tv Deadline White House MSNBC February 18, 2022 1:00pm-3:00pm PST
bulk of the ukrainian armed forces. this is a bad day for them initially. >> general, with that phrase all the lights are blinking red, you certainly have a way of making things vivid. andrea, safe travels. thank you. thank you to all of you as the bell tolls for watching this hour. "deadline: white house" starts right now. ♪♪ hello, everyone. it is 4:00 in new york. i'm ali velshi in for nicolle wallace. president biden will deliver remarks on ukraine and the flurry of high stakes diplomacy as the united states and western allies attempt to stave off a russian invasion of ukraine. second time the president
addressed the crisis this week and comes after holding a call with western ally this is afternoon. the administration over past 24 hours has been expressing concern that russia is walking away from any possible diplomatic solution, concerns that are fueled by a steady buildup of russian forces on the ukraine border. u.s. intelligence suggests that russia deployed up to 190,000 military personnel. what one american diplomat said is the most significant mobilization inup since the second world war. news from inside ukraine raising fear that is russia is already staging a pretext for invasion. from "the washington post" the russian-backed leader of an area of eastern ukraine said officials there were launching mass evacuation of civilians into russia count everying the
threat of military aggression and done in concert with russian leadership. we are -- we have been hearing from the vice president of the united states about what she thinks should happen next. >> we remain, of course, open to and desirous of diplomacy relating to the dialogue and discussions with russia. but we are also committed and russia taking aggressive action to ensuring there will be severe consequence in terms of the economic sanctions we have discussed. >> that's where we begin. shannon petty piece joins us and evelyn for russia, ukraine and eurasia in the obama administration. welcome to both of you. thank you for being with us. shannon, we are waiting to hear from the president, second time this week to hear from the president ahead or part of the
security conference in munich with western leaders trying to avoid a russian invasion of ukraine. do you know what we're likely to hear? >> so the white house says this is going to be an update. not going to be a major announcement or posture changes from the u.s. and update on the diplomatic and deterrence efforts by the administration. a lot has changed since we last heard from the president on tuesday and we have been getting increasingly grim assessments from the white house and the administration to the point where it is now more in the when category versus the if category based on the comments we have been hearing and the discouraging signals the administration is sending about the prospect of diplomacy and they say the door is open to that.
the white house is encouraged and the president to speak to the american public to prepare them for a potential for an invasion and the consequences could be domestically, not just internationally and globally. a thing we heard from the president last tuesday was telling the american public that defending democracy doesn't come without cost. warning about the potential for higher energy prices and talking about what the u.s. plan to do to try to counter those or hedge that possibility. look for more of that direct communication to the american public because the effects at home beyond energy and to supply chain and aluminum used in sophisticated parts and electronics and already on top of a disrupted supply chain not to mention of course the global effects and what this means to the world order living in post
world war ii. >> you bring up an interesting point. evelyn, the idea that folks are sirped about energy prices and supply chains and a mind-set that maybe people forgot about. creation of nato and the primary concern ahead of inflation and supply chain should be not having countries simply roll into other conditions because they feel like it. >> we have an international system after world war ii because we don't want global wars where countries as you said roll of borders and a dog eat dog sphere of influence situation with competition and land grabs. we set up the international order based on the u.n. charter. article ii says that borders
cannot be changed by force and russia occupies the neighbors. in 2008 it occupied republic of georgia and an unsolved issue. in 2014 annexed crimea. first time to grab land and said it was theirs. no one did that using military force since world war ii and don then donbas. but we need to stand up to russia internationally. i think shannon made a good point that this is about the global order. >> i want to bring in ambassador michael mcfaul. ambassador, this is a good place to pick up with you because evelyn was talking about georgia and crimea. right now you have vladimir putin saying to the west, if you guys agree not to invite or allow ukraine into your nato
fold that would be important to us. and he is changing the narrative into whether or not that's a reasonable thing to agree to or not to agree to when, in fact, all of this other stuff is unaddressed. russia in crimea is unaddressed. russia in georgia remains unaddressed. russia's naked expansionism remains unaddressed. >> you said it better than i did. that's exactly right. he wants to change the channel to focus on this fictitious threat of ukraine joining nato. nato never attacked soviet union or russia. the russians supported us going to afghanistan and be clear. let's say for instance that president zelensky, we can't tell him what's in the national
security interests. he is an elected leader but say that he would entertain this idea of a moratorium on nato. why would anybody in kyiv or brussels or washington believe vladimir putin given the history? he signed up to treaties in the past and violated them and should help listeners understand zelensky. he knows it's a false trade. it cannot be trusted. >> let's talk about zelensky for a moment. president of ukraine. there's a discussion that he may join the world leaders and concern about him leaving ukraine with concern of leaving the countries in difficult times. in afghanistan first sign of
trouble the president left. ukraine has a history of this. how do they balance that concern of zelensky at the table versus fearful that putin may take advantage of the president of the country being gone? >> i think you are right to note the historical examples. russia is dotted with examples of russian leaders leaving the capital and trying to come back. officials have urged zelensky to stay in ukraine's capital to not only to the munich security summit as scheduled. tomorrow he is expected to meet with vice president kamala harris, a high profile meeting between the two leaders. which there hasn't been an enormous amount 0 of that. but the u.s. officials telling
him do not come essentially or don't think it's a good idea. publicly we heard from press secretary psaki saying that the u.s. won't tell zelensky who he shouldn't or should do. that decision is up to him. there is of course that concern that if he leaves he might not be able to come back. >> evelyn, i want to ask about military action and capability. we have partnerships with nato and troops in the region. we have american troopgs added to that. there's no clear understanding that there are american troops involved in a shooting war with russian troops so assuming we go as far as we can with sanctions and i think there's distance to go down that road what is the role of nato and the military in eastern europe right now? >> so president biden and the nato allies, the nato
secretary-general are clear to help the ukrainian government and military defend the territory and the sovereignty. what does that mean? continuing to supply them with military equipment, continuing to provide them with training. of course that training may not be possible in ukraine. it is held in this western part of ukraine. if this goes on and it is a war of insurgency we have seen signs in the media that the administration is considering helping the insurgency. doesn't mean that you have american troops on the front line but could be training. we could send paramilitary forces in in a fashion that wouldn't be publicly discussed. and so, i think that there's a lot we can help do to help the
ukrainians shore up their military. if the russians go too far this will look like the balkan wars. i really hope that somehow we prevail upon putin not to take any further military action. >> ambassador, ukraine is an abstraction to many americans. i think many would have trouble finding it on a map and the concept of an invasion by russia of ukraine is an abstraction to many americans. sadly as was the invasion of crimea. we are talking about 190,000 russian troops on the ground and not talking about all the nato troops on the ground and not talking about the ukrainian military which is not the most robust. but the point is there are a lot of people with weaponry across central europe. there is already. this has the makings of a very, very big war.
not a small incursion. >> that's right. of course we don't know what putin decided if he's decided or not. everything happening in the last several hours suggest to me he decided and when a rebel leader tells women and children to flee to russia that sounds scary to me. state controlled russian media saying that the decision is made. i don't know if that's true or not in terms of putin's decision. 190,000 troops. all sides. sailors to land into ukraine. 250,000 ukrainian soldiers. this will be if putin goes in big the largest conventional war in europe since 1939. we don't want to pretend we know
the future but we have heard many times leaders and our own from time to time that promise us quick little wars not going to go far and contained and will be in and out and tragically we know from history and world war i and world war ii that is not always the case so i think the stakes could not be higher and hearing from president biden shortly to explain why the stakes are so high. >> there are times in history where the world is a tinderbox and we are in that time right now. notwithstanding a military capability and action that the united states takes in and around ukraine, we have a bunch things right now. we have been having missiled filed by north korea on a regular basis. we have china flying sorties
over taiwan on a regular basis and hong kong and western china. resur gent iran bragging about the missiles capabilities. they have got to be thinking about these things, right? getting into one war be careful about the eight other opportunists that take advantage of that moment. >> right. at the same time you have to be thinking about deterring them. making those people who -- the chinese, the north koreans who think they want to challenge you also think twice. the response that we have had and seen coming from the biden administration together with the g7 partners so nato allies and japan has been really strong. we have been resolved. i think that should make the other adversaries think twice about joining in and challenging
us now or later. >> ambassador, we are not as close to war as people think unless vladimir putin wants it to start tonight. there's things that can be done and your job. you were a diplomat to take diplomacy as far as you can. there's one thing. nord stream 2 pipeline. russia has oil and gas and needs to sell it. germany gets that gas. the rest of europe gets that gas. it is hard to agree on. is that a place where we can go? is that a place that america and the west is likely to go? what are the other things that are left before an actual war breaks out? >> i don't think it is a place that the biden administration will go before there's war. they have been very clear about that. there's a debate about
pre-emptive sanctions or not. republican colleagues think they should be doing it now. the biden administration decided to keep the powder dry but if it happens they will cut off nord stream 2. i think the german partners made it clear now that they will do that, as well. at this moment it's just the diplomat offramp. i'm impressed with the biden proposals and i'm impressed from what i hear that they're willing to go further than the obama administration would have gone to talk about transparency, troop withdrawals and limits on the weapons systems in europe. president biden the last time addressing the american people talked about that not putting rockets in ukraine to attack moscow. we will do that on a reciprocal
basis. rockets to attack nato capitals also have to have restraints or pulled out but they're serious if putin wants to negotiate. it is not clear he wants to negotiate. >> everybody in the world with an influence and those that pray should be praying pray that this does not end up in an incursion and invasion, in a war. doesn't matter how your stocks do. it is never better to have war. stay with us. we are waiting for president biden as we have been discussing this. we'll be joined by a congressman who's heading overseas this weekend. also breaking news. late today the material that the ex-president removed from the white house marked classify jd the justice department has been informed about this. we'll go through the developments. later, the teen skating star who's been the talk with a shocking upset on the ice
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even as we are doing everything we possibly can to make clear that there's a diplomatic path, that this has to be resolved, the differences have to be resolved through diplomacy we are deeply concerned that is not the path that russia has embarked on. i think president putin is surprised at that solidarity, at the way that nato has come together. as long as we maintain that solidarity we will either way, whichever path president putin chooses, we'll be ready to respond. >> that was the secretary of state tony blinken expressing confidence that the nato alliance will be ready to respond if vladimir putin chooses to invade. we are awaiting remarks from
president biden. see the podium is ready. want to bring in congressman garamendi of california. he is traveling this weekend to europe. congressman, thank you for being with us. on one hand i'm hopeful that as we wait for something to happen -- i will have to interrupt you when the president comes -- people like you thinks there ian benefit to having the trips and conversations. what does success look like for you? >> success would be a continuation of the current strengthening that's occurring in nato. we'll be meeting with parliamentarians from the nato countries sunday, monday, tuesday of this coming week and a delegation of members of congress led by nancy pelosi at
the munich conference. all to display to europe that america is working with them, that we stand together pushing back against putin and his apparent hopeful or not invasion of a sovereign country. so that's really what we are all tonight and specific things to work on having to do with the energy issues which we discussed, how the united states can back fill, supplement the energy supplies should they be reduced by russia in the -- during this process. it is going to be a very important meeting and the munich meeting. we want solidarity. let's be clear that the biden administration all the way up and down the lines from the military to the state department have done a remarkable job rebuilding nato and european union solidarity. it was nearly destroyed by trump
in the four years. that rebuilding is just over 13 months in process. we intend to bolster that. >> used to be in fact in the trump years nato leaders concerned that the united states undermining the unity of nato but because of the topics of the shipment of oil and gas to russia to neighboring countries it's actually been europe that was slow to come around to the sanctions. do you believe that everyone has realized that sanctions and or finding alternatives to energy supply and matters like that is more important than anything else at the moment? >> the entire diplomatic effort is what's vitally important now and that effort needs to be underpinned by very strong sanctions. i'm disappointed that congress did not pass the mother of all
sanctions bills that senator menendez passed. it would be good that the president would have that in his tool box but i will stake whatever reputation i have that if there is an invasion and incursion that congress will very quickly pass not only the mother but the father of all sanction bills and the president needs the tools to implement those sarkss as need be. clearly within of them could be the energy issues. if that happens then the united states is already preparing to back fill the loss of energy, gas or oil, from the soviet -- almost the resur gent soviet union from the russians. we'll see how it works out but the president needs to have the sanctions available to him and i'm absolutely certain that congress will immediately pass
it, sanction legislation giving the president additional tools. we can help with the gas. we already with one of the world's major exporters of natural gas in ships and we can divert it to europe to help there. unfortunately europe has not provided an alternative method of gaining gas. they continue over the years to depend upon the russian pipelines. nord stream 2 is off the table. will not happen if there's an incursion. germany is on board with that. if not it will not happen. and that means that we will need with allies, australia, indonesia, middle east,
countries to turn the ships around and to head back to europe to provide the supply that will be necessary for the duration of this winter. >> thank you for your time and we'd like to keep in touch with you making trip and determine the progress that's made. god speed. there's no invasion by the time you make that trip and may turn into a mission to try to stop something. >> thank you. we're back with shannon and evelyn and the ambassador and i will point out on the left we are waiting for the president to give the second address this week on what he expects to happen or the situation with russia and ukraine. shannon, you have been sometimes at the white house with bits of information about what's coming out of this thing. the expectations to be managed for this. there's no announcement of a
war, no announcement that there are new sanctions. what are we likely to get from the president? >> we know from the messaging perspective the white house is trying to communicate more direct throw the american people what is going on and at stake for them, explaining the situation here. these remarks have been billed to be brief. we expect the president to give an up date on the dip plo mattic, the deterrence factors, elements to touch on. but probably a slightly different message than tuesday because the assessment inside the administration is increasingly grim in the past several days seeing the troop build-up along the border. there was still a question whether or not the russians pulling back some troops and the
u.s. said that was false. they say they do not believe putin is serious about diplomacy to portray publicly he is interested and not taking actions to display that and then increased shelling, the reports going around in russia that increasingly signal and point toward an invasion being -- at any moment or almost imminent. so there have been some changes on the ground and i think we'll hear that reflected in the tone and the tenor that the president takes today. >> ambassador, i hope most people that watch us don't like war but how do we manage messaging? you have vladimir putin trying to get a conversation and he complained that he succeeded and
having a conversation about whether nato should agree to not agree ukraine as a member but we have not discussing georgia, crimea. what about us? what should our media, how should we be approaching this? there is a line to beat the war drum and avoiding war at all costs. >> that's an interesting philosophical question. the important point is understand what we're discussing and dismiss this notion if they agree to give putin whatever he wants he wouldn't agree. if he wanted to negotiate, negotiations take years. s.t.a.r.t. took two years. he wouldn't be mobilizing the
soldiers. we want russia to leave crimea. right? he has his position about nato and then sit down and negotiate. oftentimes when countries are sincere sometimes those maximalist positions are the last ones to be addressed but a lot of other things to talk through. what's striking to me is vladimir putin doesn't seem interested in that. normally in negotiations you publish the treaty after the negotiations are over why not at the beginning. he published them before. they felt like ultimatums. he could pull the troops back and the biden administration and everybody would say we are talking and not fall into the putin their tifr if only biden said no nato this war would be
over. that's a false narrative. >> evelyn, how much of the dangerous history of europe and accidental war and real world wars and cold war and expansion nato to inform this discussion? on one hand you could just say, russia, you are a different country and we as the united states and russia have a view on that? vladimir putin given speeches and talked about this greater empire and reconstituting this russian empire. how do you reconcile what's important in this conversation? >> okay. so we don't sound like we're having a social studies class we all live in a political system with certain rights in our democracy. the russians, we haven't talked about all the horrible things the russians did under vladimir
putin like interfere in elections and also to conduct ongoing disinformation come pains to this day. the russians are in our social media, on the internet. creatinging stories about covid vaccines to decide us. there's another major cable network with a host that basically offer it is russian propaganda to americans every night and they undermine the democracy. they don't want strong democracies to counter them. they want autocracies where few get rich on the backs on of the people and not something any american should want in america. that could come to america. that's the thing that people have to understand. it seems wisely implausible.
we have had peace and not seen a vladimir putin. but the reality is that if we don't stand up to him he will endanger our way of life. >> i want to ask the control room to put up a map of ukraine and the country dos give us texture. the president was on a call with world leaders. all of those countries around ukraine, russia and crimea and to the north is belarus, a pro russian country and most to the west of ukraine are nato countries. who's president biden talking to and what's he trying to achieve leading up to this quite delayed appearance that we're waiting for? >> he did speak to a number of leaders today. he's been talking throughout the past weeks and even months with
these bordering nato countries which you mentioned and seen deployments to the countries in order to sort of reassure them that the u.s. is there ready to come to their defense and also offer little bit of deterrence. there's a question the fact that they need the reassurance. does the administration think that putin's move is going to be into poland or hungary? and administration officials essentially leave the door open to that. no one can predict putin but there's a school of thought that this is not just russia taking you krahn and saying fine wore done. the russian empire is back. we can move on now. there's a sense in the administration this may be the
first of other steps. you mentioned moving into georgia and a move there. that's why you hear the president, administration officials having the calls with the border countries and nato leaders reaffirming that commitment to nato and the defense of these countries should one of them be invaded and to get to the bigger issue of how some wars start small no great war starts big and starts small and builds. that is the real global concern for the administration because if putin were to invade poland there's no question that u.s. troops to get involved and engage in a conflict with russia because at least of this administration's commitment to nato and defending its nato allies and that is where we turn into a situation of the u.s. and
russia directly fighting each other. >> you raise an interesting point. ambassador, i wanted to show you reporting from politico saying what mr. putin didn't want, u.s. approve tank deal with poland. they will sell poland 250 abrams tanks, more u.s. troops and aircraft flood into the country in the face of a possible russian invasion of ukraine. this is vladimir putin's point. right? that you all are strengthening nato and there used to be a bunch of countries between russia and nato and now there aren't a bunch of countries joining nato. you can see those bright green countries nato. this is what vladimir putin would like the world to believe
his complaint is. how valid is it? >> i don't think it's valid at all. why do you think we're making that deal with poland right now? because russia is threatening to invade poland's neighbor. if russia was not -- if putin -- let me be precise. if putin is not amassing 190,000 on ukraine's border that deal that you just described would not be happening and sending the soldiers to protect our polish ally. i want to be clear. i think it's a very low probability event that putin will consciously and deliberately attack a nato country. i think that's highly unlikely but when you -- for every reaction he does there's a reaction from us. before 2014 there wasn't that much support in ukraine for joining nato. that debate was about european
union. starting a war in the east that there is now a country that ukrainians in larger numbers want to join nato. the last thing about the map is really important. don't forget in the cold war there was a warsaw pact and nato and many of those countries that flipped to nato are ones that were either annexed or occupied from communist puppets from the soviet union. why is anybody surprised to see a different partnership with the west? excuse the social science study term. there's word of counter factual. imagine if we didn't expand nato 30 years, imagine that world where not just ethnic russians in donbas that putin said is threatened by genocide and it's
completely not true. that's what he's saying and might be saying that about ethnic ushians in latvia, estonia. they could be in a much more precarious position if nato expansion didn't happen sooner. >> that is something that vladimir putin brings up a lot. i need to send flowers to president biden allowing us to this remarkable conversation because he was supposed to come out at 4:00. he had a call with international leaders that did run late. we knew he would be coming out late. this is later than expected. we'll take a quick commercial break. we'll go right to the president but we are going to bring you the comments on russia and ukraine. ukraine.
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all right. we are back. you can see shannon is in place. evelyn is in place. ambassador mcfaul is in place. i'm here. someone is missing. that is the president of the united states. we have been anticipating that he would join us sometime at about 4:00 this afternoon. that would be not a msnbc exclusive. in the discussions of ukraine and russia. shannon, tell me where we are on this thing. there's a security conference in munich. active discussions with the president, secretary of state. there are negotiations or discussions that continue to go on between our highest level secretary of state and sergei lavrov. what's happening with discussions? are they discussions or negotiations? >> i guess people are still
talking and when you talk a negotiator if they're talking there's good news. there's talk of next week a meeting between the u.s. secretary of state and the head of the top russian foreign ministry lavrov. i believe the white house said that could happen on wednesday. of course that meeting would not occur if russia invades before then. there's talk of going forward to talking. on the u.s. side and allies there's back and forth conversations and negotiations going on there. the president had a call earlier today with a number of allies. i don't know if it's ended and whether that could be contributing at all to this delay but we had the president on that front. the vice president in munich in germany at this annual security conference. she met with the heads of nato today and number of other meetings with allies and
countries that border ukraine and russia. so conversations going on on that front. you have both sides talking. they're still leaving the door open for diplomacy but heard from officials a day or so ago there is a growing sense that russia's not serious about diplomacy here and that they want to talk and publicly look like they are interested in a diplomatic solution but that the administration's not seen any evidence or action on their part. instead what they are seeing is increasing numbers of troops, cyber attacks on ukrainian banks. those sort of activities. it does seem like there's things that maybe not a lot but certain things to be sorted out because we have continued to see conversations there. appears to be unity there. but there might be issues.
not all united on at this point with sanctions and how they respond. and of course there's not just the usual response but what happens after the initial response and the sanctions to be firmed up. >> there isn't unity in the united states as congress garamendi was talking about. we believe that the phone call has ended. so whatever it is that's delaying the president maybe preparations for the remarks. i want a picture of ukraine. nbc correspondent erin mclaughlin why what do we think is going on here? the president's remarks are being put on the podium. maybe we should pop in and get a quick -- go to erin in kyiv, ukraine. erin, there is a lot of stuff happening in ukraine including people relocating. people in the east going into
russia. embassies to the west. what's the situation as you see it? >> reporter: well, a surreal and concerning situation right now unfolding in the donbas region of eastern ukraine. today the separatists leaders evacuating civilians. accusing the ukrainian military of plotting some sort of operation against those areas and seeing videos and photos posted on the telegram channels showing people evacuating, showing children boarding trains and traffic leaving the region and ukrainian officials say this is an example of hybrid warfare. this is disinformation designed to create confusion and chaos
and disrupt ukraine from within. and tonight we are hearing from the military ukrainian intelligence accuse the russian security services to plant explosive devices throughout a separatist controlled area. so far to recommend that people living in those areas stay home. that they don't board public transportation. earlier today there was an explosion. separatists claim a car bomb went off outside of a government building. see the picture of chaos created which ukrainians say is a fabrication is a concern of what they see unfold there in donbas a pretext for an escalation, possibility for a re-invasion by russian forces into the area.
the pretext that western intelligence is long warning of. that is the concern here in kyiv tonight and a growing concern as we watch as the situation develops. >> i may have to interrupt you when the president comes in. in kyiv what does it look like? it is a bustling, active city. what is happening there? >> reporter: it is so remarkable here. in the face of these dire intelligence assessments people remain calm. you don't see panic and lines at supermarket. some ukrainians say they are heading out west. some have sent children out west. people are staying here for the most part and calm. you don't see runs at the supermarkets. what you are seeing is people running to the gun store.
gun sales skyrocketed here. people are preparing for the worse. taking the intelligence assessments from president biden and others extraordinarily seriously and they're really bracing for the military also making its preparations. president zelensky, while he has long been downplaying these intelligence assessments, has spent the majority of the week traveling. there was a unity day earlier here in the week in kyiv and across ukraine, people were raising the flags, they were showing national pride, wearing yellow and blue ribbons, because people here believe that through solidarity, they'll be able to get through this if they stick together, stay calm, and they don't panic, ali. >> has that -- you mentioned that president zelensky has spent some time down playing things and now he's suddenly not, downplaying things because the kmig has been difficult in ukraine, and russia can have a negative impact on the economy. the president was concerned
there would be a flight of money, that people would leave and resettle in the west. ukrainians tend to have very strong connections in western countries. they've been emigrating to western countries for a hundred years. what's the tone from zelensky now? is it a little bit more of a, you know what, this is an imminent problem? >> well, i wouldn't say it's a tone in terms of his rhetoric. it's a tone in terms of his actions. he announced that unity day. he's traveling around the country, going to the front lines, meeting with military representatives. as you say, he has long been downplaying this threat. he says that ukraine has a very different intelligence assessment compared to some of the dire assessments that we have been hearing from the west, but i would say this week, there is a shift in terms of his actions. now all eyes will be on tomorrow, his movements, whether or not he plans to leave ukraine to go to the security conference in germany. i was speaking to his spokesperson earlier today on
the phone, and his spokesperson was telling me that they are watching the situation very closely. they will make a final decision on that trip in the coming hours, ali. >> and that's not logistics, right? that's impression. that's the idea that if the president is out of the country, that vladimir putin may take advantage of that or they may be a perceived weakness? >> reporter: well, that is certainly a concern that's being voiced by people in washington. they was not a concern that was voiced to me on the phone with his spokesperson. his spokesperson was clear, though, that he is monitoring the situation and should there be an escalation, they could reassess that trip. >> what is the situation in terms of emergency preparedness in kyiv? because obviously, in 2014, they went through a process where civilians were preparing for engagements with the police and the military people who had never had any military service. there were large demonstrations. do you see any of that
happening? >> reporter: well, you know, i've been talking to activists who were organizing those protests, that really pivotal moment in ukrainian history, that some say sparked what later is now, they say, an 8-year war, essentially, with russia. i was speaking to them, and they were telling me, this is a self-sufficient country. ukrainians tend to organize themselves and speaking to experts here, people who are former advisors to the president, people who are military experts, that you do get a sense that the ukrainian government could have done more sort of to meet the west halfway in its intelligence assessments. they could have done more to say, yes, people shouldn't be -- people should be remaining calm, they shouldn't panic, but to do more to be proactive, to be prepared for what is quite obviously a growing threat on the ukrainian -- on ukraine's doorstep. there is that sense in the conversations i have been having, if there's been any criticism of zelensky in all of this here in ukraine, that most certainly would be it. here in kyiv, speaking to the
mayor here in kyiv, and he has been very proactive, encouraging people to go out and join what is the equivalent to the army reserves here in ukraine. they just formed this force. they're trying to recruit people to join kind of a reserves for their -- during their free time. you see people actually training for the military on the weekend. there are groups of ukrainians who are going out on the weekends, learning first aid, learning how to evacuate the wounded, learning how to shoot a gun, to prepare for this potential threat. i was speaking to a 17-year-old ukrainian who was out there on a saturday, 17-year-old, he was out there on his saturday learning how to administer first aid, learning how to fire a weapon, getting prepared for the worst, and he told me that he knows what is at stake here. he knows that his freedom is at stake, that this is what he could potentially be fighting for, and he looked me in the eye and he said that he is willing
to defend his country. >> erin, i have to interrupt you for a second. here is president biden. the president of the united states with his remarks. >> today, i made two vital calls as i have been making for some months now. two vital calls. on the situation in russia and ukraine. the first was to a bipartisan group of members of congress who are currently representing the united states along with vice president harris at the munich security conference. the second was the latest in a series of calls over the past many months with the heads of state of our nato allies and the european union, bringing them up to date on what the united states thinks is the current state of affairs and what's likely to happen in ukraine in the coming days. to ensure that we continue to remain in lockstep, that is, the european union and nato. despite russia's efforts to divide us at home and abroad, i
can affirm that has not happened. the overwhelming message on both calls was one of unity, determination, and resolve. i share it with all of those on the calls, what we know about a rapidly escalating crisis in ukraine. over the last few days, we have seen reports of a major uptick in violations of the cease-fire by russian back fighters attempting to provoke ukraine and the donbas. for example, a shelling of a ukrainian kindergarten yesterday, which russia has falsely asserted was carried out by ukraine. we also continue to see more and more disinformation being pushed out to the russian public, including russian-backed separatists claiming that ukraine is planning to launch a massive offensive attack in the donbas. well, look, there's simply no evidence of these assertions and it defies basic logic.
to believe the ukrainians would choose this moment with well over 150,000 troops arrayed on its borders to escalate a yearlong conflict. russia state media also continues to make phony allegations of a genocide taking place in the donbas. and push fabricated claims warning about ukraine's attack on russia without any evidence. i'm sure that's what ukraine's thinking of doing, attacking russia. all these are consistent with the playbook the russians have used before, to set up a false justification to act against ukraine. this is also in line with the pretext scenarios that the united states and our allies and partners have been warning about for weeks. throughout these tense moments, the ukrainian forces have shown great judgment and i might add restraint. they have refused to allow the russians to bait them into war. but the fact remains, russian troops currently have ukraine
surrounded from belarus along the russian border with ukraine to the black sea in the south and all of its border. look, we have reason to believe the russian forces are planning and intending to attack ukraine in the coming weeks and the coming days. we believe that they will target ukraine's capital, kyiv, a city of 2.8 million innocent people. we're calling out russia's plans loudly and repeatedly, not because we want a conflict but because we're doing everything in our power to remove any reason that russia may give to justify invading ukraine and prevent them from moving. make no mistake, if russia pursues its plans, it will be responsible for a catastrophic and needless war of choice. the united states and our allies are prepared to defend every inch of nato territory from any threat to our collective security as well. we also will not send troops in
to fight in ukraine but we will continue to support the ukrainian people. this past year, the united states provided a record amount of security assistance to ukraine to bolster its defenses, $650 million from javelin missiles to ammunition. we also previously provided $500 million in humanitarian aid and economic support for ukraine. and earlier this week, we also announced an additional sovereign loan guarantee of up to $1 billion to strengthen ukraine's economic resilience, but the bottom line is this. the united states and our allies and partners will support the ukrainian people. we will hold russia accountable for its actions. the west is united and resolved. we're ready to impose severe sanctions on russia if it further invades ukraine. but i say again, russia can still choose diplomacy. it is not too late to de-escalate and return to the
negotiating table. last night, russia agreed to secretary of state blinken and foreign minister lavrov should meet on february 24th. february 24th in europe. but if russia takes military action before that date, we'll be clear that they have slammed the door shut on diplomacy. they will have chosen a war, and they will pay a steep price for doing so. not only from the sanctions that we and our allies will impose on russia but the moral outrage of the rest of the world will visit upon them. you know, there are many issues that divide our nation and our world, but substantiateding up to russian aggression is not one of them. the american people are united. europe is united. the transatlantic community is united. our political parties in this country are united. the entire free world is united. russia has a choice between war and all the suffering it will
bring or diplomacy this will make a future safer for everyone. i'm happy to take a few questions. nancy from bloomberg. >> thank you so much, sir. do you think that it is wise for president zelensky to leave ukraine if an invasion is as imminent as the u.s. says it is? >> that's a judgment for him to make, and a determination as to whether or not -- i've spoken with zelensky a dozen times, maybe more, i don't know. and it's in the pursuit of a diplomatic solution, it may be the wise choice. but it's his decision. >> reporter: do you have any indication about whether president putin has made a decision to invade? do you feel confident that he has made that decision already? >> as of this moment, i'm convinced he's made the decision. we have reason to believe that. >> reporter: there seems to be a
unanimity spirit but is everyone on board with the exact same sanctions that you want to do? >> yes. there will be some slight differences, but none -- there will be more add-ons than subtractions. >> reporter: and president putin is going to oversee some nuclear drills this weekend. how do you see that happening? what's your reaction to that, sir? thank you. >> well, i don't think he is remotely contemplating nuclear -- using nuclear weapons. but i do think it's -- i think he is focused on trying to convince the world that he has the ability to change the dynamics in europe in a way that he can not. but i don't -- how much of it is a cover for just saying we're
just doing exercises? and there's more than that? i just can't -- it's hard to read his mind. >> mr. biden, mr. president, mr. president, to be clear, to be clear -- >> mr. president, to be clear -- to be clear, you are convinced that -- you are convinced that president putin is going to invade ukraine, is that what you just said a few moments ago? >> yes, i did. yes. >> so, is diplomacy off the table then? >> no. until he does, diplomacy's always a possibility. >> what reason do you have to believe he's considering that option at all? >> we have a significant intelligence capability. thank you very much. >> thank you, guys. thank you. >> that's a wrap. >> as of this moment, we have reason to believe that he, meaning putin, has made the decision to invade ukraine. the president says we have reason to believe that. he cited our significant intelligence capabilities. he was asked again when he said
that, the room erupted with reporters asking him to clarify that he believes, he, meaning biden, believes that vladimir putin has made the decision to invade ukraine and the president said very clearly, unequivocally, yes. listening to the president, we are joined again by evelyn farkas and ambassador michael mcfaul. we've added to the conversation, rick stengel, former undersecretary of state for diplomacy and greg, contributor on global affairs. thanks to all four of you for being with us. greg, let me start with you. this is not a huge surprise to people who have been following closely, but it is as clear as joe biden has been that u.s. intelligence believes the decision to invade ukraine has been made. that feels like a very big development to me. >> it is, ali, and that really is significant. the has been saying for weeks and weeks now they don't think putin has made a final decision.
this is the first time any u.s. official has done it, and for president biden to do that at the podium in front of the whole world is indeed very significant. now, just follow up, he said diplomacy is still an option. he said that secretary of state antony blinken has tentatively scheduled a meeting or a planned meeting in europe next week with his russian counterpart, sergei lavrov, next thursday, but that would be off the table if russia does invade ukraine. so, no, the news there was biden's saying that he's convinced putin has made a decision. >> it is an interesting matter, rick stengel, in which the president says that on february 24th, there will be discussions, there are discussions scheduled, there are talks ongoing, he is regularly talking to nato and eu partners, the russians and americans are talking. it ends with an invasion. he has been very, very clear that if -- the words he used are that if vladimir putin launches an invasion, he will have
slammed the door of diplomacy shut and that the outrage of the world will be visited upon russia. >> yes, all the lights are blinking red. it is an extraordinary admission for a president of the united states to say that the head of a foreign adversary has already made up his mind to invade an independent country. that's extraordinary. you know, as all of us know, it's a little bit like an iceberg. most of the intelligence that you get is way below the surface. we don't know exactly what's going on. people at the nsc and the white house have been saying for weeks that this looks like a probability. but your point is that they cannot be and should not be rewarded in any way for his behavior. certainly if he invades, then every single legitimate means of discourse has been ended in the
meantime until sanctions and other policies go into place. i mean, this would be, as we've said over and over, the largest land invasion since world war ii. even if he plans less than a complete invasion and he goes for the -- those two regions in eastern ukraine, even that would be an incredible violation of international norms and law and human rights. >> except, ambassador mcfaul, he's done that before, and the outrage of the world was not visited upon russia. he's done it more than two times before and he has signalled, vladimir putin has signalled very clearly to the world that there's an intention to do it again, and he does so in a manner that frames it as a reunification of greater russia. do you think it's clear to vladimir putin that the world is united and that the outrage of the world will be visited upon him?
>> well, he's making a cost-benefit analysis for sure. but he does think he's winning, ali. starting in 2008, in georgia, then 2014, 2015 in syria, 2016 in our elections and now this, so he thinks he's on a winning streak. but i want to underscore a couple of things that were really jumped out to me about what the president said. first, let's make sure we all focus on this. he said definitively that they know that putin has made this decision, and then he alluded to the fact that we know because of intelligence, and he said that in an address to the world today. you put those three things together, this is a very grave moment. this is a significant different place than we were just literally before his statement. the other thing i want to underscore, he alluded to the fact that they believe that they have intelligence that shows that the attack will not be some small thing. it will not just be in donbas. he said they have reason to believe it will be on the
capital of kyiv. that, to me, was very scary, if true, but it's the president of the united states saying it. he would not be saying it if they didn't have definitive intelligence to back up that claim. that is a very serious military intervention that is not the smaller skirmishes or minor interventions that we have been discussing for weeks up until this point. >> and i want to put that map up just to underscore that point, evelyn farkas, that kyiv is in the middle of the country. there's a river that goes through it, a river that goes all the way through from the north to the south of ukraine, historically has divided ukraine into parts that are more polish influenced and more russian influenced but it's not close. you have to make some effort to get your troops to kyiv. it's not a little incursion into parts of russia -- parts of ukraine that are russian occupied. the president made a point of talking about ukrainian forces and what they have been doing. evelyn, as a former deputy
assistant secretary of defense, tell us about the ukrainian forces. it's not a strong army. it is not a well developed army. they have struggled with this, in fact, in earlier years, post independence years, even as recently as 2014. there are individuals with no military training who are now signing up to be part of militias, to help fight off russian forces. russia's got a highly trained proper army. >> yeah, i mean, ali, when i started working the portfolio in the pentagon with the ukrainians in 2012, it was a corrupt military -- it was a corrupt government. the military had been starved of resources, and then when 2014 happened, they were incapable, really, of defending their country. since then, with our help, they have beefed up the military, not just in terms of equipment but also in terms of exercises. but what they don't have is any air defense or air superiority, and that's what's really worrying about what the president just said.
because the russians can launch a lightning attack using their air superiority, also the maritime systems that they have on the ships in the black sea, they can attack using the weapons from the ships and launch on to land. this is a really horrible situation, and i want to underscore something that ambassador mcfaul said and what the president said. you probably know, for a long time, i worked on asia pacific up on the hill, went to north korea, worked that portfolio hard and when i went back to europe and the russia portfolio, i was struck by how good our intelligence was, even though the cold war was off and we didn't have many analysts on russia anymore so the fact that the president says this, based on our intelligence, really gives me, unfortunately, a lot of confidence that the russians are going to invade exactly as he has laid out, because he would not be saying this if it weren't really based in intelligence. >> ambassador mcfaul, let me ask you about that, because this -- i don't know how many
experiences you have had where this has been the situation, the thing that you, through diplomacy, were trying to avoid is now seeming unavoidable. what happens to diplomacy? what happens? there's a february 24th meeting on the books with sergei lavrov. it sounded like president biden was saying, if you invade, that meeting's off, and a whole different look is going to come over us in terms of how we approach this. >> well, they're trying to keep the door open, right? everybody understands that this war would be horrific for ukraines, for russians, i want to remind you, kyiv has a lot of ethnic russians that live in the capital city and if they do a shock and awe campaign, if you watch russian commentators who are close to the kremlin, they talk a lot about shock and awe. they learned about shock and awe from us. they could do that without moving soldiers all the way to kyiv. remember that. it will be catastrophic, so the president, rightly, and secretary blinken, rightly, is
trying to say, we're ready to negotiate. i think it's interesting that they're choosing a date, you know, a couple of days beyond the munich security conference. remember, secretary blinken is already in europe. i think to try to buy time for negotiations, but the president could not be clearer, and you know, i want to be hopeful for negotiations, but i also want to make sure that people understand what the president of the united states just said. ali, i used to work at the white house. i used to work for president obama. you don't come out and do something like the president just did and report on sensitive intelligence unless you think it's going to happen, and that suggests to me, yes, they're trying for diplomacy, but they're preparing for war. >> greg myre, what do you make of it? this is an escalation in the talk. this administration, i think, has been trying to be as measured as possible, not sounding like they want to beat the drums of war, because this would be a war, if it involved neighboring countries, of the
sort that we have not seen, a ground war in europe of the sort we have not seen since world war ii. >> yeah, that's right, ali. and if president biden's words come to pass, if russia does invade, and if they do go for the capital, kyiv, it is going to be a large-scale war. there's no way around that. it's going to involve heavy fighting, and if russia is going full bore for the capital, that certainly implies and suggests an open-ended occupation, installing its own government if it makes it to the capital, the potential for a large refugee outflow. in the past, u.s. officials have talked of a million or more potential refugees. ukraine is a country of 44 million people, so you could certainly see big refugee outflows. the president warned there would be severe sanctions. there would be all sorts of economic repercussions throughout europe, so no
invasion has happened yet but for the president to say that, and if that does come to pass, we're talking about a ripple effect, one after the other, that would be quite extraordinary. >> rick stengel, you have had the advantage of being in the -- in government service and in media and i guess one of the questions that we have to ask is, some people in media, generally speaking right-wing media in the united states, have pointed out, what is our obligation to ukraine and why do we care? it's not actually a nato country, despite the fact that this conversation has turned into whether or not ukraine should be allowed to join nato at some point. but it's not. and the condition with nato countries is if you attack one of them, it's considered an attack on all of them and everybody is compelled to each other's mutual defense. how does one argue how involved the united states gets about an invasion of russia into ukraine? >> well, ali, ukraine is a
critical country. it is probably suffered more under the russian boot than almost any other country in the world and you've been showing that map. ukraine is a hinge point between russia and western europe, between the east and the west. that's why they're so important. that's why we have urged them to lean west rather than lean east towards moscow. what putin wants is to make them dependent on russia. he would like them, rather than invading, to turn them into a failed state that would be dependent on russia. we don't want that. that's not good for america, that's not good for the west. i want to just make one other point about the president's speech and our conversations about this. one of the things that the biden administration has done differently than we did in the obama administration, is they look back at what happened during that annexation of 2014, and the obama administration was a little bit taken aback on the heels. we weren't passive exactly, but
we weren't calling things out. we didn't know about the extent of the russian disinformation that was going on at the time, which we've learned since. one of the things that the secretary of state has done, that the president has done, that the nsc has done is they have gone out there and before russia does something, they have done a kind of prebuttal to try to inoculate people against russian disinformation and russian false flags. that's essentially what the extraordinary thing is that president biden just did there, that mike mcfaul was talking about, where he said, look, we have intelligence saying that russia will not only invade ukraine, it will go all the way to kyiv. this is the american way, the new way of getting ahead of disinformation, getting ahead of false flags, getting ahead of aggression with some idea that it can actually go some ways to prevent that from happening. it's being more aggressive about what we know than we used to be, and i really applaud that, and it can have benefits. i hope it does this time. >> mike mcfaul, i'm just keeping that map up for a second.
where we're looking at crimea there and it's important to see that. everything on the right is russia. belarus is a pro-russian country on the northern border of ukraine, but we got crimea there. what did we learn? what's the lesson that you now know from crimea that we have to make sure we don't repeat this time around if the decision has been made by vladimir putin to invade either eastern ukraine or all of ukraine? >> i think the most important lesson is to put in place the sanctions ahead of time. in 2014, the obama administration spent a lot of time debating what kinds of sanctions to put in place, and it wasn't really until later in the summer, remember, when that malaysian airliner was shot down and the separatists started that we put in more comprehensive sanctions. my impression from the administration is that they have a comprehensive package put in place and they're just ready to hit the send button should putin go in. that is different. and second, what rick said, i
think, is also very important. and risky. let's be clear. it's also risky. but the biden administration has leaned in to declassifying information. remember, they have different leadership, the dni, hanes, used to work with the obama administration in a policy role. bill burns is the head of the cia, he used to work in the state department in a policy role so they have a different relationship right now in the biden administration about declassification. but let's be clear. there's a political risk to what president biden said today. if it doesn't come true, the whole world is going to say, oh, there it is. you used the word, beating the drums of war, right? bad intelligence. and i don't think you take that risk unless you're very certain about the intelligence that you are literally the president of the united states today declassified very sensitive information that we have about putin and his decision making.
>> but evelyn farkas, if putin is still in the driver's seat right now, he could decide in this very moment, because of the very coverage of this very speech that we heard from president biden, that, i'm just going to prove him wrong and not invade ukraine and still cause all sorts of problems by having 190,000 troops there, by undermining ukraine's economy with this whole effort of suggesting that it is russia's responsibility to take care of russian-speaking people in countries that are actually not within russia's borders. so, tell me a little bit more about this. >> well, i think, ali, if he doesn't invade, then i think president biden will be clapping the loudest and all of us should clap along with him. this is really about preventing war, as he and secretary blinken have said repeatedly. so, that's the most important thing. but yes, i mean, the russians have used this pretext of protecting the ethnic russians in eastern ukraine as their means to get their military and
political influence in ukraine and they do the same thing all over the former soviet union. and this is something that, if they're successful, other leaders in europe will copy. i mean, if we take down the rules that govern the roads right now in europe, people like viktor orban, who is a member of nato, hungarian prime minister, but very nationalistic and would love to recoup some of the territories and the ethnic hungarians living in five countries around hungary, if he had his way, if he could, in another world, in another world where there's no nato, no united nations charter and we've gone back in time. those things are not that farfetched. so i think the russians can't get away with using these kind of excuses and the ukrainians have been trying to address the issue of ethnic minorities in ukraine. they're far from perfect in terms of their record, but they are trying. they do now have a democracy and
they are trying. >> rick stengel, how do you think about this? because there are non-nato countries along russia's border. there are nato countries around russia's border, and there are actually minorities, in some cases, fairly sizable minorities of russian-speaking people who identify with russia, who like this expansionist speech that vladimir putin gave last summer, and talks about a lot. these are real issues in the baltic states. you know, we have some states with fairly sizable russian majority -- i'm sorry, minorities, would be quite pleased to see the russians roll over the borders into nato countries. >> well, ali, when i was a journalist and interviewed putin in 2008, that was in that interview that he said that the greatest tragedy of the 20th century was the dissolution of the soviet union. now, the soviet union was this great holding entity for all of
those groups that were including people of russian background and not. but as a fellow in ukraine once told me when i was there for the state department, he said, we're the largest russian-speaking democracy in the world. and i'll translate what that means. everybody in ukraine, as in many of those countries on russia's border, speaks their own language and russian as well. they have ties going back a thousand years to those countries. but they've also been abused by russia, and they know russia's power over them. they would rather be independent with a good relationship with russia rather than be part of a russian stable of countries, but it's a -- there's a -- there are conflicts. there are internal conflicts. when we go over there, they say, you can't even understand what it's like to live next to russia and to have this mixture of ethnic russians and people who speak the russian language, so it is complicated, but again, i feel and i think everybody on this call would agree that all of those countries want to lean
west. they want to have the independence to choose their own leaders and not be forced to do the bidding of an autocrat in moscow. >> greg myre, i'm going to ask my control room to put up, if we can, we've got two different maps. one is nato as it looked in 1978 and nato as it looks now. this was 1978. you can see the bright green countries are nato. red is russia. orange is ukraine. and everything else is an independent, nonaligned country. now take a look at what nato looks like today. a whole bunch of those countries are filled in. vladimir putin, greg, makes the argument that somehow the west and nato and the eu kind of stole those countries from under russian influence. most people would say those countries, as rick just said, and as ambassador mcfaul has said, made the decision when they had the opportunity to face west and to do that. ukraine has struggled with that over the last 20 years. they have had fits and starts of deciding which way they want to
face. but the bottom line is, most countries should have the right to make that determination for themselves. vladimir putin doesn't seem to feel that for ukraine. >> right. in putin's view, large countries control and dominate smaller countries in their neighborhood. but nato has this famously open door policy. all those countries are democracies that have freely chosen to join nato. nobody forced them into nato. somebody made the point that the old warsaw pact, the countries in the soviet sphere of influence, it was the only pact where they were invaded by their own members or russia invaded some of the countries that were in the warsaw pact, czechoslovakia and hungary. these are countries that chose freely to be in nato. three of the former soviet republics, the baltics chose to be in nato. and putin talks a lot about reconstituted -- well, the notion that he would like to reconstitute the soviet union,
but three countries in the baltics have joined nato. three other countries have russian troops that they don't want. ukraine, moldova, georgia have all had russian troops come on to their territory against their will. so, these are -- this is not moves of choice. putin sees it as the large country should have this sphere of influence and dominate their neighborhood. but you look at the way these countries have made choices over the past decades, and it has been toward the west and away from moscow. >> evelyn, one of the things that americans don't -- americans have war fatigue. doesn't matter what they think about right or wrong or justice or democracy or things like that. they've got war fatigue. we keep hearing there are troops going to some of these countries, in some cases like poland and others, america is providing money or tanks or things like that. what are these american troops who are being deployed to these eastern european countries, including ukraine, doing? >> so, ali, they're actually
going there to prevent war. you know, deterrence, that is a theory where you say, you want to stop your opponent from taking some action by showing them that it will cost too much to take that action. so, we send those forces over to nato to demonstrate to vladimir putin, if he takes one toe into poland, for example, that nato, the full force of nato, will be upon russia. and so don't even think about it. so it's really about deterrence. it's about preventing war. that's why we spend so much money on our military, and that's why we're deployed in so many countries all over the world. it's not to make war. i mean, i understand there have been times when we chose to make war and those have been controversial moments, but essentially, the reason we have a standing military, counter to what our founding fathers actually envisioned, is because after -- especially after world war i and world war ii, we said, my god, we have to stop these global wars.
the only way we could come up with to stop them was to have a strong enough military, that we could stop war. and by and large, on the global level, we have stopped global wars. but that's really what's at stake here now. if putin continues, we may see this become a much nastier situation to include even by accident or on purpose, if he attacks a nato ally, a global war. so it's really dangerous. >> i invited you all on for a relatively short conversation, which became an hour and a half long conversation. so, i'm grateful to you all and your expertise in this really important moment for us. evelyn farkas, ambassador michael mcfaul, rick stengel and greg myre, thanks to all of you. we're going to take a break. when we come back, we're going to continue monitoring this breaking development that joe biden says he's convinced vladimir putin has made a decision to invade ukraine. we'll go live to moscow. plus the other headline we told you about earlier, material taken from trump's white house
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and do you have any indication about whether president putin has made a decision on whether to invade? do you feel confident that he hasn't made that decision already? >> as of this moment, i'm convinced he's made the decision. we have reason to believe that. >> and that was the piece of information heard around the world. that was president biden just less than half an hour ago saying that he has information, intelligence information that vladimir putin has made a decision to invade ukraine. reporters then asked him, for clarity, about whether or not he
believes that to be true, and he said very clearly that he does. let's go to moscow, nbc news correspondent matthew is standing by for that. matthew, the guests that i had on thought that was, though incremental to things that we thought we knew, a major development, that the president would say that he has that information that vladimir putin has decided. what do you make of it? >> reporter: i absolutely agree. we've not heard him really kind of lean that far into it. he's always kind of qualified his language, all of the assessments have always said that they haven't ascertained if he's made a final decision or not. it's always been the evidence that we have suggests, and you know, i think we went through this maybe a week or so ago when there was some unconfirmed reporting out of washington that maybe an assessment had been made that putin had made the decision. that was immediately denied by jake sullivan, the national security advisor, so by my count, this is absolutely the first time we've heard this, and as you said, though incremental,
it is a big step. >> that said, matt, it's not what vladimir putin is saying. in fact, he is -- despite the troop build-up and the hospitals on site and the blood supplies and the fact that there are estimates that there are up to 190,000 troops, vladimir putin has been offering some version of, there's nothing to see here. >> reporter: exactly. but you know, kind of the russian playbook is to throw out a lot of information, a lot of claims, and you know, at various points throughout the past several weeks, you could have picked any one of those and made a relatively convincing argument one way or the other but if you look kind of at the narrative trajectory, the threats have become quite explicit in recent days. the kind of intensity of the russian narrative has also become more drastic, you know, putin has said he's wanted to talk, but on monday, he also said there's a genocide in donbas, that eastern region of eastern ukraine and he's also, just yesterday, the russians
released their formal written response to america's response to their security demands, and it was, you know, though not surprising, still in a sense you were hoping for something else. they very firmly dug in on their position and said, if there is anything to talk about at this point, more or less it is going to be, you are going to do everything that we have demanded and we are going to reject every single one of your proposals unless your meet our core demands. while that's going on, we saw the expulsion of the deputy u.s. ambassador yesterday and then just today, we saw a series of incidents in eastern ukraine, no doubt have been discussed on this program already, but on the russian side of that, we have seen them fully adopt that narrative of a looming ukrainen attack on luhansk, calling for the evacuation of citizens. russia preparing to accept refugees. putin himself issued an order to kind of put together a crash refugee program with money, medicine, food for anyone who makes it across the border,
sending his emergency situations minister down to the city closest to that region where many of these people are expected to be going, and at the same time, we're seeing the russian state media go absolutely wall-to-wall on this evacuation story. we've seen reports that we have not yet been able to confirm, but they are there, and they are wall-to-wall in the russian state media of explosions in luhansk, the latest one, a major gas pipeline in luhansk, so it's all checking all the boxes of what we feared we might see from the russians if they had made a decision to go in. >> and as you point out, matt, we don't know, because this information comes from different sources and we live in a world in which even if you see video of something, you don't know what it is. it purports to say that these might be russian soldiers or they might not so it makes it all the more difficult to figure out what's actually happening but i appreciate the clarity that you bring to it.
matt bodner in moscow, stay safe. on the phone with us is the former deputy national security advisor to president obama and an msnbc contributor, ben rhodes. ben, what do you make of what has happened in the last hour? and that is the president has said that u.s. intelligence has concluded that vladimir putin has made a decision to invade ukraine? >> well, it certainly feels like we are in the final act of the onset of that russian invasion. and if you step back and look at what's happened over the last several months, it's followed precisely the trajectory that would lead up to what president biden spoke about, which is russia actually trying to do something dramatic, perhaps even taking kyiv. you had months of a military build-up that very strategically encircled ukraine, that deployed forces into belarus, which gets them closer to kyiv. that includes the kinds of military hardware that you would only need in the event of invasion, not exercises. then you had this diplomatic period where putin was really
laying the predicate for his broader strategic grievances, particularly around nato in large, obviously, and potentially ukrainian membership in nato, making demands that he knew the united states and other countries could not adhere to, and then even putin's comment that he was going to de-escalate a few days ago, inevitably he would seek to do that before launching a pretext for a potential invasion and it was always going to be the case that we would be entering a really intense period as the biden administration has warned where they would use those conflict regions in eastern ukraine to propagate a series, as they've done before. this was the kind of pretext they used in georgia in 2008 and crimea in 2014, that russians were somehow threatened, ethnic russians, with genocidal violence. and then, you know, whipping his own media into a frenzy and his own information, warfare systems into a frenzy combined with cyberattacks, that's always the last stage before we see a more significant military movement, and it certainly feels like we've arrived at that juncture.
>> is there any -- is there any strategy in what joe biden would have said? he didn't say it loosely, and he reiterated what he said, but is there a strategy in signaling to russia, we have intelligence that you have made a decision? and that has upped the ante? >> i think the strategy people have to keep in mind, it's not just the russian audience, and it's not just the audience of putin. i do think they've, i'm sure, signalled that they would continue to want to pursue diplomacy, continue to explore off-ramps to this very apparent escalation, but part of the reason why president biden and his administration have been so adamant in making clear that president putin would be the aggressor in this circumstance is precisely because they anticipated the kind of false pretext we've seen today from the russians and one way to try to win that battle for global public opinion, one way to hold together the alliance, our nato allies, the countries that we need to be with us on sanctions, is to continue to be this
forthright about what we know in terms of pinning the blame for this where, frankly, it rests, which is with the decision of vladimir putin. that's the pretext for biden of all the responses that the united states will try to lead when it comes to sanctions and diplomatic isolation going forward, so it's not just putin that he is trying to obviously deny that information. it's the audience that he's trying to reach globally and the message that this is going to be entirely russia's responsibility, no matter what you hear out of moscow in the coming hours and days. >> ben, always good to talk to you. thank you for your important analysis here. ben rhodes. i want to bring in retired army lieutenant colonel alexander vindman now, the former director for european affairs at the national security council. he is an expert on eastern europe and russia and hails from that part of the world as well. lieutenant colonel, thank you for joining us. you heard what president biden had said, that vladimir putin has made a decision to invade
ukraine. i want to get your analysis of this situation. >> yeah. unfortunately, that seemed pretty clear over the past 24 hours that all the remaining indicators that vladimir putin had made the decision, had kind of fallen into place. the massive uptick in the propaganda campaign and setting the information environment, the pretexts coming together, this idea that the ukrainians were somehow driving this, and then of course, the obligatory nuclear saber rattling, this doctrine that's supposed to warn off, deter adversaries from considering their own involvement. the problem with all this is that frankly, the biden administration was pretty crystal clear about the fact that it has no interest in moving towards a bilateral confrontation so the purpose of these nuclear drills were, you know, just kind of another tick mark, another check box that the decision's been made, the war is
coming. so, pretty sad day. >> you brought up the nuclear matter, and the president did indicate that he did not believe that there was going to be a nuclear component to this. this is, of course, important, because america's nuclear armed, russia's nuclear armed and there are lots of other nuclear armed countries around the world. why is that -- why does our intelligence believe that there's no nuclear threat here? >> well, i think, frankly, there aren't that many nuclear powers, at least there are only two nuclear powers that could annihilate the whole globe, and that's russia and the u.s., and the russians have this doctrine called reflexive control where they kind of key in on a couple different activities, changing the alert posture, conducting these large-scale exercises, and the whole idea is that they're supposed to warn off the u.s. and get the u.s. to back down, get adversaries to back down on the risk that somehow this turns into a nuclear confrontation. the reality is that there is zero interest from the russians
to move in that direction. all they're doing is saber rattling to get the u.s. to go to the worst case scenario and avoid taking costly actions or imposing costly measures against ukraine -- correction, costly measures against russia. but they have no interest, because they would also lose. it's called mutually assured destruction. it's what kept us out of a nuclear war during the entirety of the cold war. but they also have zero interest in a conventional confrontation. that's something that most americans don't realize. the russians are deathly afraid -- i've sat in the room when senior military policymakers, senior military leaders, sat eye-to-eye and were discussing these issues. i was in the room when the u.s. was striking bases in syria. i was actually translating the phone calls, and you could hear kind of the fear in the voice on that side of the phone call that they really did not want to move towards a bilateral confrontation, so we should just kind of recognize that this is
not going to become bilateral unless we stumble into it. both parties are taking steps to avoid that, but now that shots are about to get fired, that's where the dangers start to increase because it becomes extremely unpredictable. >> let me ask you about the things that are happening on the eastern border. there are some russian separatists. there are people on the ukrainian side of the border with russia who are armed, who are taking some action. since 2014, it's been confusing sometimes as to who is whom. they used to refer to those little green men that had no insignia. what's your signal? what's the signal to you that an invasion is under way? because for the last 24 hours, we have heard about skirmishes, bombs. we've seen video. we've seen unusual things that, you know, if they were happening between canada and the united states, you'd think something very serious is happening. how do you read what's happening there and where we are with respect to the beginning of an invasion? >> we could be what we call in
the d minus one so deployment day, d-day is the day that the actual shots are fired in a meaningful way. but today is the shaping operations. today are, you know, what you could see, and today's maybe a little bit subjective. that could be today, tomorrow, but we're in that shaping phase where cyber operations are starting to unfold. they're intended to degrade military commanded control. they're intending to degrade telecommunications. they're intended to degrade critical infrastructure. we will also start seeing, in this shaping phase, d minus 1, probably some sabotage operations, other kinds of activities to interfere with the good order and function of government and the good order and function of the military. we will not miss when we're in d-day. d-day will look very, very different than d minus 1. d-day will be a -- an extremely powerful strike by russia. they will eliminate what little
air force ukraine has. they will eliminate the entirety of the naval forces that ukraine has. they will destroy command control nodes. they will go after political targets. we will not miss it. it will look very much like a shock and awe campaign. and when the russians believe they've achieved their effects there in those early days, then that's when they'll follow through with long-range artillery and start ground maneuver. it's going to be enormous. >> the president biden alluded to the fact that they'd go for the whole country, they'd go for kyiv, which is not the whole country. it's halfway across the country but the point is once you've decided you've taken the capital, this is not an incursion into areas that you feel need protection because there are large russian-speaking ethnic minorities. what do you make of that, the idea that this could be a full-scale invasion of the independent nation of ukraine? >> this goes and dispenses this argument of somehow it's because of the way the ukrainians have
been treating the russian-speaking population, which, you know, they have been been -- they're actually happier in ukraine than they are in russia. and it also dispenses with this idea that this has something to do with nato. this has always been about changing the course of ukraine away from a western trajectory that it's been on for 15 years, very, very concerted, of course, since 2014, and back towards russia. so, what they really -- the operation for kyiv is mainly designed to change the political leadership. they may not -- they probably don't need to take the entire country. it's unlikely that they have the entire -- the combat power to take the whole country, but they can topple government in kyiv. they can seize cities. they could seize ports, major port on the black sea, odesa, and they could force a change in the direction of the country. that's what they're going for. it doesn't mean that troops are going to go all the way towards
romania, hungary and poland on the western portions of ukraine. but they will change the government. that's what they're going to try to do. >> lieutenant colonel alexander vindman, we appreciate your time and analysis. it's going to become increasingly important as we get toward that invasion that we're all hoping and praying doesn't happen. when we come back, a congressional committee asking the justice department to find out how donald trump managed to take classified documents to mar-a-lago after leaving the white house. lassified documentso mar-a-lago after leaving the supplement insurance plan from unitedhealthcare. medicare supplement plans help by paying some of what medicare doesn't... and let you see any doctor. any specialist. anywhere in the u.s. who accepts medicare patients. so if you have this... consider adding this. call unitedhealthcare today for your free decision guide. ♪ wayfair has everything i need for your free decision guide. to make my home totally me.
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a major development in the story we've beenma covering for many days now is that the centerpiece of that investigation by the house over sight committee that trump took documents home to mari lag 0, confirmed independently to the committee this afternoon the 15 boxes recovered contained items marked as "classified national security information" that's not all, of the torn up records, a number not reconstructed by the white house and certain social media records remain missing and some white house staff violated the presidential white house records act conducting official business using nonofficial electronic messaging accounts neither copied nor forwarded to their official electronic messaging accounts meaning they did the thing they accused hillary clinton of doing.
meanwhile, more bad news for donald trump at the end of a long week, a federal judge just denied his request to send out a law execute of members of congress accusing him of inciting the january 6 insurrection, joining me now, capitol hill correspondent alley vitali, also former republican strategist steve shmidt and maya wiley former u.s. assistant attorney, let's speak with you in the news, it's been a couple bad news for donald trump and family but in this particular case this wasut one he was hopi to have dismissed the idea they could sue him for inciting the insurrection. >> yeah he was hoping to have this dismissed and the judge in this case saying the former president cannot be shielded from the civil suits brought against him for actions he took while still president.k that's a pretty stunning precedent this judgett is now attempting to set by saying this series of cases can go forward so on that front, not the news the former president wanted to
get and on the other front, regarding the national archives i'm glad you pointed out the irony of this moment, because i went to hundreds of trump rallies from 2015 to 2016, where continuously, we heard the drumbeat of hillary clinton's emails and now you hear continuous stories about the ways the trump white house mishandled information, potentially tore up documents, stopped them being archived in a way in accordance with the law, national archives confirming that today, the boxes at mari lago contained national information, now in touch with the justice department on that begs the question of what other gaps of information are included here or rather not included here in the national archives files?ti because it's not just the oversight committee as you guys well know who want this information, but the january 6 select committee is trying to construct the narrative of what was going on in the white house in the waning days, weeks, and months of this administration
and you can't look for what you don't known' isn't there. so is if there are gaps we don't know ifabout, that really does g the open question for all of these committee that is are trying to get this information. >> i'm always surprised by the whole, how to improve a negative, hew drew prove what isn't inve the box, but, didn't know much about the national archives but are a determined crew, saying to justice department you need to look at this, telling the january 6 committee things they're not even asking. does this trigger and activate, maya, the justice department and perhaps the attorney general to say all right, you know, this one doeso need action? >> i certainly hope so. one, the national archive has been doing their job, right, it is their responsibility to ensure that these records are saved and preserved for all kinds of reasons including history but also accountability, and in this case, it's extremely important because there are more than one potential crime here. it's a crime to destroy government records.
it's a crime to conceal government records, and is certainly a crime to remove national security documents from government safe and secure property. we don't know the degree to which, this is why they're asking for an investigation, these actions rise to the level of a crime that should be prosecuted but it's impossible to hear the news and not remember that there is an executive assistant from the state department inas hawaii wh is serving 90 days for removing some documents that were, that were national security documents, confidential, from her office to her home. now, if that is a crime that anyone of us might be subject to if we work for the federal government, why would we have enabled the most powerful person in government to essentially do what makes us all more vulnerable when it comes not only to our history, but our
national security? and oneur last point i want to make about this we shouldn't overlook -- donald trump has been subject of various investigations by congress, including two impeachments, including a suggestion of obstruction of justice during the robertst muller investigati and constantly undermining national security where it was in his personal interest and particularly when it was also helpful to putin. now, at a time when we're looking at russia, at a time we know what we a know, there's a question about whether k any of this would also rise to obstruction of justice or obstruction of congress. it's very serious, he's not a sitting president and shouldn't have our records. >> you bring an important point, and steve schmidt people are saying is this the hill they'll get donald trump on? but it's an important hill, the classification, the thing i criticized campaign's, hilary's
campaign c about, anyone who kns anything about working at the white house a day understands you can't do. >> if i had done that as a deputy assistant to the president, counsellor to the vice-president and i had been found -pout, i would have been arrested, prosecuted, and in prison. the law is very clear on this. i do think that it bears mentioning that no one should be falling offni of their chair abt this news, this administration was reckless in the handling of classified information from the bestowment of sci clearances to garrett kushner and ivanka trump, to the processes by whics national security secrets are protected. that being said, this just is plain as day, black and white, a violation of the law. t so, you know, what would be political, here is to grant a prosecution exception to a
former president of the united states on the basis that would be novel in american law that the office is above the law somehow, and of course, it is not. and oso, if this was a privaten the marine corp, if this was david petrayas, if this was any one of dozens of other people who have been prosecuted for mishandling classified information, it's pretty clear about how serious the charges would be, and how the prosecutors have a justice department would act. so the mystery here is whether the h justice department branchn exception to donald trump and continues the tradition that seemingly trump or his family can do about anything they want without consequence, and so are thosens days ending? maybe. we shall soon see.
>> thank you all, the review, appreciate it, alley vitali, steve schmidt, maya, we appreciatehm it, that does it f "deadline: white house" thank you for being with us, "the beat" with ali melber begins now. >> hello, friend, welcome to "the beat," i am ari melber and we begin with breaking news. president biden saying just within the past hour, vladimir putin, according to the united states has decided to invade ukraine and this could. within days. >> as of this moment i'm convinced he's made the decision. we have reason to believe that. we have reason to believe the russian forcesre intend to atta ukraine in the coming week. in the coming days.om >> reporter: to be clear, you are convinced that, you are convinced that president putin is going to invade ukraine, is that what you just said a few moments ago? >> yes, i did.