Inside global diplomacy with Baroness Catherine Ashton, former European Commission vice president —
In this episode of Intelligence Matters, host Michael Morell speaks with Rt. Honourable Baroness Catherine Ashton, former vice president of the European Commission and the European Union’s first representative for foreign affairs and security policy, about her career and new book, “And Then What? Inside Stories of 21st Century Diplomacy.” Ashton provides an insider’s view of several high-stakes diplomatic engagements, including the early days of forging the Iran nuclear deal and the EU-brokered talks between Serbia and Kosovo. Morell and Ashton also discuss the nature of political leadership and share thoughts about some of the world leaders with whom they engaged personally.
- On political leadership: “One thing that is very clear is that leaders who do brave things often find that they’re not appreciated for what they’ve done at that time; they’re making compromises with enemies, that they’re trying to do things that would be seen in a very negative way by large parts of their population because it’s hard to explain what they’re doing. And in the end, ‘Isn’t it better to do nothing?’ is what they would think.”
- “Drip, drip, drip” diplomacy: “The thing about diplomatic activity is that it is drip, drip, drip. It’s drip, drip over years at times, but it’s so important to keep doing it. And certainly if you’d said to me in 2010 or ’11 that we would get as far as getting to the JCPOA, I’d have been astonished because we were so far from it. So we should always remember that that’s an important part of anything that we do, is to keep open the possibility of being able to reach a conclusion.”
- Global response to Ukraine in 2014: “What I do know is that at a time when a crisis occurs, you’re not always certain of what it is you’re seeing, and you’re not always certain of how best to try and resolve it. And so our initial reaction was to try and resolve it through discussion, dialogue, pressure, sanctions, the kind of determination but short of the provision of military hardware.”
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INTELLIGENCE MATTERS – RT HONOURABLE BARONESS CATHERINE ASHTON
(Lightly edited for clarity)
PRODUCER: OLIVIA GAZIS’
MICHAEL MORELL: Cathy, welcome to Intelligence Matters. It’s a real honor to have you on the show.
CATHERINE ASHTON: Thank you, Michael.
MICHAEL MORELL: So, Cathy, you just published a new book – your memoir from your time as the EU’s foreign policy chief. It’s titled, “And then what? Inside Stories of 21st Century Diplomacy.” So congratulations. It’s fantastic.
CATHERINE ASHTON: Thank you. That’s very kind.
MICHAEL MORELL: Cathy, because of the way we tape these episodes here at Intelligence Matters, you didn’t get a chance to hear me introduce you. But in doing so, I provided your title: The Right Honourable Baroness, Catherine Ashton. And I must say that we’ve never had a Baroness before on Intelligence Matters. So it’s a super treat for us from that perspective. So thank you.
CATHERINE ASHTON: Well, that’s first rate. It’s just me. So that’s okay.
MICHAEL MORELL: And in fact, the reason I wanted to mention it is because it contrasts so much with who you are and who you come across as in the book. You know, in the book, you’re Cathy Ashton; in the book, you’re down to earth. In the book, you’re a person of deep humility. You’re a person who is is candid in a way that I think is unusual for any senior official, including former senior officials. So I just wanted to say that because you really are Cathy Ashton. And I think it’s important for everybody to know.
Here’s an example of your candor. You write in the book that, ‘I have often been asked in the ensuing years whether I enjoyed my time as being the first representative for foreign and security policy, the first vice president of the Commission.’ And the answer you give when you’re asked that question is, ‘No,’ which is incredibly honest. And I wanted to ask you why you say no.
CATHERINE ASHTON: It’s a good question, I think, because I was trying to make clear that when these jobs are undertaken by people like me or anyone, there’s an expectation that somehow there must be some sort of great glamour or excitement about it. But the truth is that they are relentless. They are crucial. They are jobs that require you to put aside all of the things about the kind of life that you might want to have and really focus on what it is you’re trying to do.
And for me, that meant that I was constantly aware that there was a limit to what I could do, that maybe there were people who could have done more and done better than I, was being confronted with some of the most tremendous human dilemmas of people gointhrough real suffering. And you’re simply there to try and help.
And that on a kind of weekly, monthly, yearly basis means that you are constantly aware of being given the privilege of trying to help and assist. But there’s nothing about it that makes you think to yourself, ‘Well, this is an enjoyable kind of role.’
It doesn’t mean there weren’t great moments of humor and laughter and that I met some extraordinary, wonderful people and that I saw beautiful things in the course of my travels. It’s not that. It’s simply that it’s not and shouldn’t be, in a way, a job that you should enjoy in the traditional sense.
MICHAEL MORELL: You used the word relentless, which I think is kind of exactly the way I felt when I spent seven years on the CIA seventh floor. And it’s never-ending, right? Even when you’re home, it’s never-ending. You know, even when you’re in a conversation with a family member, your mind, you know, is often someplace else. So that relentlessness, you know, really resonates with me.
CATHERINE ASHTON: Absolutely. But then you remember, too, that, you know, you’re tired a lot of the time. You’re constantly waiting for the next phone call or text message. You’re constantly aware that you’ve got an agenda in front of you that’s huge, that you’ve got an enormous amount of travel to do. You’ve got a lot of issues to resolve, a lot of meetings, to travel, a lot of people to talk to, a lot of what to do. So you’re tired and you’re concentrating, and there’s never a moment when that goes away. And it is, as I say, relentless.
MICHAEL MORELL: Cathy, you did something else that was really interesting and I think unique. When I wrote my book, I really struggled actually remembering things, right? I would write something down and then I would show it to friends and they would say, ‘Well, that’s not the way it happened. Remember, here’s the way it’s happened.’
But you did something interesting. You had conversations with your husband throughout and he would jot down what you told him, which must have made it a lot easier for you to reconstruct the narrative of those many important moments that you had.
CATHERINE ASHTON: Well, the credit really is his, Michael, because he taped me. Well, what happened? He’s a journalist by background and he said to me, ‘You’ll never keep a diary. You’ll never have time to write anything.’ So when I would come back after a week or two of work on the Iran talks or Serbia Kosovo, whatever I was doing, he would simply sit you down with the cup of coffee and he would explore beyond what I describe as the outline of the meeting.
The outline of the meeting is what you read in the press report, if you like. But it’s a coloring of the outline. It’s the, ‘What did it feel like? What did they say? How did you feel? What did you think?’ that gives you the picture in the story. And so when I finished in office, he handed me the tape and said, ‘Over to you,’ and I, over time, transcribed them and discovered a lot of things, as you rightly point out, that I had long forgotten. And it brought back those memories, but also that sense of what we were trying to do. And I stuck to that in the story.
So I haven’t tried to use, hindsight being the perfect vision, what happened later, what I learned later. I’ve tried to tell the story as it was at the time for me. So these are my stories are not historical documents in the traditional sense. They’re simply what it was like for me to be part of these particular crises or issues at that time.
MICHAEL MORELL: When you left the job, did you know you wanted to write a book or did that come later?
CATHERINE ASHTON: It came later, really. When I left the job, I wanted to sleep and I wanted to —
MICHAEL MORELL: I know how that feels.
CATHERINE ASHTON: I wanted to have time to do the things that I’d really missed. Just seeing friends, going to the theater, you know, did things that you do. But you no longer have to kind of keep the phone switched on or worry that you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. All of those and of course, go on holiday.
But as time went by, people asked me to tell the stories because they were intrigued and interested. What was it like to meet these people? How did it feel to be involved in these particular things that were going on? And as I told the stories, people would say to me, you know, you should write a book. You should write these. And eventually I realized that none of the problems or issues that I described in the book had really been resolved. And so it seemed right to say a little bit about what I’d learned. And to describe the beginning of some of these crises, but also what it was like to try and do something to alleviate them, if not to resolve them.
MICHAEL MORELL: So, Cathy, I want to get to the tough issues that you had to deal with. But I want to ask you, before we do that, I want to ask you a couple of questions about a particular paragraph in the introduction of the book that really grabbed my attention. And let me read a few sentences from that paragraph and get you to provide an example of two of who you were thinking about when you wrote those sentences.
So the first one is, “Sometimes I was frustrated by leaders who simply preferred to do nothing, passing the problem on to their successors or ignoring it altogether.” Who were you thinking about?
CATHERINE ASHTON: A range of different people, but especially in places like the Western Balkans, where it was easy to not argue when you said, ‘For goodness’ sake, you know, we need to move forward, you need to do more,’ and would do nothing about it. There were a number of countries that I visited where that was a very common response.
And it was sometimes because the process of becoming a leader. And it kind of exhausted all of the energy. And the new leader in place of the leader who had been there for a while was determined to remain there that the idea of doing anything might topple them or might make them less secure. Because one thing that is very clear is that leaders who do brave things often find that they’re not appreciated for what they’ve done at that time; they’re making compromises with enemies, that they’re trying to do things that would be seen in a very negative way by large parts of their population because it’s hard to explain what they’re doing. And in the end, ‘Isn’t it better to do nothing?’ is what they would think.
So the example that springs to mind always when I described this of the opposite were what the leaders of Kosovo and Serbia were prepared to do, both of them knowing that it would affect the view of the people had of them, affect their popularity potentially, and it could in some cases affect their ability to lead in the future. So it’s a common problem.
But see, for me, I felt that if you were given the privilege of leading your country, then the responsibility is on you to do things, is on you to make life better for the people that you serve. So I would get really frustrated by that.
MICHAEL MORELL: And it’s on you to take the risks associated with accomplishing what you’ve been given the job to accomplish. I mean, it’s pretty straightforward, actually.
CATHERINE ASHTON: Absolutely.
MICHAEL MORELL: Here’s another sentence, Cathy. “Some were the creators of chaos, prepared to put personal gain ahead of any interests in lessening the plight of their people.” Who were you thinking about?
CATHERINE ASHTON: There wasn’t any one specific that comes to mind when I write that, because in the course of my time in office I met more or less every leader across the world and at any given time, there were people that you met who, when confronted with problems, would think about themselves, would be prepared to see their country suffer as long as they okay, as long as they and their family were getting richer, they were okay.
So you came across the willingness of people to think that becoming the leader put them in a different place. They were no longer beholden to the people who took them there, and therefore they could afford that risk. I remember saying to President Morsi, Mohammed Morsi in Egypt before he was removed, ‘It’s not enough to be elected. It’s what you do with it that matters.’
In other words, you can’t just get the job and then kind of go on holiday for a few days. It’s what you do once you you’ve been elected, not the actual fact of election, that determines whether you are a leader or not. And I think that’s an important message for all leaders that actually they’re given the chance to do something for their people and that’s what they should do.
MICHAEL MORELL: When I read that sentence, I thought you were thinking of somebody like Bashar al Assad or Moammar Gadhafi or even, you know, Vladimir Putin.
CATHERINE ASHTON: All of them would fit that mold, of course, and fit those words.
MICHAEL MORELL: Cathy, I’d love for you to take us inside three of the issues with which you had to deal, and you devote an entire chapter to each of these. The first one, I think, is the one that our listeners are going to be most familiar with. It’s the P5+1s negotiations with the Iranians that eventually led to the JCPOA, the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, which is commonly referred to as the nuclear deal.
And I really want to ask you first, I want to ask you two questions. And the first is, were there things that you did not fully understand about the Iranian mindset about this issue at the start of the negotiations that you came to understand over the course of the talks, as you spent so much time with them?
CATHERINE ASHTON: Right. So the first thing that I always think when you’re negotiating – and this is what I tell people when they ask me about negotiation – is that you have to try and understand the people who are sitting across the table. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a business negotiation or an international negotiation or whatever it is; not in order to cross the line and become that or take on that viewpoint, but simply, if you don’t understand what drives them, what what history and what culture of, then it’s more difficult to reach any conclusions.
So for me, learning about Iran and about the Iranian teams that I dealt with was really important. I was not particularly familiar with Iran when I started this, and so it was important to get to know them. And it’s why I and both the Ahmadinejad and Rouhani presidencies I worked with on the issue would always begin the discussions with dinner with the chief negotiator the night before. And that was a sort of what I call a warming up period where you get a chance to talk on other things and have a chance to get to know each other.
So without question, to answer what you asked me, by the time I got to spend so much of the week or the months with them, I understood better who they were, what they thought, what concerns, and in a sense, the issues that they dealt with from that perspective. In other words, that the other side views you differently to the way you view yourself. Of course, it’s an obvious point. But understanding that that’s the case is quite different to kind of thinking, I guess, the case. So knowing what they see and what they’re looking for, what they’re expecting, it’s important. And that for sure, I learned in the course of those negotiations.
MICHAEL MORELL: Would you say that the number one driver for them, the number one issue on their mind, was their own security? Or is there something else?
CATHERINE ASHTON: Well, when we were negotiating with President Rouhani’s regime,
which is when Foreign Minister Zarif was leading for the Iran team, the thing that struck me most was that this government had come in on the promise of resolving some of the economic challenges that Iran had and that that was impossible unless you could do something about sanctions and unless you could open up the economy.
And so the motivation, in a sense, to get on with the agreement was, in my view, anyway, at least in part because of the need to fulfill the promise of the economy. There was a question I think that was always in our mind was, Did the Iranians believe that they were more secure or less secure with a nuclear weapon? Now, in my view, there’s no question that security in the region does not include Iran having a nuclear weapon. But it was, I think, more obvious to me that, having been the negotiator himself a decade before, he understood that it was much better for Iran not to have a nuclear weapon and I don’t think wanted a nuclear weapon. And so this was about a negotiation that was to ensure that we could be confident of that situation if it were the case, and that in return for that confidence, their economy could improve.
MICHAEL MORELL: So, Cathy, the second question that I want to ask you about Iran is, as you know better than anybody, a successful negotiation requires give and take. And I’ve never asked anybody involved in the negotiations this question. But what were some of the things the Iranians wanted that they did not get? And what were some of the things that the West wanted, the P5+1wanted that we did not get? I don’t know if anybody’s asked you that before.
CATHERINE ASHTON: No, not so much in those terms because the – so the Iran deal is like a jigsaw puzzle. Any deal is. But when you look at it, you should be able to see no spaces between the pieces and be absolutely clear what the pictures telling you. So, you know, it’s a picture of a kitten with a ball. Whatever it is, doesn’t matter what shape and size the pieces are. And the most important thing about the negotiation was that we should have absolute clarity that we could say to people, ‘Look at this picture.’ What you will see is that we have created an agreement that gives confidence in the purely peaceful nature of the nuclear program, to quote the wording that we were given, if you like, you know, kind of what we were told we had to do and the shape and size of each individual piece have the ability to vary depending on what happened.
You could have a bigger piece here, which meant you needed a small piece somewhere else. And so it wasn’t so much there were things that we didn’t get. It was more that when we were talking to Iran about all of the different parts of the nuclear program, from the heavy water reactors to a number of centrifuges and what they were capable of doing, it was about making sure that jigsaw puzzle came together and created the picture and it did it. So I don’t think we came away saying, ‘Well, we didn’t get this or we didn’t get that.’ We’re saying when you look at the picture, it works.
So from that point of view, what they were looking for was, of course, sanctions relief of being able to build their economy is the main focus of what they would receive in return.
And again, there may be specific elements of that verbiage, but the jigsaw puzzle piece, I think, also gave them what they needed, which was the potential to grow the economy. So it’s important.
And, you know, like one of the things that’s always interesting in a negotiation is it’s very easy for people to become fixated on a piece. And I think one of the problems that the Iran negotiations had was that people said, ‘Well, unless you do this particular bit, then we don’t believe in the rest.’ And yet any particular bit was subject to all the others. In other words, creating the picture that if the piece was the right shape and size, that would work because it would slot together with everything else. So I think sometimes the criticism of the deal was that people thought, ‘Well, if that piece doesn’t look like this, then maybe the deal isn’t as good as it should be.’
MICHAEL MORELL: My question fell into the trap. How about that? So, last question on Iran, Cathy. I’m sure you’ve followed all the developments, reading the press and talking to people over the last several years. Where do you think we’re headed with the Iranian nuclear program and what do you think we should do about it?
CATHERINE ASHTON: It’s very difficult to see where it’s going right now, with all that’s happened inside Iran and our deep concerns for the people of and the positioning, if you like, of Iran in the region and the need to concern ourselves with countries that feel vulnerable or threatened or exposed to Iran. I don’t get the sense that we are seeing much movement on any of the Iran talks.
It doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying, of course. Having spent four years doing this, I know that’s important, but it’s in a sense going back to the drawing board a little bit, saying, ‘Okay, well, the two-pronged approach of pressure to show that we’re serious – and this is not just individual nations, this was the Security Council, all of them and members, particularly the P5 – and keeping that pressure up is going to be incredibly important, while also being determined to carry on talking whether talking might lead somewhere in the end.
And it sounds quite trying to say it, but the thing about diplomatic activity is that it is drip, drip, drip. It’s drip, drip over years at times, but it’s so important to keep doing it. And certainly if you’d said to me in 2010 or ’11 that we would get as far as getting to the JCPOA, I’d have been astonished because we were so far from it. So we should always remember that that’s an important part of anything that we do, is to keep open the possibility of being able to reach a conclusion.
MICHAEL MORELL: You know, one of the things that that I would occasionally need to remind my analysts of when they thought something impossible is I would need to remind them that diplomats often do extraordinary things and accomplished extraordinary things.
So, Cathy, the second topic that you cover in your book that I want to talk about, which obviously has great resonance today, are the events in Kyiv in 2014: Russia’s invasion of Crimea and its subsequent creation of and support for a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine.
And three questions I want to touch on. The first is, why didn’t the West come together at that point and loudly say ‘No’ to Putin when he grabbed Crimea? Why didn’t we provide weapons to the Ukrainians then? And why did we do so this time around? Why didn’t we do it in 2014?
CATHERINE ASHTON: It’s interesting that it was a very different time and it was a very different Ukraine. And in a way, there had been this dramatic set of events – Maidan demonstrations, the departure of the President, Yanukovich, to Russia and through the ability of the parliament to move forward to its constitution. It had created a new leadership and then eventually elections led to President Poroshenko being elected. So it was a very strange and a difficult time, I think, for the country.
And in a sense, I think we didn’t really know what we were looking at. Yes, Russia had taken Crimea, but it had stopped. There had been incursions into the Donbass that we thought the best approach as an international community was much more about pressure and sanctions at that point. And for a process of negotiation or mediation to actually try and resolve the issues that had appeared.
It was also, in my view, the case that Russia’s way of operating was for, what is it, two countries. They’d done it in Georgia in 2008, they had done it in Moldova. They were interested in doing it elsewhere. And that these wedges were about preventing countries from acting as whole states, sovereign states. They couldn’t join things like the EU and they couldn’t do things because they weren’t quite complete. And the people who said they represented these breakaway or whatever they call them areas would loudly claim that without that, no decisions could be formally made for that country.
And so we were, we thought we were looking at that. And that’s really difficult, challenging, and we’ve not resolved those issues elsewhere. But it’s a sort of slightly different situation than one that has been now very clearly designated by all of us as a war. You look back and you can see things that we should have confronted better and confronted together more effectively. But what I do know is that at a time when a crisis occurs, you’re not always certain of what it is you’re seeing, and you’re not always certain of how best to try and resolve it. And so our initial reaction was to try and resolve it through discussion, dialogue, pressure, sanctions, the kind of determination but short of the provision of military hardware.
MICHAEL MORELL: Cathy, the second question on Ukraine is where are you on the question of how much Western weapons we should be providing to the Ukrainians and on what timescale? You know, the pace has been deliberate and I’m wondering if you are comfortable with what the pace has been or if you would have liked to have seen a quicker pace.
CATHERINE ASHTON: So as you know, Michael, much better than I really, the pace is often dictated by what the country that’s receiving weaponry is able to do, and particularly more modern weaponry requires people to know how to use it, requires it to be delivered in good order and so on. And all the countries that are providing weaponry have got to think about their own defense in terms of how they’re going to replace what they get. So there’s a lot of considerations.
So sometimes the pace is not about the unwillingness of countries to do things. It’s to do with factors such as the ones I’ve described. And those are important.
I think all of us are trying to think about looking to the future and how we can see this conflict ending. Wanting Ukraine to be whole and free to be a sovereign nation in charge of its own future. And what that means and what that means for relations with Russia down the track. We know how difficult and terrible has been the situation now. But we also have to keep, in a sense, a sense of what will be in total 20 years time when things may be maybe different, maybe not. And so all of the pacing of this and all of the thinking of this has got to be multifaceted.
The reason the book’s called, “And then What?” is always to have in mind the question that I used to try and ask all the time, which is, if we do this and then what? And then what do we do? Where do we go next? What are the things that follow? So in terms of providing weaponry, our responsibilities to Ukraine are to help them to retain and take back the territory that makes them a sovereign state.
That’s what we’re trying to do, is to give them support and help, so that President Zelenskyy is able to make sure that his people end up living in Ukraine in a safe and secure country. And the safe and secure space is going to require us to think in the longer term about all of the different elements of what that means in the context of the EU, with NATO, of security guarantees of relations with Russia in the future and so on. And that’s a big bundle of stuff that needs to be on our minds now if we’re going to be able to help them resolve it in the future.
MICHAEL MORELL: You know the title, “And then what?” you know, I don’t think in my time sitting in the Situation Room that we asked that question enough. And I know when we were asked to think about at CIA, we were asked to think about covert action, we didn’t ask ourselves that question enough: If we do this and then what? It’s a great question. And it’s a it’s a great title to your book.
Cathy, the third broad topic I wanted to ask you about was Serbia and Kosovo, another full chapter in your book. This is a topic that I think that Americans probably know the least about in terms of of the ones we’ve been discussing. Can you explain what happened, what position the West took and why this had a successful outcome?
CATHERINE ASHTON: So we go back in time to the breakup of Yugoslavia, to the wars that erupted between countries, between communities. And one of the most devastating parts of that was the fighting between people in Kosovo, which was regarded in the time of Yugoslavia as a kind of region connected to Serbia, and the desire of the people in Kosovo to be free and independent, for them to exercise self-determination, to be a nation state, having suffered at the hands of Serbia in particular over the years.
We remember the photographs of floods of refugees as people were forced out of their homes. The Kosovo Albanians, in particular Kosovo Serbs, was still connected to Serbia. And eventually Kosovo declared itself a nation that was recognized by a large number of countries, most of the European Union, not all. Certainly the United States and many other countries as well, 100 or so, have recognized it as an independent nation.
Serbia has always said it is not. It is part of our territory. And they would argue that Kosovo should remain part of its territory and does not have the right to break away. And the conflict within that has continued through the years and really resonates in the north of Kosovo, where you have a big community of Kosovar Serbs that look to Serbia, not just culturally and linguistically, but politically and economically, too. And of course, the government in central Kosovo, in Pristina, the capital that wants to see the north of Kosovo, absolutely as part of its territory.
And in my time, it was the Wild West. There was lawlessness. There were dual purpose groups, there were two police forces. There were there was a kind of justice system that didn’t function. And to go from one to the other was to go through two separate sets of gates for the sort of no man’s land in the middle. Gates that were set on fire from time to time and many thousands of troops from NATO protecting parts of Kosovo, protecting these wonderful old Serb monasteries on the one hand, and protecting the people who were in danger on the other. So you had a complete mess, to put it bluntly.
And we were able to get Serbia, Kosovo and the two prime ministers to work together to reach a first agreement that was all about making life for the people in the North better. It was resolving that there is one police force, one justice system, having one set of gates. No no man’s land in the middle, working out where the money that was collected as people use customs receipts going to and fro, how that would be spent trying to support the development of the communities developing as one community see the future.
And the first agreement was signed in my time and was an important breakthrough because the people who had talked to each other had never met before. They had nothing but, in some cases I would say almost hatred, but certainly contempt or felt that the other side was being completely unreasonable. And it was a very brave thing for them to do.
And you know, what was interesting for me was seeing the poll of the European Union, the membership of the European Union for the countries of the Western Balkans is a no brainer. That’s where they should end up in time, because that’s where they belong. And here was an opportunity to use the pull by being able to offer them the opportunity to get closer to the day when membership would be possible was what made it possible for them to sell what was a pretty difficult sell to many people who felt aggrieved, for many who lost their loved ones in the course of the conflicts.
MICHAEL MORELL: Cathy, we have a very short period of time left. I just want to do one more thing. I want to throw out the name of a couple of leaders that were important players on the issues you worked and just get it literally a one or two sentence response from you. It’s kind of like a Rorschach test here. And the first one is Barack Obama. Couple of sentences.
CATHERINE ASHTON: Very considered. A president who I’ve had the privilege to talk to a number of occasions. He was thoughtful. He was deeply interested in foreign policy issues. And he was very determined on trying to get outcomes that would be beneficial for the United States, but also for the people that we were trying to help.
MICHAEL MORELL: Angela Merkel.
CATHERINE ASHTON: She was the most consistently supportive leader to me across the European Union. She said to me the day I was appointed, “I’ll support you today and I’ll support you every day.” And she did. And she was always ready to find ways to try and help. Whether that was talking endlessly with President Putin, whether that was trying to navigate issues in the European Council. She was an extraordinary leader.
MICHAEL MORELL: And lastly, Vladimir Putin.
CATHERINE ASTHON: A man who exuded power from the moment that you met him. Somebody who was determined that Russia was not going to be reduced to a regional power, but was going to be a superpower, who passionately and angrily believed that it was impossible for countries that historically had been in a relationship with Russia to even contemplate looking elsewhere.
MICHAEL MORELL: The book is, “And then what? Inside Stories of 21st Century Diplomacy.” The author is Catherine Ashton. Cathy, thank you so much for joining us.
CATHERINE ASHTON: Michael, thank you.
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