Marc Thiessen: Besides NATO, Nothing We Do Will Stop Putin

Marc Thiessen, columnist at The Washington Post,  Fox News contributor, co-host of the podcast ‘What the Hell is Going On: Making Sense of the World”,  and former presidential speech writer joined the Guy Benson Show to discuss the old man antics of Joe Biden, Trump v Desantis, and Zelenskyy’s NATO push.

Listen to the full interview:


Thiessen had this to say about Joe Biden’s mental state:

“The only way you’re going to have peace… is by having a bright line that (Putin) is afraid to cross.”


Full transcript below:

Guy Benson: We welcome in Marc Thiessen, columnist at The Washington Post, a Fox News contributor, fellow at AEI and former presidential speechwriter under George W Bush. Marc, always a pleasure.

Marc Thiessen: Always good to be with you Guy.

Guy Benson: So I want to pick your brain a bit about NAITO and Ukraine. You’ve written this piece arguing that NATO’s should extend a membership offer and embrace Ukraine, bring them into the alliance. I know that there are a number of people, including a lot of Republicans and the Biden administration and others who disagree. Vladimir Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, is on your side in this debate. Just if you would lay out your case for why you think this is a good idea.

Marc Thiessen: Well, first of all, no one is talking about bringing Ukraine into NAITO while the current fighting is happening. What we’re talking about is extending an offer to Ukraine to join when the fighting stops, which is the only way to guarantee a durable peace. So a couple of things. Number one, do we want to go through this again in a few years because Vladimir Putin isn’t going to continue, is not going to stop attacking Ukraine until he’s conquered it, unless it tornado. So Putin has attacked a lot of countries. He’s never attacked NATO country because he knows he can’t take on all of Naito. And so the only way you’re ever going to have a peace that doesn’t become a pause for Vladimir Putin to regroup, reconstitute his forces and then launch another invasion is if after that peace comes. There is a bright line with an Article five commitment that allows that he’ll never cross. And the other thing is that the only way that Zelensky is going to be able to sell peace to his own people, because the odds are that while we hope that Ukraine is able to recapture all of its territory, the odds are that it’s going to have there’s going to be some territory that’s still in Russian hands and the Ukrainian people are in no mood to compromise with Russia right now. I think the polls show something like 80% of Ukrainians want to fight until every inch of Ukrainian territory is taken back and a few of them will probably even want to continue on into Russia. And so he would be thrown out of office if he tried to go create a peace settlement that that gave Russia any kind of land or allowed Russia to have it continue to occupy some of that land. And the only way he’s able to sell it to his people, you know, would be if it comes with an ATO guarantee that this one, Konrad Adenauer in 1955, brought West Germany into Naito, even though the country was divided and the East was still controlled by the Communists, he sold it to his people. As we need to secure the threat from from from the Soviets is bigger than than the emergent need for reunification. And so we need to bring in and bring them into that country than they are now. So let’s be honest, it would need to do the same in order to have peace. So you can’t have peace unless there’s a there’s a need an Article five guarantee.

Guy Benson: Do you think do you think, Marc, just to push back on a couple of things. So, number one, if you’re Putin and you think that there’s this contingent offer, you guys can join NATO Once the fighting’s over and the war is over, Putin obviously is dead set against Ukraine joining nado. Would that incentivize the Russians to basically grind out a stalemate basically forever to make sure that the peace never comes because they know what might come next and they could just sort of wait out Western resolve and sort of wait for the shifts in NAITO leadership, maybe. Could it delay peace?

Marc Thiessen: Yeah. So here’s the thing. Nothing we do, especially when it comes to NATO, will either encourage or discourage Putin from doing what he wants to do, except if it stops him and makes it impossible for him to achieve his objectives. I mean, the reality is he has said I was with George W Bush at the 28 NATO summit when he very presciently pushed the alliance to to bring in bite Ukrainian potato. And he said to Bush at the summit, Ukraine is in the country and he invaded it a few years later. And so nothing we’re doing is going to encourage him or discourage him. He believes that Ukraine should be part of Russia. And unless he’s that goal is made impossible for him to achieve, he will continue to pursue it. So I don’t believe that’s the case. As far as their not being like a peace settlement. I mean, look, we brought we gave South Korea Article five. We’re still at war with the with North Korea right now. I mean, we’re in a state of war. There is a there’s a piece of there’s a there’s an armistice where we’re not fighting at the moment. But, you know, we haven’t had a peace settlement. North Korea doesn’t recognize South Korea as being a legitimate country. But we have an armistice and we gave in 1955, gave South Korea the equivalent of an Article five agreement as well. So you don’t have to have Vladimir Putin agree to it. You just have to make it impossible for him to change the reality on the ground. And so we need to what we need to do is two things. We need to give the Ukrainians everything they can get. They need. In order to push Russia back as far as they possibly can in the coming year. And then at the end of the year, at the end of a year, we need to bring in we need to have some kind of a settlement where the Ukrainian we can stop the war, end the war and have some sort of a peace. But the only way you have that peace is if there’s Article five behind it.

Guy Benson: The other argument, Mark, is let’s say this does happen and Ukraine does enter NATO and Putin and the Russians are obsessed with Ukraine anyway and they start pulling some more military nonsense or worse. Then whatever one says across the spectrum in this country is we don’t want American boots on the ground. We don’t want American lives at risk. Then we would be on the hook under the invocation of Article five. If they were a part of NATO’s, would this increase the chances of putting Americans in harm’s way in Ukraine, which is what everyone swears they don’t want?

Marc Thiessen: I think it decreases the chatter. And just ask yourself a question Why did he go after Ukraine and not Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia? It’s because they’re in NATO. He can’t attack Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia because he knows that he would really would Article five and he would be at war with the entire data alliance. So the only way you can get that to prevent that from happening Now, if Putin were to eventually, you know, well, Putin looks at the way Putin looks at this is look, time is on my side. I just I don’t need to win right away. I just need to I just need to wait long enough for the West to give up and defeat themselves by quitting. He looks and sees. Look at what they did in Afghanistan. It took 20 years, but the Taliban came back into power because the West lost its resolve. And so he just he just needs to fight as long as we can to accept a pause and then start it up with a few more. I mean, the question we have to ask ourselves is, do we want to go through this again five years from now? Do we want to be spending tens of tens of tens of billions of dollars helping Ukraine defend itself from a third Russian invasion? Or do we want to put an end to this? And the only way you put an end to it is if you have the Article five commitment, because Putin has never attacked NATO country because he knows he can’t.

Guy Benson: One more question on this. He’s been saber rattling and using as part of his propaganda. This whole NATO prospect, the specter of Ukraine being brought in NATO as an affront against the motherland and all of that. This is what Putin has been saying. It’s part of what he’s at least using to justify what he’s done, in my view, and unjustifiable, unprovoked war of choice on his part. Would this play into the propaganda that he’s been spewing by confirming where he can say, see, I was right, they’re going to do this. This is what they want. This was their goal all along to expand NATO’s. And this is an attack on Russia. Could that bolster him at home and give some credibility to some of his talking points?

Marc Thiessen: Well, I mean, first of all, I think that argument has about as much credibility as the argument that we provoked the 911 attacks by supporting Israel and by and by and by our presence in the Middle East. The reality is that tyrants always come up with an excuse for doing what they wanted to do anyway. And so if it wasn’t for NATO’s expansion, he found another reason. And he wrote, If you want to go anybody, you want to go and read it. He wrote a 6000 word essay. It’s on the Russia. I wrote a column about it. You can look it up for my Washington Post column and I link to it. It’s on the Russian Ministry of Foreign Presidential and the Kremlin website. 6000 word essay on why he plans to reabsorb Ukraine into Russia. Because it’s part of where the Ukrainians and the American Russians are one people. They’re going back to ancient Russia was robbed.

Guy Benson: Do you think he would you think he would abandon all of that? And he would say, never mind if they were part of NATO?

Marc Thiessen: He’ll never say never mind unless he doesn’t have the option. I mean, that’s why this doesn’t end unless there’s NATO expansion, because we will not dissuade him from his goal of claiming of claiming all of Ukraine and then going on. And, you know, he wants to he wants to get he wants to reconnect Kaliningrad and to to do Russia. We’ll never persuade him. We’ve got to stop it. And the only way you prevent him, you only you have to make his goals impossible to achieve. I mean, North Korea, you know, also doesn’t want it has a goal of reuniting its territory and reuniting the Korean Peninsula under communism. Taiwan also has a goal of reuniting Taiwan to the motherland under Chinese rule. These the only reason they don’t do that is because they can’t, because we’ve made it impossible for them to do that. And so the only way you stop Putin from launching another war in a few years’ time is to make it impossible for him to do it.

Guy Benson: I think there are interesting and compelling points. We had Congressman Waltz on here yesterday who had a different point of view. And he said that respectfully to you, because I was referencing your piece and I wanted to bring you on and have you make your case to the audience as well. And I think some of the points are well-taken. Marc, I do want to shift to domestic politics. And let me ask you this question. I saw a poll out today. This is from Florida Atlantic University. Their pollster down, as you might imagine, in that state. And it was a poll not just of the primary election, but also of the general election way, way early, but still. And the poll showed both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis really crushing Joe Biden in Florida. I think Trump was up nine or ten points, was up 13, outperforming Trump against Biden in a general, which is something that you see a lot, especially in some of these key states. You might say, well, what’s the difference between, you know, nine and 13? Well, maybe that not much in Florida, but a three or four point difference in, I don’t know, Arizona or Georgia could make all the difference in the world. So there is that point on the general election potential match up. But in the Republican primary, Donald Trump in this poll is leading Ron DeSantis in the state of Florida in the Republican race by 20 points. Trump’s at 50. DeSantis at 30. Everyone else irrelevant. And that comes on the heels of another national poll that I just saw that has Trump at 57% among Republicans. DeSantis I think it’s like 19 or 20%. And everyone else more or less stagnant. You and I have spoken about this on and off the air. Mark. We’re on the same page. We think it would be a bad idea for a number of reasons, a bad plan for the GOP to nominate Donald Trump again for president for any number of reasons. Seems like an awful lot of Republican voters don’t agree with us. Even in a place like Florida, where they’ve had a front row seat to the remarkable successes of Ron DeSantis reelected the guy by an eye popping margin, you know, almost 20 points down there just last year. And at least for the moment and for the last couple of months now, the Republican electorate seems to be saying, no, we want Trump again. And even if you had all the non-Trump candidates, perfectly all of their support. Consolidate behind one person. In some of these polls, Trump would still win with a majority. And so that’s just a big wind up to the question. I know it’s extremely early and it’s still the summer before a single vote gets cast. But you’re starting to see a narrative out there, not just from the Trump people, that the Republican primary might be over before it starts. What do you make of that?

Marc Thiessen: Yeah, we haven’t had a single debate yet. I mean, this this thing is just getting started. I mean, unfortunately, Ron DeSantis has had a catastrophic start to his campaign. You know, he the launch was terrible. He’s made a lot of strategic errors. It doesn’t seem like the people who ran his successful gubernatorial races are the ones running his presidential campaign. And so he’s not done it. He’s not done well and be we only get one chance to make a first impression. And he made a bad first impression. And that’s a problem for him. The the polls basically show that there is about 25 to a quarter of the electorate. Republican electorate is only considering Donald Trump. A quarter of the Republican electorate will not vote for Donald Trump under any circumstances in the primaries. And about half of the electorate is deciding between him and other candidates. He hovers around high 40 to low fifties in most of these polls. So, you know, there’s about, you know, 70 to 75% of the electorate is up for grabs. It’s just, you know, this is why you play the game. This is why you have the campaign. You know, candidate quality matters to performance on the ballot, on the field matters. And we’ll see. DeSantis either writes himself and takes off or he fades and maybe somebody else emerges. All I know is that I have nothing against Donald Trump. I think he was a great president. I think he did a terrific job. I think that he in terms of policy with the mute button on, he has so alienated swing voters in this country that I don’t think that he’s electable. And so the question becomes, is he the only candidate who Joe Biden could be? I mean, I think if you put up any one of the other Republican candidates on the field, a serious one, I’m not talking about the programs of the world and the options of serious people. The Pences, the the the Tim Scott’s those people and any one of them could be Joe Biden, the only one who puts us at risk of a of a second Biden term and by extension, a Kamala Harris presidency is Donald Trump. And I think that’s just a risk too great to take.

Guy Benson: Yeah, no, I mean, I I’m with you on that point. And I think for that reason, you know, you might have some folks saying, well, hang on, These types of people said the exact same thing in 2016 and Trump won anyway. It’s true. And I’m not saying Trump couldn’t win. I think he could, especially if there’s a recession. I keep making that point. But I think he puts the Republicans in the weakest position to win. And is that a is that a gamble that you want to take in 2016 was a very different Trump and a very different political environment then 2024. I mean, for for all sorts of reasons that I think people a lot of folks understand intuitively. Mark, very quickly, in the last minute or so, you said strategic errors from the Santos campaign. I think that he’s running too negative of a campaign to boutique on certain issues, sort of very online issues and too right wing. He ran a very positive reelection campaign in Florida. Oh, do you agree with that assessment? What would you say your top strategic concerns are about DeSantis right now?

Marc Thiessen: Just they don’t seem to have a theory of the case That’s winnable. He seems to be too focused on trying to win over the 25%. That’s with Trump then winning over the 25%. That’s not… And the 50% of the rest that that are persuadable. And, you know, those are those are not the people that you win over by being by trying to out MAGA Trump. You know he’s he doesn’t have to prove himself on those things. So I think that he needs to I think he needs to lay out the case of how he’s made life better for the people of Florida and how he could do it nationally and make the case. I think he’s trying to do that. Donald Trump’s going to lose.

Guy Benson: Yeah, and he’s got and he’s got a number of months to make that case. Starting next month on the debate stage, we’ll see if Trump even shows up. We’ll be talking all about that in the days to come. Marc Thiessen, our guest on The Guy Benson Show. Marc, appreciate it.

Marc Thiessen: Thank you. Take care.