'This Week' Transcript 3-13-22: John Kirby & Andriy Moskalenko
This is a rush transcript of "This Week" airing Sunday, March 13.
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, March 13, 2022 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.
MARTHA RADDATZ, CO-HOST: Good morning from Lviv, Ukraine, where air raid sirens have sounded throughout the night and this morning amidst a dangerous expansion of now three weeks of war.
ANNOUNCER: "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" starts right now.
RADDATZ (voice-over): Breaking news, Russian missiles strike a training facility in western Ukraine, dangerously close to NATO forces on the Polish border. A major escalation as Russia continues to pummel civilian targets.
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Any intentional attack or targeting of civilians is a war crime, period.
RADDATZ: Preparation under way for potential biological or chemical attacks.
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: What is next? Ammonia, phosphorous?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not fight the Third World War in Ukraine.
RADDATZ: Amid growing concern Russia could target shipments of U.S. weapons.
(on camera): We're on the ground in Ukraine bringing you all the latest including an interview with an American who has joined the fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It keeps the war away from the home front.
RADDATZ (voice-over): This morning, the top spokesman for the Pentagon and the Ukrainian Defense Ministry join us live. A "This Week" exclusive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's absolutely astronomical.
RADDATZ: Inflation at a 40-year high, food, gas, rent prices soaring.
BIDEN: Russia's aggression is costing us all.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Democrats want to blame surging prices on Russia, but the truth is their out of touch policies are why we are here in the first place.
RADDATZ: Our brand-new poll with Ipsos on tough challenges for President Biden.
ANNOUNCER: From ABC News, this is a special edition of "This Week" live from Lviv, Ukraine. Here now co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
RADDATZ: Good morning, and welcome to "This Week." We are back in Lviv, Ukraine, this morning to a city transformed. Three weeks ago when we broadcast from here, we were on the verge of war, yet life seemed normal as residents freely roamed the streets, but now as soldiers, checkpoints, and tank traps line the streets, the sense of security over western Ukraine is gone. Overnight, less than an hour west of here, Russian warplanes struck a military facility which the United States and NATO forces had used to train Ukrainian troops. The attack about 10 miles from the Polish border has left at least 35 dead, 134 wounded and marks a dramatic escalation of hostilities just a day after a top Russian official warned arms shipments to Ukraine were legitimate targets.
And just before we came on the air, air raid sirens went off in this city for the first time in daylight. We visited another base here in the west where some of the thousands of foreign fighters, including Americans, have dropped everything and come to face off with the Russians. We'll hear their stories in just a moment.
But we begin with the very latest on Russia's widening assault across Ukraine, including fierce fighting outside the capital city Kyiv. That's where our senior foreign correspondent Ian Pannell is located.
Good morning, Ian.
IAN PANNELL, ABC SENIOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Martha. I think two major developments over the weekend. First, Russian troops finally pushing into the besieged city of Mariupol down on the Black Sea coast. Their video recorded by the Associated Press clearly showing Russian tanks targeting residential buildings and as you know, deliberate targeting of civilians is considered a war crime. And that other significant development, as you say, the targeting of this former training base that was used by NATO to train the Ukrainian forces, there were no NATO troops there at the time, but that clearly seems to be designed to send a message to America and the West.
PANNELL (voice-over): Week three of Russia's invasion of Ukraine has seen a violent widening of the Kremlin's offensive, using indiscriminate large scale aerial bombardment to try to achieve what Putin's sluggish land forces are trying to do, force towns and cities to capitulate. The hardest hit has been the Black Sea port of Mariupol. After days of shelling and failed cease-fires, the Russians launch an horrific attack on a children's and maternity hospital. The entire population there has been under siege for over a week without power, heating, and short of water and food. This was a week when mass graves were dug in Ukraine for the growing ranks of the dead. A growing surge of people are using temporary local cease-fires to escape.
(on camera): Well, that is what a Russian cease-fire sounds like. We're on the outskirts of the town of Irpin. We've been hearing the sound of bombardments over the last hour as civilians try to get out.
(voice-over): The lulls in the fighting allow people to flee towns. Shell-shocked and cold, we met Nadia (ph) and Petro (ph), husband and wife who just escaped Bucha.
"The Russians destroyed everything in our house. They forced my husband on to his knees and beat him up, Naja (ph) says. The Russians then looted their house.
In verified video released by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, a massive column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles was ambushed as they drove towards the northeast outskirts of Kyiv. Renewed efforts of diplomacy appear to fail again this week, with Russia insisting Ukraine change its constitution to say it'll never join NATO or the EU, recognize Crimea as Russian, and the Eastern separatist regions as independent. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov even claiming Russia never attacked Ukraine.
But this war has entered a dangerous moment, there are growing concerns about the lack of an off-ramp to end this conflict.
WILLIAM BURNS, CIA DIRECTOR: I think Putin is angry and frustrated right now. He's likely to double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties because he has no sustainable political end game.
PANNELL (voiceover): The consequences of that started to play out this week. Russia making false claims Ukrainians are preparing to use chemical weapons. The fear is that this propaganda push could proceed a real attack by Russia using chemical weapons. President Biden increasing the economic retaliation this week by banning Russian energy imports.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russian oil will no longer be acceptable at U.S. ports and the American people will deal another powerful blow to Putin’s war machine.
PANNELL (voiceover): And now major U.S. brands punishing Russia by pulling out. McDonald’s symbolized the end of Russia’s Soviet area. This week it temporarily closed all of its stores. Putin dismissing these sanctions, but the economic impact of this disastrous war is being felt in Russia. As Putin's war closes in, the strong words and sanctions may be appreciated but for millions of Ukrainians, it's too little and too late.
PANNELL (on camera): Well, the mayor of Lviv speaking about that attack on the Peacekeeping Base, they describe it a military base, it was targeted by 30 missiles fired by Russia. Warning Joe Biden, warning NATO that Russia is encroaching ever closer to NATO territory saying, do you realize that Russia is on your border? Of course, we know that the Ukrainian authorities have been trying to encourage more military support. They want, of course, this no-fly zone which has been ruled out by the Biden administration, but I think as it gets closer, these missiles that were fired so close to the Polish border, I think that's really going to raise concerns in the coming days of the risks of this war widening.
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC HOST: Thanks so much, Ian. Ian Pannell in Kyiv for us this morning.
The governor of Lviv was called away for an emergency meeting but we are joined now by the deputy mayor of Lviv, Andriy Moskalenko. Thanks very much for joining us, Mr. Deputy Mayor. What can you tell us about the attack near Lviv?
DEPUTY MAYOR ANDRIY MOSKALENKO: This night was quite tough, because war become more closer to NATO (ph) and EU border (ph) and so it's 20 kilometers to EU border (ph) to Poland and 40 kilometers to Lviv. This morning at approximately 5:00 a.m. was bombed by Russian troops on our International Peacekeeping Center, so it's all over the world known center because a lot of militaries all over the world, they have like trainings along this (ph) before. And so --
RADDATZ: They have training there --
MOSKALENKO: So it was right. It was. Right now, it’s used for our Ukrainian military, but it's all over the world known and so it's like -- like it was highly equipped and so a lot of buildings and so, it was attacked by Russians and so it's very sad news that officially the regional military administration give information that (inaudible) aware Ukrainians who were killed, military --
RADDATZ: Thirty-five killed.
MOSKALENKO: Yes. And so more than 100 were injured.
RADDATZ: And I know that we've been told that air defenses worked. That there were as many as 30 missiles from an air strike, you believe, still.
MOSKALENKO: So we have official information that it was eight rockets and so today also watched (ph) all our assistance so not all information is public according to safety but -- so that was -- really this night was, it was like a new edge in this war because we don't have any safety place in Ukraine. I suppose even all over the world when 20 kilometers, again, emphasized to NATO (ph) and to European Union respond.
RADDATZ: We heard air raid sirens earlier today go off and --MOSKALENKO,: -- again emphasize to not (ph) -- and to European Union who respond.
RADDATZ: We heard air raid sirens earlier today go off and overnight. What is the concern here -- for here in Lviv?
MOSKALENKO: It was two times. First, it's 5:00 a.m. when started for approximately two hours. And second, it was also like under some potential attack, but so it was not defined. And so it was like some prevention. So, hopefully, hopefully, it wasn't aimed.
RADDATZ: Do you think a no-fly zone could have stopped that? I know the mayor is calling one. The defense minister is calling for no-fly zone again.
MOSKALENKO: It’s the whole -- the whole Ukraine that they called for close the sky because it can save a lot of lives and even that -- that this morning were killed. So, it also again new sign in order that have to be closed because -- so it's -- we have to also emphasize that Putin thinks he can use nuclear weapon because if he bombs and killed Russian troops on peaceful cities, children, a woman, as they bombed children's hospital, so they can do everything.
So, the whole world right now have to be engaged how to solve this problem.
RADDATZ: Okay, thanks so much for joining us this morning.
RADDATZ: And joining us now is the Defense Department Spokesman John Kirby.
I want to ask you first, we know Americans worked at that base previously. Can we assume there were no Americans in there at the time it was hit?
JOHN KIRBY, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Yes, ma'am. There were no American service members, no Americans at all working at that training facility. We had left as you know several weeks ago.
RADDATZ: And what can you tell us about the strike? You heard the deputy mayor there. Can you add anything to that?
KIRBY: Actually, I think he has a lot more context than we do right now. We certainly noticed that these strikes were conducted overnight early morning hours there, overnight here. We do know that there was some damage to the training facility and we're still assessing and talking to Ukrainians about what else they've seen here.
Look, this is the third now military facility or airfield that the Russians have struck in Western Ukraine in just the last couple of days. So, clearly, at least from an air strike perspective, they're broadening their target sets.
RADDATZ: And Ukraine's defense minister called this a terror attack near the NATO border, saying action must be taken to stop this, close the sky.
Could -- could a no-fly zone could have stopped this?
KIRBY: No, I don't think so, Martha.
Look, I mean, no-fly zone has a nice air policing sound to it, but I participated in one as a young officer on an aircraft carrier way back in the early ‘90s. It is combat. You have to be willing to shoot and to be shot at.
President Biden has made it clear that U.S. troops are not going to be fighting in Ukraine, and there's a good reason for that because the United States getting involved in combat in Ukraine right now or over the skies of Ukraine right now leads to war with Russia. And there's very little that you can see that would make sense for this war to be escalated between two nuclear powers.
RADDATZ: If those attacks at military supply centers cross into Poland -- and I know that is a fear of the United States and the NATO allies -- what changes? Kamala Harris just reaffirmed the pledge, the Article 5 pledge to defend NATO members.
If they strike in Poland, what happens?
KIRBY: Well, look, we take our Article 5 commitment very seriously and the vice president was -- was pretty firm about that on her recent visit, so has been Secretary Austin. An armed attack against one is considered an armed attack against all.
That is why, Martha, we continue to flow and to move and to reposition forces and capabilities along NATO's eastern flank to make sure that we can defend every inch of NATO territory if we need to. Now, there's no reason we should need to because there's no reason that there should be war in Ukraine as it is, and we've made it very clear to Russia that NATO territory will be defended not just by the United States, but by our allies.
We have a deconfliction mechanism set up so that we can -- we can talk to the Russian Ministry of Defense. That system is working. That line is working and we will absolutely not hesitate to use it if we need to.
RADDATZ: But this was just ten miles from that border. I just crossed that border the other day. Doesn't this change the way you look at things? They're getting closer and closer to our NATO allies.
KIRBY: I can tell you that we have been consistently concerned about NATO's eastern flank and that airspace and, of course, that ground space on that flank of NATO. And we continue to look for ways to bolster the defenses of our NATO allies. We continue to look for ways to try to protect that airspace.
Just a few days ago, as you know, Martha, we repositioned two Patriot batteries from Germany into Poland -- not far from where you are right now -- to make sure that we can absolutely defend that airspace.
RADDATZ: And give us the big picture here, John. I know we've heard a lot about possible chemical, biological attacks and that the Russians were staging this false flag, trying to say Ukraine is going to do an attack.
What can you tell us more about that and how likely is that? How concerned are you this morning?
KIRBY: Well, I want to be careful we don't get into intelligence assessments here. We continue to watch this very, very closely. It is of the Russian playbook that that which they accuse you of they're planning to do. Now, again, we haven't seen anything that indicates some sort of imminent chemical or biological attack right now, but we're watching this very, very closely.
RADDATZ: And you've said the Russians miscalculated the Ukrainian military. So did we. How did we do this and how do you look at the Ukrainian military now? How long can they hold on?
KIRBY: I think we're all looking at them with awe and inspiration and pride. I mean, they are fighting bravely, skillfully and, quite frankly, very creatively. They're using tactics that I don't think anybody predicted they would be able to use or would want to use, but they're doing that and they're defending their cities and population centers and their citizens as best they can.
What we're going to do here in the United States is we're going to continue to flow security assistance to them. The kinds of things we know they most need, the kinds of things that they're using so well, we're going to continue to help get them into their hands. And we know that it is working, that they are receiving them and they are using them.
But, you're right, I mean they have impressed everybody around the world, and certainly they have impressed the Russians who have been increasingly flummoxed and frustrated about their lack of progress because of this Ukrainian resistance.
RADDATZ: And, John, you talk about military supplies. President Zelenskyy's number one is airplanes, is those MiG-29s. He wanted those fighter jets. The U.S. says no way.
Why not give those to him?
KIRBY: What the United States says we weren't interested in exploring, Martha, was a proposal whereby the MiGs would be transferred to the United States and then the United States would give them to Ukraine. Again, I think we can all understand the kind of escalatory measure that that might be perceived as. Not to mention the fact that, you know, we believe that they are doing really well with the systems that they have and the air defense systems that they are using including drones, including manpads, they're doing very well with that. And we believe those are what they need the most, and that's what we're going to continue to try to get them.
And I would just point out, I mean, the president, just over the course of this weekend, signed out another $200 million drawdown package which here at the Defense Department, we're going to get working on right away to get that additional materiel into their hands.
RADDATZ: OK, thanks for joining us this morning, John.
KIRBY: My pleasure.
RADDATZ: While President Biden has vowed U.S. troops will not get involved in this conflict, Ukraine's government has actively recruited foreigners to join the fight. Over 20,000 have reportedly expressed interest. And many Americans are showing up daily, giving up everything at home in order to take on the Russians.
We went to a secret location in western Ukraine to meet some of these men, to understand why they're here.
RADDATZ (voice over): They have already built the bunkers with tunnels snaking beneath the earth and they say they are ready to fight.
RADDATZ (on camera): Vladimir Putin is an incredibly tough foe. Ruthless. Killed a lot of people. Are you willing to risk your life for this country?
LANE PERKINS, U.S. NAVY VETERAN: I definitely think that fighting the war here is worth it because it keeps the war away from the home front.
RADDATZ (voice over): Lane Perkins, a Navy veteran, has a wife and a two-year-old son at home in San Diego. When he heard President Biden warn of an invasion, he knew.
So, at 26 years old, he got on a plane and then to the Georgian Legion headquartered here in Ukraine.
PERKINS: I felt personally that this was the -- by far the best option for military service to Ukraine.
RADDATZ: The Legion, from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, is made up of volunteers from around the world. Most of the people, ex-military. Their job, to train, get civilians and refugees across the border --
RADDATZ (on camera): But are you going to be in the fight?
HARRISON JOZEFOWICZ, U.S. ARMY VETERAN: Me, personally, yes, if -- if it's -- if it's needed, I'll be in the fight.
RADDATZ (voice over): Harrison Jozefowicz is 25 and was a Chicago police officer.
RADDATZ (on camera): You just quit your job and got on a plane.
JOZEFOWICZ: Pretty much.
JOZEFOWICZ: It's the right thing to do.
RADDATZ (voice over): Harrison spent five years in the U.S. Army and did a tour in Afghanistan.
JOZEFOWICZ: This has already -- has more refugees than Afghanistan. And we just -- we can't sit idly and just watch it happen.
RADDATZ: The Georgian Legion runs daily training, everything from first aid to shooting and moving techniques.
JOZEFOWICZ: I can say that Putin doesn't know what's coming.
RADDATZ (on camera): A tougher fight.
JOZEFOWICZ: A very much tougher fight. We're going to see an exponential increase in numbers very, very shortly here. There are going to be the hardcore battle-trained Americans, Brits and everybody else in between.
RADDATZ (voice over): British citizen Christopher Garrett has spent his life in war zones around the world. He is now bringing life-saving equipment to Ukraine and vetting others who want to help.
CHRISTOPHER GARRETT, BRITISH VOLUNTEER: People need to understand that, if they're coming to Ukraine to fight or to provide medical support or anything, they -- they need to be coming for -- for the good of Ukraine.
RADDATZ: Overseeing this operation, a Georgian.
MAMUKA MAMULASHVILI: I've been at war with Russia for the last 30 years, and I have never seen such brutality.
RADDATZ: Mamuka says, at the age of 14, he was captured and held in Russian captivity.
(on camera): What do you think is the end?
MAMULASHVILI: I don't know who will stay alive out of this war, but I'm sure that we will win it.
RADDATZ (voice over): He says the men volunteering to fight for Ukraine are the faces of democracy.
MAMULASHVILI: Being quiet and hiding and closing eyes on what is going on will not avoid us World War III.
RADDATZ: And those Russian soldiers on the other side, many young and inexperienced.
(UNKNOWN): They are just standing their, like, young soldiers to get, like, slaughtered, I will say.
RADDATZ: Emanuel (ph) is Albanian. He's been living in Ukraine for a few years. It's now his home, and he says he will protect it at all costs.
(UNKNOWN): If they want my gun, they can come and take it. I have a lot of brothers here. If they're coming here, they will get what they deserve.
RADDATZ: Coming up, Russian forces are advancing toward Kyiv and moving to break resistance in occupied Ukrainian cities. We'll speak with a top Ukrainian defense official next. Our special edition of "This Week" continues in just a moment.
RADDATZ: That's a live look at Lviv, right there, and we are joined now by a top adviser to Ukraine's defense minister, Markian Lubkivskyi.
Thanks for joining us this morning, sir.
You heard John Kirby from the Pentagon. He said the no-fly zone is still not an option. What's your reaction to that?
MARKIAN LUBKIVSKYI, ADVISER TO UKRAINE DEFENSE MINISTER: Thank you, Martha. It's very good to see you in Lviv, in the city where I was born. Unfortunately, the circumstances now are -- are tragic. And -- but I believe that we will win soon, and all Ukrainians will be back to Lviv, to Kyiv, to Kharkiv, to all other cities of my lovely Ukraine.
Yeah, I -- I just had the opportunity to listen to the spokesperson of the -- of the Pentagon. This is something which is -- it's very hard to accept that the sky over Ukraine wouldn't be closed. I think that this is a big problem for Ukraine, for Ukrainians. And we are not feeling alone and we are not accusing anybody. We can understand the threats coming from the Russian Federation as a huge nuclear power. But from the other side, we still waiting for the weapons, for the aircraft, for the anti-air systems to protect Ukrainians from the air.
Our army is very good on the ground. A lot of Russians died already and they are killed as aggressors on Ukrainian land. But, please, help us with the weapons, help us with the systems. We will survive. We will protect ourselves, but, please, I'm asking on behalf of the ministry, all other partners, including United States, United Kingdom, we are very grateful for your support. We understand all things related to the threats as I mentioned but, please, be brave. Help Ukraine in this hard times.
RADDATZ: You heard Mr. Kirby say he doesn't think a no-fly zone would have helped in this instance. It certainly wouldn't help against the missiles and rockets and artillery fire that's being fired from the ground. He says you're getting what you need.
LUBKIVSKYI: A lot of Ukrainians are dying every day. And, Martha, I fully agree with you that you will stress that you pay attention to the fact that this attack was only 15 -- was only 15 kilometers from the NATO and E.U. borders. So yesterday if you remember, or day before yesterday, the missile, the drone was found in the middle of Zagreb, in the city where I served as the Ukrainian ambassador to Croatia and to Bosnia. This is terrible.
So that's why I am really looking forward to get more support from other partners all around the world to protect other people.
RADDATZ: Can I ask you about Kyiv and the situation in Kyiv right now?
LUBKIVSKYI: Yes, so we are waiting for aggressor to enter the city. We -- I am absolutely confident that there is no chance for Russians to take Kyiv in the easy way. The president is staying in Kyiv. The government is working. Ukrainian parliament is working here. So it will not be an easy walk for aggressor to enter Kyiv. So they are trying to get to our capital from the north. They are trying to establish corridor through the south, but Kyiv is not going to surrender. Kyiv is not surrounded by enemies. There are still corridors for people, for transport. But we are ready.
Again, it was announced a couple of times and due to intelligence that they will try to get Kyiv in the coming future. Again, you know the situation on our north border is not so easy because of Belarusian intention also to enter Ukraine, but in case they will start aggression against Ukraine, they will finish like Russians. Everybody will be dead.
RADDATZ: We know you will continue to fight hard and we thank you so much for joining us this morning.
LUBKIVSKYI: Thank you so much, Martha.
RADDATZ: Still ahead, our brand-new poll with Ipsos, rare consensus on the rising cost of fuel and one finding in particular that the White House will want to take note of. The new numbers next.
RADDATZ: As this conflict rages on in Ukraine, the Biden agenda being reshaped amidst growing economic pressures in the U.S.
For that, I’m going to hand off to Jon Karl in Washington -- Jon.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Martha.
This morning on the roundtable, we have brand-new Ipsos/ABC News poll that shows overwhelming American support for Ukraine and the ban on Russian oil imports, but troubling signs for Democrats about who Americans blame for high gas prices. We will have the numbers and the roundtable, straight ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The idea -- the idea that we're going to send in offensive equipment and have planes and tanks and trains going in with American pilots and American crews, just understand, and don't kid yourself, no matter what y'all say, that's called World War III.
((END VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT & ABC "THIS WEEK" CO-ANCHOR: President Biden with a stark warning about getting U.S. troops directly involved in the war with Ukraine.
Here to discuss that and more with the roundtable, we have former Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, "Washington Post" columnist George Will, ABC News senior White House correspondent Mary Bruce, and Jane Coaston, host of "The New York Times" podcast "The Argument."
So, George, we hear a lot from President Biden and from Vice President Harris about standing with Ukraine and, you know, condemnation of Russia. But there's also a lot about what we won't do. No no-fly zone, no delivery of Polish jets to Ukraine, no, quote, escalatory measures that would provoke Putin.
GEORGE WILL, WASHINGTON POST SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the most important words in politics are up to a point, and we support Ukraine up to a point. We're getting a lesson from Putin in this continuing power of nuclear deterrence. If he did not have nuclear weapons, and he has more than we have, he has the world's largest nuclear arsenal --
KARL: Four thousand.
WILL: We could be doing -- we could be doing all kinds of things. We could be doing a no-fly zone and all of that, but we can't because nuclear deterrence presupposes a certain threshold of rationality and I don't think American officials are any longer confident that Putin has this level of rationality. Furthermore, Russian military doctrine doesn't draw a bright line between the use of conventional weapons and tactical battlefield nuclear weapons. The second use of nuclear weapons was three days after the first in Nagasaki. There hasn't been one since. It's an amazing human achievement and we really don't want Putin to erase that line.
KARL: And Putin has reminded us over and over again of that nuclear arsenal, Heidi, but I mean, is there more that the United States can be doing? I mean it is striking to see the president of the United States take something off the table over and over again and not even draw, you know, no red lines if Putin were to use chemical or biological weapon.
HEIDI HEITKAMP, (D) FORMER NORTH DAKOTA SENATOR & ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's really interesting, and I liken it to your house is on fire, you see the fire truck across the border and they're not coming over to help you. And so that level of frustration that we see as Americans, that level of frustration that they obviously feel in Ukraine is there. So, the question is, why make blanket, universal statements that, you know, here's my line. He's drawn a red line. It's NATO countries. That's his red line. And that has given incredible permission for the ability to move in.
There's people who have been watching Putin for a long time who will argue we are already in World War III. So, this idea that there is no -- you know, we're not going to provoke World War III, they believe we're already there and that we're simply capitulating for no good reason when we could be stopping it right here.
Of course, the president is the president and this is a war weary country. And you saw the sustained effort in Afghanistan and Iraq and what that meant. And so the question is, where do you send the message that there is -- there is help coming in a greater form than what we're doing right now. Not just money, but, you know, I think the signal this week was on the fighter jets and that's incredibly frustrating for people who are watching it because it didn't seem like that was an escalation beyond what we would expect to do to help the Ukrainians.
KARL: And the issue there, Mary, was, the United States didn't want to be involved in delivering the fighter jets to Ukraine. He got some blowback on Capitol Hill, including from Democrats.
BRUCE: Yes, he did. And I think because so many people share in this frustration, which is, you know, and even the administration was initially open to this idea of sending these fighter jets from Poland into Ukraine, it's a logistical challenge for this White House. And they were, I can tell you, completely caught off guard when Poland came out and proposed transferring them through, you know, our air force base in Germany. And I think if they could find a way, they may still be open to it, but logistically, how do you get them there without it looking or at least putting the U.S. in some kind of direct -- potentially direct conflict with Russia?
I think to Heidi's point, though, it gets at the question of, what is still on the table, right? We heard the president this week. You mentioned the possibility that they've been warning of that Russia could use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine. The president says Russia will pay a severe price if that happens. Well, what is that price?
You know, I've asked the White House. They say they're not going to engage hypotheticals. They still have options, but most of their most, sort of -- the options that they have that would impose the most pain, they've used so far, right, all of the sanctions.
We've seen them go through all of these steps. So what is still left, if Putin does take this step?
And I do think it is notable, while the president has said over and over again, you know, "There will not be any direct engagement between American forces and the Russians," when asked what would happen if Putin did use chemical weapons, he didn't give a definitive answer, which is interesting for this president.
KARL: Right. He's certainly not going to repeat those words "red line."
But, Jane, it -- it's so striking to hear Biden. And you heard it in the State of the Union. You hear it over and over again, on one hand, absolutely repeating, over and over again, "We are not going to fight the Russians in Ukraine. There will be no World War III in Ukraine." But if he hits an inch of NATO territory...
KARL: ... it's what, World War III?
COASTON: And I think that...
KARL: ... 10 miles away.
COASTON: Right, I think that's the concern here, especially with being so close to Poland. But I also think it's worth recognizing, when people talk about a no-fly zone, a no-fly zone sounds great, which is why you're hearing polling of people, over 70 percent of Americans supporting a no-fly zone. But a no-fly zone means World War III. It means the possibility of a nuclear conflict, and especially, as George put it, the idea of mutually assured destruction requires that both parties recognize they could be destroyed. When you have one party that believes they could win a nuclear conflict, that completely changes the calculus here.
And I totally understand this administration for attempting to be, "Look, we want to be as helpful as we can be, but, one, we just got out of a more than 20-year conflict in Afghanistan; and, two, when people are saying that they want to be supportive of Ukraine, what does that mean?"
We haven't gotten the polling questions that say, like, boots on the ground. Whose boots on the ground? How to talk about this. I think that this is a really complicated issue because, on the one hand, you have the optics concerns here, but if you're this administration, you're thinking, if Russia hits a NATO country, if Russia engages in nuclear proliferation, that -- that's a calculus they have not yet begun to contemplate.
KARL: And, I mean, George, what happens if Russia hits a convoy on the Polish side of the border?
What -- I mean, are we -- and to Jane's point, I mean, are the American people ready to -- I mean, Article 5, sacrosanct. The president said "Defend every inch."
WILL: If it's on the other side of the border, that counts as one inch.
WILL: We now have a one-inch standard.
WILL: So I think -- NATO would have to respond.
KARL: Then we have the question of the Russian oil, you know, ban on Russian oil. We -- our new poll had some interesting numbers. First of all, it showed overwhelming support for the ban on Russian oil. Seventy-seven percent support it, even if it means -- the poll question -- even if it means higher gas prices here at home.
But take a look at this other question we asked, which is, "Biden's handling of gas prices: Do you approve?"
Seventy percent disapprove. So, in other words, ban Russian oil even if it means higher gas prices, but we're going to blame Biden.
HEITKAMP: You always blame the party in power. And -- and, you know, the administration wasn't aggressive enough, in my opinion, in pushing back on the red herrings, the red herrings like "It's because you didn't build the Keystone XL Pipeline."
And I remind them, one of the first things Donald Trump did was give the permit. And in four years the pipeline didn't get built. Why not? Because it wasn't -- it wasn't economical to build that pipeline in those price points.
What -- they argue that this is because of inflation, runaway inflation. Who drove up inflation?
We saw the CBO numbers this week. It was the Trump administration that overspent and drove up inflation. So if inflation in prices and housing and in gas is because of deficit spending, that's Trump's fault. And so the administration has not been nearly aggressive enough to explain what's actually going on.
KARL: Although, if you look at the numbers, inflation really started to rise almost exactly when -- when Biden came in the White House. Now -- now, obviously...
HEITKAMP: Yeah, now that argues my point, doesn't it?
KARL: But -- but look at -- look at this chart on gas prices just since February. If you look at the -- I mean, it's -- it is a shocking increase that, you know, doesn't correspond...
HEITKAMP: Can I just say, that is an artificially low price that you're starting from. And when you do inflation adjustment, this isn't the highest price we've had in the last 20 years. In fact, George Herbert Walker Bush, and under the George Bush administration, we had gas prices, inflation adjusted, over $5. But -- but we're shocked because we got used to $2 gas.
COASTON: I also...
HEITKAMP: And that's the problem.
COASTON: I also think it's worth recognizing -- and there was a great Fox News piece from, actually...
... 2008, that noted that the president has markedly little control of what gas prices are. There is no big "cheap gas" button in the Oval Office. And if there were, somebody would have pushed it.
HEITKAMP: But it is always a political issue.
COASTON: It always is -- it's a massive political issue every single time.
HEITKAMP: The party in power always gets the responsibility.
KARL: OK, but -- but the -- the Putin price hike --
KARL: -- is that -- I mean, which is --
KARL: -- what The White House is pushing, is that going to fly?
MARY BRUCE, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That’s the phrase --
KARL: Hashtag Putin price tag --
BRUCE: -- that’s the hashtag. That’s what they’re hoping, right? I mean, they have come up with this. It makes a good bumper sticker or t-shirt perhaps but -- and that's the challenge for this White House because regardless --
KARL: So Americans won't vote for Putin, right --
KARL: -- it’s like, okay.
BRUCE: Regardless, I mean, this administration wants to put the blame squarely on Vladimir Putin because they know clearly based on those numbers that rising gas prices presents a huge political problem for this president so you are going to hear him, I suspect, continue to hammer this point, continue to argue as well.
BRUCE: The Americans are making a sacrifice.
HEITKAMP: They’re going to have answer to why the gas prices were rising like that before the war.
COASTON: Maybe, but --
KARL: All right --
COASTON: -- if they can message that, right? And that’s a challenge.
GEORGE WILL, WASHINGTON POST SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, when you’re in the hole, quit digging. It's the law of holes. And we have not -- 7.9 percent inflation. And the week that that is announced, Congress passes another 1.5 trillion tranche of spending.
As the government was announcing it in the first five months of this fiscal year during which inflation lowered Americans’ real wages in 9 of 12 months, we're now adding to the deficit in these first five months of the year $3 billion a year and debt service now consumes $1.2 million a minute. It's $20,000 per second if you want to do the arithmetic so stop, I mean, that's -- quit adding fuel to the fire.
KARL: Okay, I also want to turn to what seems to be almost the Putin wing of the Republican Party, which to be fair is not highly -- not prevalent much on Capitol Hill but we’ve seen Tucker Carlson, you know, the -- basically repeat Russian propaganda night after night and, of course, Donald Trump himself, you know, talk about the savvy genius of Vladimir Putin. He is now condemning the invasion but mostly, you know, as almost an afterthought. I want to play something that Kevin McCarthy had to say this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN MCCARTHY, MINORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I do not think anything savvy or genius about Putin. I think Putin is evil, I think he’s a dictator, and I think he's murdering people right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: So, Mary, that was interesting because he's directly repeat -- I mean, what he's criticizing there without mentioning is Donald Trump. I mean, those are the exact words that Donald Trump has used.
BRUCE: And that's a lot for Kevin McCarthy, right, who has gone to some lengths to maintain a relationship with Donald Trump. I think you are seeing not just Kevin McCarthy but also Mitch McConnell come out and make clear where they stand on Vladimir Putin. They haven't gone as far though as to directly call out Trump.
And you are also seeing this in races now across the country, in North Carolina, you know, we were talking about this. You saw a Senate candidate in the race there where there -- in the Republican Primary, excuse me, this is becoming an issue as to whether you are willing to stand up and call out Putin and call out Donald Trump. And it's not just candidates now trying to, you know, make clear that they have an opposing view to Donald Trump, but they're really trying to put people on defense, to defend Donald Trump and no one seems willing to do that and it's going to be a challenge for Republicans given --
COASTON: But this is a --
COASTON: This is actually a much longer running with -- among Republican circles. If you go back to 2012, you see National Organization for Marriage’s Brian Brown going to Moscow, you see that force a certain realm of the post-liberal traditionalist conservatives, Putin made himself a representative of not so much a pro-conservative but an anti-Western -- anti-Western liberal consensus, which is interesting to me, because at no point has Russian oligarchy ever represented anything conservative whatsoever.
But you see that the Russian Orthodox Church has been talking about how this is all happening because Russia doesn't have gay pride parades and you see the way in which the Russian government and the Russian establishment has very much used the kind of anti-liberalism of a certain type of conservative against American democracy.
KARL: George, help us understand. You've studied American conservatism. I mean, you are an American conservative. What the hell is going on?
WILL: Well, first of all, before they fell in love with Putin they fell in love with Orban and Hungary. Make America great again meant let's make America more like Hungary which is a kind of peculiar aspiration. Orban, like Putin, like some of the acolytes in this country, is a weak person's idea of a strong person.
Strength you hear all the time, it’s sort of chest beating, (inaudible), dime store Mussolini kind of toughness and I don't think it goes much deeper than that. They talk about Putin is going to defend Christian civilization. Church attendance in Russia is 6 percent --
COASTON: Right. And they have a higher abortion rate --
WILL: And 94 percent aren't going --
COASTON: -- than the United States does.
HEITKAMP: I think one of the things we should take this out of politics and realize right now brave people within Russia are risking their lives to tell the truth about what's happening in Ukraine, to tell the truth about Putin. We have people who are trying to get rid of disinformation and we have useful idiots here in this country and, you know, I’m not going to call the whole Republican Party but they own some of this, right?
JONATHAN KARL, ABC “THIS WEEK” CO-ANCHOR: I mean, in fact, most Republicans in Congress are solidly against.
HEITKAMP: Right. But just as whatever someone on the far left says, that defines the Democratic Party, they have -- and they say, well, you didn't cure their ills here, I’m saying, get on them and call them out by name, because people are risking their lives in Russia today to get information, the correct information. And they are using -- the propaganda machine in Russia is using these useful idiots in Congress.
KARKL: Senator Heitkamp, thank you very much.
That is all the time we have for the roundtable. More from Martha Raddatz live in Ukraine after the break.
Stay with us.
KARL: And Martha Raddatz rejoins us from Lviv.
Martha, you were awakened by air raid sirens last night. Of course, that strike overnight not far from Lviv and in the area that you traveled through to get to Ukraine.
Can you tell us what -- what did you see as you made that journey from Poland into Ukraine?
RADDATZ: Jon, it's the second time I've -- I've made that journey. Three weeks ago we came in over the Polish border as well.
You -- I can't tell you how many cars are jammed up there, how many humanitarian organizations are set up there at the border. But, clearly, this is the place where they bring in weapons and the refugees go out. So, this is a very serious strike and so close to the Polish border.
KARL: And, of course, the big, almost unthinkable question is, what does NATO do? What does the United States do if Russia attacks on the Polish side of the border, on a NATO ally?
RADDATZ: And senior officials have told me that's -- that's a real possibility. They were certain they would strike inside the border at military supplies, or at a military facility near the Polish border. But there is a fear they will strike outside.
We heard the vice president this week say Article 5, we will protect our NATO allies. We don't know exactly what that would mean if Russia struck a military convoy, Jon.
KARL: Raises almost unthinkable questions.
Thank you, Martha. Stay safe over there.
RADDATZ: And thank you, Jon, in Washington.
That's all for us today.
Stay with ABC News for all the developments here in Ukraine, streaming on ABC News Live, online at abcnews.com. And download the ABC News app for breaking news updates.
And, of course, we'll have a full wrap-up this evening on "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT," tomorrow morning on "GMA" as well.
I'm Martha Raddatz, reporting from Lviv, Ukraine. Have a good day.
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