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Crisis in Crimea; Interview with Bill Richardson; Interview with Liz Wahl; Putin's Grand Plan?; Inside The Mind Of Vladimir Putin; GOP Senator Lindsey Graham Defends Tweets About President Obama

Aired March 5, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. We are live from Kiev, Ukraine tonight. Another day of dramatic developments both on the ground in Crimea and also fast-moving diplomatic developments here in Kiev, also in Europe and in the United States. We want to get to all of that in the hour ahead.

I just want to set the scene, tough, a little bit of exactly where we are just to give you a sense. This is one of the main roads going down into Independence Square. As you can see, there are barricades still all in place. This is very much still an active site of protest. There are still protesters here who are camped out. You can see some of them down there huddled around a fire, trying to stay warm.

But this is also very much a shrine, a memorial to those who died here. More than 80 people died here, a little bit more than a week and a half ago.

I want to show you just one of many shrines all throughout this square, five people died right here on this spot and they are memorialized here. You can see their photographs pasted here, their names, some of the personal information. People placed rosaries. And if you're wondering what these are, these are actually shields, riot police shields and some of them are kind of makeshift shields that the protesters used to try to hide behind, to try to save themselves from snipers' bullets.

But people come here all day long. There are flowers placed out here. People pray, you see people crying throughout the day. There's also all of these images drawn by children of the -- of the protests, of the situation here in Ukraine. This is very much a shrine to those who have died as well as an active protest site, and the protesters, as we talked about last night, say they are going to stay here until real change has come to the new government here in Kiev.

There are late developments, breaking news to tell you about tonight. We are getting some early indications, early indications from inside sources about how spontaneous the Russian incursion was.

Also developments on the diplomatic front, as we mentioned. Counter threats from Moscow as well about economic sanctions, from Moscow to the European Union and the United States. America's former top diplomat, Hillary Clinton, comparing Putin's actions to Hitler's actions. We'll talk about that ahead.

It was a day when the talking between all the parties began in earnest, but also a day that tensions stayed very high on the ground. Take a look.


COOPER (voice-over): The crisis in Crimea spilled over into the streets Wednesday. An anti-Russian group of protesters is attacked by Putin's supporters in this video from YouTube.

The local Ukrainian police eventually step in to keep the peace.

Tense and dangerous moments, too, for U.N. envoy Robert Serry in Crimea. His convoy surrounded by pro-Russian gunmen demanding he leave the region. Serry then seeks refuge in this coffee shop.

ROBERT SERRY, UNITED NATIONS ENVOY: I'm in the cafe waiting for somebody to get me out of here.

COOPER: The gunmen surrounded the shop with Serry inside. Serry is eventually given safe passage outside and is forced to abandon his mission and head to the airport.

And at sea, in this harbor near Crimea's capital, the Russian Navy blockades two Ukrainian military ships. With patience wearing thin, Ukraine's active prime minister in an interview with CNN's Matthew Chance channels a Cold War president, not from Russia, but from the U.S.

ARSENIY YATSENYUK, UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER: My key demand to Russian president and Russian government, immediately pull back your military. Do not invade Ukraine. My message to President Putin is as follows. Mr. Putin, tear down this wall.

COOPER: Meanwhile Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, continued to push Putin's message from yesterday. It's self-defense forces he says not troops from Russia controlling Crimea.

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (Through Translator): Self- defense forces created by the Crimean residents. We do not command them. They don't take our command. As to the military of the Black Sea Fleet, they are on their bases.

COOPER: Never mind the fact that only days ago Russian's Foreign Ministry admitted its troops were inside Crimea. And late in the day Secretary of State John Kerry met with Lavrov and brought along the Ukrainian foreign minister in the hopes that he could get them both to the table. Lavrov refused.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Russia made a choice and we have clearly stated that we believe it is the wrong choice to move troops into Crimea. Russia can now choose to deescalate this situation and we are committed to working with Russia. And together with our friends and allies in an effort to provide a way for this entire situation to find the road to de-escalation. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: There is breaking news tonight. What we're learning about exactly how the Russian invasion came together. Just pieces of information starting to form a clearer picture, whether there was a lot of advanced planning or that the plan was launched really on the fly by Russia, implications for U.S. intelligence agencies obviously which are being slammed in some quarters for being caught off guard.

Joining me now is Jim Sciutto, CNN's national security correspondent. Also Robert Baer. Bob Baer, CNN national security analyst and a former CIA officer.

So, Jim, you're hearing -- learning new information about when Vladimir Putin decided to move into Crimea. What do you know?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, speaking to intelligence officials as well as other officials who read these reports last week, these intelligence assessments of what was happening and what was likely to happen, there are indications that this was not a vastly premeditated decision by Vladimir Putin to take military action on the ground. That it was a relatively last minute decision and that is one reason why it was difficult to predict.

You know, speaking to these officials, they also say he's an unpredictable character, he's done this kind of thing before, last- minute decisions, this sort of thing, and that that was a variable in there that made it difficult for them to say he was definitely going to act, when was he going to act, and indeed he did and caught many off guard.

COOPER: Well, Bob, I'm curious here, your perspective on this as a former CIA officer, I mean, over the last days or so, there have been several members of Congress who have been very critical of the CIA asking why didn't the CIA or the United States know that Putin was going to respond militarily until he had already done it.

Did this new information that this was maybe -- perhaps a last-minute decision explain why the U.S. didn't know what was going on or do you see this -- was there a failure of intelligence?

ROBERT BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Anderson, I see a failure of intelligence. Putin invaded Georgia in 2008 right before the Olympics. It's clear that he was ready to bring down an enormous amount of security forces to control his border within Russia. He's threatened to protect Russians in the near abroad as it's called. It was perfectly, you know, logical act for him to take once the Ukraine started to go under.

I think that should have been predicted. I think there should have been a heads up to the State Department as well as the White House. Get somebody to Moscow, talk him out of this. I think you can only look at this as a failure. I mean, you look at the Russians are insistent on protecting Russians on their borders and they will take action. And so as it deteriorated, we should have known that, what he was going to do.

COOPER: So, Bob, how do see that? I mean, Senator Dianne Feinstein saying the U.S. has got to deploy its resources better in terms of -- in terms of intelligence. Do you agree with that? I mean, there are those who say that U.S. intelligence capabilities toward Russia have sort of atrophied since so much focus is now on terror -- fighting terror?

BAER: I saw it myself atrophy after the wall came down in the '90s. We were told to lay off Russia. It was an ally. It wasn't a threat. We were going to cooperate with the Russians. I was in a station overseas and we just -- we unplugged the telephone taps. We stopped targeting Russians and of course along comes 9/11 and we take all of our intelligence sources and put them in Afghanistan and of course Iraq.

And atrophy is not the word for it. We more or less closed down Moscow. I know the CIA says yes, we kept some people there. They did a good job, yes. But not like during the Cold War when we focused on this country. And with Putin clearly intending to establish -- re- establish the Russian empire in some form, I think we're going to look at this as a mistake as this -- as this continues.

COOPER: Wow. It's really fascinating to hear that.

Jim, I know the CIA released a statement saying that they had been updating policymakers with different scenarios, including one similar to what is going on now in Crimea. What else are officials saying?

SCIUTTO: Well, this is what they're saying, and keep in mind this is happening as they're taking criticism from Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, from Diana Feinstein and others about this. But what they're doing in response to that is releasing a fairly impressive amount of detail as to what was in those reports, those assessments coming through last week.

I have been told by officials that those reports included multiple tools that Putin had at his disposal, including things that turned out to happen. For instance, taking some of troops out of those bases in Crimea, troops that are already there, and deploying them inside sovereign territory, and also using some of these militias, you know, these unofficial, un-uniformed troops. Some of which you saw acting -- you know, taking on some of those anti-Russian demonstrations earlier. Basically groups of thugs. That sort of thing.

But let me give you a public statement that just came from the director of National Intelligence, Sean Turner, a spokesman there, again pushing back, saying, "On February 26th, for example, the intelligence community warned that Crimea was a flash point for Russian-Ukrainian military conflict. It clearly stated that the Russian military was likely making preparations for contingency operations in the Crimea. And noted that such operations could be executed with little additional warning."

And I am told -- they listed a number of these scenarios and among those scenarios they listed were things like we've seen happen here with the militias and so on. Now of course the question is --

COOPER: Right.

SCIUTTO: The question is, could they say when that would happen? And clearly they couldn't tell and could not accurately tell when it would happen.

COOPER: Right, Jim Sciutto, stick around, we're going to come back to you shortly.

Bob Baer, great to have you on the program as well.

I want to take a look more at what motivates Putin shortly with former National Security adviser, Stephen Hadley who sat across the table from him on a number of occasions.

Right now let's bring in Ben Wedeman who's on the ground in Crimea for us and has been now really since the start of this and with me throughout the hour. Former CNN Moscow bureau chief Jill Daugherty, she's currently a senior fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Ben, let me start off with you, in terms of what you saw on the ground today, what happened?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we were outside, Anderson, the headquarters of the Ukrainian Navy in Sevastopol where really there's another one of these standoffs going on but we really saw the personal cost. We spoke to the wives of some of the men inside the Navy headquarters there and they were trying to sneak food into the headquarters.

It's surrounded by not only these men in green, Russian forces, but also these irregulars, part of -- what they call themselves a civil defense group, civilians, pro-Russian civilians, and it was really a game of cat and mouse all day long as women would try to sneak up to windows and put -- shove food through it. Others we saw one woman with, looked like her 2-year-old daughter who tried to go up to the front gate and who sort of shouted back, being called a provocateur.

So really the standoff continues here and throughout Crimea at the various military installations. And even though we didn't have incidents like yesterday where shots were fired in the air, a tense situation and for many people very anxious on a personal level as they're trying to keep in touch with their loved ones inside these military installations but simply can't get through.

In fact we saw a representative of the Sevastopol Red Cross try to get into the Navy headquarters with medicine, with food, with water and they were stopped -- Anderson.

COOPER: And then the newly installed pro-Russian prime minister of Crimea told CNN today that the descriptions that the realities on the ground in Crimea have been overblown and that the, quote, "people of Crimea" are controlling the situation themselves.

You're there. Are the people in Crimea controlling this situation there themselves? Is there truth to that?

WEDEMAN: Well, I have to say there's -- it's not a situation of chaos or disorder. In fact, outside of those areas around the military bases, it's amazing how normal life appears to be. People are going out, restaurants, bars, life really does appear to be normal, except around these military installations. We were at another Navy installation right by the sea, not far from here, and there were Russians right across the street from the main gate of that Navy base, but they were sort of hidden away.

So if you drove up you wouldn't realize that there was a contingent of men in green, Russians, whatever you want to call them, right across the street. Meanwhile, however, families were coming up, wives were coming up, with food, with cigarettes, with drinks for their loved ones inside. So there are real pockets of tension.

COOPER: Ben Wedeman, be careful, thanks for joining us tonight.

I want to dig deeper into how these negotiations play out with Jill Dougherty. Also a counterpart Russian's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov really is, also joining us is former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson.

Ambassador, thanks very much for being with us. I'm here on the ground with Jill Dougherty who's also I know going to be asking you questions. In his meeting with foreign ministers from around the world, including Russia, Secretary of State John Kerry, he emphasized the importance to resolve this through dialogue. And he said he saw that as a positive sign that all sides agreed on the importance of dialogue.

Do you believe that dialogue and diplomacy will work in Russia? And is that a positive sign or did not much actually get accomplished today?

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, it's a positive sign, the fact that you had all the foreign ministers in one room, especially Ukraine and Russia, although Russia refused to talk directly with a Ukrainian. It's a good move. Because I think what needs to happen is for the Russians to see, for Lavrov to see who's extremely skillful that Germany is behind our effort, that France, especially the members of the Security Council -- France, Germany, the United States -- that they're united, that this is a real, coordinated effort.

But getting people together in a room to diffuse tension is important. So I think it was an important step, especially if the Germans were there because they're the strongest economic country in Europe and they're the country with the most natural gas energy ties to Russia. So if they start slipping away and not join the sanctions or the pressure, then Russia is almost home free when it comes to Europe.

JILL DOUGHERTY, FELLOW, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Ambassador Richardson, you've done a lot of negotiating, obviously. As you look at this situation, do you feel that there is a planned strategic approach to this or is there a more of an ad hoc -- an impression of an ad hoc nature that -- on the decision-making by Putin?

RICHARDSON: Well, I think, Jill, because Putin is so unpredictable, because the Russians are all over the place on their intentions, it has to almost be ad hoc. I mean, one of the bad sides of today was the U.N. envoy literally being expelled, pushed out of Crimea, if a solution is going to involve human rights monitors and observers, that's not a good sign and it sort of throws away the argument that the Russian military there is self-defense forces.

They're serious military people and somebody must have told them to go hard on that -- on that U.N. envoy. I don't think it was high officials like Putin, but that's not a good sign. So it has to be ad hoc.

I think the goals have to be clear -- deescalate the conflict. Get Ukraine and Russia to talk to each other. Find ways to put some monitors and human rights observers there. But most importantly, put the pressure on Putin that the sanctions are going to happen, that there's going to be diplomatic isolation. Otherwise he's going to call our bluff and be more aggressive.

COOPER: Jill, Secretary Kerry today said that he had had no intentions that Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, would actually meet with the Ukrainian foreign minister. But clearly, I mean, they have flown the Ukrainian foreign minister there specifically for these meetings. There must have been some hope that they would actually meet.

DOUGHERTY: Yes. Even as you say it wasn't. But they're still not. They're saying that they will not talk to them and that's one of the key problems because they still say that this is an illegitimate regime and therefore they can't do anything. So you have to find a way of breaking through.

Now I know that Kerry and Lavrov I believe are going to meet again tomorrow.

COOPER: Right. Yes.

DOUGHERTY: Lavrov goes back, he has to talk to Putin. Maybe there is this now, Lavrov directly going back to Putin very quickly and making some decisions. It has to come from Putin.

COOPER: Is that how it works, Ambassador? I mean, you've dealt the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. So he then now has conversations with Putin. What do you anticipate the next step being?

RICHARDSON: Well, the next step is, yes, I think Jill is right. He has to get an OK from Putin. But Lavrov is very skillful. By the way, his English is impeccable. Impeccable. I dealt with him when I was U.N. ambassador. He was the Russian Permanent Representative. He's detail oriented, he's tough, he knows America well, he knows when we're serious and I think the fact that there is a very strong reaction in the American government Lavrov knows and he hopefully will tell Putin, hey, we can't go too far on this. We have to deescalate. So in a way I'm pleased with that. At the same time I do think that it's still a very tense situation and we have to keep the pressure on and I think in Europe, Germany is the key, France and Britain, following with Germany, taking a stronger lead I think is really very important.

COOPER: Yes. Tense indeed.

Ambassador Richardson, it's always good to have you on the program. Thank you for your perspective. A lot more ahead including the question of Putin's motivations. Do they include rebuilding the old Soviet Union or restoring Russia to its former glory?

Next on our Russian control network also, and the TV network, one American anchor actually made a dramatic stand, resigning. We'll show it to you. And we're going to talk to her. She joins us live as our coverage continues.


COOPER: Hey, welcome back to our coverage here of the crisis in Ukraine. Coming to you live from Kiev's Independent Square.

Dramatic move today by an anchor for the network Russia Today America. Her name is Liz Wahl. She's an American who works in the Russian Today America's Washington bureau. She accused her employer of glossing over the actions of Vladimir Putin in Crimea and then on the air, she quit. Take a look.


LIZ WAHL, FORMER ANCHOR, RUSSIA TODAY AMERICA: I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin. I'm proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth. And that is why after this newscast, I'm resigning.


COOPER: Liz Wahl joins us now as her first TV interview since quitting RT America. Also, Jill Dougherty is back with us. She'll also be asking questions.

Liz, it's good to have you on the program. Obviously, your announcement stunned a lot of people. Why did you decide to resign during your newscast? Because you've been working there for, like, two and a half years. Clearly you're familiar with the perspective of RT America, and the kind of stuff -- the kind of stories they put on the air. So why today?

WAHL: Why today? That's a good question. I think the coverage, I mean, as we're in this diplomatic standoff and during the escalation of this crisis in Crimea, I think the propagandist nature of RT came out in full force.

Today, for example, I had an interview with Ron Paul. The only question that I asked -- I asked many questions. I asked about the Russian intervention, you know, he has a very anti-intervention approach. I asked him in the wake of escalation by the Russian military how long -- you know, how should we respond to this, how should the U.S. respond to this? And that question was cut out of the interview.

There was another segment today. It was a news package from one of our correspondents that painted the opposition over there in the Ukraine as having neo-Nazi elements. And I think that's very dangerous when you have a new government instability over there. And I'm sure that there are, in fact, neo-Nazi elements, but to portray the entire opposition as being part of this right-wing extremist group is going along with the narrative that Vladimir Putin wants to go along with and --

COOPER: So was this something -- was this something you -- was this something you had always felt pressure? I mean, how does it work at RT? You know, where do directions come from?

WAHL: The direction comes from management and I think -- there's a lot of young people that work there, some people inexperienced, and I think that they're eager to please management. There's a form of self-censorship that you learn. Eventually you learn what management likes, what management dislikes.

Today, especially with the heightened situation in Crimea, overtly questions are being written, that very, very loaded questions. Questions basically to paint the picture and to present the Putin perspective in all of this.

And I just think -- I mean I would hope as a reporter and in life, you should always seek the truth, spread the truth, disseminate the truth. And what's clear is what's happening right now amid this crisis is that RT is not about the truth. It's about promoting a Putinist agenda. And I can tell you firsthand, it's also about bashing America.

And I kind of cited some of my background, where I came from and why I am proud to be an American. In recent days, I have been suffering from a lot of cognitive dissidence and felt that I could no longer work here and go on television and tell the American people that this is what's happening and how to pose as news. It's just something --


COOPER: Liz, I want to bring in --

WAHL: -- I don't feel comfortable with.

COOPER: I want to -- I want to bring in Jill who's at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government because she actually spends a lot of time now focusing on the media in Russia. And I know you wanted to talk to Liz.

DOUGHERTY: Yes. Liz, I just wanted to ask, what is happening right now with you? Have there been repercussions? And how is RT going to explain this? Because there was a previous woman who said some things about the conflict --

COOPER: Abby Martin.

DOUGHERTY: Abby Martin. And RT said, look, all our anchors can express their views freely. Have you had any reaction from the management?

WAHL: Well, it's all happening very quickly. This happened just a couple of hours ago. I haven't seen the official response. I kind of saw on Twitter before I went on today that they said that I'm doing this as a -- for personal gain, which couldn't be farther from the truth. I actually hesitated to speak on this for awhile for fear of repercussion.

So I don't know how they intend to retaliate against me or what actions are going to be taken against me. I can say that it is comforting that on social media, I have gotten an explosive response, really, really encouraging. People appreciating me coming forward with this. So that's been comforting for me.


COOPER: And Liz --

WAHL: In terms of how they're going to deal with this --

COOPER: Liz, you talked about --

WAHL: I don't know.

COOPER: Sorry, Liz. There's a delay, which I don't mean to be talking over you. But just very briefly, you talked about management and pressure from management and even self-censorship. Who is management? Is -- are management Russian? I know there are a lot of young Americans who work there, and RT kind of bills itself as questioning authority, which is clearly their marketing strategy. But is management -- are they Russian?

WAHL: Management is Russian, yes. Middle management, they are American, and their role is to make sure -- it's kind of part of that censorship role to make sure we're in line, to make sure ultimately the narrative that the Russian -- you know, the guys calling the shots ultimately, we're based in the Moscow, funded by the Russian government.


WAHL: They kind of make sure that the narrative is delivered --


In one way or another.

COOPER: Right. Well, Liz, I appreciate you speaking on the program tonight. Thank you very much. I know it's probably been a surreal and a fast-moving day for you. I appreciate your time.

WAHL: I appreciate you.

COOPER: As Jill mentioned, her former colleague, Abby Martin, also spoke out on the air, she is on "PIERS MORGAN LIVE" at the top of the hour so hope you tune for that as well.

Just ahead tonight, where do Crimea, Ukraine fit into Vladimir Putin's long-term vision of a larger Russia? We'll take a look at that ahead.


COOPER: Earlier in the program, you heard two guests discussing whether or not Vladimir Putin has a long-term game plan or whether he's more instinctual in his strategy in the way he responds to events. He certainly made no secrets of his nostalgia for the old Soviet Union. Take a look.


PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): First of all and it should be acknowledged and I have spoken of this before, that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.


COOPER: The greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century, that was nearly nine years ago, the question is what are his ambitions now geographically. Back with Jim Sciutto and former George W. Bush national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, who saw from the White House Mr. Putin bring a piece of the Soviet Georgia back into the Russian sphere.

Mr. Hadley, good to have you on the program. Again, there's this belief among some, yourself included that what's happening in Ukraine is part of a larger attempt by President Putin to rebuild the sort of Russian empire, to dig in against the west. You and Jim are at the map. Tell us exactly what you're talking about and why. How do you see it?

STEPHEN HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, G.W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION: He's trying to build a series of institutions that in some sense mirror the institutions in the west. He's got a thing called the Eurasian Union. He's got a thing called the CSTO, which is a security organization sort of mirrored on NATO. So he is trying to build a set of institutions to rebuild, if you will, not a Soviet empire, but a Russian empire. And you can see how far he's gone so far.

SCIUTTO: We put those in red, the Eurasian Union and you have here three countries, Kazakhstan obviously Russia itself and Belarus already in the club as it were and then we were talking earlier about how he's pulling Kirgizstan and Armenia here, and Kirgizstan closer. They're not in it yet, but they're coming closer.

HADLEY: They're putting a lot of pressure on it. Armenia had an association agreement with the E.U. After three and a half hours in Moscow, Putin said we're going to go with the Eurasian Union, a lot of pressure on these countries.

SCIUTTO: You make the point. This is not a nice sort of kind invitation, right. There's diplomatic pressure. There's financial pressure.

HADLEY: But the key to making this work is Ukraine, with Ukraine because of its historical ties to Russia, because of its industry, because of its population, with Ukraine, this begins to look like a condensing empire. Without it, it's still a bit player, it's never going to rival the west.

SCIUTTO: I learned the word today in Slavic languages that Ukraine means buffer in the language of General Kimmitt told me this earlier. It is a buffer, literally and physically that's the idea there. This gives them a buffer against all these NATO allies here?

HADLEY: He would like to have Ukraine join this union. There's no question about it. He's misplayed it. His man in Ukraine did not deliver and the Ukrainians have made it clear they want to go west. So what's his fall back strategy. His fall back strategy I think is take Crimea, what does that do? It creates a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia.

Because of that territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia, and this is something Jill Dougherty mentioned last night. Because of that territorial dispute, the European countries will be reluctant to take into the E.U., to take into a NATO, a country that has a territorial dispute with Russia.

So it freezes these countries between east and west, buys him time so over the long-term, he can continue his persuasion and his blackmail to try to bring them east rather than west.

SCIUTTO: I'm glad you brought countries with territorial disputes. So here's another one, Georgia, bring up the map there, Anderson, so you can see that, Georgia, the last country he invaded in 2008. He's created that territorial dispute, right, because you have these two provinces, Abkhazia and South Acedia, which are now under Russian control. It makes it harder for Georgia to become a NATO-E.U. member?

HADLEY: Exactly.

COOPER: Mr. Hadley, do you think Vladimir Putin sees this as a zero sum game?

HADLEY: He does see it as a zero sum game and that is part of the problem. You know, we are not headed, I don't think, for a new cold war. But we also do not want to be headed for a re-division of Europe. You know, you're either on one side or the other. I think the trick in Ukraine is one, we need to help the Ukraine new government succeed, stabilize it economically, have it be able to bring a secure, positive future for their people.

We have got to take steps that will deter Putin from trying to run this play again. But certainly what would be really the optimal outcome is that Ukrainian people are free to choose to come into the E.U., free to choose to come into NATO, free to move west, but not in a way that severs the economic and historical ties with Russia.

Try to turn what Russia sees as a zero sum game to a game that Ukraine can move west without having to sever its ties to the east. That's a big challenge for our diplomacy, but that's really where we ought to try to be heading.

COOPER: And that's certainly something that Secretary of State Kerry when he was here in Ukraine kept trying to emphasize, the relationship between the Ukraine and Russia, the historic ties there, ties that according to Kerry will continue, to kind of mollify Russia on that front. Stephen Hadley, it's great to have you on the program and again, Jim Sciutto as well.

Up next, Hillary Clinton clarifying her comments comparing what Vladimir Putin's actions in Ukraine to what Hitler did as a justification for invading countries before World War II. We'll explain what she said today and a closer look at just who Vladimir Putin is. Stick around.


COOPER: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compares Vladimir Putin's actions to Hitler's in the run up to World War II in a comment at a private fundraiser yesterday in Long Beach, California. Clinton said that Putin is using the same type of justification for invading neighboring counties. Listen.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Today Putin basically said in a long press conference is that all I want to do is protect the rights of the minority, and he's been on a campaign to give everybody who has any Russian connection, there are a lot of retired Russian military in Crimea, he's given them all Russian passports. Now this sounds familiar, this is what Hitler did back in the 30s.


COOPER: Well, at UCLA today, Clinton clarified and said that she's not necessarily making a comparison between the two. But that Putin's claims of protecting Russians are reminiscent of the Nazis saying that they had to protect German minorities.

Joining me are Ariel Cohen, senior research fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Heritage Foundation. He's interviewed Vladimir Putin multiple times and Marsha Gessen, author of "The Man Without A Face, The Unlikely Rise Of Vladimir Putin."

Marsha, Hillary Clinton's comparison of actions taken by Vladimir Putin, his strategy to the strategy of Adolf Hitler, what do you make of it, is that an apt comparison?

MARSHA GESSEN, AUTHOR, "THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE, THE UNLIKELY RISE OF VLADIMIR PUTIN": I don't know if those comparisons are particularly useful. Then we get into a conversation about what the important distinctions are between Putin and Hitler. I think it's more useful to look at what Putin has done. What Putin has done is he's built an authoritarian regime over the course of the last 15 years.

That regime is veering into totalitarianism. He's in the midst of executing a huge political crackdown in his own country and now he's encroached on another country, violating its sovereignty. Those are pretty hideous things on their own. We can point to other awful things that he has done, escape goat minorities on his own country, systematically violate international law. I think that's enough.

COOPER: Well, Marsha, she also said that he was a tough guy with thinned skin, those were her words, that's a direct quote. I know you said that he's a playground bully. What do you mean?

GESSEN: Well, what I mean is that's the way he acts. He dominates, his goal is to dominate. When he's confronted, he obscures and that's exactly what he was doing yesterday at his press conference in Moscow. He didn't step away for a second from what he is doing in Crimea. What he did was what everybody expected him to sort of step up and create a great mobilization effort and call in the Russians to invade Ukraine.

Instead he acted like a playground bully who said that wasn't me, I didn't break that glass and he's not my friend anyway, while doing exactly what he's been doing and we know what he's been doing.

COOPER: You've met with Putin more than ten times with various groups, you said his training as an intelligence officer, plays into how he looks at everyone around him, he takes stock of the people he's playing against, explain that.

ARIEL COHEN, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW IN RUSSIAN AND EURASIAN STUDIES, THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Putin among other things was a recruiter. He was trained to deal with human assets. When you're dealing with a human asset, you assess the person who's in front of you, you predict his or her behavior. And he took a look at the team who's playing against him who he considers Russian enemies. He decides I'm bigger, I'm tougher. I'm stronger. I can kick their political behind.

COOPER: Marsha, do you think Vladimir Putin is planning long-term, that he has a long-term kind of view of the horizon or that his actions are more instinctual?

GESSEN: I think his planned horizon is non-existent. I think he act on instinct. He does what he feels right today. He is actually fairly consistent, but he have seen he has no ability to plan for the future.

COHEN: I disagree.

COOPER: Ariel, explain that. Why do you disagree because I mean, there is a strategy to his actions in Crimea and elsewhere.

COHEN: Marsha, you wrote a book on Putin, you know that he said in 2005 that the greatest catastrophe of the 20th Century was the collapse of the Soviet Union. His lifetime project now is the Eurasian Union for the 21st Century, which is his attempt to rectify this alleged historic injustice to Russia. And in order to do that, he needs to go and take territory that he considers as historic Russian territory such as the Crimea. It is a Ukrainian territory.

COOPER: Marsha, I want you to be able to respond to that then we got to finish.

GESSEN: You're quite right. He sees it as his historic mission to collect the lands back together that he sees as Russian. That mission predates his 2005 statement about the greatest -- it doesn't mean he has a strategy, but he has a mission that he acts day to day.

COOPER: Ariel Cohen I appreciate you being on. Marsha Gessen as well.

GESSEN: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next on the program, from here in Ukraine, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says that what's happening in Crimea to President Obama's response to Benghazi attacks. Our Dana Bash caught up with Graham today and her interview challenging him on that ahead. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back, live from Kiev. As we reported last night in the program, Senator Lindsay Graham has been one of the most vocal critiques of the Obama White House over the last few days. He lit up Twitter with a series of tweets in which he bluntly blamed the crisis in Ukraine on U.S. foreign policy.

And his most provocative tweet probably, he wrote this and said, it started with Benghazi, when you kill Americans and nobody pays a price, you invite this type of aggression. That comment and others he made have some crying foul.

Today, chief congressional correspondent, Dana Bash asked Senator Graham about his remarks. Dana joins me now. So Dana, you talked to Senator Graham, what did he have to say?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Anderson, Lindsey Graham is a Republican who actually worked with the Democratic president on national security issues in the past, but today he told me he has, in his words, gone, quote, "way too long without speaking bluntly about the president's foreign policy." And he was eager to explain his criticism to me.


BASH: Senator, one of the tweets that you sent that's getting a lot of attention raising eyebrows is about Benghazi. You said about the situation in the Ukraine, it really in many ways started with Benghazi when our consulate was over run and our first ambassador was killed. How on earth is what's happenings in the Ukraine a result of what happened in Benghazi?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It's not just about Ukraine. It's about our standing in the world. Wow you agree with Snowden is a hero or a traitor when our president tells them don't give him asylum, that hurts us. When you tell the Egyptian military, don't put Morsi and his crowd in jail, you challenge them to turn control back over to civilians, and nothing happens, that hurts us.

When you draw a red line and you tell Assad, when you use chemical weapons on your own people, that will be a red line, and you flinch. When you tell the world, we're going to find the people that killed our four Americans in Libya including the ambassador and you do nothing about it, whether you agree with this policy in Syria or Egypt, whether you agree with his policies, when he tells people there are going to be consequences and there are none, it sets in motion exactly what you see.

BASH: But it just seems like a stretch to talk about the U.S., a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed, to take that to Vladimir Putin.

GRAHAM: I didn't say that Putin basically ignored Obama because of Benghazi alone.

BASH: I printed out a series of tweets and it was sort of rapid fire mean tweeting at the president. Really personal.

GRAHAM: It is personal.

BASH: Calling him weak and indecisive, no fewer than three times.

GRAHAM: I think he is.

BASH: But by saying these things, aren't you making him weaker in the eyes of Putin by someone like you with your stature calling him weak and indecisive.

GRAHAM: During the Iraq war, did Senator Obama criticize Bush's policies? Did people go on the floor and say that Bush lied to us about weapons of mass destruction. Didn't Harry Reid go on the floor and say that the Iraq was lost? The point I'm trying to make is that there's been too many times in the last six months where the president has told people, if you don't do what I say, there will be consequences and nothing's happened.

BASH: You are in the middle of a Republican primary, back in your state?

GRAHAM: Exactly.

BASH: You say the word Benghazi, it is red meat for the Republican base. You know that.

GRAHAM: Republicans and independents want it no more.

BASH: This isn't about primary politics back home?

GRAHAM: Everything I have done has been about what I think is best for the country. I think it's best to find the truth about Benghazi. When my primary is over and I'm going to win, I'm going to still be on Benghazi.


BASH: Now what is fascinating is that despite the partisan divide you just heart there, which is very deep over the reasons for the crisis in the Ukraine, there's surprising similarity among Republicans and Democrats about what is absolutely not an option and that is military action -- Anderson.

COOPER: I spoke to Senator Marco Rubio last night on the program who actually was in favor of much of what the Obama White House has done thus far, which was certainly interesting to hear from Senator Rubio. Dana, I appreciate the reporting, thanks.

BASH: Thank you.

COOPER: And we'll be right back.


COOPER: Welcome back. A few quick notes, an exclusive about my first interview with former RT America anchor, Liz Wall, the network has issued a response, RT America has issued a response. We put it online in our web site, Tomorrow night, we'll have parts of my interview with opposition leader, Vitaly Clinchcov. I spoke to him here in Kiev. We'll see you in one hour for another edition of 360. That's 5 a.m. here Ukraine time in Kiev.

"PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now.