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Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) Is Interviewed About The Announcement Of Sanctions On 300 Plus Members Of Russian Parliament; Zelenskyy: Ukraine Is Waiting For "Real Action" From NATO; Ukraine Claims To Have Destroyed Large Russian Warship. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 24, 2022 - 12:30   ET



REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): But make no mistake about it, a lot is being done to confront Putin. And then those war crimes that he is committed.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: And those sanctions that you talked about, they are working to, you know, constrict the Russian economy, but they haven't seen to have had an impact on Putin's strategy on the ground, his decision making, the Russian stock market is back open, the ruble is stabilizing, do sanctions work if European allies aren't or can't or won't target Russian oil and gas?

SMITH: Yes, there's more that we need to do. And that would be one big step. We're in negotiations now is what other energy supplies are available to help Europe so they don't have to dependent upon Russian oil and gas. And then look, a lot of decisions were made in Europe in the last 15 or 20 years that put them into this vulnerable position. And a large number of U.S. policymakers have argued with them about that for that time period. So we do have to make that adjustment.

But let's remember, we're 28 days into this. Economic sanctions have a cumulative impact. Russia is definitely feeling the pain. It's hard to say what Putin is going to do long term, we have to do what we can to push him towards changing his calculation. And I think that's what we're doing. There are other options, other things that we're going to add that we're constantly in discussion about.

Each day, there is something new that is added to the sanctions list, and that's going to continue, try to put maximum pressure on Putin. There's no easy answer to this. I don't want to kid people that we can flip a switch and put Putin back in the box. We have to put pressure on him. Try to avoid a wider conflict and acknowledge the severe difficulty of getting to the point where all of that works.

PHILLIP: Congressman Adam Smith, thank you for being here. Good to see you.

SMITH: Good to see you as well. Thanks for the chance.

PHILLIP: And coming up next for us, President Biden faces a historical moment and an opportunity, a closer look at the President's long term strategy to defeat Putin.



PHILLIP: At this moment, President Biden is meeting with top allies in Europe and making major news -- new announcements about humanitarian aid for Ukraine and punishment for Russia. Speaking virtually to NATO leaders, Ukraine's President said he wants to see some real action from the allies as Russia continues its brutal war. My panel joins us now to share their reporting and insights. Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post, Laura Barron-Lopez of Politico, and Francesca Chambers of McClatchy.

So for President Biden dealing with this refugee issue has actually been one of the outstanding things that he's needed to deal with. This is actually that the administration kind of struggled on this, they are now taking 100,000 of them. What is the significance of that for the White House and also for allies who've been watching, what he's going to do on this very issue?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, well, it's definitely a larger number that then a lot of refugee resettlement agencies, I was talking to expect it, you know, they thought that the White House was going to prioritize expediting, which they are, they're trying to speed up the entire process, whether it's family reunification, whether it's trying to also help, you know, those that they think are particularly vulnerable, whether it's LGBTQ or journalist or dissidents.

But one thing of note about this number, though, is that they said that this is like general commitment, and that these 100,000 may not be coming as quickly as people think into the U.S. that it could take a lot longer. And that isn't necessarily for this fiscal year. It could stretch out into the next fiscal year. So not all of these are going to be going towards the 125,000, sorry, excuse me, camp, refugee camps. Some of these will be coming through other programs.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What I thought was so interesting too, looking, I mean, beyond just looking at the numbers here, and just how much even if it isn't all doled out in this fiscal year, just how much openness the United States is showing through the refugee process is what the White House has said before when we've asked about this repeatedly. I think Jen Psaki has been asked about this numerous times in the briefing room. And her answer was that we have discovered that most of these people fleeing Ukraine do want to stay in the area. That's why you see such an influx in Poland. That's why we haven't noticed a desire for Ukrainians to come directly to the United States. But it is certainly going to be a powerful message when the President goes to Poland tomorrow that has, it was really has dealt with the brunt of the refugee crisis and be able to deliver the message that, yes, like we are going to be welcoming a fair number of people to the United States, should they want to go.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: And it was a potential point of contention when he went to -- when he was going to go to Poland, because the United States currently you talked about that refugee camp, it had been set to take 10,000 from that entire region this year of refugees. So even if it's not this year, bumping up to 100,000 is a significant amount overall. And it is something that expediting that the Polish president had asked the Vice President United States when she was there --

PHILLIP: It's significant for the United States. But when you were talking about more than 3 million refugees, it was kind of a drop in the bucket. But one of the things for President Zelenskyy, he's been asking for this, yes, help for refugees, but also he's just asking for more from NATO and the United States.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): Ukraine is waiting for real action, real security guarantees from those whose word is to be trusted and whose actions can really preserve peace. That proposals are on the table, our requirements are on the table, we need peace now, when the response is yours.



PHILLIP: He knows it's not going to be a no-fly zone, you know, he's very clear eyed about that. But he's still not satisfied it seems with the real concrete steps that the Western Allies are taking to help.

KIM: Right. And I don't think it's a surprise that of course, the Ukrainian president is going to ask for whatever he can in front of a world audience to see what the world could do to help his suffering country. It's a similar dynamic that we saw and during his speech to Congress, where he spoke of and asked for many things that he probably knew he was not going to get from the Congress, such as the call for a no-fly zone, but I think he's, you know, trying to appeal to using every lever at his disposal to appeal to world leaders about how much he -- how much his country needs his help right now.

PHILLIP: And it's also a bigger question about what happens to NATO. What's NATO's mandate as Steve Collinson writes at CNN this morning that Biden's visit looks like its own pivot point in history, the West will try again to deter and contain Russia as it seeks to bolster non- NATO member Ukraine's fight for democracy and independence while avoiding a direct clash with Russia that could go nuclear.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO. But what Zelenskyy is saying and what is facing NATO nations is what does the West do for those countries that are in the region, Moldova, and others, not part of NATO, but in the shadow of Russia?

CHAMBERS: And that's going to be a significant question that NATO -- the NATO alliance has to answer in the next couple months. They will meet in June for another summit in Madrid, where they're going to have their strategic concept come out for the NATO alliance. And they are looking at the future of the alliance and what they want to do with it both politically and militarily. But U.S. officials also did note today that it what was notable about what Zelenskyy said, it's also what he didn't say today. He didn't make that call again for a no-fly zone. Some of those things he thought he couldn't get, and didn't ask again to be part of the NATO alliance.

PHILLIP: I thought it was notable what reporter in Brussels, Natasha Bertrand reports, the President Biden talking to NATO countries reference President Trump saying, you guys need to bump up your defense spending, but I'm not going to say it in a mean way like Trump did. Is President Biden going to have a little bit more success corralling these NATO leaders over the next day or two?

BARRON-LOPEZ: I mean, I think we've seen that the President is very focused on trying not to get ahead of NATO leaders, not -- trying not to get ahead of E.U. leaders and that so far, he has been pretty successful in keeping the coalition together. Of course, this trip is key to making sure that they stay united as Democratic, you know, country's trying to really contain Russia and make sure that things don't escalate.

Of course, notably, you know, he is trying to help E.U. along in terms of clamping down on Russian oil exports, which I know that you were talking about earlier. And so that's a big question is how far E.U. was prepared to go in terms of weaning themselves off of Russia oil.

PHILLIP: Exactly, huge, huge questions for Europe and the West this week.


Coming up next for us, the Pentagon says that Russian troops appear to be digging in as Ukrainian forces are pushing the Russians back from Kyiv. General David Petraeus is joining me next.


PHILLIP: Those are explosions at a Russian occupied port in southern Ukraine where the Ukrainian Navy claims to have destroyed a Russian warship. Joining me now is retired four-star General David Petraeus. General Petraeus, Russia reportedly has 30 ships in the seas off of southern Ukraine. Do you think that Ukrainian defenses in that part of the country can hold? Are you surprised to see what happened there with that warship?

GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Not really, because the Ukrainians have been so incredibly resourceful and determined. They just keep finding ways, innovative ways, probably using some kind of anti-tank munition or perhaps anti-ship munition to take out a ship that was providing supplies that are desperately needed by the Russians. As you know, their logistics have been horrible, completely inadequate. And so they were trying to use a Ukrainian port to resupply their forces that are in that Southeastern part, some of which are of course around Mariupol, the city that is encircled, the one area where Russia really has been enjoying some degree of success, although the Ukrainians have by no means given up there.

So again, this is just another example of really impressive Ukrainian actions on the battlefield. And they continue to take those as, you know, up in the area around Kyiv, the Russians are not only just stop, they're actually digging into the defense, rather than trying to continue to encircle that capital city. And Ukrainians have actually been carrying out local counter attacks pushing them back trying to get them out of artillery range, so that at least that form of indirect fire means is deprived to the Russians even though they continue to clobber the capital city with missiles and rockets and also to bomb it from the air.

And they're trying to do the same in other areas as well. And of course, this is all part of making the Russians realize that not only can they not win on the battlefield that should become increasingly obvious to them but perhaps they could actually lose at least in certain locations initially. And then one doesn't know what happens, does an army crumble. I've seen armies crumble obviously in the invasion of Iraq and elsewhere. And it's very hard to predict. But what you can sense here is a bit of a shift in momentum, again, noting that Mariupol is still desperately hanging on, and that could be a lift to the Russian side.


PHILLIP: So we're a month into this and Russia still hasn't established full air superiority over Ukraine, despite, you know, the lack of a no-fly zone. I want you to take a listen to what one Ukrainian pilot said about that.


MOONFISH, UKRAINIAN AIR FORCE PILOT: We feel free right now to operate in our airspace, and they have control of very little part of Ukrainian sky. And that is where those brutal bombing of peaceful cities like Mariupol and Kharkiv are happening.


PHILLIP: What's your reaction to that? And I mean, we were just -- you were just discussing the coming potentially battle for Kyiv. What's the significance of the fact that Ukrainian seem to feel very confident that they have a lot of control over their airspace right now?

PETRAEUS: Well, again, this is astonishing. If you remember, in the invasion of Iraq, we laid -- basically took the Iraqi Air Force out of the picture in the first couple of hours by cratering every one of their runways so they couldn't even get off the ground. And that still obviously has not happened in Ukraine in part because the Ukrainian air defenses have been so surprisingly resolute and again resourceful, and they are reportedly receiving some resupply of the kinds of air defenses that they have.

And I'm not just talking about the stinger missiles, which are good up to about 10,000 or so feet, but old Russian systems that are actually accurate, well above that, and have been used, again, to considerably impressive effect. And in the fact that again, the modest Ukrainian Air Force is still in the air and actually denying Russia really penetration well into the country is really quite astonishing.

All of this, again, just continues to reinforce the sense that the Russians are a bit on the back foot, to put it mildly, that they're struggling to replace the losses that they've sustained and those wounded as well. And that they could actually be in trouble, at least in local areas, such as those around Kyiv. The British Ministry of Defense yesterday, learned that it's not impossible that some elements around Kyiv could actually be encircled.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, to that point, NATO officials are estimating about 15,000 Russians were killed in Ukraine in a single month. That's more than double the number of American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan over two decades combined. So you've warned that you should never want Putin to feel like there's nothing to lose. But how far away are we from that? And what happens then if he feels like his back is against the wall?

PETRAEUS: Well, I think there's always something left to lose. I mean, at the end of the day, it could be your life. It could be your future, and so forth. I think there's a lot left to lose for him. The question is, when does he realize that he needs to agree to a negotiated outcome that includes elements to which you would not have agreed, obviously, prior to the invasion, and of course, it's not just what's happening on the battlefield that's very important, presumably in his calculations.

But it's also what's being done to his economy, his financial system, the oligarchy members of his regime and so forth. And of course, a number of additional sanctions were announced by the United States today, in addition to the NATO announcements of additional forces in the countries of Eastern Europe and the Baltic states, all NATO members.

PHILLIP: General Petraeus, thank you so much for all of that analysis.

PETRAEUS: Pleasure Abby.


PHILLIP: And a renewed global security concern as world leaders convened in Brussels, North Korea has fired its first suspected intercontinental ballistic missile in more than four years. We will have new details about that coming up.


PHILLIP: North Korea has fired what is believed to be its first intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017. A Japanese official says the missile appears to be a new type with a longer range than the one that they tested in 2017. And the South Korean military responded by launching a response missile also for the first time since 2017. Japan's Defense Ministry says missile landed off of Japan's western coast. And President Biden met with Prime Minister Kishida of Japan on the sidelines of the G7 today in Brussels. The two leaders strongly condemned the North Korean launch. And that -- and thanks for joining Inside Politics. Don't forget you can also listen to our podcast. Download Inside Politics wherever you get your podcasts. Ana Cabrera and Don Lemon pick up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello and thanks for joining us for our special Breaking News coverage as NATO leaders meet in Brussels over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.


DON LEMON, CNN HOST: And I'm Don Lemon. Good to be with you, Ana.