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Kerry: All Sides Agree to Keep Talking; Kerry Meets with Russians;

Aired March 5, 2014 - 18:28   ET


VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Yes, Wolf, it seems like the president's policy of tough diplomacy is actually paying off for us now.

S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: Yes. I'm not sure which John Kerry Van saw today. I saw one that is empty handed. The debate starts now.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, is the president blind to the threat from Russia?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our president is weak and indecisive in the eyes of the world right now.

ANNOUNCER: Or is the Obama administration's tough diplomacy starting to work?

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think today was very constructive.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Van Jones. On the right, S.E. Cupp. In the CROSSFIRE, Representative Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat, and Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican.

Who is making the U.S. look weak on the world stage? Obama, Putin or the Republicans? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.


JONES: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. We're going to continue CNN's breaking news coverage of the crisis in Ukraine. I'm Van Jones on the left.

CUPP: I'm S.E. Cupp on the right. In the CROSSFIRE tonight a Democrat and Republican from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

It's been a big day of breaking news. Armed men hassled the U.N.'s envoy to the Ukraine today before forcing him to leave Crimea. Secretary of State John Kerry met with the Russians and the Ukrainians today in Paris but couldn't get them to talk directly to each other. And Kerry had this to say.


KERRY: Ukraine's territorial integrity must be restored and must be respected. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CUPP: But we're all still unclear about how the U.S. will enforce that. Yesterday President Obama said Putin was pausing. Today Putin threatened to confiscate U.S. and European assets if we impose sanctions. When will we learn to take Putin seriously?

JONES: Well, I think we are taking him pretty seriously. And I think if you can see what Kerry has been doing, you're going to agree.

But first, I want to bring in our guests here. We're very lucky to have two congresspeople, both of you on the Foreign Affairs Committee. I would think -- you've served in the military, sir, I would think that this would be a time when the country would come together, but instead what I'm hearing from Republicans are just shocking comments that not only put Obama down but lift Putin up. I want your response to this here.


REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), HOUSE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Putin is playing chess, and I think we're playing marbles. And I don't think it's even close.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: He makes a decision and he executes it quickly. Then everybody reacts. That's what you call a leader.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates.


JONES: Now I'm shocked that -- listen, we can have our differences, our disagreements. This is a global crisis. We can be on the edge of war, and we have Republicans building up Putin. Would you like America to be led by a leader like Putin?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: I would have loved to have seen this kind of unity during the wars that we fought in the past ten years. We've been a nation at war. We fought terrorism. We fought tyranny. And I would love to see it.

Look, I think we're in a -- we have to walk a fine line here. So I did BBC Radio. I talk oversees. And I don't attack the president and that, because I understand that outside we have to be a unified country, but I think it's legit to have a discussion here and say, how do we get to this point? You know?

JONES: Listen, I think it's fine to have the discussion, but I think sometimes the tone is not appropriate and not helpful. Congressman, do you feel like the tone from your fellow Republicans has been helpful in this situation?

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Look, I think in times of national crisis, we should be banding together, not trying to use it for cheap political gain. That's the wrong thing to do. Putin may be a strong leader, but would any of us want to live in his type of country where he's a thug and he rises to the top because he's the most ruthless? We don't want that kind of leader.

CUPP: Yes. And I think, Congressman Engel, Republicans are not trying to build Putin up. Republicans are pissed, because it feels like the president and this administration has underestimated Putin for the past five years.

I mean, we knew through WikiLeaks that diplomatic cables going back to 2006 showed that Ukraine was worried about a Russian invasion. We knew some of this from the start, but Hillary Clinton and President Obama seemed to think that Russia was a good actor, a reliable partner five years ago. Van's pointed out, you know, Russia's not been a good actor for a very long time.

ENGEL: Well, Russia hasn't been a good actor for a very long time. But, you know, what did we say when President Bush was president and Russia came into Georgia and took away Abkhazia and South Ossetia? They still occupy those places today. So it's very easy to say that a president should be doing something different --

CUPP: Yes, but my question --

ENGEL: Easier said than done.

CUPP: -- on that, and I've heard that response before about President Bush and Georgia, but it seems to me that if you're suggesting we should have been stronger after the Georgian invasion, aren't you suggesting we should be stronger now, too?

ENGEL: I think we should be strong now. I agree with that. We should have been strong then; I think we should be strong now.

I think that we have to do two things. We have to bolster Ukraine, because we want them looking -- looking west, and we have to punish Russia. And at the same time, you know, we looked in Iran, and we found sanctions that, you know, the Iranians are negotiating with us, because our sanctions brought them to their knees. It may have to be that we contemplate doing the same type of sanctions --

KINZINGER: Eliot and I are good friends. And that's what's great about foreign policy.

CUPP: We hate that here in the CROSSFIRE.

KINZINGER: I know. But a lot of it is interesting, because we are unified on the Foreign Policy Committee, and we talk about a lot of things.

I do want to make the point about Georgia, though, and the difference between the reaction of President Obama in Ukraine and in Georgia. Russia invades Georgia. The best Georgian troops were actually in Iraq fighting with us in the Iraq war. So President Bush made the decision that we were going to fly C-17s with Georgian troops into Georgia. Russia made the comment that that would be an act of war, the United States getting involved. And the president said, "We're doing it anyway." And they didn't do anything. In fact, they at many points, the troops were actually near Tbilisi, and then we saw a couple of vessels steam into the Black Sea.

JONES: Let me ask you a question then, because this is interesting. Are you arguing now that you think the United States should respond militarily in this situation?


JONES: Then what's your point?

KINZINGER: -- because this is a different environment. The Ukraine's far different. We never got involved militarily in Georgia, but there were limited options we had, like bringing the best Georgian troops back to fight the Russians.

JONES: But what I think is interesting, though, is that you did have George W. Bush face a very similar situation. You don't think that he should have gone in militarily, aggressively start some war. This president is not doing that. I don't understand what the critique is of what -- how the president is handling this situation. Wouldn't you agree that the president's handling this situation, as it hits his desk right now, appropriately?

KINZINGER: You know, look, I think we can't go to war. I think that's very clear. There's no military option here.

And so I've tried to stand with the administration and say in Congress tomorrow we're going to talk about sanctions. Eliot's done a good job of leading that with Ed Royce. We're going to talk about ways to punish Russia for that.

I actually think we need to take the fact that America in 2020 is going to be the leading world energy producer. So let's talk about that using that to be an offset to the Russians, because their energy -- energy is their weapon. That's what they're using.

So if we're in this for the long game and looking to make Russia a pariah state for the long game, that's where the president needs to be talking. That's where Kerry needs to be talking. I'm not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) critical --

JONES: I agree. Listen, I think there's a lot to be said for that. As you know, I'm more of a clean energy guy, but I do think that taking that away from Russia, that their monopoly in terms of energy is good. But it seems to me that the Republicans are missing an opportunity to look more bipartisan here.

CUPP: Well, Congressman Engel, I think what bothers Republicans is how much the president and the administration seems to have empowered Putin over the past few years. Just to give you a couple of examples. Russia controls the northern distribution network, which is one of the main access -- access points in Afghanistan that our troops rely on to get supplies and food and water. Putin controls that.

Putin is controlling our Syria chemical weapons collection deal, which is a farce. Putin is undermining our negotiations in Iran. Have we given him too much power? Why has President Obama seemingly trusted him on so many fronts?

ENGEL; We don't trust him, you know. We don't trust him at all. I do think that there's some commonality of interests between us and Russia. We both are opposed to Islamic terrorism. We both want to make sure that Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapon. So we work with the Russians when we need to. But I don't think it empowers Putin.

Look, I think Putin is a very bad guy, and my colleague here is absolutely right. On the Foreign Affairs Committee, we are the most bipartisan committee in Congress, because I really believe that foreign policy should be bipartisan. I practice it, and the chairman of our committee, Ed Royce, practices it, as well.

And I think that tomorrow we're going to mark up a very important bill, which is a sense of Congress, and then we're also going to vote on the first billion dollars of loan guarantees for Iran.

CUPP: I wish -- I wish Bush's foreign policy had been bipartisan, as well.

JONES: I think we voted for you quite a bit.

But look, when we get back, Hillary Clinton is actually getting some unlikely praise from some Republicans. Some have been speaking well. John McCain, Marco Rubio. Next we're going to talk about why her controversial comments are actually getting her some support.


JONES: Welcome back to CNN's breaking news coverage of the crisis in the Ukraine.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we have two members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Now, after meeting separately with top officials from Russia and Ukraine today in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry sounded actually pretty upbeat. Now, we're not out of the woods yet, but President Obama's approach to diplomacy and threatened action actually seems to be working.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are using this crisis to, surprise, call for more Pentagon spending. Now, we already have the world's biggest military budget and I think Putin already knows that. Today's complex geopolitical threats actually require diplomacy, economic sanctions, cyber warfare plus a smarter military and not just a bigger one. So, I want to talk with you about this, Congressman. In this particular situation, now, obviously, you don't know what the future brings up.


JONES: But right now, us having more tanks or a bigger military budget wouldn't make any difference at all, would it? Do you think Putin would be acting differently if we had a thousand more tanks? We're not going to (INAUDIBLE) any tanks.

KINZINGER: I think when America's strength and what America has in military that's unmatched by any, I think it stops a lot of tyrants from doing a lot of things, the mere threat of military action.

JONES: But in this situation, we had nuclear weapons and Putin didn't seem to care.

KINZINGER: I don't think a bigger military today would have stopped, you know, this in Ukraine. Part of that was the Syrian red line debacle.

But that said, you know, I think it's important to maintain the fact that we have a big military. Half of our military spending goes to paying benefits. So, that's important. We need that.

But that means that every day, we're crowding out what we're spending on new airplanes, new ships, stuff like that.

CUPP: Congressman, Hillary Clinton had controversial remarks yesterday. She basically repeated them today. I want to play them and get your take on that.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Now, if this sounds familiar, it's what Hitler did back in the '30s. All the Germans that were, you know, the ethnic German, the Germans by ancestry, who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, you know, Hitler kept saying, "They're not being treated right. I must go and protect my people." And that's what's gotten everybody so nervous.


CUPP: Now, Congressman, I don't disagree with her. But if Hillary Clinton believes that Putin is acting like Hitler, then wasn't Mitt Romney right to say that Russia was our number one geopolitical foe?

ENGEL: Well, I think Russia is a foe, there's no doubt about that. And I think Hillary Clinton was right on the money.

CUPP: Yes, but, Congressman, Mitt Romney was laughed by Democrats when he said that, he was mocked by the president himself. Isn't that embarrassing for the Democrats looking back now?

ENGEL: Not embarrassing at all. I think what Hillary Clinton said was right on the money when Hitler invaded Sudetenland to protect ethnic Germans, you could promote an analogy to Putin doing this in Ukraine to reportedly support ethnic Russians. It was a lie then and it's a lie now.

CUPP: Oh, I agree. I agree. I think that just bolsters what Mitt Romney had to say about Russia in hindsight.

JONES: But, I mean, the problem with Romney's comment was he said it was the number one geopolitical threat and I think there are many other threats. I think you probably agree with that.

Also, since you mentioned Hillary Clinton, she's actually still very, very popular and very well-respected around the world. Do you find any objections to what Hillary Clinton said?

KINZINGER: No, I think the word -- when you use the word "Hitler" and "Nazi", it can be kind of distracting and seemed like it's a lot bigger. But I think the actual regional discussion of what it is, is accurate.

If you look at what's happened in Ukraine, Stalin actually ethnically cleansed the eastern part of Ukraine and then populated it with Russians. So, today, he can say I'm protecting Russians, right?

So, I think what she said on the surface was correct. Obviously, when you say Hitler and Nazi, it has different connotation.

JONES: Yes, it seems like to me, there were massive over-reactions to what she said, and any time somebody tries to get a history lesson and doesn't want us to be the United States of amnesia, actually remember our history, people find opportunities to go --


KINZINGER: That's why it's important to stand strong now, because if this is a situation like we faced in Europe, it was weak reaction. It was the Neville Chamberlain moment in (INAUDIBLE) War World II and a lot of --

ENGEL: Well, she's the next president of the United States. That's why everybody likes what she has to say.

CUPP: Well, let's level with each other, Congressman, because I think that the president has made some serious foreign policy mistakes that Hillary Clinton might have to defend or explain if she runs.

But I also think the president has been right on a couple of things. I think it was the right call to go into Libya. I think we left a little too early and that's why it's a mess now. But I thought that was the right call.

So, rather than me saying the president is wrong on everything and you saying the president is right on everything, can you admit that he's made some foreign policy mistakes on Iran, for example?

ENGEL: Well, I don't know if it's mistakes. Look, the president -- I was very vocal in saying we should have struck in Syria. I disagreed with the fact that the president went back to Congress. I didn't think he needed to do so under the War Powers Act.

There are things which I disagree, but he's our commander in chief.

CUPP: Right.

ENGEL: He's not the Democratic commander in chief. He's the United States commander in chief. And I think in times of crisis right now, we should be rallying around him.

He needs to involve as many of our European allies as he can so that if we impose sanctions, if we work together, we'll be much stronger. And that's what he's attempting to do. I think Kerry going to Kiev is very important to show the Ukrainians that we haven't forgotten them. I hope to go to Kiev soon as well.

CUPP: OK. Well, stay here for now. Don't go to Kiev just yet.

We want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" questions. Hillary Clinton said Putin's actions are like what Hitler did back in the '30s. Do you agree? Tweet yes or no using #crossfire. We'll have the results after the break.

We also have the outrages of day, including a Jersey girl who needs to grow up.


CUPP: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

It's time for our outrages of the day.

A teenage girl in New Jersey has had enough of all the annoying rules her parents set forth. Stuff like a curfew and, like, chores, totally terrible.

So according to her parents, Rachel Canning left home voluntarily left home to go be an adult on her own. And then, she promptly sued her parents for weekly child support, the remaining tuition at her high school, and her upcoming tuition for college.

Rachel, honey, let me explain how adulthood works. You pay for stuff yourself. So, stop being a terrible person and make up with your parents. You'll thank me later.

JONES: Well, first of all, thank you, ditto. And --

CUPP: We can unite on this?

JONES: We can. And, Cabral and Mitai (ph), don't get any crazy ideas.

CUPP: Yes, but Canning brought us together.

JONES: Exactly. So, anyway, my outrage is somewhat different. I am outraged that we are not doing enough to stop global warming. Now, at home you might say, eh, I don't care. A world without polar ice caps, eh. A world without dozens of coastal cities and islands swamped by raising seas, eh.

I got something I think you're going to care about. Can you imagine a world without guacamole?

CUPP: What?

JONES: Guacamole. That's right. Now, I have your attention.

Lawrence Livermore National Labs is predicting that hotter temperatures is going to cause a 40 percent drop in California's avocado production. That's a true fact. Now, Chipotle, the national restaurant chain, just doing the math, it says it may have to stop serving this stuff.

CUPP: This got serious.

JONES: See, this is serious stuff.

Now, avocado is not the only crop in danger. This is my point. If you want to keep eating green stuff, America, we have to start using green energy. Are you with me?

CUPP: It's that real. I mean, that's serious. I love my guacamole.

JONES: See, good. So, we got --

CUPP: Talk to me when it affects bacon. Then I'll really get jazzed about it.

OK. So, let's check back on our "Fireback" results. Hillary Clinton said Putin's actions are like what Putin did back in the '30s. Right now, 67 percent of you say yes, 30 percent say no.

Congressman Engel, last night on the show I asked Governor Howard Dean if the failed Russian reset that Hillary helped oversee is going to come back to haunt her if she runs in 2016. He said that that was a question that was out of bounds. Are we going to be allowed to bring up her record if she runs or is that off limits, too?

ENGEL: I hope you bring up her record because I think she was one of the most outstanding secretaries of state in my lifetime.

CUPP: Fair enough.

JONES: I agree. And so --

CUPP: Good. I think her record is on limits.

JONES: And the American public also agrees, incredibly popular.

So, I want to thank Representatives Eliot Engel and Adam Kinzinger. The debate will continue online at, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

From the left, I'm Van Jones.

CUPP: From the right, I'm S.E. Cupp.

Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.