciate it.



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