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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Secretary Of State Blinken Holds News Conference With Ukrainian Foreign Minister. Blinken: Meeting With Russian Foreign Minister Is Canceled; Ukrainian Foreign Minister: "Hit Russia's Economy Now And Hit It Hard"; Biden Hits Russia With New Sanctions Over "Flagrant Violation Of International Law" With Ukraine "Invasion"; Women's National Team, U.S. Soccer Reach $24M Equal Pay Settlement; Ukrainian Foreign Minister: "Absolutely" More Sanctions Needed On Russia. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 22, 2022 - 17:00   ET



ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The last 24 hours has demonstrated just the opposite. It hasn't been serious today, including with regard to the meeting that was planned for Thursday. We made clear that in the context of Russian invasion, we would not go forward with that meeting. If Moscow's approach changes, we remain, I remain very much prepared to engage

With regard to President Putin statement about NATO and the open door, it's very clear what we've seen in the last 24 hours, that this has never been about Ukraine and NATO, per se. What President Putin has made clear is that this is about the total subjugation of Ukraine to Russia. It's about reconstituting the Russian Empire or short of that, a sphere of influence, or shorter that the total neutrality of countries surrounding Russia.

And so the issue of Ukraine and NATO has really been an argument and excuse to mask the fact that what this is about is President Putin's view, that Ukraine is not a sovereign country, that it does not have an existence or independence, not associated in some fashion with Russia, a proposition that we not only firmly reject, but so does virtually every Ukrainian.

DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREING MINISTER: I can only reiterate what Secretary just said the NATO, NATO is a choice of the people of Ukraine. No one but Ukraine and NATO will decide on the future of our relationship. And it has never been about NATO for putting just an excuse. Even if we do nothing, President Putin will find a reason to accuse us of doing something.

Regarding our plans to evacuate Mariupol and Kharkiv, now we do not have such plans. We have two plans. Plan A is to utilize every tool of diplomacy to deter Russia and prevent further escalation. And if that fails, Plan B is to fight for every inch of our land, and every city and every village.

The -- to fight until we win, of course. And about the list of extermination, no we haven't received it officially. But I wouldn't exclude that search at least can exist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll turn to Olga Kurylenko (ph) from 1 plus 1 media.

OLGA KURYLENKO (ph), 1 PLUS 1 MEDIA: Good afternoon, Mr. Secretary of State, from your perspective, is Budapest Memorandum rather alive or dead? And do the United States recognize any legal obligations under it? And quick follow up to Mr. Kuleba, what actions do you expect from partners to be taken under Budapest? Thank you.

BLINKEN: Well, in effect, Russia began to tear up the Budapest Memorandum in 2014. When it seized Crimea, and went into the Donbas leading backing, financing, supporting the separatists in waging war in the Donbas. I think what we've seen in the last 24 hours, is the further recued repudiation of Budapest by Russia.

For our part, we have worked very hard over many years, and especially over the last year, to do everything we can to support Ukraine, to support its territorial integrity and sovereignty, its independence, through security assistance, in the last year alone, more than in any previous year, humanitarian assistance, financial assistance.

Just about 10 days ago, we provided an additional loan guarantee of a billion dollars to Ukraine, and of course, leading the effort internationally to build support for Ukraine in this hour of need. So we stand very much behind that that support, support expressed in the Budapest Memorandum and doing everything that we can to uphold Ukraine's independence it's security, its well-being.

KULEBA: Budapest Memorandum is not a collective defense treaty. So the truth is that never, no one promised us they would fight for us if we are attacked. This is not the subject matter of the Budapest Memorandum. But this document was concluded on the premise that first countries who provided security assurances to Ukraine will themselves not use force against us.


And second, if that happens, they will do their utmost to stop it. So this is exactly should be the subject of the consultations that Ukraine has initiated recently. Countries who belong to this legal and political field space created by the Budapest Memorandum have to come together and reach an agreement on which specific action can they take to protect Ukraine.

We understand that one of the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum is Russia, who as Secretary Blinken rightly said, violated all possible international documents and agreements. But this does not waive other countries of their responsibilities to do their best in order to help Ukraine. Ukraine is a country that exists in a security vacuum. This is true.

Our security guarantees our Ukrainian army and Ukrainian diplomacy. But we realize that but we do believe that the decisions taken in 1994 when the memorandum was -- Budapest memoranda was concluded, they should be respected. Because we sacrificed a lot to -- to make a long story short, we did a lot to strengthen global security by abandoning our nuclear arsenal. That was a huge contribution. And we expect on the principle of reciprocity, an equally huge contribution to ensuring Ukraine's security.


BEN HALL, FOX NEWS FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Thank you very much both for this today. Foreign Minister, there was a suggestion that what we've seen so far is a minor invasion, that there's more to come and so it only warrants sort of lesser U.S. sanctions. I wonder if that is your read as well.

And also you and President Zelenskyy called for tough sanctions to be placed on Russia before the invasion. You said this would happen if not, it has happened. Are you happy with that in mind with the way the U.S. has handled this? What more would you like to see from the U.S. and from the international community to try and deter more aggression?

And Secretary Blinken, thank you. Given that Russia has invaded Ukraine, regardless of all the threats of harsh sanctions, the attempts at diplomacy, what makes you think that continuing down the same path is going to deter them any further? Do you think it's time to change tact? You think diplomacy has failed? And secondly, have you underestimated Putin?

KULEBA: First, there is no such thing as minor, middle or major invasion. Invasion is an invasion. Second, as I said earlier, we do appreciate today's -- the sanctions which were announced today, they target Russia, they very specific, they are painful.

I can say frankly, that yesterday when we learned about the first executive order to impose sanctions on related to economic activities in the Donetsk, with Donetsk and Lugansk, we were puzzled, because we saw how the site that thought recognition from Russia is being punished. But we didn't see how Russia who granted its recognition is punished. But we saw it today.

And this strategy of imposing sanctions by waves, if I may put it this way, is something that's -- that can work if it continues in a very sustained -- in a sustainable way. President Putin should not have a single minute when he starts to think that this is the threshold. This is the ceiling, the pressure reached its ceiling, and he will not be punished anymore. This pressure should continue to be stepped up.

And if that involves regular issuance of executive orders or new sanctions, we will be more than happy to see that.

I will repeat again, we can despite the horrific address by President Putin, where he basically challenged the very or rejected he didn't challenge, he rejected the very existence of the Ukrainian state, we can still stop him.


If we act in a very result way and keep mounting pressure on him. The question is that he has a certain table on his mind, which I'm not aware of, but I'm sure he has it. And we should also understand that every next decision should be taken in a swift action. And we saw two executive orders issued by the president -- by President Biden within what less than 24 hours. This may be the dynamics that will have to be upheld if Russia continues to escalate.

And it was encouraging to hear from Secretary a very simple sentence. If Russia escalates, the United States and partners will escalate sanctions. This is exactly the rule that has to be followed.

And yes, we did believe that it will be helpful for some of sanctions, not all of sanction, but some of sanctions to be imposed before the invasion begins as a preemptive measure for what Russia had done before. But this question becomes obsolete now. And we have to focus on a different strategy than the one that I just described.

BLINKEN: Then it's hard for me to improve much on my friend Dmytro's answer. I'll just add a couple of things. First, all along we said that we were pursuing two tracks. The track of diplomacy and dialogue, to try to persuade Russia not to engage in renewed aggression against Ukraine. And at the same time, a track where we were building up deterrence, building up defense and building a response that would have massive consequences for Russia.

Russia has clearly chosen to reject diplomacy and dialogue, and instead to pursue aggression. As a consequence, we have started to pursue the severe consequences that we've made clear would follow from any renewed Russian aggression.

Today, faced with the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, we started high and will stay high. The sanctions that we've already announced go well beyond what we did in 2014, full blocking sanctions against two of Russia's largest financial institutions, EVB (ph) and the military bank.

These institutions hold more than $80 billion in assets. They provide key services that are critical to financing the Kremlin and Russian military. We have comprehensive sanctions against Russian sovereign debt. What that means is that we're cutting off the Russian government from Western financing, sanctions on elites and family members. And, as promised, as we said, on Germany, taking action on Nord Stream 2.

And to repeat what Dmytro just emphasized, we've also made clear, we're making clear today that if Russia continues to escalate, so will we. And, of course, it's not only the sanctions and other measures, that nature that are being taken. It is, as we've made clear, the reinforcement of NATO and its eastern flank, and continuing to provide and indeed increase the support that we're providing to Ukraine against every dimension, security, diplomatic, political, economic, humanitarian, all of that is in the mix.

Ultimately, President Putin makes whatever decisions he makes. We can do everything in our power to try to shape those decisions. But as I've said, all along, whatever his decisions were prepared either way, and we've demonstrated that again today in full coordination with allies and partners.

HALL: Have you underestimated him?

BLINKEN: Oh, I think to the contrary, we've not underestimated him. We've actually laid out for the world his entire playbook, a playbook that he is now following, and is making very clear that, for example, what the President's laid out, what I laid out at the United Nations a week ago, is exactly what's happening. So we've had a very clear eyed view of President Putin all along.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take a final question from Dmytro Ivchenko (ph) from Inter TV.

DMYTRO IVCHENKO (ph), INTER TV: Mr. Blinken, I'm interested in your opinion about Normandy Format, after all what happened in Ukraine last night. And may one tell that it will not work anymore and should be replaced like Ukraine proposed.

And secondly, I got a question which may sound very naive, but it's a question of my audience in Ukraine, millions of people who are really scared and if any one of them will be on my place, they will ask you, if Russian troops will move forward or if they will start in terms of artillery fire hitting Ukrainian territory.

On your understanding, what will happen next? And what will America do?

BLINKEN: Thank you. With regard to the Normandy Format, I think the question is best directed at President Putin. As far as we can see, by the actions that he's taken, he's rejected it. And he's torn up in effect, the Minsk agreements, which the Normandy Format was designed to advance.

So, if Russia is at all serious about resolving the conflict that it created in the Donbas pursuant to the agreements it's signed the Minsk agreements. It's of course showing exactly the opposite. So the question is really President Putin.

We've supported the Normandy Format, all along with France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia, working to implement the agreements, and throughout Ukraine has worked very hard to make good on its commitments. Russia has done just the opposite.

But what we've seen now in the last 24 hours would seem to be the final repudiation of Minsk by Russia. But again, you would have to ask President Putin.

With regard to what comes next, as I said, a moment ago. And as we've said, all along, if Russia pursues its aggression against Ukraine, it will face the massive consequences that not only the United States, but virtually all of our allies and partners have made clear would follow.

You've heard this from the G7, the leading Democratic economies in the world. You've heard it from the European Union. You've heard it from NATO. And that includes what we've started with today, and that is very severe economic, and financial sanctions that will exact significant costs from Russia. It includes a reinforcement of NATO, and the defense of all allies in NATO. And it includes additional assistance to Ukraine in every area, security, diplomatic, political, economic, humanitarian. All of that will follow. And again, I repeat what I've said before, if and as Russia escalates, so will we.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you, Mr. Minister. Thank you, everyone. Thank you.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We've been listening to the U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken speaking at the State Department, where he announced he has canceled his meeting that had been scheduled for Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Blinken had previously conditioned that summit on Russia not invading Ukraine. We were also listening to the Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, who called for more sanctions to punish Russia for its actions in the past, its actions present and its actions in the future.

Let's check in with CNN's Kylie Atwood live at the State Department. Kylie, it does seem like the headline from this briefing is Secretary Blinken announcing that he is formally canceled his meeting with Lavrov, don't you think?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, very clearly the Secretary of State saying that he is no longer planning to meet with the Russian Foreign Minister later this week, because the Russian invasion into Ukraine has begun. And because that signals a whole scale rejection of diplomacy by Russia, so indicating that he has no plans any longer to go to Geneva on Thursday, as was previously scheduled to meet the Russian foreign minister.

He let the Russian Foreign Minister know that those were the sentiments of the United States that it doesn't make sense to meet at this time in a letter. He also said that he has the backing of U.S. allies and partners who all agreed that that meeting shouldn't happen.

But also significantly, the Secretary of State talking about the sanctions that the United States has laid out today. And we heard from the Ukrainian foreign minister, welcoming those sanctions, saying that they are painful. And as you said, Jake, we have previously heard from the Ukrainians calling for more sanctions.

But today he did say that he welcome the sanctions that have been put into place. And this idea of waves of sanctions can work if they continue to up the ante in following developments, more sanctions to come.

TAPPER: Yes, and maybe I'm reading between the lines too much. But it did seem to me, Kylie, that the Ukrainian foreign minister Kuleba, while saying that he appreciated the sanctions and certainly not denouncing it. He did seem to suggests that he wants as many sanctions as possible as quickly as possible. Take a listen.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KULEBA: Therefore, Ukraine strongly believes that the time for sanctions is now. And in this context, we welcome today's announcement of sanctions by President Biden. The world must respond with all its economic might to punish Russia for the crimes it has already committed. And ahead of the crimes it plans to commit. Hit Russia's economy now and hit it hard.


TAPPER: Yes, so the world must respond with all its economic might for plans already committed in plans Russia will commit. So this does appear to be someplace where Ukraine wants the West, the Biden administration and other western countries to do more.

ATWOOD: Right. And it's not altogether surprising because this is the messaging that we've been hearing from the Ukrainians for quite some time. Now, even before these sanctions were rolled out today, you heard the Ukrainians asking for sanctions to be implemented before any invasion to prevent an invasion, and the position of the Biden administration has been we need to hold off on those sanctions as a deterrent as something to prevent the invasion from happening.

Now, of course, they're beginning to implement those sanctions. The United States still holding some fuel in the engine here, but the Ukrainian saying you got to keep going with these sanctions in order to them for them to be fully effective.

TAPPER: All right, Kylie Atwood at the State Department for us. Thank you so much. President Biden's so called first tranche of sanctions aimed at Russian banks with ties to the military, as well as Russian elites and their families otherwise known as Russian oligarchs. This comes as Russian military vehicles have been seen inside Ukraine's Donbas region. CNN's Matthew Chance reports for us from Kyiv, Ukraine. Russian leaders are also reacting to news of U.S. and European sanctions with a threat of their own.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Disturbing movements in Donbas, the rebel areas of Ukraine, now recognized by Russia as independent states, where Russian forces have been ordered to maintain peace.

It's still unclear if fresh Russian hardware has moved in. But unmarked military vehicles, including these tanks and armored personnel carriers, have been spotted on the outskirts of the main rebel city. If Moscow hassled within more troops, you'll be seen as yet another hostile act.

Already there's been strong condemnation by the U.S. president of Russia's recognition of the two Ukrainian rebel areas. The Biden administration issuing new economic sanctions on Moscow.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Who in the Lord's named as Putin think gives him the right to declare new so called countries on territory that belong to his neighbors. This is a flagrant violation of international law, and demands a firm response from the international community.

CHANCE: The self-styled People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, both backed by Moscow were born after the bitter fighting of Ukraine's brutal war. Problem is they control a much smaller area of Donbas than they claim. Ukrainian cities like Kramatorsk and Mariupol are run by the Ukrainian government, but located in territory the separatists say is theirs.

The concern is the newly recognized and emboldened Republic's backed by Russian forces could launch a new offensive to capture more land, especially now their Kremlin sponsor says he supports all their territorial claims.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (Through translator): The best solution for our colleagues in Western countries not to lose face (ph) would be if the current Kyiv authorities refused to join NATO, and essentially maintain neutrality.

CHANCE: But with tens of thousands of Russian forces still poised near Ukraine's borders, like these observed by CNN, there's little sign of that compromise being made. Already the U.S. several of its allies have imposed new sanctions on Russia, notably Germany, putting on hold the Kremlin backed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, the decision to suspend the strategically important projects, which would massively boost supplies of Russian energy to Europe has drawn immediate scorn from Moscow.

Welcome to the brave new world, tweeted a former Russian president and close Putin ally, where Europeans will very soon pay thousands of dollars for their gas. A snarky reminder that sanctions can cut both ways but says President Biden says freedom comes at a cost.

For the U.S. and its allies the focus now is simply trying to stop Russia in its tracks.



CHANCE: Well Jake, tonight, the Ukrainian President has made a national address in which he welcomed the tough sanctions that have been posed on Russia by the United States and other Western powers. He also said the country was focused on diplomacy and praise Turkey's efforts to bring Ukraine and Russia together for talks. But there was also an ominous announcement as well as he called up reservists in the country for more military training in the face of what is now a growing and very real Russian threat. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Matthew Chance live for us in Kyiv, Ukraine. Thank you so much.

Let's get right to CNN Senior International Correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, who's live for us from the Russian side of the Ukrainian border. Fred, you and your team have spotted a large number of Russian military vehicles close to the border with Ukraine. Does that mean in your view that a larger offensive is likely? FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm not sure whether it's likely, Jake, but it certainly seems as though it's something that could happen at any time. Certainly the Russian forces that we saw in the field today in and around the Rostov area, which actually borders of the Donbas, there were a lot of them. And they certainly appeared to be battle ready from what we could see.

What we saw in the field, there's -- we saw lots of columns of personnel carriers, lots of soldiers also who were inside those personnel carriers, really at times, dozens of vehicles that were parked behind each other. But we also saw some pretty heavy armor as well, including infantry fighting vehicles, and self-propelled artillery, and also heavy battle tanks as well.

And you know what, Jake, one of the things that the U.S. has been saying is they're saying that these forces have been changing their posture. They've been changing the way that they have been deployed. They were on bases for a very long time. But now they're actually in the field. They're not, for instance, loaded on the back of trucks, but they have the soldiers in them and they really appear ready to go. And that's exactly also what we saw close to that border area with Ukraine and with the Donbas as well.

It's also an area, Jake, that at this point in time, is very, very tense. There's sort of a bit of a buffer zone about 25 kilometers from the border, where we weren't allowed to take our cameras out. The moment that we went in there, we were immediately checked by the border guards and told in no uncertain terms that we were not allowed to take our camera out at all. So very tense situation, and certainly one where we saw a Russian army in the field that appeared to be ready to go at any time, Jake.

TAPPER: And Fred, the NATO Secretary General spoke today about Russia moving more forces into these contested regions of Ukraine, the Donbas region. Do we know how many Russian forces are already in the Donbas region and have any of them crossed into the two thirds of the Donbas that is still controlled by Ukraine, not by separatists?

PLEITGEN: Well, it doesn't need to be any evidence that any of crossed into that area that's controlled by Ukraine. However, from what we heard from people that we spoke to on the ground, there certainly does appear at least to be incidences where there could be Russian forces that have already gone into the Donbas area, despite the fact that Vladimir Putin seems to say in his press conference today, that that had not happened yet.

But people that we spoke to on the ground there said that we saw today, the amount of military that we saw on the ground, there was much more in that area just a couple of days ago, and the folks who live around that area are there every day say they believe some of those troops have already passed into Donbas, it's circumstantial, but it certainly is the vibe that you're getting on the ground there from people when you speak to them, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Russia for us near the Ukrainian border. Thanks so much. I want to bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House and Nick Robertson in Moscow. And Kaitlan, the Secretary of State Blinken, he just announced, he's no longer going to be meeting this week with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. What is the message that the Biden White House hopes this will sound?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think when they agreed to that meeting, and they set it up, they were very clear that it was dependent on a Russian invasion not happening yet. So of course, based on the standards that they have set for themselves, it would be very difficult, I think, for Secretary Blinken to move forward with that meeting, since they had said, this isn't something that's going to happen. And now they're saying that the Russian invasion has started.

That is what President Biden described it as earlier when he came out speaking for the first time since we saw President Putin yesterday recognize these two breakaway Ukrainian regions, as quote independent, and of course, after he took the actions of asking the Russian parliament to allow him to use Russian forces outside of Russia, therefore, upping these fears that there is going to be a full scale assault.

And so I think that is where things stand of where Blinken is saying he doesn't think now is the right time for that meeting to go forward, given the recent actions that the Russians have taken that the Kremlin has taken. But he's not shutting the door on this entirely. And neither is President Biden who said earlier, he does still believe there is a path forward for diplomacy, though, of course, it is getting a lot harder to see what that looks like given all along.

They have said that these meetings and these talks continuing really depend on Russia not taking these aggressive actions. And what President Biden said today is he does still expect Russia to try to take more territory and to continue with the full scale assault that they've warned about, the one, Jake, they said would be quote extremely violent.


TAPPER: And Nic, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba, he just said it's time for the world to hit Russia's economy and hit it hard. What is the likely response from Putin to these new sanctions?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well I think Matthew gave us a little flavor of that from Medvedev saying, you know, welcome to the new world reality, the world order where Europeans are going to have to pay a whole lot more for their gas. We're not hearing tonight from President Putin, has been on TV a lot today, a lot yesterday. We may get some readout from his, you know, from a spokesman tomorrow.

I think that Putin at the moment is going to feel fairly comfortable with the sanctions that arrayed against him so far. One of the sanctions that we understand this come from the European Union, for example, hits a TV anchor, another heads spokeswoman at the Foreign Ministry. So, you know, these -- some of these lists from Europe, from other places, may sound quite expansive. But they're not going to be getting to the people that are going to be directly in President Putin here.

And I think that, you know, and I think that's critical that even those oligarchs who have being targeted, Putin has deep enough pockets to be able to pay off if they really falling short. But this is his idea. It's his name. It's his face. It's him that steak, if you will, his vision that is laid out so strongly on television here. He's been in power for 20 years. He's going to be in power for another 14 years.

This is his legacy. He can afford to see some of his close allies fall by the wayside. He can afford, on the surface of it, to see the economy and the country suffer a little to get this game that is going after it. I don't think at the moment he's going to feel hard hit. I thought I was very interested by another point that the Ukrainian foreign minister made and that was in reference to the, you know, to the Budapest agreement in 1994.

It was an amazing thing at the end of the Soviet Union, with so many Soviet nukes all over the Soviet Union, that countries like Ukraine that had hosted some of those Soviet nukes, gave them up to agreement that Russia and those other countries would recognize and protect their sovereignty and protect them in the future. And he said that was a big thing for Ukraine to do. They stepped up to help the world. And now he really hopes the world is going to continue to step up and help Ukraine. That was quite a significant statement that he made, Jake.

TAPPER: Thanks to both of you. Appreciate it.

Let's talk about all this with the former director of National Intelligence under President Obama, James Clapper. Director Clapper, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba said that he wanted the world to respond with all its economic might. These sanctions are not that. Do you think Biden needs to do more?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think what the administration is trying to do is to have exquisite gradations of -- if I can use that phrase, of the sanctions. So they want to hold something in reserve, assuming which I think is a sound assumption that Russians going to do more. I don't think they're going to stop with just the rump People's Republics in the Donbass.

So you can make an argument. It's kind of a religious one that you should -- you know, whack him with all you got right at the outset, or doing in a more gradual staging. And there are arguments for both. And the administration, I think, is going with the latter approach.

TAPPER: Separatists have had control over -- we're going to show the Donbass region right now -- over the striped area of Ukraine for years. It's about a third of the Donbass region, with the backing of the Kremlin. Just behind those striped areas, the other two thirds of the Donbass region is controlled by the Ukrainian government. Putin, however, is declaring the entire Donbass independent. He went to the Duma to get permission for Russian troops to operate outside the country, presumably, in there. Do you think Biden's announcement of sanctions today will stop Putin from this very first step in annexing the entire Donbass?

CLAPPER: Probably not. I think what he's trying to do is a tit for tat here. And I think the initial tranche sanctions, and I don't know -- I certainly don't have the laundry list of what's potentially available. But that first tranche was designed for a specific set of circumstances. And I think the assumption is that they're making the assumption of Russia and claim to all the Donbass not just the part that's not -- the parts normally controlled by the rebels.


TAPPER: So you were the Director of National Intelligence when Russia last annexed part of Ukraine and Crimea in 2014. Take us inside the White House. What kind of information is Biden being presented with right now? What does he need to consider? I'm sure some people are saying that there should be much stricter, much harsher sanctions. Others are talking about the -- I forget what you call it, an exquisite gradation or whatever. What is it like? What is Biden need to consider here?

CLAPPER: Well, I think the -- first, you brought up 2014 and there's a good -- there's a comparison to be made here. The Russians in 2014. But a lot more subtle, you know, the little green men, they already had 10,000 Naval infantry, their normal analog, the Marine Corps in the Crimea, and they also -- already controlled, the poor complex is there.

I think what's the difference is in eight years, Putin clearly is a lot more emboldened than he was eight years ago. And we have a lot better intelligence. And one aspect of this is, you know, what should the DNI be feeding, supplying in a wave information to the president, which I think she's doing is much more exclusive intelligence. It's much better, and also using it in an information warfare context, which we really weren't into eight years ago.

TAPPER: In 2014, I had Bush's National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley on the show. And he said that he wished in retrospect that Bush had invoked much stronger -- any sanctions against Russia for seizing parts of Georgia, the country of Georgia in 2008. I now ask you, do you wish that Obama had done harsher stricter sanctions in 2014?

CLAPPER: Oh, yes, I do. I wish we, as an administration, had been more aggressive in 2014.

TAPPER: All right. Director James Clapper, good to see you as always. Thank you so much, sir.

Coming up, they've won four World Cups and now the women's national soccer team can add a $24 million victory to their trophy case. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Our sports lead now and perhaps one of their toughest matchups yet, U.S. women's national soccer team members have won a $24 million settlement in their lawsuit against U.S. Soccer, the organization that runs the sport in the U.S., in which they demanded equal pay. It is a major win for the World Cup champs.

And as CNN's Alexandra Field reports for us now, the women who poured blood sweat and tears into the lawsuit do not plan to pocket all the money.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For world champions, another decisive and historic victory, a $24 million settlement that aims to right wrongs and forge a new future for women's soccer.

MEGAN RAPINOE, U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM: Hopefully this would be a day we look back on and in a number of years and we're a little bit older. And say that's the moment that everything changed.

FIELD (voice-over): The end of a six-year long legal battle pitting the four-time World Cup winning U.S. Women's National Team members against U.S. Soccer coming with the sport's governing body saying it has committed to providing an equal rate of pay going forward for the women's and men's national teams. That includes lucrative World Cup bonuses.

ALEX MORGAN, U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL TEAM: It is a huge win for us, for women's sports, for women in general. And it's a moment that we can all celebrate right now.

RAPINOE: The justice comes in the next generation never having to go through what we went through. It's equal pay --


RAPINOE: -- across the board from here on out.

FIELD (voice-over): The star players of women's soccer remaining undeterred through their year's long plight.

RAPINOE: Really it's going to be like for all these little kids that are coming up now.

FIELD (voice-over): $2 million of the settlement will go to funding for Women and Girls soccer programs and players post-career goals. The majority of the money $22 million is made up of back pay to players named in the suit and indirect admission from U.S. Soccer of the history of in equal pay.

PRES. CINDY PARLOW CONE, U.S. SOCCER FEDERATION: We still have a lot of work to do with repairing the relationship with our players, but we're on the road to that.

FIELD (voice-over): U.S. Soccer, at one point, defended on equal pay pointing to the larger audiences for men's games and suggesting a higher level of skill and commitment for male players. This as the women's team has won four Olympic gold medals and for World Cup since 1991. The men's team has never won any.

In 2020, a judge ruled against the women in a lawsuit alleging on equal pay, saying the women played more matches made more money than their male counterparts. A ruling described then as defying reality by a team that filed an appeal and has now earned another win.


FIELD: And Jake, this historic settlement won't be finalized until a new collective bargaining agreement is ratified. While U.S. Soccer is committed to equalizing prize money going forward, there are still vast disparities in how FIFA, the world's governing soccer body awards prize money for men's and women's tournaments.

TAPPER: Alexandra Field, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss, Cari Champion. She's a sports broadcaster and the new co-host of CNN Plus's new show, "Cari & Jemele: Speak Easy," which debuts this spring. Cari, welcome to the CNN family. We just heard Alex's reporting on the $24 million settlement taking a step back. What do you think this means for women's sports in general?

CARI CHAMPION, CNN HOST, CARI & JEMELE: SPEAK EASY Well, this is a huge win. And I can't underscore the importance of them battling for six years and refusing to be deterred even when they lost in 2020.


What you have to understand is, is that the women's soccer team, they know that they're very popular, they know that they are fan favorites, and they work really hard. And that is the case for so many sports, professional sports for women. You look at the WNBA, you look at women's tennis. And I highlight women's tennis, specifically, Jake, because women's tennis is arguably the only sport where there is some sort of pay equity.

And that has a lot to do with Billie Jean King, my mentor, the battle of the sexes, I'm sure you're familiar with it. That has been a fight that has been going on for decades. And they're still not quite there, but all most. In fact, tennis players get paid just as much as male tennis players. And that was the only sport until recently.

So we look at what these women have put up with and how they've sacrificed. And unfortunately, we have to get to the point where we start acknowledging that they have the same skill set, women have the same skill set. And WNBA, we watch these women play and they play with all their heart. And they're told, guess what, you can only make $30,000 a year.

While we see these astronomical contracts for these other players, the male players will get -- NBA players get up to $200 million, and so forth.


CHAMPION: What happens today? What we're looking at today is a watershed moment for women's sports. And we can definitely see this moving in favor of pay equity. And I'm really happy I celebrated this win with these women.

TAPPER: To -- I do wonder, what do you think the ripple effects of this settlement could be? Do you think WNBA contracts are going to change, for example, to match NBA contracts?

CHAMPION: They have to because these companies are saying that we support women, big companies, corporations. And I can name a ton of corporations that have gotten behind the WNBA in theory, but now they are going to ask for money. They're going to say give me this money that you say that you want to make sure that we are paid the same as our male counterparts. It will be a long time before we can see women making up to $200 million in terms of contracts.

But if we get behind them and support them, and we stay what I like to stay, stay diligent to the course, is what these women did in soccer, we'll see the difference. For instance, I can give you an example of the highest pay contract for WNBA. You look at a player now and the, arguably, the highest paid contract is $150,000. Most of these women, Jake, then have to go play overseas when their season is over to make perhaps maybe a million dollars.

And while that sounds like a lot, imagine working, you know, 10 months out of the year with very little time off. And it's unfair. It's essentially saying what you do doesn't matter. So today, this win today $24 million, and moving forward, these women will be paid equity in terms of what their male counterparts make. This is going to be huge.

And we're going to see other leagues, specifically the WNBA say we have to get on board. We can't continue this way. And we can't let these women look as if they're not being paid for their hard work as well.

TAPPER: Let me ask you a question to play devil's advocate here. I could see the argument that the women's soccer team is more popular and more successful than the men's soccer team. I could see the argument that the Williams sisters, for example, are just as popular if not more than the average male tennis player. I don't know that you can make that same argument when it comes to the NBA versus the WNBA. How do you respond to that?

CHAMPION: Jake, that's fair. That's a very fair argument. And that is because -- and I'm putting the NBA on the hot seat right now, they need to start -- they as well. The institution needs to start backing these women. They need to put sponsorship dollars behind these women's games. They need to put marketing dollars behind the women's game. And they can do that.

The WNBA started some 20 odd years ago. We're on our 26th year. It started from nothing. And this year, we're finally starting to see progress. We're starting to see people pay attention to him. But that is only because the NBA decided to make a commitment to them.

And if everyone got involved, there would not be this laissez faire approach towards the WNBA. In fact, you're correct. That is an argument that has been made but I do believe if you put money in something and invest in something, you'll see the end result.

TAPPER: All right, Cari Champion, good to see you. Thank you so much.

CHAMPION: Good to see you.

TAPPER: We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: Today I understand your country is in a difficult time right now. I couldn't help but notice that you called on the world to exert its -- all of its economic might to punish Russia for actions in the past and actions in the future. I know you're happy about the sanctions that were imposed today against the two banks and against some oligarchs. But that is not all of the world's economic mind. Is it fair to say you want more and you want more as soon as possible in terms of sanctions?

DMYTRO KULEBA, UKRAINIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Absolutely. No sanctions will be enough until Russian boots withdraw from Ukrainian soil. This is fundamental principle that we have to keep putting pressure on Russia. And we, in Ukraine, proceeds from the fact that the sanctions announced today by President Biden is just the beginning of the process of deterring President Putin and making him withdraw.

That's why I said in the press conference that we like what we saw today, but it certainly won't be enough. And this strategy has to be continued.

TAPPER: I mean, you like what you saw today, but do you think today's sanctions will deter Putin from doing anything, from entering Ukrainian controlled parts of the Donbass territory, from staging any other invasion of Ukraine? Will it stop him from doing anything at all?

KULEBA: President Putin questioned the resolve and the ability of the West to impose sanctions on him. His view, according to how we understand it was that the West is talking the talk, but he's not walking the walk. So today, sanctions are important as a message, that it's real. It's happening and they will be more of them.

And it's not only the United States who impose sanctions on Russia today, it was also the European Union, the United Kingdom. And that's why we're talking about the broad international coalition that is focused on deterring Putin. I don't know what is on his mind and how he will act overnight. But it's important that he saw the readiness to adopt decisions swiftly and the decisions which inflict damage on him.

TAPPER: What's the next line that if he crosses there need to be more heavily imposed sanctions? Is it Russian troops crossing from the separatist controlled parts of the Donbass into the Ukrainian controlled parts of the Donbass? Is that the next line you anticipate he'll cross?

KULEBA: That is definitely one of the lines. But we should be aware of the simple fact. This is a hybrid warfare. Russia can attack physically but also Russia can attack us in cyberspace, for example.


So we are in a dialogue with partners including the United States about the identification of these red lines, which will be responded with sanctions. But again, I want to make it clear that we have to be ready to act in a very swift manner, because the situation can change literally every hour.

TAPPER: Do you think that Biden -- President Biden should have imposed these sanctions weeks if not months ago?

KULEBA: Well, this was a position of Ukraine until literally yesterday that there were good, legitimate reasons to impose sanctions on Russia for what it had done before and for its recent escalation. However, after -- yes, since yesterday, this question becomes obsolete because the invasion began. The sanctions were imposed, the first sanctions of a broader package of sanctions prepared were imposed. So we have to be focused on today instead of analyzing tomorrow or yesterday.

TAPPER: You said today that you believe Putin can be stopped and you also said that your preference is that it'd be done with diplomacy? Do you disagree with Secretary of State Blinken canceling his visit with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, because that would have been a diplomatic effort?

KULEBA: Well, as far as I understand, Secretary Blinken canceled the visit but he did not cancel diplomacy. He expressed his readiness to reengage with Minister Lavrov and it was always about actually seeing or prompting Russia into a more constructive behavior as well. We cannot base diplomacy on -- only on our constructive gesture, whether they come from Ukraine or from the United States. Russia also has to demonstrate a constructive attitude and to make step in our direction, not by sending troops but by sending diplomats.

TAPPER: What do you think Putin's ultimately ambitions are? Do you think he's going to try to seize the entire country? Do you think he's going to attack Kyiv?

KULEBA: His ultimate goal is to destroy Ukraine. He is not interested in parts of Ukraine. He is not interested in -- even in keeping the entire country under his control. He wants the idea of the Ukrainian statehood to fail. This is his subjective.

TAPPER: Do you think he wants to absorb all of Ukraine into the Russian Federation?

KULEBA: Well, I don't want to focus on hypothetical scenarios of what his eventual plan be. But what I know for certain, and this was eloquently proved, regretfully, in his address yesterday is that he hates Ukrainian statehood. He believes that Ukraine has no right to exist. TAPPER: Many Americans might be watching this interview right now and they might be wondering, why should the United States care? This is thousands of miles away. Ukraine is not a NATO ally, even if you want to be. What's your message to them? What's your message to the Americans who wonder what's the interest of the American people in this fight?

KULEBA: Three points. First, in 1994, Ukraine abandoned its nuclear arsenal, which was the third in size in the world, the United States, Russia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Ukraine. This was the three top countries possessing nuclear arsenal. We abandoned it in return for security guarantees issued in particular by the United States. So we were promised that if anyone attacks us, the United States will be among countries who will be helping us.

Second, what is happening in Ukraine is not only about Ukraine. President Putin challenges Euro-Atlantic order. And if the West fails in Ukraine, the next target of Putin will be one of the NATO members on its eastern flank. And third, if Putin succeeds in Ukraine, other players across the globe who want to change rules, who want to bypass the United States, they will see that this is possible --

TAPPER: China.

KULEBA: -- that the West is uncapable of defending what it stands for. So I think all in all, the U.S. citizens, Americans should be interested in keeping the world order as it stands. And the future of this order is being decided right now in Ukraine.

TAPPER: And then lastly, sir, what do you want in the next round of sanctions? We only have a few seconds left, but tell us what you can. You want more oligarchs targeted, you want the entire Russian economy crippled?


TAPPER: You can elaborate a little bit more than that.

KULEBA: Well, the financial world is pretty sophisticated and we want every instrument available to be used in order to stop Putin. If the price of saving a country is the most -- the harsher sanctions possible, then we should go for the harshest sanctions possible.

TAPPER: Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time today. Today, we'll be thinking and praying of the people of Ukraine.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll see you tomorrow.