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Biden: Putin "Still Doubts our Staying Power"; Biden: Putin "Thought we would Roll Over, he was wrong"; Biden: "Kyiv Stands Proud" a Year into Russia's War on Ukraine; Biden: More Sanctions Coming as Russia's war enters Second Year; EPA to Norfolk Southern: Handle the Cleanup or we will. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired February 21, 2023 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Freedom, freedom there is no sweeter word than freedom. There is no higher aspiration but freedom. Americans know that and you know it.
And all that we do now must be done so our children and grandchildren will know it as well freedom, the enemy of the tyrant, and the hope with the brave and the truth of the ages, freedom. Stand with us. We will stand with you. Let us move forward with faith and conviction and with a binding commitment to be allies not of darkness but a light.
Not about oppression but of liberation, not have captivity, but yes of freedom. May God bless you all! May God protect our troops! And may God bless the heroes of Ukraine, and all those who have to defend freedom around the world! Thank you, Poland. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for what you're doing. God bless you all!
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDET: President Biden wrapping up his speech here in Poland, a few days shy of the anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, offering his assessment of where it stands one year and really summing it up in two words, Kyiv stands.
The president referencing the trip that secret trip that he made to Ukraine yesterday, where he went and spent hours on the ground with President Zelenskyy right in the heart of Ukraine in Kyiv, saying that a year ago, that was not what everyone believed would happen at the idea that Kyiv could potentially fall as Russian tanks were rolling into Ukraine, saying that Kyiv did not roll over. Instead, they remain strong.
The President also saying that a year ago Putin thought autocrats would be stronger today. Instead, they have grown weaker, thought democracies would be weaker, and instead they have grown stronger there as he was speaking. In the same place he was just a year ago, shortly after Putin had invaded Ukraine. I want to bring in Christiane Amanpour, Christiane, what did you think of the President's speech?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, it was so strong, it was so robust, and it was so uncompromising. And now we see him surrounded by that very generation of kids, the future that he was talking about waving those Ukrainian flags there.
And he was dedicating this speech to freedom, as he said, over and over again, at the very end of his speech for future generations, and that the decisions he said we make today and over the next few years, will determine the world over the next several decades. As you said, he started his speech by saying that--
COLLINS: Clarissa you were there in Kyiv.
AMANPOUR: --turned on its head.
COLLINS: Yes, offering that, as I said, Phil Mattingly, you're there watching the speech, you watched it live, the president coming out, echoing what we heard from the Vice President in Munich just a few days ago, saying that, yes, they do believe that Russia has committed these crimes against humanity talking about the atrocities that we've seen happening in Ukraine and say it's something that you just simply can't ignore, as he says all democracies are being tested by what we're seeing.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was striking how many times he mentioned President Vladimir Putin's name, obviously, advisors before this speech made clear this wasn't going to be a rebuttal to President Putin's speech from earlier today. And I don't think that it was.
But it was a very clear rebuke of President Putin, and everything he's done over the course of the last year. And it was very intentional in that regard. Kaitlan, you know, well, the President has not hesitated to go after President Putin directly, in almost visceral, very vivid terms over the course of the last year.
This was another demonstration of that. But I also think that that was part of kind of laying the groundwork for the point he was trying to make, which is a very clear contrast between what the U.S. what Poland what NATO with the Western alliance over the course of the last 11 months, is willing to offer is putting on the table versus what President Putin has shown himself to be capable of and driving toward and the invasion of Ukraine.
You know, Kaitlan, it's interesting for those of us whose watch the president every day for the better part of the last several years, I know you and I both have, I was struck by as I was listening to the speech, what National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said earlier today previewing the speech.
So this speech is going to be "Vintage Biden". The construct that the President laid out in these remarks very much along the lines of the democracy versus autocracy construct, he's driven for the entirety of his time in office, and something we are very familiar with, and very much as what tracks with how he's kind of framed his domestic policy as well.
But the import of that construct to the rest of the world and I think, underscoring that the challenge over the course of the last year has only elevated the importance of it, the validity of kind of that thought process that he brings to the table and how critical it will be in the year ahead to maintain the progress that they've made the support that they've given and I think the durability of the coalition that we've seen in the last 11 months.
COLLINS: Yes, and that's a part of it. That was not necessarily a given. That was what he was talking about the coalition they built over the last year. Clarissa, you're there on the ground in Kyiv listening to this.
And I thought one of the most notable parts of this speech from President Biden was when he spoke directly to the Russian people pushing back on what we heard from Putin earlier today, when he was blaming the West for this war, saying and Biden saying that it's not it's Putin's choice. This is not a necessity. It's a tragedy, but it is something that Putin has chosen.
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was interesting, Kaitlan. It's not the first time we've heard him sort of directly address the Russian people. And also something that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy does a lot as well, in this case, to say, listen, we do not view you as the enemy. Our fight is not with you.
And I thought it was very interesting what Phil was saying, and I was so struck by it as well, the White House had really said this is not going to be a sort of battle of the speeches between President Putin and President Biden.
And yet President Biden speech really did hammer President Putin and it actually felt quite personal at times, it almost felt like he was addressing him directly when he said, you know, Putin could end this war with a single word. And I thought that was very striking.
Whereas if Ukraine was to end this war, it would cease to exist, as a country really pointing out just the stark contrast there, and underscoring that the issue is not with ordinary Russian people. I think that this speech will have gone down very well with Ukrainians who have watched it, not just because of its praise for the response of Ukraine in the face of this aggression, but also because it really hammered on this theme of freedom.
And it is very interesting. When you talk to Ukrainians, they are very passionate about freedom. I have asked them many times where that passion comes from. One woman told me she thinks it's because they're an agrarian society. So they are very kind of devoted to this idea of their land, and what that means to protect and defend their land.
But a lot of the rhetoric that we heard from President Biden tonight, which was some of the more powerful and soaring that we have heard in some time. I have no doubt will be very well received by people on the ground here in Ukraine, who does feel incredibly grateful for the support of the international community.
And that's something that you hear again, and again, when you walk around people say thank you to the U.S. Thank you to NATO and thank you to all those who are supporting us in these very difficult times. And you heard it again, from the president as well, on that front; we have to be clear eyed about the future he said.
It's going to be tough. This isn't going to be ending in a matter of weeks, or probably even months stealing people's expectations for you know, the inevitable heartaches and devastating battles that will be to come likely.
COLLINS: Yes, and talking about how fundamental the next five years are, and all of that? Fred Pleitgen you're in Moscow, I know earlier today, that a Russian official was saying that Putin was not going to watch this speech that you had been - you'd be told later what the major themes were, of it were. But what do you think Kremlin officials made of what that forceful response that we just heard from President Biden?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly the Kremlin did say that officials there are very close to going to watch the speech that President Biden has just given.
And certainly I think, in many ways, they will think that it's a rebuff of what Vladimir Putin said earlier today, especially Vladimir Putin, you know, earlier today, laying out the fact that from his perspective, he believed that Russia didn't have any sort of other choice that somehow Ukraine had essentially been hijacked by a neo Nazi gang as he called the Ukrainian government.
So I think one of the things that Vladimir Putin said in his speech today is he said that the current people who are in power the regime, as he called it was alien to the Ukrainian people. Obviously, it seems as though the facts on the ground seem to paint a different picture, because obviously Russia probably doing a lot better on the battlefield, if in fact that were the case.
But it certainly does seem as though a lot of Ukrainians are coming out and defending their country. And I think one of the things that Clarissa was just saying is absolutely key, President Biden going out and saying the Russian people are not the enemy of the United States and its allies in all the saying that essentially, he believes that Vladimir Putin could end this war immediately.
One of the things that we have to point out, Kaitlan, which I think is really important is that Russian state TV Russian media, but also Russian officials have essentially tried to paint President Biden going to Ukraine as nothing more than a charade saying that we're putting on a show. This has no bearing to the real life of Ukrainians.
Certainly President Biden now saying that is absolutely not the case that he obviously felt the pulse of the Ukrainian nation and certainly sees that there are a lot of people there who are fighting against the Russians trying to take over their country.
PLEITGEN: So in many ways, this was a really important speech. I think, also for the Russians to hear for the Ukrainians to certainly hear, and definitely one that in many ways was a very strong rebuff of a lot of things that Vladimir Putin said today.
Now, one of the things that we have to keep in mind is that Vladimir Putin's ratings are rock solid. He certainly showed no signs of backing down but certainly seemed here that President Biden also showed no sign of backing down as well.
COLLINS: Yes, he was essentially gushing about Poland there telling the Polish First Lady that he loved her talking about all that they've done. And Christiane, I want to get a final thought from you on that, because you're going to be speaking with President Duda soon.
And we've already seen President Biden and President Duda speaking. But one important part that I thought Biden talked about was burden sharing, essentially, what you've heard from some lawmakers back in the U.S. about how much support the U.S. is sending to Ukraine. But there's also the refugee aspect of this, and Europe has been shielding most of that, and no country more so than Poland itself.
AMANPOUR: Exactly, Kaitlan, as the President said, more than a million, perhaps a million and a half. And they've not gone to refugee camps. They're not intense. They are in people's homes. And as he said, people embrace these refugees, because they knew that they were neighbors and partners in what Poland had been defending all these years before it became now Ukraine's turn, and that is the fight for freedom and independence.
You know, I've been to many, many invaded countries. And in every one of those countries, no matter who the invader is, the people just fight back. Everyone defends their land, everyone defends their territory and everyone defends their flag, when push comes to shove.
And I think that's what you're seeing in Ukraine, for sure. The Poles understand that they're in this fight. President Biden gave this dramatic speech about how they would not tire of this fight for democracy and freedom, also convincing not just his friends and allies in this region, not just telling Russia, but also the American people and praising the American fight, always throughout history to uphold these values.
The key thing, Kaitlan is going to be the speed with which all these promised weapons and the ammunition gets to Ukraine, because the way to keep public support for this war is to get it done as quickly as they possibly can. And that is going to be the key over the next several months for sure.
COLLINS: Yes, it absolutely yes. And those are the key questions, walking away from this speech as President Biden was leaving the stage major questions about that but saying that America support for Ukraine will not falter saying, "All democracies are being tested".
John King and you're in Washington watching this speech, as well, as you're hearing from President Biden saying there is that commitment that it does stand that the United States is committed to supporting Ukraine.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Certainly the President Kaitlan with a show of resolve as we near the end of year one, and suggesting the United States and its allies will not waver as we head into a very unpredictable year too. Kaitlan Collins live for us in Warsaw. Kaitlan, thank you and to our entire team!
Let's get some important perspective now from two women who know understand the challenges ahead better than most, the Former Deputy Director of National Intelligence Beth Sanner and the Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Evelyn Farkas. Beth, to you first and let's start by listening to a little bit of the President for those who might have joined us just at the top of the hour, as the President was wrapping up.
In the early days, one year ago, the mood around the world was that Kyiv might fall in days. The President standing in Warsaw today, the day after he was in Kyiv saying Vladimir Putin know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: One year ago, the world was bracing for the fall of Kyiv. Well, I just come from a visit to Kyiv and I can report Kyiv stands strong. Kyiv stands proud. It stands tall, and most importantly stands free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: I want to spend most of our time on the challenges ahead. But the pictures today this speech, the words and the images in Castle Square in Warsaw, the day after the President went to Kyiv. The White House says this is not about rebutting Vladimir Putin. I'm sorry; this was about rebutting Vladimir Putin. How will it be taken number one, by Putin? And then number two by the Western allies who have shown remarkable resolve in the past year, can they carry that into a year too?
BETH SANNER, FELLOW, HARVARD'S BETTER CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Well, I think that there's absolutely a study in contrast, you're absolutely right. It's hard to ignore that this is a direct rebuttal. It is darkness. It is light. It is a speech given to a bunch of tired sleepy looking elites in a closed room and this open air, fresh air speech talking about inspirational things.
So it is absolutely that contrast. You know, in terms of Russia. The Russian people actually saw Biden's visit to Kyiv yesterday. It was all over the news.
SANNER: And I think they're going to see a contrast with Putin's very boring stayed 90 minute snoozer. And, you know, I think that there's a thing there. We also have on the right side of Putin some pressure about like, why didn't you go and shoot Biden down while he was in Kyiv.
But in ultimately, as Fred pointed out, there is really no threat to Putin right now. He remains popular and this was about rallying the Russian people, even if it was about rallying them around threats and fear. KING: And so Evelyn Farkas to that point, if Putin was wrong about the first year and the resolve of the United States, the resolve of the NATO allies, the resolve of Europe, what do you see as the major challenges as we go into year two?
Putin still believes time is on his side. He still believes whether he's right or fanatical about it, that the West will crack at some point. More tanks are going into Ukraine, but there's still a debate about whether that should be followed up by fighter jets. What is the military challenge, if to keep it - if we are going to be here one year from now saying Ukraine won the war not prepare for year three?
EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY FOR RUSSIA/UKRAINE/EURASIA: Well John, I think you're right, the challenge is military. And I think Christiane and others hinted at it as well, or talked about it directly saying that, you know, Putin thinks that time is on his side, that as long as he's still fighting, as long as he's still in office, he hasn't lost yet.
And as long as he hasn't lost yet, he's going to count it as a win. So our job is to make sure that Ukraine gets all the equipment, it needs fast. And the reason the plans are so important. I have a piece that's hopefully going to run soon an opinion piece with General David Deb Tula arguing for those F-16s, because they can provide not only of course, air cover, the more air cover the better for Ukraine to protect the civilians to protect the troops.
But most importantly, if the troops are going to go on the offensive, they need not just armored vehicles to carry them forward through the Russian lines. But frankly, they need air cover and the fighter aircraft would provide that. And they would also provide longer range reach for that for the weaponry on the Ukrainian side.
So it is important for us as fast as possible to help Ukraine win because every day that they don't win, they're losing lives. And the economic cost, of course, is extreme. And there's a risk that somehow this will get out of control and spread. I want to just add one quick thing John; you might have noticed that President - from Moldova was there, she regards her country probably as the next target on Putin's list.
KING: And to that point, Beth, to you first and back to Evelyn. President Biden said obviously this is about Ukraine. This is about protecting the sovereignty and democracy in Ukraine. But he also talked about autocrats around the world. And he said it's much bigger than this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: It's about autocrats like himself were tough. Leaders in democracy were soft. And then he met the role of American nations everywhere the refuse to accept the world governed by fear and force. President Putin is confronted with something today that he didn't think was possible a year ago. The democracies of the world have grown stronger, not weaker. But the autocrats of the world have gotten weaker, not stronger. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: To the latter point. China's Foreign Minister is in Moscow right now. There's talk that President Xi may go to Moscow later this year to see President Putin. The White House has been declassifying intelligence, or at least summaries of it and saying they believe China is about to help Russia on the battlefield.
When the President makes the point about autocrats he's not just talking about next week and next month, he said, this is the challenge for the world for the next five years. Is he right? Are democracies winning and the autocrats losing or is that still to be determined?
SANNER: I think that the time is on our side in terms of who will win or who will lose. But this battle is one that we are fighting every day. And I think that those people who oppose aid to Russia right now are missing the fundamental point that these battles are linked, and the picture of the head foreign policy, China, Foreign Policy Chief, Wang Yi, in Moscow today.
And when President Xi goes and visits Moscow this spring, you know, make no mistake, this is a battle between that side and our side. And the choices we make about Ukraine are going to have direct implications for our bigger battle about what this world will look like for our children and grandchildren. That's not just a rhetorical flourish.
KING: It is not. And so Evelyn Farkas, to your point, that, you know the United States and the NATO allies have consistently upgraded the muscle, if you will, of the sophistication, the strength and the power of the weaponry.
Your argument is they need to do even more. Putin would view that as a provocation. How much does China factor into your calculation that the West needs to prove it will not lose Ukraine period?
FARKAS: Yes John, I think it's really important I agree with Beth. I was there in Munich when Wang Yi gave his address to you know us and the allies.
FARKAS: And basically told the Europeans, it was largely European audience. You know that, that, one - basically that China is more or less not going to take our side, and that it wants peace. And you know, what does that mean?
We're hopeful that China will not try to get involved by providing military assistance to Russia. But as you heard over the weekend, Secretary Blinken was worried that they would do that. So he had some strong words with Wang Yi.
The Chinese need to take the lesson from this, that it's very dangerous. And of course, it's illegal to go in and seize - the territory of your neighbor. That is an imperial objective that Putin is, you know, on right now, he's trying to reach that objective. And it goes counter to the international order, and China will pay a heavy economic price if they go farther with their support to Russia. So I think what we want to do is try to keep China out of this equation in terms of their additional support to Russia, and we want to make sure that we can in the meantime move quickly to help Ukraine.
KING: Evelyn Farkas and Beth Sanner certainly remarkable speech from the President, remarkable images the past two days. We will see how it plays out in the important day's weeks and I suspect months ahead? Ladies, thank you both for coming!
Just in for us the Environmental Protection Agency now taking significant action in Ohio against Norfolk Southern Railway in the wake of that toxic trail derailment. We'll give you the full details on the EPA's new announcement next.
KING: Big news today this hour out of East Palestine Ohio. Federal government now ordering Norfolk Southern Railroad to handle all the necessary cleanup efforts after that toxic trail derailment, you'll see some of the horrific pictures right there.
If the rail company falls short, the EP says it will issue significant fines and may even step in and take control of the cleanup. The EPA Administrator Michael Regan will make the announcement any moment now. This morning you see the pictures here he toured the town alongside Ohio's Republican Governor Mike DeWine.
Talking to residents worried their water and air are contaminated? Officials insist the air and the water are clean and safe. And you see the pictures right there to make the point today they drank from the tap at a local home prove it. CNN's Omar Jimenez joins us now. First Omar, tell us what does the EPA announcement mean in terms of how much federal authority is being asserted here?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. So the EPA is ordering Norfolk Southern to handle and pay for all necessary cleanups here as a result of the train derailment and controlled chemical release.
Now what the EPA is doing is they're approving a work plan here where it would lay out all the steps necessary for this cleanup to happen. If Norfolk Southern fails to complete some of those steps, the EPA would step in and make sure those steps get done so that at least someone's doing it but then also compel the company to pay triple the cost for this.
So that's part of the incentive here. And as part of those steps, EPA said that Norfolk Southern would have to identify and clean up contaminated soil and water resources, attend and participate in public meetings at the EPA's request, meetings where in some cases, we've heard from residents like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My main concern is for the people that was closest to that accident. And a lot of them are younger than me and have children and, you know, I just feel for him. I'm sorry. It's just - it's hard to see people been through things, you know, and the uncertainty of everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIMINEZ: And she was speaking to Governor DeWine there. Now we've reached out to Norfolk Southern for a response to this. We haven't gotten one just yet. This order the EPA says also signifies the transition from the emergency response to more of the longer term cleanup response.
And to this point, I should mention, crews have checked over 500 homes and checked some of the drinking water supply there. And to this point, they found no dangerous levels of contaminants, but obviously tests are ongoing, and residents have had complaints of potential symptoms like rashes, nausea, as well John.
KING: Omar Jimenez appreciate the update on the developments today. Omar, thank you! Let's bring the conversation in the room with me to share their reporting and their insights. CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Jeff Mason of Reuters and Laura Barron Lopez at the PBS NewsHour.
Jeff, let me start with you the sense - I think the most important thing, especially for people on the table in Washington, is that this is an Ohio issue, and it's a town issue in East Palestine. You do see Governor DeWine, a Republican Governor, I've watched him it's been largely complimentary of the federal response.
You do see some complaints locally, which of course you're going to have. The number one concern is, is the air safe? Is the water safe? Will this be cleaned up? If it is today will it be cleaned up in a way that doesn't make things worse, which can sometimes happen at a site where you have toxic chemicals in the like? What does the White House say about how this is being handled and how it should be handled?
JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Well, I think you're right to emphasize first that what matters is that they get it done and that these people are treated as if they need it and that the soil and the air and the water are clean and safe.
But there's also going to be a political question. And that's number one. Did they do this fast enough? Number two, did they do it well enough? Is it - has it been effective? And I guess number three, I would say is it's opened up a lane for Republicans to say, hey, here's a weakness.
You had some people's accusing President Biden of making a bad decision to go to Kyiv instead of going to East Palestine this week. You know, I think most people in their party would not agree with that criticism, but it's a criticism and it's out there. And it's one of many that have also been attributed or thrown at people like Secretary Buttigieg and others in the administration. KING: To that point, Donald Trump, forgive me, has not had a very good start to his campaign in 2024. So he says he's going to go to East Palestine. He says, uncorroborated that you see more in increased action by the Biden Administration now because of him. To your point Secretary Buttigieg says no, the EPA administrators there today and I will get there when it makes sense.