'Time will tell' if agreements made with Putin during summit will hold: Sullivan

George Stephanopoulos interviews White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on "This Week."
9:51 | 06/20/21

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Transcript for 'Time will tell' if agreements made with Putin during summit will hold: Sullivan
Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Jake, thanks for joining us this morning. Let's start out with that election of raise. The new Israeli prime minister called his election a wake-up - call for the west. Do you agree with that reaction? I think what we need to do in the United States is keep our eye on the ball. Of that is our paramount priority, which is to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. We believe diplomacy is the best way to achieve that. Rather than military conflict. So we're going to negotiate in a clear eyed firm way with the Iranians to see if we can arrive at an outcome that puts their nuclear program in a box. Whether the president is person a or person B is less relevant than to whether their system is prepared to make commitments to constrain their nuclear program. That's one of the big questions. You heard the current Iranian prime minister. He's optimistic about a deal before the new president takes office this summer. Do you share that optimism? What I would say is there is still a fair distance to travel on key issues, including sanctions and commitments Iran has to make. The arrow has been pointed in the right direction in terms of work being done in Vienna. We'll see if Iranian leaders are prepared to make the hard choices they have to make in order for the joint comprehensive plan of action, the Iran nuclear deal, to be reinstated. Do you think raisi's election increases the chances of It's hard to speculate about the internal dynamics in Iran on a question like that. What I would say is the ultimate decision for whether or not to go back into the deal lies with Iran's supreme leader. He was the same person before this election as he is after the election. It lies with him and his decision as to whether he wants to go down the path of diplomacy or face mounting pressure not just from the United States, but the rest of the international community. We heard Martha report about raisi's personal sanctions from the U.S. For his complicity on human rights issues. At the time U.S. Willing to lift those personal sanctions if that's what it takes to get a deal? The question of which sanctions will be lifted is going on in Vienna. I'm not going to conduct those negotiations in public. The United States retains the right, even under the Iran nuclear deal, to impose sanctions for reasons other than the nuclear file, for terrorism, for human rights, for missile development. We'll see how the negotiations proceed in Vienna. I won't get ahead of our negotiators as they work out the details. You said these negotiations are the best way to rein in Iran. Does the same hold true for North Korea. Kim Jong-un seemed to open the door for nuclear talks with the United States saying he was ready for confrontation and diplomacy. Did you hear anything new there? Is re-engagement on the horizon? Time will tell. What president Biden has communicated is that the united States is prepared to engage in principled negotiations with North Korea to deal with the challenge of North Korea's nuclear program towards the objective of complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We're awaiting to see if they're ready to sit down at the table to resume negotiations. Kim Jong-un's comments this year we regard as an interesting signal. We'll wait to see whether they're followed up with direct communication to us about a potential path forward. What precisely are you looking for? Well, the clear signal they could send is say let's sit down and begin negotiations. We think, just as in the case of the Iranian nuclear issue, with the North Korea nuclear issue, there's no substitute for diplomacy to make progress towards that ultimate objective. Let's talk about the summit with Vladimir Putin. The president said he did what he came to do. What specifically did he achieve? Even sympathetic experts argue that Putin scored the pr benefit of a summit, but the U.S. Didn't get national security benefits in return. What's your response? Well, as the president said, he did do what he came to do. It was three things. The first was to identify areas where the U.S. And Russia could work together in mutual interests. We launched strategic stability talks out of this to help lower the chance of intended or unintended nuclear conflict. That is progress. Second, he indicated to president Putin that the united States will respond if certain harmful activities continue. In this regard the summit offered the opportunity to place guardrails. Time will tell whether they hold. Third, he stood up for human rights and universal values. He spoke directly to president Putin about alexei navalny, about radio free Europe, about the fact that all people are created equal is stamped in the American DNA. That's reason enough to sit face-to-face with Vladimir Putin. On top of that, we had meaningful engagements on the security and diplomatic side that we believe will put this relationship on a more stable footing. We don't know, we can't predict what the next year will bring. As president Biden said the proof in the pudding is in the eating. You say the president stood up to Vladimir Putin. What do you say to Kevin Mccarthy who said the president didn't counter the recent Russian cyberattacks? First, I would point out the previous president, who leader Mccarthy supported unquestionably, laid down in front of Vladimir Putin, sided with Vladimir Putin against our own intelligence community at a summit in Helsinki. This summit in Geneva was a study in contrast. You had a strong, assertive American president both in the room and in the press conference afterwards standing up for American interests and values and doing so in a way we believe will enhance the security of the United States. Did he hear anything new from Vladimir Putin? I would say that president Biden did hear from president Putin some important statements about how he looks at both the u.s./russia relationship and issues in it on cyber and other areas. President Biden has been clear from the outset that he wants to be able to have a space to engage directly, privately, candidly with president Putin and then to determine whether the actions that Russia takes in the months ahead match up with the discussions that took place in Geneva. That's where we will turn our focus at this point. Our goal at the end of the day is a stable predictable relationship where we're not going to be friends, but we can reduce the risk of escalation that would ultimately harm America's interests. Finally, let's talk about Afghanistan. The president said we're slated to withdraw completely by September 11th. One of the looming concerns is the fate of 18,000 Afghan interpreters. They're facing almost certain death if left behind. Members of congress are saying they must be evacuated. I want to read from a letter. Our group has concluded we must evacuate our friends immediately. No U.S. Entity has the ability to protect them in Afghanistan after the withdraw. It would be a moral failure to transfer the responsibility to protect our Afghan partners on to the shoulders of the Afghan government. What steps is the administration taking to protect those workers? Will they be evacuated? First, George, this is a paramount priority for president Biden and the entire team. We are processing these applications and getting people out at a record pace. We are working with congress right now, including the two representatives mentioned, to streamline some of the requirements that slow the process down. We're doing the extensive planning for potential evacuation should it become necessary. We'll take all these steps to do right by the people who did right by us. The Taliban attacks have increased since the president's announcement in April. There's some talk that the withdrawal will have to be will it have to be delayed? We're watching every week to see whether or not it lines up with our effort to ensure there's a sufficient security presence at the embassy and the airport will be secure. We'll do another check-in this coming week.- there's been no plans to change the proposition that the president laid down, which is that all American forces will be out and they'll be out well before the deadline he set out. Jake Sullivan, thanks for

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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