Pelosi has stark warning for Putin: 'He has to know that war is not an answer'

"There's very severe consequences to his aggression," she said.

February 13, 2022, 10:50 AM

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a stark warning for Russian President Vladimir Putin as the Russian military buildup near the Ukraine region showed no signs of slowing on Sunday.

"The fact is that we think that an assault on Ukraine is an assault on democracy," Pelosi told George Stephanopoulos during an exclusive interview on ABC's "This Week." "We understand that the loss of life, the damage, the collateral damage to civilians, to military and the rest are severe."

"If he decides to invade, the mothers in Russia don't like their children going into what he's had to experience that -- forgive the expression -- bodybags from the moms before, so he has to know that war is not an answer. There's very severe consequences to his aggression, and we are united in using them."

Stephanopoulos asked Pelosi: "Do you believe that Putin is poised to invade?"

Pelosi said the U.S. has to be prepared for any potential invasion, and she believes sanctions have acted as a deterrent thus far.

"If we were not threatening the sanctions and the rest, it would guarantee that Putin would invade. Let's hope that diplomacy works. It's about diplomacy, deterrence. Diplomacy, deterrence," Pelosi said.

"And the president's made it very clear: There's a big price to pay for Russia to go there. So if Russia doesn't invade, it's not that he never intended to, it's just that the sanctions worked," Pelosi said.

Stephanopoulos pressed Pelosi on whether Biden and Congress are doing enough to deter Putin.

"Well, look, I'm very proud of the work that the president has done," Pelosi responded. "The unity of our allies and NATO to come to an agreement as to the severity of the sanctions is very, very important. And that is, that is something that Putin should pay very close attention to."

Pelosi noted that while President Joe Biden has the authority to issue sanctions by executive order, "it would be better" if Congress did so through legislation, too.

The Senate has been negotiating a Russia sanctions bill, but as of last week, lawmakers concluded they hit an "impasse" in their talks. Senators have said they will continue to negotiate while also considering "other" options.

On the domestic front, Pelosi defended passing historically massive spending bills to address the coronavirus and infrastructure, which some say has contributed to rising costs across the U.S.

She noted that legislation the House passed recently to better compete with China, as well as the long-stalled Build Back Better Act, would help with supply chain issues and improve the economy in the long run.

"The fact that people have jobs always contributes to increase in inflation. And that's a good thing. But inflation is not a good [thing]," Pelosi said.

"Part of the consequences of all of that investment in the infrastructure bill and the rest, is that more people have jobs and and, therefore, inflation goes up," Pelosi said.

She urged Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to understand Congress' role in addressing inflation as opposed to contributing to it, which he claims passing the BBB, which she called a "deficit reduction bill," will do.

"It's very important for us to address it. We must bring it down ... with all the respect in the world to my friend Joe Manchin -- it's not right to say that what we're doing is contributing to inflation because it is exactly the opposite," Pelosi said.

Stephanopoulos also pressed Pelosi on the rate of rising crime in America and noted the differing opinions among some members of Congress as to how to address the issue. Some have called for an increase in the police force, while other members, such as Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, have supported the "defund the police" movement.

"Well, with all the respect in the world for Cori Bush, that is not the position of the Democratic Party," Pelosi said of the "defund the police" movement, which calls for a reallocation of money from police forces to local community organizations and non-policing forms of public safety.

"Community safety, to protect and defend in every way, is our oath of office," Pelosi said, adding that she supports Rep. Karen Bass's campaign plan to increase the force in Los Angeles, where she is running for mayor.

Stephanopoulos also pointed to Biden's low approval rating as Democrats gear up for the upcoming midterm election this November. He asked Pelosi if she is concerned about losing the majority given the high number of Democrats who have already announced they are not running for reelection.

"I don't agonize. I organize," Pelosi countered. "We fully intend to win this election. Nothing less is at stake."

When Stephanopoulos pointed to midterm elections in the past that have historically favored whichever party was not in the White House, Pelosi told him to "forget history."

"We're talking about the future...We have decided to win and that's what we will do," she said.

Asked by Stephanopoulos if she intends to run for speaker again, Pelosi quipped: "That's not a question. My purpose right now is just to win that election. Win that election, nothing less is at stake than our democracy."